Celebrating 15 Years of the Debito.org Blog (June 17, 2006-2021)

June 17, 2021 celebrates 15 years since the Debito.org Blog went live.  (The Debito.org Website as a whole, however, went live in 1996, and we celebrated that quarter-century of online activism earlier this year in a separate post.) The Debito.org Blog was created in addition after a friend named Jim suggested that a WordPress template would make things a lot easier for me to respond to and archive daily events in real time. He was right.

As of today, in addition to the Debito.org original Website (which is still up, of course; artery site here), as of this morning the Blog alone has 2,935 individual posts by me (amounting to 16,703 pages) and 34,737 individual comments (of which only 862, or less than 2.5%, are mine). That’s about one post every two days on average, and about 12 comments per post.

That’s an active blog by many definitions, and still going strong. And materials archived here been cited in various newspapers, journals, and books.  People take it seriously. Long may it continue.  While I’m limiting myself to posting here about once a week (I’ve got other writing projects), I don’t see myself giving up the Debito.org Project anytime, ever.  By now, it’s just what I do.

Justice Ministry’s new “Gaijin Card Reader App” now unlawfully enables the general public to scan you. So much for GOJ promises of privacy.

The Ministry of Justice has made a “Residence Card Checker App”, available from December 25, 2020, downloadable from their website (English, Japanese). It’s available for Windows PC, Apple Mac App Store, Google Play, and iOS (with manuals!). It scans RFID Zairyuu Cards, aka “Gaijin Cards”, which is personal ID required of foreign residents only, and must be carried 24/7 on pain of criminal penalty. In their words, “This app reads and displays the information (such as the bearer’s name) stored on the IC chips of residence cards and special permanent resident certificates, helping users to confirm that the card is not a forgery.”

How nice. Except that the only people allowed to demand, let alone scan, Gaijin Cards are people connected with the Ministry of Justice (Immigration, the police, etc.). This has now unlawfully put the ability to read private information within the general public’s grasp. Such as people posing as fake cops (which does happen). It’s not that far removed from the government “snitch sites” where anyone could anonymously report their local gaijin to the government and have them harassed, er, investigated by local authorities. (They’ve since disappeared after nearly two decades in action, so this is a new form of potential harassment.)

Debito.org will archive below the sites in English and Japanese for the record, with some screen captures. Especially enjoy reading the Privacy Policy, especially since one initial reason why the government advertised that the RFID card was a better system was due to privacy (and “convenience”)–random people wouldn’t be able to read the embedded information. Now they can. Where is the outcry over “privacy concerns” that Japanese citizens enjoy whenever the government makes personal ID policy affecting them?

Mainichi Editorial: Foreign workers would also serve roles as consumers, taxpayers. Bravo. It needs to be said by somebody in the Wajin media

Mainichi Editorial in 2018: Important viewpoints are apparently lacking in discussions on accepting more foreign workers to Japan. The discourse treats foreigners only as a “workforce” to alleviate labor shortages, and fails to shed light on a variety of other roles they can play. Boosting the workforce is a vital challenge for the Japanese economy. Seeking people from overseas when labor-saving measures alone are not enough is a natural response to the reality. But foreigners working in Japan can contribute more than labor to Japanese society. This point should not be overlooked.

First of all, they are also consumers [in a depopulating workforce]. Foreign workers will push up housing and educational spending, like Japanese households do, when they live in Japan with their family members for longer periods of time. Moreover, their wide-ranging needs can be expected to create new products and services and even lead to new jobs.

Another important role that foreigners can play is paying taxes. They pay income tax when they work, and they shoulder the consumption tax as Japanese do in the course of their daily lives… [If we choose to invite] long-term settlers with family members to increase their income and spending… we need to make necessary preparations, and make corresponding commitments. This means exploring ways to benefit both foreign workers and the Japanese economy.

NHK: Ibaraki Public Health Center targets foreigners as vectors of Coronavirus, then retracts discriminatory claims as “misleading” and “inappropriate”

TR: A health center in Itako City this week retracted an “inappropriate” advisory that stated foreigners are the source of an increase in novel coronavirus infections, reports NHK (May 22). On May 19 and 20, the Itako Health Center distributed the notice by email to agricultural cooperatives and city halls within its jurisdiction. The document stated, “There are many coronavirus patients likely infected by foreigners.” It advised, “If you talk to a foreigner, wear a mask. As well, please do not eat with them.”

On May 21, the health center and the Ibaraki Prefectural Infectious Disease Control Division retracted the document. “The document’s content was inappropriate,” they said. “Though we had no intention of discriminating against foreigners,” the Itako Health Center told NHK, “we are sorry if any of the expressions were misleading.”

COMMENT: “Misleading”?! “Inappropriate”?! “Unintentional”?! How about unscientific and discriminatory, especially for an official bureau safeguarding public health that should know better. But given what we know at Debito.org about Japan’s constant “Blame Game”, used to distract from official policy errors and scapegoat Non-Japanese for just about anything, we could see it coming. The bigger surprise is how quickly NHK jumped on this so quickly and got it retracted. Media watchdogs are supposed to look out for the general public, including Non-Japanese Residents. Please get ready to do more of the same in future.

My SNA Visible Minorities column 22: “Interrogating the Discriminatory Covid Self-Quarantine Scandal”, May 17, 2021

SNA (Tokyo) — Sometimes government-designed policies lack sense. Or, in places where the government is as unaccountable as Japan’s, policymakers ignore cautions—-or don’t get cautioned at all because a docile mass media is mobilized behind a national goal. So when things go wrong, very bad things can happen, especially when punishments for noncompliance only go one way and hurt innocent people.

That is what’s in the cards yet again with Japan’s Covid border controls. The current policy is that if you are a resident of Japan returning from overseas, you face a mandatory self-quarantine system. Everyone, regardless of nationality, signs must notify the authorities of their current location each day. If not, authorities will contact them via Skype, WhatsApp video call, or by voice cell phone number.

If you are found to be breaking quarantine as a Japanese, you get your name exposed to the public. However, foreign residents will lose everything—their lives, livelihoods, and anything they ever invested in Japan—by getting deported. So with punishments this disproportionate, the government had better make sure nothing goes wrong. Guess what? Things are going wrong, and it’s the government’s fault…
Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/05/17/visible-minorities-interrogating-the-discriminatory-quarantine-scandal/ 

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 17, 2021

Table of Contents:
1) Kyodo: “300 people per day re-entering Japan breaking COVID self-quarantine”. But NJ report government incompetence, which punishes them disproportionately.
2) Senaiho’s final update on Yamanashi School Bullying Lawsuit: They basically lost, because bullying is an “expected and normal” part of Japanese Education (UPDATED with full court decision text)
3) Problematically racialized Education Ministry-approved primary-school “Morals” textbook: “Shōgaku Dōtoku: Yutaka na Kokoro 1-nen” (Kōbun Shoin, 2020)
4) Nagasaki Yorozuya-machi Steak House “Bronco” sign: “Foreign people are forbidden to enter this restaurant to prevent infection.” Exclusionary racism evolves with Covid. (UPDATED: Signs are down)
And finally…
5) SNA Visible Minorities 21: “A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”, April 19, 2021

Kyodo: “300 people per day re-entering Japan breaking COVID self-quarantine”. But NJ report Govt incompetence, which punishes them disproportionately.

Government incompetence is nothing new. There’s not much you can do when the expectation is one-way: The Man demands a promise from you, with punishments if you don’t comply, but if The Man doesn’t keep his promises, too bad, since there’s often no punishment for the Powers That Be. That’s what’s happening under Japan’s new “self-quarantine” rules. Kyodo News reports that “up to 300 people per day are breaking the self-quarantine”. People, regardless of nationality. What is NOT evenly enforced regardless of nationality is the punishment. As Kyodo notes, ‘The health ministry, which has asked for people to honor their pledge, has warned that penalties for noncompliance include publicly revealing names or, in the case of a foreign national, revocation of their status of residence and deportation.”

That’s very different. Especially since people are reporting to Magdalena Osumi of the Japan Times (see below) that there has been no follow-up from the government when it comes to helping people keep their pledge (and some confusion about how the rules are supposed to work). So if the GOJ messes things up and you’re a citizen, uh, your name gets made public. Big whoop. But if you’re NJ, through no fault of your own, you get deported.  Your life in Japan is over. As Debito.org has predicted might happen, this new Covid “Self-Quarantine” regime has become yet another means to ethnically-cleanse Japan of its foreigners. As if revolving-door visas and insecure job statuses aren’t enough. And of course, the Kyodo article neither questions the disproportionality of the punishment or reports on the incompetence of the government.

What follows is the Kyodo article. After that, a request from Magdalena Osumi for information about the government incompetence for an upcoming article. Read on if you have something to share with her.

Senaiho’s final update on Yamanashi School Bullying Lawsuit: They basically lost, because bullying is an “expected and normal” part of Japanese Education (UPDATED with full court decision text)

Senaiho: We received a judgment from the Yamanashi Circuit Court in our case against the bullies of our daughter resulting in the school cutting her hair and her dropping out of school. In a Readers Digest version of the judgment, we lost. The court ruled that while recognizing the fact that bullying was present, it did not amount to enough abuse that would merit awarding any damages. A certain amount of teasing is expected and a normal part of the Japanese educational system, in the court’s opinion, so zero amount is awarded.

There is no hiding our disappointment in this judgment, so I won’t try to white-wash it. It sends the message that it is OK to bully others for whatever reason in Japanese education, as long as there are no serious physical effects, such as severe injury, death, or suicide. There was no mention whatsoever of anything related to racial motivations in our case.

Problematically racialized Education Ministry-approved primary-school “Morals” textbook: “Shōgaku Dōtoku: Yutaka na Kokoro 1-nen” (Kōbun Shoin, 2020)

XY: In the textbook, I identified three major problematic points in total: 1st, gross gaijinization of a birthright Japanese just because of having a foreign father instead of doing the morally correct thing and teach that the so-called “hāfu” are as Japanese as any “pure” Japanese; 2nd, the claim that Emma is bad at Japanese because of her “foreignness”, which can easily proliferate the stereotype that “foreigners” can’t speak Japanese (properly), even if they have a Japanese parent (and therefore aren’t gaikokujin (or gaikoku no hito, wording that is more about origin than legal status) in the first place); and 3rd, a strong focus on differences rather than similarities as human beings no matter what race someone belongs to. Overall an extraordinarily poor example of a grade-school textbook, sidelining mixed-race Japanese to gaikokujin status and planting this legally false and socially outdated idea into the minds of first graders. A G7 member should do away with the proliferation of such bs. It’s 2021, not 1921.

In conclusion, I think that these two texts sneak in stereotypes into the minds of Japanese first graders that are detrimental to foreigners and international (racially diverse) Japanese. The first one subtly conveys a “foreigners can’t be trusted” kind of message, the second one treats legal Japanese with international heritage as genuine gaikokujin and overemphasizes differences over similarities, and also proliferates the obnoxious gaikokujin = blonde eigojin stereotype.

Nagasaki Yorozuya-machi Steak House “Bronco” sign: “Foreign people are forbidden to enter this restaurant to prevent infection.” Exclusionary racism evolves with Covid. (UPDATED: Signs are down)

Steak House “Bronco”.
Address 850-0852 Nagasaki, Yorozuya machi 5-4
Phone 095-825-9377
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ステーキハウス-ブロンコ-206688849396493/
Sign says: “Foreign people are forbidden to enter this restaurant to prevent infection.”
This is in Kanko dori, the main downtown shopping area in Nagasaki. Online photos of the interior show a Confederate flag on display.

COMMENT: Another one to add to Debito.org’s collection of “Japanese Only” signs.  In addition to all of the other places archived both here on the Debito.org Blog and on the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, it looks like the owner of Bronco is so much of a fan of America that he’s adopting America’s long history of racism, down to the Confederate Flag (supporters of which would historically no doubt have supported America’s Asian exclusion laws, WWII internment camps for Japanese, and other measures that would exclude Non-Whites like him).

The interesting thing about this bigot is that his racism has evolved with the times.  No longer is it a matter of excluding people because they don’t “look Japanese” or “don’t understand Japanese culture” etc., etc.  Now it’s a matter of infection. That’s funny, actually. Given Japan’s abysmally-low vaccination rate, vaccinated foreign tourists are probably less contagious than his regular Wajin clientele. But no matter. He’s just reflecting Japan’s incredibly unscientific border controls and the narrative that Covid is exogenous. Given the new Eek variant possibly incubated from Japan’s former honor-system quarantines for Japanese only, it’s not anymore. But any excuse for a bigot.
UPDATE: EXCLUSIONARY SIGNS ARE TAKEN DOWN

SNA Visible Minorities 21: “A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”, April 19, 2021

SNA — I’ve been involved in activism in Japan for many years. Indeed so many that my online archive of work, Debito.org, just turned 25 years old last week. With that in mind, I’d like to devote this column to a retrospective of the past quarter century: What, if anything, has Debito.org contributed to help make conditions for Non-Japanese residents and Visible Minorities better?

Debito.org first went live on April 15, 1996, during the earlier days of the World Wide Web, as a means to respond to online bulletin board critics. When topics came up over and again, I’d just archive a previous essay on Debito.org and send a link. After a couple hundred essays were organized into general information sites, Debito.org became a platform for issues involving foreign residents of Japan.

The first major issue I took up was “Academic Apartheid” in Japan’s universities. This is where all Japanese full-time faculty were granted contract-free tenure from day one of employment, while all foreign academics, despite many being better qualified than their Japanese counterparts, got perpetual ninkisei contracts (some of them term-limited) without the opportunity for tenure.

I discovered a “smoking gun” one day in my university mailbox: A paper directive from the Ministry of Education encouraging national and public universities to fire their older foreign professors by not renewing their contracts. I scanned it, archived it, and sent a link to prominent advocates like Ivan P. Hall (author of Cartels of the Mind) for further exposure. It turns out that a government demanding their universities axe all their foreigners over forty is state-sponsored discrimination, and it blew up into an international issue that even then-US Ambassador Walter Mondale took up.

All of that information is still up on Debito.org today, and it turns out that a permanent archive that is searchable, citable, with context and without paywall, is a valuable resource, especially as many unscrupulous people would rather have a history of their actions and policies disappear into the ether. Once archived on Debito.org, it didn’t. Soon other issues on Debito.org garnered national and international attention, even generating public policy movements…

Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/04/19/visible-minorities-retrospective-on-25-years-of-activism/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 19, 2021

Table of Contents:
CELEBRATING A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEBITO.ORG
1) April 15 2021: Debito.org celebrates 25 years of existence! Here’s to another 25 years! A brief retrospective.
2) Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities Column 21: “Visible Minorities: A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”

NOW BACK TO BUSINESS
3) Weird new Govt term to firewall naturalized and mudblood Japanese off from “real” Japanese: “Honpougai Shussinsha”: racist AND patriotic, ironically found on Justice Ministry’s Bureau of Human Rights site
4) “Foreign nationalities OK” apartments bin at Century 21 Saitama realty, and “We’re sorry about our foreign staff’s language & cultural barriers” notice in Family Mart Kyoto (SECOND UPDATE with answer from Century 21 Japan)
5) German media Tagesschau on what it’s like to be Covid-quarantined in Japan (basically a prison run by sweaty-headed bureaucrats)
6) It’s official: Tokyo 2020 is a “Japanese Only” Olympics: Japanese living abroad still allowed to attend, not foreigners. (UPDATED: This probably includes Japanese who have given up their J citizenship.)
7) SNA Visible Minorities Col 6: “Carlos Ghosn’s Escape from Japan Was the Right Move”, Jan 20, 2020 (UPDATED with full text)

And finally:
8) SNA Visible Minorities Column 20: “The World’s First ‘Japanese Only’ Olympics?”, on how Japan’s new ban on “overseas spectators” may lead to banning all foreigners (out of linguistics and force of habit) (UPDATED)

April 15 2021: Debito.org celebrates 25 years of existence! Here’s to another 25 years! A brief retrospective.

I’m pleased to announce that Debito.org is celebrating its 25th birthday today! Yes, as far back as April 15, 1996, Debito.org first went live. Things have changed for better and for worse, and I’d like to think Debito.org had a hand in promoting the “for better”.  We’ve broken major international news stories, including the Otaru Onsens Case, Trade Barriers and the Dr. Tanii Suicide, the embedded racism of the 1995 Kobe Earthquake, Ninkisei Academic Apartheid in Japan’s Universities, Japan’s Racial Discrimination covered by the United Nations, Ministry of Justice foreigner “Snitch Sites”, discrimination at Japan World Cup 2002, racist “foreign DNA” crime research at the National Police Agency, “Tama-chan” sealion and the Juuminhyou, and more listed at our “Activists’ Page”.

Debito.org’s archives have also been a launching pad for books, hundreds of newspaper articles and columns, and cited research papers.  Thanks in part to Debito.org (as opposed to all the other information in the academic canon dismissing Japan’s racial discrimination as “ethnic discrimination”, “foreigner discrimination”, and “cultural misunderstandings”), Japan is no longer claiming with a straight face that racism doesn’t exist. Some are even coming to the conclusion that we need actual laws against racial discrimination (now more than 25 years after signing UN international treaty promising to eliminate it).

That’s where the work of Debito.org lies for the next 25 years — getting a law against racial discrimination, with penalties, on the books.  I hope you will join us in keeping the record alive and updated as we keep pushing for a Japanese society more tolerant and accepting of diversity.  Japan’s inevitable multiethnic future depends on it.

Weird new Govt term to firewall naturalized and mudblood Japanese off from “real” Japanese: “Honpougai Shussinsha”: racist AND patriotic, ironically found on Justice Ministry’s Bureau of Human Rights site

In anticipation of Japan becoming a less avowedly monoethnic society over time, what with international marriages, more Visible Minorities becoming prominent, and naturalized citizens, the Powers That Be are coming up with new terminologies to keep a firewall between the “real” pure-blooded Japanese and the mongrels.  We’ve had the “Mixed-Blood Children Problem” (Konketsuji Mondai) as a Postwar Japan issue for policymakers to “fix”, the offsetting epithet “Haafu” for generations, and recently the official term “Gaikokujin Shimin” used throughout Japan’s local government offices and ministries to lump anybody (including Japanese citizens, born and naturalized) into the “foreigner” category if they have any foreign connections.

Not to be outdone, creative purists are coming up with new terms. The Ministry of Justice on their Bureau of Human Rights website is using “honpougai shusshinsha”, or “people originating from outside our homeland state”. This fresh, new term creates another (this time very nationalistic) definitional line a non-Wajin cannot cross. After all, “shusshin” (origin) is something you’re born into, and a new legal status (such as a new citizenship) cannot change it.  Even naturalized Japanese (such as sumo wrestlers) are forever stuck with “gaikoku shusshin” in official categorizations. But note the invective this time.  It’s not even “nippongai” (outside Japan) or “kaigai shusshin” (overseas origin).  It’s “Honpougai” (outside the real homeland of Japan), adding a “motherland/fatherland/our country” patriotic flavor. This is how the GOJ will delay the erosion of Japan’s ethnostate by the mudbloods and interlopers for as long as possible.

German media Tagesschau on what it’s like to be Covid-quarantined in Japan (basically a prison run by sweaty-headed bureaucrats)

Here’s is a German TV show reporting on what life is like in Japanese Covid quarantine. At first, it seems like an April Fool’s article, but it rings all too familiar when one deals with Japanese bureaucracy, especially when it gets paranoid about contact with the outside world and contagion. (I remember once on an NHK news broadcast during the Avian Flu scare in 2003, where bureaucrats were filmed positioning chairs 2 meters apart in an international airport quarantine zone, measuring down to the millimeter (yes, with a measuring tape) the distance between them. Phew! That one millimeter makes all the difference.)

Anyway, read what the German media has to say about current life in quarantine in Japan (which TV news show Tagesschau compares to a prison, but with very Japanese-bureaucracy touches), and how Olympic participants will be bypassing it all. “Measuring-tape Science” at work again.

Tagesschau: Lively singing of birds – that sounds nice at first glance, but the truth is that it is a sudden insolation forced upon the guests in a Covid quarantine hotel in Tokyo. And it is cynical, because all incoming travelers are sealed off from the outside world starting with boarding the plane for Japan. The windows of the hotel cannot be opened, the air-conditioning does not work. Those you want to exchange air by opening the door of the room just a crack wide will cause a crisscross of voices. The telephone will ring. Japan is watching you – and is scolding you as if you are a school child.

“Foreign nationalities OK” apartments bin at Century 21 Saitama realty, and “We’re sorry about our foreign staff’s language & cultural barriers” notice in Family Mart Kyoto (SECOND UPDATE with answer from Century 21 Japan)

One important job Debito.org has been undertaking for more than two decades is the cataloging of “Japanese Only” exclusionary signs (and in this case, signs that also publicly denigrate foreigners), to make sure that evidence of Japan’s racial discrimination does not disappear into the ether. Starting with the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments , the Debito.org Blog you’re reading now is also putting up cases we receive from Debito.org Readers spotting them about town. It’s important to do this so that everyone can see that this is an ongoing issue.

Place: Century 21 Realty Kawakoe Ekimae (Century 21不動産、川越駅前, 埼玉県川越市脇田町105) March 28, 2021. Photos submitted by ARW, who notes, “The photo of the staff was taken after I called their attention to the ‘box'” [that says “apartments for foreigners”].
Comment: How nice of an American company to play by Japanese rules by assuming the default for rentals is “Japanese Only”, with a special box that says “foreign citizenship OK”.  Not the first time I’ve seen this.

UPDATE MARCH 31: ANSWER FROM CENTURY 21 JAPAN (excerpt):
[…] CENTURY 21 offices in Japan are franchisees and not branches of C21 Japan nor C21 US. Our franchisees in Japan are all independently owned and operated. Therefore, we are not directly involved in the advertisement of listing properties of our franchisees’ businesses. […] There are certainly cases where an “expectation gap” arises between the prospective customer and the agent, and oftentimes this gap grows wider during the course of interaction between the two. This is particularly true when different cultural norms, sets of regulations, and industry practices exist. For example, in the US there is the wide-reaching Fair Housing Act (FHA) that bans pretty much all forms of discrimination. Japan does not. Therefore, what could be a violation of the FHA in the US would not necessarily be one in Japan. Having said this, however, C21 Japan HQ believes it is never good for business to practice and kind of intentional discrimination and caution our franchisees accordingly. We will, therefore, request the office you have identified to remove the subject bin to avoid any semblance of discrimination, no matter how unintentional the original reason might have been.

Place: FamilyMart convenience store, Kawaramachi-Takoyakushi
295 Narayacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8033, 075-229-6322
Photo submitted by RM, who says, “Found that little nice racist notice on the entrance door on a Famima in Kyoto Kawaramachi. Basically says ‘I deeply apologize for troubling you with my foreigners’ in essence. Unbelievable.”

The sign says (Debito’s translation):  “Regarding the foreign staff at this branch:  We have a large number of foreign staff at this branch. Customers may find their language and cultural barriers to be a nuisance. Employing them was at our discretion, and we are sorry for the inconveniences. We will soon be focusing our efforts on coaching staff in the proper manners for Japan’s customer service. Your understanding and forbearance would be much appreciated.  BRANCH MANAGER.”

It’s official: Tokyo 2020 is a “Japanese Only” Olympics: Japanese living abroad still allowed to attend, not foreigners. (UPDATED: This probably includes Japanese who have given up their J citizenship.)

Japan Times reported today that this has precisely come to pass: “According to the Japanese organizing committee, foreign nationals made up roughly 10% of a total of 80,000 volunteers before the pandemic forced the one-year postponement of the games. Japanese citizens living abroad are expected to be allowed to volunteer, according to the officials.”

So to recap: Japanese citizens living overseas are not counted as “overseas spectators”. They have that immunity to Covid by dint of their passport. And the IOC has in effect “fully respected and accepted” this exclusionary Olympics.  It’s the world’s “first ever without overseas spectators”.

No.  It’s the first Olympics without “foreign” spectators.  Overseas spectators are okay if they’re Japanese.  So as predicted, welcome to Japan’s first “Japanese Only” Olympics. As long as you have a Japanese passport, you are immune to Covid and have privileged access to Our Games.

UPDATE MARCH 24: Debito.org Reader RO points out that according to the IACE Travel Agency (which is legally liable for their information), even overseas “Japanese” who NO LONGER HAVE JAPANESE CITIZENSHIP (because they gave it up and took another nationality) can still re-enter Japan. In other words, what constitutes “overseas Japanese” is a matter of having Japanese blood, even without having Japanese legal status. These are racialized paradigms for what constitutes a “Japanese”, and that is related to this blog entry because they will factor into border controls concerning the Olympics.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 15, 2021

Table of Contents:
BAD SCIENCE:
1) Reuters: “No foreign spectators at Tokyo Olympics”: Japan takes the Gold Medal for Discrimination with a “Japanese Only” Olympics?
2) Richard Lloyd Parry in Times London: “Cancel Tokyo 2020 Olympics”. Yet even this respected reporter sloppily implies Japan’s Covid numbers are contingent on foreigners

WORSE SOCIAL SCIENCE
3) Harvard Prof. Ramseyer criticized for poorly-researched revisionist articles on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. Actually, Ramseyer’s shoddy and intemperate research is within character, based on my experience.
4) School “Hair Police” lose case in Osaka (kinda): Court awards the victim a pittance, but calls enforced hair coloring has “reasonable and legitimate educational purpose”. Another setback for Visible Minorities.
5) Archiving SNA VM5: “Local Governments Classifying Japanese Citizens as Foreigners”, Dec. 16, 2019 (link to full text)
6) Archiving SNA VM4: “The Xeno-Scapegoating of Japanese Halloween”, Nov 18, 2019 (link to full text)
… and finally…
7) SNA VM 19: “Yoshiro Mori’s Overdue Comeuppance”, Feb 15, 2021, on how the former Japan Olympics Chair melded misogyny with racism — for decades!

My SNA VM column 20: “The World’s First ‘Japanese Only’ Olympics?”, on how Japan’s new ban on “overseas spectators” may lead to banning all foreigners (out of linguistics and force of habit) (UPDATED)

SNA (Tokyo) — Reuters and Kyodo recently reported that Japan is banning “foreign spectators” (or “overseas spectators”) from the Tokyo Olympics: “The government has concluded that welcoming fans from abroad is not possible given concerns among the Japanese public over the coronavirus and the fact that more contagious variants have been detected in many countries.”

Blogging about this at Debito.org, I worried aloud that excluding all “foreign spectators” would be interpreted to mean all foreigners, including Non-Japanese living in Japan. But commenters (some of whom already have tickets or will be volunteering to help) were quick to stress that the “overseas” wording meant only foreign tourists, not them.

But I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

Granted, the original wording in Japanese is kaigai kara no ippan kankyaku (regular spectators from overseas), not “foreigners” (gaikokujin). But words matter, especially when you’re categorizing people, and doing it wrong will lead to discrimination.

I think Japan will do it wrong, due to linguistics and force of habit…
Rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/03/15/the-worlds-first-japanese-only-olympics/

Archiving SNA VM5: “Local Governments Classifying Japanese Citizens as Foreigners”, Dec. 16, 2019 (link to full text)

As it’s been at least a year since publication, I am archiving with permission the full text of my Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities columns every month. We’re up to SNA VM 5.  Excerpted text follows, with link to full text in context elsewhere on this blog.

SNA: According to the Japanese government, our resident Non-Japanese (NJ) population reached yet another new record, at 2.8 million last June. Last April, Japan started offering new visa regimes to greatly expand the NJ labor force, in response to Japan’s aging society and shrinking population. This, plus steady numbers of permanent residents, international marriages, and naturalizing citizens, are expanding our multicultural and multiethnic communities.

In response, local governments have been trying to accommodate the diversity through new concepts and policies. It started in earnest as far back as 2001 with the Hamamatsu Declaration, where multiple cities and towns near Shizuoka Prefecture called upon the national government to assist them in providing their NJ residents with education, welfare benefits, and streamlined administration. Since then, local governments have generally made positive proposals in good faith.

But sometimes they get it wrong. Last month, Debito.org reported how the city of Nagoya uses a very problematic term in their documents: Gaikokujin Shimin. The closest translation would be a “foreigner city resident/citizen” (as opposed to, er, a gaikokujin kokumin, the contradictory “foreigner Japanese citizen”?). But the point is that people covered by this term officially belong in the city as dwellers and participants.

The concept sounds inclusive until you see how it’s officially being defined. According to one of Nagoya city’s “General Plans,” dated August 2018, a Gaikokujin Shimin is, as I translate it from the text: “In addition to people with foreign nationalities with an address within Nagoya city, people like those who obtained Japanese citizenship, children born from international marriages, people with foreign cultures in their backgrounds, and people who have foreign roots.” (Original Japanese: 名古屋市内に住所を有する外国籍の人のほか、日本国籍を取得した人や国際結婚によって生まれた子どもなど外国の文化を背景に持つ人など、外国にルーツを持つ人。)
Let’s mull that over: Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=15883

Reuters: “No foreign spectators at Tokyo Olympics”: Japan takes the Gold Medal for Discrimination with a “Japanese Only” Olympics? (UPDATED)

Reuters: Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter… Kyodo said the government had concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as saying…

Most Japanese people do not want international visitors to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed. The survey showed 77% of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18% in favour. Some 48% said they were against allowing any spectators into venues and 45% were in favour.

COMMENT: I would hope that means that Non-Japanese Residents of Japan are allowed to get tickets and spectate.  But I’m not at all confident that will happen.  First, how will authorities enforce that, given the “Japanese Only” practices widespread in Japan that historically have barred entry or participation to anyone who is foreign, moreover doesn’t “look Japanese”? (This includes Japanese sports; see for example here, here, here, and here.)  After decades of studying these practices, my educated guess is that this entry ban will be applied to any person considered to be “Non-Japanese”, not just NJ tourists from overseas; and that includes online ticket sales.  Meaning anyone with a foreign-sounding name online will be denied a ticket, and a foreign-looking face denied entry at the door.

Second, what completely astonishes me is the poor physical and social science happening here.  Authorities have once again missed the point is the fact that ANY gathering during a pandemic is potentially a super-spreader event.  The virus is already in Japan, spread by Japanese, and thus Japanese spectators will infect each other, of course.  So if safety is a concern, why aren’t they barring ALL spectators?

Why are they targeting foreigners? Well, partly because the Wajin spectators are already doing it.  According to opinion polls cited in the article below, the “public concerns” officials are pointing to indicate that 77% of respondents are against allowing “foreign fans” to attend (while less than half want all spectators banned regardless of nationality).  But wait — isn’t this a form of “manufactured consent” — where the government and media continue to portray the issue as “It’s the foreigners who are contagious, not us hygienic Wajin”, and then that becomes a “public concern”?  Olympics + Pandemic + Racist Government Policies = Reified Embedded Racism.

Enough.  First the unprecedented cost overruns that have made this the most expensive Olympics in history.  Then the Mori sexism debacle.  And now the potential for a “Japanese Only” Olympics?  If you can’t postpone the Games until after the pandemic, I say cancel them already. This is why Debito.org was always against Japan getting the Games.  Hosting international events brings out the worst in Japan’s ethnostatist governing practices, and now it’s clear it encourages the Wajin population at large to become even more racist as well.  SITYS.

Lloyd Parry in Times London: “Cancel Tokyo 2020 Olympics”. Yet even this respected reporter sloppily implies Japan’s Covid numbers are contingent on foreigners

Richard Lloyd Parry, a very respected journalist and author, has come out with a sensibly-argued Op-Ed in The Times London in favor of cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But even then he words things carelessly when he writes:

“[…] Japan […] compared to the pandemic mess in the rest of the rich world [has] been doing well. With twice the population of Britain, Japan has registered about a tenth the number of coronavirus cases and one twentieth the deaths. This has nothing to do with vaccination, which has hardly begun in Japan — only a few tens of thousands of health workers have been jabbed — but rather good hygiene and an almost complete ban on foreign visitors. Now the government threatens to sacrifice these gains for the sake of money and prestige.”

COMMENT:  Portraying Japan’s apparent success at lower case numbers as due to an almost complete ban on “foreign visitors” is neither helpful nor accurate. As Mr. Lloyd Parry surely must have known (since the ban affected him too as a Japan resident), this ban included foreign residents, not just visitors.  Not to mention that the British Covid variant was verifiably brought into Japan by Japanese.  Implicitly framing Covid as a “foreign virus” brought in by “foreign visitors” makes Japan seem to be a hermetically-sealed environment until the foreigners came in; and now “the government threatens to sacrifice these gains” from its apparent isolationism. This rhetoric isn’t that far removed from calling it the “Chinese Virus” or the “Kung Flu”.  And we’ve seen the dreadful results of that kind of carelessness.

A moment’s reflection (which probably would have happened if Lloyd Parry were talking about minorities in Britain, especially at the editorial stage) would have brought about the realization that these are people we’re talking about, and how issues are couched in the media affects them, particularly if they’re Japan’s disenfranchised minorities.  If it were my article, I would have said “Japan strongly limited international travel”, which doesn’t zero in on foreigners in specific.

I’ll let others comment on the possible comparative issues of “good hygiene” (implying the rest of the rich world has bad hygiene?), and other factors that might lead to Japan undercounting actual virus cases (such as a lack of reliable contact tracing, and not testing the asymptomatic for Covid).  But in my view, keeping the Covid case numbers low was a matter of politics, not science:  to keep the Olympics on track.  Now even despite all that, Lloyd Parry makes a convincing argument for canceling the Games.  Fine.  But let’s be more careful how we point fingers, shall we?  We’ve seen enough of how foreign correspondents succumb to Japan-style racialized narratives just as soon as they talk about “foreigners” and Japan.

Link to full text of my SNA VM column 4: “The Xeno-Scapegoating of Japanese Halloween”, Nov 18, 2019

A year after publication, Debito.org is archiving the full text of my Shingetsu News Agency columns with permission.  Column 4, published back in November 2019, was a variation on the Gaijin Blame Game that goes on in Japan whenever Japanese authorities want to tighten their control over society further.  The opening follows:

SNA (Tokyo) — “Madness.” “Mayhem.” “Chaos unfolded.” “Anarchic behavior.” “Police try to subdue massive crowds running amok.” That was how one single article in the Japan Times depicted the big party at Shibuya Crossing last Halloween Night. Other media echoed similarly riotous language, noting the heavy police presence and suspended alcohol sales. Sheer anarchy! Reading all that, you could be forgiven for thinking Shibuya was set aflame and Hachiko knocked off his plinth. But drop by sometime; everything is still there just fine.

Why the alarmist attitude towards Halloween? We don’t see it for the revelry at, say, Japanese sporting events, where Hanshin Tigers fans take over Shinkansens and leap into Osaka rivers; or for annual Seijinshiki Coming of Age Days, where binge drinking and youthful hijinks disrupt boring official ceremonies; or any time of the year in entertainment districts nationwide, with public urination, people passed out on sidewalks or subways, and drunk chinpira picking fights.

Why not? Because those things are normalized. After all, it’s often hard for adults in Japan to have fun without alcohol, and excesses are tolerated as anzen-ben, a “safety valve” for letting off steam given the stresses of life. Why isn’t Halloween treated the same? Because…
Full text now at http://www.debito.org/?p=15841

Harvard Prof. Ramseyer criticized for poorly-researched revisionist articles on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. Actually, Ramseyer’s shoddy and intemperate research is within character, based on my experience.

Making waves in Japan Studies recently is Harvard professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s recent academic publication in the March 2021 issue of the International Review of Law and Economics on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. He claims, in a companion article in right-wing Sankei media group’s Japan Forward, “pure fiction”.  Quote:  “But the claims about enslaved Korean comfort women are historically untrue. The Japanese army did not dragoon Korean women to work in its brothels. It did not use Korean women as sex slaves. The claims to the contrary are simply ー factually ー false.”

While this issue is a contentious one (and my standpoint on it is visible in the way I phrased it), I will leave it up to the experts to opine on what’s wrong with Ramseyer’s claims, his extremely flawed research, and its implications for the field in general. The Asia-Pacific Journal–Japan Focus is a good place to start. Quoting Prof. Dudden (link).

Instead, what I CAN talk about is how J. Mark Ramseyer and I have butted heads (in a sense) in the past. When scholar Ivan P. Hall released his landmark book “Cartels of the Mind” in 1997, exposing Japan’s “intellectual closed shops” in the fields of academic faculty (“Academic Apartheid”), legal practices, journalism, and higher education in general, it sent shockwaves throughout US-Japan Relations (and really launched my activism in earnest).  You can read all about the issues raised as pertain to unequal treatment of Japan’s NJ academics here (link).

Somehow, the reputable Journal of Japanese Studies published a hatchet-job review (including typos) from Ramseyer (fresh from getting his new job *with tenure* at Harvard Law) that was dismissive, snarky, and even poorly researched (self-acknowledging that his impressions are “haphazard”; one source is a sample size of one from a Christmas card!).  According to Debito.org’s Archives from 1999, Ramseyer wrote: (continues). My point is that this type of sloppy and politically-motivated research is within character for Harvard Professor Ramseyer.

UPDATE:  FEB 25, 2021: According to the Yonhap News Agency, Ramseyer has done it again in a separate new academic paper, claiming that the Ethnic Koreans massacred during the Japan 1923 Kanto Earthquake were in fact marauding gangs who “torched buildings, planted bombs, poisoned water supplies” and murdered and raped people!

School “Hair Police” lose case in Osaka (kinda): Court awards the victim a pittance, but rules that enforced hair coloring has “reasonable and legitimate educational purpose”. Another setback for Visible Minorities.

Japan Today: [A] teen attending Kaifukan Prefectural High School in the town of Habikino, Osaka Prefecture […] was repeatedly told that she had to dye her brown hair black. The girl insisted that brown was her natural hair color, but the school says that three different teachers examined the roots of the girl’s hair and found them to be black, which they took as proof that she had been coloring her hair.

Eventually the girl, who is now 21 years old, claims she was told “If you’re not going to dye your hair black [i.e. back to black, in the school’s opinion], then there’s no need for you to come to school.” Feeling pressured and distressed, the girl did indeed stop attending classes, and the school then removed her name from her class seating chart and student roster. But instead of seeing the school’s administrators on campus, the woman decided to see them in court, and in 2017 filed a lawsuit over the incident, asking for 2.2 million yen in compensation.

On Tuesday an Osaka district court handed down its ruling, finding neither side to be completely in the right. Presiding judge Noriko Yokota recognized the validity of the school to set and enforce rules relating to coloring hair, saying “Such rules have been established as having a reasonable and legitimate educational purpose, and so maintaining student discipline is within the discretion of the school.”

COMMENT: So in terms of legal precedent, the Osaka District Court has established that rules that enable teachers to scrutinize student hair follicles, and bully kids who don’t have what they consider to be “normal” coloration, are just an acceptable part of Japanese education. It has done nothing less than approve of institutionalized bullying and enforced conformity with a racialized bent. The natural attributes of Visible Minorities should be celebrated, not treated as aberrations, singled out in public, and suppressed.

SNA VM 19: “Yoshiro Mori’s Overdue Comeuppance”, Feb 15, 2021, on how the former Japan Olympics Chair melded misogyny with racism — for decades!

SNA: When I started writing this month’s column, Yoshiro Mori, an 83-year-old fossil of Japanese politics, was still president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organising Committee, where he had come under fire for comments claiming that women in leadership positions “talk too much,” cluttering meetings with competitive chatter. He has since resigned, but in the wake has come much media commentary about Japan’s sexism and women’s disenfranchisement.

Photos appeared showing meetings of top-level Japan business organizations (such as Keidanren) that look like old-boy clubs. Pundits noted that Japan has slipped in the World Economic Forum’s gender-empowerment index to 121st place out of 153 countries measured (the lowest amongst the developed countries, behind China, Zimbabwe, Brunei, and Myanmar). And my favorite: Japan idiotically sending a man (Kono Taro) to the world’s first meeting of women foreign ministers in 2018.

All this has occurred despite former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much-touted policy of unlocking the women workforce as the “greatest potential for the growth of the Japanese economy.” He would create “a society in which women can shine.” Mori’s sexist comments make clear that hasn’t happened.

So let’s focus on what Mori himself represented: the worst of Japan’s politics, melding misogyny with racism…

Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/02/15/visible-minorities-yoshiro-moris-overdue-comeuppance/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 15, 2021

Table of Contents:
1) Reuters and ABC News: Tokyo 2020 chief Mori makes sexist remarks at Olympics meeting. It’s been within character for decades now, so retire him.
2) Kyodo: Japan developing GPS tracking system for foreign travelers as “anti-virus measure”. So Covid is now another international event, justifying more policing of foreigners only?
3) Kyodo: Tokyo District Court rules in favor of Japan’s ban on dual nationality. My, what paranoia and hypocrisy
4) Full text of SNA VM column 3 now archived on Debito.org: “Racial Profiling at Japanese Hotel Check-Ins”, October 23, 2019
… and finally…
5) My SNA Visible Minorities column 18: “Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner” (Jan 18, 2021), on how Covid countermeasures disproportionately target Non-Japanese against all science or logic

Full text of SNA VM column 3: “Racial Profiling at Japanese Hotel Check-Ins”, October 23, 2019

SNA: It’s dehumanizing to be denied service somewhere, not for what you did, but for who you are, and to realize that discrimination is real.

In Japan, your first experience might be with your apartment search—realtors may deny you a home simply because “the landlord doesn’t like foreigners.”

Sadly, there’s little you can do: racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan, even in 2019. You could report what happened to the Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Bureau (which will generally do nothing), or take them to court where you’re at the mercy of a judge susceptible to narratives of “foreigners are different/difficult, so refusing them is okay,” which is known legally as “rational discrimination.” Still, you will need a place right away to call home.

Eventually, after getting an interlocutor to negotiate or an employer to vouch for you, you find one. You’ll forget about what happened. Something like this doesn’t happen every day, right?

But it may occur the next time you want a hotel room. Given the tourism boom and hosted international sports events, racial profiling and discrimination have become widespread in Japan’s hoteling industry. This is particularly insidious because it’s not just the occasional bigoted landlord calling the shots; this time it’s the Japanese police… Full text now up at http://www.debito.org/?p=15804

Reuters and ABC News: Tokyo 2020 chief Mori makes sexist remarks at Olympics meeting. It’s been within character for decades now, so retire him.

ABC News: Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister of Japan, made the remarks during an executive meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee that was held online Wednesday. When giving his “private opinion” about the committee’s goal of increasing the number of female board directors from 20% to more than 40%, Mori expressed concern about how that would affect the length of meetings, according to a report by The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest daily newspapers. […]

“A meeting of an executive board that includes many women would take time,” Mori was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “Women are competitive. When someone raises his or her hand and speaks, they probably think they should speak too. That is why they all end up making comments.” [..] Speaking at a hastily-prepared press conference on Thursday, Mori confirmed he made the comments and offered an apology. “It was an inappropriate remark that went against the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics,” he said. “I deeply regret it and would like to sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have offended.” When asked about the calls for his resignation, Mori told reporters: “I’m not considering resigning.” […]

COMMENT FROM SUBMITTER MG: “Just wanted to send another bit of good Debito fodder from our ol’ buddy Mori Yoshiro. Just another reminder of what a terrible choice it was to hire this jerk to head an Olympics that really should just never have been handed to Japan in the first place when there was still a ruined Tohoku that needed rebuilding. Were it not for the long-term economic consequences that will follow my beloved adopted home country due to folly of these Games, I would surely enjoy the schadenfreude of a group of elites getting egg all over their face.”

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Mori, one of Japan’s least-popular Prime Ministers ever, is the type of Japan elite dinosaur zombie politician (in the same vein as equally useless Former PM Aso Taro) who feels he can say whatever bigoted thing pops into his head (as I cover in this blog entry, he’s made many other racist statements), and not be held accountable.  Because he never really has. Despite being a lousy leader, he just keeps on getting jobs leading things — such as high-profile sports committees (the Rugby World Cup in 2019) that turn into international embarrassments.  As it has again today. To Japan, tolerating Mori Yoshiro is like tolerating gaffes from the UK’s Prince Philip.  But Mori is not royalty, endured only because his position is essential upholding an apparently sacrosanct system.  He should be retired from public service immediately even if he refuses to resign. It’s obviously long overdue.

Kyodo: Japan developing GPS tracking system for foreign travelers as “anti-virus measure”. So Covid is now another international event, justifying more policing of foreigners only?

In a development that Debito.org has been anticipating for quite some time (see, for example, the remotely-trackable RFID chipped Zairyuu Kaado ID cards the Government rolled out in 2012 to keep better tabs on NJ Residents), according to a Kyodo article below the Government is using the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as an excuse to enact programs digitally tracking all foreign tourists.  

Nothing quite like being forced to wear the equivalent of a GPS criminal tracker for your entire stay.  And it’s not a stretch to see it being applied beyond tourists to NJ Residents after that, as Covid is providing a pretense to “track and trace” those “foreign clusters”.  As CNN notes, “If visitors are allowed [to attend the Olympics], their experience will likely be high-tech. The government is developing a contract tracing app for attendees using GPS that will reportedly link visas, proof of test results, tickets and other information, authorities said.”

Visas? So we’re getting Immigration involved? As Submitter JDG notes, “Obviously, it’s just a matter of time until the Japanese demand all NJ are 24/7 tracked legally in real time with an automated alert popping up on some koban monitor the minute their visas expire. That ought to end that nefarious den of crime right there!  Whew.”

So with the advance of technology, the dragnet further tightens on “the foreign element” in Japan. As we have seen with the G8 Summits, the 2002 soccer World Cup, the 2019 Rugby World Cup, “Visit Japan” tourism campaigns in general, and now the 2020 Olympics, international events in Japan serve to inflame its knee-jerk “safety and security” reflexes, and justify all manner of bad overpolicing habits. They essentially become an excuse to invite foreigners in, then police them further.

Kyodo: Tokyo District Court rules in favor of Japan’s ban on dual nationality. My, what paranoia and hypocrisy

In a landmark ruling yesterday (see articles below) first testing the waters for allowing Japanese to have more diverse roots in a legal sense, the Tokyo District Court has just ruled that Japanese who obtain other citizenships do not have constitutional protections from being subsequently deprived of Japanese citizenship. This means:

a) If you as a Japanese citizen naturalize in another country, then when the Japanese government decides to take away your Japanese citizenship, you have no legal recourse under the Japanese Constitution.  It can be unilaterally revoked at the government’s discretion.

b) If you as a native-born Japanese citizen have dual nationality due to having international parents, and if you do not declare to the Japanese government that you are a Japanese citizen only (and have renounced all other citizenships by age 22 — as Osaka Naomi, referred to below, reportedly did), then the Japanese government can revoke your Japanese citizenship and not deprive you of any Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

Conclusion:  Essentially, nothing has changed in practice.  The lower judiciary has essentially just made its stance against dual nationality clear.  Take into account that this ruling, handed down by a notoriously conservative branch of Japan’s judiciary (yes, Tokyo District and High Courts are actually well-known around the Japanese legal community for their very conservative judgments), has merely affirmed what was already true: “two passports = untrustworthy”.  And their legal reasoning mentioned in the articles below reflects that logic, based upon paranoid pre-war arguments about individual mixed allegiances threatening the motherland, etc., with no need to update for the complexities of the modern world.  Should the plaintiffs decide to appeal this case, then the Tokyo High Court and probably eventually the Supreme Court will affirm the lower court’s ruling.  So it’s definitive.

What to do about it:  Continue to follow Debito.org’s advice:  If you have two passports, you always claim to be solely Japanese by age 22 but secretly keep renewing your foreign passport.  The Japanese government is still not fully enforcing any draconian “show us a revoked foreign passport by age 22 or we will revoke your Japanese citizenship” towards all its citizens with international roots.  Given Japan’s dropping population, that’s probably not in its interest.  But if the Japanese government ever gets around to doing that, based upon yesterday’s ruling, as far as the Japanese judiciary is concerned it will have free rein.

My SNA Visible Minorities column 18: “Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner” (Jan 18, 2021), on how Covid countermeasures disproportionately target Non-Japanese against all science or logic

SNA: New year, new salvo of foreigner bashing: Last week, the Suga administration unveiled re-entry rules that permit non-Japanese residents to re-enter the same as Japanese, as long as they completed the same paperwork and fourteen-day quarantine. Good, but here’s the wrinkle: If you are found in violation of any quarantine regulations, you don’t just get in trouble like Japanese by, err, having your name made public. You may lose your visa status and get deported from the country. You read that right.

This policy was in reaction to the discovery of the United Kingdom mutation of Covid within Japan this month. But like most policy created in times of shock, it has hasty assumptions: that a foreign variant meant that foreigners were somehow responsible. In fact, the Patient Zeroes who came back from England and went out partying instead of quarantining were Japanese.

This new policy is ironic. In addition to the past year of Japanese media blaming foreigners for creating “foreign clusters,” it also ignores the lazy government response to Covid. Nobody at the national level wanted to take the responsibility for declaring a blanket state of emergency. But since infections have now reached record numbers, here comes the crackdown—and once again foreigners are being disproportionately targeted.

Granted, the government is now threatening to mete out jail time and fines for Japanese who don’t cooperate with measures to reduce Covid’s spread. This has occasioned the perfunctory hand-wringing about the effectiveness of punishment in curbing infections and “infringing too much on personal freedoms” for Japanese. I see that as part of the healthy give-and-take of political debate, to make sure things don’t go too far. But where is the parallel debate about the “freedoms” of non-Japanese residents who are receiving unequal treatment under the law?

A Japanese getting a fine or a spell in the clink is one thing, but it’s incomparable to a foreigner losing their legal status gleaned after years or decades of residency, followed by deportation and permanent separation from their lives, livelihoods, and families in Japan. We know that one of the reasons Covid became a pandemic is because of asymptomatic transmission. So what if a person who doesn’t know they’re sick and hasn’t left the country gets linked to a cluster by contact tracing? If that somebody happens to be a foreigner, his or her life in Japan may well be over…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 18, 2021

Table of Contents:
1) Japan Times: J Govt’s pandemic border policy highlights their taking advantage of insecure legal status of foreign residents
2) “Tired Panda” on how rural tax authorities specialize in targeting foreign taxpayers for audit. And Japan aims to be Asia’s #1 financial hub? Hah.
3) “Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass”, my Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” Col 2, Sept 17, 2019, link to full text
… and finally…
4) My SNA Visible Minorities 17: NIKE JAPAN Advertisement on Japan’s Visible Minorities does some good (Dec 21, 2020)

Japan Times: J Govt’s pandemic border policy highlights their taking advantage of insecure legal status of foreign residents

JT: Inequity between the treatment of Japanese and non-Japanese residents, including those with established residency status and decadeslong careers here, brought back to the surface long-standing frustrations over apparent struggles with multiculturalism in the nation, stirring debate on the status of foreign residents here and the extent of Japan’s preparedness for an influx of foreign workers that had been anticipated before the pandemic struck.

As questions linger over the government’s intentions behind the controversial rules, records and reports from behind the scenes of Japan’s fight against the pandemic have begun to emerge.

They highlight the limits of the nation’s immigration strategy, with decisions apparently made ad hoc amid chaos, and reveal the insecure status of foreign nationals in Japan and underlying discriminatory attitudes within society toward immigrants and expatriates…

“Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass”, my Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” Col 2, Sept 17, 2019, link to full text

SNA (Tokyo) — In a shocking series of exposés at the beginning of this month, the Mainichi Shinbun reported that minority children of workers in Japanese schools were being segregated from their Japanese peers, put in classes for the mentally disabled, and systematically denied an education.

For years now, according to Ministry of Education surveys, schools have subjected their non-native foreign minority students to IQ tests. The results were striking: Non-Japanese children were found to have “developmental disorders” at more than double the rate of the general Japanese student population.

Striking, but not all that surprising—since these tests assessed IQ via culturally-grounded questions, on things like Japanese shogunates and tanabata festivals. They also considered a lack of Japanese language skills an “intellectual” disability.

Let that sink in. Try claiming that your Japanese students are dim because they aren’t proficient in English, and then watch how long you remain an educator.

But here’s where the bad science turns evil… Read the full text at http://www.debito.org/?p=15744

“Tired Panda” on how rural tax authorities specialize in targeting foreign taxpayers for audit. And Japan aims to be Asia’s #1 financial hub? Hah.

In the wake of treating Non-Japanese Residents like they’re riddled with extra Covid contagion, here’s yet another example of how Non-Japanese taxpayers are treated with extra suspicion — with bored tax auditors even in the most rural areas of Japan dedicated to ferreting out rank-and-file sneaky foreigners’ assets and earnings socked away overseas. Courtesy of Debito.org Reader “Tired Panda”, edited and reproduced here with permission.

According to numerous sources, “Japan has explicitly stated its goal is to make Tokyo the number one financial city in Asia… Japanese officials see an opportunity to lure the Asian headquarters of global financial firms to Tokyo as Hong Kong struggles under new scrutiny from Beijing.” In a business climate like the one being described by “Tired Panda” below, who wound up giving up Permanent Residency status after being zapped by local tax authorities, this seems unlikely to happen in Japan.

Tired Panda: It started with my tax accountant in [Katainaka Prefecture], who I have used for several years, suddenly asking me to declare my worldly assets, including how many mountains I owned. Being unaware of any such requirement, I was stunned by this and resisted but my accountant said just roughly write it down and as long as it’s under 5,000,000 you’ll be OK. Just sign it.

The tax department audited me a couple of years ago covering a period of 5 years. They have two young recruits whose full-time job is to concentrate on foreigners. They speak no English. They produced figures suggesting I had been evading taxes over this time and the amount of tax payable. They would not say what shares or investments were the source of the income and I had no way of disputing any figures. I’m aware that tax losses can be carried over to offset gains but they would not recognize this for my foreign investments, saying something about a “blue paper”. I made a start on trying to track everything over the years, but gave up when it became evident that unless something was in the format they required, such as a statement from Monex Japan, they would not accept it. They also slapped a penalty on each of the year’s taxes, compounding over the five year period. It became obvious that it was futile and I paid a substantial amount.

I thought this was the end of that horrifically stressful saga and I would make sure to try and do everything required and account for everything down to the last cent. I decided to revoke my permanent residency as I can’t see myself living indefinitely in this country which is forever tightening the tax noose in an effort to pay for the aging population. With the sponsorship of my company and using the new points system I changed to “Highly Skilled Professional (i) (b)” status…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 1, 2021

Table of Contents:
MEDIA PULLS US FORWARD AND BACK
1) NIKE JAPAN ads featuring Japan’s Minorities and Visible Minorities taking solace and courage from doing sports
2) Unknown news chyron of Govt panel that apparently blames foreigners for spreading Covid. However, FNN News tells a different story: one of assisting foreigners. Let’s be careful to avoid disinformation (UPDATED).
3) United Nations human rights experts say Japan was wrong to detain former Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation
FULL TEXT SNA ARTICLES ARCHIVED
4) Full text of my first SNA column is now archived on Debito.org: “The Japan Times Becomes Servant to the Elite” (Feb 2, 2019)
5) Full text of my first “Visible Minorities” column now archived on Debito.org: “Debito’s New Column for Shingetsu News Agency” (Aug 19, 2019)
… and finally…
6) My latest SNA VM column 16: “US Elections Repudiate Trump’s Japan-Style Ethnostate”, suggesting that the US might be taking real steps towards a post-racial society

My Japan Times JBC 119: Top 5 Human Rights Issues of 2020: “A Watershed Year for Japan’s Foreign Residents” (Dec. 31, 2020)

2020 was a watershed year for Japan’s foreign residents
By Debito Arudou, The Japan Times, Just Be Cause, Dec 31, 2020

“May you live in interesting times,” goes the famous curse. By that standard, 2020 was captivating. One thing affected everyone worldwide: COVID-19. And in Japan, our international community was hit particularly hard by public policy regarding its containment.

There were many other issues worth mentioning, however. For example, the Education Ministry announced an increased budget for language support in schools for non-Japanese children next year — a promising sign. However, Japan’s continued mistreatment of those kept in immigration detention centers, and an officially acknowledged incident of “hate speech” in Kitakyushu that went unpunished, were also steps backward from the goal of an inclusionary society.

We don’t have space for them all, so below are the top five issues I feel were of greatest impact to Japan’s non-Japanese residents in 2020, in ascending order.

5) Black Lives Matter in Japan…
Read the rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2020/12/31/issues/japan-2020-foreign-resident-issues/

Full text of my first “Visible Minorities” column now archived on Debito.org: “Debito’s New Column for Shingetsu News Agency” (Aug 19, 2019)

It’s been nearly two years since I wrote my first feature piece for the Shingetsu News Agency (the only independent English-language media left in Japan not toeing a Japanese government line; please subscribe) after the rightward editorial swing over at The Japan Times.  All of my columns are behind a paywall, unfortunately, but now with the acknowledgment of SNA, I am now reprinting my columns in full on Debito.org after one year has passed since publication.  Here’s an excerpt to my first “Visible Minorities” column, followed by a link to the full article in the Debito.org original timeline:

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Visible Minorities: Debito’s New Column for the Shingetsu News Agency
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, AUG 19, 2019 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMNS
My name is Debito Arudou (or Arudou Debito, if you prefer), that guy from Sapporo who started writing about Japan from the early 1990s on a long-dead mailing list called the Dead Fukuzawa Society. I wrote so much there that I decided to archive my writings on a webpage. Debito.org soon blossomed into an award-winning reference site on life and human rights in Japan, and later a platform for newspaper articles and fieldwork research on racial discrimination. After moonlighting at places like the now-defunct Asahi Evening News and Japan Today, I began writing in 2002 a column for Japan Times, first under Zeit Gist and then Just Be Cause. Decades later, here we are with a new monthly column at the Shingetsu News Agency, under the title Visible Minorities. I chose this title for two reasons…
Full article text now archived at http://www.debito.org/?p=15720

My SNA Visible Minorities 17: NIKE JAPAN Advertisement on Japan’s Visible Minorities does some good (Dec 21, 2020)

SNA — Nike’s television advertisement depicting a multiethnic Japan stands out as a bright spot to close out the dreadful year of 2020. Entitled “We Will Continue Moving: Myself and the Future,” the two-minute ad depicts a series of diverse Asian youths pensive about their lives in Japan.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G02u6sN_sRc
[…] The takeaway message in a final montage of voices is the treatment they’re getting is not something they should have to tolerate. They shouldn’t have to wait for a world where they can live “as is,” without concealing themselves.

Now, before I say why this advertisement is important, let’s acknowledge some caveats. One is that this is from Nike Japan, and like all corporations their motivation is to make money. It is a stunt to attract attention and sell products. Moreover, Nike taking a high road with social justice issues is a bit ironic, given their history of child labor and sweatshops. Above all, human rights and business do not always mix well, and businesspeople are essentially opportunists. So let’s first not delude ourselves to think Nike is primarily motivated by altruism.

The other point worth mentioning is the attention that the ad got: 11 million views so far on YouTube. Naturally, internet trolls, xenophobes, and haters got triggered. Unfortunately, even responsible media (such as the AFP and BBC) gave them oxygen by reporting their overblown calls for a boycott, then fumbled the issue by getting soundbites from unqualified “experts” with no real training in Japan’s history of civil rights, social movements, or race relations issues. These rubes missed the mark by denouncing Nike Japan as a “foreign brand,” or dismissing these kids as “outside voices.”

This is worse than just lazy journalist hackery. This fumble was a missed opportunity to highlight issues that have long been ignored in Japan’s media—the existence of a growing number of visible minorities. So let’s make up for that in this column by acknowledging that Nike Japan’s ad was a big step in the right direction…

Rest of the article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/12/21/visible-minorities-nike-japan-does-some-good/ Read it before it goes behind a paywall on Friday.

Full text of my first SNA column is now archived on Debito.org: “The Japan Times Becomes Servant to the Elite” (Feb 2, 2019)

The Japan Times Becomes Servant to the Elite
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, February 2, 2019

Excerpt: On January 28, the Japan Times published an opinion piece titled, “How Japanese is Naomi Osaka?” Author Kunihiko Miyake “felt something odd” about how the multiethnic tennis champ could ever “represent Japan.” Miyake’s article is indicative of how the quality of analysis has slipped under the Japan Times’ new ownership, and suggests how the purposes of the organization have changed…

[Miyake’s] half-baked column is indicative of something much larger—a decline in analytical prowess due to the editorial changes at the Japan Times in recent years.

The Japan Times came under new ownership in June 2017 by the media group News2u Holdings, a PR company. In an unexpected editorial shift, last November the Japan Times announced that it would henceforth be rewording the “potentially misleading” (and internationally-recognized) terms “Comfort Women”—which is already a direct translation of the official euphemism of ianfu—as “women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will, to provide sex to Japanese soldiers.” Likewise, the term “forced laborers” would now be rendered merely as “wartime laborers,” following the new government policy.

Aside from journalistic concerns about cramming a wordy term into concise articles, it wasn’t hard for media observers to understand this as a response to government pressure, already manifest in Japanese media and world history textbooks, to portray Japan’s past in a more exculpatory light…
Full article text now archived at http://www.debito.org/?p=15541

NIKE JAPAN ads featuring Japan’s Minorities and Visible Minorities taking solace and courage from doing sports

Reader JK sent me this link to the following NIKE JAPAN advertisement for discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G02u6sN_sRc
Entitled “動かしつづける。自分を。未来を。” (Lit: We will continue moving. Myself. And the Future.”, which is a bit different from the official title of “The Future Isn’t Waiting”), the subject is of Japan’s school-age Minorities and Visible Minorities facing social othering in Japan, and finding solace and courage in themselves by becoming good at sports.

It’s dated November 27, 2020, and been viewed nearly 10 million times as of this writing. According to the Japan Times, it’s inspired a “fiery online response”: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/02/national/social-issues/japan-nike-ad/

The BBC adds, a bit disingenuously: “Many Japanese do not like to be told by outside voices to change their ways,” said Morley Robertson, a Japanese-American journalist. “But if a foreigner demonstrates a deep understanding of Japanese culture or Japanese rules, then those same Japanese who would otherwise take offence will gush forth with praise.”

Steve McGinnes, the author of Surfing the Asian wave: How to survive and thrive in the new world order, believes the advert is an “own goal”. “Endemic racism is going to be a sensitive topic in any culture. But Nike should not think, as a foreign brand, that it is appropriate for them to point it out to their hosts. “They are crudely putting a spotlight onto a subject that many feel should be off-limits to guests. It’s a huge own goal for Nike.”… “In 2020, should America or an American brand be taking the high ground on racism and telling the rest of the world what they are doing wrong?” adds Mr McGinnes. “Clearly, a lot of Japanese people think they shouldn’t.” https://www.bbc.com/news/business-55140846

I’ll reserve my comment for later.  But I don’t believe this is an “own goal” for Nike.  And how self-assured can these pundits be that these are “outside voices”?  

United Nations human rights experts say Japan was wrong to detain former Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation

AP: A panel of human rights experts working with the United Nations said Monday that former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was wrongly detained in Japan and has urged “compensation” for him from the Japanese government. The Japanese government denounced the report as a “totally unacceptable” viewpoint that will change nothing in the country’s legal process.

In its opinion published Monday, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Ghosn’s arrest in Japan in late 2018 and early 2019 was “arbitrary” and called on Japan’s government to “take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr Ghosn without delay.” A determination of whether detention is arbitrary is based on various criteria, including international norms of justice…

Japan’s system has been repeatedly criticized by human rights advocates. The panel cited previous concerns about Japan’s so-called daiyo kangoku system of detention and interrogation that relies heavily on confessions and could expose detainees to torture, ill-treatment and coercion.

COMMENT: I wrote back in January in that Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan’s gaijin gulag was the right move — not least because Japan’s heavy-handed prosecutorial powers and treatment of criminal suspects is in itself a violation of human rights.  Now it turns out the United Nations would agree.  Given that Japan has been shamed for decades over its human rights record, and still has not passed a criminal law against racial discrimination as promised under international treaty it signed a quarter century ago (yes, way back in 1995!), I doubt this will mean much. But at least it’s a delicious vindication for our advocacy camp.

My latest SNA VM column 16: “US Elections Repudiate Trump’s Japan-Style Ethnostate”, suggesting that the US might be taking real steps towards a post-racial society, Nov. 16, 2020

SNA (Tokyo) — The US elections captured the world’s attention. No wonder. Given America’s hegemony as an economic, political, cultural, and military power, the results underpin the future of geopolitics and world order.

But here’s another angle: This election offers the world some insights into how countries painfully evolve into multiethnic, post-racial societies. It even demonstrated how enfranchised people would rather destroy their governing system than relinquish power.

Fortunately, they didn’t win. Let’s recount some important facts.

The contest between incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was indeed, as depicted in campaign slogans, a battle for the “soul of America.”

At stake was whether Trump’s nepotistic, corrupt administration—one that shamelessly used whatever means they could to perpetuate their power, punish political enemies, and undermine democracy both domestic and worldwide—would get four more years; or whether America’s place as a world leader, for better or worse, would be restored to less capricious leadership, with policymaking sane enough to keep its own citizens alive in a self-inflicted pandemic.

Clearly American voters chose the latter course; Biden won. He got five million more votes in an election where more people voted for a president than ever before, with voting rates on track to be among the highest in modern US history. […]

[There are of course some caveats, and] given the current status of Trump refusing to concede the election, and his lackeys interfering with a transition to the presumptive winner, it’s clear that no matter who wins, Republicans feel they are the only ones entitled to run the country. They view cheating, sabotage, soliciting foreign interference, and spreading unscientific conspiracy theories as fair play. The United States’ 233-year experiment in democracy be damned; 73 million voters in this election agreed with Trump’s authoritarianism. The intractable polarization of American politics is complete.

Still, the fact remains that this election was a repudiation of Trump, and, in retrospect, it’s a textbook example of democracy in action. […]

Ultimately, the history books will remember this about the past four years: Trump was the worst president in American history—the only one who was impeached, served only one term, and lost the popular vote. Twice.

Well, good for the United States. But there are also lessons here for Japan, particularly its minorities: how countries make slow and painful transitions to a post-racial society…

Read the rest on SNA at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/11/16/visible-minorities-us-elections-repudiate-trumps-japan-style-ethnostate/

Unknown news chyron of Govt panel that apparently blames foreigners for spreading Covid. However, FNN News tells a different story: one of assisting foreigners. Let’s be careful to avoid disinformation (UPDATED).

A screenshot of an unknown news has a chyron indicating that some government panel states, “Foreigners have different languages and customs, so we can’t thoroughly enforce policies against the spread of [Covid] infections.”  By implication, this means that foreigners are being seen as an obstacle to the safety of Japanese society because of their differences. The screenshot is starting to multiply around the mediasphere, which is why it’s been sent to me multiple times.

However, a Debito.org Reader sends me a FNN news videos which, at minute 1:30, says, “Bunkakai de wa, kurasutaa e no taiou ya, kotoba no chigai de soudan ya jushin ga okureru gaikokujin no tame ni ichigenteki na soudan madoguchi o setchi suru koto ni tsuite giron shiteimasu.”
Or (my translation):
“At this panel, they are debating about whether to set up a unified consultation center to deal with clusters and with foreigners and who face delayed medical consultations and treatments due to language differences.”

That’s quite a different take!  According to FNN, this panel seems to be trying to assist, not exclude or blame. I welcome others who find more clarifying media about this event.  Meanwhile, my point is to be careful.  Foreigners have been so perpetually offset and treated as exceptions from the regular population that this could reflexively feel like a repeat performance.  But let’s be careful that this reflex does not lead to disinformation.

UPDATE NOV 14:
Ph.D. Candidate Anoma van der Veere has kindly tweeted out his research indicating some media sensationalism is going on here.  Access the thread beginning at https://twitter.com/anomav/status/1327117586249568256?s=21&fbclid=IwAR0gIPlDs9K6X8tH87UWEuafZDYEM9XrgLobf7LI2luRRJgnStztEdka9n4
Screen captures follow, for the record.

BLOG BIZ: Semester busy-ness drawing all my energy, and US Election Day

Just a personal note.  I’ve been relatively slow on the draw here on Debito.org recently because of the busy-ness of the semester.  I usually aim for one blog post per week, sometimes two if there’s a monthly Shingetsu News Agency column in the works.

But this semester has been a busy one, what with three classes — two of them new, and one of them an elite writing seminar.  When I’m not Zooming my classes live, I’m creating the next powerpoint lecture.  And when I’m not doing that, I’m grading.  And when not that, I’m doing background research on area politics.

All of that draws down whatever writing energy I have left at the end of the day, and especially on a day like this (Election Day in the United States, which is basically Christmas for us Political Scientists), every day is some kind of teachable moment.

Not to worry:  Debito.org has been going strong for a quarter-century now, and will continue whenever I have the time and energy (even if that means a week or three between blog posts). It’s just that kind of a semester. And as always, I’m open to anonymized guest authors saving me energy by giving me copy-pastable reports of things going on around them in Japan.  We’re still a venue for life-in-Japan issues.

My SNA Visible Minorities 15: “New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist”, on how they are actually a natural outcome of Japan’s bullying bureaucracy (Oct. 19, 2020)

SNA: Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that Japan’s foreign residents have no “right of sojourn,” i.e., to leave Japan temporarily and expect to return. (Japan Times columnist Colin Jones called it a “reverse Hotel California”–you can leave any time you like, but can never check back in.)

That means that even if you invested your entire life in Japan, married a Japanese, had children, paid taxes, bought property, started a business, and even achieved Permanent Residency (which by definition should be a legitimate claim to reside here forever), nothing you did matters… Hypothetically, if push comes to shove, a Permanent Resident will have the same status as any foreign tourist at the border.

Well, that hypothetical came true last April when, due to Covid, Japan decided to bar all foreigners from re-entering Japan–even though Japanese could still return and merely quarantine. No other developed country does this, and there is no science indicating that Japanese passports offer enhanced epidemiological protection. It was purely arbitrary…

From October 1, Japan announced it would open its borders to foreign residents under certain conditions. But it turns out that, realistically, these conditions are still a ban. Consider “George,” a foreign resident of Japan who told Debito.org his experience returning to Japan from Europe this month…

In sum, Japan’s October revised re-entry system is still a means to discriminate against foreigners. By arbitrarily creating a tight 72-hour hour window requiring special paperwork unattuned to the realities of Covid testing overseas (especially when the test is meaningless if you get infected on the plane), Japan’s bureaucrats merely deflected international criticism from its regular racism by replacing it with new, improved racism.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 19, 2020

Table of Contents:
1) W on Japan’s Kafkaesque and faulty re-entry procedures (even after October revisions to “open borders to Re-entry Visa foreign residents”): More elaborate racist barriers now.
2) Oct 1, 2020’s new govt regulations for NJ Resident Re-Entry: Not much of a change. Racialized barriers still up; instead, “business travelers” and “foreign tourists” may soon be prioritized
3) Dejima Award #9: Again to Japan Rugby Football Union, for classifying naturalized Japanese players as “foreign”, in violation of Japan Nationality Law.
… and finally …
4) My latest SNA VM column 14: “Visible Minorities: Weaponizing the Japanese Language”, on how Foreign Minister Motegi’s discriminatory treatment of Japan Times reporter Magdalena Osumi is part of a bigger phenomenon

W on Japan’s Kafkaesque and faulty re-entry procedures (even after October revisions to “open borders to Re-entry Visa foreign residents”): More elaborate racist barriers now.

This is an eyewitness account (redacted to remove personal identifiers) of a Permanent Resident of Japan, married to a Japanese for decades, who as a European went through re-entry procedures that apply to foreigners only (regardless of visa status) and not Japanese.  The Japanese Government claims they have made things easier for Non-Japanese re-entrants since October 1, but Debito.org Reader W would beg to differ below. This Kafkaesque ordeal will no doubt resonate with those who are used to Japanese bureaucracy, and doubly so when they see how racism (the belief that having a Japanese passport somehow makes you less contagious) is as usual part of the mix.

W: Thank you for follow up on re-entry ban issue. It is very important that someone is trying to do something with this discriminatory measures. Here is my personal investigation. I have had enough with lack of clarification and just assumptions by posters around various news venues. I spoke with one of the Japanese Embassies in Europe to ask about the procedure. They were very kind and helpful. I would advise everyone to contact them in the country you are staying, not to read the “assumptions” in other media.  I also asked about my Japanese spouse who is always with me in the same country where we spent the last half year. Let me start from her, because her case is short.

Well, my spouse doesn’t need anything even though we would re-enter together from the same country where we lived together. Japanese don’t need to prove negative Covid exposure (through a PCR test) prior to return to Japan. However, I as a foreigner need a) a PCR test, administered in the foreign country 72 hours before departure, and b) a “Confirmation Letter” with “Certificate of Testing for COVID-19” signed and sealed by the lab by the foreign country that conducted this PCR test.

Let me summarize what I went through:
Step 1:
Japanese Embassy – Apply for Confirmation Letter. 1h drive one way (probably not required anymore since Suga became PM).
3 Days later
Japanese Embassy – Pick up confirmation letter. 1h drive one way
Step 2:
PCR test (lucky they opened just recently a lab close to me)
Step 3:
Next day go back to the lab to stamp and sign the Japanese document by a doctor. This is only when test comes back negative.
Step 4 (when all above is done):
Airlines require to fill in (or rather tick boxes) on their own document. This must be done prior to boarding.
Step 5:
Japan now requires another form to be filled in once inside the plane to “catch” early those at high risk who may be infected and may need hospitalization. (This is not a failsafe; anyone can lie on any forms, including these given by airlines.)
Step 6:
Another PCR in Japan at the airport upon arrival. (Other countries, such as Germany, respect certificates issued elsewhere when showed at the border, and next PCR is not necessary then.)
Again, Japanese citizens only need a Japanese passport and a PCR test administered by Japan after arrival. As if Japanese citizens are less contagious just because of their passport.