Discussion: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and GOJ WWII Sexual Slavery System: A brave debate that is suddenly and disingenuously circumspect

Below are Hashimoto’s statements to foreign press shortly before he appeared at the FCCJ on May 27. While I am disinclined to comment on the historical specifics (as I haven’t studied the WWII Sexual Slavery aka Comfort Women Issue sufficiently to make informed statements), I will say this about what Hashimoto’s doing: He’s bringing the issue to the fore for public scrutiny.

Bring this before public scrutiny in itself is a good thing. Too many times we have had bigoted, racist, sexist, and plain ahistorical statements by Japan’s public officials downplayed by the media, resulting in predictable backpedaling and claiming that comments were “for a domestic audience only”. This is typically followed by snap resignations without sufficient debate or correction (or, in recent years, people not resigning at all and just waiting for the next media cycle for things to blow over), undercarpet sweeping, and a renewed regional toxic aftertaste: How Japan’s elite status in Asia under America’s hegemony allows it to remain historically unrepentant and a debate Galapagos in terms of historical accountability. Japan’s media generally lacks the cojones to bring the xenophobic and bigoted to account for their statements (after all, Hashimoto to this day has not developed a filter for his role as public official; he still talks like the outspoken lawyer he was when appearing on Japanese TV as a pundit). So having him show some unusual backbone before the foreign press is something more Japanese in positions of power should do. Let’s have the debate warts and all, and let the historians debunk the ahistorical claims being made. But the claims have to be made clearly in the first place before they can be debunked.

The bad thing going on here, in my view, is that Hashimoto is rationalizing and normalizing sexual slavery as a universal part of war — as if “blaming Japan” is wrong because everyone allegedly did it. In his words, “It would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world.” That is: Japan did nothing all that wrong because it did nothing unusually wrong.

Hashimoto is also denying that the GOJ was “intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women”. And that is wrong both morally and factually. It is also wrong because working backwards from a conclusion of relativism. People (especially those of Hashimoto, Abe, and Ishihara’s political bent) have the tendency to not want to view their “beautiful country” “negatively” as the bad guy in the movie. Therefore their countrymen’s behavior must have been within context as part of the “normal”, because to them it is inconceivable that people could possibly have acted differently in the same circumstances.

But not only is this a dishonest assessment of history (EVERY country, yes, has a history that has shameful periods; the trick is not to cover them up, as Hashimoto’s ilk seeks to do, down to Japan’s education curriculum), but it is also disingenuously circumspect: For Hashimoto’s ilk, not only must Japan be seen ACCURATELY (as they see it), it must be seen NICELY. That’s simply not possible for certain time periods in Japan’s history.

At least Hashimoto is willing to boldly present that side for people to shoot down. Hopefully he will lose his political career because of it, for a man like this is unfit to hold political office. But it is more “honest” than the alternative.

Hashimoto’s statements follow in English and Japanese, plus an AJW article on the FCCJ Q&A. After that, let’s have some comments from Debito.org Readers. But an advance word of warning: Although this falls under Discussions (where I moderate comments less strictly), the sensitive and contentious nature of this subject warrants a few advance ground rules: Comments will NOT be approved if a) they seek to justify sexual slavery or human trafficking in any form, b) they try to claim that Hashimoto was misquoted without comparing the misquote to his exact quote, or c) they claim historical inaccuracy without providing credible historical sources. In sum, commenters who seek to justify Hashimoto’s ahistorical stances will have to do more homework to be heard on Debito.org. Conversely, comments will more likely be approved if they a) stick to the accuracy or logic of Hashimoto’s statements, b) talk about the debate milieu within Japan regarding this topic, c) take up specific claims and address them with credible sources. Go to it. But make sure in the course of arguing that you don’t sound like Hashimoto and his ilk yourself.

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.

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…

Patricia Aliperti & Catherine Makino on NJ Sexual Slavery/Human Trafficking in Japan

Hi Blog. Here is a situation covered only infrequently by the media and by the likes of Debito.org (mainly because there is so little public information out there, and it’s a topic I’m not at liberty to research myself)–how sex trafficking, particularly that involving non-Japanese, is a flourishing business. And how Japan is one of …

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”

Wash Post: “NBC apologizes to Koreans for Olympics coverage praising Japan’s brutal occupation”, rightly so

It’s Olympics time again, and, as long-time readers know, I’m a fan of the athleticism but not the nationalism (and inevitable comparisons of strengths and weaknesses along national lines) that is endemic to bordered sports. Too many people compete for glory as representatives of whole societies, not for individual bests, and that particularly takes a toll on Japan’s athletes.

I’ve been a relentless critic of Japan’s sports commentary, but now that I’m watching it in the US, fair game. I was quite incandescent with rage at times listening to NBC’s stupid, overgeneralizing, and often borderline racist commentary of the Opening Ceremonies. Fortunately, I was not alone, and Korea protested not only the overgeneralizations, but also the ahistorical comments that were ill-considered. Fortunately, NBC apologized (and told the press that the offending commentator’s “assignment is over”), which is better than I’ve ever seen NHK do for its nasty coverage. Here’s the Washington Post on the issue.

WaPo: [NBC’s network’s analyst, Joshua Cooper] Ramo’s commentary amounted to bland trivia about Asia “seemingly plucked from hastily written social studies reports” — such as his observation that white and blue flags stood for North and South Korean unity. Variety compared his commentary to a Wikipedia article.

But Ramo’s big misstep came when he noticed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in the crowd and offered what he knew about the country’s history with Korea. Japan was “a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945,” Ramo said, correctly (though he did not mention that historians say the Japanese army forced tens of thousands of Koreans into sex slavery.) “But,” Ramo continued, “every Korean will tell you that Japan as a cultural and technological and economic example has been so important to their own transformation.” This was definitely not correct.

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.

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 OCT 14, 2017

Table of Contents:
HOPEFUL SIGNS?
1) New Japanese “Party of Hope” remains unhopeful for Japan’s NJ residents, requiring new party entrants to deny all NJ voting rights
2) “Japanese Only” signs come down in Monbetsu, Hokkaido. Finally. It only took 22 years.
3) Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage
4) “Japanese Only” rules mutate: Hagoromo-yu, a bathhouse excluding LGBT in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, in reaction to local same-sex-partner ordinance
5) Positive book review of “Embedded Racism” in “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity” journal (American Sociological Association)

MORE ON YENER CASE
6) NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer
7) Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides Debito.org with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company
…and finally…
8 ) My Japan Times JBC 108: “In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech”, Aug 24, 2017

My Japan Times JBC 108: “In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech”, Aug 24, 2017

JBC: Let’s talk about Charlottesville.

As you probably heard, two weeks ago there was a protest in a small Virginia town against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general who defended slavery in the American South. Various hate groups, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, assembled there with shields, weapons, fascist flags and anti-Semitic slogans. They were met with counterprotest, and things got violent. A supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.

Charlottesville has shaken hope for a post-racial America to the core. But before readers in Japan breathe a sigh of relief and think, “It couldn’t happen here, not in peaceful Japan,” remember this:

Japan has also had plenty of hate rallies — there was about one per day on average in 2013 and 2014, according to the Justice Ministry. Rightist xenophobes and government-designated hate groups have assembled and held demos nationwide. Bearing signs calling foreign residents “cockroaches,” calling for a Nanking-style massacre of Koreans in an Osaka Koreatown, even advocating the extermination of “all Koreans, good or bad,” Japan’s haters have also used violence (some lethal) against the country’s minorities.

As JBC has argued before (“Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step,” Jan. 31, 2016), freedom of speech is not an absolute. And hate speech is special: It ultimately and necessarily leads to violence, due to the volatile mix of dehumanization with flared tempers.

That’s why Japan decided to do something about it. In 2016 the Diet passed a law against hate speech (albeit limiting it to specifically protect foreign residents). And it has had an effect: Japanese media reports fewer rallies and softer invective.

America, however, hasn’t gotten serious about this. It has no explicit law against hate speech, due to fears about government censorship of freedom of speech. Opponents argue that the only cure is freer speech — that somehow hate will be balanced out by reasonable and rational counter-hate. That persuasion will win out.

But in 2016, it didn’t. Hate speech is precisely how Donald J. Trump got elected president…

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

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.

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

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.

ALTs (“outsourced” English teachers) earning slave wages (or less) working for Japanese public schools (plus an aside on odd Japan Times editorial bias)

This post deals with Government-sponsored slave wages (or worse) for NJ educators within the Japanese public school system through the cost-cutting “Assistant Language Teachers” (ALTs) “outsourcing” system–a backdoor way for local governments to get cheaper JETs than having to go through the national government’s JET Programme (where wages and work conditions are more fixed at a higher standard). The cost-cutting for the ALTs has gotten to the point (inevitably) where the ALTs are no longer being paid a living wage. Here’s the math in video form, courtesy of the Fukuoka General Union:

CAPTION: This is an actual example on how impossible it is to live on the salary of a dispatched ALT working at a Kitakyushu City Board of Education public school. Though they are full time teachers they only have 1000 yen a day to spend on food and nothing else. They just can’t survive on this low wage.
北九州市の市立中学校で働く派遣の語学指導助手の給料の実態。可処分収入は月3万円、­それはすべて食費に使うと1日1000円ぐらい。フルタイムの先生なのに貧困層。現実­です。

As further background to the ALT issue, here is a Japan Times Letter to the Editor by Chris Clancy:

The Year in Quotes: “Much jaw-jaw about war-war” (my latest for the JT), Foreign Element column, Dec. 23, 2015

I love year-end roundups, and this year I was given the privilege of compiling the year in quotes. Fuller version follows with more quotes that didn’t make the cut and links to sources:

JT: The past year has seen a number of tensions and tugs-of-war, as conservatives promoted past glories and preservation of the status quo while liberals lobbied for unprecedented levels of tolerance. This year’s Community quotes of the year column will break with tradition by not giving a guided tour of the year through quotations, but rather letting the words stand alone as capsule testaments to the zeitgeist. Quotes follow:

“I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours. In a world of intense international engagements, few visits are truly historic or change the course of a relationship. Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, is one.”
— Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s December trip to India, where agreements were reached on infrastructure investment (including a much-feted high-speed train), nuclear energy cooperation, classified intelligence sharing and military hardware sales to deter China from encroaching upon the Indian Ocean.

“Since taking office, I’ve worked to rebalance American foreign policy to ensure that we’re playing a larger and lasting role in the Asia Pacific — a policy grounded in our treaty alliances, including our treaty with Japan. And I’m grateful to Shinzo for his deep commitment to that alliance. He is pursuing a vision of Japan where the Japanese economy is reinvigorated and where Japan makes greater contributions to security and peace in the region and around the world.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama, during a joint press conference marking Abe’s visit to the United States in April, during which he became the first Japanese leader to address both houses of Congress.

“If Japan gets attacked, we have to immediately go to their aid. If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us.”
— Donald Trump, U.S. Republican presidential candidate, on the stump.

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…

Another Gaijin Handler speaks at East-West Center: Dr. Nakayama Toshihiro, ahistorically snake-charming inter alia about how Japan’s warlike past led to Japan’s stability today (Sept. 15, 2015)

Nakayama: (From minute 1:02:00). But as shown in Prime Minister Abe’s statement commemorating the [unintelligible] end of World War II that was announced on the 14th of August, there were suspicion in Korea and in China that Prime Minister Abe changed totally the understanding of how we see history. But I think that we see if we actually read the text, I think it relates much more to [unintelligible]. He was sometimes being criticized as being a revisionist, trying to see the war in different terms. I don’t think that was his intention. In Japan, the governmental historical discourse is that everything started from 1945. Everything that happened before that is basically wrong. That’s not how things turned out. Yes, there was a disastrous four years. If you include China and The Occupation, it goes beyond that. But you have to remember that Japan was the first modern state in Asia which successed [sic] in modernizing itself, and became a player in the Great Power games. And that’s a success case. Yes, it ended up in a war, with the United States and China, but that doesn’t mean we have to negate everything that happened before 1945. An attempt by Prime Minister Abe was to see history in continuation, and there were some parts [unintelligible] that would make democracy stable after 1945, were established in the Prewar Period. So we have to see the history in continuance. I think that was the message.

COMMENT: Wow. Imagine the international reaction if a representative of Germany (or one of their academics lecturing overseas) were to argue today that “Nazi Germany did some good things for Germany too, including making the country the stable democracy it is now.” Fascinating tack (in its ahistoricality) in light of the fascist regimes that not only did their utmost to dismantle the trappings of stable democracy, but also led their countries to certain destruction (and were in fact rebuilt thanks to Postwar assistance from former enemies). No, what happened to Japan in the Prewar Era at its own hands was ultimately destructive, not stabilizing (and not only to Japan). Thus, Dr. Nakayama imparts an interesting mix of uncharacteristic historical ignorance, with an undercurrent of the ancestor worship that the Abe Administration ultimately grounds its ideology within.

Moreover, Dr. Nakayama is a fascinating case study of how the Japanese Government recognizes the Gaijin-Handling potential in its bilingual brightest (inserting them into, in Dr. Nakayama’s case, Japan’s diplomatic missions abroad), and manages to convince them to come back home and shill for Japan’s national interest even if it defies all of their liberal-arts training and mind-expanding world experiences. Meanwhile the USG kindly takes the lead of the Japanese Embassy to offer GOJ reps the forums they need to have maximum impact within American policymaking circles. Very smart of the GOJ, less so the USG.

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 APRIL 5 2015

Table of Contents:
ENFORCING JAPAN’S NATIONAL NARRATIVE
1) Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus carries full text of my interview with Dr. Herbert Ziegler on GOJ pressure to censor his history book of “Comfort Women”
2) NYT Opinion: Mindy Kotler on “The Comfort Women and Japan’s War on Truth”, an excellent primer on the issue
3) Kyodo: Japan didn’t meddle with U.S. “Comfort Women” textbook, Japanese Ambassador to US Sasae claims; meanwhile GOJ panel established to “Restore the Honor and Trust of Japan”
4) Renewed GOJ projections of hard and soft power: Yomiuri argues for remilitarization “to protect J-nationals abroad”, Reuters reports GOJ reinvestment in overseas universities, claims “no strings attached”
5) ABC News Radio Australia interviews me on multiethnic Japanese Ariana Miyamoto’s crowning as Miss Japan 2015
6) Koike Yuriko in World Economic Forum: “Why inequality is different in Japan” (= because “We Japanese have a deeply ingrained stoicism”)

ENFORCING JAPAN’S SECURITY
7) JT: “Should Japan beef up its anti-terrorism measures?” Renewed political opportunism to further erode Postwar civil liberties, go soft on right-wing groups
8 ) Suspicious recent death of NJ after being “restrained” on the street by Tokyo Police in daytime warrants more investigation and attention
9) PNS: Deaths of unknown persons in the custody of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police: At least 5 in past year
10) Japan Today: Narita airport ends ID security checks for non-passengers

MISC
11) Spoke at Washington University at St. Louis Law School Colorism Conference April 3, on skin color stigmatism in Japan

… and finally…
12) Japan Times JBC 85, Mar 5 2015: “US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”, with targeted textbook text on Debito.org for the record

NYT Opinion: Mindy Kotler on “The Comfort Women and Japan’s War on Truth”, an excellent primer on the issue

Kotler: We know of Lieutenant Nakasone’s role in setting up a comfort station thanks to his 1978 memoir, “Commander of 3,000 Men at Age 23.” At that time, such accounts were relatively commonplace and uncontroversial — and no obstacle to a political career. From 1982 to 1987, Mr. Nakasone was the prime minister of Japan. Today, however, the Japanese military’s involvement in comfort stations is bitterly contested. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is engaged in an all-out effort to portray the historical record as a tissue of lies designed to discredit the nation. Mr. Abe’s administration denies that imperial Japan ran a system of human trafficking and coerced prostitution, implying that comfort women were simply camp-following prostitutes.

The latest move came at the end of October when, with no intended irony, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party appointed Mr. Nakasone’s own son, former Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, to chair a commission established to “consider concrete measures to restore Japan’s honor with regard to the comfort women issue.” The official narrative in Japan is fast becoming detached from reality, as it seeks to cast the Japanese people — rather than the comfort women of the Asia-Pacific theater — as the victims of this story. The Abe administration sees this historical revision as integral to restoring Japan’s imperial wartime honor and modern-day national pride. But the broader effect of the campaign has been to cause Japan to back away from international efforts against human rights abuses and to weaken its desire to be seen as a responsible partner in prosecuting possible war crimes.

Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus carries full text of my interview with Dr. Ziegler on GOJ pressure to censor his history book of “Comfort Women”

Last week I offered Japan Times readers an abridged version of an interview with Dr. Herbert Ziegler, historian at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, on Japanese Government pressure to censor all mention of Japan’s official sexual slavery during WWII (the “Comfort Women” issue). The full text of the interview is now available at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus’s website (a very valuable resource, in case you haven’t heard of it before). An excerpt that did not make the cut in The Japan Times due to space limitations:

Dr. Ziegler: I mentioned earlier about the woman who came as the Consul’s interpreter and I looked into this a little bit. I remember some time ago that she came to my office, I didn’t know her well but she was a student at this university, and she asked if I had a collection of World History books. And I do, sort of, just to see what the competition is like. So my whole shelf over there is full of World History textbooks. So she asked if she could go through them and look at them. And now, with hindsight, I’m thinking, “She was on a spying mission.” Not that I cared then, but this is my thinking now: This was started some time ago, perhaps. I mean, how does the Consul, who barely reads English I assure you, read my textbook?

Go to http://www.japanfocus.org/events/view/246 for the rest.

Japan Times JBC 85, Mar 5 2015: “US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”, with targeted textbook text on Debito.org for the record

JBC: The debate on Japan’s history of wartime sexual slavery (aka the “comfort women” issue) has heated up again, with the Japanese government extending its efforts to revise school textbooks overseas.

In November, McGraw-Hill, publisher of the world history textbook “Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past” Vol. 2, by history professors Herbert Ziegler and Jerry Bentley, was contacted by Japan’s Consulate General in New York. The request: that two paragraphs (i.e., the entire entry) on the comfort women be deleted.

On Jan. 15, McGraw-Hill representatives met with Japanese diplomats and refused the request, stating that the scholars had properly established the historical facts. Later that month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directly targeted the textbook in a parliamentary session, stating that he was “shocked” to learn that his government had “failed to correct the things it should have.”

In the March issue of the American Historical Association’s newsmagazine “Perspectives on History,” 20 prominent historians, including professor Ziegler, signed a letter to the editor titled “Standing with the historians of Japan.” They stated that they “agree with Herbert Ziegler that no government should have the right to censor history,” and “oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes.” Professor Ziegler met with JBC on Feb. 17…

Excerpt ends. For the record, what follows is the full text of the textbook entry on the “Comfort Women” issue being targeted by the Japanese Government:

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 5, 2014

Table of Contents:
THE WEIRD EFFECTS OF JAPAN’S INTERNATIONAL BULLYING

1) From hate speech to witch hunt: Mainichi Editorial: Intimidation of universities employing ex-Asahi reporters intolerable; JINF Sakurai Yoshiko advocates GOJ historical revisionism overseas
2) Georgetown prof Dr. Kevin Doak honored by Sakurai Yoshiko’s JINF group for concept of “civic nationalism” (as opposed to ethnic nationalism) in Japan
3) Fun Facts #19: JT: Supreme Court denying welfare for NJ residents inspires exclusionary policy proposals by fringe politicians; yet the math does not equal the hype
4) Osaka Mayor Hashimoto vs Zaitokukai Sakurai: I say, bully for Hash for standing up to the bully boys
5) Two recent JT columns (domestic & international authors) revealing the damage done by PM Abe to Japan’s int’l image

… and finally…
6) Japan Times JBC column 80: “Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents”, on MOFA propagandizing re Hague Treaty on Child Abductions

From hate speech to witch hunt: Mainichi Editorial: Intimidation of universities employing ex-Asahi reporters intolerable; Sakurai Yoshiko advocates GOJ historical revisionism overseas

It’s the next natural step of Japan’s Extreme Right: jingoism and terrorism. They feel empowered enough in present-day Japanese society (especially in the wake of the Asahi retracting some articles on Japan’s “Comfort Women” wartime sexual slavery) to start making larger threats to bodily harm. No longer are they satisfied with being bully boys during demonstrations (beating up Leftists with relative impunity, see here and here) — as seen in the article below they have to hound from livelihood those who oppose them using nail bombs. The tactics behind the practitioners of hate speech have morphed into real power to conduct ideological witch hunts. And it won’t stop there — the most powerful elements of the Extreme Right are gearing up like never before in the Postwar Era to rewrite history overseas too (see Yomiuri advert below). The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize did not go to people advocating for the conservation of Article 9 in Japan’s “Peace Constitution” is more evidence that the outside world still hasn’t caught up with what’s really going on with Japan’s Right Wing Swing.

Mainichi: Two universities have received letters threatening to harm their students unless the institutions dismiss a pair of instructors, who as Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporters had written articles about the wartime comfort women issue.

Yomiuri Ad: Now, more than ever, Japan needs to tell the world the facts about this matter and dispel entrenched misperceptions about comfort women. Instead, the Foreign Ministry will build “Japan House” public relations hubs in major cities overseas to promote Japanese cuisine and anime as a pillar of the “strategic proliferation of information abroad.” Does the ministry have its priorities in the right order? A task force charged with protecting Japan’s reputation and directly controlled by the prime minister should be set up, and a minister and dedicated secretariat placed in charge of handling this matter. A united effort by the whole government is required—urgently.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 9, 2014

Table of Contents:
HATE SPEECH AND THE BLAME GAME

1) Blame Game #433: JT on “Rumors of Foreign Looters in Hiroshima Unfounded”, “Social Media Rehashes Historical Hate”, and Economist on unoptimistic outcomes re hate speech law
2) Asahi Editorial: PM Abe and his Cabinet picks must clarify stance on Zaitokukai, racism
3) JT on hate speech and GOJ’s connections to organized crime: “Yakuza do what Abe Cabinet’s Yamatani can’t”
4) Blame Game #432: J-Cast.com reports Mt. Fuji is covered in human poop, speculates due to increase in foreign tourists

OUTRIGHT MEANNESS AND DECEPTION
5) JT: Ishihara and Hiranuma’s conservative party to submit bill halting welfare for needy NJ a la July Supreme Court decision
6) 2014 MOFA pamphlet explaining Hague Treaty on Child Abductions to J citizens (full text with synopsis, including child-beating NJ father on cover & victimized J mothers throughout)
7) SCMP (Hong Kong) on MOFA Hague Pamphlet: “‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists”, cites Debito.org (UPDATE: Also makes Huffington Post Japan in Japanese & Al Jazeera)

GOOD NEWS
8 ) Quoted in BBC Brasil (original Portuguese & machine E translation): “Japan receives criticism from the UN after wave of xenophobia in the streets”
9) Debito receives his Ph.D. Sept. 18, 2014, at Meiji Gakuin University ceremony. Photo included.

… AND FINALLY… (I forgot to append my column to the Newsletter last month, so here are two of them this month)
10) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 78, August 14, 2014, “Past victimhood blinds Japan to present-day racial discrimination”
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 79, on Japan’s Visible Minorities, Sept. 4, 2014 (version with links to sources)

Asahi Editorial: PM Abe and his Cabinet picks must clarify stance on Zaitokukai, racism

Continuing with the hate speech theme (and the perpetrators of it in Japan, e.g., Zaitokukai), here is an editorial from the Asahi decrying that support of this group (or at least the unwillingness to disavow or take measures against their spreading public hatred of minorities) appears to reside in the highest levels of government. As the person being cited, Yamatani Eriko, is the nation’s top cop in the current PM Abe Cabinet, this information bodes ill for any legal measures or remedies against hate speech in Japan, something the UN recently advised Japan to adopt.

BTW, this is the same Yamatani Eriko who spoke out against a memorial against Japan’s wartime “Comfort Women” sexual slavery in Palisades Park, New Jersey (not the Glendale, California monument), including the following “explanation” in two languages on her blog of May 6, 2012 (courtesy of MS), with the requisite denialism:

Conclusion: “Moreover, it cannot be tolerated that Japanese children are bullied and felt sorrowful due to a lie that Japan conducted the abduction of 200,000 girls which is not true at all, and that the lie has been spread throughout the world.”

These are the people who currently lead Japan. Is there any more doubt about the claim of Japan’s right-wing swing?

Blame Game #433: JT on “Rumors of Foreign Looters in Hiroshima Unfounded”, “Social Media Rehashes Historical Hate”, and Economist on unoptimistic outcomes re hate speech law

Continuing on with the theme of Japan’s Blame Game (as in, blame foreigners for any social ill that you don’t want to take responsibility for), this blog entry talks about the phenomenon of blame speech morphing into hate speech (not that far of a stretch, given the irresponsible nature of anonymous social media). We have people conjuring up fake stories of foreigners looting after natural disasters that got so bad that even the Japanese police (who are not positively predisposed to foreign residents in the first place — they’re usually on the front lines of blaming them for foreign crime and the undermining of Japanese society) are stepping in to defend them (article included).

This is ironic, since NHK has recently reported there have been 1200 burglaries in post-disaster Fukushima and perps are Japanese (article). And it’s not the first time that the authorities have had to step in and dispel rumors targeting NJ residents. Consider what happened weeks after the 2011 Fukushima disasters. Rumors were circulating about foreign crime all over again and had to be tamped down upon (article). Despite the fact that crime was occurring and probably not due to NJ (article). Note how J crime naturally causes considerably less media panic. But since there are no legal restrictions on hate speech in Japan, if you can’t say something nice about people, say it about foreigners. And there is in fact a long history of this sort of thing going on (article), what with the massacre of Korean residents back in 1923.

To be sure, hate speech has finally become an issue in Japan. A recent NHK survey has shown that a vast majority of the Japanese public think hate speech is a problem, and a near-majority think that legislation is needed (article). That said, I remain unoptimistic about how things will turn out, especially given the bent of the current administration. The Economist (London) appears to share that view, even hinting that it may be used to stifle pertinent criticisms of the government (as opposed to nasty speculation about minorities and disenfranchised peoples) (article).

So what to do? I still remain in support of a law against hate speech (as is the United Nations), i.e., speech that foments fear, hatred, and related intolerance towards disenfranchised peoples and minorities in Japan. Those are the people who need protection against the powerful precisely because they are largely powerless to defend themselves as minorities in an unequal social milieu. The Japanese government’s proposed definition of hate speech (taken from the NHK article above) of 「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」(behavior or expressive activity that foments discrimination or violence toward, or disparages people belonging to groups distinguished by race, citizenship, gender etc.) is a decent one, and a good start. Where it will go from here, given the abovementioned extremities of Japan’s current right-wing political climate, remains to be seen.

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)

UN: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Japan 2014: Little progress made

Two posts ago I talked about the UN’s most recent report on Japan’s human rights record (and how there seems to have been almost no progress made). Well, also interesting is the public record of the give-and-take between UN officials and Japan’s mission to the UN. That’s below. It offers a glimpse of the mindsets of Japan’s representatives, and how they will defend Japan’s status quo no matter what. The parts that are germane to Debito.org are bolded up, so have a read. This is probably a glimpse as to what courses the GOJ will (not) take regarding human rights issues in future.

BTW, If you want to see how much has not changed (these UN reviews happen every two years), get a load of what happened last time Japan faced the music in the UN regarding its human rights record, back in 2010. The GOJ even claimed Japan was taking “every conceivable measure” to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2008 (yeah, except for an actual law against racial discrimination, unrequited since 1996!). Debito.org’s archives and analysis go back even farther, so click here. And when everyone by now realizes that Japan’s human-rights efforts are a joke (seriously, back in 2013), the Japanese representative will angrily shout to the audience, “Why are you laughing? SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” This is not a joke.

Concluding remarks (excerpt):
ANWAR KEMAL, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Japan, said Japan was making progress in the implementation of the Convention. Japan had a democratic constitution and therefore should be able to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which would plug the gaps in the domestic legislation as recommended by the Committee five years ago. It should be able to tackle racist hate speech without impeding upon the right to free speech. It should install a national human rights institution without delay…

AKIRA KONO, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, [said] Japan would continue to make tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation without permitting any form of discrimination, including racial or ethnic.

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”

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.

JT: Motley crew of foreigners backing Japan’s revisionists basks in media glare (with UPDATES)

JT: In the war of words — particularly with South Korea and China — over World War II-era issues that has intensified over the past 18 months, foreigners — both Westerners and Asians — have also waded into the fray. And some have even sided with revisionist positions, raising questions over the Japanese military’s alleged recruitment of sex slaves (“comfort women”) and other contentious wartime topics.

For these individuals, preaching to the Japanese choir does appear to have its rewards. At a gathering in Tokyo last autumn, veteran British journalist Henry Scott Stokes commemorated the 70th anniversary of the showpiece meeting of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, Japan’s short-lived effort to align Asians against European colonial powers. “Japan is a country of rising sun,” he told his audience. “Joining hands together with the fellow Asian people who desire truly Free Asia, I sincerely hope that Japan will play a vital role for realizing democratic Asian unity.”

COMMENT: In light of the recent Nazi Swastika flags appearing in right-wing marches, it’s pretty wrong-headed for anyone who wants to keep a good reputation to publicly align with people like these. But it’s within character. I’ve heard plenty of pretty unflattering things about Mr. Scott-Stokes through the grapevine over the years. But another NJ bozo mentioned in the article as being in the pocket of Japan’s revisionist right is Tony Marano, a YouTube Vlogger (a sample video of his is up at the JT site; follow above link), who has in the past ignorantly commented on the “Japanese Only” signs issue — by blaming NJ (i.e., the “ugly Americans”) for the signs’ existence. Particularly one “liberal” foreigner (guess who; and I’m not a foreigner) who sues “them” and “messes up their legal system”: (video)

I wonder if Marano will ever get over his ignorance by actually doing any reading up on the issue. Probably not. Critics of his ilk rarely do — it makes the maintenance of their world view that much simpler. And, clearly, as the JT article establishes, more profitable.

UPDATE APRIL 1 (No, this isn’t an April Fool’s prank): Marano gets a regular column with tabloid weekly Asahi Geino (see scan). Now all he has to do is spout off, and it gets translated into a language and culture he doesn’t understand. I love how they try to directly translate his “god bless” at the end of the article.  Marano has no idea what he’s getting himself into.

UPDATE APRIL 2: Scott-Stokes also admits that he can’t even read his own revisionist book, let alone write it:
FCCJ: “Oddly, perhaps, he admits to not knowing exactly what’s between the pages of the book that carries his name – he says he reads little Japanese and an English translation has yet to be produced. It was dictated over hundreds of hours to another FCCJ member…”
So like Marano, Scott-Stokes has no idea how he’s being rendered in Japanese. Seems like for some, Japanese language fluency and apologist/revisionist stances are inversely proportional.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 5, 2013

Table of Contents:
PRELUDE
1) Scholar Morris-Suzuki on the rebranding of PM Abe for foreign consumption, contrasted with his “reverse postwar political reforms” goals set out in his manifesto
2) Anti-Korean Upper House candidate Suzuki Nobuyuki wants Japan closed to immigrants and rearm it with nukes

ELECTION REPORT
3) 2013 Election Brief: The rout of Japan’s Left is complete with a crushing LDP Upper House Victory
4) Assessing outgoing MP Tsurunen Marutei’s tenure in the Diet: Disappointing

AFTERMATH
5) Japan Focus: “Japan’s Democracy at Risk: LDP’s 10 Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change” by Lawrence Repeta (UPDATED with Aso’s Nazi admiration gaffe)
6) Japan Times: Politicians silent on curbing hate speech, and post-election I see no pressure to do so
7) WSJ: Abenomics’ Missing “Third Arrow: The absence of immigration reform from Abenomics bespeaks a deeper problem”
8 ) Latest addition to Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments: “Japanese Speaker Only” Okinawa Moromisato Karaoke Maimu

…and finally…
9) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 65, “Police ‘foreign crime wave’ falsehoods fuel racism”, July 8, 2013

2013 Election Special: The rout of Japan’s Left is complete with a crushing LDP Upper House Victory

It’s as predicted (if not encouraged) by Japan’s media: The rightist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), along with its coalition partner “Buddhist Party” Kōmeitō (KMT), won an outright majority in Japan’s Upper House.

Yesterday’s election was to be a referendum on the past six months of Prime Minister Abe, who was previously PM last decade in a spectacularly inept LDP administration that went down in flames in less than a year. Although political Pollyannas said Abe would be restrained between January and July due to this election (indeed, he vacillated somewhat on his stance towards historical revisionism, such as Japan being involved in wars of aggression and wartime sexual slavery), Abe still made the election more about temporary economic upturns with a hint of constitutional reform — asking for a mandate to resolve the gridlocked Diet (gridlock he had caused, it should have been noted), while occasionally raising alarmist fears about outsiders and Japan’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, the DPJ could not make the main issue of the election how the LDP’s proposed constitutional reforms would abrogate everyone’s constitutional rights. The LDP’s campaign slogan was in fact “Take back and return Japan” (Nihon o tori modosu); readings by scholars noted that this meant taking Japan back not from the DPJ, but from a Postwar constitution back to something Prewar. So much for restraint.

Let’s crunch some election statistics, with charts, and make some conclusions: Here’s the makeup of how the seats went by prefectural electoral district: Almost every prefecture went LDP. Japan’s rightward shift is especially clear when you compare it to the distribution in the 2010 and 2007 Upper House elections (see charts).

Now, as for assembly seat distributions: As denoted in the larger horizontal bar chart above, a 2/3 majority has been reached in the Upper House if one coalitions the LDP (at 115), KMT (at 20), JRP (at 9) and the Minna no Tō (at 18). This means a reform of Japan’s Constitution is now very possible if not probable.

Next, to see how much of a rout this election was for the DPJ, consider this bar chart for this election alone, not including seats that were not up for election this time: The biggest seat getters were the LDP/KMT coalition at 76. They had 44 before this election. The other fringe parties, Minna no Tō (politically wild-card) went from 3 to 8, JRP (ultra rightist) went from 2 to 8, and JCP (leftist communist) went from 3 to 8. Clearly the biggest loser was the DPJ, which dropped from 44 to 17. The Right is now clearly in control of the Upper House. That same conclusion is even more easily drawn if you look at the Proportional Representation vote…

Now, regarding for two elections that were of note to Debito.org: Two candidates were notable a) for their underwhelmingness (Japan’s first European-born MP Tsurunen Marutei) and b) for their rabid xenophobia (the anti-Korean candidate Suzuki Nobuyuki). Headlines:
1) XENOPHOBE SUZUKI NOBUYUKI GETS MORE THAN 1% OF TOKYO ELECTORATE
2) TSURUNEN LOSES HIS SEAT. NOT EVEN CLOSE
In fact, Tsurunen (who was running nationally under PR) got close to the same number of votes as Suzuki (who was running in Tokyo only), which I find decidedly scary.

CONCLUSION: I think Abe will now see this as vindication of his mandate, and we’ll see even more pushing of his rightest agenda to undo as many Postwar reforms as possible. Those will become very visible in the coming weeks. Vigilance.

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 64 Jun 4, 2013: “By opening up the debate to the real experts, Hashimoto did history a favor”

JT JBC 64: Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has been busy making headlines around the world with his controversial views on Japan’s wartime sex slaves (or “comfort women,” for those who like euphemisms with their history). Among other things, he claimed there is no evidence that the Japanese government sponsored the program, and suggested these exploited women were (and still are) a “necessary” outlet for a military’s primal urges.

I will say something for this idiot’s provocative behavior: He brought this issue out for long-overdue public scrutiny. He has also presented us with a case study of how to keep people like him in check….

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 3, 2013

Table of Contents:
1) Aichi Police online announcement about Junkai Renraku door-to-door cop visits. Happening in your neighborhood?
2) 2012 revisions to immigration and registry laws shaking down NJ for Pension & Health Insurance back payments
3) Asahi on arrest of Zaitokukai participant in anti-Korean demo; J-Cast on anti-Korean stuff being sold at Dietmember kaikan; Osaka sign saying “Stop Scrawling Discriminatory Graffiti”
4) Good news: GOJ signs Hague Child Abductions Treaty. Bad news: GOJ will probably caveat its way out of ever following it
5) Discussion: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and GOJ WWII Sexual Slavery System: A brave debate that is suddenly and disingenuously circumspect
… and finally…
6) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 63, May 14, 2013: “Police, media must consider plight of those caught in linguistic dragnet”

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 60, Feb 4, 2013: “Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan and Asia will suffer”

Japan Times JBC: On Jan. 1, The Japan Times’ lead story was “Summer poll to keep Abe in check.” It made the argument that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party alliance falls short of a majority in the Upper House, so until elections happen this summer he lacks a “full-fledged administration” to carry out a conservative agenda.

I believe this is over-optimistic. The LDP alliance already has 325 seats in Japan’s overwhelmingly powerful Lower House — safely more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes. Moreover, as Japan’s left was decimated in December’s elections, about three-quarters of the Lower House is in the hands of avowed hard-right conservatives. Thus Abe already has his mandate.

So this column will focus on what Abe, only the second person in postwar Japanese history given another chance at PM, is up to this time…

Although LDP leaders were once reticent about public displays of affection towards Japan’s hard right, Abe has been more unabashed. Within the past six months he has made two visits to controversial Yasukuni Shrine (once just before becoming LDP head, and once, officially, afterwards). Scholar Gavan McCormack unreservedly calls Abe “the most radical of all Japanese post-1945 leaders.”

Now Abe and his minions are back in power with possibly the most right-wing Cabinet in history. Academic journal Japan Focus last week published a translation of an NGO report (japanfocus.org/events/view/170) outlining the ultraconservative interest groups that Abe’s 19 Cabinet members participate in. Three-quarters are members of groups favoring the political re-enfranchisement of “Shinto values” and Yasukuni visits, two-thirds are in groups for remilitarizing Japan and denying wartime atrocities, and half are in groups seeking sanitation of school textbooks, adoption of a new “unimposed” Constitution, and protection of Japan from modernizing reforms (such as separate surnames for married couples) and outside influences (such as local suffrage for foreign permanent residents)…

The current Abe administration is in pole position to drive Japan back to a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan that we thought the world had seen the last of after two world wars. Abe can (and will, if left to his own devices) undo all the liberal reforms that postwar social engineers thought would forever overwrite the imperialist elements of Japanese society. In fact, it is now clear that Japan’s conservative elite were just biding their time all along, waiting for their rehabilitation. It has come.

Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan

The UN Human Rights Council has once again prodded Japan to do something to improve its record on human rights (and this time the GOJ, which must submit a report every two years, actually submitted something on time, not eight years overdue as a combined “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Report”). Here’s how the media reported on their interplay:

Kyodo: A panel under the U.N. Human Rights Council has endorsed some 170 recommendations for Japan to improve its human rights record, including Tokyo’s handling of the so-called comfort women issue, the euphemism for the Imperial army’s wartime sex slaves…

Other recommendations include the safeguarding of Japanese citizens’ right to lead a healthy life, in light of the enormous amount of radioactive fallout spewed over a vast area by the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The town of Futaba, which found itself in the center of the nuclear storm since it cohosts the wrecked plant, had actively campaigned for the inclusion of this right. The report also called on Japan to abolish the death penalty after more than 20 countries, including prominent EU member states, objected to its continued use of capital punishment.

COMMENT: As you can see in the HRC’s press brief enclosed in this blog entry, once again the GOJ is avoiding the topic of creating a legal framework to protect people against racial discrimination — claiming it’s already forbidden by the Japanese Constitution (but as we’ve stressed here umpteen times, no explicit law in the Civil or Criminal Code means no enforcement of the Constitution). But all the UN HRC seems to be able to do is frown a lot and continue the talk shop. Further, the UN still chooses the word “migrants” over “immigrants”, which makes NJ (and their J children) who need these rights look like they’re only temporary workers — the “blind spot” continues. Meanwhile, Fukushima and the death penalty seem to have sucked all the oxygen out of the debate arena regarding other human rights issues. In this blog entry is an excerpt of what Japan submitted to the HRC for consideration, and a media brief of the HRC’ s recommendations. It’s basically cosmetic changes, open to plenty of bureaucratic case-by-case “discretion”, and amounting to little promise of fundamental systemic or structural changes.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 56 on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes: “Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place”

Japan Times: No doubt you’ve seen the news about the Takeshima and Senkaku disputes: Japan is sparring with China, South Korea and Taiwan over some specks in the ocean.

Why is this happening? Theories include pre-election political posturing and securing borders to exploit resources. But it’s gotten to the point where even respected academics (such as Stanford’s Harumi Befu and Harvard’s Ted Bestor) are worriedly writing, “current developments are counterproductive to the lasting peace in East Asia and are dangerously degenerating into belligerent diplomacy.”

My take on these scraps is pretty simple: They are merely a way to distract the Japanese public from a larger malaise, the symptoms of which include Japan’s loss of clout as Asia’s leading economy, perpetual economic funk, ineffectual political leadership and an irradiated food chain.

But the larger question remains: How could these far-flung rocks get so much domestic political traction? …

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

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

Mainichi and JT: Nagoya mayor Kawamura repeatedly denies Nanjing Massacre, joins ranks of revisionist J politicians

This is hot news (or has been recently), so let me cut in with this issue and break the arc of immigration/labor issues. Here’s another Japanese politician, Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi, playing to type (as in, playing to a Rightist historical revisionist base) by reportedly denying that the Nanjing Massacre in WWII China ever took place. He’s not alone. The Japan Times article below is particularly good, as it includes other deniers and their dates in Japan’s political discourse, showing there is a longstanding arc to this discourse.

There may be a political dimension. As a commenter mailed me, “Because I have lived in Nagoya for over 20 years, Mayor Kawamura’s atrocious lack of tact really makes me cringe. We’ve seen it before with these old boys. They reach a certain age and feel they can afford to throw caution to the wind. However, there may be some background here that isn’t being aired. The Chinese apparently had their sites on a prime piece of land near Nagoya Castle and wanted to build a consulate or trade related facility of some kind. There is local opposition. So it’s possible that the Mayor deliberately wanted to piss them off.” Interesting if true. Let’s have that investigated.

A little academic expostulating, if I may: One of the things that Japan has never undergone (as opposed to, say, Germany) is a postwar examination of its colonialist/imperialist past, as Postcolonialism as an analytical paradigm seems to have passed Japanese academia by (as have many rigorous intellectual disciplines, in favor of, say, the unscientific pseudo-religion that is Nihonjinron). Even proponent Edward Said was blind to it, by binding us to an East-West divide when encapsulating his theory of lack of minority voices in the world’s historical discourse as “Orientalism”, meaning Japan became an “Oriental” country (as opposed to a fellow colonial empire builder) and thus immune to the analysis. Partially because of this, Japan lacks the historical conversation (and is ignored overseas for not undertaking it) that would include and incorporate the minority voices of “sangokujin” (i.e., the former peoples of empire) et.al as part of the domestic discourse.

And this is one reason why fatheads like Kawamura are able to keep on reopening old wounds and refuse to face the dark side of Japan’s history — a history which, if an honest accounting of history is done everywhere, every country has.

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….