Tsukuba City’s resolution against NJ suffrage passed in 2010, a retrospective in the wake of alarmism

I’ve sat on this for more than a year. Now that the whole debate on “granting foreigners suffrage will mean the end of Japan” has probably died down a bit, it’s time that we look back on what happened then, and on the aftermath wrought by people losing their heads.

After the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009, after decades of mostly unbroken and corrupt Liberal Democratic Party rule, there was hope for some new inclusive paradigms vis-a-vis NJ in Japan, one of their smaller party planks was granting NJ (undecided whether NJ would be Permanent Resident or Zainichi Special Permanent Resident) the right to vote in local elections (like other countries do). This, alas, occasioned much protest and alarmist doomsaying about how Japanese society would be ruined by ever enfranchising potentially disloyal foreigners (“They’d concentrate in parts of Japan and secede to China!”, “Kim Jong-Il will now have influence over Japan!”), and suddenly we had regional governments and prefectures passing petitions (seigan) stating that they formally oppose ever giving suffrage to foreigners.

The Tsukuba City Council was no exception, even though Tsukuba in itself is an exceptional city. It has a major international university, a higher-than-average concentration of NJ researchers and academics, a centrally-planned modern showcase living grid with advanced communication networks, and one of Japan’s two foreign-born naturalized citizens (Jon Heese; the other city is Inuyama’s Anthony Bianchi) elected to its city council. Yet Tsukuba, a city designed to be one of those international communities within Japan, was given in December 2010 a petition of NJ suffrage opposition to consider signing and sending off to the DPJ Cabinet. Here’s the draft:

Asahi editorial supports NJ PR Suffrage, published during election-period debates

In the middle of the election period, here’s a surprising editorial from the Asahi — in support of NJ PR Suffrage! The ruling DPJ dropped it from their manifesto, and most parties that took it up as an issue (LDP, Kokumin Shintou (rendered below as People’s New Party) and Tachiagare Nippon (i.e. Sunrise Party, hah)) used it to bash NJ and try to gain votes from xenophobia (didn’t matter; the latter two still did not gain seats from it). Anyway, here’s the strongest argument made by mainstream Japanese media in support of it. And it’s a doozy. Thanks Asahi for injecting some tolerance into the debate. Maybe it made a difference in voting patterns.

Asahi: More than 2.2 million foreign residents are registered in Japan, and 910,000 of them have been granted permanent resident status. Japan is already a country comprising people with various backgrounds. It is appropriate to have those people rooted in their local communities to share the responsibility in solving problems and developing their communities.

It is also appropriate to allow their participation in local elections as residents, while respecting their bonds to their home nations.

In its new strategy for economic growth, the government says it will consider a framework for taking in foreigners to supplement the work force. To become an open country, Japan must create an environment that foreigners find easy to live in.

An Asahi Shimbun survey in late April and May showed that 49 percent of the respondents were in favor of foreign suffrage while 43 percent were against it.

Since public opinion is divided, the DPJ, which put the issue on the public agenda, should not waffle but should give steady and persuasive arguments to the public.

Japan Times: LDP & rightists still clinging to anti NJ PR Suffrage, even though it’s not an issue in this election

The LDP and other rightists are still playing up the NJ PR Suffrage Issue, even though it’s not even a platform plank in this election (the DPJ Manifesto does not mention it this time) in a rather lame (and xenophobic) attempt to gather votes. Nothing quite like bashing a small, disenfranchised minority to make yourself look powerful and worthy of governance. Excerpt follows:

Japan Times: Whether to grant permanent foreign residents voting rights for local-level elections and allow married couples to keep their respective surnames have become contentious issues ahead of the July 11 Upper House election.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which advocates the introduction of foreigner suffrage and separate surnames for married couples if desired, faces strong opposition from conservatives in the Liberal Democratic Party and small parties, including its own ruling bloc partner.

Aichi Prefecture voters, however, are puzzled by the conservatives’ fervor because the topics have yet to stir national debate…

The LDP and small conservative parties set out to oppose the ideas in their platforms, vying with the DPJ, which has liberal views on these issues. Some homemakers, who used to be the last to become involved in politics, now speak to people at the weekly rally of Inoue’s group held at Kanayama Station in Nagoya.

“The pride of this country that has been built up by the Yamato (Japanese) race must be passed down to our children, otherwise there will be no future for the country,” said Masahito Fujikawa, 49, an LDP-backed candidate in the Aichi electoral district…

Metropolis Mag has thoughtful article regarding the convoluted debate for NJ PR suffrage

Excerpt: “The Chinese coming to Japan now were educated during the rule of Jiang Zemin. Their ideology is not welcome in Japan. We want more foreigners like you—Americans and Britons—to come here.”

Atsuyuki Sassa, 79, makes no bones about what type of gaikokujin he’d prefer to see living and working in his native country. The former secretary general of the Security Council of Japan is up in arms about recent moves to allow the nearly 1 million permanent residents here to vote in local elections. In April, he organized a “10,000 People Rally” at the Nippon Budokan to bring together opponents of the plan, with keynote speeches by the likes of People’s New Party leader Shizuka Kamei and Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe.

“If Chinese could vote in local elections, they wouldn’t vote for [candidates] who criticize China or North Korea,” he says. “What could happen if this type of person were granted the vote?”…

Forty-five countries—about one in every four democracies—offer some sort of voting rights for resident aliens, according to David Earnest, author of Old Nations, New Voters, an extensive study of why democracies grant suffrage to noncitizens… Earnest explains that the consequences of granting local suffrage to foreigners are not yet entirely clear, seeing as how it is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, he gives four benefits that are typically cited by advocates: it encourages foreign residents to naturalize; it leads to better government; it’s an opportunity for “brain gain” rather than “brain drain”; and it makes for a more just society.

On the other hand… According to Earnest, critics argue that extending voting rights to foreigners can devalue the institution of citizenship and discourage naturalization. They also say it can marginalize as much as integrate foreign residents, because governments may use it as a substitute for naturalization, assuring permanent populations of foreigners with no prospect of becoming citizens.

Kansai Scene June 2010 interview re NJ PR suffrage issue

KANSAI SCENE: To my knowledge, the number of Special Permanent Residents and Regular Permanent Residents is large enough to make up decent-sized voting blocs in only very, very few places in Japan. It’s cynical question, but why do you think the Democratic Party of Japan would take up an issue this contentious, given that there seems to be little tangible benefit for them, even if they do succeed?

ARUDOU: I’m not sure. Like with so many policies, the DPJ has been pretty poor in further justifying their policies in the face of blowback. Rumor has it that shadow leader Ichiro Ozawa is tight with South Korea and the Zainichi Japan-born ethnic Korean residents. But that’s essentially a rumor. Perhaps it is just seen as the right thing to do for these people, even if it meant the loss of political capital. However, the prioritizing (there were other policies in the DPJ Manifesto they could have accumulated political capital with first) and the fact that the opposition dominated the debate (where were the cabinet ministers, or even Finn-born Marutei Tsurunen, who should have stepped up and counterargued?) meant right-wing alarmism shouted down the issue. Shame. Poorly-run campaign…

Xenophobic rantings of the Far-Right still continue despite NJ Suffrage Bill’s suspension; scanned flyers enclosed

For some people, anything is an excuse for a party. Especially if it’s a Political Party. For the Far-Right xenophobes in Japan, it’s their party and they’ll decry if they want to — as they continue their anti-NJ rantings, even when they’ve effectively shouted down the NJ Suffrage Bill the DPJ proposed after they came to power last August. Everyone has to have a hobby, it seems. Pity theirs is based upon hatred of NJ, particularly our geopolitical neighbors. Two submissions of primary source materials and posters enclosed below, one from Debito.org Reader AS, one from me that I picked up when I was in Tokyo last March, which led to a rally reported on in the Japan Times and Kyodo the other day. Drink in the invective and see how naked and bold Japan’s xenophobia is getting.

More anti-NJ scare posters & publications, linking PR suffrage to foreign crime and Chinese invasion

Following up on some previous Debito.org posts (here and here) on how the debate on NJ PR suffrage has devolved into hate speech, here is how bad it’s getting. We have anonymous flyers appearing in people’s snailmailboxes accusing NJ of being criminals (and linking it to not granting suffrage), fomenting anti-Chinese sentiment with threats of invasion and takeover, and even a book capitalizing on the fear by saying that granting NJ the vote will make Japan disappear. Read on to see scans:

This is why we need laws against hate speech in Japan — to prevent the knock-on effects of fear by anonymous bullies being further fanned by the profit motive and marketing sharks.

DPJ backs down from suffrage bill for NJ Permanent Residents, as “postponement”. Hah.

Mainichi: The government has abandoned proposing a bill to grant local voting rights to permanent foreign residents in Japan during the current Diet session, in the face of intense opposition from coalition partner People’s New Party (PNP).

“It’s extremely difficult for the government to sponsor such a bill due to differences over the issue between the ruling coalition partners,” said Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi…

PNP leader and Minister of State for Financial Services Shizuka Kamei stressed his strong opposition against the measure, saying his party would not allow the enactment of the suffrage bill.

Moreover, the DPJ itself seems to be split over the issue. Although the foreign suffrage bill is an “important bill” that DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa has been promoting, a forceful submission of the bill could cause a rift within the party, and the discussion over the matter has stalled.

Tokyo Edogawa-ku LDP flyer, likens granting NJ PR suffrage to UFO alien invasion. Seriously.

Here’s something I received the other day from Debito.org Reader XY. It’s a flyer he found in his mailbox from the Tokyo Edogawa-ku LDP, advising people to “protect Japan and vote their conscience” (although they can’t legally use the word “vote” since it’s not an official election period). It talks about how “dangerous” it would be to grant NJ PR local suffrage.

I’ve given some of the con arguments here before (from radical rightists loons like Hiranuma and co.), but this time it’s seventeen more mainstreamers (from a party which would otherwise be in power but for people voting their conscience last August) offering a number of questionable claims…

My favorite bit is the illustration at the bottom. “JAPAN, LET’S PROTECT OURSELVES!!” Love how it’s an angry-looking alien ship with its sights on our archipelago. NJ as invading alien!! And I remember back in the day when we had a UFO Party waiting to cart us all away! How times change when there’s a real policy up for debate.

But seriously folks, this isn’t some podunk backwater like Dejima Award Winner Setaka Town in Fukuoka. This is Edogawa-ku, the easternmost ku of Tokyo proper, right across the river from Chiba, with more than half a million registered residents. It’s not the type of place for xenophobic alarmist politicians to immaturely paint the spectre of an alien invasion in a serious debate.

Kyodo & Mainichi: 14 prefectures now oppose NJ PR suffrage (Debito.org names them)

Kyodo: Local assemblies in 14 of Japan’s 47 prefectures have adopted statements in opposition to giving permanent foreign residents in Japan the right to vote in local elections since the Democratic Party of Japan took power last year, a Kyodo News tally showed Monday.

Before the launch last September of the new government under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama who supports granting local suffrage, 31 prefectural assemblies took an affirmative stance, but six of them have turned against it since then.

(Those open-minded prefectures are: Akita, Yamagata, Chiba, Ibaraki, Toyama, Ishikawa, Shimane, Kagawa, Oita, Saga, Nagasaki and Kumamoto, plus Saitama and Niigata)

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Feb 2, 2010: “NJ suffrage and the racist element”

Excerpt: It is probably no surprise that this columnist supports PR suffrage. There are close to half a million Special Permanent Residents (the zainichi ethnic Koreans, Chinese, etc.), born and raised here, who have been paying Japanese taxes their entire lives. Moreover, their relatives were former citizens of the Japanese empire (brought here both by force and by the war economy), contributing to and even dying for our country. In just about any other developed nation, they would be citizens already; they once were.

Then there are close to a half-million more Regular Permanent Residents (the “newcomer” immigrants) who have taken the long and winding road (for some, two decades) to qualify for PR. They got it despite the discretionary and often obstructionist efforts of Japan’s mandarins (Zeit Gist May 28, 2008).

Anyone who puts in the years and effort to meet PR assimilation requirements has earned the right to participate in their local community — including voting in their elections. At least three dozen other countries allow foreigners to vote in theirs, and the sky hasn’t fallen on them.

But that’s not what antisuffrage demonstrators, with Hiranuma their poster boy, would have you believe. Although public policy debate in Japan is generally pretty milquetoast, nothing brings out apocalyptic visions quite like the right wing’s dry-throated appeals to Japanese-style xenophobia. Granting foreigners suffrage, they say, will carve up Japan like a tuna…

Anti-NJ suffrage protests in Shibuya Nov 28 2009. The invective in flyers and banners: “Japan is in danger!”

One of the more interesting proposals from the new DPJ-run Administration is suffrage for Permanent Residents. The Cabinet is ready to send a bill to the Diet so that Permanent Residents (in American terms, essentially “Green Card holders”) obtain the right to vote in local elections.

Regardless of whether you support or disapprove (Debito.org is in support, given how difficult it can be to get PR in Japan, not to mention how arbitrary the naturalization procedures are), what is interesting is the invective in the debate by people who oppose it. Numerous and very visible demonstrations by right-wing fringe elements (who also seem to get all xenophobic at, say, Hallowe’en being celebrated in Japan) are resorting to daft arguments that defy calm and common sense. Here are some photos and flyers, received from a witness of one demonstration in Shibuya November 28, 2009, courtesy of ER. Drink in the alarmism and panic by people who are probably going to lose the debate.

Ruling coalition currently not considering NJ human rights laws beyond PR suffrage: Dietmember Aihara

I had a conversation with Upper House Dietmember Aihara Kumiko (62, from Hokkaido, elected 2007 on Proportional Representation) yesterday. With a labor union background, she has an eye on a number of human rights issues, including the Nikkei Visa and NJ “Trainee” Programs.

I took the opportunity to ask about a few things that are overdue for NJ resident rights in Japan (which the recent polls on Debito.org cover), namely:

Japan signing the Hague Convention on Child Abductions

Japan passing the long-proposed general law protecting human rights (jinken yougo houan)

Japan passing a law against racial discrimination

Japan approving local suffrage for NJ residents with Permanent Residency

She answered that the DPJ ruling coalition would be submitting the bill for local suffrage in next year’s Diet session.

The other three were currently not being considered in any committee or study group at this time. I asked when they might be, and she didn’t know.

Just letting readers of Debito.org know.

Japan Times: Parties split on issues of NJ PR suffrage

Japan Times: “(Foreigners’) right to vote is a big issue and we are not fully in agreement with those who are calling for granting suffrage (to foreigners) immediately,” Aso said, refusing to elaborate.

But Hatoyama said it is now time to consider granting foreigners voting rights at the local level.

“There are pros and cons and the DPJ is in the process of unifying its opinion right now,” Hatoyama said. “But considering the future, I think that the time has come to take a positive step.”

Whether to grant foreigners suffrage has become a contentious issue in the political world. While the conservative ranks of the LDP are strongly opposed, its coalition partner New Komeito is actively promoting this right.

Aso presides over sinking LDP ship, slams DPJ Hatoyama for being open to NJ suffrage

Japan Times: Aso also expressed his disapproval of DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama’s willingness to give local-level suffrage to foreign nationals with permanent residency.

“Hatoyama says that Japan is not a country just for Japanese, but if that is the case, then whose country is it for?” Aso asked. “Honestly speaking, this isn’t something that will be resolved by just granting (foreigners) suffrage and it is likely that there will be many more difficult problems.”

While many lawmakers in the DPJ and New Komeito are for granting foreigners the right to vote in local elections, many conservative LDP members have expressed strong reluctance.

The prime minister added that the number of descendants of Koreans who lived in Japan before the war and were forced to take Japanese nationality at that time is declining and that “we must consider various things like whether (suffrage for foreigners) is even necessary.”

Japan Today: DPJ at odds with itself over PR Suffrage

Oh well, never mind the DPJ trying to split New Komeito off from the LDP. Seems the Suffrage for Permanent Residents issue has set the DPJ against itself as well, according to Japan Today. This issue is not settled by any means (the DPJ is all over the map ideologically anyway, so this degree of dissent is quite normal, actually), so let’s see where the kerfuffle goes. But for all the people that say that Japan’s NJ demographics and labor issues are politically insignificant, we may in fact be seeing quite a few fault lines between old and new Japan after all…

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

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

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

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.

New Japanese “Party of Hope” remains unhopeful for Japan’s NJ residents, requiring new party entrants to deny all NJ voting rights

In case you haven’t heard, the center-left (and former governing party) Democratic Party of Japan (once Minshuutou, now Minshintou), has suffered a further blow to its existence, now having to sell its factional soul to a new party (Kibou no Tou, or the “Party of Hope”) headed by a name-brand candidate and Governor of Tokyo (Koike Yuriko). Koike is ostensibly just about as far-right as PM Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. As proof of that:  In the JT article below, KnoT is demanding as a litmus test that new party entrants from the DPJ sign on to a party platform denying NJ residents (including Permanent Residents) the right to vote in any elections.

Given that PR in Japan, a legal status that is reasonably hard to achieve (and specific to Japan when it comes to its “Special Permanent Residents” (tokubetsu eijuusha), i.e., the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese “generational foreigners” and descendants of former citizens of empire), requires significant time and commitment to Japan, this is yet another slap in the face to people who stay (in many cases their entire lives), pay taxes, and contribute to society the same as any other citizen. The alarmism that KnoT in the article below displays is straight out of the LDP handbook — arguing that giving foreigners any power would mean they would turn against Japan, even secede — which is nothing short of distrust of foreigners’ very existence in society. Or xenophobia, for short.

In sum, voters have a choice between two viable parties now, both rightist with essentially the same platform, except that one is PM Abe and one is Rewarmed Abe, for those who don’t like the man and would prefer a shiny new woman. Sigh. Meanwhile, Japan’s tolerant left will remain in disarray for the foreseeable future.

JT: Democratic Party Leader Renho and the “pure blood” mythos (covered in detail in book “Embedded Racism”)

JT: “It’s no coincidence that [opposition party leader Murata] Renho’s detractors are the same people who are against allowing a female emperor. “Pure blood” ideology is at the root of Yawata’s philosophy — the “scoop” about Renho’s dual nationality was merely a delivery device. The law means nothing to them because their faith is invested in an occult mythos about the unbroken Imperial line. [Journalist] Kosugi Misuzu insists these beliefs amount to “racism,” since they limit the rights of some people born and raised in Japan due to genetics. Asahi reported on July 6, 2014 — well before the Renho controversy — that the pure blood faction wants to kick out permanent Korean residents as well as anyone with dual citizenship by making all Japanese sign a loyalty oath. They are not just rightists, said the paper, they are “anachronisms.”

“[Former bureaucrat] Yawata Kazuro says Renho can’t be trusted because she doesn’t use her Japanese married name and gave her children names that “sound Chinese.” These value judgments should mean nothing in a democracy. Zakzak, another Sankei organ, adds to the din by saying that Japanese people do not like the idea of someone with dual citizenship “rising to the top.” What about best-selling Japanese-American singer Hikaru Utada and all those bicultural athletes at the Rio Olympics? For that matter, what about former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, who was allowed to settle here and escape prosecution in his native country by asserting his Japanese nationality?”

COMMENT: All of these issues, particularly the “pure blood” conceit, have been brought up passim in book “Embedded Racism: Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination in Japan”. Renho herself features prominently in the book (Chapter Seven), given that Japan’s racist politicians have questioned her loyalty many times before — for example when she was a Cabinet member in the previous DPJ government — simply because she’s to them a mudblood. And they can get away with it because the “pure blood” narrative is so strong.

Tangent: Economist on “Japan’s Citizen Kane”: Shouriki Matsutaro; explains a lot about J-media’s interlocking relationship with J-politics

A great little tangent from The Economist’s Christmas Special of 2012. This story is fantastic (in fact, it beggars belief), and it answers a number of questions I always had about the status quo in Japan (especially when it comes to the interlocking of politics and media). I thought Watanabe Tsuneo (of the same publishing empire; the Yomiuri) is one of Japan’s most morally-corrupt powerful men. This guy beats him.

Economist: THE ECONOMIST’S office in Tokyo is in the headquarters of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the world’s biggest-selling newspaper. Every day, as you walk past bowing guards and immaculate receptionists, set back in a corner you pass a bronze statue of an owlish man with a bald head and thick, round-rimmed glasses, poring over a paper. He is Matsutaro Shoriki, who acquired the paper in its left-wing adolescence in the 1920s, and turned it into a scrappy, sensational pugilist for right-wing politics. The statue is not flattering: with his potato-like head and beakish nose, he seems to be pecking at the newspaper rather than reading it.

Shoriki lurks in the background of much of 20th-century Japan, too. He created so much of what defines the nation today that it is a wonder he is not as well known as, say, William Randolph Hearst (one of his big Western admirers) is in America. Shoriki was as much the pugnacious, brooding, manipulative and visionary “Citizen Kane” as Hearst.

Before he took over the Yomiuri, Shoriki was head of Tokyo’s torturous secret police. Later, to help him sell papers, he introduced professional baseball to Japan. After the second world war he was jailed for alleged war crimes; upon his release he set up Japan’s first private television network. To cap it all, he was the “father of nuclear power”, using his cabinet position and media clout to transform an atom-bombed nation into one of the strongest advocates of atomic energy. That legacy now smoulders amid the ruins of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant…

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

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

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

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

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

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 66: “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ”, Aug 5, 2013

Japan Times: Spare a thought for Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first European-born naturalized immigrant parliamentarian. He was voted out in last month’s House of Councilors election.

You might think I’d call it tragic. No. It was a comeuppance.

It needn’t have turned out this way. Squeaking into a seat by default in 2001, Tsurunen was later reelected in 2007 with a reaffirming mandate of 242,740 proportional representation votes, sixth in his party. Last month, however, he lost badly, coming in 12th with only 82,858.

For a man who could have demonstrated what immigrants (particularly our visible minorities) can do in Japan, it was an ignominious exit — so unremarkable that the Asahi Shimbun didn’t even report it among 63 “noteworthy” campaigns.

However, Tsurunen offers lessons in microcosm for his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and on why Japan’s left wing was so spectacularly trounced in the last two elections…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2013

Table of Contents:
THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (1): BIGOTRY AND HATRED

1) Feb 9 2013 Tokyo Shin-Ohkubo Anti-Korean demonstrator slogans: “Good or Bad, Kill All Koreans” etc.
2) Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter
3) My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”

4) Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues

THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (2): ELITE DOMINANCE AND INSULARITY

5) Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm
6) SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles
7) JT/Kyodo: Record high applicants for J refugee status. Why media fixation on refugees? Because they are a bellwether of Japan’s “legitimacy as a competent, advanced, Western democracy”
8 ) Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces
9) JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 61 March 5, 2013: “Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan”

PLUS bonus follow-up:
11) Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga.

My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013.
Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance
日本の右傾化と鳥取県人権条例
By Arudou Debito
ABSTRACT
Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.

This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.

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.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 6, 2012

Table of Contents:
TECTONIC SHIFTS
1) AP: Where Japan’s Post-Fukushima rebuild cash really went: Corruption and coverup on grand scale in a crisis that even TEPCO admits “could have been avoided”
2) Wash Post: A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions (including Ezra Vogel!) — as Japan is eclipsed by an ascendant China
3) Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it
INCREDULITY
4) Japan Times: Japan Post Office unilaterally decides old “Gaijin Cards” no longer acceptable ID, despite still valid under MOJ
5) Kyodo: NJ on welfare (unlike Japanese on welfare) now need to pay pension premiums, says Japan Pension Service
6) Shuukan Kin’youbi: Protests against NJ businesses in Tokyo turn ugly, yet J media compares Chinese protests against J businesses to Kristallnacht
7) BV: “Victimizing the Young, Featherbedding the Old?” On how Japan’s elite bureaucratic rot is adversely affecting Japan’s children
8 ) ZakSPA!: “Laughable” stories about “Halfs” in Japan, complete with racialized illustration
ROUGH DRAFTS
9) Ishihara resigns Tokyo Governorship, seeks Diet seat as new party head. I say bring it on.
10) The first version of my Oct 2012 JT JUST BE CAUSE column (rejected for publication) blogged for your comments, on “sanctioned reality”: Do you “get” it?
… and finally…
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 56 on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes: “Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place”

Ishihara resigns Tokyo Governorship, seeks Diet seat as new party head. I say bring it on.

Something very important happened a few days ago when Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro made a surprise announcement that he would resign his governorship, launch a new political party, and run for a Diet seat in the next Lower House election due in two months.

I say bring it on. This xenophobic old bigot (now 80) has fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book: self-delusion, brought on by decades of megalomania and ideological sound-chambering within a cadre of sycophants — which Alberto Fujimori (an old friend of Ishihara and his elite ruling circles) similary fell for when the self-deluded demagogue buggered off back to Chile (forfeiting his unextradictable safe haven in Japan) to stand for reelection in Peru. Fujimori, as you know, was then extradited to Peru for trial and is now doing essentially life in prison. But I digress.

I say bring it on for two reasons. One is that even if elected (which he will be, under Japan’s Proportional Representation system — the main avenue for celebrity schmoes to pad their resume and stroke their egos), Ishihara can do less damage as a Dietmember of a fringe party (analysts already are beginning to doubt the strength of the Rightist alliance between other fringe parties) than as Governor of Tokyo, with an entire Metropolitan Police Force (the strongest and most influential in all of Japan) at his disposal to target people he doesn’t like. One of the reasons he says he resigned his Diet seat in 1995 after 25 years in office is because of his frustration with the powerlessness of the Diet in the face of the pervasive Japanese bureaucracy (which, as he correctly claims, rules the country). Now he’s going right back to that same Diet, and I think he thinks he’ll stop at nothing short of becoming PM (He won’t. He won’t live long enough. Osaka Mayor Hashimoto is the bigger threat at half the age.)

The other reason is because it’s time to put some cards on the table. The Center-Left in Japan (in the form of the DPJ) tried their liberalizations (with NJ PR local suffrage, etc.) and lost badly due to the hue and cry over how NJ, if given any power in Japan, would automatically abuse it and destroy Japan). The image in Japanese politics nowadays is of a rightward swing. Alright, let’s see just how rightward. Japan’s bureaucrats like things just the way they are (their sole purpose is to keep the status quo as is, even if that means Japan irradiates itself and strangles itself to death demographically). It would take a miracle (something I think not even Ishihara is capable of) to dismantle that system. If Ishihara wins, Japan’s rightward swing is conclusive, and the world will have to stop ignoring a resurgent militarist xenophobic Japan. If Ishihara loses, that will take a lot of wind out of Rightist sails and push the country back towards centrism.

In this poker game, I believe Ishihara will lose. And NJ in Japan have already won a victory by having that bigot abdicate his throne/bully pulpit as leader of one of the world’s largest cities.

The first version of my Oct 2012 JT JUST BE CAUSE column (rejected for publication) blogged for your comments, on “sanctioned reality”: Do you “get” it?

Before I wrote my monthly Japan Times column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes published on Oct 2, I wrote a completely different column that approached the issue from the back door: How Japan’s enormous focus on “genuine” and “legitimate” leads to diversity getting subsumed. And when it leads to diversity in opinion being subsumed, you get a society that is particularly susceptible to top-down control of not only the dominant social discourse, but also the very perception of reality within a society. And that leads us to crazy ideas such as a few far offshore rocks being worth all this fuss.

Heavy stuff. Unfortunately, the people who approve columns at The Japan Times didn’t “get” it, even after two major rewrites and sixteen drafts. (Actually, in all fairness it wasn’t only them — two other friends of mine didn’t “get” it either. But two of my friends in academia did. And we suspect that it was just too “Ivory Tower” for a journalistic audience.) So eight hours before deadline, I rewrote the damn thing entirely, and what you saw published is the result.

But The Japan Times suggested that I blog it and see what others think. So here it is: The column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes that I wanted to run. I think there are plenty of ideas in there that are still worth salvaging. But let me ask you, Debito.org Readers: Do you “get” it?

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? …

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 30, 2012

Table of Contents:

CAUSES TO CHEER
1) Debito writes the Hokkaido Section in FODOR’S Guidebook on Japan, 20th Edition, out now
2) Japan Times Community Page 10th Anniversary: Vote for your favorite article at JT by May 5
3) JT Community Page 10th Anniversary: Write a Haiku, win a copy of Debito’s HANDBOOK

WEIRD OUTCOMES UNDER JAPAN’S RACIALIZATION PARADIGMS
4) JDG on self-appointed Hanami Vigilantes in Osaka harassing NJ
5) Tsukuba City’s resolution against NJ suffrage passed in 2010, a retrospective in the wake of alarmism
6) Mainichi: JHS teacher arrested for defrauding insurance companies by repeatedly claiming his luggage was stolen by foreigners!
7) Bryant in UCLA Law Review on oppressiveness of Family Registry (koseki) and Household Registry (juuminhyou)
8 ) Cracked.com: Racialized characters in Japanese video games
9) Yomiuri: J population falls record 259,000 in 2011 (as does NJ pop.); Keidanren think tank sees ROK surpassing J GDP by 2030

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 50, April 3, 2012: Donald Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths

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.

AFP: Britain now supports Japan’s bid for UN Security Council seat: How eyeblinkingly blind of GOJ history re unfollowing international agreements.

Here’s some news dovetailing with Japan’s unwillingness to abide by international treaty.

Japan, one of the United Nations’ largest financial contributors, has been pushing hard for decades now for a seat on the U.N. Security Council (last time in 2006), effectively to have a place at the table and more powerful voting rights with fellow big, rich, powerful nations. The GOJ has even signed treaties and created domestic laws, according to scholar John M. Peek (see below), just to make it look better internationally, i.e., more like a modern, responsible nation in the international arena. However, after signing these treaties, Japan has been quite constant in its unwillingness to actually create domestic laws to enforce international agreements (cf. the CERD), or when laws are created, they have little to no enforcement power (cf. the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, which has done little after more than a quarter century to ameliorate the wide disparity in wages between men and women in Japan).

The fact is, the GOJ does this stuff for window dressing. Now once it accomplishes its goal of getting an UNSC Seat, it will have no further incentive to sign, abide by, or obey international treaties at all. We have stated this to the United Nations at every opportunity.

Which is why Britain’s sudden turnaround to support Japan’s bid is so eye-blinkingly blind. It seems we are milking our disasters (partially caused by our government’s malfeasance in the first place) to get an international sympathy vote now. How cynical and opportunistic.

Read on for an excerpt of a research paper I wrote citing Dr. Peek above, regarding the GOJ’s history of insincere negotiations vis-a-vis international human-rights agreements. I believe Japan will similarly ratify yet unfollow the Hague Convention on Child Abductions as well. And not even bother to ratify much else once it gets on the UNSC.

Japan Times JBC/ZG Column Jan 4, 2010: “Arudou’s Alien Almanac 2000-2010” (Director’s Cut)

Director’s Cut with excised text from published version and links to sources:

Top Five for 2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) RENHO BECOMES FIRST MULTIETHNIC CABINET MEMBER (June 8 )
4) P.M. KAN APOLOGIZES TO KOREA FOR 1910 ANNEXATION (August 10)
3) TOURIST VISAS EASED FOR CHINA (July 1)
2) NJ PR SUFFRAGE BILL GOES DOWN IN FLAMES (February 27)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009

Top Five for 2000-2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) THE OTARU ONSENS CASE (1999-2005)
4) ISHIHARA’S SANGOKUJIN RANT (April 9, 2000)
3) THE SECOND KOIZUMI CABINET (2003-2005)
2) THE POLICE CRACKDOWNS ON NJ (1999- present)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 1, 2011

Table of Contents:
1) DEBITO.ORG END-YEAR POLL: “What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?”

Holiday Tangents:
2) Happy Boxing Day: From deep within the archives: “Fred Fish” comic book, 1973, drawn by me aged eight
3) Holiday Tangent: “Steve Seed”, all drawed by me 1973, aged eight. C’mon, it’s kinda cute.
4) From even farther back: “Penny the Hamster”, drawn in Second Grade when I was seven
5) Tangent: Comic “The Flight’, drawn by me Christmas 1975 aged ten
6) Tangent: “The Meat Eaters”: My first try at a movie storyboard, circa 1975, Fifth Grade, aged ten
7) Last End-Year Tangent: “Lile Lizard”, written Second Grade aged seven, includes procreation!

Business as usual:
8 ) Kyodo: Stats for inflows & outflows: J exch students down, NJ up; NJ tourists also up, but none reaching GOJ goals
9) Mainichi: Global 30 strategy for bringing in more foreign exchange students to be axed, while fewer J students go overseas than Singapore
10) Japan Times: Paranoia over NJ purchases of land in Niseko etc: GOJ expresses “security” concerns
11) Fukui City now requiring J language ability for NJ taxpayer access to public housing. Despite being ruled impermissible by Shiga Guv in 2002
12) Discussion: As a person with NJ roots, is your future in Japan? An essay making the case for “No”

… and finally …
13) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 4, 2011
Double feature: The top ten events that affected NJ in Japan both for 2010 and for the entire last decade!

DEBITO.ORG END-YEAR POLL: “What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?”

As part of the end-year roundup, here are a few issues I thought would be interesting for discussion. Looking back, what do you think are the most influential events that affected NJ in Japan? Here are some of ones I thought were noteworthy, in no particular order:

What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?

Far-rightists question credentials of DPJ reformists by claiming they have NJ roots
Suraj Case of death during deportation
Long-dead Centenarians still registered as alive (yet NJ remain unregistered)
Nursing program only passes three NJ after two years
Hunger strike at Ibaraki Prison
GOJ apologizes to Korea for prewar annexation
“My Darling is a Foreigner” becomes a movie
Sumo Association decides to count naturalized wrestlers as still foreign
UN Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante’s critical Japan visit
NJ PR Suffrage Bill goes down in flames
Zaitokukai far-rightists get arrested for property damage to Zainichis
Child Abductions issue gathers steam with governments abroad, GOJ eyes Hague
The Cove engenders protests, get limited screenings anyway
Japan’s Kokusei Chousa pentennial census goes multilingual
Tokyo Police spying on Muslims
Futenma issue, with USG jerking GOJ’s chain
Renho becomes first multiethnic Cabinet member
Toyota’s mishandling of their runaway car recall, blaming foreign components and culture
Oita court ultimately rules that NJ have no rights to J pensions
Tourist visas eased for Chinese and Indians
Health insurance requirement removed from visa renewals
and/or

Something else
(Please tell us what you think got left out in the Comments Section below)

Discussion: As a person with NJ roots, is your future in Japan? An essay making the case for “No”.

I’m hearing increasing discontent from the NJ Community (assuming quite presumptuously there is one able to speak with a reasonably unified voice) about living in Japan.

Many are saying that they’re on their way outta here. They’ve had enough of being treated badly by a society that takes their taxes yet does not respect or protect their rights.

To stimulate debate, let me posit with some flourish the negative case for continuing life in Japan, and let others give their own arguments pro and con:

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to expect people to want to immigrate to Japan, given the way they are treated once they get here.

We have racial profiling by the Japanese police, where both law allows and policy sanctions the stopping of people based upon having a “foreign appearance”, such as it is, where probable cause for ID checks anywhere is the mere suspicion of foreigners having expired visas.

We have rampant refusals of NJ by landlords and rental agencies (sanctioned to the point where at least one realtor advertises “Gaijin OK” apartments), with the occasional private enterprise putting up “Japanese Only” signs, and nothing exists to stop these acts that are expressly forbidden by the Japanese Constitution. Yet now fifteen years after effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination, Japan still has no law against it either on the books or in the pipeline…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 6, 2010

Table of Contents:
SPECIAL ON THE DPRK SPY KIM HYON HUI JAPAN VISIT: THE BIG CON

1) North Korean spy and terrorist skirts Immigration, gets to stay in Hatoyama summer home, due to Yokota Megumi Case
2) UPDATE: Additional thoughts on the DPRK Spy Kim Hyon Hui Japan Visit from a friend in the know
3) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Aug 3: Kim uses Japan’s “perpetual victimhood” to her advantage

OTHER BIG CONS

4) Japan’s Centenarians are missing: Registry systems that ignore NJ residents are also registering long-dead Japanese as alive
5) Kyodo: NJ crime down once again, but NPA spin says NJ crime gangs “increasingly” targeting Japan, whines about difficulty in statistically measuring NJ crime
6) More racism in NPA police posters, this time Kanagawa Ken Yamate police and big-nosed “int’l NJ crime groups”.
(UPDATE: Contrast with same Kanagawa Police site in English: “we patrol community hoping smiles of residents never vanish.” Retch.)
7) Shame on Berlitz Japan for its court harassments, firing teacher for having cancer
8 ) Yomiuri: New “lay judges” in J judiciary strict about demanding evidence from prosecutors, give ‘benefit of doubt’. Well, fancy that.
9) Economist London on Japan’s treatment of Chinese: Welcome tourist money, work “Trainees” to death
10) NYT has video and article on JITCO NJ “Trainee” Program, including sweatshop conditions and karoushi
11) Mainichi/Kyodo: J companies will boost hiring of NJ by 50%! Yeah, sure.
12) JIPI’s Sakanaka on Gaijin Tank detentions for visa overstays: Put a maximum time limit on them
13) Toyota QC and “culture” again, says it will increase safety by dealing with mechanical and cultural defects, with Japanese-only review panel
14) Asahi: South Korea, China overtaking Japan in ‘cool’ culture battle, whatever that means
15) AP and JT on “Soft Power” of JET Programme, projecting Japan’s influence abroad
16) IMADR Connect Mag: UN CERD concerns and recommendations 2010 for the GOJ; rinse and repeat

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

17) NJ population falls in 2009 for the first time since 1961
18) New separate blog with details about taking Japanese citizenship, in English, written by other fellow naturalized Japanese
19) Thoughts on GOJ Upper House Election July 11, 2010: A DPJ loss, but not a rout, regardless of what the media says.
20) Asahi editorial supports NJ PR Suffrage, published during election-period debates

INTERESTING TANGENTS

21) AP: A Milestone For Russia: African-born Town Councilor Is Country’s 1st Black Elected To Office
22) Japan Times columnist CW Nicol (a whaling supporter) on why “The Cove’s” Taiji dolphin culls bother him

… and finally…

23) My Schofill family roots include Cherokee and lots of American South skeletons

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Aug 3 2010: “The victim complex and Kim’s killer con”

It’s fascinating whenever someone cons people out of pots of money — doubly so when someone cons a whole government. Take, for example, Japan’s biggest news story two weeks ago: Kim Hyon Hui’s four-day visit to Japan.

You might recall that in 1987 this North Korean spy, traveling on a fake Japanese passport, blew up a South Korean commercial airliner, killing 115 passengers.

Last July 20, however, this agent of international terrorism was allowed into Japan for a reception worthy of a state guest. Bypassing standard immigration procedures, Kim had her entry visa personally approved by our justice minister, boarded a chartered flight that cost Japan’s taxpayers ¥10 million, and was whisked by helicopter to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s private dacha to eat with political elites.

Then, flanked by a phalanx of 100 cops (who made sure nobody raised any uncomfortable questions), Kim got to meet the parents of Megumi Yokota, the cause celebre of North Korean kidnappings of innocent Japanese citizens decades ago. Next, at her request, Kim boarded another helicopter (at around ¥800,000 an hour) for an aerial tour of Mount Fuji. As a parting gift, she got an undisclosed amount of “additional remuneration.” Sweet.

And what did Japan get? Kim said she had information for the Yokotas about their missing daughter and other Japanese abductees who trained her to be a multilingual spy — even though, way back when, she said she had never met Megumi. So suddenly Kim has a quarter-century-old brain fart and gets the red carpet?

The Megumi Yokota tragedy has for the past decade been a political football in Japanese politics, a means for Japan as a whole to claim victimhood status…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 11, 2010

Table of Contents:
CALLS FOR CHANGE, WELL MAYBE NOT:
1) JET Programme on GOJ chopping block: Appeal from JQ Magazine and JETAA in NYC (plus Debito.org Poll)
2) Powerpoint presentation: “Japan Past the Point of No Return”
3) Alarmist Nikkei Business cover re Chinese business practices: “Chapan: Your new boss is Chinese”
4) Japan Times: LDP & rightists still clinging to anti NJ PR Suffrage, even though not an issue in this election
5) Metropolis Mag has thoughtful article regarding the convoluted debate for NJ PR suffrage
6) Japan Times Zeit Gist on how NJ can participate in Japanese elections
7) Japan Times & Kyodo: Foreign “trainees” dying at rate of two to three a month, takes two years for one to be declared “from overwork” (karoushi), more than a quarter from “unknown causes”
8 ) IMADR Connect Magazine article on recent UN visit by High Commissioner of Human Rights to Japan May 2010

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, WELL MAYBE NOT:
9) Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japanese enforcement of vague laws: “No need to know the law, but you must obey it”
10) FCCJ No.1 Shimbun & Jiji on Japanese police’s extralegal powers, and how that power corrupts
11) Kyodo: Police raid car scrap yards run by NJ, suspecting them as “breeding grounds for crime”
12) NYT guest column on racial profiling of Japanese for “looking too tall and dark”. Just like arrest of “foreign-looking” Japanese back in 2006.
13) TBS: Daring heist of expensive watches in Sapporo. So daring it might have been foreigners!, says Hokkaido Police
14) J protesters of “The Cove” lose injunction in Yokohama District Court, cannot stop screenings, so they target people’s homes for intimidation
15) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JULY 1, 2010

TANGENTS
16) Newsweek: Immigrants do not increase crime
17) How the US deals with Arizona racial profiling: Federal lawsuits and Jon Stewart humor
18) Activist Junichi Sato on International Whaling Commission corruption and GOJ/NPA collusion
19) Canada spending even more than Japan this time on G8/G20 summits. However, controversy ensues.
20) Yours is no disgrace, World Cup Japan Team. Otsukare. I hope the J media does not spin this as a loss.
21) Sunday Tangent: “A Growing Love for ‘Cool Japan'” by Akira Yamada (of MOFA)

… and finally …

22) JUST BE CAUSE column July 6, 2010: “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry”: how government agencies want NJ tourists yet are accessories to excluding them (full text)

Japan Times Zeit Gist on how NJ can participate in Japanese elections

In an article cited in yesterday’s blog post, we had some xenophobe who organizes anti-NJ-suffrage campaigns saying:

“I’m not prejudiced against foreigners, but the law states that foreigners must not take part in election campaigns.”

There goes a typical zealot making a typically empty unresearched claim. According to the Japan Times this week, NJ can indeed take part in election campaigns. Excerpt:

Although foreign residents may not be able to actually cast votes in elections, there are quite a few other things that we can do to involve ourselves in Japan’s political “machine” — and they are all legal. This tidbit of knowledge may come as somewhat of a surprise to Japanese and non-Japanese readers alike, but I assure you that it’s all verifiable in black-and-white. Well, to be totally honest, you’ll find this truth “told” more in white than black, as the Election Law is much more revealing in terms of what is not written on its pages than what is. The point is simply this: Although the law doesn’t directly state that foreign residents can participate in political and electoral activities, it also does not prohibit us from doing so. You can check it out for yourself; the Free Choice Foundation has posted the election rules in English on its Web site at www.FreeChoice.jp/election.asp or you can call the Election Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to hear it straight from the powers that be. The bureaucrats will be happy to tell you that, other than not being able to make political donations, residents of Japan are immune from discrimination of any kind — including by nationality — regarding participation in electoral activities.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 20, 2010

Table of Contents:

THE CHINESE ARE COMING
1) Asahi has whiny article on how Chinese tourists don’t spend properly
2) Toyoko Inn opens “exclusively Chinese” hotel in Susukino Sapporo, refuses Japanese and other NJ; media ignores questionable legality
3) Taiwanese-Japanese Dietmember Renho becomes first multiethnic Cabinet member; racist Dietmember Hiranuma continues ranting about it
4) Debito.org Reader asks for advice regarding Chinese “Trainees” exploitation, stolen wallet, and local police

THE IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT
5) Asahi poll: Japan would rather be poorer as a nation than accept immigration
6) Osaka Minami public campaign: “exclude bad foreigners” like yakuza, enlists enka singer as spokesperson
7) Kansai Scene June 2010 article on issue of refugees and J Detention Centers (“Gaijin Tanks”)
8 ) Guardian on benefits of immigration to UK, NW on GOJ’s history promoting anti-racism 90 years ago at League of Nations!

TANGENTS
9) Reuters: Showings of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove cancelled in Japan due to threat of protest
10) Support and preview FROM THE SHADOWS documentary on Japan’s Child Abductions: Tokyo Shibuya Thurs Jun 24 7PM, admission free
11) Kyodo: GOJ survey indicates 70% of J disabled feel discriminated against. Nice they, unlike NJ, even got asked.
12) Fun Facts #15: Percentages of J high school grads matriculating into college by prefecture
13) Excellent Mark Schreiber article on history of crime terms in J media

… and finally …

14) Kansai Scene June 2010 interview re NJ PR suffrage issue (full text)

Asahi poll: Japan would rather be poorer as a nation than accept immigration

This was brought up as a blog comment a few days ago, but let’s talk about it as its own blog entry. The Asahi did an extensive poll on what people see as Japan’s future in relative economic decline. Results indicate that people are distressed about China overtaking Japan, but they apparently aren’t ready to change much to change that. Most germane to Debito.org is the question:

“On accepting immigrants to maintain economic vitality, only 26 percent supported such a move, while 65 percent opposed.”

Meaning that people polled apparently would rather be poorer as a nation than accept immigrants.

Of course, no immigrant without citizenship was polled (if even then), so ah well.

That said, we had the good point, raised within the blog comments on this the other day, that it just might be better for organic acceptance of immigrants over time than to bring in huge numbers and force them on the populace (although I don’t see events over this past decade helping matters much, including the unfettered hate speech towards NJ during the PR Suffrage debates, political leaders publicly doubting the “true Japaneseness” of naturalized Japanese or Japanese with NJ roots, and other elements of officialdom blaming NJ for social problems such as crime, terrorism, and infectious diseases).

Then again, a friend of mine also raised an even more pertinent point: “What’s the point of asking that question at all? We still haven’t had a good debate on immigration and why Japan needs it. Nobody’s explained the merits of immigration to the Japanese public all that well. [In fact, discussion of it is even taboo.]. So no wonder people are negatively predisposed. Why change things when we don’t understand why?” Touche.

Saturday Tangent: Kyodo: GOJ survey indicates 70% of J disabled feel discriminated against. Nice they, unlike NJ, even got asked.

Kyodo: Nearly seven out of every 10 people with disabilities said they have faced discrimination or biased treatment, an annual government report showed Friday.

The fiscal 2010 white paper on measures for disabled people, released by the Cabinet Office, says 68.0 percent of those surveyed said they have experienced discrimination or biased treatment because of their disabilities.

The office surveyed 2,178 people with disabilities between December 2009 and January 2010.

COMMENT: How nice. But wouldn’t it also be nice if the GOJ were to survey NJ to see if THEY feel they had been discriminated against. But they won’t. They don’t survey NJ. And when they do survey the general public in human-rights surveys, the questions are phrased so as to discount, even justify, the discrimination against them. Citations from 2007 GOJ survey here.

In sum, this to me is another example of the GOJ manufacturing consent to sway the public to accept a policy position. Fortunately, it’s for protecting people, not hurting them. But wouldn’t it be nice if the GOJ had somehow stepped in during all the nasty debates re NJ PR suffrage and curbed the hate speech, or even ask NJ sometime in a Cabinet Survey if THEY feel discriminated against? After all, we’ve already signed a Convention designed to protect them — nearly fifteen years ago in 1996, so there should be no disinclination. But no, NJ don’t deserve the same attention. After all, they aren’t Japanese.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 8, 2010

Table of Contents:

MIXED OPINIONS
1) Newsweek and NBER on how immigration helps societies, vs separate Newsweek column doubting it
2) Savoie Child Abduction Case: Father sues judge and lawyer that enabled ex-wife to abduct
3) US House of Reps Resolution submission regarding Japan’s Child Abductions Issue
4) How the mighty have fallen: Forbes ranks world’s leading companies, Japan with only 3 in top 100, Toyota drops from 3rd to 360th
5) Swiss woman acquitted of crimes yet denied bail due to being NJ, then barred as “visa overstayer” anyway
6) Japan Times editorial calling for the removal of its own Berlin Walls
7) DEBITO.ORG Podcast May 1, 2010

INFORMATION YOU JUST MIGHT NEED
8 ) GEOS Bankruptcy and G-Education takeover: Internal document forwarded to Debito.org stating staff not getting back wages
9) Mainichi: First GOJ guidelines for teaching NJ the Japanese language so they can live here
10) Debito.org Recommends: “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, By Christopher Dillon; Tokyo book tour next week

TANGENTS
11) Racial profiling of immigrants becomes legal in Arizona. However, controversy ensues.
12) Holiday Tangent: “Lifer” cartoon on “Things to do in a Wintry Hokkaido”, Happy May

… and finally …
13) JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column May 4, 2010, on “Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues ” (full text)

JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column May 4, 2010, on “Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues “

Tally ho! The hunt is on for “fake Japanese” in Japanese politics.On March 17, at a meeting of opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) officials, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara not only criticized the ruling coalition for their (now moribund) bill offering permanent resident non-Japanese (NJ) the vote in local elections. He even accused them of having subversive foreign roots!

“How about those Diet members who have naturalized, or are the children of parents who naturalized? Lots of them make up the ruling coalition and are even party heads.”

He argued that their support for NJ suffrage arose from a sense of “duty to their ancestors.”

We then had the standard Ishihara brouhaha: One person who felt targeted by that remark, Social Democratic Party leader and Cabinet member Mizuho Fukushima, denounced it unreservedly as “racial discrimination.” She stressed that she was in fact a real Japanese and demanded a retraction. Ishihara, as usual, refused. Cue coda.

But something’s different this time. Ishihara is not just toeing the “foreigners cannot be trusted” line he’s reeled out ad nauseam over the past decade to justify things like targeting foreigners and cracking down on Tokyo’s alleged “hotbeds of foreign crime.”

He is now saying foreigners will always be foreigners, even if they have been naturalized Japanese for generations…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 24, 2010

Table of Contents:
PROACTIVE POLICYMAKING TOWARDS NJ
1) Tokyo Gov Ishihara encourages witch hunt for J politicians with naturalized ancestors
2) Xenophobic rantings of the Far-Right still continue despite NJ Suffrage Bill’s suspension; scanned flyers enclosed
3) Gaijin Card Checks expand to Tax Bureau, now required for filing household tax returns
4) Mutantfrog on Death of Yokoso Japan, plus birth of Welcome to Tokyo
5) Asahi: J companies abandoning old hiring and promotion practices, offering NJ employees equitable positions. Come again?
6) Eurobiz Japan Magazine Jan 2010 Interview of JIPI’s Sakanaka Hidenori
7) “Pinprick Protests” #1: GOJ authorities finally telling hotels correct enforcement procedures for NJ check-ins. Pity it only took five years.

ISSUES RESPARKED
8 ) Ghanian dies while being deported March 22, scant media on it
9) FCCJ Press Conf on Ghanian death while being deported, 2 more deaths in Ibaraki Detention Ctr
10) Japan Times on Suraj Case: Wife of Ghanian who died while being deported demands info on cause
11) GhanaWeb: Suraj apparently a son of a Ghanian Prince
12) Japan Times on “Little Black Sambo” controversy, cites Debito.org’s parody “Little Yellow J*p”
13) Case study about university contract termination of NJ reversed due to getting a lawyer
14) Kyodo: Japan’s depopulation accelerates in 2009

TANGENTS
15) Tokyo Shinbun: Fussa City bureaucrat blames NJ residents for more children’s cavities!
16) Sumo Suits Controversy in Canada
17) NJ and Abandoned Konketsuji Negishi Cemetery in Yokohama; photos included
18) Congratulations to Oguri Saori for her successful opening of “Darling wa Gaikokujin” movie

… and finally…
19) Debito.org Poll: “Do you think ‘Little Black Sambo’ should be in print and in educational institutions in Japan?”

Tokyo Gov Ishihara encourages witch hunt for J politicians with naturalized ancestors

Tokyo Governor Ishihara’s latest rant has him accusing the ruling parties of having naturalized citizens for ancestors, therefore they want NJ PR suffrage. This latest smear campaign has finally turned Ishihara from a committed politician into a politician who should be committed.

It hardly bears fully iterating, but: Here we have this dangerous tendency of Ishihara solidifying into a fully-formed ideology, based upon the fundamental tenets that 1) foreigners cannot be trusted, 2) foreigners are always foreigners, even if they are Japanese citizens for generations, 3) foreigners think along blood lines and will work against Japanese interests if their blood is not Japanese. In other words, personal belief is a matter of genetics. But these blood-based arguments went out of fashion a few generations ago when we saw that they led to things such as pogroms and genocides. Yet some of the most powerful people in Japan (in this case the governor of one of the world’s major cities) not only fervently believe it, but also create political parties to rally others around it.

This is beyond pathological racism. This is the febrile insanity of a mean old man who has long since lost control of himself and his grasp of reality after so many years in power. And as evidenced above, he will even encourage xenophobic witch hunts for people on allegations of blood and ethnicity to push a political agenda that has one horrible conclusion: hatred, exclusion, and silencing of others.

Dietmember Fukushima is right to call it racial discrimination and call for a retraction (and threaten legal action). But she must also make it clear to the public that even if somebody was naturalized, it is not a problem: Naturalized Japanese are real Japanese too. Otherwise there’s no point to naturalization. But for people like Ishihara, that IS the point; as I’ve written before, it makes no difference to racists whether or not people become Japanese citizens, despite the protests of those opposing votes for NJ PRs. “If they want the right to vote, they should naturalize” has been and always will be a red herring to genuine xenophobes, so see it for what it is — a Trojan Horse of an argument camouflaging racism as reasonableness.

These are the people who should be booted from power. Give NJ PRs the vote and we’re one step closer. Don’t, and these bigots only grow stronger.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 10, 2010

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 10, 2010
SOME ODDS AND ENDS OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS
Table of Contents:

ODDS
1) MHLW clamps down on NJ spongers of system claiming overseas kids for child allowances. What spongers?
2) More Juuminhyou idiocies: Dogs now allowed Residency Certificates in Tokyo Itabashi-ku. But not NJ residents, of course.
3) Yomiuri: 3 Filipina and Indonesian GOJ EPA nurses pass exam (less than 1% of total, after two years)
4) Asahi: Prof pundit on Toyota uses “culture” benkai to explain auto recall issues
5) More anti-NJ scare posters & publications, linking PR suffrage to foreign crime and Chinese invasion
6) List of countries with voting rights for non-citizens, with Japan of the group the absolutist outlier

ENDS
7) A personal hero, Chong Hyang Gyun, retires her nursing post at 60
8 ) Japan Times update on current J child abductions after divorce & Hague Treaty nego: USG still pressuring GOJ
9) Mainichi: Supreme Court defamation ruling sounds warning bell over online responsibility
10) Japan Times on a “Non-Japanese Only” sushi restaurant in Okinawa
11) Fun Facts #14: JK provides budgetary stats to show why current immigration-resistant regime is unsustainable

AN ISSUE THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE FIZZLED OUT
12) Japan Times & Sano Hiromi on violence towards NJ detainees at Ibaraki Detention Center, hunger strike
13) Japan Times front pages NJ abuses at Ibaraki Immigration Detention Center, updates from Sano-san
14) UPDATE: Ibaraki Detention Center Hunger Strikers pause strike, arrange meetings
15) Japan Times on Ibaraki Detention Ctr hunger strikers: GOJ meeting because of UN visit?
… then, kerplunk, the issue dies…?

… and finally …

16) Tangent: Japan Times on staggering the Golden Week holidays across the J archipelago