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

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

Mark in Yayoi on cop checkpoint #123, and TV show transcript

Turning the keyboard over to Mark in Yayoi, who has just been stopped for the 123rd time by the Japanese police for an ID Check.

This time, however, he was stopped and demanded a bag search. Although NJ are not protected against random ID checks (if he shows, you must show), random searches are in fact something protected against by the Constitution (Article 35) if you don’t feel like cooperating. But tell the cops that. He did. See what happened.

Ekonomisuto March 10 2009 re worsening job and living conditions for Nikkei Brazilians et al.

Shuukan Ekonomisuto Weekly (from Mainichi Shinbun presses) dated March 10, 2009 had yet another great article on how things are going for Nikkei NJ et al.

Highlights: Numbers of Nikkei Brazilians are dropping (small numbers in the area surveyed) as economic conditions are so bad they can’t find work. Those who can go back are the lucky ones, in the sense that some with families can’t afford the multiple plane tickets home, let alone their rents. Local NGOs are helping out, and even the Hamamatsu City Government is offering them cheap public housing, and employing them on a temporary basis. Good. Lots of fieldwork and individual stories are included to illustrate people’s plights.

The pundits are out in force offering some reasonable assessments. Labor union leader Torii Ippei wonders if the recent proposals to reform the Trainee Visa system and loosen things up vis-a-vis Gaijin Cards and registration aren’t just a way to police NJ better, and make sure that NJ labor stays temp, on a 3-year revolving door. Sakanaka Hidenori says that immigration is the only answer to the demographic realities of low birthrate and population drop. The LDP proposed a bill in February calling for the NJ population to become 10% of the total pop (in other words, 10 million people) within fifty years, as a taminzoku kyousei kokka (a nation where multicultures coexist). A university prof named Tanno mentions the “specialness” (tokushu) of nihongo, and asks if the GOJ has made up its mind about getting people fluent in the language. Another prof at Kansai Gakuin says that the EU has come to terms with immigration and labor mobility, and if Japan doesn’t it will be the places that aren’t Tokyo or major industrial areas suffering the most. The biggest question is posed once again by the Ekonomisuto article: Is Japan going to be a roudou kaikoku or sakoku? It depends on the national government, of course, is the conclusion I glean.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 14, 2009

THE DARK SIDE
1) NPA targeting NJ zones, “to ensure safety”. (Oh, and to prevent crime.)
2) NJ company “J Hewitt” advertises “Japanese Only” jobs, in the Japan Times!
3) Documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES, on Japan’s NJ labor, screening schedule Mar 21-31
Tsukuba Tokyo Nagoya Hikone Osaka Okayama Kumamoto

POINTS OF LIGHT
4) Interior Ministry scolds MOJ for treatment of tourists, also notes member hotels not following GOJ registration rules
5) Officially proposed by Soumushou: NJ to get Juuminhyou
6) AXA Direct insurance amends its CNN advertising to sound less exclusive to NJ customers
7) Tsukuba City Assemblyman Jon Heese Pt II: Why you should run for office in Japan

MISCELLANEOUS
8 ) Books recently received by Debito.org: “Japan’s Open Future”, et al.
9) Fun Facts #13: National minimum wage map
10) Tangent: Terrie’s Take on Japan going to pot
11) Economist.com on jury systems: spreading in Asia, being rolled back in the West

… and finally…
12) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Mar 3 2009 on “Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates” (full text)

Fun Facts #13: National minimum wage map

Have you ever wondered what the minimum wage is in Japan? Well, guess what, it depends. On the prefecture. On the industry. On the industry within the prefecture too.

Now, before you throw up your arms in anguish and wonder how we’ll ever get an accurate measure, along comes the GOJ with a clickable minimum wage map by prefecture and industry. You can have a look and see where people on the bottom rung of the ladder are earning the least and most. To quote Spock, “Fascinating.”

Of course, when I say “on the bottom rung of the ladder”, I mean citizens. There are however, tens of thousands of people (i.e. NJ “Trainees”) who don’t qualify for the labor-law protections of a minimum wage. They get saddled with debts and some make around 300 yen an hour, less than half the minimum minimum wage for Japanese…

Fun Facts #11: Ekonomisuto estimates 35% of Japan’s population will be over 65 by 2050

While researching stuff on Debito.org, I realized that one source I quote often in my powerpoint presentations has never been blogged: An Ekonomisuto Japan article, dated January 15, 2008, with an amazing estimate.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that well over a third of the Japanese population (35.7%) will be over 65 years of age by 2050, and the majority of those oldies will be well beyond a working age. Can you imagine over a third of a population above 65 years of age? Who works and who pays taxes, when this many people are retired on pensions or should be? That’s if trends stay as they are, mind. That’s why the GOJ has changed its tune to increasing the NJ population. We’re talking a demographic juggernaut that may ultimately wipe out this country’s productivity and accumulated wealth.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 20, 2009

POLICING
1) Yomiuri et al. on new “Zairyuu Cards” to replace “Gaijin Cards”
2) Zainichi also get cards, although with relaxed conditions
3) GOJ claims victory in “halving overstayers” campaign, maintains myth that NJ fingerprinting did it
4) Japan Times Zeit Gist on Noriko Calderon, born in Japan, child of overstayers, and deportation

NJ CRIME EXPOSURE: MEDIA EXCESSES AND RESTRAINTS
5) Japan Today on Spa! magazine’s expose of “Monster Gaikokujin” running amok in Japan
6) Full four pages of Feb 17 2009 SPA! article on “Monster Gaikokujin” scanned
7) Mainichi: 3 Chinese arrested over paternity scam to get child Japanese citizenship
8 ) Asahi: NJ overstayers finding housing through name laundering ads

A MIXED BAG OF POTENTIAL LEGAL PRECEDENTS
9) Japan Times Zeit Gist on Berlitz’s lawsuit against unions for “strike damage”
10) The Economist on international divorce and child custody (Japan passim)
11) Japanese stewardesses sue Turkish Airlines for discriminatory employment conditions

…and finally…
12) Fun and Games at Hokuyo Bank: Extra questions for the gaijin account holder

Yomiuri on new “Zairyuu Cards” to replace “Gaijin Cards”

The new policing system for NJ is slowly materializing. In what looks to be a privy leak to the Yomiuri (scooping almost all the other newspapers according to a Google News search; distracted by a drunk Nakagawa and Hillary’s visit?), yesterday’s news had the GOJ proposal for new improved “Gaijin Cards”.

Yomiuri says it’s to “sniff out illegals” and to somehow increase the “convenience” for foreigners (according to the Yomiuri podcast the same day). It’s still to centralize all registration and policing powers within the Justice Ministry, and anyone not a Special Permanent Resident (the Zainichis, which is fine, but Regular Permanent Residents who have no visa issues with workplace etc.) must report minute updates whenever there’s a lifestyle change, on pain of criminal prosecution. Doesn’t sound all that “convenient” to me. I’m also not sure how this will be more effective than the present system in “sniffing out illegals” unless it’s an IC Card able to track people remotely. But that’s not discussed in the article.

I last reported on this on Debito.org nearly a year ago, where I noted among other things that the very rhetoric of the card is “stay” (zairyuu), rather than “residency” (zaijuu). For all the alleged improvements, the gaijin are still only temporary.

One bit of good news included as a bonus in the article is that NJ Trainees are going to be included for protection in the Labor Laws. Good. Finally. Read on.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 8, 2009

2-CHANNEL AND DEALING WITH INTERNET BULLIES
1) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Feb 3, 2009: “2channel the bullies’ forum” (full text)
2) Japan Today & Yomiuri: Criminal charges against Internet bullies
3) NYT on “The Trolls among us” and measures against trollery

THE RECESSION BITES
4) JASSO eliminating exchange student funding on medical expenses, meaning sicker ryuugakusei
5) Japan Times/Kyodo: Decrease in NJ “Trainees”

KARMA BITES BACK
6) Sumo wrestler Wakakirin expelled for smoking pot: Why’d it take so long?
7) Newly-elected Tsukuba City Assemblyman Jon Heese on the hows and whys of getting elected in Japan

…and finally…

8 ) Debito.org Poll on whether “discrimination is a right for Japanese people”
…surprising is that 20% effectively say yes.

Documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES Japan Roadshow Feb and March 2009. Contact Debito for a screening.

DOCUMENTARY “SOUR STRAWBERRIES”
“JAPAN’S HIDDEN GUEST WORKERS”
NATIONWIDE ROADSHOW FEBRUARY AND MARCH 2009
MAR 20-31 DEBITO ON TOUR, STOP BY YOUR AREA AND SCREEN?

So far, I will be screening and speaking on the film at the following dates:
==============================================
MON MARCH 23 NUGW SHINBASHI TOKYO
TUES MARCH 24 AMNESTY INT’L AITEN TAKADANOBABA TOKYO
THURS MARCH 26 SHIGA UNIVERSITY
==============================================
If you’d like me to screen in your neighborhood between March 20 and 31, please contact me at debito@debito.org

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 16, 2009

Table of Contents:

=========================================================
BAD SCIENCE
1) Gregory Clark argues in Japan Times that “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people”
2) Japan Times Zeit Gist followup on Dec’s Otaru Onsen lawsuit analysis
3) Sankei: A manual to help NJ “illegal overstays” evade police
4) Kyodo: Special unemployment office being studied, only for “NJ workers with PR”
5) AP/Guardian on Japan’s steepest population fall yet, excludes NJ from tally
6) Kyodo: NJ to be registered as family members (residents?) by 2012
7) AFP and Yomiuri: How to get around J border fingerprinting: Tape!
8 ) Tokyo High Court overrules lower court regarding murder of Lucie Blackman:
Obara Joji now guilty of “dismemberment and abandonment of a body”

BAD BUSINESS
9) German documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES preview, with Debito interview
10) Japan Times on NJ workers: No money for food or return flight
11) Japan Times on future J housing markets, tax regimes, and why J houses are built so crappily

MULTICULTURAL DEVELOPMENTS
12) Excellent Japan Times roundup on debate on J Nationality Law and proposed dual citizenship
13) Another excellent JT article on dual nationality and the conflicts within
14) Japan Times on international trends towards allowing citizens to become multinational
15) Economist on Japanese immigration and conservatism giving way
16) All registered NJ will in fact now get the 12,000 “economic stimulus” bribe
17) Japan Times Zeit Gist on Chinese/Japanese bilingual education in Japan

HOLIDAY TANGENTS
18 ) Xmas List: Ten things I think Japan does best
19) Retrospective: 10 things that made me think in 2008
20) Humor: Cracked Mag Online on unappetizing restaurants
21) Humor: Robin Williams stand-up comedy on Obama’s election
22) Humor: “Beware of the Doghouse”: For you men with thoughtless holiday gifts
23) History tangent: Japan Times FYI on Hokkaido development

… and finally…
24) Interview with Debito on TkyoSam’s Vlog: Shizzle!
=========================================================

Kyodo: Special unemployment office being studied for NJ workers with PR

Here’s some very mixed news. The GOJ will study how to offer help unemployed NJ to make sure inter alia their kids stay in school. Thanks, but then it limits the scope to Permanent Residents. Probably a lot more of the NJ getting fired are factory workers here on visas (Trainee, Researcher, etc) that give the employer the means to pay them poorly and fire them at will already. So why not help them? Oh, they and their kids don’t count the same, I guess. Considering how hard and arbitrary it can be to get PR in the first place, this is hardly fair. Expand the study group to help anyone with a valid visa.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Jan 6 2009 reviewing 2008’s human rights advances

Here is my latest Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column on the good news of 2008 regarding human rights in Japan for NJ. Complete with sources. Ranked in terms of what I consider to be the top six advances last year, they are: The U Hoden court victory, the Chinese Trainee court victory against Tochigi strawberry farms, the increasing international awareness of Japan as a child abduction haven, the 12,000 yen “economic stimulus” package opened to all NJ taxpayers, the revision of the Nationality Laws to no longer require patrimony recognition before birth, and at the top, the GOJ recognizing the Ainu as an official ethnic minority.

Debito.org Poll on most important human rights advancement in 2008

What do you think is the most significant human rights advancement in Japan in 2008? (all issues on this blog):

The coveted Akutagawa Book Prize going to a non-native author.
The U Hoden Case awarding damages to a bullied Chinese-Japanese schoolgirl.
The successful Zainichi student complaint lodged against exclusionary Nihon U debate club.
The successful lawsuit against Tochigi strawberry farms who underpaid and fired Chinese trainees.
The GOJ declaring the Ainu an official indigenous people.
The 12,000 yen “economic stimulus” bribe opened to all NJ taxpayers.
The increasing international awareness of Japan as a haven for child abductions after divorce.
The Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional the patrimony acknowledgment requirement for citizenship.
Something else / None of the above.
Can’t say / Don’t know etc.

Vote early, vote often! Check out my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column due out January 6 (Jan 7 outside the metropolises) when I rank them in order of importance.

All registered NJ will in fact now get the 12,000 “economic stimulus” bribe

After dallying with thoughts of excluding NJ taxpayers, then allowing only those NJ with Permanent Residency and Japanese spouses, the GOJ has just announced that all registered NJ will get the 12,000 yen-plus economic stimulus bribe. Seasons Greetings.

This is probably the first time NJ have ever been treated equally positively with citizens (save for, perhaps, access to Hello Work unemployment agency) with a voter stimulus package. See, it pays to complain.

NUGW’s Louis Carlet on recent labor union moves

A recent news from labor union NUGW is meaty and timely enough to warrant everyone’s attention. Have a look and see if there’s anything here you’d like to check out. I fully support Louis Carlet and labor unions in Japan, and if you’re not in one, you’re not going to have your employment rights protected in Japan protected, full stop. A link to an essay on why I can say that with such conviction here.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 24, 2008

Table of Contents:
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
GOJ ARGUES AGAINST ANTI DISCRIM LAWS TO UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
1) Excerpts and critique of the Japanese Govt’s “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth
Combined Periodic Report” to UN HRC
2) South Korea’s 2007 “Basic Act on Treatment of Foreigners Residing in Korea”.
Contrast with Japan.

JAPAN’S LABOR MARKET AND DISCRIMINATION:
3) Japan Times editorial Oct 6: Japan’s foreign workers
4) Reuters: Keidanren business lobby calls for more immigrants
5) Chand B on AXA Direct Insurance requiring J language proficiency to qualify for coverage
6) “Japanese Only” at Tokyo Takadanobaba private-sector job placement agency
7) Debito.org Poll about discriminatory activities brought up by Oct 5 Asahi article

MISCELLANEOUS:
8) Getchan on how to circumvent Postal Money Orders and transfer money more easily
9) Kyodo: ‘Institutional racism’ lets Japan spouses abduct kids
10) AP article proffers cultural reasons for keeping Internet denizens anonymous

SPEECH THIS SUNDAY:
11) Debito speaks at Tokyo University Komaba Campus on Media Propaganda against NJ residents

… and finally …
12) Tangent: Silly poll on Debito’s new beard
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Excerpts and critique of the Japanese Govt’s “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Periodic Report” to UN HRC

I last reported on this issue here last August 30, when the Japan Times covered it. Long-time readers may find the following guffaw-worthy, from it’s very title: “The third, fourth, fifth and sixth combined periodic report” to the United Nations Human Rights Council — indicating just how late the GOJ is filing a report, on what it’s doing towards the promotion of human rights in Japan, that is actually due every two years.

Then get a load of the bunkum the GOJ reports with a straight face. Most glaring lapse of logic: If the GOJ had taken “every conceivable measure” as it claims in its introduction, that would naturally include a law against racial discrimination, wouldn’t it? Like South Korea did in 2007. But no. And look what happens as a result. Excerpts and critique of the GOJ UN report follow. Dig through it, and you’ll find self-evident weaknesses and contradictory claims throughout.

South Korea’s 2007 “Basic Act on Treatment of Foreigners Residing in Korea”. Hello Japan?

In 2007, South Korea passed “The Basic Act on Treatment of Foreigners Residing in Korea”, a law regarding equitable treatment and human rights protections for foreigners and naturalized Koreans. This is on top of government apparatus established specifically to enforce those protections. While I’m sure the system is far from perfect (the UN’s comments below are eerily similar to what goes on in Japan), if South Korea can pass a law on this, so can Japan. Here is more information on it from the ROK and the UN.

Japan Times editorial Oct 6: Japan’s foreign workers

Editorial: The number of regular foreign employees has also leaped to its highest level ever, giving evidence that the new workers are not merely here for a few years, but intend to stay much longer.

More than one-third of all foreign workers are listed as heads of household with contract worker or temporary worker status. This suggests that many of these workers are starting to call Japan home. Workers are still coming over for short-term work, but even those short-termers are working here for increasingly longer periods of time.

Having all workers documented by companies and reported to the government signals a more responsible approach than the often-exploitative conditions for many foreign workers in the past. Though the total percentage still remains small, these workers are integrating more deeply into Japanese workplaces and society. That integration demands better conditions and a more concerted effort to find ways of successful and productive integration. Finding the right way forward on this issue is rather tricky, but can be expedited by focusing on the essentials of work and health.

First of all, it is essential that past problems with foreign workers be resolved. The importing of “trainees” and “interns,” terms often used to cover up exploitative and even illegal work practices in the past, needs closer oversight. Foreign workers should also be enrolled in social insurance, including pensions and health care, on an equal basis with Japanese workers. Contracts, too, need to be better negotiated and clearly written. When contracts are broken, on an individual or large-scale basis, foreign workers should be assured of the same rights as Japanese.

Reuters: Keidanren business lobby calls for more immigrants

TOKYO, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Japan’s most powerful business lobby will change its long-held policy and call on the nation to accept more immigrants, Mainichi newspaper reported on Monday, as the world’s fastest ageing nation faces serious labour shortages.

The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), whose policy on immigration to date has been to limit foreign labourers to fixed contracts, will announce the change on Tuesday, the Mainichi newspaper said.

Further comment and historical record behind this decision in this blog entry…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 3, 2008

Table of Contents:
///////////////////////////////////////////
GOOD NEWS:
1) Glimmers of hope: New PM Aso does not single out NJ as potential terrorists or agents of crime
2) The Aso Cabinet gaffes start from day one: Minister retracts “ethnically homogeneous Japan” remark
3) First Aso Cabinet member resigns — tripped up (inter alia) by comments regarding Japan’s ethnic mix
4) Tangent: JK asks what happens to scandalized Japanese politicians
5) Japan Times on worries about Post-Fukuda immigration policies
6) LetsJapan Blog on new Saitama Pref stickers for NJ-friendly realtors
7) Japan Times Community Page on upcoming movie on divorce and child abduction in Japan
8) Asahi Shinbun on how some NJ are assimilating by joining neighborhood associations

BAD NEWS
9) Mainichi: Female NJ Trainee Visa workers underpaid by Yamanashi company, beaten, attempted deportation
10) Guardian UK on child abductions in Japan, this time concerning UK citizens
11) Japan Times on how divorce and child custody in Japan is not a fair fight
12) UK now considering introducing Gaijin Cards
13) Reader AS voices concerns re Softbank regulations and Japanese Language Proficiency Test
14) Third Degree given NJ who want Post Office money order

MIXED AND ABSURD NEWS
15) Japan Times: GOJ claims to UN that it has made “every conceivable” effort to eliminate racial discrim
16) IHT/NYT: As its work force ages, Japan needs and fears Chinese labor
17) GOJ announces J population rises. But excludes NJ residents from survey.
18) NJ baby left at anonymous “baby hatch”. Kokuseki wa? Eligible for Japanese! Er, yes, but…
19) Jon Dujmovich speculates on media distractions: PM Fukuda’s resignation vs. alleged NJ Sumo pot smoking
20) 2-Channel’s Nishimura again ducks responsibility for BBS’s excesses
21) First Waiwai, now Japan Times’ Tokyo Confidential now in Internet “Japan Image Police” sights
22) Irony: Economist reports on Chinese Olympic security; why not on similar Hokkaido G8 security?

… and finally…
23) Letter to California Gov. Schwarzenegger on eliminating UCSC English program
///////////////////////////////////////////

Japan Times FYI on Supreme Court

I’m not a big fan of the Japan Supreme Court, as my experience with it was when they summarily ruled that the Otaru Onsens Case (which involved racial discrimination, Japan Constitution Article 14) was “unrelated to constitutional issues”. This after only a couple of months of deliberation (it usually takes many years for rulings to come down).

It also refused to hear the case for Gwen Gallagher vs. Asahikawa University case, where she was fired for not being “fresh” (their words) enough to teach. And also, given Japan’s lower court rulings, because she’s a woman.

Yes, the JSC does sometimes issue miraculous rulings, such as this recent one regarding international children and J citizenship laws (causing some speculation that the JSC is in fact becoming more liberal; a bit premature IMO). But given the odd conservatism seen otherwise (such as the Chong-san case a few years back, ruling that denying a Zainichi the right to sit Tokyo medical administrative exams, merely because she’s a foreigner, is constitutional), that’s why they’re miraculous.

Anyway, read on. My favorite bit is at the end on how we can vote on Supreme Court justices. (I’ve done so when I voted.) It’s not much of an indicator–abstaining from voting for someone is counted as a “yes” vote (yes, I asked), meaning it’s not a majority of “yes” vs “no” votes, it’s “yes and no vote” vs “no” votes, meaning it’s highly unlikely the public could ever turf out a Robert Bork type. In other words, it’s a sham. And it’s never denied a JSC appointment, as the article indicates.

Archive: DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 6, 2006

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////
1) FOREIGN POPULATION TOPS 2 MILLION FOR FIRST TIME
2) PM CANDIDATE KOUNO TARO WANTS TO LIMIT FOREIGN POPULATION TO 3%
3) PUNDIT SORIMACHI KATSUO BLAMES FOREIGN CRIME ON A LENIENT JUDICIARY
4) EXCERPTS OF “DANGER! HUMAN RIGHTS BILL” BOOK ONLINE
5) NEW ALIEN REGISTRATION DETAILS
6) UPDATE ON TRAVEL AGENCIES: ESTIMATES NOW COST MONEY?
7) UPDATE ON POLICE HOME VISITS: ANSWERING QUESTIONS IS OPTIONAL
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Archive: DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 27, 2006

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
1) “POLICE PATROL CONTACT CARD” ASKS FOREIGNERS FOR PERSONAL DETAILS
2) SHUUKAN DIAMONDO ON “IMMIGRATION ARCHIPELAGO JAPAN”
3) ANOTHER TAKE ON THE UN RAPPORTEUR DIENE TRIP
4) THE RIGHT WING START GEARING UP AGAINST DIENE REPORT
5) LETTER TO YOMIURI RE FINGERPRINTING LAW
6) OTARU ONSENS MEDIA TAPE
7) YAMATO DAMACY’S CONCLUDING INTERVIEW
8) and finally… THE COMPLIMENT OF THE YEAR
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

IHT/NYT: As its work force ages, Japan needs and fears Chinese labor

NYT: “The foreign trainee system was established in the mid-1990s [sic], in theory to transfer technical expertise to young foreigners who would then apply the knowledge at home. After one year of training, the foreigners are allowed to work for two more years in their area of expertise. But the reality is that the foreign trainees — now numbering about 100,000 — have become a source of cheap labor. They are paid less than the local minimum wage during the first year, and little emphasis is placed on teaching them technical skills. Advocates for the foreign workers have reported abuses, unpaid wages and restrictions on their movements at many job sites. Nakamura, the Liberal Democratic politician, said the foreign trainee system was “shameful,” but added that if it were dismantled, businesses would not be able to find Japanese replacements.”

Japan Times July 8 2008 45th Zeit Gist Column: Gaijin as Public Policy Guinea Pig

GAIJIN AS GUINEA PIG
Non-Japanese, with fewer rights, are public policy test dummies
By ARUDOU Debito
Column 45 for the Japan Times Zeit Gist Community Page
Draft Seventeen, “Director’s Cut”, with links to sources
Published July 8, 2008:

Anywhere in the world, non-citizens have fewer legal rights than citizens. Japan’s Supreme Court would agree: On June 2, in a landmark case granting citizenship to Japanese children of unmarried Filipina mothers, judges ruled that Japanese citizenship is necessary “for the protection of basic human rights”.

A shortage of rights for some humans is evident whenever police partake in racial profiling–for example, stopping you for walking, using public transportation, even cycling while gaijin (Zeit Gist Jul. 27, 2004). Japanese citizens are protected against random questioning by the “Police Execution of Duties Act”; requiring probable cause of a crime. But non-citizens, thanks to the Foreign Registry Law, can be questioned at any time, any place, under penalty of arrest (with some caveats; see SIDEBAR below).

The societal damage caused by this, however, isn’t so easily compartmentalized by nationality. Denying legal rights to some people will eventually affect everyone, especially since non-Japanese (NJ) are being used as a proving ground for embryonic public policy. Read more…

J Times: Radical GOJ immigration plan under discussion

Japan Times: Foreigners will have a much better opportunity to move to, or continue to live in, Japan under a new immigration plan drafted by Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers to accept 10 million immigrants in the next 50 years.

“The plan means (some politicians) are seriously thinking about Japan’s future,” said Debito Arudou, who is originally from the United States but has lived in Japan for 20 years and became a naturalized citizen in 2000. “While it is no surprise by global standards, it is a surprisingly big step forward for Japan.”

The group of some 80 lawmakers, led by former LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa, finalized the plan on June 12 and aims to submit it to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda later this week.

The plan is “the most effective way to counter the labor shortage Japan is doomed to face amid a decreasing number of children,” Nakagawa said…

Japan had 2.08 million foreign residents in 2006, accounting for 1.6 percent of the population of 128 million. Raising the total to 10 million, or close to 10 percent of the population, may sound bold but is actually modest considering that most European countries, not to mention the U.S., have already exceeded this proportion, Sakanaka said.

Fukuda outlined in a policy speech in January his aim to raise the number of foreign students to 300,000 from the current 130,000, but without specifying a timetable.

However, the immigration plan calls for the goal to be achieved soon and for the government to aim for 1 million foreign students by 2025. It also proposes accepting an annual 1,000 asylum seekers and other people who need protection for humanitarian reasons…

Arudou, a foreigners’ rights activist, noted the importance of establishing a legal basis for specifically banning discrimination against non-Japanese.

“Founding a legal basis is important because people do not become open just because the government opens the door,” he said…

But wait, there’s even more to this excellent article:

GOJ: Chinese are largest NJ group in Japan as of end-2007

Here’s a reversal of the Postwar NJ natural order of things: Japan Times/Kyodo: “Chinese became the largest group of foreign residents in Japan at the end of 2007, outnumbering Koreans, the Immigration Bureau said Tuesday. Of the 2.15 million registered foreigners in Japan, Chinese numbered 606,889, or 28.2 percent, while Koreans totaled 593,489, or 27.6 percent, the bureau said. They were followed by Brazilians, Filipinos and Peruvians…”

SMJ Forum On NJ Rights and Living Standards, Sat June 14, Kawasaki

Solidarity With Migrant Workers Network Japan (SMJ) will hold its biannual national forum on Saturday June 14 (from noon) and Sunday June 15 (from 1pm) at the Kawasaki Kyoiku Bunka Kaikan, near Kawasaki Station. The host, Solidarity With Migrants Japan, has long tackled serious issues facing foreigners living in Japan, including discrimination, violence, visa issues, labor problems and the like. The forum will bring together dozens of groups that handle NJ issues from around the country and even some from other countries.

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

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

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

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

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

Yomiuri: GOJ revising NJ registry and Gaijin Card system: More policing powers, yet no clear NJ “resident” status

Yomiuri reports the change in the old “Gaijin Card” system, extending its validity for up to five years and somehow registering NJ with their J families. The bad news is that this measure, despite claims that it will make life “more convenient” for NJ living in Japan, is mainly a further policing measure. Registration will be centralized in the police forces (not the local municipalities any more), the replacement Cards will have more biometric data and tracking capability (RFID, anyone?), and the “zairyuu” (not “zaijuu”) cards, as labelled, are rhetorically old wine in new bottles. We still have to get beyond seeing NJ in Japan as “not really residents”, and all our protestations thus far clearly have not sunk yet in with policymakers at the national level.

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

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 14, 2008

JUSTICE SERVED, JUSTICE DENIED

1) Moharekar Case: Parents raise questions about baby’s death to Sapporo’s Tenshi Hospital
2) Matthew Lacey Case: Fukuoka police dismiss NJ death by blow to the head as “dehydration” (Yomiuri & Japan Times)
3) Mainichi: Chinese Trainees wage successful back-wage lawsuit against strawberry farm
4) Sankei compares NJ computer operators with toxic Chinese gyouza
5) Update on Valentine Lawsuit High Court Appeal
6) Idubor Case: A conversation with Mrs Idubor about life in Japan, and letters from Mr Idubor from prison specially for Debito.org

ISSUES OF BORDERS AND EFFECTS OF FOREIGN INFLUX

7) Asahi on how the GOJ doesn’t recognize NJ schools for tax funding, and why they should
8) Kyodo on USG pressure on Japan to do more fingerprinting
9) “Japanese Only” sign in Tsukiji Fish Market
10) Japan Times on Tsukiji’s tamping down on tourism
11) Alex Kerr on being a “Yokoso Ambassador” for the GOJ
12) DPJ at odds with itself over NJ voting rights

SPEECHES, PODCASTS, TV SPOTS, AND A BOOK TOUR

13) Italian TV SKY TG 24 on the Sapporo Snow Festival… and racial discrimination in Japan
14) January 22, 2008 speech to Waseda’s Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration, podcast and soundfiles in full
15) HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS on sale March 15, Japan Book Tour March 15 to April 1…

Holiday Tangent: SAYUKI, Japan’s first certified NJ Geisha, debuts

For the first time in the 400 year history of the geisha, a Westerner has been accepted, and on December 19, will formally debut under the name Sayuki.

Sayuki is specialized in social anthropology, a subject which requires anthropologists to actually experience the subject they are studying by participating in the society themselves.

Sayuki has been doing anthropological fieldwork in Asakusa – one of the oldest of Tokyo’s six remaining geisha districts – for the past year, living in a geisha house (okiya), and participating in banquets as a trainee. She has been training in several arts, and will specialize in yokobue (Japanese flute)…

Yomiuri: GOJ to forbid employers from confiscating NJ passports

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 28, 2007: FINGERPRINTING II

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 28, 2007
SPECIAL ON FINGERPRINTING POLICY INAUGURATION NOV 20, 2009
FORWARD: ANGER IN THE BLOGOSPHERE

WHAT YOU HEARD:
1) YOUTUBED NHK: KEEP CRITICS AND PROTESTS OUT OF BROADCASTS
2) YOMIURI EDITORIAL: FP JUSTIFIED AS ANTI-FOREIGN-CRIME MEASURE
3) SANKEI ON FINGERPRINTING SNAFUS
4) YOMIURI & NIKKEI MISTAKENLY TRUMPET “FIVE CAUGHT IN NEW SYSTEM”,
SANKEI CONTRADICTS

WHAT GOT MUFFLED:
5) MAINICHI: REFUSERS TO BE INCARCERATED, FORCED TO BE FINGERPRINTED
6) ASAHI: 38% OF US-VISIT DATABASE IS MISTAKES
7) ASAHI: TOKYO & NARITA LOSE PERSONAL DATA FOR 432 NJ
8) YOMIURI: SDF & MOFA LOSE COMPUTER DATA IN JAPAN, BELGIUM

WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE HEARD:
9) MAINICHI ON AMNESTY/SMJ PUBLIC ACTION OUTSIDE MOJ
10) PROTESTS WITH PARODY POSTERS, T-SHIRTS, POSTCARDS, MULTILINGUAL BILLETS
11) FRANCE 24 TV INTERVIEW IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH: “JAPAN’S 1984”
12) NYT: FINGERPRINTING “A DISASTER FOR J BUSINESS”

…and finally…
13) ACCENTURE, MAKER OF THE FP MACHINES, NOW HIRING IN JAPAN,THRU TIGER WOODS!

CONCLUDING STATEMENT: PROGNOSTICATIONS FOR THE PRESENT COURSE:
A HASTENED ECONOMIC OBSCURITY FOR JAPAN

BBC: Japan visa regime “abuses foreign workers” with “forced labour”

BBC: Over the past 17 years, thousands of foreign workers have travelled to Japan, taking part in an official scheme to learn skills they cannot pick up in their own countries. But this year the Japanese government’s own experts have admitted that in many cases trainees are used as cheap labour. The US state department has gone further. In its annual report on human trafficking, it said that “some migrant workers are reportedly subjected to conditions of forced labour through [its] foreign trainee programme”.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 19, 2007

1) JAPAN TIMES: WORKPLACE GAIJIN CARD CHECKS, WALLET-SIZED LAWS
2) FINGERPRINTING UPDATE:
OFFICIAL INSTRUCTIONS FROM NARITA AIRPORT
KOBE REGATTA & ATHLETIC WANTS IN ON FP PROTEST
ACCJ OFFERS THEIR VIEW OF LOBBYING FOR “CONCESSIONS”
MORE PROTESTS: T-SHIRTS AT JALT, “WANTED” POSTERS
FORMER GIANTS PITCHER YAMAMOTO PROFITEERS, GETS FP FOR MONEY
OFFER YOUR FP EXPERIENCES AT IMMIG AFTER NOV 20 AT DEBITO.ORG

3) ECONOMIST: YOMIURI OWNER WATANABE INTERFERES WITH POLITICS, AS USUAL
4) OSAKA REALTOR HAS CATALOG WITH “GAIJIN OK” [sic!] APARTMENTS; WHAT TO DO
5) CRIES DU COEUR FROM INTL RESIDENTS RE POLICE GAIJIN CARD SHAKEDOWNS
6) UN REP DOUDOU DIENE WARNS RACISM INCREASINGLY VIOLENT WORLDWIDE
7) SPEECHES ON JOB SEARCHES, NOVA COLLAPSE AT JALT TOKYO THIS WEEKEND
8) VALENTINE CASE NEXT COURT HEARING TUES NOV 20 11AM
(SAME PLACE AS AMNESTY MOJ FP PROTEST AT NOON–SO DO BOTH!)

…and finally…
9) “NO BORDERS” MEETING NOV 18: KOKUSAIKA AND KEIDANREN LAID BARE

“NO BORDER” Nov 18 Meeting: Kokusaika & Keidanren laid bare

Report on Nov 18 2007 meeting with NO BORDER, a group which wishes to promote greater integration of NJ within Japan: A lovely glimpse into Japan’s multicultural future as Japanized NJ children of immigrants reach college age. And an even more informative glimpse into the darkness behind Keidanren’s deliberate visa policies for getting cheap labor with all the trimmings–no labor law protection, and no social safety net. Special non-guest: Tony Laszlo

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 5, 2007

1) DOCUMENTARY FILM ON CHILD ABDUCTION: TOKYO DEC 11 FUND RAISER
2) NJ FINGERPRINTING POLICY FOLLOW-UP:
a) EUROPEAN AND ANTIPODEAN BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS LODGE PROTESTS
b) US MILITARY SOFA EXCEPTED FROM FP LAWS
c) PROBABLE USG INVOLVEMENT IN FP POLICY INCEPTION
d) DIET DEBATES ON ANTI-TERROR POLICY NOT OVER YET
e) MOJ MINISTER HATOYAMA JUSTIFIES FP POLICY THRU HIS OWN AL-QAEDA LINKS

3) THE DRAGNET TIGHTENS: USG: PROVE NO CRIMINAL RECORD OVERSEAS FOR GOJ LONG-TERM VISAS
4) JAPAN FOCUS: “JAPAN’S MULTICULTURAL FUTURE OF MIGRANTS BECOMING IMMIGRANTS”
5) JAPAN TIMES: “JAPAN’S UNSCIENTIFIC HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY”

…and finally…
6) WE ARE BEING LISTENED TO: ARTICLES ON SUMO AND EXCLUSIONARY SPORTS LEAGUES

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCT 13, 2007

1) FINGERPRINT LAW REVISIONS: CONFUSION, OUTRAGE, AND AMNESTY INT’L
2) JAPAN’S ANTI-TERROR: GOVT PROFITEERING & USER-FRIENDLY SNITCH SITES
3) LAWSUITS: ZAINICHI KOREAN VICTORY, VIETNAM WORKERS VS TOYOTA
4) UPCOMING SPEECHES OCT 22-27 IN WASEDA, TOCHIGI & KYOTO
5) IDUBOR CASE: HEARING OCT 18, BEERS AT THEIR YOKOHAMA BAR OCT 2O …and finally…6) METROPOLIS’S MARK DEVLIN: “JUST LET THE DAMN JAPAN TIMES DIE”

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

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPT 16 2007

1) GOJ’S HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY WITH ODD QUESTIONS
2) NEW JUSTICE MINISTER TO GET TOUGH ON FOREIGNERS AGAIN
3) UN NEWS: UN PASSES RESOLUTION ON RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
4) UN NEWS: UNHCR URGES HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW OF EVERY COUNTRY
5) TPR NEWS: SHASETSU COLUMN ON SNAFU AT MOFA
6) LETTER FROM GRASSROOTS UYOKU, DISRUPTERS OF AUG 31 MOFA MEETING
7) “ISSHO KIKAKU REP” TONY LASZLO IN COURRIER JAPON
8) FUN FACTS FROM SEIDENSTICKER’S “TOKYO RISING”

and finally…
9) ACTIVIST REBECCA WALKER ON THE “IDENTITY POLICE”

J Times on new Justice Minister Hatoyama Kunio

The new Justice Minister Hatoyama tells the Japan Times he intends to reverse former Minister Nagase’s proposal for a revolving-door guest worker program. Instead, he proposes more skilled NJ labor (okay) and expresses fears about more NJ crime (not okay). Again, people in charge of this field are ignoring the need for immigration.