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

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

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

Mainichi & Asahi: “4 arrested for helping Cambodian men work illegally”. Odd, given shysterism of Trainee Visa program

Three articles here describing police actually arresting people (Japanese employers, too) for NJ employment visa violations. Interesting, given all the shysterism that goes on under the Trainee Visa etc. programs that necessitate civil (not criminal) court cases for redress, and involve few arrests. I guess it’s more important to employ people on proper visas than to employ them humanely. Get the visa right, and you can do whatever you want to your NJ workers. Perhaps that’s precisely what the Trainee Visa was designed to enable: Cheap exploitable NJ labor for companies in trouble.

Mainichi: The president of an information technology (IT)-related company and three others were arrested on Oct. 18 for helping three Cambodian men come to Japan under the guise of IT engineers and illegally work at a supermarket, police said.

Arrested for violating the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law were Lim Wee Yee, 39, president of the IT company in Iizuka who is a Malaysian national; Takashi Miyazaki, 40, president of the Kurume Chimakiya supermarket chain; his younger brother and board member Yoji Miyazaki, 36; and Masaru Sakai, 30, the operator of another supermarket.

Mainichi: Female NJ Trainee Visa workers underpaid by Yamanashi company, beaten, attempted deportation

Six Chinese female trainees at a dry-cleaning company in Yamanashi Prefecture got into a row with the company when they complained that they were being paid under the minimum wage, and three of them suffered injuries including a broken bone, it has been learned.

Trouble reportedly erupted when the company, located in Showa, Yamanashi Prefecture, tried to force the six to return to China after they complained about their wages. The three injured workers are considering filing a criminal complaint over their injuries.

The three injured workers were later taken into the custody of the Zentoitsu Workers Union, which supports foreign trainees and apprentices. The remaining three were taken to Narita Airport by company officials and returned home.

Yomiuri: GOJ split over what to do about Trainee Visa abuses

Yomiuri on GOJ moves regarding exploitative NJ Trainee Visa program: One official said, “It’s too drastic to say the system should be scrapped just because there is a discrepancy between the goal and the reality.” Another was concerned the plan would completely overturn the government’s policy of not accepting foreign manual laborers, while a third said, “The current system has been, to a certain degree, effective as part of the nation’s international contribution.”

But all three ministries agree that a revised or completely new system should include measures to crackdown on overstayers through tighter immigration controls, and improvements in managing foreign workers’ information.

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

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

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

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

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

Japan Times: Preferential visa system extended to foreign 4th-generation Japanese [sic]: Allowing even NJ minors to build Olympic facilities!

JT: Foreign fourth-generation descendants of Japanese will be able to work in Japan for up to five years under a preferential visa program to be introduced this summer, the Justice Ministry said Friday. The new program applies to ethnic Japanese between 18 and 30 who have basic Japanese skills equivalent to the N4 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Applicants will also be required to have support from residents they know in Japan, such as family members or employers, who can get in touch with them at least once a month.

Among those planning to apply are people who spent their childhoods in Japan with their parents before losing their jobs during the 2008 global financial crisis. Some of their parents later returned to Japan, but their grown-up fourth-generation offspring could not because the visa system only grants preferential full-time working rights and semi-permanent status to second- and third-generation descendants. Under the new system, minors will be able to work. The new program begins on July 1, and the Justice Ministry expects around 4,000 descendants of Japanese emigrants from such places as Brazil and Peru to enter Japan each year. […]

Critics are skeptical. They say the new immigrants could be used as cheap labor at factories or construction sites in dire need of labor, especially ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I believe one of the reasons behind the change has to do with the Olympics,” said Kiyoto Tanno, a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University who is an expert on foreign labor issues. “But such demand could disappear. That’s why, I guess, the ministry placed a cap on the number of years.”

COMMENTS: As noted in the article, those getting this special visa are the children of the Nikkei South Americans who got sweetheart “Returnee Visas” due to racialized blood conceits (being Wajin, i.e., with Japanese roots) back in the day.  However, Wajin status only counted as long as the economy was good. As soon as it wasn’t, they were bribed to return “home” no matter how many years or decades they’d contributed, and forfeit their pension contributions. While this is nice on the surface for reuniting Nikkei families (now that Japan has been courting the Nikkei to come back for renewed exploitation and disrespect), now they want these children, many of whom grew up as an illiterate underclass in Japan with no right (as foreigners) to compulsory education in Japan, to come back and work again starting July 1. Even work as minors!

The big picture is this:   The GOJ will simply never learn that having a racialized labor policy (where Japanese bloodlines were theoretically a way to bring in low-impact “foreigners”, while Non-Wajin were expendable no matter what — in theory; turns out all foreigners are expendable) simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t keep a labor market young and vibrant, and in fact winds up exacerbating ethnic tensions because migrants who assimilate are not rewarded with immigrant status, with equal residency or civil/human rights. If there’s no incentive to learn about Japan well enough to “become Japanese”, then Japan demographically will simply continue to age. And as my book “Embedded Racism” concludes, that means, quite simply, Japan’s ultimate downfall as a society as we know it.

JT and Nikkei: Japan to offer longer stays for “Trainees”, but with contract lengths that void qualifying for Permanent Residency

JT: Japan is weighing the creation of a new status of residence that would allow technical interns from abroad to stay longer in the country, as part of efforts to tackle severe labor shortages, sources said Wednesday. But interns’ families would not be allowed to enter Japan — a provision meant to prevent the creation of the new status from leading to discussions on the sensitive issue of immigration, the sources said. The status would allow those who have completed a five-year technical intern training program and meet certain requirements to stay and work for up to five additional years, the sources said. […]

But according to a Nikkei business daily report, trainees will still have to return to their home after their programs end, and then apply for the new residence status that would allow them to work again in Japan for a further five years. This is apparently aimed at keeping trainees and interns from gaining eligibility to apply for permanent residency, for which one of the prerequisites is to be living in Japan for 10 years or more.

COMMENT: As is within character since the early 1990s, Japan wants NJ workers to make up for labor shortages in Japan’s workforce, but remains unwilling to allow NJ migrant workers to become immigrants: to access the benefits of their labors and years of investment in Japan’s economy and society by allowing them to live in Japan. No, once again, Japan would rather leach off the best years of NJs’ productive lives and then send them home. Except now GOJ policy explicitly wants them to stick around and be exploited ever longer (without their families, and with a built-in contract cut-off before they can qualify for Permanent Residency), again under the guise of the deadly “Trainee” slave-wage labor program.

Yomiuri: 4th generation Nikkei to get new visa status. Come back, all is forgiven! Just don’t read the fine print.

Ten years after bribing and booting out its Nikkei “Returnee” workers from South America (who had been given sweetheart visas of de facto Permanent Residency, higher-paying jobs than the “Trainee” slaves from places like China (but still lower than real Japanese, natch)), and four years after lifting a ban on their return, the government has officially decided to introduce a new residency status to exploit the next (4th) generation of Nikkei. As long as they a) speak Japanese, b) are young enough to devote their best working years here, c) come alone, and d) only stay three years. Those are some tweaks that makes things less advantageous for the foreigner, so I guess the previous racist policy favoring Wajin foreigners has been improved (as far as the government is concerned) to keep them disposable, and less likely to need a bribe to go home when the next economic downturn happens. That’s how the Japanese government learns from its mistakes — by making the visa status more exclusionary and exploitative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say

Japan Times: The [Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program], however, has not been without its critics. Japan’s top ally, the U.S., has even singled it out, with the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report for years slamming the program’s “deceptive recruitment practices.” “The (Japanese) government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP,” it said this year, using the program’s acronym.

Past allegations include unpaid overtime work, karoshi (death from overwork), and all kinds of harassment, including company managers restricting the use of toilets or demanding sexual services. The government rejects claims the program is abusive, yet acknowledges there have been some upstream problems. “It is true that some involved in the system have exploited it, but the government has acted against that,” an immigration official said. “It is not a system of slave labor.” The official insisted it was not in authorities’ power to control the behavior of middlemen but insisted they were not allowed to charge deposit fees. “It is also banned for employers to take away trainees’ passports,” he added.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to expand the program that would allow foreign trainees to stay in Japan for five years instead of three, and says such labor will increasingly be needed, particularly in the construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Abe is also aware that the nation’s health care sector must increasingly look abroad to fill the shortage of workers. “It has been said that we will need 1 million caregivers for the elderly by 2025, which would be impossible to handle only with the Japanese population,” said Tatsumi Kenmochi, a manager at a care home near Tokyo that employs Indonesian nurses. For Kenmochi, foreign staff are a precious commodity and the sector must do as much as it can to make them feel welcome. “It must be hard to leave home and work overseas,” he said. “We make sure that they don’t get homesick, listening to them and sometimes going out to have a warm bowl of noodles with them.”

Torii of Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan said this is just the kind of attitude Japan needs to learn: “The issue is not whether we accept immigrants or not. They are already here, playing a vital role in our society.”

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

Contrast this situation with the situation of “Trainees” and other visa statuses in Japan:

HCB: It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal. She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m. But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.

In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used. When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear. Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly. Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away. Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work…

More public-policy bullying of NJ: LDP Bill to fine, imprison, and deport NJ for “fraud visas” (gizou taizai), e.g., visa “irregularities” from job changes or divorces

According the Japan Times re a new Bill submitted by the LDP to penalize “fraud visa holders”, Immigration and the NPA go beyond merely “resetting your visa clock” and making your visa more temporary due to bureaucratic technicalities. This time they’re going to criminalize your mistakes, and even your lifestyle choices:

Consider how you could lose your current visa because you changed jobs from one arbitrary work classification to another? (Or worse yet, because your new employer messes up your paperwork?)

Consider how you could lose your Spouse Visa because, oh, you get a divorce or your spouse DIES! (Yes, people have lost their Spouse Visas because of that; however, until now, you had a grace period, meaning the remaining validity of the visa period to make life adjustments. Not any more, under this new system.)

Consider how vulnerable NJ become to any Japanese employer (or neighbor, ex-lover, or jilted person in a love triangle, for that matter), who can easily report you as a criminal (or at least put you through the horrible experience of criminal investigation in Japan) via anonymous Government “Snitch Sites” empowering the general public to bully NJ residents?

Which means you’re likely stuck in whatever dead-end profession or relationship (and at their whim and mercy). For if you dare change something, under this new Bill you might wind up arrested, interrogated in a police cell for weeks, convicted, fined, thrown in jail, and then deported in the end (because you can’t renew your visa while in jail). Overnight, your life can change and all your investments lost in Japan — simply because of an oversight or subterfuge. Yet more human rights being taken away from NJ residents.

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

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

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

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

US State Department report 2011: “Japan’s Foreign trainee program ‘like human trafficking'”

Yomiuri: Regarding conditions for foreign trainees in Japan, the [US State Department] noted “the media and NGOs continued to report abuses including debt bondage, restrictions on movement, unpaid wages, overtime, fraud and contracting workers out to different employers–elements which contribute to situations of trafficking.” The Japanese government has not officially recognized the existence of such problems, the report said. It also said Japan “did not identify or provide protection to any victims of forced labor.”

Asahi: The report said, “Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking… The State Department recommended the Japanese government strengthen efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish acts of forced labor, including those that fall within the foreign trainee program.

COMMENT: The U.S. State Department report text in full included in this blog entry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sankei: MOJ proposes easier visas for importing “higher quality” NJ labor; neglects to offer NJ stronger civil or labor rights

The Sankei reports on May 25 that the Ministry of Justice will be loosening some of its strictures on NJ visas (the Sankei uses the word nohouzu in its headline; I’m not 100% sure of the nuance but it sounds like “a wild and endless expansion of favorable treatment regarding NJ entry visas”; rather snotty, but that’s the Sankei for ya).

The new Immigration policy is directed at NJ with very high skills (koudo jinzai — a good idea) and their families (who will also be allowed to work; wow, that’s a change!), will have a points system for evaluation (another good idea), will offer longer visa periods (5 years), and will loosen the specificity between work visas. It’s being touted as a means to make Japan more appealing to NJ labor (you had better!).

Sounds like a step in the right direction. But it’s still 中途半端. What’s missing is GOJ guaranteeing some degree of protection of labor and civil rights after NJ get here. And what about qualifications? Just try practicing law, medicine, or most other licensed skills in Japan now without going through the rigmarole of domestic certification, with walls so high (cf. the NJ nurses from Indonesia and The Philippines over the past few years) that almost all NJ applicants fail (and, magically, have to return home as usual after three years, just like any other revolving-door “Trainee” or “Researcher” NJ laborer).

This isn’t the first time a points system etc. has been floated (only to die the death of a thousand meddling bureaucrats) either. I guess the mandarins are realizing what a fix Japan is in without NJ labor. But if this kind of policy is going to happen at all, the almighty MOJ has to be the one proposing it. Then perhaps the waters will part for Moses. Let’s wait and see.

But this is on balance “good” news. But not “great” news unless the GOJ also does something to force domestic actors to treat NJ nicely. Which is doubtful.

Japan Times Community Page on “Trainee” Jiang karoushi, how employer Fuji Denka Kogyo is trying to get away with it

Japan Times: Recent amendments to the Immigration Control Act, which also included changes to Japan’s alien registration card system, have improved the situation for participants of the internship program, although arguably it is a case of too little, too late.

Under the old system, those in the first year of the program were officially classed as “trainees,” not workers, meaning they were unable to claim the protections Japanese labor law affords regular employees.

For example, the minimum wage in Japan varies according to prefecture, and currently the national average is ¥713 per hour. But as foreign trainees are not technically “workers,” employers are not obliged to pay them even this. Instead, they receive a monthly “trainee allowance,” which for most first-year trainees falls between ¥60,000 and ¥80,000 — the equivalent to an hourly wage in the range of ¥375 to ¥500 for a full-time 40-hour week.

For first-year trainees, trying to survive on such a low income is a real struggle, so most have to do a great deal of overtime just to make ends meet.

Although the “trainee” residency status still exists for foreign workers who arrived before 2010, it is currently being phased out, and from 2011 all first-year participants in the program will be classed as technical interns. This a significant step forward, as the Labor Standards Law and the Minimum Wage Act apply to foreign migrant workers with technical-intern residency status. However, whether migrant workers are actually able to access the protections they are entitled to is another matter, and the issue of oversight — or the lack of it — is still a long way from being resolved.

Abiko believes this absence of proper oversight has grown out of the internship program’s weak regulatory structure and a general lack of government accountability. The government entrusts most of the operations of the internship program to JITCO, an authority that lacks the power to sanction participating organizations or companies, says Abiko.

“JITCO is just a charitable organization. It is very clear that JITCO is not appropriate to regulate and monitor this program.”

In addition, she argues, the financial relationship between JITCO and the collectives or companies under which trainees work makes JITCO’s role as a regulatory body even more untenable. JITCO’s total income for the 2008 financial year was ¥2.94 billion. More than half this amount, ¥1.66 billion, came from “support membership fees” paid by the companies themselves.

“How can JITCO appropriately regulate and monitor their support members when they are dependent on them for membership fees?” she said.

Economist London on Japan’s treatment of Chinese: Welcome tourist money, work “Trainees” to death

A couple of days after this issue appeared in Kyodo and on Debito.org, the Economist London had an article in its print and online version. (If Debito.org is an inspiration for your articles, may we say how grateful we are for the extended audience.) With even more research and quotes, and a comparison with another issue also recently discussed on Debito.org (how Chinese money is affecting the tourist economy), here’s the article:

Economist: MANY Japanese strive to keep up egalitarian appearances… But when it comes to the way Japan treats its nouveau riche neighbour, China, different rules apply. Two events this month betray the double standards with which Japanese officialdom treats China’s rich and poor. On July 1st Japan relaxed visa requirements for well-off Chinese tourists. It was not stated how much anyone needed to earn to apply for one. But as long as they had at least a gold credit card and a solid professional or civil-service job to go back to, they were free to come to Japan, to shop until they dropped.

Far from the bright lights of Japan’s shopping districts, however, young Chinese working in small industrial firms get anything but red-carpet treatment. On July 5th Kyodo, a news agency, reported that 21 Chinese were among 27 foreign trainees who died last year on a government-sponsored skills-transfer scheme for developing countries that over the past four years has brought in an average of 94,000 workers a year, mostly from China.

Of the 27, nine died of heart or brain diseases, four died while working and three committed suicide. A few days earlier officials confirmed that a 31-year-old Chinese trainee who died in 2008 after clocking up about 100 hours a month of overtime was the victim not of heart failure, as originally reported, but of “karoshi”, the Japanese affliction of death from overwork…

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”

Kyodo: Twenty-seven foreign nationals who came to Japan for employment under a government-authorized training program died in fiscal 2009, the second worst figure on record, government officials said Monday. The number was the second largest, following the 35 foreign nationals who died in fiscal 2008. This could trigger moves toward revising the government program, first launched in 1993, as a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages.

Separate Kyodo: A labor office in Ibaraki Prefecture will acknowledge that a Chinese national working as an intern at a local firm under a government-authorized training program died from overwork in 2008, marking the first foreign trainee “karoshi” death from overwork, sources said Friday….

COMMENTS: Taste the ironies in these articles. First, how in 2009, the death of 27 “Trainees” (i.e. people brought over by the GOJ who as people allegedly “in occupational training” don’t qualify as “workers” (roudousha) entitled to labor law protections) is only the SECOND worst figure on record. Second, how we have close to a third (as in eight NJ) of the total dying of “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation; don’t they have autopsies in Japan to fix that? Oh wait, not always.) Third, how about the stunning ignorance of the sentence, “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. If the Kyodo reporter had bothered to do research of his media databases, he’d realize it’s hardly “recent” at all. And it’s not being fixed, despite official condemnation in 2006 of the visa regime as “a swindle” and death after death (at a rate two to three per month) racking up. Karoushi was a big media event way back when when Japanese were dying of it. Less so it seems when NJ are croaking from it. Finally, look how it only took about two years for “a labor office” to admit that a NJ “trainee” had been worked to death, given the hours he worked that were a part of the record? Gee whiz, what Sherlocking! How many more people have to die before this exploitative and even deadly system is done away with?

Emily Homma on Filipina nurses in Japan being abused by GOJ EPA visa program

Emily Homma reports: “EPA Foreign Nurses and Caregivers Working in Japan Urgently Need Help

The Economic Partnership Agreement of Japan (EPA) with other countries, especially with the Philippines (JPEPA), has placed many Filipino nurses and caregivers working in Japan in a miserable situation where they are subjected to unfair labor practices, extreme pressure to study kanji, and poor salaries.

When they arrived in Japan in May 2009, the Filipino nurses and caregivers were glad to be finally given the opportunity to serve Japanese society as hospital workers. However, after only six months of Nihongo study and three months of hospital work in hospital, the Filipino nurses along with their Indonesian counterparts have been suffering from various hardships not only from unfair work policies, low salaries, and local workers’ rejection but also from strong pressure to master medical-nursing kanji and the Japan nursing system. It is a system that, unfortunately for the foreign workers, only those with high level-Grade 12 Japanese training or nursing graduates could understand.

Specifically, the Filipino nurses find themselves in the following extremely frustrating situations that leave them no choice but contemplate leaving Japan soon:…

Kyodo: 34 NJ “Trainees” died FY 2008, 16 from suspected overwork, up from 13 FY 2007

Kyodo: Thirty-four foreign trainees died in Japan in fiscal 2008 through March this year, up 13 from the previous year to hit a record high, a survey by a government-linked body promoting a training program showed Monday.

The leading causes of their deaths were brain and heart diseases, which claimed the lives of 16, while five were killed in accidents at work and four in traffic accidents. Supporters of foreign trainees said they suspect those who died from brain and heart disorders actually died from overwork. As of late 2007, about 177,000 foreigners have been staying in Japan under the government’s industrial training and technical internship program.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer supporting foreign trainees and interns, pointed out that many trainees have been forced to work long hours for lower wages and said he suspects they had died from overwork…

Ding Jianhui, 35, who came to Japan in September 2006 on the training program, said he had to work overtime for 100 to 130 hours a month at his job selling scrap metal and only received 110,000 yen per month after tax.

Asahi: More NJ “trainees”, “interns” face dismissal

Asahi: During the five months until February, more than 1,500 trainees and interns returned to their countries without spending the full three years here.

These difficulties highlight the program’s lack of a sufficient safety net. Interns are required to pay for unemployment insurance, but they often find it hard to receive benefits…

According to Zhen Kai, who gives advice to foreign trainees and interns at the Gifu Ippan Rodo Kumiai, a Gifu-based labor union for workers at small businesses, an increasing number of interns are refusing to be let go before the end of their three-year stints.

They remain at corporate dormitories without pay while negotiating with their employers to have their dismissals reversed.

“The situation is grave,” Zhen said.

Canceling a worker’s training or internship in the middle is allowed only when a business goes bankrupt or is in serious trouble. Because of visa restrictions, interns technically work under an arrangement with organizations, such as local chambers of commerce and industry, that accept them for member companies.

This means that if fired at the midpoint in their training, they are not eligible to work for ordinary companies or receive new job information at Hello Work public job placement centers.

While a Justice Ministry guideline urges groups and businesses to find new jobs for their dismissed interns, in practice help is rare.

See I told you so #2: Oct-Jan 1000 “Trainees” repatriated, returning to debts.

Mainichi: More than 1,000 foreign trainees involved in government programs were forced to return home as sponsor companies have been suffering from the deteriorating economy, a government survey has revealed… “Most of the trainees took out a loan of about 700,000 yen to 1 million yen to come to Japan,” said a representative of Advocacy Network for Foreign Trainees in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. “If they return home before their contract period ends, they will be left in debt.

COMMENT: Here come the stats. The “Trainees” (mostly Chinese workers in Japanese farms and factories), which I discussed in part in my most recent Japan Times article, are being sent home in large numbers, to face debts. Oh well, they’re not Nikkei. They don’t get any assistance. Just the promise of a “review” by May 2009, something people have been clamoring for since at least November 2006! Yet it only took a month or so for the GOJ to come up with and inaugurate something to help the Nikkei, after all (see above JT article). But again, wrong blood.

I think we’ll see a drop in the number of registered NJ for the first time in more than four decades this year. Maybe that’ll be See I told you so #3. I hope I’m wrong this time, however.

Japan Times/Kyodo: Decrease in NJ “Trainees”

Excerpt: The economic crisis is taking a toll on foreign trainees in Japan.

Preliminary data compiled by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization show that the number of companies’ applications for permitting foreigners into Japan as trainees or technical interns last October fell 18.8 percent from a year earlier to 4,753.

The figure for November stood at 4,692, down 25.5 percent from a year before. The organization, jointly founded by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and four other ministries, said Japanese firms are becoming reluctant to accept new foreign trainees in the face of the deteriorating economy.

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”.

Asahi: Skimming off NJ trainees results in murder

Yet another tale about Japan’s hastily-instituted and poorly-regulated NJ guest-worker program. Procuring cheap foreign labor to keep J industry from relocating overseas or going backrupt, the Trainee and Researcher Visa program scams have resulted in various human and labor rights abuses, child labor, and now according to the article below even murder. Quick comment from me after the article:

Asahi: Update on NJ Trainee Worker program: reform or abolition? (UPDATED)

Justice Minister Jinen Nagase proposed that Japan move to accept unskilled foreign workers, a “personal idea” that has startled bureaucrats and complicated debate on reforming a problem-ridden trainee-intern program. The labor ministry wants to end unlawful labor practices associated with the program, while the industry ministry wants to help smaller companies that are having a tough time finding workers. Nagase called for the program’s abolition, rather than reform. The plan would, in effect, pave the way for unskilled workers to enter Japan under certain conditions. His original memos to Kasumigaseki scanned and included for the record.

MOJ Immigration Bureau violates privacy of marriage with new visa “shitsumon sho”

Want a visa of any duration longer than three months, and just happen to be married? Well the Immigration Bureau has instituted a new questionnaire, which asks you breathtakingly personal questions, such as what language you use at home, who came to your wedding, how much rent you pay, how and where and when you met (include photos, love letters, international phone bills), and how you learned Japanese. Why? Because they are Immigration and they can do whatever they damn well please to foreigners and their unfortunate Japanese spouses.

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

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

Fuji TV’s “Taikyo no Shunkan”: Reality TV targeting NJ as sport. Again.

Thompson: As Japan predicts a rise in the number of immigrants and foreign tourists in the coming years, a new television show has turned migrant deportations into entertainment. The program provoked some outraged viewer reactions and insights about the plight faced by visa overstayers and undocumented migrants in Japan. Taikyo no Shunkan (タイキョの瞬間) (English translation: “At the Very Moment They Were Deported”) premiered on Fuji Television in a Saturday evening prime time slot on October 6, 2018.

Using a typical reality show format, the two-hour program follows a group of so-called “G-Men”, or immigration officers, employed by the Tokyo regional office of the National Immigration Bureau as they hunt down visa overstayers and so-called “illegal aliens” (fuhotaizaisha, 不法滞在者) and squatters (fuhosenshu, 不法占有) on camera. In one segment, the immigration officers stake out the apartment of a Vietnamese man suspected of violating the conditions of his trainee visa. He and two others are arrested and interrogated on camera before being deported 24 hours later.

COMMENT:  Debito.org has focussed on this kind of programming before.  Consider this segment from a larger archive of broadcast media bashing NJ as terrorists and criminals, a phenomenon that gained political traction as former Tokyo Gov. Ishihara fanned the flames of xenophobia starting from around 2000.  Not to mention the racist and propagandistic “Gaijin Hanzai” magazine (2007) that also seemed to be made with the cooperation of the Japanese authorities.

In the end, will there be any retractions, apologies for stereotyping, or even acknowledgments and caveats that NJ do good things in Japan too?  As book Embedded Racism points out in Ch. 7, not likely.  After all, NJ have so little right-of-reply in Japan’s media that bashing and blaming NJ for just about anything has long been normalized in Japan’s media. It’s simply part of standard operating practice — at the level of entertainment.  Even a sport.  It’s a foxhunt for gaijin.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 18, 2010

Table of Contents:

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

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

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

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 1, 2010

Table of Contents:
NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT…
1) Economist London on corrupt public prosecutors in Japan
2) Not only China, Japan eyes India for tourist influx, eases visas
3) CRNJapan’s checklist for avoiding J child abductions during marital problems
4) Weekend Tangent: What Canada does about racial slurs and abuse in public: jail time
5) Weekend Tangent: Discovering how cheap, yes cheap, parts of Japan are becoming
6) Yomiuri: Tokyo bathhouses scrub up to lure NJ visitors. My, how the worm turns. Why couldn’t they have done this ten years ago?
7) Referential website of note: Asia Pacific Memo at UBC

CHOTTO MATTA…!
8 ) Allegations that GOJ’s Hello Work refuses NJ applicants, as evidenced by “Japanese Only” employer Zeus Enterprise of Tokyo Ginza
9) JT’s Philip Brasor analyzes J media claims of bias towards Ichiro’s and Hakuho’s sports records
10) Mainichi & Asahi: “4 arrested for helping Cambodian men work illegally”. Odd, given shysterism of Trainee Visa program
11) NYT on Japan’s deflation: “Japan, Once Dynamic, Is Disheartened by Decline”
12) CJFF: Immigration raids Filipino family home, husband has heart attack
13) New Book: “In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy” by Pekkanen and Kallender-Umezu
14) CNNGo.com does odd article on “Controversial Activist David Schofill” and NJ refusals at hotels and onsens
15) NHK 7AM this morning: Offer coupons at Narita Airport to NJ with “preferential exchange rates”. The catch is…

BASTA!
16) Kyodo: Court overrules Oita Pref who tried to deny a 78-year-old NJ welfare benefits
BUT
17) Mainichi: “NJ have no right to welfare payments”, rules Oita District Court two weeks later. Gee that was a quick kibosh.
18) Hate crimes in Fukui: Car burned, “Gaijin GET OUT” message left at local mosque; flagburning at Indian restaurant
19) Japan Times: Eikaiwa Gaba: “NJ instructors independent contractors w/o labor law coverage”, could become template for entire industry
20) Fukuoka General Union info site on how BOEs are outsourcing ALTs through dispatch companies, not through JET Programme
… and finally …
21) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Tues Nov 2: How the “Cult of Japan’s Uniqueness and Homogeneity” interferes with good scholarship on Japan

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 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
///////////////////////////////////////////

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 3, 2007–SPECIAL ON NJ WORKERS

INTRODUCTION: WSJ ON JAPAN’S NJ LABOR MARKET
1) YOMIURI: 20,000 NJ STUDENTS CAN’T UNDERSTAND JAPANESE
2) ASAHI: GOJ GRANTS TO LOCAL GOVTS TO HELP NJ RESIDENTS
3) ASAHI: SKIMMING FROM “TRAINEE VISA” SCAMS CAUSES MURDER
4) YOMIURI: MINISTRIES SPLIT OVER WHAT TO DO RE VISA PROGRAMS’ ABUSES
5) THE VIEW OF THE ORIGINAL ARCHITECT OF THESE PROGRAMS, KEIDANREN
and finally…
6) REGISTERED NJ POPULATION HITS RECORD NUMBERS AGAIN IN 2006: 2.08 MILLION …and the “Newcomer” immigrants will probably outnumber the “Oldcomer” generational foreigners by the end of this year.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

JT: “Coming of age: 1 in 8 new adults in Tokyo are not Japanese”; underanalyzed stats posing as media peg

JT: [T]his year more than 1 in every 8 new adults in Tokyo’s 23 wards are not Japanese citizens, figures compiled by The Japan Times show. According to data provided by the 23 ward offices, 10,959 new non-Japanese adults live in central Tokyo, or 13 percent of the 83,764 new adults living in the city. […] Experts attributed Tokyo’s recent surge in the number of young non-Japanese to a flood of foreign residents coming with student and training visas. […] Those with dual citizenship of Japan and another country are counted as Japanese citizens.

COMMENT: This is a positive development, but not something all that headline-grabbing as a bellwether. After all, the article barely mentions the NJs’ visa status. Are these Permanent Residents who can stay here forever, and make a difference without fearing the loss of their visa? or are they on something shorter and thus sweepable (or bribable) with the thud of a bureaucratic stamp of “nonrenewal”? (The article mentions the uptick in student and “trainee” visas; precisely my point. This is not immigration; it’s a reflection of stopgap labor movement.)

And the true measure of internationalization — international Japanese citizens (i.e., Japanese children of international roots) — are not counted at all, once again showing the “embedded racism” of the process (by deliberately reducing Japan’s level of “foreignness” to more comfortable levels by only counting “pure” foreigners in isolation). Then what is a more newsworthy stat?  How about the record numbers each year of NJ residents with Permanent Residency?  That never seem to make much news blip. No wonder. That would actually mean something IS changing.

Instead, we get soft stats in soft newspaper articles like these. Again, fine, but we Old Japan Hands are getting rather sick of hearing prematurely how “Japan is changing” in the media, and getting our hopes up unnecessarily.

SMJ/NGO combined report for UN CERD Committee regarding Japan’s human rights record

The Government of Japan comes under review this month in Geneva by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. I was invited to submit a chapter for a report to the UN by the NGO Solidarity with Migrants Japan (SMJ) on how Japan is doing with enforcing it.

NGO Report Regarding the Rights of Non-Japanese Nationals, Minorities of Foreign Origins, and Refugees in Japan.

Prepared for the 76th United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Session February 2010
Compiled and published by: Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ)

CHAPTER 2 Race and Nationality-based Entrance Refusals at Private and Quasi-Public Establishments By Debito Arudou. Page 7

As I conclude:

“In conclusion, the situation is that in Japan, racial discrimination remains unconstitutional and unlawful under the ICERD, yet not illegal. Japan has had more than a decade since 1996 to pass a criminal law against RD. Its failure to do so can only be interpreted as a clear violation of ICERD Article 2(1): “States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay [emphasis added] a policy of eliminating racial discrimination.” We urge the Committee to make the appropriate advisements to the Japanese government to pass a law against racial discrimination without any further delay.”

Enjoy. Let’s see how the UN and GOJ respond. Here’s how the GOJ responded in 2008 — read and guffaw at their claim that they have taken “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination”.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 6, 2009

Table of Contents:
NEWS:
1) See I told you so #1: Newcomer PR outnumber Oldcomer Zainichis as of 2007
2) NPA enforcing Hotel Management Law against exclusionary Prince Hotel Tokyo
3) Yomiuri: NPA finally cracking down on Internet BBS threats and defamation
4) Mainichi: Tourism to Japan plunges by over 40% compared to last year
5) Metropolis Mag on how to get your housing deposit (shikikin) back

BLUES:
6) GOJ bribes Nikkei NJ with Golden Parachutes: Go home and don’t come back
7) Ekonomisuto March 10 2009 re worsening job and living conditions for Nikkei Brazilians et al.
8 ) Mainichi: Lawson hiring more NJ, offering Vietnamese scholarships
9) Japan Times on Japan’s emerging NJ policing laws. Nichibenren: “violation of human rights”
10) Mark in Yayoi on cop checkpoint #123, and “Cops”-style TV show transcript
11) Japanese also fingerprinted, at Narita, voluntarily, for “convenience” (not terrorism or crime)

REVIEWS:
12) Thoughts on Suo Masayuki’s movie “I just didn’t do it”: A must-see.
13) Audience reactions to documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES roadshow March 21-April 1
Next showing Sapporo Apr 23, organizing next roadshow August-September
14) Debito.org has citations in 37 books, according to Amazon
15) The definition of “Gaijin” according to Tokyu Hands Nov 17, 2008

… and finally… THE MUSE:
16) Complete tangent: 1940 Herblock cartoon on inaction towards Hitler

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.

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…

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
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

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…

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

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

WSJ on Imported NJ workers on J farms and factories

After failing to recruit young Japanese workers, the Akehama citrus farmers decided to try foreign workers, following the example of farmers in a nearby town. They recently set up their own recruiting agency to bring over new trainees. Most come from Benguet, a province in northern Luzon in the Philippines, where farms are struggling to compete with imports of Chinese vegetables. Akehama currently hosts eight trainees — two Vietnamese women and six Filipinos. Shipbuilding companies in a nearby town also employ some Filipino trainees. “American farmers use Mexican workers to run their farms,” says Mr. Katayama. “So we said, why couldn’t we Japanese farmers use foreigners too?”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 30, 2007

1) SAKANAKA ESSAY ON NEW FRAMEWORK FOR J IMMIGRATION POLICIES
2) KEIDANREN WANTS MORE FOREIGNERS
3) NIIGATA PREF CITY TO ABOLISH “NATIONALITY CLAUSE”
4) TOKYO GOVERNORSHIP HEATS UP: ASANO DECRIES ISHIHARA’S XENOPHOBIA
5) PM ABE: “OK OK, I APOLOGIZE FOR THE ‘COMFORT WOMEN’ ALREADY”. KINDA.
6) FOREIGN MINISTER ASO: DIPLOMACY AS A MATTER OF HAIR AND EYE COLOR
7) MANUAL: BEWARE FOREIGN P*NISES! WITH CHART OF SIZES
8) DEBITO.ORG UPDATES: KARA KIKAN, NATURALIZATION, APARTMENT “SHIKIKIN” REFUND
9) MEDIA UPDATES: JET INTERVIEW, DEBITO.ORG MAKES JAPANZINE’S BEST FOR 2007
10) 2-CHANNEL UPDATE: NISHIMURA WILL PAY FINES “ONLY ON PAIN OF DEATH”
11) CONCLUDING GAIJIN HANZAI ISSUE WITH JT AND J FOCUS ARTICLES
and finally… JAPANESE ONLY T-SHIRTS ALSO ON SALE IN FRONT OF JR TOKYO STATION

May 27, 2006: Police patrols, Diene, immigration and foreign workers

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