In lieu of a longer blog entry, here’s an interview I had with the Shingetsu News Agency, in one of their “Speakeasys” (YouTube, 25 minutes). I’m making the case that the GOJ could be doing a much worse job taking care of their NJ Residents, but that’s because people have been vigilant about potential human rights abuses. It could very easily revert to racist and exclusionary habits if systems get overloaded or panic hits. Also, I argue that it’s also incumbent upon NJ Residents themselves to step out of their “Guestism” mentalities and claim their due as taxpayers and residents.
As I recently said in an interview with the Shingetsu News Agency, people who live in Japan (including NJ Residents) have to speak up if they feel they are being unfairly treated or depicted in public. And they do, sometimes with success.
Consider the case of RJO below, who writes that he saw a Kyoto Government comic book (ironically, scripted and edited by Kyoto Seika University, in conjunction with the Kyoto International Manga Museum!) issued to local grade-school children about traffic safety (a concern in Kyoto for commuting kids). Amidst other concerns, the booklet veered off on a tangent to target and alienate “foreigners” (not to mention Visible Minorities) as loud, ill-mannered loiterers and litterers.
That’s the NJ Community’s only appearance in the comic — as guests (not residents). Of course, according to eyewitness reports (and personal experience), this is in spite of all the ill-mannered loud littering Japanese around Kyoto as well. (Those kind of manners, you see, are exogenous to Japan. Even an elementary school student knows that. Now!)
The good news is that RJO and a friend took this up on Facebook, then directly with the City Government. Within hours the downloadable link to this pamphlet disappeared! RJO tells his story below. Good job. Again, if you live here as a Resident, you have to make yourself known as one sometimes. Demand non-differential treatment. And definitely demand not to be alienated in a primary school setting!
My regular monthly Visible Minorities column is out at the Shingetsu News Agency, where I talk about how Japan is reverting to exclusionary type (egged on by an unaccountable ruling elite) when dealing with minorities in pandemic times. People in Japan are generally “live and let live” and “keep calm and carry on” when it comes to treating each other. It’s Japan’s incompetent leaders (notably a self-hating haafu American-Japanese politician named Onoda Kimi) who normalize discrimination in the name of shifting blame, I’m arguing. Here’s the column’s opening:
SNA (Tokyo) — Pandemics can bring out the best in people. Newton came up with theories on calculus, optics, and gravity while in quarantine. Shakespeare wrote some of his best plays, and Edvard Munch created iconic paintings in isolation. Even today, we’re seeing heroes in the health care industry, volunteers sewing and distributing basic personal protective equipment, neighbors checking up on each other, and leaders stepping up their organizational skills. When the daily normal becomes a struggle between life and death, we see what people are really made of.
In Japan, we’re seeing much of the “keep calm and carry on” mettle found in a society girded for frequent natural disasters. But that grit hasn’t trickled upward to Japan’s political elite, which has ruled largely without accountability for generations, and at times like these appears particularly out of touch. More concerned about the economics of cancelling the Tokyo Olympics than about the safety of the general public, Japan’s policymakers haven’t conducted adequate Covid-19 testing, exercised timely or sufficient social distancing, or even tallied accurate infection statistics.
As happened in prior outbreaks, such as SARS and AIDS, leaders have deflected blame onto foreigners. First China, then outsiders in general, starting with the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship (which, despite a third of its passengers being Japanese citizens, was even excluded from Japan’s coronavirus patient tallies). But treating outsiders like contagion has consequences: Society develops antibodies, and Japan’s already-normalized discrimination intensifies. Consider the case of Mio Sugita, a Liberal Democratic Party Lower House Diet Member from Tottori…
Read the rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/04/20/visible-minorities-pandemic-releases-antibodies-toward-non-japanese/
Table of Contents:
1) Calling Debito.org Readers: How is life for you in COVID Japan?
2) COVID-inspired racism as NJ Residents are separated and “othered” from fellow Japan taxpayers by Dietmembers and bureaucrats
3) Japan’s reaction to coronavirus: Bigots excluding NJ residents from restaurants. Saitama Korean schools denied protective mask distribution because they might “sell off” the masks.
4) APJ-Japan Focus’s Jeff Kingston on PM Abe and postponement of 2020 Tokyo Olympics; plus the inhumanity of the Japanese Govt.
5) Debito’s SNA Visible Minorities column 8: “No Free Pass for Japan’s Shirking Responsibility”, Mar 16, 2020
This time I’d like to hear how life during pandemic is going in Japan from you. Hearing about how government policy and civil society affects Debito.org Readers is just as important as any old essay from me. Let me open the floor for discussion in the Comments Section by asking a few prompt questions:
1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy, especially when compared with what’s being put into effect in other countries (such as official calls at the local level for social distancing, the state of emergency in several prefectures, etc.)? How would you gauge their effectiveness?
2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet? How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbors?
3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic? Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)? Is there any resistance to working from home? If so, what and why?
4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of? Any pet theories as to why?
5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic? Are things better, worse, or basically the same?
6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?
For example. And if you’re not in Japan, please tell us where you are and what’s going on around you, too (and if you can, compare it with Japan). Thanks. We’re looking forward to your stories.
We are witnessing the logical extension of generations of Wajin not seeing “foreigners” as part of Japan, i.e., where minorities are apparently nonexistent in Postwar Japan’s “monocultural, monoethnic homogeneous society” narrative. It thus follows that Non-Japanese regardless of residency status in Japan are perpetually classified and treated as “guests”, subject to the whims of the Wajin majority to grant them any human rights, legal status, or access to public services. Book “Embedded Racism” has taken up this issue in great detail.
Now in this time of pandemic crisis, we’re seeing people revert to type and say that “foreigners don’t deserve the same government support as Japanese”, even though NJ Residents are paying taxes and living in Japan like any other people. The most recent manifestation has been self-hating Upper House Dietmember Onoda Kimi, an American-Japanese (father is American) representing Okayama (this place seems to spawn racists). She argues on Twitter that NJ Residents should not be granted the same access to proposed government cash subsidies for taxpayers in financial hardship. As does fellow Lower House Dietmember Sugita Mio (who has come out as anti-LGBT in the past). And then there are the government agencies listed below who are resorting to SOP to differentiate, “other”, and subordinate NJ Residents as a matter of course.
It’s time to talk about the politics of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and how Prime Minister Abe has put Japan at risk for the sake of a sports meet. Dr. Jeff Kingston of Temple University Japan has posted a salient article today about the politicking between Abe’s minions and and the International Olympic Committee, and how Abe may exploit any crisis he exacerbated for his own political benefit. It’s very much worth a read.
Kingston Abstract: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been widely criticized for ineptitude in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Keen to host the Olympics in 2020, he put public health at risk. Strong international criticism finally forced the IOC and Abe to accept the inevitable and defer the Olympics until 2021. Now both parties are now trying to claim credit for making this decision. The Japanese policy of limiting testing kept policymakers and citizens in the dark and handicapped responses to the outbreak. As the number of infections surges, the government is playing catch up. The combination of an accelerating COVID-19 outbreak in Japan and imminent global economic recession will hit Japan hard and could lead to Abe’s ouster. For now, there are growing concerns that he may exploit this crisis to advance his political agenda of constitutional revision.
Comment: All because the people who have money would rather risk the lives of the elderly and immunocompromised (as happened in the 1980s with Japan’s Health Ministry and HIV-tainted blood) than let any economic impacts of postponing an Olympics reduce their political power or their already-stuffed wallets. The short-sightedness and greed of people richer than God who won’t subsidize consumers and taxpayers (who have long subsidized THEIR lives) is astonishing. Especially since a dead consumer/taxpayer and their remaining resentful kith and kin is of no use to them either. This should be pointed out at every opportunity.
Instead (and this where the Debito.org subject matter comes in), we have media trying to blame foreigners again. We’ve already seen the regular knee-jerk reaction (seen in health scares ere: e.g., “NJ have AIDS” (1986), “NJ have SARS” (2003)) of treating it as a “Chinese virus” (and singling out Yokohama’s Chinatown). Or even just as a general “foreign virus” and shutting out all “foreign” customers. But since we can’t blame foreign tourists anymore (world tourism has screeched to a halt), we’re now seeing regular media portraying this as a “returnee” virus, where Japanese returning from infected gaikoku are stigmatized. Anything but blame the government for their political decision not embarrass or disrupt by testing widely and bringing on the lockdown. People will die for this. Again, all for the sake of a sports meet.
As expected (since this sort of thing is happening worldwide), the bigots unfettered by any laws against racial discrimination in Japan are doing what they do best — bigotry — portraying Covid-19 as a “foreign” virus, and making sure that foreigners don’t get the same public service or protections against it:
Hankyoreh: According to a Mar. 11 report in the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) newspaper Choson Sinbo, the city of Saitama in Saitama Prefecture excluded Saitama Korean Kindergarten and private academies from its plans to distribute 240,000 of the city’s stockpile of masks to employees working in daycare centers, kindergarten, after-school academies, and senior citizen facilities in Saitama. Upon learning of this, the principal of Saitama Korean Kindergarten inquired with the city on Mar. 10 and was told by a city official that the Korean kindergarten “is not considered a facility under Saitama city guidance and oversight, and instruction cannot be provided in cases where the masks are used inappropriately,” the newspaper reported. […] Kyodo News also reported a Saitama city employee as suggesting that masks might be “sold off” if provided to Korean kindergartens.
Kotaku: Ueno Sanji, a ramen restaurant in Tokyo, is only allowing Japanese customers due to COVID-19 concerns. The owner (pictured) claims that this is not discrimination but his duty to protect his family, his employees and his loyal customers. At Ueno Sanji, a ramen restaurant in Tokyo, an English language sign was posted reading, “Sorry!! Japanese Only Sorry!!” […] The above tweet reads: “Starting today, as a countermeasure to the coronavirus, [this restaurant] is Japanese only. I have a responsibility to protect my family, my staff and Sanji junkies. Please understand that this is not discrimination.” On Twitter, people replied in Japanese that this was in fact discrimination and even hate speech. Others pointed out that viruses don’t pay attention to nationality.
Finally, Tokyo NJ Resident Sam Byford tweeted a photo from a local establishment with a sign in English refusing service to all foreigners due to the Coronavirus, with a sign in Japanese below advising customers that disinfecting measures will be taken but the shop was still open to them. A request to Byford for more information on the location of this establishment received no reply.
SNA (Tokyo) — There’s an oft-used expression in Japanese: sekinin tenka. Best translated as “passing the buck,” it’s a reflex of dodging blame for one’s own actions by transferring responsibility to others. For too long, Japan has done so on the world stage with impunity—even when it affects the world adversely.
Let’s start with, since it’s timely, the 3.11 Fukushima nuclear meltdown that took place nine years ago this month. While the earthquake and tsunami are not Japan’s fault, situating a nuclear power plant so perilously close to the coastline is; as is the perpetually-botched response of containment and leakage (even the willful dumping) of irradiated water into the Pacific Ocean.
Contrast that with the attention and criticism (and even a TV series) Russia got for Chernobyl, where the situation has finally been contained in a sarcophagus. In Japan, officials instead blamed world standards of safe radiation levels for being alarmist (adjusting them upwards for domestic political purposes) and declared Fukushima produce safe for consumption.
Even more timely is how sekinin tenka influenced Japan’s Covid-19 response…
Read the rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/03/16/visible-minorities-no-free-pass-for-shirking-responsibility/
Table of Contents:
DIVERSITY AND ITS ADVERSARIES
1) 2020 Tokyo Olympics drops Ainu performance from its Opening Ceremonies, despite 2019 law officially recognizing and promoting them as an indigenous people in Japan
2) BBC: “Is Japan embracing diversity?” A Pollyannaish article highlighting a few celebrity examples without data on broad public attitudes or government policy re immigration
3) DF on Chugoku bank unlawfully demanding to check NJ customers’ visa stay durations and photocopy their Gaijin Cards, or face discontinuation of service
4) Senaiho “Hair Police” School Bullying Case Update 4: Civil lawsuit launched against school bullies, gaining traction with other international couples
5) “Gaikokujin Shimin”: Kawaguchi City Mayor Okunoki (kinda) answers a query about the racialized application of this term that officially makes Japanese into “foreigners” (UPDATED)
RECENT DEBITO COLUMNS
6) SNA Visible Minorities Col 6: “Carlos Ghosn’s Escape from Japan Was the Right Move”, Jan 20, 2020
7) My Japan Times JBC 118: “Remain calm when stopped by the police”, on what to do if stopped by Japanese police for an Instant ID Checkpoint, Jan 20, 2020
… and finally…
8 ) My SNA Visible Minorities column 7: “Japan’s Botched Response to the Diamond Princess Coronavirus isn’t Racism; it’s Stupidity”, Feb 17, 2020
From time to time Debito.org gets sent information from NJ residents being harassed by Japanese officialdom and businesses for the most basic things. Such as checking into a hotel or using a bank. Or being treated as objects of mistrust in official “Blame Games”. Or being demanded unnecessary steps just to live their daily lives or conduct regular business. It encourages racial profiling even further, in addition to what you already have at Japan’s hotels and other public accommodation, police instant ID checkpoints, and tax agencies. (See here too).
Such as the following case below, where Chugoku Bank is demanding a Visa Check in order to maintain (not open; maintain) a bank account. (In their words, “we have elected to confirm the period of stay for customers whose period of stay and other details have not been confirmed” Meaning their nosying into somebody’s visa status is not even under the pretense of some legal requirement.) And of course, in this era of identity theft that even foreign governments warn you against, Chugoku Bank wants to make a photocopy of the person’s ID, it turns out, for no reason whatsoever but reflex.
Submitter DF: Hi Debito, I recently got the attached postcard from my bank, Chugoku Ginkou. It says that I have to go in and verify that I am in the country legally to keep using my bank account. I went in today and they wanted to make a photocopy of my card. Is this legal? They claimed that they are doing so at the request of the government, which I’m sure is true, and that they need a copy for “filing”, which I am not sure is true. I told them that the card can usually only be requested by a police officer or an immigration agent. I finally relented only after they explained that they also photocopy other customer’s driver’s licenses. I offered my driver’s license, but they declined. I noticed that other than my visa status (PR), there is really no info on there that they don’t already have. Who is in the right here, legally?
BBC: Ahead of the Rugby World Cup held in Japan last year, a Japanese sports magazine, asked the national team’s captain, “Why are there so many foreigners in Japan’s squad?” The 31-year-old captain, Michael Leitch, originally from New Zealand, answered (in Japanese), “Because that’s how Japan is today. The rugby national team reflects the reality of current Japan, and also anticipates the future of Japan. As a team, we can embody and show society just how important diversity is.”
In Japan, rugby is famous for the phrase “no-side”, meaning once the referee blows the whistle to end the match, there are no more foes, only fellow players. While this phrase is no longer widely used, it has lodged itself firmly in the national consciousness of Japan. Athletes there with foreign roots are still called “players from a foreign country”. But in a country where the concept of wa is considered a fundamental virtue, there is hope that an increasingly visible “other” Japan in a changing society can lead it to being the natural state of things.
COMMENT: Here we have another one of those hopeful “Japan is changing” articles we get from time to time. BBC Reporter Okazaki clearly starts from a tack and then works backwards to find evidence to support it. But as Submitter FB pointed out quite succinctly, the article “highlights a few celebrity examples without any data on broad public attitudes or government policy towards immigration. The fact that 3rd generation ethnic Koreans aren’t citizens is the most telling fact of intransigence towards diversity.” Touche.
So let’s just draw a line in the sand here with a clear litmus test: At a bare minimum, until Japan’s historical aberration of “Zainichi” status is finally resolved by the Japanese government, and “generational foreigners” are legally accepted as diverse AND Japanese, Japan can never claim to be truly accepting of diversity. Full stop. Do that, and then we’ll start talking about how “Japan is changing” for a news peg. For one cannot ignore the historical contributions and sacrifices of Japan’s minorities, particularly the Zainichi, no matter what cosmetic overtures one might make in public towards a few token Visible Minorities for the sake of overseas media consumption.
Guardian: Japan’s commitment to the rights of its indigenous people has been questioned after organisers of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics dropped a performance by members of the Ainu ethnic minority from the Games’ opening ceremony. Members of the Ainu community, originally from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, had been expecting to showcase their culture to the world in a dance at the Olympic stadium, but learned recently that the plans had been scrapped. The Tokyo 2020 organising committee said the performance had been dropped from the ceremony due to “logistical constraints”. “Unfortunately, this particular Ainu dance performance could not be included because of logistical constraints related to the ceremonies,” it said in a statement to the Guardian.
COMMENT: Now that overseas media has finally decided to pick up this story, let’s open a dedicated blog entry to it. Debito.org’s take is that including the Ainu performance for the world to see would have too clearly contradicted the postwar-created and carefully-curated narrative of Japan as a homogeneous monocultural monoethnic society. In contrast to how numerous Opening Ceremonies elsewhere have showcased the diversity of the hosting country, this is an enormous slap in the face to the Ainu not only socially, but also legally, given the 2019 law that finally recognizes them as Japan’s indigenous people, and promises to help promote their culture. First chance they get, the GOJ fumbles it.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship case (which has been discussed extensively on Debito.org this past week) fell within my SNA monthly column window this time, so here’s my take on it:
Visible Minorities: Japan’s Botched Response to the Coronavirus
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, Feb 17, 2020
SNA (Tokyo) — The drama of cruise ship Diamond Princess, currently moored at Yokohama and quarantined by Japan’s Health Ministry due to some of the 3,700 passengers and crew testing positive for the coronavirus, is a human rights crisis.
The Covid-19 outbreak that originated in China has killed more than 1700 people and sickened tens of thousands.
Here’s my take: Surprise! I’m not going to argue that the prison-ship conditions are due to racism, but more a matter of official stupidity…
Read the rest at the Shingetsu News Agency website at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/02/17/visible-minorities-japans-botched-response-to-the-coronavirus/
Here’s the latest update from NJ resident Senaiho (previous updates three, two, and one here), whose daughter was not only bullied by school peers, but also had her hair forcibly cut by schoolteachers in public, causing her so much PTSD that she dropped out of school. This is yet another incident of Japan’s institutionalized school bullying of children of color that Debito.org has long called “the Hair Police”. Bullying is rife in Japanese education, but when it’s ignored (or even perpetuated) by officialdom, this feeling of powerlessness will leave children (particularly those NJ children with diverse physical features targeted for “standing out”) and their families scarred for life. (As discussed at length in book “Embedded Racism”, pg. 154-5.)
The difference now is that Senaiho has launched an actual civil court case. Over more than a year now Senaiho has tried other channels, such as taking it before school authorities and asking for criminal investigations, and all they have gotten is stonewalling and official coverup. So now he’s suing the bullies themselves. Let’s see what precedent this is going to set. Given that others are now standing up against insanely intrusive Japanese school conformity rules (“burakku kousoku”, including warmer clothes in winter, freedom of assembly or travel, and even the color of their underwear!), this may be a landmark case. Meanwhile, Senaiho offers an update with a newspaper clip below.
As we’ve talked at length before (it even topped my annual JT Top Ten Human Rights Issues for 2019), city governments have been using a racialized definition of local residents, namely “Gaikokujin Shimin”, that officially classifies even naturalized Japanese citizens, Japanese children with foreign roots, or anyone with connections to a foreign land as “foreigners”. Submitter ABC below offers a letter sent to the Kawaguchi City Government asking for clarification of the uses and effects of this official term. Thankfully, Kawaguchi City Mayor Okunoki Nobuo answered Submitter ABC. I enclose the query, Okunoki’s answer, and my (updated) translation of the answer, below.
JBC: Visible minorities in Japan are in a tough spot in a country where the police have a lot of arbitrary power and few enforceable checks (as we’ve been witnessing recently with the Carlos Ghosn case). As a result, we are facing two decades of police-promoted narratives of “the foreigner” as a visa overstayer and criminal. What follows is my advice on what to do if you face a sudden ID check on the street:
1) Ask why you are being stopped. 2) Ask to see their ID. 3) Use your phone (or ask a friend) to start recording. 4) Ask if compliance is optional, and/or ask for a warrant. 5) Above all, remain calm and polite. Arm yourself with the requisite vocabulary to do all this, contained in this article.
I have to admit more than a twinge of sympathy for Carlos Ghosn’s Great Escape.
Ghosn, the former CEO of Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Renault, was arrested in November 2018 on the initial suspicion of falsifying his compensation levels, and subjected to more than a year of Japan’s “hostage justice.” That is, he was held hostage to a judicial system that detains you until you confess to a crime, and subjects you to days, weeks, months, or conceivably even years of interrogation and tortuous conditions until you crack. Understandably, most do crack, and Japan’s conviction rate after indictment is famously more than 99%.
But as you have probably heard, at the end of December Ghosn suddenly turned up in Lebanon, one of three places he has citizenship. Out on bail in Japan, he made a daring escape that people are still trying to piece together, including man-sized musical instrument cases, an uncharacteristic lack of Japanese border security, and a mysterious visit to Lebanon’s president by Japan’s state minister for foreign affairs mere days before Ghosn jumped bail.
Ghosn is now making good on his threat to expose everything that happened to him while in custody. His multilingual press conference in Beirut two weeks ago was breathtaking to watch, full of documentation, pointed fingers, and hot-tongued accusations of the human rights denied to Japan’s incarcerated.
This has been covered exhaustively worldwide, so what more is there to say? My perspective comes as a person who also tried to change Japanese rules and practices, and found that The System similarly fought back dirty…
Rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/01/20/visible-minorities-carlos-ghosns-escape-from-japan-was-the-right-move/
Table of Contents:
1) My SNA Visible Minorities Col 6: “Carlos Ghosn’s Escape from Japan Was the Right Move”, Jan 20, 2020
2) Debito.org’s stance on the Carlos Ghosn Case, at last: A boardroom coup making “thin legal soup” that might shame Japan’s “hostage justice” judicial system into reform (updated for the Great Escape)
3) Finance Minister Aso apologizes if ‘single-race nation’ remark (essentially denying Japan’s officially-recognized multiethnic society) was “misunderstood”
4) My SNA Visible Minorities column 5: “Local Governments Classifying Japanese Citizens as Foreigners”, Dec. 16, 2019
5) “Every Foreign Guest must present passport for photocopying” at Hotel Crown Hills Kokura; Japanese Police up to same old unlawful tricks in Fukuoka Prefecture
… and finally…
6) My Japan Times JBC column 117: The annual Top Ten for 2019 of human rights issues as they affected NJ residents in Japan
Asahi: After more than a century of forced assimilation and discrimination, the Ainu people were finally recognized as indigenous under legislation enacted in May 2019. But [Finance Minister Taro Aso] apparently forgot about that legislation when he gave a speech at a Jan. 13 meeting with his supporters in his electoral turf of Nogata, Fukuoka Prefecture. “There is no other nation but (Japan) where a single race has spoken a single language at a single location and maintained a single dynasty with a single emperor for over 2,000 years,” said Aso, who is also deputy prime minister. “It is a great nation.” “If my remarks caused a misunderstanding, I apologize and will correct them” Aso said after a Cabinet meeting in Tokyo. [On Jan. 14 he] sort of apologized: “I have no intention of denying the government’s policy.”
COMMENT: Now, watching an LDP dinosaur making statements like this (who keeps getting re-elected) is frustrating as hell. However, a) it’s refreshing that he “sort of apologized” (we’ve had plenty of these fossilized statements in the past not even getting that much, or even being doubled-down upon by bonafide bigots who nevertheless get re-elected); and b) we have official policy enacted last year (as noted in my annual JT Top Ten Human Rights List for 2019) that has declared the Ainu an indigenous people, meaning Japan is officially multiethnic. Even Asole himself wasn’t going to (officially) contradict that. Good news, sort of.
For over a decade, Just Be Cause has recapped the previous year’s biggest human rights and human rights-related issues that have affected the non-Japanese community in Japan.
With the start of a new decade upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to mix a little of what was going on in 2019 and connect it to the broader topics that came up during the 2010s. Some are victories, some are losses — some are dangerous losses — but all of the entries below (in ascending order) are at the very least highly relevant to all of us.
• The Ainu Recognition Law passes last February, meaning Japan is officially multiethnic.
• Donald Keene, scholar who opened Japanese literature to the world but senselessly portrayed fellow NJ residents as criminals and cowards, dies aged 96.
• Sadako Ogata, UN superstar for refugees who did surprisingly little for refugees in Japan, dies aged 92.
• Yasuhiro Nakasone, assertive former Prime Minister with a history of claiming Japan’s superior intelligence due to a lack of ethnic minorities, and of operating wartime “comfort women” stations, dies aged 101.
• Shinzo Abe becomes Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister.
10) Otaru Onsens Case, 20 years on
9) Diversity in Japanese sports
8) Japan’s students challenge draconian rules (hair and underwear policing, etc)
See if your favorite issue made the Top Ten (yes, Ghosn did, again). Read the rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2020/01/06/issues/japan-international-community-2019/
ED’S NOTE DEC 31, 2019: UPDATING THIS POST FROM FEB 2019 BECAUSE OF CARLOS GHOSN’S REEMERGENCE IN BEIRUT, HAVING SOMEHOW ESCAPED FROM THE CLUTCHES OF THE JAPANESE JUDICIARY. THE BEST ARTICLE I’VE FOUND ON THIS EVENT IS ON THE DAILY BEAST HERE. DEBITO.ORG HAS COME DOWN DECISIVELY IN FAVOR OF GHOSN’S ESCAPE, AS CH 6 OF BOOK “EMBEDDED RACISM” DEPICTS JAPAN’S JUDICIARY AS DECIDEDLY AGAINST JUSTICE FOR NJ CAUGHT IN THEIR “HOSTAGE JUSTICE” SYSTEM. FACT IS, GHOSN NEVER STOOD A CHANCE OF A FAIR TRIAL, ESPECIALLY IN LIGHT OF ALLEGATIONS THAT HAVE SURFACED LATER THAT INDICATE NISSAN’S OWN (JAPANESE) CEO IS JUST AS GUILTY OF SIMILAR “CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR” THAT DID NOT RESULT IN ARRESTS. READ ON FOR THE REASON WHY DEBITO.ORG BELIEVES THE GHOSN CASE WAS A FLIMSY ONE FROM THE START:
Debito.org has been holding back on commenting on the Carlos Ghosn arrest and perpetual interrogation. But now that Ghosn has had practically unprecedented access to the media (see article below), and stands as a cautionary tale for any foreign businessman thinking they could get away with being a CEO of a Japanese company, it’s time to say something. Here goes:
COMMENT: The former CEO of Nissan and Mitsubishi motors, Ghosn was arrested last November and indicted in December for inter alia allegedly underreporting his income for tax purposes. As of this writing, he remains in police custody for the 23-day cycles of interrogations and re-arrests, until he confesses to a crime. Ghosn’s arrest shows how far you can fall if you’re foreign. Especially if you’re foreign.
One red flag was that the only two people arrested in this fiasco have been foreign: Ghosn and his associate, Greg Kelly. Kelly is now out on bail due to health concerns. But where are the others doing similar malfeasances? According to Reuters, Kobe Steel underreported income in 2008, 2011, and 2013, and committed data fraud for “nearly five decades.” Same with Toray and Ube Industries, Olympus, Takata, Mitsubishi Materials, Nissan, and Subaru. Who’s been arrested? Nobody but those two foreigners.
And Japan’s judicial system has a separate track for NJ suspects, including harsher jurisprudence for NJs accused of crimes, lax jurisprudence for NJ victims of crimes, uneven language translation services, general denial of bail for NJ, an extra incarceration system for subsequent visa violations while in jail, and incarceration rates for NJs four times that for citizens. Most indicative of separate and unequal treatment is that some of the accusations, which fall under a statute of limitations of seven years under the Companies Act, are still applicable. Prosecutors have argued that statutes do not apply to Ghosn because he spent time overseas. Apparently even the passage of time is different for foreigners, because the clock stops if they ever leave Japan!
It’s Debito.org’s view that this was a boardroom coup. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Ghosn was planning to oust a rival, Hiroto Saikawa, who has since taken Ghosn’s place as CEO. A similar thing happened to at Olympus in 2011, when CEO Michael Woodford broke ranks and came clean on boardroom grift. He was fired for not understanding “Japanese culture,” since that’s the easiest thing to pin on any foreigner. But in Woodford’s case, he was fired, not arrested and subjected to Japan’s peculiar system of “hostage justice” police detention, where detainees are denied access to basic amenities (including sleep or lawyers) for weeks at a time, and interrogated until they crack and confess, with more than 99% conviction rates.
The good news is that finally overseas media is waking up to what Japan’s Federation of Bar Associations and the UN Committee Against Torture have respectively called “a breeding ground for false charges” and “tantamount to torture.” Funny thing is, if this had happened in China, we’d have had howls much sooner about the gross violations of Ghosn’s human rights.
SNA (Tokyo) — According to the Japanese government, our resident Non-Japanese (NJ) population reached yet another new record, at 2.8 million last June. Last April, Japan started offering new visa regimes to greatly expand the NJ labor force, in response to Japan’s aging society and shrinking population. This, plus steady numbers of permanent residents, international marriages, and naturalizing citizens, are expanding our multicultural and multiethnic communities.
In response, local governments have been trying to accommodate the diversity through new concepts and policies. It started in earnest as far back as 2001 with the Hamamatsu Declaration, where multiple cities and towns near Shizuoka Prefecture called upon the national government to assist them in providing their NJ residents with education, welfare benefits, and streamlined administration. Since then, local governments have generally made positive proposals in good faith.
But sometimes they get it wrong. Last month, Debito.org reported how the city of Nagoya uses a very problematic term in their documents: Gaikokujin Shimin. The closest translation would be a “foreigner city resident/citizen” (as opposed to, er, a gaikokujin kokumin, the contradictory “foreigner Japanese citizen”?). But the point is that people covered by this term officially belong in the city as dwellers and participants.
The concept sounds inclusive until you see how it’s officially being defined. According to one of Nagoya city’s “General Plans,” dated August 2018, a Gaikokujin Shimin is, as I translate it from the text: “In addition to people with foreign nationalities with an address within Nagoya city, people like those who obtained Japanese citizenship, children born from international marriages, people with foreign cultures in their backgrounds, and people who have foreign roots.” (Original Japanese: 名古屋市内に住所を有する外国籍の人のほか、日本国籍を取得した人や国際結婚によって生まれた子どもなど外国の文化を背景に持つ人など、外国にルーツを持つ人。)
Let’s mull that over:
Rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2019/12/16/visible-minorities-local-governments-classifying-japanese-citizens-as-foreigners/
Submitter MR: I made a reservation for a buddy on Japanese-language Rakuten Travel (楽天トラベル) website at the Hotel Crown Hills Kokura. At check in tonight (12/9/19) at around 7:45PM, the Front Desk asked for his passport to photocopy. He is a Permanent Resident (永住者), so I intervened and told them so. They then immediately withdrew the request for the passport, but still asked for and checked his Gaijin Card (在留カード).
COMMENT: The hotel displayed yet another multilingual sign (Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, and Arabic) produced by the Japanese Police that ignores the law and encourages racial profiling. This one not only lists the approval of the Fukuoka Prefectural Police (and erroneously cites the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare), but also all Fukuoka Prefectural Public Health Departments (Fukuoka Kennai Kaku Hokenjo). Even though we’ve already had at least one Hokenjo (in Mito) correct the overzealous local police before on the letter of the law, which is:
If you have an address in Japan, you do not have to show any ID at a hotel check in. Just write that address in the hotel guest book. That goes for Japanese and NJ residents of Japan. The law on hotel (and minpaku) ID checks only applies to foreign tourists without an address in Japan. So demand it be it enforced.
Meanwhile, if you want to do what Debito.org Reader Onur did some months ago, contact the local Hokenjo and get the law corrected. Clearly the Japanese police are not going to police themselves. Or if you want to do something to stop this happening to you, download a file substantiating that you don’t have to show any ID as a resident of Japan here: http://www.debito.org/newhotelpassportlaw.jpg
A translation of Chapter 2 (Yakuza to gaikokujin ni jinken wa nai ) from the book Kenji Shikkaku ( A Prosecutor Debarred ) by Hiroshi Ichikawa. Published by Mainichi Shinbunsha, 2012. Copyright, 2019-Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center, excerpt reprinted on Debito.org with kind permission.
Translator’s Introduction: Hiroshi Ichikawa was born in Kanagawa in 1965. In 1990, he passed the notoriously difficult national bar exam after graduating from Chuo University. Those who pass the exam then serve a two year judicial apprenticeship and work along judges, prosecutors and attorneys. At the end of this period, the apprentice can decide, for the most part, to become a lawyer, prosecutor, or judge.
“A Prosecutor Debarred” is the tale of a young idealistic jurist whose career began with a commitment to fairness and justice. This is finely demonstrated when Ichikawa anxiously consults a superior after forgetting to advise a suspect of the right to silence during investigation. Some years later, Ichikawa would become mercilessly violent. In 2000, he was working in Saga prefecture in Kyushu, and undertook investigation of a financial scandal involving the Saga city Co-op. While interrogating a recalcitrant suspect, Ichikawa became enraged. He would later be called to testify in court, and admit on the stand to screaming “You lousy SOB. I’ll beat you to death!” in the face of a suspect.
The event was widely broadcast in the media. The suspect was tried and found not guilty in both the court of first instance, and the appeals case. Ichikawa would later be dismissed as a prosecutor, but allowed to continue to practice law, hence ‘debarred’ and not ‘disbarred.’ He performed a dogeza, a deep bow on hands and knees, in public, to the former defendant who was found not guilty. Until recently, this was viewable on YouTube. This chapter begins with Ichikawa’s first day on the job at the Yokohama prosecutor’s office. In Japan, the fiscal year, the employment year, and the school year begin in April.
Table of Contents:
WHOLESALE ALIENATION BY OFFICIALDOM
1) Dejima Award #7: Nagoya City officially classifies “Foreigner City Denizens” to include “naturalized persons, children of international marriages, people with foreign cultures or roots in their backgrounds”. Viva Eugenics.
2) MH Fox translation: “Gangsters and foreigners have no rights”, by Hiroshi Ichikawa (former prosecutor) on jiadep.org.
3) Mainichi: “‘Prison camps for Brazilians’: Foreign kids in Japan being ushered into special education.” Perpetuates the Japan-“educated” NJ underclass.
4) “Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass”, my Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” Col 2, Sept 17, 2019.
5) Senaiho Update 3: Civil suit to be launched over school “Hair Police” forced-haircut bullying of student in Yamanashi JHS (UPDATED).
MORE ALIENATION JUST FOR KICKS
6) XY on being racially profiled–by a designated police task force looking for “bad foreigners”–for a traffic fender bender caused by someone else!
7) Reuters: Japanese police urged to take “light-touch” towards NJ during Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup. Yeah, sure.
8 ) ICI Hotel Kanda unlawfully requires ID from all “foreign guests”, including NJ residents of Japan, as a precondition for stay; claims it’s demanded by Tokyo Metropolitan Police (UPDATED).
9) Last word on NJ hotel passport checks (thanks to a lawyer): It’s as Debito.org has said for more than a decade: NJ Residents are exempt from showing any ID.
10) My Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities col 3: “Racial Profiling at Japanese Hotel Check-Ins”, October 23, 2019.
11) Fujisankei-owned Japan Today posts article on “What to do if stopped by J police” for Rugby World Cup visitors, after consulting with Debito.org. Then does not acknowledge Debito.org and leaves out valuable advice.
12) Kyoto JET Programme teacher TS on being made homeless due to xenophobic landlord, and Kyoto Board of Education (who found the apartment) refuses to help.
13) Dr. Oussouby Sacko, African-born President of Kyoto Seika U, speaks at JALT, shows more blind spots re racism and tokenism.
… and finally…
14) “The Xeno-Scapegoating of Japanese Halloween”, my SNA Visible Minorities Col 4, Nov 18, 2019.
In July 2018, Debito.org talked about a New York Times feature article on Dr. Oussouby Sacko, a Mali-born naturalized Japanese citizen who is currently the President of Kyoto Seika University. I took a dim view of his views on discrimination by physical appearance in Japan, as he pointedly refused to equate being “treated differently because he does not look Japanese” with racism.
Then Dr. Sacko gave a plenary and a workshop at the last JALT conference, where he reportedly displayed similar blind spots with regards to both how he set goals in as university president and how he conducted himself with weekly parties that attracted the attention of his neighbors. One correspondent wrote, “I also think it is an interesting illustration of how the high profile foreigner who is really in the minority can effect some change, but that change comes with the caveat that the person has to be treated as a token.”
I conclude that Dr. Sacko is less an oracle and more of a cautionary tale. Educators, especially those who are seen as prominent enough to invited as plenary speakers, are supposed to be experts on what they are speaking of — in this case, according to JALT, “the Japanese context”. And in research situations, they are required to be self-aware of their position in the society they are studying and opining about. Dr. Sacko is clearly an expert on his own life. But given his repeated blind spots toward how he is treated in Japan, to the point where he remains oblivious towards the privilege and tokenism he enjoys as an outsider in Japan (while essentially minimizing/denying the discrimination that happens to other outsiders), I think he is out of his depth in terms of social science.
SNA VM 4: “Madness.” “Mayhem.” “Chaos unfolded.” “Anarchic behavior.” “Police try to subdue massive crowds running amok.” That was how one single article in the Japan Times depicted the big party at Shibuya Crossing last Halloween Night. Other media echoed similarly riotous language, noting the heavy police presence and suspended alcohol sales. Sheer anarchy! Reading all that, you could be forgiven for thinking Shibuya was set aflame and Hachiko knocked off his plinth. But drop by sometime; everything is still there just fine.
Why the alarmist attitude towards Halloween? We don’t see it for the revelry at, say, Japanese sporting events, where Hanshin Tigers fans take over Shinkansens and leap into Osaka rivers; or for annual Seijinshiki Coming of Age Days, where binge drinking and youthful hijinks disrupt boring official ceremonies; or any time of the year in entertainment districts nationwide, with public urination, people passed out on sidewalks or subways, and drunk chinpira picking fights.
Why not? Because those things are normalized. After all, it’s often hard for adults in Japan to have fun without alcohol, and excesses are tolerated as anzen-ben, a “safety valve” for letting off steam given the stresses of life. Why isn’t Halloween treated the same? Because… (full text follows)
Submitter XY sends official Nagoya City documentation that defines “Foreigner City Denizens” (gaikokujin shimin) as follows:
“In addition to people with foreign nationalities with an address within Nagoya City, this includes people like those who obtained Japanese citizenship, children born from international marriages, people with foreign cultures in their backgrounds, and people who have foreign roots.”
That pretty much makes it clear that you can’t ever be Japanese without “pure” Japanese blood and culture. In Nagoya, officially that also means you can’t escape being foreign. Ever. Even if you naturalize, or have a Japanese parent (who alas coupled with a foreigner), have any cultural ties to a foreign country, or have any roots in a foreign land. This not only defies common sense, it also, like the racist Japanese Sumo Association, violates the Nationality Law.
Therefore, for this blatant and ignorant attempt to further classify, stigmatize, and alienate diverse Japanese away from a mythical “pure” Japan free from any foreign influences, I hereby award the coveted Debito.org “Dejima Award” to Nagoya City (only the seventh in Debito.org’s quarter-century of existence), for effectively reviving 19th-century discredited Eugenics theories about thoroughbredness. That any Japanese tainted by foreign blood, culture, roots or ties is to be classified as a foreigner.
This is an update to the Senaiho Case of Junior High School bullying in Yamanashi, where a student three years ago had her hair forcibly cut by her Japanese school’s “hair police” (i.e., her teachers) against her will, resulting in trauma to the point where she could no longer attend. Debito.org has been covering this case for years (previous entries here, here, and here). The news is that the family, working through “proper channels” to no effect (in fact, the opposite — officialdom harassed the victims further), are officially taking the bullies to court:
Senaiho: Since my last update stating that the prosecutors office found insufficient evidence to proceed with charges, we have been working on the basis of filing a civil suit against the city of Yamanashi seeking a monetary amount of 7 million yen and a suit against the guardians of the perpetrators of the bullying seeking 5 million yen. This suit will be filed on the 8th of this month. This will be followed by a press conference at the press club office in the prefecture building. The basis of the suit will be that our daughter was bullied and as a result of this, the school teachers cut her hair without her consent. This resulted in her being traumatised to the point of not being able to attend the last two years of her middle school education and requiring professional counseling, along with medical treatment for insomnia.
Since the original incident in ’16, many of the people involved have retired, transfered, divorced, and even been imprisoned, such as the former mayor of Yamanashi (for unrelated crimes). This however does not decrease the liability of the city or the perpetrators. It does make it difficult for those in charge though who have to catch up, but that is their problem. This will be a long process though, probably two years at least and there is no guarantee we will come through as we wish, but if our daughter understands that what happened to her is not her fault, it will be a victory.
SNA: It’s dehumanizing to be denied service somewhere, not for what you did, but for who you are, and to realize that discrimination is real.
In Japan, your first experience might be with your apartment search—realtors may deny you a home simply because “the landlord doesn’t like foreigners.”
Sadly, there’s little you can do: racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan, even in 2019. You could report what happened to the Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Bureau (which will generally do nothing), or take them to court where you’re at the mercy of a judge susceptible to narratives of “foreigners are different/difficult, so refusing them is okay,” which is known legally as “rational discrimination.” Still, you will need a place right away to call home.
Eventually, after getting an interlocutor to negotiate or an employer to vouch for you, you find one. You’ll forget about what happened. Something like this doesn’t happen every day, right?
But it may occur the next time you want a hotel room. Given the tourism boom and hosted international sports events, racial profiling and discrimination have become widespread in Japan’s hoteling industry. This is particularly insidious because it’s not just the occasional bigoted landlord calling the shots; this time it’s the Japanese police…
Debito.org Reader Mamoru sends along a recent poster produced by the Shizuoka Police confirming that there are two separate tracks for guests at Japanese hotel check-ins: One for Foreign Tourists, and another one for ALL Residents of Japan regardless of nationality (Japanese and NJ):
Confirmed is that Foreign Tourists with no address in Japan must show ID, meaning a passport. Some places will require, as per local ordinance, that passport to be photocopied. (Despite various governments criticizing the potential dangers of this practice, including fraud and identity theft: The Canadian Government, for example, explicitly says, “You take all responsibility for giving information in your passport to a third party.”)
But then the Shizuoka Police use “weasel words” in their poster that make it look like hoteliers must check the ID of ALL guests. (In practice, however, this will mean that NJ will be checked, as hotels have always thought.) However, still NOWHERE in the law requires NJ Residents of Japan to show any ID after writing down their details in the hotel Guest Book.
The fact that even this Shizuoka Police poster is being intentionally confusing and misleading about the law (or ministerial directive) indicates once again that, despite well over a decade of corrections and clarifications via The Japan Times, Debito.org, and even the US Embassy, the Japanese Police are continuing to bend the law, and encouraging hotels to racially profile their “foreign” guests.
It turns out Japan has earned a reputation from past experiences hosting international events. The racism-riddled debacles that were the soccer World Cup 2002 and the G8 Summits made me question whether Japan as a society (let alone its politicians and police) was mature enough to handle any temporary influx of NJ, let alone as visa-legal NJ workers and residents of Japan.
But it seems it wasn’t just me noticing. Some months ago, the Rugby World Cup and staff from two embassies actually cautioned the Japanese police to ease up on their overzealousness towards NJ. As previous blog entries have shown, it’s questionable whether they are actually doing that (as they are bending the law to encourage racial profiling at hotels etc.). The following article deserves to be recorded on Debito.org because it shows at least somebody out there is taking notice, despite all the official “omotenashi” wallpapering over Japan’s latent exclusionism that goes ignored, if not encouraged, by Japanese authorities. I look forward to seeing what the International Olympic Committee has to say in Tokyo in a year.
Reuters: Japanese police have been encouraged to take a “light-touch approach” during the Rugby World Cup, with organisers telling Reuters they had visited host cities to emphasise that while fans will be boisterous they are unlikely to cause trouble. More than 400,000 foreign fans are expected to descend on Japan for the Sept. 20 to Nov. 2 tournament and concerns have been raised that police might not have enough experience to deal with the influx. Staff from two embassies have expressed concern to Reuters that police may overreact to perceived intimidation from fans.
JDG: Right wing Sankei owned Japan Today put out this ‘what to do if you get stopped by the police in Japan’ article for the Rugby World Cup.
Half the article about having fun and getting travel insurance, the other half about complying with all police requests because, y’know, cultural differences. Failure to blindly comply with police stop requests will be ‘escalating the situation’ and grounds for arrest because, y’know, cultural differences. What about police discrimination and your rights? ‘Don’t believe all the hoopla you read online’. Basically article’s advice is: If stopped by Japanese police, do as you are told.
COMMENT: Japan Today in fact consulted with Debito.org for this article in advance, then left out important information that might advise NJ of their actual rights — as a matter of “opinion”.
I acknowledge the editor’s courteous inquiries at the beginning, and appreciate his efforts to find out the most current information; I also acknowledge that his article is very helpful for the most part. However, by leaving out other information that might help readers protect themselves when deliberately targeted for harassment by police, it ends up toeing the Japanese Police’s standpoint that NJ aren’t supposed to have any rights. That’s also the standard line that much of the purportedly “foreigner-friendly” media maintains — just do as you’re told like a good “guest” and all will go well. Until it doesn’t, of course.
Racial profiling in Japan is Standard Operating Procedure for the Japanese police, and that should be acknowledged somewhere, not simply worked around or removed as a matter of “opinion”. Despite a discussion with the editor afterwards, I remain convinced that this editorial bent was due to Japan Today being owned and operated by the “gaijin handlers” at the right-wing Fujisankei group. A record of our correspondences and the article in question are hereby archived on Debito.org.
Here we go again. Debito.org Reader Jenifer (a pseudonym) sends evidence that the ICI Hotel Kanda will not only be demanding ID from all of its “foreign guests” (no doubt, as typically enforced, as a precondition for stay), but also unlawfully requiring even the NJ residents (who have addresses in Japan) display their ID (something not required by law of Japanese guests). The status of “foreign guest” will no doubt be determined on sight or by recorded name, so cue the racial profiling.
The justification? Once again, the Japanese Police (in this case the Tokyo Metropolitan Police) are stretching the law and demanding hotels act as their agents to check all “foreign ID” (something only people with the proper ministerial credentials can do). And as the ICI Hotel Kanda explicitly says in the Update below, they will refuse accommodation if that ID is not displayed, in direct violation of the laws governing hotel management.
The ICI hotel also cites “safety for our guests and other residents in Japan”. No doubt the Rugby World Cup will be used as a pretext, even though the reservation is for November. Once again, bring in an international event, and use it as a pretext to further alienate Japan’s resident non-citizens and international citizens. I can hardly wait to see what tricks the police come up with next year for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.
UPDATE SEPT 29: The hotel responds after Jenifer files a complaint with management, and reiterates that the Tokyo Police “strictly ordered us to ask for any identification card for foreign visitor or foreign residence of Japan due to security purposes,” and unlawfully reiterates that showing ID is a precondition for stay for foreigners only. They also say, “We have no intention to discriminate anyone as we are only following the check-in policy of the hotel.” As Jenifer concludes, “It’s like they don’t want to admit the cops aren’t following the law…”
September 19, 1999 was a watershed day in my life, when my family, friends, and I visited the “Japanese Only” Otaru public baths and exposed discrimination in Japan incontrovertibly as racial in nature. It has been exactly twenty years to the day since then, and not enough has changed. People (including Japanese citizens) are still being refused services in Japan based upon whether they “look foreign”. The police still engage in racial profiling as standard operating procedure to ferret out “illegal foreigners”. There still is no law against racial discrimination in Japan’s Civil or Criminal Code. Japan remains a signatory to the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination, where it promised (since 1995) to “undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms”. Nearly a quarter-century later, this clearly has not happened.
All of this has been charted and cataloged in great detail in my book “Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan”. To commemorate twenty years of GOJ negligence following a case that changed the dialog on discrimination in Japan, my “Japanese Only” Kindle eBook is now free to download on Amazon.com. Well, nearly free. Amazon requires that I charge something, unfortunately. The minimum price is 99 cents US. So I’ve set that price for the book in all countries effective immediately. Similarly, my book for how to cope with life in Japan and make a good living here, “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan”, is now also nearly free. 99 cents.
May the lessons of the Otaru Onsens Case reverberate and help everyone in Japan have equal access to public goods and facilities.
SNA: In a shocking series of exposés at the beginning of this month, the Mainichi Shinbun reported that minority children of workers in Japanese schools were being segregated from their Japanese peers, put in classes for the mentally disabled, and systematically denied an education. For years now, according to Ministry of Education surveys, schools have subjected their non-native foreign minority students to IQ tests. The results were striking: Non-Japanese children were found to have “developmental disorders” at more than double the rate of the general Japanese student population.
Striking, but not all that surprising—since these tests assessed IQ via culturally-grounded questions, on things like Japanese shogunates and tanabata festivals. They also considered a lack of Japanese language skills an “intellectual” disability. Let that sink in. Try claiming that your Japanese students are dim because they aren’t proficient in English, and then watch how long you remain an educator. But here’s where the bad science turns evil…
What follows are two articles that should make you shudder, especially if you have children in Japan’s education system. Here we have kids being treated by Japanese schools as low-IQ “disabled” students just for not being proficient in Japanese language or culture! To make things more abhorrent, according to a Mainichi headline below, they’re putting these NJ children to work in “prison camps” instead of educating them. This is not only violates the spirit of Japan’s Basic Education Law (or Kyouiku Kihon Hou — which, note, ONLY guarantees a compulsory education to kokumin, or citizens), but also violates once again Japan’s child labor laws. And it creates and perpetuates the underclass of NJ children “educated” in Japan.
Mainichi: Many foreign children in Japan are being placed in special education against their wishes amid a lack of consensus building with schools and doctors as they have trouble understanding Japanese […] In one case, a 14-year-old Brazilian girl who was born in Japan and is now in her second year of junior high school was placed in a special education class for her first four years of elementary school, without her or her mother being given a sufficient explanation. […] One day, when the girl was in her fourth year of elementary school, it emerged that she couldn’t do multiplication. When the girl was asked, “Don’t you learn that in school?” she replied, “We dig for potatoes at school.” […]
When it came to study, however, the girl was taught hardly anything. Later, when she moved schools and took an IQ test in the sixth grade, she was judged to have the intellectual ability of about a 6- or 7-year old. In junior high school, she has remained in a special education class. A Brazilian woman in her 20s who has already graduated described these special education classes as “prison camps for Brazilians,” as she has seen many friends from her country as well as children being urged to join such classes. […]
When approached by the Mainichi Shimbun, the school’s vice principal responded, “We decide whether or not a student goes into special education based on objective data such as hospital tests, and obtain parental consent.” But the vice principal divulged, “When foreigners increase in number, the learning progress of Japanese students is delayed. As far as is possible, (foreign students) should go to classes to be taught one on one.”
I found this experience online a few days ago from someone I trust, who has extensive Japanese experience and knowledge. The author had an interesting experience with a traffic accident (which wasn’t the author’s fault) and it resulted in being racially profiled. But what makes this a Debito.org Issue is that the Japanese police are now apparently dedicating a special unit just to investigate “bad foreigners”, even those involved in traffic fender benders!
XY: Returned to a supermarket parking lot this morning to find my car surrounded by a small group of Japanese police and onlookers. Apparently a lady backed into my car when I wasn’t there and had called the police to file a report. I think they were all quite surprised to learn that the car was driven there by an American and even more surprised that the American could speak Japanese. Everyone was very kind and both the cops and the woman who hit my car took the time to speak over the phone to my boss and apologize for the incident.
Things got strange when the regular uniformed police called in their racial profiling specialist unit for backup. This was a man wearing a plain white polo shirt who told me I needed to stick around after letting the woman who had hit my car go, did not present a badge, and introduced himself only when I asked him who he was as a man whose job it is to catch “bad foreigners.” He explained that he wanted to check if my visa card and drivers license were fake because “it’s very easy to make fakes these days.”
If the prevalence of fakes was the only issue at hand, one would wonder why he let the woman who had hit my car go without also checking to see whether her license was also a fake, but I didn’t bother pointing this out because it was obviously taken for granted that only “bad foreigners” would make fake IDs and conduct whatever nefarious activities they were potentially looking for beyond the ID pretext. I stood around for 30 minutes in the heat batting around irrelevant questions until I was cleared to go…
JET Programme participant TS tells a story of how a dispute with his landlord over allowing guests into his apartment devolved into a situation where even his employer, the local Board of Education in Kyoto, allegedly won’t act as his Guarantor or help him find replacement housing. He also says there are racialized issues at work:
TS: So now, with only less than 2 weeks before the end of the month, my wife and I cannot live in our current place, nor have the funds to afford to move and live in another… so what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to teach and fulfill our contracts but not have anywhere to live? It is unacceptable the way we have been mistreated by this government program, our board of education and, most specifically, our schools. I have attempted reaching out to both our prefectural advisor at Kyoto Board of education and a representative from CLAIR but neither can give us a solid answer in moving forward to remedy this situation. How are we to be JET Programme participants and be homeless? Is this my school and Board of Education’s passive-aggressive method of making us break contract? How is this cultural exchange? Our treatment has solidified how temporary we as even foreign and migrant workers are in the eyes of the Japanese people and government.
Table of Contents:
1) Kyodo: Japan celebrates its South American Japanese diaspora. Praising them for doing what it complains NJ immigrants to Japan do. (Like take Nippon Foundation money to sterilize Peruvian indigenous peoples?)
2) Reuters: Yet another NJ detainee dies after hunger strike after 3 years in Japan “detention center”; time for a change in labeling
3) US State Dept. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Japan: Highlights for Debito.org Readers
… and finally…
4) Japan Times JBC 116: “‘Love it or leave it’ is not a real choice” (on how Trump’s alienation of critics of color is standard procedure in Japan), July 24, 2019
I have a new monthly column at the progressive Shingetsu News Agency, the only place left (following the rightward editorial shift at The Japan Times) offering independent journalism on Japan in Japan. I stake out what the column space will be about, with the full text now online at Debito.org more than a year after publication.
Visible Minorities: Debito’s New Column for the Shingetsu News Agency
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, AUG 19, 2019 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMNS
My name is Debito Arudou (or Arudou Debito, if you prefer), that guy from Sapporo who started writing about Japan from the early 1990s on a long-dead mailing list called the Dead Fukuzawa Society. I wrote so much there that I decided to archive my writings on a webpage. Debito.org soon blossomed into an award-winning reference site on life and human rights in Japan, and later a platform for newspaper articles and fieldwork research on racial discrimination.
After moonlighting at places like the now-defunct Asahi Evening News and Japan Today, I began writing in 2002 a column for Japan Times, first under Zeit Gist and then Just Be Cause. Decades later, here we are with a new monthly column at the Shingetsu News Agency, under the title Visible Minorities. I chose this title for two reasons…
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My latest Japan Times column, talking about how Trump’s recent use of a racist trope, denying people of color the right to belong in a society simply because they disagree with the dominant majority’s ideology, is taking a page from Japanese society’s standard tactics of forcing NJ and Visible Minorities to “love Japan or go home”. Excerpt:
JBC116: Roiling American politics last week was a retort by President Donald Trump toward congresswomen of color critical of his policies. First he questioned their standing (as lawmakers) to tell Americans how to run the government. Then he said they should “go back” to the places they came from and fix them first. For good measure, he later tweeted, “If you are not happy here, you can leave!”
The backlash was forceful. CNN, NPR, The New York Times, Washington Post and other media called it “racist.” Others called it “un-American,” pointing out that telling people to go back to other countries might violate federal antidiscrimination laws. The Atlantic was even apocalyptic, arguing that “what Americans do now (in response) will define us forever” as the world’s last great bastion of multiracial democracy.
Why is this an issue for this column? Because it’s hard to imagine a similar backlash happening in Japan, even though this kind of alienation happens here often. [In fact, in Japan it’s old hat…]
Rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2019/07/24/issues/love-leave-not-real-choice/
Kyodo: Princess Mako paid a visit to Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Thursday in Lima during her trip to mark the 120th anniversary of the start of Japanese immigration to the South American country. “I feel Japanese Peruvians are treated very well in Peru. I’m grateful that Peru accepted Japanese immigrants,” the 27-year-old princess, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino, said during the meeting at the president’s office.
Vizcarra said he is glad that Japanese Peruvians are actively involved in various fields. The president also showed his gratitude to Japan’s contribution to Peru in the areas of technological and economic cooperation and archaeology. [Princess Mako] later met at a hotel in Lima with representatives of Japanese people living in Peru and Japanese volunteers dispatched by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, thanking them for their efforts in the country. On Wednesday, she attended a ceremony marking the immigration anniversary and met with Peruvians of Japanese descent. She is scheduled to travel to Bolivia on Monday to mark the 120th anniversary of the start of Japanese immigration to that country.
COMMENT FROM DEBITO.ORG READER AIS: “Team Japan celebrates its emigrants for their contributions (i.e. being Japanese) – essentially praising them for doing what it complains its immigrants do.”
COMMENT FROM DEBITO.ORG READER JDG: “Notice they don’t talk about LDP members funding Peruvian government forced sterilization of ethnic minorities. That’s some Japanese contribution to Peruvian society!”
BBC in 2002: More than 200,000 people in rural Peru were pressured into being sterilised by the government of former President Alberto Fujimori, an official report has revealed. The Health Minister, Fernando Carbone, said the government gave misleading information, offered food incentives and threatened to fine men and women if they had more children.
Poor indigenous people in rural areas were the main targets of the compulsive family planning programme until 2000, when Mr Fujimori left for Japan amid mounting corruption allegations against him. Mr Carbone said there was evidence that Mr Fujimori and a number of high-ranking ministers could be held responsible for “incorrect procedures” and “human rights violations”.
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Now, before anyone writes in and says, “Don’t be racist. Alberto Fujimori didn’t do this BECAUSE he is Japanese. He just happened to be of Japanese descent. (And self-claimed citizenship.) While doing monstrous things.
However, remember that Fujimori WAS being funded by the right-wing Nippon Foundation (founded by war criminal Sasakawa Ryouichi), especially when it was being headed by self-proclaimed South African Apartheid supporter (and apparently personal friend of Fujimori’s) Sono Ayako.
Meaning Fujimori, with the help of Japanese eugenicists, was cleansing Peru’s countryside of Peruvian indigenous peoples without proper medical procedure or oversight.
We’ve covered Sono Ayako’s ideological hijinks and Alberto Fujimori’s international criminal activity (which is why he is in prison now) on Debito.org before. What’s missing from this celebration of Japanese history in South America, as JDG notes, is Japan’s hand in overseas modern human rights atrocities.
Every year, the US State Department issues its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”. As highlighted by the Shingetsu News Agency, the 2018 Report on Japan came out last March. Now while it’s quite rich for the US to be reporting on other countries (but not, notably, itself) while it has an ongoing human-rights debacle for detained foreign entrants and asylum seekers (and their children) around its southern border, this Report has been cited over the years as authoritative (and it has also included the work of Debito.org and others). So here are the highlights on issues pertaining to Debito.org. As you can see, a lot of information is glossed over. Here are some highlighted sections for Debito.org Readers:
2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Japan, March 13, 2019
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
D. ARBITRARY ARREST OR DETENTION
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
A. FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PRESS
Freedom of Expression
D. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT, INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS, PROTECTION OF REFUGEES, AND STATELESS PERSONS
Access to Asylum
Access to Basic Services
Elections and Political Participation
Participation of Minorities
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Government Human Rights Bodies
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
International Child Abductions
Section 7. Worker Rights
B. PROHIBITION OF FORCED OR COMPULSORY LABOR
E. ACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS OF WORK
REUTERS: A Nigerian man died in a Japanese immigration detention center this week, an official said on Thursday, bringing to an end a hunger strike an activist group said was intended to protest his being held for more than three years. It was the 15th death since 2006 in a system widely criticized over medical standards, the monitoring of detainees and how guards respond to a medical emergency…
RINK, a group supporting detainees at the center, told Reuters the Nigerian had been on hunger strike to protest his lengthy detention. Another 27 foreigners are on hunger strike at a detention center in Ushiku, northeast of Tokyo, said a separate group supporting detainees at that facility. Some of them have gone without food for 47 days, said Kimiko Tanaka, a spokeswoman for the group… Two other men at Ushiku have been detained for five years, she said. “The reality of a lengthy detention is nothing but a human rights violation,” Tanaka said.
COMMENT: Dovetailing with last week’s blog entry about how Japan’s new “open door” visa programs violate basic human rights, here’s the old classic “closed door” policies aimed to punish bureaucratic transgressions by perpetually detaining people under conditions that don’t fall under standards for sufficient monitoring (because technically, they’re not “prisons”). Policywise, they’re meant to be a deterrent — part of a separate judicial track for foreigners in Japan with fewer human rights (full details on this in “Embedded Racism” Ch. 6). Separate and lethal.
Again, given how Japan’s ethnostate policies are an inspiration for xenophobes and racial supremacists worldwide, I would argue that these longstanding inhumane “Gaijin Tanks” are a working model for the “concentration camps” (the political term of debate in the US these days) for detainees along the American southern border. Except politicians in Japan don’t have the cojones to call them anything but benign-sounding “detention centers” — after all, who in any position of power cares about the plight of foreigners in Japan?
Table of Contents:
VISA ISSUES, SOME LETHAL
1) SCMP: “Japan: now open to foreign workers, but still just as racist?” Quotes Debito.
2) Mainichi: New “open door” visa programs violate basic NJ human rights (now including marriage and children), don’t resolve cruel detention centers, and still curb actual immigration and assimilation
3) Reuters: Yet another NJ detainee dies after hunger strike after 3 years in Japan “detention center”; time for a change in labeling
4) SCMP: Japan needs thousands of foreign workers to decommission Fukushima nuclear site. High irony alert: First blame NJ, then have them clean up your deadly messes.
VISAS BEING MADE AN ISSUE
5) Yomiuri: GOJ now requiring hospitals (unlawfully) demand Gaijin Cards from NJ as a precondition for medical treatment
6) Mark: New Discriminatory Policy by Rakuten Mobile Inc., now “stricter with foreigners”, refusing even Todai MEXT Scholarship Students cellphones
7) Anonymous on Ethical Issues/Discriminatory practices being carried out by Todai and Kyodai against MEXT scholars
8 ) Kyodo: Half of foreigners in Tokyo experienced discrimination: ARIC survey
9) My Japan Times JBC 115: “Know your rights when checking in at an Airbnb” (Apr 17, 2019)
… and finally…
10) Foreign Minister Kouno Taro asks world media to use Japanese ordering of names (Abe Shinzo, not Shinzo Abe) in overseas reportage. Actually, I agree.
The Mainichi updates us on how Japan’s oft-toted “wider open door” new visa regimes make sure any actual immigration is held in check, with continuing draconian and deadly treatment for detained NJ. The Mainichi calls them “haphazard immigration policies”, but that’s inaccurate. Japan still has no policy in place to encourage newcomers become immigrants (imin, i.e., firmly-established taxpaying residents and citizens). Au contraire, they’re still part of what Debito.org has called a “revolving-door” visa policy that has been in place for nearly thirty years now (what with the “Trainee” and “Technical Intern” programs that won’t even call NJ laborers “workers” (roudousha) in order to avoid granting them some legal protections), to make sure we take them in young, fresh and cheap, and spit them out when they’re too expensive or past their working prime.
For those who fall afoul of this exploitative system, they face being made an example of within cruel “gaijin tank” detention centers (which don’t fall under minimum standards covering prisons), which in effect send a deterrent message. It’s similar to what’s happening in the concentration camps now being run by the US Customs and Border Patrol (which, given that 45’s supporters are in thrall to Japan’s putative ethnostate, should not be too surprising).
As an interesting aside, the Mainichi below mentions how Japan even ethnically cleansed itself of Iranians in the 1990s, which can and will happen again. Now public policy is going one step further — trying to nip any possibility of marriage and children with Japanese. There are even bans on NJ on certain work visas having international liaisons, marriage, and children! For all the new “open-door” visas being advertised, it’s clear that NJ are still seen more as work units than human beings.
What follows are more travails of foreign and exchange students (not to mention foreign academics employed under this system) who think that studying in Japan is like studying or working at universities in other developed countries.
Debito.org has talked about this flawed system before, as in about a decade ago, when it comes to lack of institutional support for foreign scholarships (to the point where students just give up and leave) or even having sufficient university support when being systematically rejected for an apartment for being a foreigner! Even when the GOJ signals that it wants a more “open-door policy” for more foreign students and staff, what with the Global 30 Project funding from the Ministry of Education (MEXT), the Times Higher Education reported that Japan’s “entrenched ideas hinder” that from happening. And the THE wrote that article back in 2010, meaning that nearly a decade later things still aren’t getting much better. Read on for Anonymous’s report below on the Kafkaesque ordeal he/she had just trying to transfer schools, even those anointed under MEXT’s Global 30 Project.
Forewarned is forearmed, prospective students considering Japan as a destination. Know what you’re getting into or suffer an enormous bump in the road on your way to a terminal degree in your field.
Anonymous: When I applied for an extension to transfer to the University of Kyoto, the University of Tokyo’s rival university, the University of Tokyo had full control of whether to recommend or not recommend me to MEXT. This obviously poses ethical problems, and I was pretty quick to complain to the international office. Why on earth, I asked, am I being evaluated for a scholarship selection by a university who could potentially favor its own scholarship extension applicants, and who I will not be going to next year? At the very least, the University of Kyoto should be evaluating me as it is their university that I passed and would be going to. Lo and behold, I was mysteriously rejected – mid January, and two and a half months before I was about to enter graduate school. This permanently messed up any chance I had of pursuing my graduate studies, and consequently caused numerous other problems. I was forced to scramble to find a job last minute, in order to avoid financial ruin and being deported.