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My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column talks about how NJ do have the ability to get some political power in Japan.  It will of course mean some work on their part, but that’s inevitable for all minorities anywhere.  But the biggest obstacle, aside from the willful exclusion of NJ from the electorate, is the will to naturalize and run for office.  You can do it, and I believe it’s likely you’ll get in, since the Japanese electorate is really quite hungry for something different to choose from.  But you’ve gotta stop believing that you’re merely a “guest” in Japan in the first place.  Read on to see some examples of elected former NJ and take note.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Non-Japanese Residents claim political power despite obstacles
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column 54, March 31, 2024
Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/03/31/visible-minorities-non-japanese-residents-claim-political-power/

I teach Political Science at the university level.  In my first lecture every semester, I try to convince skeptical students why they should bother studying Political Science at all.

I argue that understanding how power flows through political structures will help students enfranchise themselves in a democratic system.  Because if they don’t, other people who understand the system better will use it to their advantage instead.

But this assumes one major fundamental:  that they can participate in the democratic system at all.  Fortunately, most of my students are citizens, so they can vote.  Given how abysmal youth voter turnout generally is, I consider it a major educational outcome if they bother to.  Persuading people that their vote matters is the bare minimum a civics class can accomplish.  

If I have the opportunity in higher-level classes to proselytize further, I encourage them to engage in community building, such as organizing into interest groups and consolidating power into voting blocs.  

My real converts consider running for local office, thereby embedding themselves within the very power structure itself.  Because political power, especially for minorities in any society, is rarely surrendered without a struggle.  We need more diverse views in office as demographics change the makeup of future majorities.  

That’s how democracy is supposed to work.  Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Japan’s Non-Japanese (NJ) Residents and Visible Minorities still have trouble grasping.  As a result, they are letting the Japanese government deprive them of their potential as a political force in Japan.

GETTING BEYOND THE “GUESTISM”

A lot of the issue is that, as I have written before, many of Japan’s minorities believe they really don’t have the ability—or even the right—to shape Japanese society.  They convince themselves that they are merely “guests” in Japan—not taxpayers and residents—and therefore have no say in how they’re treated by public policy.  

After all, they’re in Japan by choice, and if they don’t like the way things are, they should go “home.”  They’ve internalized the narrative that Japan is not “home” and foreigners don’t belong here.

This dehumanizing mantra is well-established and reinforced on a daily basis.  But less considered are the underlying political structures enforcing it.  It’s hard to have a stake in a society when it might be booting you out shortly.  

Official permission to work, i.e., visas, are generally only one to three years in duration, sometimes non-renewable, and often tethered to a specific job sponsor.  This means many NJ can’t change jobs without losing their visa and risking going to jail as overstayers.  Employers, of course, are happy with this situation, leveraging this vulnerability to abuse and exploit NJ workers even further.  Thus all the incentive structures are there to make NJ life in Japan temporary and miserable.

But consider one more disenfranchising mechanism:  The larger scheme to make sure NJ never coalesce into interest groups and voting blocs.  

In other societies, minorities, newcomers and immigrants cluster in like-minded regions where they can create communities.  Harlem.  Chinatowns.  The Navajo Nation.  Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, and Little Saigon.  The Dearborn Muslims.  New York’s Jewish communities.  The Polish Patches.  The Castro District.  The proposed states of Jefferson and Deseret.  And the majority-minority states of Hawaii, California, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, and soon Georgia.  

Once people reach a critical mass in a population, they can foster entire social movements, even elect representatives and become an unignorable political force.

PREVENTING RESIDENTS FROM BECOMING VOTERS

But Japan makes sure NJ never reach a critical mass.  Whenever we hear about, for example, Chinese buying up land in an area, out come the politicians stoking fear about Chinese becoming the local majority and “seceding from Japan.”  Essentially, the logic is that more foreigners means less Japan, and if NJ ever get power over Japanese, Japan is lost.  That’s especially visible when NJ are officially denied administrative roles in any public sector positions.

Then there’s simply getting rid of NJ Residents by not renewing visas en masse.  Clean house and ethnically cleanse.  The lost historical Iranian, Filipina, and Brazilian communities in Japan are testament to that. 

But even without a critical mass, power within a democracy is granted to people who can vote, so Japan makes sure NJ Residents never become part of the electorate.  

Japan still has no official immigration policy to encourage NJ Residents to become Japanese citizens.  Further, whenever Japan announces an expansion to any working visa program, politicians at even the highest levels of government are quick to clarify this does not mean these migrants will become immigrants.  The very word “immigrant” (as in a person) isn’t an established concept in Japanese policymaking circles.  

This situation seems unlikely to change, despite the recent resumed mass migration into Japan.  Japan’s NJ Registered Resident population reached a record high of 3.4 million in 2023, up more than 10% over the previous year.

Yet the government has made it more difficult over the past two decades to go from a one-year visa to a three, not to mention obtain Permanent Residency.

The numbers reflect this.  Although the largest group of NJ Residents are Permanent Residents, their numbers only grew about 3% in 2023.  

Then there’s the issue of actually taking out Japanese citizenship, as this author has.  Yet the number of people who have naturalized on average over the past decade is less than 1000 per year, and on a general downward trend.  

No wonder.  After years languishing in nasty jobs and jumping through so many visa hoops, getting Japanese citizenship is often a very arbitrary process, with applications rejected even for parking tickets and “cultural incongruities.”  There’s also favoritism shown to applicants from countries with richer economies and lighter skins.  Not to mention the identity sacrifice of forcing people to give up their birth nationality.

IMMIGRANT POWER AND POLITICIANS IN JAPAN

Consequently, the only NJ groups in Japan that have accrued any political power are the Zainichi generational “foreigners.”  They’re the Japan-born descents of the former citizens of empire, who have lived in Japan more than a century yet are still “foreigners.”  Also known as the “Oldcomers,” they have formed lobbying groups such as as Mindan, Mintoren, and Soren.  Then there are also historical and indigenous minority groups such as the Burakumin Liberation League and Utari Kyoukai.  They all have managed to move the needle on how minorities are portrayed in the media.  

But in terms of shifting real political power, there is no substitute for getting the vote and a seat at the policymaking table.  And that means overcoming it all to become a citizen and get elected to office.

That happens, even in Japan.  Perhaps the most visible case was Finland-born Tsurunen Marutei, who not only served in his local town council in Kanagawa Prefecture from 1992, he also served two terms in Japan’s national Diet from 2002 to 2013.

Others have since followed.  Decades ago US-born Anthony Bianchi and Canadian-born Jon Heese won back-to-back city council seats in Inuyama and Tsukuba respectively.  Bianchi has since retired, but Heese (whom I have interviewed for this column before) has since graduated up to a prefectural-level elected position.  

We have also seen incumbents such as Bolivian-born Noemi Inoue, elected in 2011 to the Sumida-ku Assembly; Syrian-born former Egyptian Sultan Nour, elected in 2021 to Shonai Town Assembly in Yamagata Prefecture; and Uzbekistan-born Babakhodjaeva Orzugul, elected to a seat in Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku Assembly in 2023. 

Notably, all of them won their seats quite easily, some even getting the highest number of votes of all candidates running, despite the fact that their fellow NJ Residents cannot vote for them.  Bravo.

A reporter recently asked me if this meant change in Japan was afoot.  

My answer was that yes, this is not something we’ve seen before, and Visible Minorities claiming the right (and the structural power) to be Japanese is a positive change.  I think anyone who wants to see the change has to be the change, and they’re doing that.

How did they win so handily?  My theory is that given Japan’s single-party democracy, I think the Japanese electorate are hungry for any hope of change.  Something different.  Newcomer Immigrant Japanese can be precisely that.  So for once, being seen as an outsider in Japan can be an advantage. 

This theory also holds when you consider the opposite example:  When Diet Member Tsurunen didn’t offer his constituents anything new beyond having blue eyes (seriously, that was his slogan), he got voted out.  They realized he was basically running more for himself than them.  So you really have to be the change, not just look it.

Finally, the reporter said, “I think Heese, Orzugul, Inoue, and Sultan offer interesting insights into the shifting demographics of Japan.  But none of them are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino—the four groups who make up the most non-Japanese residents.  Do you think it is easier for certain types of Non-Japanese to gain power and acceptance in the country?”

My answer was this:

“I don’t know.  There is certainly a hierarchy of treatment based upon country of origin and skin color in Japan, especially in naturalization processes.  But certainly people of Chinese and Korean ancestry have been elected in the past.  

“Probably when other ethnic groups aren’t overworked, underpaid, and restricted to unstable visa statuses, we’ll see more of them naturalizing and running for office.”

We’ll talk again with Jon Heese about running for office next column.

ENDS
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Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Interesting statistics here on how the labor migration has resumed to the point where hundreds of thousands of NJ are migrating to Japan every year, and NJ Residents are at record highs.  Also interesting is that Kyodo doesn’t seem to feel the need to shoehorn in foreign crime statistics this time (just a brief allusion to overstaying at the end).  I’ll be incorporating these stats into my next SNA Visible Minorities column, out shortly, and argue how this influx can translate into political power. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise
PHOTO: Foreign tourists visit Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa area of Tokyo. As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreign nationals resided in Japan, up 10.9% from the previous year.
The Japan Times/Kyodo Mar 23, 2024
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2024/03/23/japan/society/foreign-nationals-visas-japan-record/

The number of foreign nationals residing in Japan hit a record high of over 3.4 million in 2023, government data has shown, with employment-related visas seeing significant growth amid the country’s efforts to address its acute labor shortage.

As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreign nationals resided in Japan, up 10.9% from the previous year to mark a record high for the second consecutive year, the Immigration Services Agency said Friday.

The number of specified skilled workers jumped 59.2% to around 208,000, while trainees under Japan’s technical internship program grew 24.5% to around 404,000 to approach the record high level marked in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, the data showed.

The specified skilled workers visa, which allows the holder to immediately take on jobs in designated industries without the need for training, was introduced in 2019 in response to Japan’s severe labor shortage resulting from its declining birthrate, with the aim of attracting foreign workers.

Meanwhile, permanent residents, who made up the largest group by residential status, stood at around 891,000, up 3.2%. Engineers, specialists in humanities and international services, including foreign language teachers, rose 16.2% to around 362,000.

By nationality, Chinese accounted for the largest population of foreign residents at around 821,000, followed by Vietnamese at around 565,000 and South Koreans at around 410,000.

The number of foreign arrivals, excluding reentry by residents, increased more than sixfold from the previous year to around 25.83 million following the easing of border restrictions associated with COVID-19.

The number has now recovered to over 80% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

In 2023, over 9.62 million Japanese nationals left the country for reasons including tourism, which was more than triple the figure from a year earlier but still remained under half of pre-pandemic levels.

There were 79,113 foreign nationals who overstayed their visas in Japan as of Jan. 1, 2024, an increase of 8,622 compared with the year before. Vietnamese made up the largest group at approximately 15,000. ENDS

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2024

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Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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If you like what you read and discuss on Debito.org, please consider helping us stop hackers and defray maintenance costs with a little donation via my webhoster:
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2024

Hello Debito.org Newsletter Readers. It’s been some time since my last Newsletter, as my teaching schedule is now about six classes and 19.5 credits per semester. Nevertheless, I’m still putting out a monthly column at SNA, and putting up newspaper articles with noteworthy content and comment. Have a look:

Table of Contents:

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1) My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.

2) Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.

3) Debito.org Reader XY on “Rakuten Card is asking for sensitive Koseki Family Registry documents for Naturalized Japanese clients as a prerequisite for continued service”, even though nobody is clearly requiring them to.

4) My SNA Visible Minorities column 53: “Miss Japan Shiino Karolina lost her crown. Inevitably.” (Feb 26, 2024)

5) Reuters: Visible Minorities (“Foreign-born residents”) file lawsuit against government for police racial profiling. Good. Go for it.

6) My latest SNA VM column 52: “Positive Steps for Non-Japanese in Japan” (Jan 23, 2024), a report of a month spent in Tokyo and all the progress towards tolerance observed.

7) Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.

… and finally …

8 ) Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. Debito.org makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.
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By Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito)
All Debito.org Newsletters are freely forwardable

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1) My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.

SNA: I teach Political Science at the university level. In my first lecture every semester, I try to convince skeptical students why they should bother studying Political Science at all. I argue that understanding how power flows through political structures will help students enfranchise themselves in a democratic system. Because if they don’t, other people who understand the system better will use it to their advantage instead. But this assumes one major fundamental: that they can participate in the democratic system at all. Fortunately, most of my students are citizens, so they can vote. Given how abysmal youth voter turnout generally is, I consider it a major educational outcome if they bother to. Persuading people that their vote matters is the bare minimum a civics class can accomplish.

If I have the opportunity in higher-level classes to proselytize further, I encourage them to engage in community building, such as organizing into interest groups and consolidating power into voting blocs. My real converts consider running for local office, thereby embedding themselves within the very power structure itself. Because political power, especially for minorities in any society, is rarely surrendered without a struggle. We need more diverse views in office as demographics change the makeup of future majorities.

That’s how democracy is supposed to work. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Japan’s Non-Japanese (NJ) Residents and Visible Minorities still have trouble grasping. As a result, they are letting the Japanese government deprive them of their potential as a political force in Japan…

https://www.debito.org/?p=17392

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2) Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.

Kyodo: “The number of foreign nationals residing in Japan hit a record high of over 3.4 million in 2023, government data has shown, with employment-related visas seeing significant growth amid the country’s efforts to address its acute labor shortage. As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreign nationals resided in Japan, up 10.9% from the previous year to mark a record high for the second consecutive year, the Immigration Services Agency said Friday.

“The number of specified skilled workers jumped 59.2% to around 208,000, while trainees under Japan’s technical internship program grew 24.5% to around 404,000 to approach the record high level marked in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, the data showed. The specified skilled workers visa, which allows the holder to immediately take on jobs in designated industries without the need for training, was introduced in 2019 in response to Japan’s severe labor shortage resulting from its declining birthrate, with the aim of attracting foreign workers.

“Meanwhile, permanent residents, who made up the largest group by residential status, stood at around 891,000, up 3.2%. Engineers, specialists in humanities and international services, including foreign language teachers, rose 16.2% to around 362,000. By nationality, Chinese accounted for the largest population of foreign residents at around 821,000, followed by Vietnamese at around 565,000 and South Koreans at around 410,000…”

COMMENT: So the foreign labor imports have resumed, and how. Also interesting is that Kyodo doesn’t seem to feel the need to shoehorn in foreign crime statistics this time (just a brief allusion to overstaying at the very end). I incorporated these stats into my next SNA Visible Minorities column (see above), and argue how this influx can translate into political power.

https://www.debito.org/?p=17390
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3) Debito.org Reader XY on “Rakuten Card is asking for sensitive Koseki Family Registry documents for Naturalized Japanese clients as a prerequisite for continued service”, even though nobody is clearly requiring them to.

Dr. Debito, I’m writing you because I’m experiencing a new type of discrimination by Rakuten Card.

I’ve been a Rakuten Card owner since 2014, and it is the card I’ve hold the longest, making it the biggest chunk of my credit history. Also, I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen, that naturalized back in 20XX, and one month afterwards I had already completed all the requirements for change of name and status according to what I was asked by Rakuten Card, which, if I remember correctly, required me to send copies of documents proving my change of name and status.

About a month ago, I received a mail by Rakuten Card asking me to send them a copy of my current Residence Card. I was very confused by this, so I contacted them, and they told me that since when I applied for the Card I was a foreigner, I needed to provide them with something that “proved” my residence status, and they asked me for my Koseki Family Registry, which is insane. I told them that I already gave them the documents they required back when I naturalized, that I’ve never been asked this by any other Bank or Credit Card company, and that it is insane for them to ask me for a Koseki, which is a very sensitive document that should be handed for these kind of requests, since something as simple as my Juminhyo Residency Certificate, which I think is what I sent back in 20XX proved my nationality, and they also have my “My Number” information, which should gave them access to corroborate this.

They insisted that this was something that the Financial Services Agency as part of an anti Money Laundering KYC thing, I asked them to give me more specifics on this, and they refused to do so, so I called the Financial Services Agency… (continues)

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: The dragnet of suspecting any foreigner, including NJ Residents, of being a money launderer expands to people who are no longer foreign as well.

https://www.debito.org/?p=17382
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4) My SNA Visible Minorities column 53: “Miss Japan Shiino Karolina lost her crown. Inevitably.” (Feb 26, 2024)

SNA: You might have heard the big news last month about Shiino Karolina, a Ukrainian-born Japanese citizen who won the title of Miss Japan. You have also heard earlier this month that she lost her crown due to allegations of her having an affair with a married man.

Yappari. I thought that might happen. How convenient. Let’s put this event in perspective.

This not the first time a Japanese beauty contest in has chosen a person not “pure-blooded” to represent Japan. In 2015, African-American-Japanese Miyamoto Ariana was chosen as Miss Japan in 2015.

This was big news back then too for winning despite her biracial status. I say “despite” because oodles of internet trolls questioned whether a half-Japanese could represent Japan.

And guess what? She could, since lightning struck a second time a year later, when Indian-Japanese Yoshikawa Priyanka was crowned Miss World Japan.

However, with Shiino, the third time was not the charm. She only lasted two weeks. Why? Because she was a bridge too far…

https://www.debito.org/?p=17378
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5) Reuters: Visible Minorities (“Foreign-born residents”) file lawsuit against government for police racial profiling. Good. Go for it.

Reuters: Three foreign-born residents of Japan filed a lawsuit on Monday against the national and local governments over alleged illegal questioning by police based on racial profiling. It is the first such lawsuit in Japan, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, and comes amid a sharp rise in the number of foreign workers coming to the country to help stem labour shortages as its population ages and declines.

The three men filed the lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court demanding that the national, Tokyo Metropolitan and Aichi Prefecture governments recognise that it is illegal for police officers to stop and question people solely on the basis of their race, nationality or ethnicity.

COMMENT: This has made big international news, the likes I haven’t really seen since the Otaru Onsens Case. Good. Debito.org has reported at length on how racial profiling is standard operating procedure for the Japanese police, so it’s an issue that deserves to be pursued in court. We’ve also sued the government before, and think it’s unlikely they’ll win (we didn’t). But it’s worth doing for the awareness raising. If we can get it on the record that the judiciary recognizes this as “racial profiling”, or even that “racial profiling” actually exists in Japan as a term and a phenomenon, this will be a big step ahead. Plaintiffs, go for it, and good luck, says Debito.org.

https://www.debito.org/?p=17371
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6) My latest SNA VM column 52: “Positive Steps for Non-Japanese in Japan” (Jan 23, 2024), a report of a month spent in Tokyo and all the progress towards tolerance observed.

SNA: Last month SNA (and this column) went on vacation for Christmas and New Years. During the hiatus, I spent a month in Tokyo meandering around visiting sights and people, developing my inner flaneur as well as conducting relaxed random research. Tokyo, a walking city riddled with world-class transportation and public facilities, is an ideal place for that.

This month’s column will offer my impressions about how much Japan has changed regarding the issues that have always been on my radar screen — society’s openness to Newcomers. On that score (in contrast to what’s happening with the debate over Miss Japan), I have some positive developments to report…

https://www.debito.org/?p=17367
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7) Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.

JT: Amid concerns over rapid depopulation, a private panel has proposed that Japan should aim to have a stable population of 80 million by 2100 in order to maintain economic growth. Last April, the government released an estimate that the population would be reduced by half to about 63 million in 2100, with 40% of people expected to be 65 or older.

Japan has wrestled with the issue of a declining birthrate for decades, but the situation is about to “change drastically,” with the country now entering a serious phase of population decline, the panel, headed by Nippon Steel honorary chairman Akio Mimura and consisting of 28 members including prominent academics and business leaders, said Tuesday. […]

To avoid such a future, Japan needs to slow down the pace of the decline and eventually stop it, the panel said, adding that government strategy should focus on stabilizing the population at around 80 million by 2100. As of last month, Japan’s population was estimated to be 124 million. The panel carried out several simulations and argued that if the country raised the total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime — to 1.6 by around 2040, 1.8 by around 2050 and eventually 2.07 by 2060, it could maintain a population of around 80 million by 2100.

COMMENT: Nothing new here when you have the same old people retreading the same old shinola to the same perpetually-elected party in power. Getting all these people together to wish for a skypie solution of increasing birthrates (while somehow also boosting productivity) is silly, as it has already been proposed multiple times over the decades without success. This is no way to craft public policy that actually solves a problem.

Indicatively, *once again* this report makes no mention of immigration, despite both the UN and then-PM Obuchi agreeing as far back as the *YEAR 2000* (see below) that immigration is inevitable to keep the economy going. But as we saw afterwards in 2009, xenophobic politics intervened, and even Japan’s demographers are forbidden to mention foreign inflows as part of Japan’s domestic demographic science. (See My JT column on that here.) In conclusion, a quarter-century later nothing has been learned.

A further note: Whenever you have business interests involved (as if they’re any experts on demographic engineering), the primary concern will be about business interests, i.e., profits and cheap labor. Now remember what the likes of elite business lobby Keidanren wrought by bringing in foreign labor on exploitative revolving-door visa regimes since 1991 (the “Trainee” slave-labor program, for example). Allowing the grubby little hands of Japan’s business lobbies any more input into future policy drives only guarantees more inhumanity, because with population drops and an elderly society come labor shortages. Who will fill them? Robots; but robots don’t pay taxes into the rickety national pension system. So foreigners. Hence business interests will only continue to advocate importing labor without ever letting foreign workers become permanent Japanese residents.

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… and finally…

8 ) Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. Debito.org makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.

JT: The Fukuoka District Court ruled Wednesday that Japan’s law that bans dual nationality is constitutional, rejecting an argument by a Japan-born plaintiff who lost her Japanese citizenship after she naturalized as an American. Yuri Kondo, 76, had argued that the nationality law — which stipulates that Japanese nationals will lose their citizenship if they become a citizen of a foreign country — undermines fundamental human rights to pursue happiness, self-determination, and identity, as guaranteed under the Constitution. While the nationality law was deemed constitutional, presiding Judge Fumitaka Hayashi said the wish of the individual who would lose their nationality should be considered as it is part of a person’s identity.

COMMENT: Most arguments made by the Japanese Government dovetail around the idea that people will be somehow confused in terms of national allegiances if they have more than one nationality. For what if Japan went to war with the country you have a second passport for? Where would your allegiances lie?

Making public policy merely on the basis of hypotheticals is not the best way to make laws. As noted above in the article, the number of countries allowing dual nationality is in fact increasing (“the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide”), as more people around the world travel, resettle, immigrate, marry, and have multinational children as well as lives. Forcing them to give up their other nationality is to force them to give up part of their identity — a completely unnecessary and moreover psychologically damaging move just for the sake of bureaucratic convenience. And that’s before we get into issues of arbitrary enforceability, as discussed in my book excerpt below.

The increase in diversity should be reflected in laws to accommodate reality. Instead, we have pig-headed J politicians who can’t imagine a life beyond their own experiences (with the exception of the LDP’s Kouno Taro, who actually argued for dual nationality, albeit to coat the Kokutai in more glory, not for the sake of the individual’s identity) and refuse to legislate reality into reality. And that feeds into a hidebound judiciary that claim they can only enforce the law as it’s written (even presiding Judge Hayashi above expressed regret at that).

To finish up, let me excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” on this topic. It’ll make the case about why public policy is as stupid as it is as best I can…

https://www.debito.org/?p=17349

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That’s all for now. Thanks for reading! Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2024 ENDS

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Debito.org Reader XY on “Rakuten Card is asking for sensitive Koseki Family Registry documents for Naturalized Japanese clients as a prerequisite for continued service”, even though nobody is clearly requiring them to.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Forwarding with permission from Debito.org Reader XY. Lightly redacted. The dragnet of suspecting any foreigner, including NJ Residents, of being a money launderer expands to people who are no longer foreign as well. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
//////////////////////////////////////

From: XY
Subject: Rakuten Card is asking for Koseki of Naturalized Japanese clients
Date: March 4, 2024
To: “debito” <debito@debito.org>

Dr. Debito,

I’m writing you because I’m experiencing a new type of discrimination by Rakuten Card.

I’ve been a Rakuten Card owner since 2014, and it is the card I’ve hold the longest, making it the biggest chunk of my credit history.

Also, I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen, that naturalized back in 20XX, and one month afterwards I had already completed all the requirements for change of name and status according to what I was asked by Rakuten Card, which, if I remember correctly, required me to send copies of documents proving my change of name and status.

About a month ago, I received a mail by Rakuten Card asking me to send them a copy of my current Residence Card. I was very confused by this, so I contacted them, and they told me that since when I applied for the Card I was a foreigner, I needed to provide them with something that “proved” my residence status, and they asked me for my koseki, which is insane.

I told them that I already gave them the documents they required back when I naturalized, that I’ve never been asked this by any other Bank or Credit Card company, and that it is insane for them to ask me for a Koseki Family Registry, which is a very sensitive document that should be handed for these kind of requests, since something as simple as my Juminhyo Residency Certificate, which I think is what I sent back in 20XX proved my nationality, and they also have my “My Number” information, which should gave them access to corroborate this.

They insisted that this was something that the Financial Services Agency as part of an anti Money Laundering KYC thing, I asked them to give me more specifics on this, and they refused to do so, so I called the Financial Services Agency, and they told me in non ambiguous terms that they have not asked Rakuten Card to do this, that the Agency is in fact not responsible for this stuff regarding Credit Cards, and that the people responsible for all Anti Money Laundering guidelines and such are actually the Police.

I called once again Rakuten Card to confront them with this information, and in very wishy washy terms, being careful of not making any definitive statements about it, that this was part of some measured BASED on some ambiguous public request by the Financial Services Agency which they cannot give any specifics for, and that unless I provide them with my Koseki, they will terminate my contract.

I pointed out how this is obviously discrimination, as getting a card as a Japanese citizen NEVER requires you to give your Koseki, and if I wanted, I could just cancel my current account, and then open a completely new one, and there would be no requirements like these, and even though they acknowledged that I could do that, they continue to say that unless I give them my Koseki they will cancel my account, and that “this will not change no matter what”. I asked them to then reimburse me for the cost of getting my Koseki, and of course they said they couldn’t do that.

To be honest, right now I rarely use my Rakuten Card, as it has become more and more useless over the years, and I have way better cards that have never discriminated against me, so outside of the credit history, I don’t care so much about losing that card, but this is 100% without a doubt a discriminatory treatment against someone who is a Japanese citizen.

At this moment, I’m trying to get in contact with regulators to tell them about what Rakuten Card is doing to their customers, and if necessary, I’m also thinking of taking legal action against Rakuten Card if they in fact cancel my contract. – XY

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities column 53: “Miss Japan Shiino Karolina lost her crown. Inevitably.” (Feb 26, 2024)

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Hi Blog.  People have been clamoring for me to write about this case.  Well, here you go.  No surprises in my conclusion, probably.  Just some new research.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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MISS JAPAN SHIINO KAROLINA LOST HER CROWN, INEVITABLY

By Debito Arudou. Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities Column 53 February 26, 2024

Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/02/26/visible-minorities-miss-japan-karolina-shiino-lost-her-crown-inevitably/

You might have heard the big news last month about Shiino Karolina, a Ukrainian-born Japanese citizen who won the title of Miss Japan.

You have also heard earlier this month that she lost her crown due to allegations of her having an affair with a married man.

Yappari.  I thought that might happen.  How convenient.  Let’s put this event in perspective.  

This not the first time a Japanese beauty contest in has chosen a person not “pure-blooded” to represent Japan.  In 2015, African-American-Japanese Miyamoto Ariana was chosen as Miss Japan in 2015. 

This was big news back then too for winning despite her biracial status.  I say “despite” because oodles of internet trolls questioned whether a half-Japanese could represent Japan.  

And guess what?  She could, since lightning struck a second time a year later, when Indian-Japanese Yoshikawa Priyanka was crowned Miss World Japan.

However, with Shiino, the third time was not the charm.  She only lasted two weeks.  Why?  Because she was a bridge too far.

Shiino, who came to Japan as a child from Ukraine and was raised and naturalized in Japan, was admitted to the contest on the basis of her Japanese citizenship, meaning without any blood-quantum qualifier.  

This is a very positive step, as it acknowledges that “Japaneseness” is a legal status.  (And yes, this pronouncement came with all the caveats that she’s a fluent speaker, acculturated, “more Japanese than we are” from all the people who would vouch.  Phew.)

Shiino’s win showed that people can become Japanese over time, not just be ascribed it from birth and bloodlines.  

This matters to Japan’s rapidly depopulating society.  If Japan can bring immigrants over and see them as “Japanese” like any other, well enough to represent Japan even if you don’t “look” it, this portends well for Japan’s inevitable international future.

But then came the backlash.

The first problem was the media making a big deal of this for the wrong reasons.  Instead of heralding the positive steps and future implications for Japanese society, they used racialized headlines (most without even mentioning Shiino by name, making her an issue instead of a person) to focus on how they anticipated readers would react.  Never mind the judges’ decision, where she won because of her looks.  Media once again made her win a “despite.”   

Media also empowered the self-proclaimed Identity Police.  Instead of focusing on the voices of how Shiino was in fact Japanese, media again devoted an outsized proportion of space to the trolls who reinforce the unhealthy narrative that “real” Japanese have to look a certain way.  

The trolls should not even make the news.  There are racists in every society, and their unhealthy hate will always be underground chatter.  Unearthing and megaphoning them just resuscitates their dying ideologies.  Manufacturing drama for the sake of clickbait is irresponsible pandering.

The second problem here is with “beauty contests” in general.  They are a throwback idea that women should be pedestaled just because they won the “lovely lottery”.  Too bad for all those who “fell out of the ugly tree at birth and hit every branch on the way down.”  (There’s a half-trillion-dollar cosmetics industry to help fix that, of course.)

Remember the origin of these pageants.  According to a well-researched article in Honolulu Magazine, “the first modern contests involving the judging of women’s outward appearance can be credited to P.T. Barnum, one of the country’s greatest showmen, who also held national contests for dogs, chickens and babies, in 1854.”  

So putting people on display like dogs and chickens was always problematic.  And by “people,” of course we mean “women.”  Where are the international beauty pageants similarly subjecting men to the “male gaze”?

Now put it through the Japan filter, where looks are linked to citizenship:  you have to “look Japanese to be Japanese.”  

Thus any contest that focuses on “looks” means Japan adds an extra hurdle.  “Shiino doesn’t even look Asian, let alone Japanese.  How can she possibly represent ‘us’?” 

Try claiming that a Visible Minority (or a Person of Color, however defined) doesn’t represent “us” in a lot of other societies, and then try to dodge the accusation of being a “racist country.”

The same embedded racism is so hard-wired in that you see it in overseas ethnic-transplant societies.

In Hawai’i, for example, there are the Miss Chinatown Hawai’i, the Narcissus Festival, The Cherry Blossom Festival, the Miss Latina Hawai’i and the Miss O’ahu Filipina beauty contests, where contestants have to exhibit sufficient blood quanta to qualify.  

For the Japanese exhibitors, purity of bloodline mattered.  The Cherry Blossom Festival wasn’t even open to “multiethnic Japanese-American women” until 1999.  And that’s before you get the extra layer of now having to be stewardesses not just of countries, but of entire cultures.

But back to the worldwide pageants where ethnic identity is less important than looking good in a swimsuit.  You still have the issue of, “Who can represent ‘us’?”  And what befell Shiino is similar to what happened to Vanessa Williams, the first African-American woman to win Miss America in 1984.  

Out came the Identity Police back then too:  A black woman representing America?  Oh hell no.  Eventually Williams lost her crown due to nude photographs taken two years prior.  

Now with Shiino:  A Ukranian-Japanese with no Japanese blood whatsoever representing Japan?  Oh hell no.  Find a reason to dethrone her.  

It only took two weeks to find a sex scandal.  After all, pageant women are also supposed to be virginal and available too.  (Hence the “Miss” in the title.)  Being c*ck-blocked by a married man sort of spoils the male gaze.  

Nevertheless there’s a whiff of hypocrisy to what happened to Shiino.  It’s hard to believe other contestants weren’t also having sex as consenting adults.  So why Shiino?  Because the pageant organizers didn’t anticipate how controversial a win by a Japanese without any bloodline would be.  They blinked and looked for an off-ramp.  

The sad conclusion to draw from this case is that Shiino Karolina got hers.  Japan still isn’t ready to recognize Japaneseness as a legal status instead of an ethnic bloodline, and people will still resort to any means to revert to type.  In this case, blood type.  

But if you really want to fix this situation, you’ll abandon beauty contests altogether.  They just bring out bad habits in society, and at the expense of women.

ENDS
======================
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Reuters: Visible Minorities (“Foreign-born residents”) file lawsuit against government for police racial profiling. Good. Go for it.

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

Foreign-born residents file suit in Japan over alleged racial profiling
By Chris Gallagher
Reuters January 29, 2024, courtesy of Senaiho
Article with excellent video on the case with statements from the Plaintiffs at
https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/foreign-born-residents-file-suit-japan-over-alleged-racial-profiling-2024-01-29/

TOKYO, Jan 29 – Three foreign-born residents of Japan filed a lawsuit on Monday against the national and local governments over alleged illegal questioning by police based on racial profiling.

It is the first such lawsuit in Japan, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, and comes amid a sharp rise in the number of foreign workers coming to the country to help stem labour shortages as its population ages and declines.

It also comes amid a renewed debate over what it means to be and look Japanese, after a Ukrainian-born, naturalised Japanese citizen was crowned Miss Japan last week.

The three men filed the lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court demanding that the national, Tokyo Metropolitan and Aichi Prefecture governments recognise that it is illegal for police officers to stop and question people solely on the basis of their race, nationality or ethnicity.

The plaintiffs say they have suffered distress from repeated police questioning based on their appearance and ethnicity, which they say is a violation of the constitution.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Aichi Prefectural Government and National Police Agency all declined to comment, while representatives of the Ministry of Justice could not be reached. ENDS
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COMMENT: I won’t decline to comment. Debito.org has reported at length on how racial profiling is standard operating procedure for the Japanese police, so it’s an issue that deserves to be pursued in court. We’ve also sued the government before, and think it’s unlikely they’ll win (we didn’t). But it’s worth doing for the awareness raising. If we can get it on the record that the judiciary recognizes this as “racial profiling”, or even that “racial profiling” actually exists in Japan as a term and a phenomenon, this will be a big step ahead. Plaintiffs, go for it, and good luck, says Debito.org. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

PS.  This has made big international news, the likes I haven’t really seen since the Otaru Onsens Case.  Good.  Links to sources here.

Here’s another good one:

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3 foreign-born residents in Japan file suit over claims of racial profiling by police
January 29, 2024 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of Kimpatsu
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20240129/p2a/00m/0na/019000c

PHOTO CAPTION:  The plaintiffs, from left to right, Maurice, Zain Syed and Matthew participate in a press conference at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 29, 2024. (Mainichi/Jun Ida)

TOKYO — Three foreign-born residents of Japan filed suit at the Tokyo District Court on Jan. 29 against the Japanese state plus the Tokyo Metropolitan and Aichi Prefectural governments for what they claim is frequent police questioning based solely on their ethnicity, or racial profiling.

In addition to 3.3 million yen (about $22,000) each in compensation, the plaintiffs are demanding confirmation from the Tokyo and Aichi Prefectural governments that it is illegal for police officers to stop and question a person because of their race or nationality, and confirmation that the National Police Agency (NPA) is responsible for directing and making sure forces across Japan don’t engage in racial profiling. They allege that the police questioning violates Japanese constitutional guarantees of freedom from racial discrimination and respect for the individual, as well as Japanese law requiring probable cause for officers to stop and question someone.

Zain Syed, who came to Japan from Pakistan with his family when he was 8 and became a Japanese citizen at age 13, claims in the complaint that he has been questioned by police 15 times since moving to Nagoya as a teenager in 2016. In one incident in April 2023, he said that officers questioning him outside his home asked to see his foreign resident card, and searched his belongings when he informed them that he was a Japanese citizen. The officers allegedly never told Zain why he was being questioned.

“I understand it (police questioning) is extremely important for Japan’s public security,” Zain told a Jan. 29 press conference. However, his own frequent questioning made him suspect that people around him believed he might commit a crime because of his ‘foreign’ appearance. “I think there’s a very strong image that ‘foreigner’ equals ‘criminal,'” he said.

Fellow plaintiffs Maurice, a Black American, and Matthew, a South Pacific Islander of Indian descent, claim similar incidents of harassment when the officers involved did not give a clear legal reason for stopping them.

Maurice claims he has been questioned by police in public 16 or 17 times in the about 10 years he has lived in Japan. He told The Mainichi that it has “ramped up especially in the past five to six years.

“All I know is that if they (the police) stop me on the road and I don’t get a ticket, well, why did you stop me?” he said. And beyond the police, Maurice added that he is subjected to “extra questioning about what I’m doing” by regular people, including, “Are you overstaying your visa? Why are you here?”

Matthew states that police have questioned him at least 70 times since he arrived in Japan in 2002. In an incident in October 2021, Matthew said that officers who had pulled him and his Japanese wife over even stated that they had stopped the couple because “it’s rare to see a foreigner driving around here.” He added that he feels like he could be approached by police anywhere he goes in Tokyo, and multiple times, and that he now avoids going out.

Racial profiling, or the use of race, skin color, ethnicity, and other factors to suspect that someone is involved in crime, or target them for a police investigation, is a serious problem worldwide. In 2020, The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recommended countries to formulate guidelines to prevent racial profiling.

In December 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Japan revealed on its Twitter account that it had “received reports of foreigners stopped and searched by Japanese police in suspected racial profiling incidents.” Japanese lawmakers demanded the NPA report on the situation, and in April 2022 the agency began examining complaints, inquiries, and other consultations with police forces across the country. In November 2022, the NPA announced that it found six cases of police officers questioning people inappropriately or without cause based on national and racial stereotypes in 2021.

Meanwhile, a Tokyo Bar Association survey of foreign residents and those with foreign roots carried out between January and February 2022 found that 62.9% of the 2,094 respondents claimed they had been questioned by police in the past five years. Of these, 85.4% said that officers approached them while acknowledging that they were someone with foreign roots based on “physical features” and other factors. And some 76.9% believed that there were no other factors than them being “a foreigner or someone with foreign roots” that prompted officers to approach them.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Motoki Taniguchi told the conference that, as the Japanese government tries to attract more foreign workers to combat the impact of its aging society and low birth rate, “society must be structured so that we can all live together with people with different roots.” He added that racial profiling by police has made “not a few people with foreign roots feel they’ve had enough, that they’re tired of Japan. Japan hasn’t formed the mindset yet that they (people with foreign roots) should be welcomed and treated as members of Japanese society.”

Police questioning “happens on the street, so naturally people who are around see this and may think that foreigners are up to no good. It reinforces a stigma. This completely contradicts the Japanese government’s policy of welcoming more foreigners to Japan.”

Zain noted that the number of people with foreign roots in Japanese society, including at schools, is rising, and will grow further as people stay long-term and have children here. “Compared to when I was a child, there are more people who, even if they look ‘foreign,’ they were born and raised in Japan and can only speak Japanese. I don’t want them to have the same experiences (with police) as I did, and I’d like to see a widening change of awareness across Japanese society,” he said.

(By Jun Ida and Robert Sakai-Irvine, The Mainichi staff writers) ENDS

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My latest SNA VM column 52: “Positive Steps for Non-Japanese in Japan” (Jan 23, 2024), a report of a month spent in Tokyo and all the progress towards tolerance observed.

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Hi Blog. While I’m aware that the bigger news is the recent Miss Japan Carolina Shiino debate once again bringing to light Japan’s ethnostatist narratives, I’ll get to that in February’s SNA column. Meanwhile, here’s January’s column. Enjoy. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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POSITIVE STEPS FOR NON-JAPANESE IN JAPAN
By Debito Arudou. Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities column 52, January 23, 2024
Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/01/23/visible-minorities-positive-steps-for-non-japanese/

Last month SNA (and this column) went on vacation for Christmas and New Years. During the hiatus, I spent a month in Tokyo meandering around visiting sights and people, developing my inner flaneur as well as conducting relaxed random research. Tokyo, a walking city riddled with world-class transportation and public facilities, is an ideal place for that.

I spent almost every afternoon or evening talking with long-term Japan residents from many walks of life. This included six academic researchers, two foreign correspondents, a media celebrity, a long-term resident vlogger, an employee of NHK, two secondary school teachers, a naturalized regional politician, a rural ryokan operator, a high-tech product salesman, a retired airbnb operator, a foreign exchange graduate student, and a labor union leader. All are specialists in their fields in terms of training and experience, most are Lifers in Japan, and all offered insightful analysis of current conditions in Japan. My research will probably inform future columns this year.

This month’s column will offer my impressions about how much Japan has changed regarding the issues that have always been on my radar screen — society’s openness to Newcomers. On that score, I have some positive developments to report:

  • RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS HAVE EASED TOWARDS EQUALITY

One of my biggest qualms about Japan has been its two-tiered official registration system that openly excluded foreigners as residents. One is the Family Registry (koseki), which is required for all Japanese citizens, and continues to overlook foreigners as spouses of Japanese and parents of children. But the other, the Residency Certificate (juminhyo), has been revised in a good way.

To illustrate, consider what happened to a foreign friend. She was able to move to Japan on a researcher visa, go to the local ward office and place herself on a juminhyo, then have her Japanese husband come over later and place himself on her juminhyo. Even better, when asked who the Head of Household (setai nushi) was, the foreign wife stepped forward as the main breadwinner and claimed the spot.

This is significant. I can remember when bureaucrats refused tp accept women as household heads since they assumed the man must be the main income earner, adding sexism to the racism. None of this was possible before 2012, so finally Non-Japanese residents are getting equal official recognition as family members and breadwinners.

WHAT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE

Despite being listed as “Residents” in official tallies, Japan’s official population tallies still do not include foreigners — listed as “the population of Japanese” (nihonjin no jinko) rather than “the population of Japan” (nihon no jinko). And of course, the Koseki System has to be reformed to list foreigners under the “spouse” column properly. Hardly likely anytime soon, but one can dream.

  • JAPAN’S GEARING UP FOR TOURISM

Japan has done it again — turned on a dime and accepted a new reality. Despite years of sweaty handwringing about how “Yokoso Japan” and Cool Japan” would ever deal with foreigners and all their pesky foreign languages (as seen in the dozens of hotels nationwide at the time that said they would refuse service to any foreigner), Japan has now risen to the challenge of catering to the influx of foreign folks and money (which in 2023 approached record levels again).

Multilingual signs, instructions, and apps are all over, as are multilingual staff in shops. Major foreign credit cards can now buy JR train tickets easily. One friend even noted that his neighboring hotel didn’t have his website in Japanese anymore, since he preferred Non-Japanese customers for their flexibility regarding his more spartan accommodations!

It’s been rewarding for Japan after three “lost decades” of economic doldrums. Between 1 and 2 percent of Japan’s annual GDP is now reliant on non-domestic tourism, and multilingual speakers face abundant opportunities in service sectors all over Japan. After brazen “Japanese Only” signs for decades, Japan simply can’t afford to treat foreign customers like shit anymore.

WHAT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE

Japan (including those whiny foreign residents who think more foreigners somehow spoil their “pure Japan” experience) have to bellyache less about how things are getting too touristy — for tourism is what you wanted. Also, Japan’s government has to tame its impulses to blame foreigners for any ills, as was blatantly seen in the reflexive blanket ban on all foreigners (including Permanent Residents) during the Covid Pandemic. And of course, there’s nothing to stop any bigot from putting up a “Japanese Only” sign, as they still remain legal. Pass that anti-discrimination law, already!

  • FOREIGNERS ARE PRETTY NORMAL IN TOKYO

Perhaps it’s because my quarter-century in Japan was living in the sticks, but I’ve noticed just how comfortable I feel in Tokyo. In my month there engaging in some pretty intense negotiations, almost never did I get “Nihongo ga jozu”-ed, nor did anyone “weird out” as if speaking Japanese to me was like dealing with a talking dog. A near-majority of convenience stores had Non-Japanese staff, doing stuff any Japanese could do, and their speaking Japanese (even to me) was no big deal.

Tolerance for diversity and difference was quite palpable this trip. I rarely felt like I had to rehearse my dialog before negotiating — even talking extemporaneously resulted in working through any problem to a solution via trial and error. Even all the accented Japanese wasn’t an issue, unlike the bad old days where people would simply dismiss anything slightly abnormal with a blank stare. It just didn’t happen, at least in Tokyo.

WHAT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE

This “can do” attitude needs to spread nationwide. A few quick trips outside Tokyo later showed me how old ways, including stares, “jozu-ing,” and “weirding out” at accents, are still a thing. Again, one can dream.

In sum, a trip back to Tokyo was delightful. In previous trips, I usually get triggered by something sooner or later and wind up reflexively “doing a Debito,” i.e., getting pushy and scoldy to get some respect from the intolerant and intransigent. This time around, however, even after more than a month, nothing really got under my skin.

Maybe I’ve mellowed. But I think Japan has changed quite a bit for the better too. I’ll offer some more thoughts and case studies in future columns this year.

ENDS

======================
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Happy 2024: Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.

mytest

 

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Hi Blog. HNY and AkeOme. Last month was a year-end break for the Shingetsu News Agency and my Visible Minorities column, so let me open 2024 with yesterday’s JT article showing just how much things have not changed for the past quarter century. Article first, then my comment:

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Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100: panel
The Japan Times. BY KAZUAKI NAGATA, STAFF WRITER, Jan 10, 2024
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2024/01/10/japan/society/population-proposal/

PHOTO CAPTION: Akio Mimura, honorary chairman of Nippon Steel and head of a private panel focused on depopulation, submits the group’s proposal to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO

(Ed: This actually made a pretty big domestic news splash.  See all the headlines via Google here: 人口戦略会議. You can also see word about this even on the PM’s official website, but in the true spirit of government openness it only offers photo-ops with no way to actually read the proposal or see who’s on the panel.)

Amid concerns over rapid depopulation, a private panel has proposed that Japan should aim to have a stable population of 80 million by 2100 in order to maintain economic growth.

Last April, the government released an estimate that the population would be reduced by half to about 63 million in 2100, with 40% of people expected to be 65 or older.

Japan has wrestled with the issue of a declining birthrate for decades, but the situation is about to “change drastically,” with the country now entering a serious phase of population decline, the panel, headed by Nippon Steel honorary chairman Akio Mimura and consisting of 28 members including prominent academics and business leaders, said Tuesday.

The country’s population in 1930 was about 63 million, but the proportion of those 65 years or older was just 4.8% then, according to the panel, which submitted its proposal to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida the same day.

To avoid such a future, Japan needs to slow down the pace of the decline and eventually stop it, the panel said, adding that government strategy should focus on stabilizing the population at around 80 million by 2100. As of last month, Japan’s population was estimated to be 124 million.

The panel carried out several simulations and argued that if the country raised the total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime — to 1.6 by around 2040, 1.8 by around 2050 and eventually 2.07 by 2060, it could maintain a population of around 80 million by 2100.

In 2022, Japan’s fertility rate fell for the seventh straight year to a record-tying low of 1.26. A rate of 2.07 is considered to be necessary to keep the population stable.

“This is not an easy task, but it is by no means impossible if full-scale efforts are launched to fight the declining birthrate,” the panel said, highlighting that it would take decades for such a strategy to start to bear fruit and that it was inevitable for the population to be smaller than it is today.

Still, if Japan can maintain a population of 80 million and also boost productivity, then the country would be able to see annual economic growth of about 0.9% from 2050 to 2100, according to the panel.

In tackling the issue, the government should establish a new committee of experts directly under the prime minister that would oversee the planning and implementation of the population strategy, the panel suggested.

The panel said one major problem was that the government and the private sector had failed to share sufficient information with the public about the gravity of rapid depopulation and the importance of preventing it.

“It is unfoundedly optimistic to say that ‘The population may be dwindling, but Japanese society will continue as before,’” the panel said.

Measures implemented by the government up until now to combat the declining birthrate may have produced some results, but they have been mostly “one-off and stopgap,” so they have not been enough to turn around the trend, the panel added.

Kishida has made tackling the country’s plummeting birthrate a top policy item and pledged to introduce “unprecedented steps” to head off the severe long-term economic impact. He has said that the government will raise the budget for child care-related policies over the next three years, with an extra ¥3.6 trillion ($24.8 billion) to be spent each year. ENDS

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COMMENT FROM DEBITO: There is nothing new under the sun when you have the same old people retreading the same old shinola to the same perpetually-elected party in power.  Getting all these people together to wish for a skypie solution of increasing birthrates (while somehow also boosting productivity) is silly, as it has already been proposed multiple times over the decades without success.  This is no way to craft public policy that actually solves a problem.

Indicatively, *once again* this report makes no mention of immigration, despite both the UN and then-PM Obuchi agreeing as far back as the *YEAR 2000* (see below) that immigration is inevitable to keep the economy going.  But as we saw afterwards in 2009, xenophobic politics intervened, and even Japan’s demographers are forbidden to mention foreign inflows as part of Japan’s domestic demographic science. (See My JT column on that here.)

A further note:  Whenever you have business interests involved (as if they’re any experts on demographic engineering), the primary concern will be about business interests, i.e., profits and cheap labor.  Now remember what the likes of elite business lobby Keidanren wrought by bringing in foreign labor on exploitative revolving-door visa regimes since 1991 (the “Trainee” slave-labor program, for example).  Allowing the grubby little hands of Japan’s business lobbies any more input into future policy drives only guarantees more inhumanity, because with population drops and an elderly society come labor shortages.  Who will fill them?  Robots; but robots don’t pay taxes into the rickety national pension system.  So foreigners.  Hence business interests will only continue to advocate importing labor without ever letting foreign workers become permanent Japanese residents.

In conclusion, a quarter-century later nothing has been learned.  Just keep on saying the same old shinola and watch as Japan’s demographic juggernaut bankrupts the country.  As long foreseen.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

UPDATE:  Members of the Jinkou Senryaku Kaigi, courtesy of JK.  (Source is here, pg. 14)

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Excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” (Second Edition 2022) on this subject, Chapter 10, including footnotes:

Figure 10.1 was data from the First Edition, which indicated Japan’s economy had, from the bursting of its economic “bubble” in 1993 through the year 2011, shrunk by nearly half a percent every year on average compared to its developed-country or regional brethren. As of this Second Edition, now incorporating 26 years of data from 1993 to 2019 (before the Covid Pandemic hit), Figure 10.2 shows that Japan is no longer in an average economic contraction, but its GDP per capita has grown on average by less than a percent per year, still easily underperforming most of the same select countries. (I surmise that Japan’s major growth industry, tourism to Japan, has significantly affected these numbers; as noted in Chapter Eight, tourism’s contribution to Japan’s total GDP has expanded from 1.7 to 2 percent since 2010. This underscores Japan’s need to avoid “Japanese Only” signs and rules.)

It is not clear that even these low growth rates are sustainable, given Japan’s perpetual demographic crisis. According to the most recent GOJ figures as this book went to press (June 30, 2021), Japan’s population continues to decrease, as its birthrate has long been below replacement levels, reaching the lowest on record in 2019 before being further worsened by the 2020 Covid Pandemic.[i] The number of (Japanese citizen—sic) children under age fifteen has dropped to record lows for 40 consecutive years, representing the lowest population percentage amongst major countries with populations of at least 40 million.[ii] Japan’s population has also been shrinking since 2011, and from the current level of 125.3 million (including the rising number of foreign residents), [iii] dropping by close to one million per year; at this rate it is projected to drop below 100 million by 2049.[iv]

Meanwhile, Japan’s working-age population is forecast to fall by nearly half from 81.7 million in 2010 to 44.2 million by 2060.[v] In terms of people above a “reasonable working age” of 65, the projected elderly but not yet infirm (ages 65-74) are projected to be at around 22% of Japan’s population; if you include all elderly and infirm (65 and up), this will comprise nearly 36% of Japan’s total population by 2050.[vi] Thus, with Japan’s demographic pyramid being top-heavy and projected to have one of the world’s highest median ages,[vii] the elderly and pensioners will soon outnumber young pension contributors, putting the solvency of Japan’s social security pension plans into jeopardy.[viii](Note that this is not unexpected: the GOJ and the UN both forecast this happening as early as the year 2000, when the UN advised Japan to immediately start bringing in more than a half million foreign residents per year.)[ix]

[i] “An uphill battle to reverse the falling birthrate.” Japan Times, June 4, 2020; “The COVID-19 Pandemic is Accelerating Japan’s Population Decline: A Statistical Analysis.” Nippon.com, May 25, 2021.

[ii] “Japan’s child population falls to record low 16.17 million.” Japan Times/Jiji Press, May 4, 2015; “Japan’s child population hits record low after 40 years of decline.” Kyodo News, May 4, 2021.

[iii] www.stat.go.jp/english/data/jinsui/tsuki/index.html.

[iv] “The COVID-19 Pandemic is Accelerating Japan’s Population Decline: A Statistical Analysis.” Nippon.com, May 25, 2021.

[v] “Japan Cabinet minister wary of opening ‘Pandora’s Box’ of immigration.” Japan Times, May 13, 2015; “Japan’s Population Falls for Ninth Straight Year.” Nippon.com, April 30, 2020.

[vi]Kōreisha jinkō (65-74, 75 ijō) to sono wariai” [Population and proportion of elderly (65-74, 75+)]. Shūkan Ekonomisuto, January 15, 2008: 16.

[vii] “A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions.” Washington Post, October 27, 2012, particularly the graphic “As Japan’s population ages, optimism wanes.” More current statistics show that South Korea may overtake Japan in terms of highest median age by 2050, but Japan will still remain in second place. Seewww.statista.com/statistics/673014/top-ten-countries-with-highest-projected-median-age/ (accessed June 2, 2021).

[viii] One often-touted solution to the demographic crisis is automation, i.e., getting robots into fields that require elderly care, such as hospitals and care centers. See for example GOJ policy trial balloons floated at “Better than people: Why the Japanese want their robots to act more like humans.” Economist (London), December 20, 2005; “Government tackles population decline.” Yomiuri Shinbun, August 26, 2014, archived at www.debito.org/?p=12609; “Aging Japan: Robots may have role in future of elder care.” Reuters, March 27, 2018; et al. However, robots do not pay taxes, so without young people paying into pension plans for the current elderly, I do not see how automation will make up the financial shortfall when the young taxpayers reach retirement.

[ix] Arudou 2006c, which notes, “As far back as 2000, under the Obuchi Administration, ‘The Prime Minister’s Commission on Japan’s Goals in the 21st Century’ (as well as the UN) famously advised Japan to import around 600,000 people per annum. This would maintain Japan’s tax base and ameliorate the effects of record-high longevities and record-low birthrates contributing to an aging population.” [Emphasis added.]

“EMBEDDED RACISM” EXCERPT ENDS

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Here’s one domestic news article not behind paywall on this:

人口「8000万人」維持を、2100年に向けて戦略会議が提言…「安定的で成長力のある国家」
読売新聞 2024/01/09 17:28
 民間有識者らで作る「人口戦略会議」(議長=三村明夫・日本製鉄名誉会長)は9日、人口減少を食い止めるための提言「人口ビジョン2100」を発表した。2100年の日本の目指すべき姿として、「安定的で、成長力のある8000万人国家」を掲げた。
新成人は過去最少の106万人…2005年生まれ、前年より6万人減
 日本の総人口は08年の1億2808万人をピークに急速な減少傾向にあり、国立社会保障・人口問題研究所の長期推計では、2100年には約6300万人に半減すると予測されている。
 提言では、人口減に歯止めがかからない場合、「どのような重大な事態が起きるか正確に理解することが重要」として、「超高齢化や地方消滅で(社会の)進歩が止まる」と深刻さを強調。2100年の人口を8000万人で安定させる「定常化戦略」と、小さい人口規模でも多様性と成長力を確保する「 強靱きょうじん 化戦略」の一体的な推進を訴えた。
 定常化戦略は、人口が維持できる合計特殊出生率2・07を達成する時期を60年に設定し、具体策に〈1〉若者の雇用改善〈2〉女性の就労促進〈3〉総合的な子育て支援制度の構築――などを挙げた。強靱化戦略では、生産性の低い産業の改革や人への投資の強化が重要だとした。
 これらの戦略を進める体制として、内閣への「人口戦略推進本部(仮称)」設置のほか、勧告権を持つ首相直属の強力な審議会、各界各層に議論を呼びかける国民会議の創設を提起。国会に常設組織を設けて超党派の合意を目指すよう要請した。
 岸田首相は9日、首相官邸で三村氏らから提言を受け取り、「官民で連携して社会の意識改革に取り組んでいきたい」と述べた。三村氏は東京都内で記者会見し、「現役世代には次の世代の未来に対する責任がある」として、社会全体での意識共有を求めた。
 人口戦略会議は昨年7月に発足し、元総務相の増田寛也・日本郵政社長や人口問題担当の山崎史郎・内閣官房参与らが参加している。提言は10日発売の「中央公論」2月号に掲載される。ENDS

======================
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Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. Debito.org makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.

mytest

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Hi Blog. First this article, then a comment:

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Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional
Yuri Kondo (center), the plaintiff of a dual nationality case, speaks during a news conference Wednesday in the city of Fukuoka after the Fukuoka District Court handed down a ruling on her case.
BY ANIKA OSAKI EXUM, The Japan Times, Dec 6, 2023
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/12/06/japan/crime-legal/dual-nationality-fukuoka-ruling/
Courtesy of lots of people, including Dave Spector
Discussion already underway on Debito.org in an earlier blog post Comments section here.

FUKUOKA – The Fukuoka District Court ruled Wednesday that Japan’s law that bans dual nationality is constitutional, rejecting an argument by a Japan-born plaintiff who lost her Japanese citizenship after she naturalized as an American.

Yuri Kondo, 76, had argued that the nationality law — which stipulates that Japanese nationals will lose their citizenship if they become a citizen of a foreign country — undermines fundamental human rights to pursue happiness, self-determination, and identity, as guaranteed under the Constitution.

While the nationality law was deemed constitutional, presiding Judge Fumitaka Hayashi said the wish of the individual who would lose their nationality should be considered as it is part of a person’s identity.

Hayashi also touched on the fact that since the nationality law was last revised in 1984, the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide, reflecting a change in global attitudes.

“It is worth considering allowing individuals to remain dual nationals and giving them a certain period of time to choose a nationality, as proposed by the plaintiffs,” said Hayashi.

Born and raised in Japan, Kondo spent nearly four decades working and raising a family in the United States. She became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

After traveling back and forth between her home countries with both nationalities for years, she was flagged as being a dual citizen in 2017 — first at a passport office in Tokyo, where her passport was confiscated and her application rejected, and then by airport immigration officials when they realized she was exiting Japan with an American passport that had no entrance stamp.

Today, Kondo only has an American passport. She hasn’t reapplied to renew her Japanese one, fearing it would be denied again. However, she still retains her Japanese family registry and she also hasn’t received any follow-ups from the government asking her to formally withdraw one of her nationalities.

Kondo returned in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained in Fukuoka ever since. She feared she might not be able to return to Japan if she left and now fears that she’ll face punishment for overstaying while her citizenship status remains in limbo.

During her time as a lawyer in the U.S., Kondo was consulted by many Japanese people living overseas facing similar situations. So, in hopes of advocating not only for herself but for many others too, she filed the lawsuit in 2022 questioning the constitutionality of the nationality law, its lack of procedure and the harm it’s caused to people who have Japanese roots.

After hearing the Fukuoka court’s ruling Wednesday, Kondo admitted she felt a bit deflated.

“In a way, I thought ‘Again?’” she said, referencing a recent ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the dismissal of another dual nationality case filed in Tokyo.

Kondo questioned the part of the ruling where it was stated that Japan permits the opportunity to choose a nationality. Many people — including those from whom she receives emails for consultation — are unaware that choosing another citizenship means they will automatically lose their Japanese citizenship, as in her case, she said.

Japanese law prohibits citizens from having more than one nationality after the age of 20. But when it comes to the requirements and enforcement surrounding those rules, the process is murky at best.

In September, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal on a separate dual nationality case, involving eight plaintiffs currently living in Europe, which questioned the law’s constitutionality.

The Supreme Court rejected the basis of the appeal, upholding the original district court dismissal of the case that stated the law works to prevent “friction” that could arise from having dual nationality. The lower court ruling also noted that Japan still allows the freedom to change nationality.

Lawyers, some of whom are also working on Kondo’s case, said that the Supreme Court’s dismissal didn’t include a sufficient rationale behind the decision and requested a retrial.

With the Fukuoka court ruling though, Kondo’s lawyers felt there was significant progress in the court’s choice of words, as it mentioned the significance of Japanese nationality being the basis of one’s human rights and identity.

“For the first time, (the ruling) clearly stated that an individual’s intention must be respected to the fullest extent possible if they were to lose their citizenship,” lawyer Teruo Naka said. “I believe this is tremendously significant and this verdict signals significant progress in certain areas.”

There are currently multiple ongoing lawsuits against the government concerning Japan’s dual nationality law. Other cases include one filed in Tokyo that involves a child who was stripped of Japanese citizenship after the child’s parents applied for the child’s British passport, and another in Kyoto by a Japanese person who obtained Canadian citizenship. ENDS
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COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Most arguments made by the Japanese Government dovetail around the idea that people will be somehow confused in terms of national allegiances if they have more than one nationality. For what if Japan went to war with the country you have a second passport for? Where would your allegiances lie?

Crafting public policy merely on the basis of hypotheticals is not the best way to make laws. As noted above in the article, the number of countries allowing dual nationality is in fact increasing (“the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide“), as more people around the world travel, resettle, immigrate, marry, and have multinational children as well as lives.  Forcing them to give up their other nationality is to force them to give up part of their identity — a completely unnecessary and moreover psychologically damaging move just for the sake of bureaucratic convenience.  And that’s before we get into issues of arbitrary enforceability, as discussed below.

The increase in diversity should be reflected in laws to accommodate reality.  Instead, we have pig-headed J politicians who can’t imagine a life beyond their own experiences (with the exception of the LDP’s Kouno Taro, who actually argued for dual nationality, albeit to coat the Kokutai in more glory, not for the sake of the individual’s identity) and refuse to legislate reality into reality.  And that feeds into a hidebound judiciary that claim they can only enforce the law as it’s written (even presiding Judge Hayashi above expressed regret at that).

To finish up, let me excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” on this topic.  It’ll make the case about why public policy is as stupid as it is as best I can.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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From Arudou, Debito, “Embedded Racism:  Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, 2nd Edition, pp 117-122, plus footnotes)

Legal Renunciation/Revocation of Japanese Citizenship and Wajin Privilege

Japan’s Nationality Law also allows for renunciation and unilateral revocation of citizenship, which may happen, for example, because dual nationality is not permitted. According to Articles 14 through 16, if a child has two nationalities, the child must have surrendered one of them with written proof to the Ministry of Justice by age 22). If not done promptly and correctly, the Law states that criminal penalties, including revocation of Japanese citizenship, can apply. Also, according to the Law, kokumin who take out (or choose) another citizenship must also declare it to the Government of Japan (GOJ) and renounce Japanese citizenship.[i]

            However, people who can claim blood ties to Japan’s Wajin majority enjoy significant privilege under the Nationality Law. Notwithstanding the entitlement-by-blood privileges that are the definition of a jus sanguinis system, Nikkei persons of Japanese descent get a faster track for obtaining nationality (Article 6), and even former citizens get special Wajin privileges after renunciation (Article 17, neither of which happen, for example, under United States’ nationality laws).[ii] Moreover, Wajin children of international marriages often keep dual nationality beyond the age of 22 due to unenforced regulations.[iii]

That said, the GOJ has been given more latitude in recent years to put Japan’s international children on legal tenterhooks: In 2015, the Supreme Court creatively interpreted Article 12 to allow the unilateral revocation of Japanese citizenship for clerical errors in cases where Japanese children were born overseas; and in 2021, a lower court ruled that citizens discovered with dual passports beyond the age of 22 can be stripped of their Japanese nationality at the GOJ’s discretion.[iv] Naturally, this incentivizes adults with international backgrounds to suppress their diversity in favor of Japan’s pure-blooded monoethnic narrative.[v]

An Example of Wajin Privilege and Politics under the Nationality Law: The Alberto and Aritomi Fujimori Cases

An instructive case of Wajin privilege under the Nationality Law is that of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori,[vi] born in Peru to two Japan-born émigré Wajin parents. Fujimori was reportedly a dual citizen of Japan and Peru due to his parents registering him in Kumamoto from within Peru as a child (more on Japan’s registry systems below). In 2000, after a decade in office laden with allegations of corruption and human rights abuses,[vii] Fujimori infamously resigned his presidency via a Tōkyō hotel room fax and declared himself a Japanese citizen. Despite holding public office overseas, in contravention of Nationality Law Article 16.2, Fujimori received a Japanese passport weeks later (when most applications can take a year or two to process).[viii] Then, despite international arrest warrants, Fujimori was not extradited, and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle with his fellow naturalized brother-in-law Aritomi[ix] in Tōkyō’s high society until 2005.[x] Although the media assigned cause to political connections, e.g., “favorit[ism] among conservative politicians… enamored with the idea of a man with Japanese ancestry reaching political heights abroad,”[xi] Fujimori’s case is nevertheless one of privilege.[xii] This is in contrast to scenarios under Japan’s nationality regime where even half-Wajin children caught in bureaucratic registration dilemmas (such as being born of one North Korean parent)[xiii]have been rendered stateless due to geopolitical conceits, with legal protections of no country.

Supreme Court 2008 Interpretation of the Nationality Law: Human Rights in Japan Predicated upon having Japanese Citizenship

Other recent developments have made clear that human and civil rights in Japan are connected to having Japanese citizenship. Japan’s Supreme Court, in a landmark decision in June 2008, declared unconstitutional a clause in Article 3 requiring acknowledgment of Wajin paternity through marriage. That is to say, enforcement of the Nationality Law could no longer deny Japanese nationality to a child of a non-citizen woman and a Wajin man who had been born out of wedlock (or else had not been properly registered before birth). The Supreme Court’s express legal reasoning behind declaring this situation unconstitutional was, inter alia, that a lack of Japanese nationality is the cause of discrimination, and that obtaining Japanese nationality is essential for basic human rights to be guaranteed in Japan.[xiv] This systematic linkage between rights and citizenship has also been reaffirmed in pinpoint examples, such as the GOJ’s biased Prime Ministerial Cabinet surveys of human rights in Japan;[xv] and, famously, a police prosecutor in Saga Prefecture bravely admitted in 2011, “We were taught that… foreigners have no human rights” when under police detention and interrogation.[xvi]

At this juncture, it is important to emphasize the embedded discourse behind the Supreme Court’s legal reasoning here: Human rights in Japan are not linked to being human; they are linked to holding Japanese citizenship.[xvii] That is the crux of this research. That means the process of granting, restricting, or denying citizenship to select people is the gatekeeping mechanism any nation-state has over the enforcement of civil and political rights and privileges. However, as will be described below, the systemic granting of special privileges to people with Wajin blood ties also embeds a racialized framework behind equal protection under the law. It is the essential ideology justifying a structurally unequal treatment of non-kokumin at all other levels of society.

Japan’s Nationality Law from an International Comparative Perspective: Becoming An Outlier

Although the gatekeeping mechanism of naturalization is available to any nation-state through its citizenship laws, Kashiwazaki (2000) offers a comparative perspective of structural inequality in Japan’s citizenship rules:

In the 1980s and 1990s, laws regulating nationality and citizenship were revised in immigrant-receiving countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, where nationality transmission was mainly based on jus sanguinis (by parentage). These revisions eased criteria for acquiring nationality by first-generation, long-term resident aliens as well as by the second and subsequent generations. Major types of legal administrative changes include introduction or expansion of the as-of-right acquisition of citizenship [i.e., Japan has no “as-of-right acquisition” system; anyone who was not attributed Japanese citizenship by birth must go through the process of naturalization]; double jus soli, by which the third generation obtains citizenship automatically; and toleration for dual nationality… [On the other hand], there is no unified, coherent policy that could be called the Japanese citizenship policy (436-7).

Kashiwazaki also cites five characteristics of how Japan is distinctive in restricting access to citizenship: 1) Jus sanguinisonly for nationality transmission, with no concession made for former “Commonwealth”-style colonial historical ties, 2) tight border control, 3) strict naturalization rules that only go through the Ministry of Justice, 4) a close relationship between nationality and family registry, and 5) restrictive access to Permanent Residency status (437-47).

Now that we have established the barriers to becoming a kokumin, let us proceed to the second hurdle for national membership as a national: how kokumin are officially registered as citizens, and, conversely, how non-citizens have been officially excluded as residents of Japan.

FOOTNOTES

[i] Independent researcher and translator William Wetherall disputes this research’s interpretation of “renunciation” on his website (www.wetherall.sakura.ne.jp/yoshabunko///nationality/Dual_nationality.html), writing as of 2017 that the converse, dual nationality, is “not forbidden, unpreventable, and tacitly permitted,” because the GOJ works under a “pragmatic recognition of its inability to force Japanese nationals to renounce other nationalities.” He disputes the GOJ’s power of revocation under the Nationality Law between the semantics of “abandoning” (hōki) versus “revoking” (ridatsu) versus “choosing” (sentaku) Japanese nationality. In other words, in Wetherall’s reading, as far as the GOJ is concerned, the only issue is the “choice” or “revocation” of Japanese nationality, not the “revocation” or “abandonment” of foreign nationalities, so the GOJ has no power to force dual nationals to “abandon” foreign and “choose” Japanese.

That said, the Nationality Law nevertheless officially demands the “choice” of Japanese nationality only, and does not allow citizens to “choose” other nationalities without (in principle) “losing” (sōshitsu) Japanese nationality. Parts of this law are backed up by criminal penalties for noncompliance (Article 20), direct permissions and punishment by the Minister of Justice (e.g., Article 16), and recent court decisions mentioned in this chapter further empowering the GOJ’s ability to punish dual citizenship holders. My read is that whether or not the GOJ chooses to enforce the Nationality Law remains at their discretion; as we shall see below in this chapter, Japan’s administrative branch has great extralegal power to “clarify” laws through ministerial directive (see also Asakawa ibid). This enables bureaucrats, acting on behalf of the Minister of Justice, to activate or strengthen formerly dormant sections of the law given the exigencies of current political policy.

[ii] United States Department of State, personal communications, January and March 2011.

[iii] Furthermore, under Nationality Law Article 2.3, babies born in Japan whose nationality is unknown, or whose parents are unknown, are by default Japanese nationals (which leads to a conundrum when Non-Wajin babies are left in hospital “baby hatches” for abandoned children; incidentally, this loophole is the only way Japanese citizenship may be acquired by jus soli. See “Foreign baby left at ‘baby hatch’.” Kyodo News, September 8, 2008; “Akachan pōsto ni gaikokujin no kodomo: Kumamoto-shi no Jikei Byōin.” [Foreign baby left in “baby hatch” at Kumamoto clinic], 47News.jp, September 8, 2008. Vaguely, the media determined the “foreignness” of the baby as due to the unknown parents reportedly being Zainichi. More at www.debito.org/?p=1900.

[iv] “Top court backs repeal of Japanese nationality due to parents’ lapse abroad.” Asahi Shinbun, March 11, 2015, at www.debito.org/?p=13144; “Court rules in favor of Japan’s ban on dual nationality.” Mainichi Shinbun, January 21, 2021, at www.debito.org/?p=16393.

[v] “Dual citizenship in Japan: A ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy leaves many in the dark.” Japan Times, feature undated, mid-2018.

[vi] Sources for this section include: “Ex-President Fujimori should face Justice.” Japan Today, July 16, 2001; “Fujimori dismisses Interpol notice.” Japan Times/Associated Press, March 30, 2003; “Fujimori gets Peru passport, eyes return.” Japan Times, September 15, 2005; “Japan ‘uncooperative’ in Fujimori probe.” Kyodo News, November 19, 2005; “Fujimori tied to $300,000 in ‘hidden’ bank account.” Kyodo News, November 30, 2005; “Ending Impunity: Pinochet’s involuntary legacy.” The Economist, December 13, 2006; “Ex-Peruvian President Fujimori asked to run in Japan elections.” Mainichi Daily News, June 19, 2007; “Editorial: Fujimori’s Candidacy.” Asahi Shinbun, July 12, 2007; “Diet seat eludes absentee Fujimori.” Kyodo News, July 31, 2007; “Fujimori returns to Peru to face trial.” Associated Press, September 23, 2007; “Fujimori convicted.” Associated Press, December 11, 2007; “Peru’s Fujimori gets 25 years for death squad.” Associated Press, April 8, 2009; Debito Arudou, “Fujimori gets his; Japan left shamed.” Japan Times, May 5, 2009.

[vii] See for example “Mass sterilisation scandal shocks Peru.”  BBC News, July 24, 2002; et al.

[viii] The GOJ expedited the process by claiming the “Master Nationality Rule”, an interpretation of Article 4 of 1930’s League of Nations Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws, where a state has the option to recognize a dual national as a sole national if it so chooses, as long as the person in question has the nationality of that state. The Japanese government chose to recognize only Fujimori’s “Japanese nationality,” based upon childhood family registration in Kumamoto from abroad, which is also in contravention of Japan’s Nationality Law. The GOJ also claimed that under the 1985 revision of the Nationality Law, which permitted citizenship to pass through the Japanese mother’s blood as well as the father’s, that children with multiple nationalities had until the end of 1986 to declare or forfeit Japanese nationality; those who declared nothing would be assumed to have retained Japanese nationality and forfeited all others. Since Fujimori had not declared either way, he was reportedly grandfathered in. See “The many faces of citizenship.” Japan Times, January 1, 2009. See also Anderson & Okuda (2003: 334-289). They conclude that Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship was legally binding, as he had never notified the Japanese government of his intent to give it up, and the Japanese government had declined to notify him that he had lost it.

[ix] Anderson & Okuda (2003: 310-8); see also “Fugitive Fujimori relative is shielded by Japan,” New York Times, July 19, 2001, regarding the case of Fujimori’s brother-in-law, and former Peruvian Ambassador to Japan, Victor Aritomi Shinto’s expedited naturalization into Japan. Although Anderson & Okuda conclude that Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship was not necessarily a politically-motivated move (albeit one of government “discretion” not to a priori notify Fujimori of his lost citizenship), since he legally retained it by not giving it up, the authors also conclude that Aritomi’s example was of dubious legal standing, since it was a naturalization procedure (not a latent holding of Japanese citizenship). Moreover, a) it took only six months, much less time than average, and b) it was awarded despite an outstanding international arrest warrant, in violation of the Nationality Law’s abovementioned requirement for “upright conduct.”

[x] See for example “Author Sono calls for racial segregation in op-ed piece.”  Japan Times, February 12, 2015, which mentions Sono opening her home to Fujimori. There is an even more curious epilogue to the Fujimori Case. Reportedly bored with his Tōkyō lifestyle (Sims, ibid), Fujimori renewed his Peruvian passport and flew to Chile in 2005 to stand for election in absentia in Peru, whereupon he was immediately put under arrest pending extradition. He lost the Peruvian election, but was able to run for election in Japan in absentia in 2007 (where he lost again). Then Chile extradited Fujimori to Peru, where he was ultimately sentenced to prison in 2009 for 29 years for human rights violations, including abuses of power, murder, and kidnapping. After being pardoned by the President of Peru in 2017, Peru’s Supreme Court reversed the pardon and put Fujimori back in prison in 2019.

[xi] Ibid, Associated Press, March 30, 2003.

[xii] This is not the only case of an alleged criminal facing extradition for criminal charges overseas taking refuge in Japan’s naturalization processes. Delfo Zorzi, aka Hagen Roi, despite accusations of neo-fascist terrorism and mass murder by the Italian judiciary for allegedly taking part in a massacre in Milan in 1969, was also granted Japanese citizenship even though government officials had been aware for years that he was a convicted criminal under extradition proceedings. The GOJ refused extradition, and Zorzi currently directs an import-export business in Aoyama, Tōkyō. See“Zorzi got citizenship despite criminal past”, Mainichi Daily News, June 2, 2000.

[xiii] “24 defectors from DPRK still stateless: Prejudice rife in Catch-22 situation”, Yomiuri Shinbun, June 13, 2007.

[xiv] “Top court says marriage requirement for nationality unconstitutional,” Kyodo News, June 4, 2008. See alsoIwasawa (1998: 303), and Bryant (1991-2). Bryant’s discussion of how the very definition of “Japanese citizenship” (official koseki family registration) creates discrimination towards children born out of wedlock or insufficiently registered is particularly informative.

[xv] More on this below, but the abovementioned Bureau of Human Rights survey asked leading questions casting doubt on foreigners’ grounds to have human rights, and consequently got responses indicating that a majority of the Japanese public “does not believe that foreigners should have the same human-rights protections as Japanese.” See “Human rights survey stinks: Government effort riddled with bias, bad science.” Japan Times, October 23, 2007.

[xvi] Debito Arudou, “For the sake of Japan’s future, foreigners deserve a fair shake”, Japan Times, December 6, 2011; Colin P.A. Jones, “Schizophrenic Constitution leaves foreigners’ rights mired in confusion”, Japan Times, November 1, 2011; “‘Yakuza to gaikokujin ni jinken wa nai to oshierareta’, moto kenji ga bakuro shita odoroku beki ‘shinjin kyōiku’ no jittai” [“We were taught that foreigners have no rights”: A former prosecutor confesses how new entrants are educated in surprising ways], Niconico News, May 23, 2011.

[xvii] Dōshisha Law School Professor Colin P.A. Jones (ibid) concurs: “[T]he Japanese Constitution speaks of defining equality and ‘fundamental human rights’ as being conditioned on nationality rather than being human.”

ENDS
======================
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My SNA VM column 51: “Being thankful despite adversity” (Nov 27, 2023), a think piece on how people survive terrible lives because the basic unit of survival is being part of a pair. And if you’re not in one in Japan, life is especially difficult.

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SNA VM 51 BEING THANKFUL DESPITE ADVERSITY
Subtitle:  We all know life can be tough, especially for people in Japan. But practicing being thankful, particularly if you can find someone to thank, isn’t just a matter of good fortune. Psychologically, the basic unit of survival is being part of a pair.

By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities Column 51, Nov 27, 2023
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/11/27/visible-minorities-being-thankful-despite-adversity/

Last week heralded American Thanksgiving, and with it some life lessons.

While I’m wary of transposing an American holiday on SNA’s overseas audience, I think any excuse to be reflective and thankful for what you have — and grateful for avoiding what ill could have befallen you — is a valuable life skill.

As they say, any excuse is a good one for a party, so likewise any excuse is good to be thankful. That means any day can be for thanksgiving. I choose today.

Life is full of big emotions, many of them caused by you, others the product of your being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and some are just the cards you were dealt from birth and environment.

We can put that down to bad luck or some godforsaken ordeal. Or we can rationalize about things that don’t kill you making you stronger, adversity building character, etc.

But I don’t believe in ordeals anymore. I’m 58. My character is pretty much built. Moreover I’ve seen, through elders turned bitter in their old age, that too much adversity just makes you mean.

So as I approach my sixties, one of my life projects is understanding the science and practice of happiness. Interim conclusion: I choose to be happy. To me that means being thankful for the people who carry you through the inevitable tribulations of life while you do the same for them.

The life hack is having another person — at least one — who wishes you well, has your best interests in mind, and is there to see what you see, reminding you that you’re not the only one going through all this.

There is some science here. A book called “Escape from Camp 14” describes a survivor’s account of escaping a North Korean concentration camp. It offered the following life lesson:

The protagonist at first accepted his harsh life in North Korea as his lot in society, even as he ended up interned for reasons beyond his control. But he didn’t seriously contemplate escape until a fellow prisoner said he would do it with him. Somebody else confirmed he wasn’t crazy for wanting out.

As “Escape from Camp 14” notes on page 84, “Their relationship echoed, in many ways, the bonds of trust and mutual protection that kept prisoners alive and sane in Nazi concentration camps. In those camps, researchers found, the ‘basic unit of survival’ was the pair, not the individual. (Emphasis mine.)

“‘It was in the pairs that the prisoners kept alive the semblance of humanity,’ concluded Elmer Luchterhand, a sociologist at Yale who interviewed fifty two concentration camp survivors shortly after liberation. Pairs stole food and clothing, exchanged small gifts and planned for the future. If one member of a pair fainted from hunger in front of an SS officer, the other would prop him up. […] Finally, the death of one member of a pair often doomed the other,” noting that Anne Frank, for example, “lost the will to live after the death of her sister.”

This example is obviously extreme, but it is instructive. It’s hard to imagine a greater sense of isolation than an entire state apparatus designed to destroy you.

Or in Japan’s case, consider a society designed to perpetually alienate you, say your thoughts and feelings are deviant or inapplicable, or remind you don’t belong here no matter what you do. Some accept it as their lot as a foreigner. Others leave for more accepting societies. But for those who stay in a polity predicated on finely tuned embedded racism, people do survive. The key is finding somebody to go through with it as a pair.

(You may of course argue that solitude in a secret world will also do. Plenty of Japanese malcontents and dropouts do exactly this. Known as the hikikomori, I don’t think they are a healthy model.)

That’s why I’m thankful for my life partner now. I had one before while in Japan. But Japanese society has a habit of driving couples apart through divisive role play.

The idealized family is where one person spends his waking moments absent from home making the money (the so-called “salary delivery vehicle”, or kyūryō unpansha), while the other devotes her life to running the home and raising a family (ryōsai kenbo). It doesn’t matter that your personality might not be into kids, into being a corporate drone, or into conspicuous consumption as a lifestyle. Even as Japan modernizes and diversifies, these slow-drip pressures over decades are palpable and unyielding.

I’ve been through a divorce in Japan and understand why it happened. When you realize that cultural and media tropes are steadily morphing your erstwhile partner into a stranger, and all the basic values you thought you shared (such as childrearing values, saving and spending habits, personal space and housekeeping, openness to new experiences, leisure activities and holiday celebrations, even physical intimacy into old age) turned out to be faux or fleeting, that’s very isolating.

At first you accept it as your lot. Until you realize just how unhappy you’ve become.

This can of course happen in any society. But given the high separation and divorce rates amongst my long-term friends in Japan (who, given Japan’s lack of psychological counseling for couples, were generally encouraged to seek solace elsewhere), I can’t but help feel that there’s a culturally based pathology at work.

There definitely is one when you want out. That’s when you get into how Japan’s divorce system deliberately forces contestations into acrimonious negotiations, killing parent-child relationships in the process. Your life partner has suddenly become your worst enemy who can legally steal the kids.

Some never escape this prison, stuck in a “separation under the same roof” (kateinai bekkyo) where they live together but never interact. Others succeed in getting out, but I’ve seen many survivors of Japanese divorces languish for years alone wondering what it was all for. They drift off into the mental illness of never trusting partners again: Once bitten, twice shy.

The ones who fully recover find friends — or better yet a new life partner — who tell them they were not nuts. Forged in the furnace of similar adversities, they create a constructive pair of individuals with fully formed characters. They escape from isolation with someone who actively cultivates the relationship: nurtures instead of blames, consults instead of shuns, understands instead of indulges, actively listens instead of merely dismissing as foreign.

If that means you escape an intolerant society together through relocation, so be it. You must prioritize getting into an environment that makes the two of you happy. Otherwise you just might spend your twilight years resentful, bitter and mean.

Not for me. I choose to exercise happiness, thankful for other people’s help — and for my current life partner in specific. May you find yours.

ENDS

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities Column 50, “Memory-holing the ‘Japanese Only’ signs” (Oct 31, 2023), where I conclude that, since racial discrimination is unconstitutional but not illegal in Japan, the most effective way to get “Japanese Only” signs down is to get the media and government involved. If they won’t help, you’re probably out of luck.

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Memory-holing the “Japanese Only” signs

Exclusionary businesses have a long history in Japan, and people seem to be forgetting it.  Here’s a reminder from somebody who has studied them more than anybody.

By Debito Arudou.  Shingetsu News Agency VM 50, October 31, 2023

News Item:  The Okinawa Times reported that an izakaya pub in Naha put up a sign saying, in a mix of English and Japanese, “Because our staff can only speak Japanese, Japanese Only (sorry).  We don’t allow customers from overseas to enter our bar.”  Once it made the news, the local government tourist agency intervened, and after some weeks and back and forth, the bar took the sign down.  

For this, my 50th column for SNA, I’d like to take the reader on a little nostalgia trip through a project I’ve been working on for a quarter century:  “Japanese Only” signs.  

I’ve investigated and interviewed hundreds of these exclusionary places, published and updated seven books on this issue in English and Japanese, and curated on Debito.org the “Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments” since 1999 to make sure this issue doesn’t get memory-holed.   

For it seems that memory-holing is happening.  A SoraNews24 article on the Naha Case didn’t do much research, claiming somehow that, “Bars with Japanese-customers-only policies aren’t unheard of in Japan, but they’re becoming increasingly uncommon in the modern age. Moreover, when you do come across such establishments, they’re generally dedicated bars.”  (Incorrect.  The highest incidents of exclusionary rules are in fact hotels.)  

Then we get to the public reaction to the news.  When I put it up on Debito.org, some readers were defensive as usual, basically ranging from the “self-othering” by the Guestists (quote:  “I understand why they do it. I’m not offended. It’s their business and country.”) to the Ostriches who prefer, in spite of decades of evidence to the contrary, to bury their head in the sand and pretend the problem simply doesn’t exist (quote:  “You are overdramatizing things.  It doesn’t say we do not allow foreigners.  Being to those places as long as you speak Japanese you can enter anywhere.  You have to see things from their perspective too you know.  They don’t wanna get in trouble because a tourist doesn’t read nor understand.  As simple as that.”)

But it’s not as simple as that.  “Japanese Only” signs in fact predate the massive tourist influx to Japan over the past decade and thus cannot be blamed on them.  Yes, signs have popped up here and there since foreigners were allowed back in after the pandemic, but the earliest signs I’ve been able to verify started in 1992, when public baths in the city of Kofu put up signs refusing foreigners — particularly foreign women imported during the Bubble Era to work as bar hostesses and in the sex trades — due to the contemporary fear of AIDS (which of course was linked to foreigners).  Fortunately, once the Kofu Case hit national news, the city health department intervened, demanded the bathhouses cease excluding, and educated the public about how AIDS is actually transmitted (i.e., not through shared bathwater or bathhouse).

But then it bubbled up again in Otaru, a seaport in Hokkaido, when in 1993 “Japanese Only” signs went up in a couple of public baths ostensibly to bar Russian sailors shipping in seafood from former Soviet waters.  However this time local media and government ignored the situation, because they knew the locals have a “thing” about about Russians.  

After WWII, many Japanese who lived in wartime-occupied Sakhalin and the Kuriles were forcibly repatriated by international agreements, and most emigrated to Hokkaido in general and Otaru in specific.  Memories are long in a defeated people, so they ate the Russians’ seafood but drew the line at “smelly, scary, and drunk Russkies” (their words) sharing their public baths.  And up stayed the exclusionary signs for years.

How on earth can this happen?  Because in Japan, “Japanese Only” rules are unconstitutional but not illegal.  

Unconstitutional because discrimination by race is explicitly barred under the Constitution of Japan (Article 14).  Not illegal because Japan is the only developed democratic country without any law in its civil or criminal code specifically banning racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu).

And it shows.  Compare what would happen if a business open to the public put up a “no foreigners” sign in other developed democratic countries.  Civil rights laws would kick in and the local civil rights division would probably get their their business license suspended.  Media would also make an issue of it.  There might even be boycotts, spray paint, and broken windows.

Not in Japan.  Quite the opposite, actually.  When we took up the abovementioned Otaru Case in 1999, we actually had people and opinion leaders rallying on the side of the exclusionary establishments.  They made sophistic arguments claiming that unique Japanese culture must be protected from allegedly illiterate, ignorant, and rampaging foreigners.  (A column explicitly titled “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people” even appeared in The Japan Times.)  Or that businesses could exclude anyone anytime for anything.  (Try making that argument to the Burakumin, for example, and see how far you get.)  One establishment mentioned that their patrons have bad WWII memories (to which we replied, “What about German customers?”)

But it wasn’t just offhand, ill-considered comments.  The government was even complicit back then.  The Potemkin department for overseeing discriminatory issues in Japan, the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights (which has only advisory, not punitive powers), actually coached the Otaru City Government in writing NOT to do anything about their “Japanese Only” bathhouses — because, they argued, it would legally carry no penalty!

And that’s only talking about the discrimination that’s clearly signposted.  Now consider, for example, renting an apartment in Japan or trying to get a job at the “Hello Work” unemployment agency.  Racist landlords and corporate practices are so normal that explicitly stating “no foreign applicants” in their descriptions is perfectly acceptable. 

This is all really funny, because Japan signed a United Nations treaty in 1995 (the CERD) in which it promised to take all effective measures to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.  As the Naha Case proves nearly 30 years later, Japan was just going through the motions of a “developed country,” signing treaties without any intention to enforce them.

So why not just go elsewhere and spend your money at a place that won’t exclude you?  Because the problem with leaving “Japanese Only” signs up is that covert discrimination in Japan becomes overt.  Racism becomes an option for any bigot who obviously need fear no penalty.  

History bears this out.  After the Otaru Case made national and international news after 1999, exclusionary signs and rules spread nationwide across industries.  This included bars, discos, internet cafes, restaurants, stores and shops, hotels, realtors, schools, and even hospitals.  It goes without saying, but these industries have a fundamental impact on a minimum standard of living.  It’s not just a matter of getting a drink in a bar.  If there’s ever even the possibility that you can’t shop, stay, reside, receive an education, or get medical treatment, you’re in trouble.

So if you leave discrimination alone, it not only spreads — it mutates.  Consider the most elaborate exclusionary sign I ever saw:  “Chinese and naturalized citizens, war orphans, and children with mixed Chinese blood are absolutely refused entry.  Only pure-blooded Japanese males only.”  That’s grounded in some mighty specific prejudices.  

But why do these places exclude in the first place?  In my interviews over more than a decade, their standpoints range from, “Foreign customers were disruptive to my business” to “I personally hate foreigners.”  Some who thought their prejudice through a bit more cite an apparently exclusive clientele that want their dining or bathing experience to be “foreigner-free.”  Even those who never dealt with a foreign customer cited rumor to claim that something bad might happen, so the signs were a preventative measure.  

All point to a pretty simple logic:  If foreigners are let in, they’ll go bankrupt because Japanese customers will stay away.  (Even though plenty of these places went under anyway despite their exclusionary policies.  So maybe it wasn’t the foreigners after all.)  

But here’s the most insidious thing:  enforcement.  To the gatekeepers, a “foreigner” can be determined on sight.  This happened in practice when people who didn’t “look Japanese” enough were still refused entry even after they showed proof of Japanese citizenship.  That means they excluded by race, not nationality.  “Japanese Only” signs exclude Japanese too.

So you see, the “Japanese Only” sign in Naha was nothing new or all that simple.  What’s new is that the Okinawa media and the local government played a role in getting it down.  

After decades of thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that seems to be the best route.  

With the Otaru Case, we tried everything else.  We spent more than a year negotiating with the exclusionary businesses, the local, regional, and national governments, and the general public.  Then we spent much money and many years in Civil Court trying to get one place to open their doors and one government to take responsibility for their years of negligence.  I even took the Otaru Case to Japan’s Supreme Court in 2005, which stunningly denied cert because it somehow “didn’t involve any Constitutional issues.”  At least the courts formally acknowledged that “Japanese Only” signs are in fact “racial discrimination.”  But that was a lot of energy spent on one bathhouse.  Now try doing that for all the other places that exclude foreigners.

As the Naha Case shows, the most effective way to get an exclusionary sign down is to get it in the media and make the government fear an impact on local tourism.  In a society where issues of human rights perpetually take a back seat to business ethics (which, in any society, would happily make money selling poison to the public as long as there’s no law to stop them), you really have few other reliable or effective options in Japan.  

Sad to say, but it’s as simple as that.

ENDS

======================
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“Japanese Only” sign on izakaya bar in Naha, Okinawa (Okinawa Times and Japan Today). Removed after govt scrutiny and media exposure.

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Hi Blog.  Here’s the latest entry for the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, where a bar in Okinawa refuses all “customers from overseas” (=”Japanese Only“) to enter the bar.  The difference is that the media took it up and ran them through the wringer of logic.  Not to mention they faced government scrutiny, which history shows makes all the difference.  It came out poorly for the bar, so they took the sign down.  Good.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(courtesy Okinawa Times)

Okinawa pub posts ‘Japanese only’ admission sign based on some shaky logic

116 Comments

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24, courtesy of Eric

 

 

▼ A photo of the notice

 

Screen-Shot-2023-10-05-at-9.12.35.png

Bars with Japanese-customers-only policies aren’t unheard of in Japan, but they’re becoming increasingly uncommon in the modern age. Moreover, when you do come across such establishments, they’re generally dedicated bars, with menus almost entirely consisting of drinks, and often the presence of hostesses or “floor lady” pseudo-hostesses. Izakaya, on the other hand, are essentially restaurants, where customers are expected to order both food and drinks, and it’s competitively rarer for them to have such exclusionary admission policies.

[Ed:  Clearly the author didn’t do much research.]

According to local newspaper Okinawa Times, the notice had been posted since at least a year ago, during which the management has turned away non-Japanese would-be customers. Eventually the sign came to the attention of two members of a Naha residents group that reported it to various government departments, including the Naha City Tourism Division and Okinawa Convention Bureau. This prompted a visit by members of the Tourism Division in August of this year in which they asked the owner to take the sign down, especially in light of increasing numbers of overseas travelers visiting Okinawa following the lifting of pandemic protocols, but the owner refused to do so.

The owner claims that the notice wasn’t meant to be taken as discriminatory intent, saying “We only have one person working the dining hall, and one person in the kitchen, so we don’t have time to spare for customer interaction. We have no intent of discriminating.” Coupled with the sign’s disclaimer that the staff only speaks Japanese, that would seem to indicate that the aim of the no-customers-from-overseas rule was to eliminate time-consuming communication problems, but if that’s really the case, the more appropriate policy would have been “Customers must order in Japanese.” It’s pretty short-sighted to make a blanket assumption that all non-Japanese diners will be unable to speak Japanese, given that the number of people living outside Japan who’ve still acquired some basic proficiency with the language is higher than it’s ever been, as is the number of non-ethnically Japanese residents of Japan, most of whom can order food and drinks in the language without difficulty. Even if the owner’s concern was foreign customers asking for changes in how their food is prepared, something far more common at restaurants outside Japan than within it, a sign saying “No menu substitutions allowed” would be sufficient and succinct.

With the sign getting increased attention, the owner has apparently rethought the Tourism Division’s request to remove it, and at some point in September it was taken down, with the owner saying “The writing was incorrect.”

However, he also added “What I want the government to do isn’t to try to attract travelers from other countries, but to teach people about izakaya culture.” But if what he really wants is a broader understanding of izakaya drinking and dining traditions, presumably on a global scale (since Japanese people are already familiar with those traditions), it’s hard to see how turning people away because they’re not Japanese was going to accomplish that.

Source: Okinawa Times

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

Japanese from Okinawa Times
入店拒否の張り紙。英語で「スタッフが日本語しか話せないため/日本人のみ(ごめんなさい)/海外からのお客さまは入店させません」と記す=9月、那覇市
沖縄タイムズ 2023年10月2日 Courtesy of KM and JK
https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/1232333

那覇市の居酒屋が入り口に「ジャパニーズオンリー」と書いた紙を張り、外国人の入店を拒否していた。国籍による違法な差別で、市民グループが気付き、行政に相談した。現時点で店側は張り紙を取り外しているが、客や通行人を傷つけていた事実は残る。行政による支援や啓発の必要性も浮かぶ。(編集委員・阿部岳)

張り紙は「スタッフが日本語しかしゃべれないため」と書き、さらに英語で外国人の入店禁止を伝える内容。1年ほど前に張り、実際に入店を断ったこともある。拒否された客は「非常に悲しい」とネットに投稿している。
経営者は「ホール担当1人、キッチン担当1人で接客に時間を割けない。差別は意図していない」と主張する。

ただ、国籍だけを理由にした入店拒否は人種差別撤廃条約に反する。静岡地裁浜松支部は1999年、街頭の店舗は一般に開放されていると指摘し、外国人の入店を拒否した宝石店に損害賠償を命じた。

那覇市の居酒屋の張り紙を偶然見つけた市民グループの2人は、市の各部署や沖縄観光コンベンションビューローに相談して回った。「沖縄カウンターズ」のメンバーは「これを見た外国人がどれだけ傷つくか。でもいきなり炎上させるのではなく、行政も一緒に円満に解決したかった」という。

相談を受けた市観光課は8月、店を訪問し、「観光客が増える中、好ましくない」と撤去を打診したが、店側は応じなかった。市の担当者は「権限がなく、お願いしかできない」と説明する。

最終的に本紙が9月、取材に訪れると、経営者が「文面は間違っていた」と撤去した。一方で「行政はただ海外客を呼ぶのではなく、居酒屋文化を伝えてほしい」と求める。

問題解決に向けて行政にかけ合ったもう1人、「多文化ネットワークfuふ!沖縄」のメンバーは「観光行政も人数や収入だけでない、文化の相互理解につながる観光を目指してほしい。店側が相談できる場所も必要ではないか」と投げかける。

4月に施行された県差別のない社会づくり条例は、事業者に差別解消に向けた努力を求めている。条例の検討委員だった白充(ペクチュン)弁護士は「国籍のみを理由とした入店拒否は条例に抵触しており、実効性が問われる。県民一人一人の意識変容に加え、県が周知徹底する努力も必要だ」と話した。
ENDS

======================
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My SNA VM 49: Be Mindful About Cultural Education (Sept 25, 2023), on how teaching people about Japan can backfire if the regular stereotyping found in language education isn’t carefully considered

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Hi Blog. Here’s my latest column.  Enjoy. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

CULTURAL EDUCATION MUST BE DONE MINDFULLY
Japan’s internationalization is inevitable. So is teaching Japan’s future generations of diversity. If done wrong, educating about Japanese culture and society could do more harm than good.
By Debito Arudou, Ph.D., SNA Visible Minorities column 49, Sept 25, 2023

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/09/25/japans-internationalization-is-inevitable-so-is-teaching-japans-future-generations-of-diversity-if-done-wrong-educating-about-japanese-culture-and-society-could-do-more-harm-than/

Like it or not, Japan’s internationalization is happening.  There are fewer Japanese and more foreigners than ever.  In 2022, the population of Japanese citizens dropped below the 125 million mark for the first time in Japan’s modern era, while the registered Non-Japanese (NJ) population reached a record high at over 3 million, or 2.4% of the total population.

That can only grow.  Even if the NJ population numerically stayed the same as it is now, its percentage of the total population will still rise due to Japan’s below-replacement birthrates.  But the NJ population will not stay the same — the economics of Japan’s aging labor force is reaching the point where officials see the writing on the wall.  According to a recent Kyodo News survey, a whopping 86% of Japan’s municipalities want more NJ workers to do the jobs and save their senescent cities from extinction. 

All of these figures do not, of course, include all the multicultural and multiethnic children already in Japan with diverse identities and backgrounds — routinely ignored because Japan’s Census does not measure for ethnicity. So if anything, Japan’s internationalization is grossly underestimated.

TEACH THE CHILDREN WELL

The front line of this trend is Japan’s education system, where the children of immigrants make an immediate and urgent impact on society. This is not news. For more than a quarter century, local governments have begged for enhanced services to help their residents with language and acculturation barriers assimilate into their schools and communities. The national government has basically ignored them.

But we are seeing some progress. Multilingual manuals about local customs and rules have long been issued by governments and civil society, including some helpful training videos to help explain elementary school rules and cultural practices in simpler Japanese. A good example was produced by students at Wakayama University and featured in the Mainichi last year.

This is highly laudable. But a point of caution: This isn’t just a matter of telling all Newcomers to “Do as the Romans do.” Without mindful production of teaching materials grounded in solid social science, cultural education could have the opposite effect: Solidifying stereotypes, entrenching prejudice, and making the perceived newcomer feel like a perpetually subordinated outsider.

Consider some bad habits that are the default mode:

One is systemic — the tendency towards stereotyping within language teaching itself. I recall my French language textbooks introducing “French things” (petit pan, grande pan, etc.) as something all French people ate. No mention, say, of couscous, or other ethnic but Francophone cuisines. Or for that matter of other Francophone people. All French people in my textbooks were white, which simply didn’t reflect reality.

To the untrained eye, that meant that whatever doesn’t fit a textbook image of “Frenchness” wasn’t seen as “French.” It put up artificial walls between peoples simply out of habit or convenience. That’s because basic language training necessarily tends to overgeneralize about societies and boil them down to foundational language. But resorting to prototype omits developments in society, such as cultural diversity from international migration.

That’s why we need trained eyes to avoids stereotyping. Let social scientists, not just linguists or untrained do-gooders, also have input into the learning process.

But there are also some bad habits that are intrinsic to Japan, easily seen when even the most educated people teach Japanese culture…

BEWARE “UNIQUE JAPAN”

Consider the narrative focus on “Japanese uniqueness,” as in, “only Japan has this,” for just about anything worthy of portraying as “Japanese.”  For example, I’ve seen educational materials claiming that enjoying four seasons and eating octopus are “uniquely Japanese.”.  Calamari, anyone?

One problem with the “uniqueness trope” is that it prioritizes differences over similarities.  This is the natural outcome of humanities as a field seeing culture as a constellation of contrasts.  Anything not remarkable or dramatic enough to cause “culture shock” doesn’t seem to be all that worthy of study.

Yet no matter what, people are far more similar than they are different (start with the fact that we are carbon-based mammals and work up).  And by portraying even the most mundane things (such as using chopsticks, taking off your shoes at the doorway, or sorting your garbage) as some kind of cultural minefield only serves to make study of other societies unduly formidable and anal-retentive.  

So focus on practical goals.  Give them the right words to accomplish the tasks and things will flow from there.

The other problem with fixating on difference to the point of “uniqueness” is that it encourages ascription and exclusion.  Anything deviating from the portrayed image of “Japaneseness” automatically becomes “foreign.”  

Consider the political outcomes of this.  Let’s say you have a suggestion for how things could be done better, but alas, you’re a foreigner?  Too bad.  It won’t work in Japan because we are unique and not like any other foreign country and we do things differently.  Foreign things must automatically be different or they wouldn’t be foreign.  

But what if a Japanese suggests the same thing?  Well, we can’t accept that either.  Obviously it’s still not the norm, because if it were, you wouldn’t be suggesting a change.  

Either way, the door is slammed on social change.  Eliminating the possibility of any cultural overlap reinforces the “us versus them” mindset and feeds directly into social othering, all of which are counterproductive to societies evolving.

“WE JAPANESE”

Another problem is portraying Japan as a monolith.  Guidebooks on Japan tend to represent it as a one-size-fits-all experience, and that “Japanese behavior” is predictable down to topic sentences without exception:  “We Japanese think or behave this way.”  Switch on the TV (especially NHK World) and you’ll see that narrative reinforced daily.  

That’s just stereotyping all over again, and it ignores all the regional differences that plainly exist once you get to know Japan as individuals, regions, dialects, and local mores.

Whenever I get asked to say something about Japan, especially by people who want to go there and experience it for themselves (which I always heartily encourage), I always add the caveat that, “Your mileage may vary, depending on how you’re perceived.”  If I were shorter, darker-haired or -skinned, female or non-binary, younger or older etc., my experience of interactions with Japanese society would differ.  

Teaching people about life in Japan has to incorporate the inevitability of diversity and exception.  There are just so many Japans out there.

The knock-on ill-effect of portraying all Japanese as being a certain way (including physical appearance) means that those who aren’t are not “real Japanese.”  

This feeds directly into teaching the students and future residents of Japan that in the end they don’t really belong here.  Even if they learn the rules, they never be part of the group that makes the rules.  

Why do you think so few of the Non-Japanese on Caregiver Visas who underwent Japan’s very difficult nursing program stayed on afterwards?  Because they were only trained to work, not belong to the guild that trained them, or ever assimilate and become Japanese.

“YOU FOREIGNERS”

One final problem to be aware of is that teachers and students should not assume the mantle of what I call “Cultural Ambassadors.”  Being told that “Japan is this way” and “How is it in your society?”  As if they as individuals could possibly represent whole societies with any real accuracy.  After all, being an ambassador takes very specific training in social science, including diplomacy, cultural representation, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

The problem with untrained “do-gooders” indulging in cultural education, and “culture vultures” trying to be helpful and “taking foreigners under their wing,” is that they’re generally not mindful of what they’re doing.  They’re often not trying to be a friend on your terms.  They’re often studying you like an animal in a zoo or a protozoan in a Petri dish, treating you like a pet or a means to an end.  

How many failed relationships and marriages have resulted from people glomming onto you because they were “Gaijin Groupies”?  They liked you as in idea more than you as an individual.

Let’s not let cultural education at the compulsory education level fall into these bad habits.

SO WHAT DO DO?

A lot of the tweaks are simple.  Make sure that language generalizing about Japan allows for exceptions.  “Some Japanese… most Japanese… almost all Japanese.”  

But some educational materials must show some awareness of the politics of inclusivity.  Make sure that people of diversity are also included in textbook perceptions of the Self, as a part of Japanese society.  That if they learn the rules and assimilate, that they too can have a role in being part of the process of rule creation.

Also, be aware that there are always politics behind any cultural training.  Make sure that the “How-Tos” don’t overstep their bounds.  Focus on the rules and how to follow them, and avoid going beyond that to demand people give up their power and become obedient “Model Minorities.”  

How to do that?  See them as individuals here for good trying to learn the ropes.  Help them become residents of Japan, if not colleagues and friends.  Don’t treat them something temporary, as if they are a rare bird with remarkable plumage that magically alighted on your windowsill, here only for an instant and gone tomorrow.  

Simply put, show some real empathy.  What would you want to know if you were moving into a new society and trying to fit in?  Treat Newcomers and neophytes as you would like to be treated.  Sounds obvious to say, but all sorts of bad habits get in the way.

ENDS

======================
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My SNA col 48: “Visible Minorities: Citizenship and Authoritarian Racism”, on how conservative movements worldwide are using racist “real citizens” tropes to reserve power for themselves and create minoritarian governments (Aug 22, 2023)

mytest

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Visible Minorities: Citizenship and Authoritarian Racism
Shingetsu News Agency, August 21, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/08/21/visible-minorities-citizenship-and-authoritarian-racism/

Subtitle: Authoritarians are once again trying to racialize citizenship. In Asia, that’s quite normal. The problem is that conservative movements worldwide are similarly trying to shore up their dwindling popularity by undemocratically disenfranchising the very immigrants they had once invited over.

SNA (Tokyo) — News Item: On August 1, 2023, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia, tweeted his thoughts on multiracial immigration: “It is normal for migrants wishing to become citizens of any country to identify themselves linguistically and culturally with the definitive people of their adopted country. They would break off and reject their links with their countries of origin. Certainly, the children and grandchildren of the new citizens would have forgotten their previous languages and culture.”

https://twitter.com/chedetofficial/status/1686205569806536704

This tweet from a world opinion leader isn’t just wrong-headed, it’s dangerous.

Not only is it trying to disenfranchise entire peoples through racialized attitudes towards citizenship, it’s actually threatening democracy itself.

Can’t see it? You’re not alone. The lack of public outcry is part of the problem. I put this down to a world largely untrained in civics. Racialized attitudes towards immigration and citizenship are normal in Asia, and conservatives worldwide are trying to popularize them in their own societies too. Citizenship is the gateway to political enfranchisement in society, and messing with it means reviving old racist policies all over again.

Let me explain from the perspective of a political scientist.

First, it’s surprisingly difficult to get people to see Dr. Mahathir’s tweet for what it is: racist hate speech.

It would be nice if people could see the long-term implications of this proposal without a long, elaborate explanation. But many people dismiss political science as a science at all, one that develops a skill set and a trained eye. Instead, they throw up their hands and see any political opinion as fair dinkum, or too complicated to deal with due to freedom of speech. That blinds them to the fact that Dr. Mahathir is floating a policy trial balloon to willfully exclude people.

Consider the practical application of this proposal: newcomer residents (and their Visible Minority children) must prove their loyalty to a country by giving up the multicultural and multiethnic sides of themselves.

This isn’t just a dick move by some politician taking political pot shots by saying, “You come here, you speak our language.” When Dr. Mahathir demands people become “full Malay” (with arbitrary goalposts determined, naturally, by Malays), that’s a pretty convenient way to keep all the power in the family.

Then we get to the historical revisionism…

Rest of the article at
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/08/21/visible-minorities-citizenship-and-authoritarian-racism/

======================
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Mainichi: “UK won’t extradite man over Tokyo jewelry heist, cites Japan’s human rights record”. Looks like Japan’s reputation for “hostage justice” is gaining ground

mytest

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Hi Blog. Looks like Japan’s reputation for human rights abuses under its “Hostage Justice” criminal procedure is finally being recognized in legal circles overseas. Carlos Ghosn is no doubt having the last laugh. (Just wait until the latest documentary on his case comes out in a couple of weeks on Apple TV–in addition to this one, this one, and this one). Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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UK won’t extradite man over Tokyo jewelry heist, cites Japan’s human rights record
August 12, 2023 (Mainichi Japan) Courtesy of Niklas and MMT
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20230812/p2g/00m/0in/019000c

LONDON (Kyodo) — A British court has ruled that one of three men detained over his alleged involvement in a 2015 jewelry robbery at a luxury store in central Tokyo will not be extradited to Japan, citing concerns over the country’s human rights record.

Friday’s decision not to extradite Joe Chappell, who is currently on bail, was based on the grounds that the Japanese authorities could not provide “sufficient assurances” that he would be treated in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The three men — Chappell, Daniel Kelly and Kaine Wright — left Japan two days after the heist, which netted 106 million yen ($731,000) worth of jewelry. They were put on an international wanted list by Japanese police through Interpol.

Chappell’s defense team has expressed concerns that if extradited, he might be made to confess under duress. Japan has argued that police interrogations in principle are recorded.

At a hearing earlier this year, British authorities asked the Japanese government to ensure his detention complies with the convention, particularly on provisions regarding prohibition of torture and the right to a fair trial.

Japan currently only has extradition treaties with the United States and South Korea. In the absence of an extradition treaty, the country where a crime was committed usually asks a suspect’s home country to prosecute.

The three are suspected of taking 46 pieces of jewelry, including rings and pendants after punching a male security guard and breaking display cases at a Harry Winston store in the Omotesando Hills commercial complex in Shibuya Ward on the night of Nov. 20, 2015.

The court has yet to rule on whether to extradite the other two, Kelly and Wright.

Japanese authorities have 14 days to appeal the decision, and another hearing will take place later this month to determine whether the case will continue. ENDS

======================
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Kyodo: “Japanese population falls in all 47 prefectures for first time”. Actually, untrue, even according to the article itself. Once again, Japan’s exclusionary population tallies are only for “Japanese nationals”, not all people living in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  One thing keeping me from commenting more frequently is the pressure I put on myself to write an essay before getting to the news article in question.  I’m going to do less of that in future; just briefly commenting and then getting to the article/issue in question.

The point of this post is to demonstrate some more Embedded Racism that is normalized in Japan’s media and public policy. In its official population tallies, Japan will only count “Japanese nationals” as actual people living in Japan.  Foreigners are mentioned in the Kyodo News article below, yes, but look how things are worded in it.  I’ve underlined the questionable bits.

Again, this is normal in Japan’s population tallies, even after more than 10 years since the local registry reforms began including foreign residents on its juuminhyou Registry Certificates.  It’s a highly questionable practice in terms of accurate demographics and social science, not to mention disrespectful of all the contributions foreign residents make.

Debito.org says that anyone registered as a resident in Japan should get counted as a part of the population of Japan.  No walls or caveats.  Little reforms like these can start now to normalize no distinctions and cost no tax money.  It’s just a matter of considering NJ as fellow human beings living lives in Japan like everyone else.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Japanese population falls in all 47 prefectures for first time

The population of Japanese nationals fell 801,000 in 2022 from a year earlier to 122,423,038, marking the largest drop since the survey began in 1968, government data showed Wednesday.

Japan Times/Kyodo News, July 26, 2023

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/07/26/national/japan-population-fall/

The population of Japanese nationals fell 801,000 in 2022 from a year earlier to 122,423,038, marking the largest drop since the survey began in 1968, government data showed Wednesday. | BLOOMBERG
KYODO

The population of Japanese nationals fell 801,000 in 2022 from a year earlier to 122,423,038, marking the largest drop and the first time all 47 prefectures have seen a decline since the survey began in 1968, government data showed Wednesday.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, Japan’s population, including foreign residents, stood at 125,416,877, down around 511,000 from a year earlier, according to a demographics survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The trend indicates an urgent need for Japan to develop measures to address the declining birthrate and improve employment opportunities for youth and women in regional areas. [NB:  Not immigration.]

While Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has called for implementing “unprecedented” measures to boost the birthrate in a last-ditch effort to arrest population decline by 2030, doubts persist about whether such initiatives, which are mostly extensions of existing policies, will be effective.

Japanese nationals declined for the 14th consecutive year in 2022, with a record low of 772,000 births in Japan significantly exceeded by a record high 1.57 million deaths.

Nationals working or studying abroad accounted for a decline of around 7,000 of the population.

The number of Japanese nationals in Okinawa, which had been an outlier the previous year, shrank for first time since comparable data was made available in 1973, the data showed.

The foreign population rose for the first time in three years by around 289,000 to 2,993,839 in the reporting year, as the relaxation of strict COVID-19 border controls facilitated the return of international students and technical interns. [NB: Temporary people, not residents.]

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates that foreign nationals will make up 10% of the population by 2070, with some local governments already engaged in efforts to attract professional talent from Asia.

By prefecture, only Tokyo saw an overall population increase due to the high influx of foreigners to the capital, while Akita Prefecture saw the largest population decrease at 1.65%.

[Note original Kyodo headline saying all prefecture populations fell.  Again, foreigners don’t count.]

Among municipalities, 92.4% saw a decrease in the population of Japanese nationals, while 7.6% experienced an increase.

Those age 14 and under accounted for 11.82% of the Japanese population, falling by 0.18 percentage point from the previous year, while people age 65 and over increased by 0.15 point to 29.15%.

The working population, or people between 15 and 64, rose by 0.03 point to 59.03% of the overall population.

ENDS
======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities column 47: “The Reverse Culture Shock of Leaving Japan” (July 25, 2023), with some pointers on how to resettle and reassimilate overseas despite all the things you might miss about Japan

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The Reverse Culture Shock of Leaving Japan

Caption: It’s tough to leave Japan when there’s so much to like and miss. But there’s also things to like and miss elsewhere, so it’s a matter of being self-aware about what you like.

By Debito Arudou.  Shingetsu News Agency, July 25, 2023.

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/07/24/reverse-culture-shock-of-leaving-japan/.

SNA Editor Michael Penn is now doing SNA from the United States. Inspired by his big move, my previous column was about my leaving Japan in middle age, where I suggested readers decide whether or not to be a lifer in Japan by age 40. Accordingly, this column will talk about establishing a new life outside Japan.

I’ll open with a big caveat: These are my thoughts as a White guy born in America who spent a quarter century in Japan, half of it as a naturalized Japanese citizen, who eventually moved back. Readers returning to a different country of birth, or moving to a different third country altogether, may of course have different experiences. In my personal and anecdotal observations below, I’ll try to generalize enough for everyone but ground them in culturally specific examples. Keep the appropriate pinches of salt handy.

Soft Landings?

The biggest culture shock I felt after Japan was right after I arrived overseas. In the United States, for example, many big airport hubs are dirty, run-down, and relatively unpredictable compared to their Japanese counterparts. The waiting areas in particular feel like bus stations. Facilities are sometimes ill-maintained, instructions to your connecting flights or ground transit often monolingual and poorly signposted, ground staff often inattentive and inaccessible, and the food… well, it’s “airport food,” enough said. I quickly missed Japan’s clean, efficient, and plentiful public transportation that follows a schedule, and the restaurant fare that actually looks like the picture on the menu.

My theory is that Japan does travel hubs better because its international reputation is at stake. You can’t let the Gaijin tourists go home with a sour image of us! So signs are multilingual, maps are clear, and ground staff at least take pains to wave you in the right direction. In contrast, the US government seems relatively indifferent to tourists: “You’re obviously here because we are #1 and do things better than anybody—so no need to try harder to impress you.”

This initial culture shock starts fading once you’ve had a good night sleep and enjoy a few familiar things: Larger hotel rooms. Comfort foods like a thick steak with A1 Sauce or a spiral-cut ham hock. An apple pie that actually has more than one apple in it. Supermarkets full of cereals, dozens of flavors of canned soups, bulk goods, and cheap rice and vegetables. News media that is an absorbing read not just because it’s in your native language, but because the topics are interesting! Procuring a car so you can merge into society like everyone else.

But things will still grate for awhile: Being forced to tip. Dirty public restrooms that seem to be the norm, not the exception. Bureaucrats who seem to have little personal dedication to a job well done. Political discourse more concerned with riling you up than with solving problems. The din of people on cellphones or kids having public meltdowns that you can’t shut out because they’re speaking in your native tongue. And the biggest worry: Getting sick or injured and having to deal with American healthcare! It’s worse with family in tow, listening to their grumbles about future uncertainties and cultural differences and feeling helpless to offer quick fixes. During this purgatory period of constant irritability, the grass will always seem greener elsewhere.

Things Settle Down as You Settle Down

It takes months, but resettlement does happen. Things that you miss about Japan eventually get overwritten by new routines which you establish and things feel more like home.

Problem is, “home” will probably not be as you remember.

For me, after a quarter-century away, my country of birth had moved on and I felt like a foreigner here too. I had trouble pronouncing “ciabatta,” “pilates,” or the fast-food chain “Chipotle.” I had never watched cultural touchstones like Friends or Seinfeld, and was about twenty seasons behind on The Simpsons. I still can’t tell the difference between Techno, House, and Hip-Hop. I still say “Waikiki,” “karaoke” and “tiramisu” with a Japanese accent. And nothing in English quite captures the communally cathartic convenience of muttering Japanese words like baka! and mendokusai!

But that dislocation is softened when you rediscover things you really appreciate because you were so long without them: aspirin; dishwashers and in-sink garbage disposals; clothes washers and dryers that actually do their jobs; apartments that have real kitchens and balconies you can actually sit out on; houses with yards; trees that are allowed to grow without being culled like bonsai by the city government; full weekends without work; relaxed summers; week-long vacations without guilt; freeways that are actually free; speed limits that aren’t enforced by beeping speedometers in your car; traffic lights that sense when cars are waiting; right-on-red rules at intersections; beaches that don’t close down at particular times of the year just because it’s tradition; and the freedom of road trips.

Eventually it dawns on you why Japan never quite felt like “home”: the constant reminders of your outsider status; feeling constantly watched because you stand out; old ladies approaching you in the supermarket to peer into your shopping basket; obnoxious schoolchildren shouting English at you from the safety of a group; some businesses and rental agencies refusing you service just because the manager or landlord has a “thing” about foreigners.

That’s just what happened to me, but society as a whole just seemed to behave wrongheadedly at time.

People kept falling for those media-generated scares leading to egg and butter shortages every few years. Friends realized that their marriages were running aground because their partner was suddenly preaching the virtues of “sexless couples.” There is the frustration of never being able to have a “clearing the air” conversation because the default is to “put a lid on smelly things.” Annoying too is the “bureaucrats know best” of Japan’s “nanny-state” not only producing a shrugging, apathetic shikata ga nai public, but also dismissing any suggestion for how things might be done better. If you get an answer at all, it will most likely be a glib “there is no precedent for it, and besides this is Japan and you’re a foreigner.”

Ultimately, I realized my biggest issue in Japan was the relative lack of life choices. For example, in the United States and many other societies, if you wish to live in a more liberal environment, you can move to a liberal city. You can find “your people” and partake in self-sufficient communities celebrating alternative lifestyles, with voting blocs to match.

In Japan, however, the top-down structure of government and the ascription pressures of Japanese culture mean deviations from the norm are flattened, disenfranchised, and made secretive. It’s the “nail sticking out getting hammered down” and all that.

That’s why secret worlds abound in Japan. They are wonderful to partake in but they never become mainstream or normal. By definition, they’re secret. You can only inhabit them on a temporary basis. Then, at daybreak, you have to get serious and get back to work.

This goes double for foreigners and people who look “foreign.” For them to feel part of a community in Japan, they have to resort to a foreign enclave where by definition they do not belong.

The Lessons Learned

I believe the trick to straddling cultures is to inhabit what you like. I realized that there are a small number of things about Japan which I really like, but a large number of little things in Japan that I simply could not stand. On the other hand, there are a small number of things in the United States that I simply cannot stand, but a lot more little things I like. Of the two, the latter provides me with a lifestyle more attuned to my tastes.

Again, your own preferences may vary, but in any case be self-aware about what you like, and choose to partake in the best elements of each society and culture. Fly between cultures when you need to.

I enjoy Japan because I don’t need a car, a menu, or a can of pepper spray to enjoy it. I enjoy the United States because I can be left alone.

Ultimately, that’s the problem with being an international traveler. No matter where you are, you’re aware that nowhere by itself is perfectly suited to your needs. Something is always better someplace else. You know because you’ve experienced it. So that’s why you go where you can enjoy yourself until you get your fill.

As Michael Penn settles into his new lifestyle in a rural American town, may he use his knowledge of what he likes in Japan and America to fit in and flit between.

Archived at SNA at

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/07/24/reverse-culture-shock-of-leaving-japan/

======================
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 25, 2023: THE FUTURE OF DEBITO.ORG

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 25, 2023: THE FUTURE OF DEBITO.ORG

Hello Debito.org Newsletter Readers. Let me open with an update on where we are:

We are close to thirty years since Debito.org came in to being as an information site for life and human rights in Japan. It will continue to exist for as long as I live and breathe, if not beyond. That said, I’m finding myself more and more distant from Japan these days both in the physical and professional senses. I now have lived outside of Japan for several years teaching Political Science at the university level. Consequently I am finding Japan these days, as it fades into a relative backwater geopolitically, increasingly a minor example in my research interests, which revolve around the state of democracy vs. authoritarianism worldwide.

But I do have some articles to share, and I wanted to ground them in this context above before I get to the TOC:

Table of Contents:
//////////////////////////////////
1) My SNA Visible Minorities 46: “Visible Minorities: Departing Japan at Middle Age” (May 15, 2023), where I make the case for deciding whether you’re a “lifer” in Japan by age 40.

2) My SNA Visible Minorities column 47: “The Reverse Culture Shock of Leaving Japan”, with some pointers of how to resettle and reassimilate overseas despite all the things you might miss about Japan

3) BLOG BIZ: Thoughts about the future of Debito.org: What’s next?
//////////////////////////////////

By Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter (for as long as that exists too) @arudoudebito)
Debito.org Newsletter are as always freely forwardable

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

1) My SNA Visible Minorities 46: “Visible Minorities: Departing Japan at Middle Age” (May 15, 2023), where I make the case for deciding whether you’re a “lifer” in Japan by age 40.

Excerpt: This column offers a frank assessment of living your life out in Japan as an immigrant. It of course can be done, but most of you will find that even after decades swimming against the current in terms of legal status and social acceptance, you will get no commensurate reward after all your efforts. In fact, I found that life opportunities dwindle as you age in Japan, and you get locked into a dreary, impoverished lifestyle like most other elderly here. If you think you can avoid this situation, power to you, but I suggest you make your decision to stay permanently or not by age 40. Good luck.

I lived in Japan for 24 years, married and had kids, became tenured faculty at a university, bought land, built a house, and learned the language and culture well enough to write books in Japanese and take out Japanese citizenship. In terms of trying to assimilate into Japan, I don’t think there’s a lot more I could have done. I was an ideal immigrant. But then, like Editor Michael Penn at the Shingetsu News Agency, I too left Japan.

That’s both a pity and, in my case, an inevitability. Japan should be trying harder to keep people like us. It really doesn’t. The longer you’re in Japan, the more your opportunities dwindle. Let’s first talk about the natural obstacles to people staying on, starting with how difficult it is to keep a visa…

Full article with comments archived at
https://www.debito.org/?p=17259

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

2) My SNA Visible Minorities column 47: “The Reverse Culture Shock of Leaving Japan” (July 25, 2023), with some pointers of how to resettle and reassimilate overseas despite all the things you might miss about Japan

Excerpt: SNA Editor Michael Penn is now doing SNA from the United States. Inspired by his big move, my previous column was about my leaving Japan in middle age, where I suggested readers decide whether or not to be a lifer in Japan by age 40. Accordingly, this column will talk about establishing a new life outside Japan…

The biggest culture shock I felt after Japan was right after I arrived overseas. In the United States, for example, many big airport hubs are dirty, run-down, and relatively unpredictable compared to their Japanese counterparts. The waiting areas in particular feel like bus stations. Facilities are sometimes ill-maintained, instructions to your connecting flights or ground transit often monolingual and poorly signposted, ground staff often inattentive and inaccessible, and the food… well, it’s “airport food,” enough said. I quickly missed Japan’s clean, efficient, and plentiful public transportation that follows a schedule, and the restaurant fare that actually looks like the picture on the menu…

This initial culture shock starts fading once you’ve had a good night sleep and enjoy a few familiar things: Larger hotel rooms. Comfort foods like a thick steak with A1 Sauce or a spiral-cut ham hock. An apple pie that actually has more than one apple in it. Supermarkets full of cereals, dozens of flavors of canned soups, bulk goods, and cheap rice and vegetables. News media that is an absorbing read not just because it’s in your native language, but because the topics are interesting! Procuring a car so you can merge into society like everyone else.

But things will still grate for awhile: Being forced to tip. Dirty public restrooms that seem to be the norm, not the exception. Bureaucrats who seem to have little personal dedication to a job well done. Political discourse more concerned with riling you up than with solving problems. The din of people on cellphones or kids having public meltdowns that you can’t shut out because they’re speaking in your native tongue. And the biggest worry: Getting sick or injured and having to deal with American healthcare! It’s worse with family in tow, listening to their grumbles about future uncertainties and cultural differences and feeling helpless to offer quick fixes. During this purgatory period of constant irritability, the grass will always seem greener elsewhere.

It takes months, but resettlement will happen. Things that you miss about Japan eventually get overwritten by routines you establish as things feel more like home…

Link to the full article on SNA at
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/07/24/reverse-culture-shock-of-leaving-japan/

Anchor site for commentary at
https://www.debito.org/?p=17282

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

3) BLOG BIZ: Thoughts about the future of Debito.org: What’s next?

Hi Blog. I want to tell you a bit about what’s on my mind. I’ve been researching and commenting on Debito.org for nearly thirty years. I’m not tired of writing, but my writing here has become monthly because, in terms of the urgency of commenting about Japan, I’m not really feeling it right now.

The issues I read about within Japan are usually insular, petty, and repetitive. And they are generally on topics I have commented on before. I’ve done the doctorate, written and updated my books multiple times, and said basically all I need to say about the state of discrimination and how to make a better life as an immigrant in Japan. My current job does not involve Japan at all, and my Japan skills are only personally useful when I’m actually in Japan. My interests have generally moved on to the geopolitical and on the state of democracy itself worldwide. That’s what I read about and teach about in my classes on a daily basis. Now I want to devote those energies to something more productive, such as my students and my retirement savings. In terms of profession I am, after all, a university instructor of Political Science first and an essayist/activist second. It’s time to focus on the professional side as I approach age 60 and my career enters my twilight years.

Not to worry, Debito.org as a blog and a searchable website resource on life and human rights in Japan, will stay up in perpetuity. I will continue to write monthly columns for the Shingetsu News Agency, and I will post excerpts on Debito.org. And I will of course continue to approve comments here on a regular basis. But would you be interested in my blogged thoughts even if they’re not about Japan?

More of my thoughts about where I am as a researcher and a commentator at
https://www.debito.org/?p=17262

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

A final word: This is not the final Debito.org Newsletter. Of course not. At last count this Newsletter has 7658 subscribers, and that’s a valuable resource built up over decades that deserves to be maintained. So, again, if you are interested in my writings that are NOT specifically Japan-related, please let me know at debito@debito.org, and I will start putting them in these Newsletters as well.

Thank you for reading Debito.org for all these years. Sincerely, Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 25, 2023 ENDS

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BLOG BIZ: Thoughts about the future of Debito.org: What’s next?

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hello Debito.org Readers,

Thanks for reading this blog for now nearly thirty years. I want to tell you what’s on my mind nowadays regarding it.

As seen in my previous SNA column on having a future in Japan as an elderly immigrant, I came to the conclusion that it’s probably better to decide if you’re a lifer in Japan by age 40, and optimally split your time between two countries as you top up and totalize your retirement pensions (so you can avoid becoming that elderly Japanese (or NJ) living your twilight years in penury.)

But it’s been several years since I stopped living permanently in Japan.  Like many old Japan Hands I mentioned in my SNA essay above, I love coming back for a visit and to see people and places, and Japan’s tourism (especially for people who can read, write, and speak Japanese) is for the most part very, very good.  But similar to authors and analysts such as James Fallows, Japan has receded in my consciousness — as Japan has itself receded into an Asian backwater.  The issues I read about within Japan are usually insular, petty, and repetitive.  And they are generally on topics I have commented on before.  I’ve done the doctorate, written and updated my books multiple times, and said basically all I need to say about the state of discrimination and how to make a better life as an immigrant in Japan.  My current job does not involve Japan at all, and my Japan skills are only personally useful when I’m actually in Japan.  My interests have generally moved on to the geopolitical and on the state of democracy itself worldwide.  That’s what I read about and teach about in my classes on a daily basis.

I really don’t have the time or that much interest to expound further on Japan.  So if somebody else wants to join in and take up the cause of equality for NJ and Visible Minorities in Japan, please feel free.  (They can even write guest essays for Debito.org, with their authorship of course duly noted if they want.  This venue need not go to waste.) I’ve been at it here, as I said, for nearly thirty years.  I’m not tired of writing.  I’m just devoting my energies to my students and saving up for retirement.

Would readers of Debito.org be interested in my blogged thoughts even if they’re not about Japan?

Not to worry, Debito.org as a blog and a searchable website resource on life and human rights in Japan will stay up in perpetuity, as people still reference it daily.  I will continue to write monthly columns for the Shingetsu News Agency and post excerpts on Debito.org.  (I’m just taking this June off while SNA Editor Michael Penn moves his offices overseas.)  And I will of course continue to approve comments here on a regular basis.

But in terms of the urgency of commenting about Japan, I’m not really feeling it right now, and want to devote those energies to something more productive, especially for my students.  In terms of profession I am, after all, a university instructor of Political Science first and an essayist/activist second.

Debito.org Readers, what do you think? Would you be interested in my blogged thoughts even if they’re not about Japan?

Sincerely, Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

Instructor of Political Science and Debito.org Website Manager

My SNA Visible Minorities 46: “Visible Minorities: Departing Japan at Middle Age” (May 15, 2023)

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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“LIKE” US on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/debitoorg
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Hi Blog. My latest column offers a frank assessment of living your life out in Japan as an immigrant. It of course can be done, but most of you will find that even after decades swimming against the current in terms of legal status and social acceptance, you will get no commensurate reward after all your efforts.  In fact, I found that life opportunities dwindle as you age in Japan, and you get locked into a dreary, impoverished lifestyle like most other elderly here. If you think you can avoid this situation, power to you, but I suggest you make your decision to stay permanently or not by age 40.  Good luck.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Visible Minorities: Departing Japan at Middle Age
MAY 15, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/05/15/visible-minorities-departing-japan-at-middle-age/

SNA (Tokyo) — As you have probably have heard, SNA President Michael Penn will be moving his operations overseas. He’s leaving Japan. At his age, that’s probably a good idea. I speak from experience.

I came to Japan during the “Bubble Years” of the 1980s, when Japan was ascendant upon the world stage and buying everything in sight. Money orgiastically sloshed around the economy.

Finding work was pretty easy. Lots of Japanese companies were trying to “internationalize” by hiring token foreign staff who were looking for an international experience. Or, if being a corporate drone wasn’t your thing, you could teach English for about US$100 an hour. It was one great big party. I came over, fell in love with the language and a girl, and decided to make a go of it here.

It was a pretty good go. I lived in Japan for 24 years, married and had kids, became tenured faculty at a university, bought land, built a house, and learned the language and culture well enough to write books in Japanese and take out Japanese citizenship. In terms of trying to assimilate into Japan, I don’t think there’s a lot more I could have done. I was an ideal immigrant.

But then, like Michael, I too left Japan. That’s both a pity and, in my case, an inevitability.

Japan should be trying harder to keep people like us. It really doesn’t. The longer you’re in Japan, the more your opportunities dwindle.

Opportunities Denied

Let’s first talk about the natural obstacles to people staying on, starting with how difficult it is to keep a visa.

Unless you marry (and stay married to) a Japanese, it’s quite difficult for foreigners to control their own professional lives in Japan. Becoming a salaryman is one thing, where you can work until you drop, but promotion is tougher for foreigners, and they are the first ones laid off in any economic downturn. Moreover, the types of jobs you can take are mostly “foreigner” jobs in certain industries.

So how about starting your own business in Japan? It can happen, and there are a few successful entrepreneurs. But I’ve seen many, many more failures. Some were dragged down by onerous requirements such as expensive shareholder investment and being forced to hire Japanese staff. Others got tripped up either by mandarin rigmarole that is designed more for the bureaucrats’ convenience than yours, or by pedantic officials who are out to get you, finding any mistake in your paperwork so they can reflexively revert to the “culture of no.”

You’re better off establishing a headquarters overseas and setting up a branch in Japan than registering a company in Japan proper. But if you do that, suspicion is triggered in the Immigration Bureau and you face even more visa rigmarole.

That’s all before we get to how Japan has toughened up its visa requirements over the years.

Compared to when I first arrived, it’s harder to graduate from a three-month visa to a one-year; and so is getting a three-year and Permanent Residency, especially for people of color or from developing countries. The assumption is that people from poor countries are only in Japan for the money, not to positively contribute to Japanese society as a resident and taxpayer like everyone else.

In any case, the mandarins’ overall attitude is that foreigners must prove themselves worthy of the honor of staying in Japan. Japan’s graveyard of defunct visa statuses, discontinued because they had qualifications so ludicrous that few people applied, reflects that.

The clearest indication that Japan really doesn’t want us to stay is the lack of an official immigration policy, an official Ministry of Immigration, or other governmental organs at the national level to help foreigners become Japanese. Politicians have repeatedly said that they want foreigners to come work for awhile but not stay on. Take them at their word.

Nevertheless, You Persisted

But let’s say you have satisfied all these requirements and gained Permanent Residency or even Japanese citizenship. What do you get for after all that effort? Not enough.

You start realizing this when you hit middle age in Japan. Around 40 I could see where I had been and where I was heading, and it looked pretty bleak.

This is because I was seeing how old people actually lived in Japan. Yes, there are great networks for them to be active both physically and mentally, including mountain climbing, gateball, mahjong, or go boardgames. Japan’s medical system is very good, especially compared to, for example, the hellscape that is US healthcare. Of course there’s good food and drink to be had everywhere.

That might be satisfactory if you’re a Japanese old fart. As a foreign old fart, you’re stuck in treadmill conversations with people who have mostly lived for work and often don’t have many interests beyond it. If they are educated, they’ll often see you as a cultural curiosity to be studied, or as a basis of comparison to sharpen their predispositions informed by the “we Japanese” superiority complexes.

If you can psychologically handle a life where your friends are mostly insular and conservative, enjoy. If not, you’re going to be lonely.

Chances are you’re also going to be poor. The average payout for the Japanese pension, according to Reuters in 2019, is about 150,000 yen per month. That might cover rent and leave enough for a comfortable lifestyle in many of Japan’s dying countryside towns, but not in the major cities.

This should not have come as any surprise. Even during the Bubble Years Japan’s elderly were poor, and were being sent overseas to “silver zone” enclaves so their yen could go farther with the exchange rates.

But now that the value of the yen is dropping, that has all slipped away. Forget traveling much, especially overseas, unless you have additional savings or means of your own. It’s highly likely you’ll find yourself stuck in Japan.

This situation will not improve, because Japan has ignored its demographic issues for decades. All the way back in 2000, both the United Nations and the Japanese government agreed that Japan’s aging society would soon become top-heavy with geriatrics with not enough young taxpayers paying into the pension.

The proposed solution–then, as now–was immigration. Foreigners were going to save Japan. But, again, the Japanese government assiduously declined to take us.

Policymakers clung to homogeneous-society narratives and stopgap measures like the exploitative “trainee” visa system, and watched pension contributions per capita dwindle. What is their solution now that the warnings from nearly a quarter-century ago proved accurate? Raise the retirement age to the late 60s and pay out less pension. We’ll probably see Japan’s retirement age raised to 70 before too long.

By the time you want to retire, you’ll get a pittance, or might not be expected to retire at all.

Twilight Years in Japan

Let’s say you’ve done better future planning than the Japanese government did, and you can live your middle and late age comfortably anywhere you wish. Why not spend your later middle age and twilight years in Japan?

Because, as I said above, the longer you’re in Japan the more your opportunities dwindle.

Let’s start with dealing with the inevitable “midlife crisis.” It’s highly likely your current job has become boring or gone sour. Often the younger workers aren’t happy with having a foreign senpai above them, and won’t treat you with the dignity and respect that was required of you when you were lower on the totem pole. Changing a job in Japan is culturally frowned upon. You’ll lose both salary and seniority. You’ll probably have to take what you can get, like everyone else.

Eventually all that’s left is the “make-work” jobs for seniors. Can you imagine wearing a uniform and flagging people past traffic cones? Sure, it’s nice to supplement your income and get out of the house, but it’s probably going to be boring at best, humiliating and a soft target for bullying at worst. Again, people aren’t going to forget that you’re a foreigner.

The fact is that geriatrics in Japan are expected to be impoverished, housebound, and satisfied with monotonous days full of television, drinking, and gateball. Sure, you might have your “forever home,” but you’re expected to die in it. You won’t get much money if you try to resell your house or other equity and expect to live on the proceeds, as only the land is worth anything. You can’t, for example, buy an RV and live the nomadic life of retirees on pensions in Western societies. You can only live like you’re expected to live.

Personally, I couldn’t take this encroaching monotony. Around the time I turned 45, I realized that the main reason I had loved life in Japan was the adventures–the curious and weird things that happened around me daily. But the more familiar I became with Japan, the adventures largely evaporated.

After more than twenty years in Japan, every day became Groundhog Day. I could sleepwalk through most conversations. I had to find diversions to alleviate the boredom; they no longer found me.

The fact is, unless a brick had fallen from the sky and brained me, I could predict what was going to happen from the morning when I woke up to the moment I went to bed. So I decided to leave.

What Happens If You Leave Japan?

Leaving Japan is also made into something difficult. You’re constantly reminded that if you ever depart for good, you’ll lose everything and have to start from zero, especially professionally.

A very sad discovery is that your Japan experiences don’t count for much in other countries, given that now China is the Asian regional power. Even if Japan had retained its luster, there were always people overseas with Japanese roots competing for your Japan-specialist job, and got it by arguing bald-facedly that foreigners can’t know as much as Japanese with “real Japanese blood.” The Japanese Only attitudes you see in Japan’s hiring practices are exported worldwide.

If you have a family in tow, it’s even tougher to leave. They’re especially scared by the Japanese media constantly rattling on about how dangerous life is overseas. If your kids are still in the Japanese school system, they’ll begrudge being uprooted too. They know that if they ever return to Japan, they’ll never be considered “Japanese” enough because they haven’t passed through the Japanese education system.

Coming to Japan was always a carefully baited hook–if you get past all the obstacles, you’ll find yourself trapped in a society where you’re not allowed to truly belong, yet are constantly expected to try.

Yet some people do leave, sometimes permanently, sometimes not.

People like Japan specialists Alex Kerr and Donald Keene regularly split their time between Japan and overseas. Authors Haruki Murakami lives permanently in Honolulu and Marie “spark joy” Kondo lives in Los Angeles.

Even famed Tale of Genji translator Edward G. Seidensticker departed Japan back in 1962, signing off with, “The Japanese are just like other people. They work hard to support their–but no. They are not like other people. They are infinitely more clannish, insular, parochial, and one owes it to one’s sense of self-respect to retain a feeling of outrage at the insularity. To have this sense of outrage go dull is to lose one’s will to communicate and that, I think, is death. So I am going home.”

Eventually Seidensticker went back on these words, living his life on both sides of the Pacific, dying in Tokyo in 2007 at age 86.

I too spend extended periods in Japan and am much happier (and prosperous) by having a foot in two countries. I can pick and choose the best of both societies when I want, and I think I’ve earned that option.

But I had to make a choice: I wouldn’t have been able to do that with Japan as my home base. Having a “totalization agreement” for both my pension systems helps too. I’m having to catch up with my pension contributions in my new tax home, but fortunately the opportunities are here for me to do so.

So if you’re thinking about staying in Japan permanently, I suggest you make the final decision by age 40. After that, you’ll be stuck in a rut in Japan. Then if you change your mind, you’re probably not going to make an easy transition back to your home country, as your friends and family themselves retire and die off. Fair warning.

Godspeed, Michael Penn. May you and SNA prosper more in another society than Japan would let you. ENDS

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 45: “Judges Strip Equal Protection from Naturalized Citizens”, on the unjust Aigi Country Club decision (Apr 24, 2023) (full text)

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Hi Blog.  My blog post from yesterday has become a full-blown column at the Shingetsu News Agency. Have a read, and lament for Japan’s future if horrible legal precedents like this are allowed to stand. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

//////////////////////////////////////////
Visible Minorities: Judges Strip Equal Protection from Naturalized Citizens
Shingetsu News Agency, April 24, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/04/24/visible-minorities-judges-strip-equal-protection-from-naturalized-citizens/

The website archiving and substantiating all of the claims below is at
https://www.debito.org/?p=17240

SNA (Tokyo) — It’s the next stage of evolution in Japan’s variant of racial discrimination: a naturalized Japanese citizen was last year denied membership at a golf course—explicitly for being a former foreigner. He sued. This month a district court in Mie Prefecture ruled that this was not an illegal act of discrimination.

You read that right: not illegal. Follow me down this rabbit hole.

Aigi Country Club in Kani city, Gifu Prefecture, refused a former Zainichi Korean with Japanese citizenship. Their justification, according to the Asahi Shinbun, was that “our club has a quota for foreign nationals and former foreign nationals who have become naturalized Japanese and restricts new memberships. We currently have no vacancies in that quota.”

In court, Aigi Country Club duplicitously denied outright racism by claiming that they refused him for more reasons than foreign roots. It didn’t matter. The judges acknowledged that the plaintiff was refused for being foreign and they still ruled against him. They accepted that this was an instance of discrimination, but it wasn’t enough discrimination.

The judges ruled that a golfing club by design is a “closed and private organization with strong personal ties among its members” and that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees “freedom of association.” In their reading, private groups are free to decide their membership criteria and, at any rate, playing golf is “not indispensable for social life.”

In sum, it wasn’t an instance of discrimination “beyond socially acceptable limits.”

Really?

Exclusionism is rampant at Japan’s golf courses. Last May the Asahi Shinbun provided an excellent overview of how Japan’s country clubs routinely refuse not only membership but also entry to foreign golfers. Some have even refused women. According to interviews, they have “nationality clauses” (i.e. Japanese Only rules) because “the atmosphere slightly changes when there are foreigners around.”

To them, these are just their rules, established long ago. In its case, the Aigi Country Club started in 1964. They won’t change without outside pressure, such as when the International Olympic Committee forced changes in a few Japanese clubs before they were permitted to host international competitions. Without such international scrutiny, they are content to preserve their discrimination in amber.

This Aigi ruling clearly empowers golf bigots to stay the course.

Legal Logic of the Ruling

There are two elements of the logic behind the ruling that deserve to be highlighted.

First is the “beyond socially acceptable limits” reasoning, which has been circulating for generations within Japan’s jurisprudence. It holds that some discrimination is inevitable (for example, separating bathrooms by gender). So as long as institutions or individuals don’t go beyond the “socially acceptable level” of discrimination, there is no legal sanction.

A problem with this approach is that “social acceptance” is determined entirely by the subjective impressions of individual judges. There is no hard data or social science involved. It’s all in the eyes of the judges.

The United Nations has repeatedly criticized Japan for this kind of reasoning (especially its legal corollary of “rational discrimination”).

In this case, even prior Japanese court precedent disagrees. In a similar golf club suit brought in 1995 by a Zainichi Korean plaintiff, the Tokyo District Court ruled that a denial of membership on the grounds of nationality was unconstitutional under Article 14—all people are equal under the law. The Tokyo court also previously dismissed some other bits of the Aigi decision—ruling that golf is a leisure activity and thus a necessary place to socialize. It also noted that, since golf memberships can be purchased on the market, they aren’t really all that exclusive.

Unfortunately, a separate lawsuit in 2001 by another Zainichi Korean against a golf course ruled against him, affirming the primacy of private corporations to choose their members, even if that includes excluding foreigners.

This brings us to the second big issue: the plaintiff in the Aigi case was not a foreigner.

What’s even the point of naturalizing and taking Japanese nationality if the legal status conveyed offers no equal protections?

We’ve already seen this occur within the Japan Sumo Association, which also limits the number of foreign wrestlers in sumo stables. Even if they become Japanese citizens, they are still counted as “foreigners.” Nobody has yet challenged this practice as unconstitutional.

The plaintiff in the Aigi Country Club Case effectively did challenge it, and yet the Aigi judges accepted the argument that Japanese citizens with foreign roots are not equally protected under the law. They will forever remain “Japanese” with an asterisk.

Open Season on Foreign Roots

If the Mie ruling stands, there will be nothing preventing–at least at the formal legal level–almost any private enterprise from putting up a “Members Only” sign and enforcing “nationality clauses.” Many institutions could conceivably argue for keeping memberships exclusive in order to “preserve the atmosphere” at their venues.

It’s not even unprecedented. During the 2002 World Cup, coordinated “Members Only” signs went up on restaurants and bars throughout Sapporo’s party district; other “Members Only” places like public bathhouses can be found on the Debito.org Rogues’ Gallery of “Japanese Only” Exclusionary Establishments. What’s next? Sports clubs? Hotels? Hospitals? Schools? In fact, all of these kinds of institutions have been found to possess formal and informal “Japanese Only” rules.

Thanks to the Aigi Country Club case, bigots are being offered stronger legal grounds to maintain and extend discrimination.

Naturally, this means that not only first generation immigrants, but also those born in Japan may discover that they are not equal under the law.

With all of Japan’s international marriages, there are hundreds of thousands of Japanese children with a foreign parent or relative. The ruling of Aigi Country Club case means that if some children “look foreign” and due to their presence the “atmosphere slightly changes,” then they can be excluded by organizations because it is “socially acceptable” to do so.

Of course, it is remarkably easy in many cases to spot any mudblood whose kin or relative has a katakana or odd kanji name. Through this ruling, children can be regarded as biologically radioactive and refusable. Citizenship will not protect them.

The Signposts Along the Way

Finally, let’s put things in a larger context. This decision is actually part of a broader trend eroding all civil protections for “foreigners” (however defined) within the Japanese judiciary.

Consider this arc of precedents:

1) The Ana Bortz case of 1998-1999 found that foreigners in Japan were protected by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) against being turned away by private enterprises open to the public (in this case a jewelry store). The court awarded Bortz ¥2 million.

2) The Otaru Hot Springs case of 1993-2005 found that two foreigners and one naturalized Japanese citizen (yours truly) were not allowed to be turned away from a private enterprise (in this case a public bathhouse). The courts eventually whittled the award down to ¥1 million yen each. However, the courts undermined the Bortz Case by ruling that, a) the CERD offered no actual protection against racial discrimination—it was merely a guideline without the force of law; and, b) racial discrimination did happen, but that was not necessarily illegal. Discrimination only becomes illegal when it goes “beyond socially acceptable limits.” Sound familiar? To cap things off, the Supreme Court also summarily dismissed the case as involving no constitutional protections—not even Article 14, which also explicitly forbids racial discrimination.

3) The Steve McGowan case of 2004-2006 undermined the Bortz and Otaru precedents further, finding no protection for his denial by a private enterprise (an eyeglass store). Instead, the ruling found that any discrimination that occurred was essentially due to a misunderstanding. McGowan, as a non-native speaker, allegedly didn’t understand enough Japanese to portray his case correctly. This ruling was handed down in spite of the fact that the defendant was caught on tape explicitly saying that he refused McGowan because he “hates black people.” The initial ruling was overturned on appeal, but McGowan’s court award was also whittled down to only ¥350,000, insufficient even to cover his legal fees.

4) The Aigi County Club case potentially drops rights down to near zero. It finds that: a) there are no inherent protections for foreigners; b) even if they have Japanese citizenship; c) and even if everyone admits that the discrimination was nationality or ethnicity-based. It’s not a legal problem to discriminate because golf clubs are designed to be exclusive, by whatever standards they choose to employ. This is “socially acceptable” and thus legally permissible.

I hope I’m not the first one telling you this, but Japan has no national law against racial discrimination, despite treaty promises back in 1995 to pass one “without delay” when it ratified the CERD.

At a UN hearing in 2000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially claimed that “the Constitution of Japan stipulates not only guarantee of being equal as Japanese nationals under the law but also guarantee of equality of all rights as Japanese nationals. Therefore, there is no discrimination at all for civil, political, economic, and cultural rights under the legal system.”

The Aigi County Club case demonstrates openly that this was a lie.

The case is on appeal. I hope the plaintiff prevails.

(UPDATE:  He does.  Read the comments to this blog entry.)

ENDS

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

The SNA article is at
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/04/24/visible-minorities-judges-strip-equal-protection-from-naturalized-citizens/

The website archiving and substantiating all of the claims above is at
https://www.debito.org/?p=17240

======================
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Mainichi & Asahi: Naturalized Zainichi Korean-Japanese sues “Japanese Members Only” Aigi Country Club; court rules denial of golf membership explicitly for being a former foreigner NOT illegal

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HI Blog.  In a stunning decision, a Japanese court in Mie Prefecture has ruled that a foreigner… excuse me, a JAPANESE CITIZEN who naturalized from being a Zainichi Korean, may be denied membership to a golf course that limits its membership to “Japanese Only”.  Including people who are legally Japanese. Including former Zainichi Korean Permanent Residents who have been in Japan for generations.

(NB:  This blog entry became a full-blown SNA column on May 24, 2023.  Read it here.  Evidence for claims in the article, however, is below in this website.)

For the record, this is Aigi Country Club in Gifu Prefecture.
〒509-0238 岐阜県可児市大森1501
TEL 0574-64-1211  (Website here.  Plenty of overseas web presence where you can leave reviews of the golf course here.)  Photo courtesy of the Asahi Shinbun.

Their case, as stated to the Asahi Shinbun below, is,

“Our club has a quota for foreign nationals and former foreign nationals who have become naturalized Japanese and restricts new memberships. We currently have no vacancies in that quota.”

This denies the privileges and equal protections under the law when you get Japanese citizenship. The court even states that Aigi Country Club’s rules were not illegal as its actions did not violate his human rights beyond “socially acceptable limits.”

Ah yes, that old legal argument. That was used in the Otaru Onsens Case to say that racial discrimination did indeed happen, but the illegal activity wasn’t the racial discrimination itself, but rather “discrimination that went beyond socially acceptable limits.” Some discrimination is acceptable, according to the courts. Here, discrimination for having Korean roots is acceptable in a club. After all, according to the Asahi below,

“private entities like the golf club are guaranteed freedom of association under Article 21 of the Constitution. In principle, such private groups are free to decide the terms and conditions of their memberships.” Especially since it’s an “exclusive and private group,” and playing golf is “not indispensable for social life.”

There’s plenty more below, but let me put this in context about how the Japanese judiciary has been slowly whittling away NJ rights:

The Ana Bortz Case of 1998-1999 found that foreigners were protected by the UN CERD against being turned away at private enterprises open to the public (in this case, a jewelry store), and awarded Bortz 2 million yen (at the time, about $15,000).

The Otaru Onsens Case of 1993-2005 found that foreigners (and one naturalized Japanese citizen) were not allowed to be turned away from a private enterprise (in this case, a public bathhouse), and awarded plaintiffs 1 million yen each. But they did not hold that the UN CERD offered protections, and the Japan Supreme Court also ruled that there were no constitutional protections involved.

The Steve McGowan Case of 2004-2006 found NO protections for his denial from a private enterprise (an eyeglass store), and blamed him for not understanding enough Japanese (even though we had him on tape saying he refused McGowan because he “hates black people”. This was overturned on appeal, but by now the court award was whittled down to only 350,000 yen, not enough to cover his legal fees for the initial lawsuit and appeal.

Now, this Aigi Country Club Case ruling says a) there are no protections for foreigners, b) even if they have Japanese citizenship, c) even if everyone admits the discrimination was nationality/ethnicity-based.  It’s not discrimination because golf clubs are designed to be exclusive, by whatever standards they want.  It’s “socially acceptable”.

This is a horrible precedent, and completely undermines the Japanese Government’s position that Japan doesn’t need a law against racial discrimination because we have an active judiciary.  If there’s a problem, sue, and get legal protections.

“Furthermore, in cases where the rights of the people are infringed, the Court can offer them redress. (Article 32 of the Constitution provides that “no person shall be denied the right of access to the courts.”)… The Constitution of Japan stipulates not only guarantee of being equal as Japanese nationals under the law but also guarantee of equality of all rights as Japanese nationals. Therefore, there is no discrimination at all for civil, political, economic and cultural rights under the legal system.”

Nope.  It was a lie all along, and now verifiably so.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(NB:  This blog entry became a full-blown SNA column on May 24, 2023.  Read it here.  Evidence for claims in the article, however, is below in this website.)

Referencial articles follow:

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Golf club’s denial of membership to former foreign citizen not illegal: Japan court
April 20, 2023 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of MMT and Niklas
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20230420/p2a/00m/0na/008000c

TSU — The Yokkaichi branch of the Tsu District Court on April 19 dismissed a lawsuit filed by a man who said he suffered emotional pain after being denied membership at a country club because he is a former foreign national.

The plaintiff, a man in his 40s, sued the private Aigi Country Club in Kani, Gifu Prefecture, for roughly 3.3 million yen (about $24,400) in compensation for emotional distress.

The court ruled that there was nothing illegal about the club refusing to grant the man membership because of his former citizenship. The plaintiff, a resident of the Mie Prefecture city of Kuwana, plans to appeal.

According to the ruling, the man, a former Korean national who acquired Japanese citizenship in 2018, played at the club with an acquaintance in February 2022 and applied for membership. Later, the club rejected his application, saying, “There is no room in the membership quota for foreign nationals, including former foreign nationals, and you cannot join right now.” The man claimed that the club’s response violated Article 14 of Japan’s Constitution, which stipulates equality under the law.

Presiding Judge Tomomichi Masukawa (with Presiding Judge Kan Hibino reading on his behalf) rejected the club’s claim that “being a former foreign national is not the only reason for refusing membership,” and recognized that the refusal was due to the plaintiff’s former Korean nationality.

However, the judge pointed out that the club is a “closed and private organization with strong personal ties among its members,” as membership requires a referral from two regular members and approval by the board of directors. He concluded that “the degree of infringement on the right to equality cannot be considered to exceed socially acceptable limits in light of the purpose of the Constitution.”

In response, the plaintiff’s attorney Junji Oichi said, “It is very regrettable. It goes against the times.” The man said, “I cannot agree with this at all. Is it acceptable to suffer mental anguish from discrimination if it is within a private organization?”

(Japanese original by Taeko Terahara, Tsu Bureau)

元外国籍で入会拒否、違法性なし ゴルフ会員権訴訟 津地裁支部
毎日新聞 2023/4/19 18:15
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20230419/k00/00m/040/227000c

元外国籍であることを理由に入会を断られ精神的苦痛を受けたなどとして、三重県桑名市の40代男性が愛岐カントリークラブ(岐阜県可児市)に対し、慰謝料など約330万円の損害賠償を求めた訴訟で、津地裁四日市支部は19日、男性の請求を棄却した。私的団体であるゴルフクラブが元外国籍であることを理由に入会を拒否することに違法性はないと判断した。男性は控訴する方針。

判決によると、元韓国籍で2018年に日本国籍を取得した男性は22年2月、知人と同クラブでプレーし、入会を申し込んだ。その後、クラブ側から「元外国籍を含む外国籍の会員の枠に空きがないためすぐに入会することはできない」として入会を断られた。男性は「法の下の平等」を定めた憲法14条に抵触する、などと主張していた。

判決理由で升川智道裁判長(日比野幹裁判長代読)は、「元外国籍であることが入会拒否の唯一の理由ではない」というクラブ側の主張を退け、入会拒否は元外国籍であることが理由だと認めた。一方で、クラブは会員となるために正会員2人の紹介と理事会の承認を得る必要があるなど「会員同士の人的つながりが強い閉鎖的かつ私的な団体」だと指摘。「平等の権利への侵害の程度は憲法の趣旨に照らし、社会的に許容しうる限界を超えるとは認められない」とした。

原告代理人の尾市淳二弁護士は「非常に残念。時代の流れとも逆行する」と話した。男性は「まったく納得できない。差別を受け精神的苦痛を受けることも私的団体内であれば許されるのか」と述べた。【寺原多恵子】

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Court sides with golf club that rejected man born Korean
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
April 20, 2023 at 17:04 JST
https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14889867
Photo/Illutration: The Yokkaichi branch of the Tsu District Court in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

YOKKAICHI, Mie Prefecture–A naturalized Japanese citizen expressed outrage after a court rejected his lawsuit against a golf club that refused his membership because he was not born Japanese.

The Yokkaichi branch of the Tsu District Court on April 19 accepted the argument of the plaintiff in his 40s that the Aigi Country Club in Kani, Gifu Prefecture, had denied his membership application because he used to be ethnic Korean.

The court also said there was room to doubt the reasoning behind the club’s membership rules.

But the court ruled against the plaintiff, saying the golf club’s rules were not illegal, and its actions did not violate his human rights beyond “socially acceptable limits.”

“The ruling is out of step with the times,” said a lawyer for the plaintiff, who lives in Kuwana, Mie Prefecture. “The court should have found it unlawful discrimination.”

The plaintiff, who was born to ethnic Korean parents and obtained Japanese citizenship in 2018, filed the lawsuit in April 2022, demanding 3.3 million yen ($24,000) in compensation.

The man, who runs a cleaning business, argued that the golf club violated Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality to all people under the law.

The court, however, said private entities like the golf club are guaranteed freedom of association under Article 21 of the Constitution. In principle, such private groups are free to decide the terms and conditions of their memberships, the ruling said.

The court also said legal intervention into the internal affairs of a private group is permitted only in exceptional cases when an individual’s rights are violated beyond socially acceptable limits.

It said the golf club is an “exclusive and private group,” and playing golf is “not indispensable for social life.”

The ruling concluded that the disadvantages suffered by the man as a result of being refused membership did not constitute an “exceptional case.”

The plaintiff said he plans to appeal the ruling because he would otherwise continue to be mistreated as a “former foreign citizen.”

A lawyer representing the golf club said they will thoroughly examine the ruling.

(This article was written by Hiroshi Matsubara and Yusuke Saito.)

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Nationality not the only issue at exclusive golf clubs in Japan
By HWANG CHUL/ Staff Writer
May 10, 2022 at 07:10 JST
Photo/Illutration: The Aigi Country Club in Kani, Gifu Prefecture, seen here on April 14, opened more than half a century ago. (Hwang Chul)
https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14608465

Despite being a naturalized Japanese, a man born to ethnic Korean parents was refused membership to an exclusive golf club in Gifu Prefecture on grounds its quota for non-Japanese was full.

When the fortysomething man, who obtained Japanese citizenship in 2018, sought an explanation, a representative of the Aigi Country Club cited his country of origin.

“Our club has a quota for foreign nationals and former foreign nationals who have become naturalized Japanese and restricts new memberships,” she said in a phone call on Feb. 20. “We currently have no vacancies in that quota.”

When he applied for membership, the man, who lives in Kuwana, Mie Prefecture, and runs a cleaning services company, submitted a copy of an extract of his family register which stated he had South Korean citizenship when he was naturalized.

“If only you could accept (our decision),” a director of the club told him three days later in a phone call the man recorded.

In March, the man sent a written notice to the club through his lawyer, demanding an apology and payment of 3 million yen ($23,500) in compensation, contending its denial of membership constituted “groundless discrimination.”

He also requested the Mie Bar Association to address the infringement of his human rights.

The man had agonized for ages before deciding to take Japanese citizenship.

“Shouldn’t I be switching nationalities, not least for my wife and children, as long as I will go on living in Japan?” he asked himself.

WAY THINGS ARE DONE

The Aigi Country Club, based in Kani, Gifu Prefecture, opened in July 1964, making it the fourth of its kind in the prefecture. It has hosted competitions organized by the Japan Golf Association and was the venue of women’s golf events during the National Sports Festival held in Gifu Prefecture in 2012.

Masakatsu Ito, the club’s managing director, told The Asahi Shimbun that the club, with around 1,500 members, has a combined quota of somewhere below 20 for foreign nationals and former foreign nationals who have obtained Japanese citizenship. He said new members are admitted only when vacancies occur in that category.

“We set those rules as a private golf club,” Ito said. “It is said that the atmosphere slightly changes when there are foreigners around. The decision may have been made in that train of thought. It is not easy to offer a clear answer because the rules were introduced a long time ago.”

When asked why those who have obtained Japanese citizenship are includd in the quota for non-Japanese, he said: “That’s how we’ve been doing things. It is our conventional practice, and I hope it will be understood as such.”

Club officials acknowledged that those rules are not written explicitly in the club’s regulations but have been handed down as internal rules.

HARDLY AN ISOLATED CASE

The Korean Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Japan conducted a survey of 1,794 members-only golf clubs around Japan in 1994 to ascertain nationality clauses in membership requirements.

Of the 821 respondents, 170 golf courses said they had certain restrictions, such as limiting eligibility to Japanese nationals.

KCCI officials said no detailed figures are available on the current situation as a similar survey has not been carried out at least since 2010.

An online search for information on golf club memberships shows that many clubs deny memberships to non-Japanese nationals.

“A good number of golf courses still have nationality clauses, and some even restrict membership for naturalized citizens as well,” a sales official of a Tokyo dealer of memberships told The Asahi Shimbun. “They still retain that exclusive mood.”

“Private clubs handle the matter of membership with their respective criteria,” a JGA official said of the membership restrictions for non-Japanese nationals. “The JGA has never taken a position on the nationality clauses of those clubs or other related matters.”

COURT DECISIONS DIVIDED

In March 1995, the Tokyo District Court ruled on a case concerning a Tokyo golf club operating company that denied membership to an ethnic Korean man on grounds of his nationality. The court found that doing so contravened the spirit of Article 14 of the Constitution, which says all people are equal under the law.

“Golf clubs are deemed to be groups of a certain social nature, partly because golf is a leisure activity broadly practiced in Japan and partly because golf club memberships are circulating in the market,” the decision said in part. “It is difficult to say they have total discretion over how they screen their memberships.”

In a separate lawsuit, the Tokyo District Court in May 2001 rejected the claims of an ethnic Korean plaintiff, saying, “It cannot be said that equality rights are violated beyond socially acceptable limits when a golf club, as a private corporation, restricts its membership requirements on grounds of nationality.”

That decision was upheld by the Tokyo High Court in 2002.

But those “socially acceptable limits” are changing, say some industry insiders.

A law was enacted to deal with hate speech, or instigation of discrimination, against specific ethnic or other groups, and there is a growing awareness about human rights of sexual minorities.

“Golf courses are under pressure to deal with human rights issues, which are not limited to matters of nationality,” the manager of a golf club in the Tokai region said.

He said his club, which has been operating for more than four decades, stopped nationality-based screening of its memberships several years ago.

He cited the example of the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, which was the venue of golf competitions during the Tokyo Olympics last year.

The International Olympic Committee called on the golf club to rectify its rules that denied full memberships to women, which the IOC said went against the Olympic Charter. The rules were eventually changed.

“Changes in the environment surrounding golf clubs, which were symbolized by that case, will likely go on over the years to come,” the manager said.

“In the United States and elsewhere, golf courses that discriminate against people on the basis of race and gender are finding themselves left out of opportunities to host competitions,” noted Ryusuke Kin, a lawyer with the Tokyo Bar Association.

Kin wrote about the golf club membership issue in “Ethnic Koreans in Japan as seen in lawsuits,” a book compiled and edited by the Lawyers Association of Zainichi Koreans.

“It is problematic that many golf clubs in Japan still have rules that deny memberships to non-Japanese nationals across the board,” he said. “What is more, drawing a line among compatriots on grounds of whether they were non-Japanese in the past amounts to an obvious violation of human rights. The golf world needs to rectify that problem.”

ENDS

======================
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Kyodo: Kagawa Pref Govt urges hotels not to request foreign residents’ ID. Bravo. Shame it took nearly 20 years to happen.

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Hi Blog.  I’m breaking my regular busy silence to report on something we’ve been working on for nearly two decades finally reaching fruition:

Getting Japanese hotels to stop racial profiling by running instant Gaijin Card/Passport Checks on customers (including NJ residents) merely because they’re “foreign-looking” — despite ID checks not being required for customers deemed to be “Japanese” on sight by hotel managers.

Finally, after various regional police departments have unlawfully deputized random hotel clerks to act as a de facto branch of the Immigration Agency (with the explicitly illegal threat of refusal of service in the offing), a regional government has cottoned on to the fact that this might be a violation of human rights.

Bravo Kagawa Prefecture. Let’s hope it catches on nationwide.  Seems to only take about twenty years for common sense, not to mention legal protections for NJ residents against police bullying, to seep in.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Hotels in western Japan urged not to request foreign residents’ ID

KYODO NEWS.png

 KYODO NEWS – Mar 16, 2023 – Courtesy of ZNM

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2023/03/5a5206b30e6c-hotels-in-western-japan-urged-not-to-request-foreign-residents-id.html

The government in the western Japan prefecture of Kagawa has called on local hotel operators to stop asking foreign residents for identification when they check in, local officials said Thursday.

Citing a notice issued Monday by the Kagawa prefectural government to hotel operators, the officials said it is “problematic on human rights grounds” to ask foreign residents to show their passport or other forms of ID when checking into a hotel.

photo_l.jpg

Notice issued by the Kagawa prefectural government to hotels and other accommodation businesses advises them that they do not need to request identification from guests who are foreign nationals living in Japan, as seen in this photo taken March 16, 2023 in Osaka. (Kyodo)

The hotel business law requires only foreigners who live outside of Japan to present ID. But hotel receptionists sometimes ask foreigners who live in Japan for ID based on their name or appearance.

“If a guest provides a domestic address, even if their name or other information suggests they are a foreign national, no further confirmation is required,” the notice says.

The notice comes after a case in August last year in which a South Korean woman living in Osaka was asked to show her residence card ahead of a stay at a hotel in Utazu.

An official at the hotel said it has “asked for ID from foreign nationals living in Japan on a voluntary basis.”

Similar cases have emerged at other accommodations across the country, with some even stating on their websites that they will “refuse” guests who do not comply.

“While there may not be any malicious intent behind the requests, they are effectively an infringement of human rights,” a Kagawa prefectural government official said.

Mun Gong Hwi from the Osaka-based nonprofit organization the Multi-Ethnic Human Rights Education Center for Pro-existence said that “changing one’s response based on nationality with no logical reasoning is discrimination. I want to spread the knowledge of Kagawa Prefecture’s approach as a good example.”


Related coverage:

Japan city stumbles over plan to recognize foreigners as citizens

Cabinet approves proposals for Japan immigration law changes

City officials learn easy Japanese as number of foreign residents increases

Document of middling quality courtesy Kyodo News:

======================
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My latest SNA Visible Minorities column 44: “Interview with Jon Heese: Life Lessons from a Naturalized Japanese Politician”, March 20, 2023

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Hi Blog My latest SNA VM column 44, which came out today, is an interview with Jon Heese (pronounced Hayes), a naturalized Canadian-Japanese and elected Tsukuba City Councillor of twelve years. A Caucasian Visible Minority of Japan, Heese has long been advocating that other Non-Japanese Residents naturalize and run for office in Japan like he did.

This interview took me more than a decade to secure, as I first invited Jon to interview back in the early 2010s. This time he contacted ME for the interview, so I felt less guilty about serving up some non-softball questions. Excerpt:

=========================

Debito Arudou: Hi Jon. Please introduce yourself as you’d like to be seen by your voting and non-voting public.

Jon Heese: Obviously I would like them to see me as a combination of Brad Pitt and Nelson Mandela. But I would be satisfied if they only see me as someone who is doing his best. I’m left of center on social issues and a fiscally conservative social democrat. This means freedom for people to be who they are within the structures of society. Businesses should also be free to function within a social structure. And I underline social. Businesses function within society. They are not entities unto themselves. It is the community that is educating their workers, building their infrastructure, and protecting their property. Businesses need to pay their taxes and stop trying to privatize profits while socializing risks. Fundamentally, governments should be in the business of regulating, not competing with legitimate businesses…

Debito Arudou: Woah, woah, woah. I asked how you wanted us to see you, and you’re starting to give us us your personal philosophy of government. Okay, but I was asking more: “Where are you from, and what do you do?” Let’s back up a sec and get into that.

Jon Heese: Silly me. As a good politician I’ll blame someone else for my misunderstanding. Okay. So, who am I. I’m a small town boy from Wymark, Saskatchewan, Canada, population 175. If you’ve ever seen Dances with Wolves, that’s pretty much what the area looks like. I’m from a family of eleven kids (six adopted). My family moved around a lot due to my father’s career as a Mennonite preacher. I spent about two years as a kid in central Kansas, and after high school I went to Europe for two years to see a bit of the world. I then attended the University of Regina and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education. In 1991 I landed in Narita looking for one of those sweet English teaching jobs I’d heard so much about. I got a bunch of crap jobs, but they paid the bills. Eventually I ended up in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, a city about 60 kilometers north of Tokyo with a population of about 150,000 at the time. Eventually I understood that students didn’t really want to learn English so much as have an hour of entertainment with one of them movie star types. In the end I lasted about six years in the English biz. By ‘97 I was burned/bummed out and could already see the writing on the wall. The Bubble was bursting. Pay was in decline and finding students was getting harder. Besides which, after six years I had hardly learned any Japanese. I knew I needed to find a job where I would be forced to speak Japanese. I opened a bar and ran that for seven years. Then I opened an import company to supply the many foreign researchers in Tsukuba and rewrite papers for the Japanese researchers. I also did a bunch of acting for TV and movies. Eventually I got into politics at the city level.

Full interview at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/03/20/life-lessons-from-a-naturalized-japanese-politician/

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 43: “Salute to the “Author of Cartels of the Mind’,” an obituary of influential Japan Studies scholar and mentor Ivan Hall (1932-2023)

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Hi Blog.  My latest SNA column 43 is a tribute to old friend, mentor, and influential scholar Ivan Hall.  I blogged about him shortly after he died here.  This is a fuller treatment, excerpted.  RIP.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Visible Minorities: Salute to the Author of Cartels of the Mind
By Debito Arudou
Shingetsu News Agency, February 20, 2023

SNA (Tokyo) — Ivan Parker Hall, author of landmark book Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop, died in Berlin on February 1, 2023, at age 90.

Before I start writing another obituary, please let me pause and talk about our very close relationship: Ivan Hall fundamentally changed my life into an activist researcher in Japanese Studies.

It wasn’t always this way. When I first arrived in Japan during the latter 1980s, I was in fact a cultural relativist. Carefully trained in the non-judgmentalism of the liberal arts, I had the mantra of “Who am I to judge Japan?” It had its own way of doing things, and would get along just fine without one white Western interloper (or even the outside world) telling it what to do. As per my classic Edwin O. Reischauer Ivy League training, Japan was one of those precious “culturally unique” jewels that should just be left to flourish in its own way.

That’s why at first I was a devoted scholar of the “Japanese Way.” After all, Japan must be doing something right. Its people were living the longest in the world. Its economy measured per capita had just surpassed that of Americans. It was buying up major world assets on the strength of the Yen. Our next boss, according to movies such as Back to the Future II, was going to be Japanese.

It took just one stint working for an abusive Japanese trading company–and the bursting of Japan’s asset bubble–to disabuse me of those early notions.

But it wasn’t until I became a Japanese university professor that I saw just how much the Japanese system was wasting talent due to racism. Japanese faculty hired full-time were getting permanent tenure from Day One, while almost all foreign educators (who were often more qualified than their Japanese counterparts) were getting permanent contract work.

Enter Ivan Hall, who summed this situation up most pithily as “Academic Apartheid.”…

Read the rest at the Shingetsu News Agency at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/02/20/visible-minorities-salute-to-the-author-of-cartels-of-the-mind/

======================
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RIP Ivan P. Hall (1932-2023), author of “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled”, and one of the last major postwar scholars of Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It is with great sadness that I heard this morning of the passing of an old friend, Ivan Hall, aged 90, scholar of Japan and the world, and author of “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled“.  (Brief Wikipedia entry here.)

Notice of his death came from his nephew, and I will pass on his redacted announcement below.

I just want to say that Ivan and I spent a lot of time in Honolulu together in his last years, coming over to visit twice a year, and his work on Academic Apartheid in Japan got me into activism in Japan in the first place.  He’s one of the few people in my life I can call a mentor who took his mentoring seriously.

Now for the family notice:

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

Friday, February 3, 2023

Hi all.  My uncle, Ivan P. Hall (“Vani”), the last surviving member of my mother’s family, died yesterday in Hoenow, a remote suburb of what was once East Berlin, after a professional life spent primarily in Japan.

I’m Vani’s nephew. Though he lived overseas my entire life, he being childless and I being the only child of his only sibling, we were close. He would visit the U.S. every year at Christmas and we’d eat Indian food on the Lower East Side (he had served in the U.S. Information Service in the 1950s in Pakistan and in the future Bangladesh and taught me to love egg curry) and superannuated formal meals in the Princeton Club dining room. He supported me enthusiastically in my first career as a playwright – he acted in the first play I ever saw, as a five year old: a community theatre production of Arsenic and Old Lace in the Idaho mountains. (From a production of that farce he’d directed in South Asia in 1961, two of his then-college-aged actors went on to become Ambassadors and serve as Foreign Secretary, and a third became Foreign Minister and the drafter of Bangladesh’s Constitution.)

Vani and I had innumerable adventures together, traveling in New England, the American South and West, in Asia, and in South America. He contributed to adventures he didn’t even participate in – when my mother was taking my best friend and I skiing as 15-year-olds, before we set out Vani bought us a case of beer and helped us stash it in the trunk of my unsuspecting mother’s car. When I went to Indiana for a three-year MFA program, he gave me a cash gift that covered the shortfall between my fellowship and expenses.

When my mother was dying in 1996, Vani traveled from Japan to be with me by her side. He and I took a sleeper train together across the U.S. to bury her ashes in California.

Vani took delight in following our Noa exploits, though his favorite family member may have been my cat Shekhina, with whom he seemed to share some special plane of existence. (A family member said, “if we know for certain that anyone went to heaven, it’s Vani. He may be alone there. With Shekhina.”)

Vani was like no one anyone would ever meet, anywhere (unless they time-traveled or worked in a wax museum), a trilateral cultural Lawrence of Arabia; an anti-colonial colonialist, always aspiring to benevolence. A sweet, emotionally armored, voluble, lonely intellectual who today would probably be diagnosed as being on the spectrum. A seemingly effortless linguist, fluent in Japanese in addition to Continental languages, who, after retiring, took the opportunity to teach in China – in Chinese – in part “to buff up my Chinese.” Author of histories and politico-cultural criticism published in journals like The National Interest and in books published by university presses, W.W. Norton, and A.E. Sharpe, he wore many professional hats – cultural diplomat, university professor, U.S. Government official, journalist, cross-cultural impressario, musician. He recurred on a detective procedural on Japanese television in the 1970s.

Vani was brave, risking ostracization in his small world of Western Japan hands by publishing books calling out the Japanese for their persisting racism and cultural and intellectual xenophobia, and the West for its persistent myopia, naivete, and ignorance.

He engaged politically in multiple countries – bringing a landmark civil rights lawsuit in Japan and, after half a lifetime as a Rockefeller Republican, resigning loudly from his federal position in protest of Reagan policies.

His sense of humor was impish, at the end kiddingly upbraiding himself for his performance as a 90 year old: “would the Queen be behaving like this?!”

I miss him and I’m grateful I was able to know such a unique, loving man.  — Ivan Hall’s Nephew

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

So do I and so am I.

People who wish to pass their condolences or share their memories below of Ivan can put them in Comments below.  The family has given me permission to pass this information on to you, and will be sent a link to this blog entry.

Thank you again, Ivan, for being someone to so many of us.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

 

 

Ivan and me in Honolulu, Nov 4, 2014.

A rendering I did of Ivan in June 2020.  Acrylic on canvas.

Ivan in a former life.

======================
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My latest SNA Visible Minorities column 42: “Japan’s Remilitarization is a Bad Idea” (Jan 23, 2023), on why Japan is simply not the country to represent the world’s liberal democracies as a revived military power

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Hi Blog.  My latest SNA column on recent geopolitical developments and the bad habits they may revive.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Visible Minorities 42: Japan’s Remilitarization is a Bad Idea
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, JAN 23, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/01/23/visible-minorities-remilitarization-is-a-bad-idea/

SNA (Tokyo) — News item: Cheered on by the United States for its “bold leadership,” last month “Japan unveiled a dramatic revamping of its security strategy and defense policy, including a plan to acquire long-range weapons–a so-called counterstrike capability–that can target and hit enemy bases” (Japan Times, January 14).

Doubling its defense spending to 2% of GDP within five years, Japan will soon have the world’s third-largest military budget, behind only the United States and China.

Pushing Japan to remilitarize was never, and still is not, a good idea.

This is not just because an arms race in Asia is the last thing the region needs. But also because Japan, consistently unable to face up to its own history, is simply not the country to represent the world’s liberal democracies in Asia, especially as a military power.

Let’s start with that history…

Read the rest at
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/01/23/visible-minorities-remilitarization-is-a-bad-idea/

======================
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER, JAN 17, 2023: Happy New Year! And Debito.org’s relative inactivity

mytest

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Hi Blog. I know it’s a couple of weeks in, but Happy New Year! May all Debito.org Readers feel safe and happy, and professionally secure and fulfilled in 2023!

I’ll classify this as one of my Debito.org Newsletters, since I haven’t put one up on Debito.org for a few months.

As regular Readers know, the second half of 2022 was particularly quiet for me as a blogger.  Not as an author, of course, as I still put out my regular monthly Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” Columns. And not as a professional, as I have been employed full time in recent semesters with six classes teaching hundreds of students Political Science.  All of my energies have been going towards crafting lectures and powerpoints, grading, and lecturing.  Last semester alone, despite Covid, I held 210 in-person classes, and enjoyed every minute of them.  I love teaching.  It’s probably as much my calling as writing and research.

That is why blogging here on Debito.org has taken a back seat as of late.  Also, my teaching involves Japan a lot less, as I’m teaching courses on other governmental systems, and reminding myself that it’s a big, complex world out there with lots to talk about.  Many times the things on my mind aren’t something I see as materiel for this blog, so I’ve had trouble getting my writing mojo going.

(But if my thoughts on issues that aren’t necessarily Japan-specific are also of interest to Debito.org Readers, please let me know as such in the Comments section below.)

But one thing that makes me thankful:  Debito.org Readers are still thinking about the issues long discussed here, and are carrying on the conversation even if I’m busy elsewhere.  You can see their comments both under my posts and under the Debito.org Newsletters.

Thank you everyone for keeping the torch lit.  I’ll try to do better but I can’t promise.  I’m teaching another six classes this semester, and anticipating enjoying it just as much as ever.

Thank you all for reading Debito.org.  Sincerely, Debito

======================
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My SNA column 41: “Celebrating Christmas as a Compromise” (Dec 27, 2022), about what to do when people say you shouldn’t celebrate regular traditions you hold dear because they’re “not Japanese”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Let me say it upfront:  If you’re celebrating December customs such as Christmas, then I hope you had a Merry (and unobstructed) Christmas and a Happy New Year.  If your Christmas was in fact obstructed in some way by people who claim that “Christmas is not Japanese” or “Christmas is something you should outgrow” (as happened to a friend of mine recently), my end-year SNA column is for you:

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Visible Minorities: Celebrating Christmas as a Compromise

SNA (Tokyo) — A long-term Non-Japanese resident friend, married with a Japanese husband and adult kids, recently told me about a new development in their relationship: Christmas was no longer to be celebrated in their household.

Their children were all grown and didn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore; so no more presents or any big dinner to celebrate the day. They would allow her only a tree.

Why this sudden change of heart? To her surprise, all this time Christmas had been regarded by the family as a nuisance, a cultural imposition on them. Now it was time to grow out of it.

It raises a fundamental issue that someday comes up within any intercultural relationship: How much culture do you give up for the sake of compromise?  

I argue that Japan’s “unique” culture narrative (and therefore its lack of commonality with anything “foreign”, by definition) can often create sudden, long-term culture shocks.  Because people here can see any accommodation of “foreign” culture as an identity sacrifice, a denial of “Japaneseness”, this can kill relationships, and I offer advice on what to do about it.  

Article at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/12/27/visible-minorities-celebrating-christmas-as-a-compromise/

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Thanks for reading!  Seasons Greetings to all Debito.org Readers and beyond!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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My SNA Column 40: Visible Minorities: “Hard to Root for Japan at Sports Events” (Nov 28, 2022), due to all the nasty and racialized attitudes towards our athletes, and the lack of fair play in general

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  My latest SNA column was inspired by the World Cup.  Intro:
//////////////////////////////////////////
Visible Minorities: Hard to Root for Japan at Sports Events
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, November 28, 2022

SNA (Tokyo) — First off, bravo the Japan team for its upset victory over Germany in their first match of the 2022 World Cup!

It was a game where the Samurai Blue showed world-class skill against a lackluster team, and didn’t let the nerves of playing a former world champion get the better of them. Of course, they did lose their next game against Costa Rica, but their achievement against Germany stands.

I want to devote this column to why it’s difficult for me to root for Japan teams in general. It’s not an issue of nationality (since I have that). It’s a matter of how Japan as a society approaches international sports; given the racialized obstacles towards “foreign” participants, a lack of fair play, the unrelenting pressure on our athletes, and media attitudes that oscillate between racial superiority and victimhood, we take all the fun out of it…

Thanks for reading!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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My SNA Column 39: Visible Minorities: “Never Forget Japan’s Racist Covid Policies” (Oct 24, 2022), where I ask you to seriously reconsider devoting your life to a place that could revoke your legal status at any time

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Visible Minorities: Never Forget Japan’s Racist Covid Policies
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, OCT 24, 2022 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/10/24/visible-minorities-never-forget-japans-racist-covid-policies/

SNA (Tokyo) — This month Japan finally lifted its Covid restrictions and reopened its borders to tourists. Well, whoop-de-doo.

For now, foreigners will no longer suffer entry caps, or go through extra procedures just because they’re foreign, such as being sequestered in foreigner-only floors of hotels with tour-minders so they don’t wander off and contaminate the rest of Japan.

Never mind that Japanese entrants, barely subjected to these strictures put on foreigners, had all this time predictably infected Japan quite freely.

Remember how this whole thing started back in 2020, when cases were found in Yokohama Port aboard a luxury liner called the Diamond Princess? It soon became mired in Japan’s bureaucratic politics, the ship’s patients counted by no country as part of their Covid case total. This was the bellwether for Japan’s future Covid border policies of incompetence and racism…

Rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/10/24/visible-minorities-never-forget-japans-racist-covid-policies/

======================
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Debito.org post #3000: SNA Visible Minorities 38: Visible Minorities: “Queen Elizabeth, Monarchies, and Progressivism” (Sept 19, 2022), on whether royals should still be allowed to exist

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
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Hi Blog.  As I am inundated with classes this fall (it’s my busiest semester ever), I decided to write about what was on my mind with the passing of a historical figure.  Should monarchies still be allowed to exist when millennia have showed that there are much better forms of government out there?  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(PS:  This is the 3000th post on the Debito.org Blog since it started more than 15 years ago.  This doesn’t of course include the posts made on Debito.org proper before this blog was started, since 1995.  Long may we run.)

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Visible Minorities: Queen Elizabeth, Monarchies, and Progressivism
Shingetsu News Agency, Sept 19, 2022, by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/09/19/visible-minorities-queen-elizabeth-monarchies-and-progressivism/

SNA (Tokyo) — On the death of Queen Elizabeth II, let’s talk about monarchies. Why do they still exist, and should they still be allowed to exist?

Monarchies are as old as civilization. Kings and hereditary power were once the norm worldwide, as they were the means to control land and offer protection for farming peasants, exchanging food supply for protection from invaders—when the system worked as promised.

But it often didn’t. “Good” kings were relatively rare and their legacies unsustainable. Sooner or later, the people got unlucky under some ruler whose only claim to power was divine right, suffering under a king or queen who had gotten a God Complex, or was being manipulated by an unscrupulous elite.

Either way, their regimes cared naught about the welfare of most people in their kingdom, forcing them to pay treasure to corrupt systems, sending them to die in meaningless wars, and leaving them dirt poor at the best of times or starving in the worst.

That’s the reason why today very few absolute monarchies remain in the world. You simply can’t trust kings and queens to look out for any interests but their own. It took a couple of millennia, but people eventually realized that a monarch, or any leader unaccountable for their actions, had to be reined in.

Most countries acknowledge that the best of all flawed systems is a government where people can choose their leaders. That’s why even one-party autocratic states have elections. Replacing leaders bloodlessly on a regular basis, under a franchise that expands suffrage to as many people as possible, on average produces a better minimum standard of living for all.

So why do so many stable advanced democracies, such as the United Kingdom, retain their monarchies?

Rest is at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/09/19/visible-minorities-queen-elizabeth-monarchies-and-progressivism/

======================
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New semester is underway. Debito.org will be updated more slowly.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Just to let you know:  My semester has started, and I have more classes than ever before (more than half of them new). So I’m quite busy:  When I’m not giving lectures, I’m preparing those lectures, grading the aftermath of those lectures, or sleeping.  So Debito.org will be updated more slowly for the Fall.

Eagle-eyed Debito.org Readers will as always be sending articles of note in the Comments Sections of the Debito.org Newsletters, so check there for what they’ve seen of note.

Thanks as always everyone for reading Debito.org!  Debito Arudou, PhD

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Debito’s SNA VM37: “Reforming Japan’s Dickensian Foreign Trainee Program,” Aug 22, 2022, and why I remain skeptical that reforms will actually happen

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Visible Minorities: Reforming Japan’s Dickensian Foreign Trainee Program
August 22, 2022, By Debito Arudou

SNA (Tokyo) — News Item: video footage surfaced in 2020 of a Vietnamese “trainee” being physically abused by Japanese co-workers at a construction company in Okayama Prefecture, resulting in injuries including broken ribs and a broken tooth. Despite a criminal complaint, the Okayama Prefectural Police Prosecutor’s Office declined to prosecute the four Japanese co-workers involved.

Here is the video footage that started it all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK1HhnvktOc&t=76s

This Vietnamese trainee is not alone. Despite the strict Covid border controls, currently 280,000 foreigners toil as temporary low-wage workers in Japan’s farms and factories nationwide. Given Japan’s often nasty work environments, which generally combine exploitative work ethics with a normalized bullying culture, this means that more than a quarter of a million foreigners are here and in harm’s way under a system of unfettered abuse…

[…]

Fortunately, there are some stirrings that reforms might happen. Even the conservative Yomiuri Shinbun said in an August 20 editorial that reforming the system is “unavoidable.” Moreover, the government announced last month a full-scale review of the program, intending to “bring this long-standing issue to a historical conclusion.”

I am skeptical these reforms will achieve what is promised, which is basically to resolve the ongoing human rights abuses which have always characterized the trainee system. One reason for my doubts is because…
==================================

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/08/22/visible-minorities-reforming-japans-dickensian-foreign-trainee-program/

======================
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 22, 2022

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Table of Contents:

REVISIONISM AND RECIDIVISM

1) Asahi: Okayama public prosecutors drop co-worker violence claim by Vietnamese “Trainee” despite video evidence. No wonder Japan’s violent bully culture thrives! (UPDATE: Out-of-court settlement was reached)
2) Japan Times on neighborhood sento bathhouse restoration activists: Omits history of how Japan’s already-declining public bath industry hurt itself with “Japanese Only” signs
3) Migrant Integration Policy Index rates Japan as “Integration Denied”, and “Critically Unfavorable” in terms of Anti-Discrimination measures. And this is for 2019, before Covid shut Japan’s borders.
4) Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets up “foreign media policing website” where anyone can report to J govt any foreign info “incompatible with our country’s standpoint”. Actually, quite within character.

… and finally …
5) My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him

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By Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito)
Debito.org Newsletters as always are freely forwardable.

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REVISIONISM AND RECIDIVISM

1) Asahi: Okayama public prosecutors drop co-worker violence claim by Vietnamese “Trainee” despite video evidence. No wonder Japan’s violent bully culture thrives! (UPDATE: Out-of-court settlement was reached)

GoEMON (from Asahi): Two years ago, a 41-year-old male Vietnamese technical trainee was abused by his four Japanese coworkers while working. The act was then discreetly recorded by another Vietnamese trainee, causing a buzz within the public at that time. The result of the case was recently disclosed by the Okayama Prefectural Public Prosecutors Office.

The technical trainee filed a case to the Okayama Prefectural Public Prosecutors Office, claiming that he had been assaulted during the past two years working at the company, in which the four coworkers, all in their 30s, were referred to prosecution on suspicion of causing injuries and other charges. The Prosecutor’s Office, however, announced that the four cannot be prosecuted, due to a lack of information. The indictments were dropped against two for injury, one for injury and violation of the Violent Acts Punishment Law, and one for violation of the Violent Acts Punishment Law.

COMMENT: “A lack of information”!? [Well, in the original Japanese, it just says, “For reasons left unclear.”] Anyway, watch the video above. Yet another example (see the McGowan Case for another) of how even when you have photographic or audio evidence of abusive behavior, the laws are only as good as the people enforcing them. If public prosecutors will not do their job and prosecute, the laws specifically against violent acts mean nothing. Even despite all the promises of reform of Japan’s already abusive, exploitative, and deadly “Trainee” system. In a sense, this poor guy is lucky he didn’t end up laid up in the hospital or worse!

UPDATE: Yahoo News: According to the labor union protecting the Trainee, there was an apology from the construction company and the administering agency, with restitution paid through private settlement.

FURTHER COMMENT: Fine. But this case shows just how much, despite calls for reform for decades, things have NOT progressed. By now, things like this shouldn’t still be happening, in this case violence towards a foreign co-worker for about two years! But official negligence is the norm here. Again, good thing the “Trainee” had the video of the savage treatment that resulted in broken ribs and untold mental damage. But he shouldn’t have had to.

https://www.debito.org/?p=17138

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2) Japan Times on neighborhood sento bathhouse restoration activists: Omits history of how Japan’s already-declining public bath industry hurt itself with “Japanese Only” signs

JT: “Bathhouses are a space where I can ground myself,” says Sam Holden, who first found solace in sentō when he was a graduate student in Tokyo. Holden, who labels himself an urban activist, is a writer, translator and renovation specialist. He founded Sento & Neighborhood together with four associates in 2020 with the idea of “changing historic bathhouses as little as possible but finding a way for them to become sustainable,” Holden explains, hinting at the financial difficulties that many sentō face…

To Holden, visiting bathhouses means exploring the back alleys that embody a deeper layer of Japan’s urban fabric tucked away from busy and anonymous main streets — and one that has been part of Japanese cities for centuries. “Across the street from the bathhouse you have the liquor shop where the grandpas gather, the vegetable grocer and tofu shop and all sorts of local eateries,” Holden says. “Preserving a bathhouse means not only preserving that building, but this neighborhood network.”

COMMENT: I applaud the efforts of these movements to keep neighborhood sento open. However, the writer of this article (and perhaps the activists themselves) neglected to mention an important part of history, where public/private baths have refused entry to foreign and foreign-looking residents and customers. If offering this communal experience is “an important channel of communication between neighbors”, then it’s also important to recognize the fact that sometimes sento and onsen have undermined themselves by putting up “Japanese Only” signs, and not recognized “foreigners” as fellow neighbors. Openness to all members of the community should also be part of their slogans.

Also problematic is that the Japan Times seems to be forgetful of this discriminatory history as an editorial policy, as their archive on recent articles regarding Sento demonstrates. The JT laments the decline of the industry (for example, here) without getting into how some of their decline is their own fault. That’s particularly galling, considering I wrote for The Japan Times for two decades a regular column, in addition to other stringer articles, on this very subject.

Seems the Japan Times doesn’t prioritize this type of issue anymore. So much for reporting “in the public interest”. This is how history gets unlearned and eventually repeats itself. Just wait for the next moral panic blamed on “foreigners”, and communal doors to a public service will shut all over again. Even if it drives the excluder out of business. Talking about preservation without including this issue is in fact counterproductive for the industry.

https://www.debito.org/?p=17132

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3) Migrant Integration Policy Index rates Japan as “Integration Denied”, and “Critically Unfavorable” in terms of Anti-Discrimination measures. And this is for 2019, before Covid shut Japan’s borders.

Migrant Integration Policy Index: “Japan scores 47/100 [Rank: “Integration Denied”], slightly below the average MIPEX country (49/100) because Japanese policies still refuse to recognise that Japan is a country of immigration. This denial leads to contradictory policies that create as many obstacles as opportunities for foreign nationals. Japan’s approach to integration is categorised as “Immigration without Integration”. While Japan is a leader far ahead of the other countries in this category, its policies still deny basic rights and equal opportunities to newcomers. Foreign nationals can find some ways to settle long-term in Japan. However, Japanese policies only go halfway to guarantee them equal opportunities, (e.g., on health and education), while also denying them several basic rights, most notably protections from discrimination.

“Japan needs to invest more on all the three dimensions, especially to guarantee immigrants with the same basic rights as Japanese citizens. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Japan’s current policies encourage the public to see immigrants as subordinates and not their neighbours.” […] Japan is one of the only MIPEX countries still without a dedicated anti-discrimination law and body. Japan is the among bottom three countries for anti-discrimination policies, together with other ‘immigration without integration’ countries. Japan’s approach is slightly ahead of poorer Central European countries with equally small and new immigrant populations, but far behind other developed countries…”

COMMENT: It’s as we’ve been saying here on Debito.org for decades: This is what happens when you are the only developed country without a national law against racial discrimination. And this is the MIPEX report as of 2019. I look forward to seeing the next report, where it takes into account Japan’s racist policy of closed borders (even to lawful and Permanent Residents, for a time) due to Covid. I strongly doubt Japan’s numbers will improve.

https://www.debito.org/?p=17123

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4) Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets up “foreign media policing website” where anyone can report to J govt any foreign info “incompatible with our country’s standpoint”. Actually, quite within character.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put up a website that enables anyone to submit to the government “information about any accounts in overseas [media] relating to our country that is based on misunderstandings of the truth/facts (jijitsu), or is incompatible with our country’s standpoint.”

Actually, what MOFA is doing is very much within the Japanese Government (GOJ)’s character. The GOJ is very sensitive to how they are perceived abroad, historically stepping in many times to “correct misperceptions” in foreign media. See here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example. (And it’s a stark contrast to, for example, the Americans, who ignore outright disinformation even when it affects their own citizens abroad.)

Granted, compared to the US’s negligence (even making outright threats against their US citizens for not ignoring racial discrimination in Japan), I’d rather that a government step in to correct public misperceptions when their citizens abroad stand to get hurt. But I’m also suspicious of the GOJ’s motives, as evidenced by the links above, as their “standpoint” towards historical and factual interpretation is riddled with ahistorical revisionism.

Moreover, asking for the public’s participation like this is redolent of the “Snitch Sites” the Immigration Bureau deployed in 2004, so that anyone could anonymously sicc the GOJ on any foreigner they thought could be an “illegal” — much to the delight of all the Zainichi Korean haters out there.

In sum, this “MOFA foreign media policing site” is yet another politically-motivated government-sponsored website that is encouraging online abuse and feeding the trolls.

https://www.debito.org/?p=17115

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… and finally …

5) My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him

SNA: The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has occasioned a lot of valuable, eye-opening discussions in the media, but few if any have focused upon how Abe’s death could be seen as a form of karmic payback–what happens when you ignore the lessons of history in the pursuit of raw political power.

The discussions have instead focused on the veneer of Japan’s “safe” society being blown away by a homemade gun; or about how the world’s democracies have been deprived of a Japanese leader comfortable on the international stage (while egregiously overlooking all the damage he did to Japan’s democracy).

A few intrepid journalists (starting with the SNA) have explored the swamp of Abe’s political connections with the “Moonies” religious cult, and how that probably gave motive to the killer.

To me the most absurd debate has been whether Abe’s death was an “assassination” at all –- the Japanese media have uniformly refused to use the corresponding word ansatsu, portraying it as merely a “shooting event” (jugeki jiken).

These important topics have been covered elsewhere by people with more expertise, so this column will take a different tack. It will discuss the role of national narratives in a society, how dishonest national narratives stunt the maturity of societies, and how a willful ignorance of history due to these national narratives circled back to kill Abe…

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/07/18/visible-minorities-abes-assassination-and-the-revenge-of-history/
Anchor site for commentary at https://www.debito.org/?p=17107

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That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading!
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 22, 2022 ENDS

======================
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Asahi: Okayama public prosecutors drop co-worker violence claim by Vietnamese “Trainee” despite video evidence. No wonder Japan’s violent bully culture thrives! (UPDATE: Out-of-court settlement was reached)

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Here’s a handy site I just found on Facebook (GoEMON Global) that offers news and translation of interest to Debito.org.  Something of note (with my comment afterwards):

========================

OKAYAMA PREFECTURAL PUBLIC PROSECUTORS OFFICE DECIDES TO NOT CHARGE FOUR JAPANESE PEOPLE WITH THE ALLEGED ASSAULT OF A VIETNAMESE TRAINEE TWO YEARS AGO

Courtesy TT and GoEMON (https://goemon-jp.com/)

Two years ago, a 41-year-old male Vietnamese technical trainee was abused by his four Japanese coworkers while working. The act was then discreetly recorded by another Vietnamese trainee, causing a buzz within the public at that time. The result of the case was recently disclosed by the Okayama Prefectural Public Prosecutors Office.

The technical trainee filed a case to the Okayama Prefectural Public Prosecutors Office, claiming that he had been assaulted during the past two years working at the company, in which the four coworkers, all in their 30s, were referred to prosecution on suspicion of causing injuries and other charges. The Prosecutor’s Office, however, announced that the four cannot be prosecuted, due to a lack of information.

The indictments were dropped against two for injury, one for injury and violation of the Violent Acts Punishment Law, and one for violation of the Violent Acts Punishment Law.

Original article:

ベトナム人実習生暴行容疑で書類送検の4人、不起訴に 岡山区検

朝日新聞 2022年8月4日

https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASQ8466HSQ84PPZB012.html

Video evidence:


Courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK1HhnvktOc&t=76s

技能実習生のベトナム人男性(41)が実習先の岡山市の建設会社で2年間にわたって暴行を受けたと訴え、岡山県警が同社の元従業員の男性4人(いずれも30代)を傷害などの疑いで書類送検していた事件で、岡山区検は4日、4人全員を不起訴処分とした。理由は明らかにしていない。
不起訴となったのは傷害容疑の2人と、傷害と暴力行為等処罰法違反容疑の1人、暴力行為等処罰法違反容疑の1人。

訴える(うったえる): Prosecute
暴行(ぼうこう): Abuse
不起訴(ふきそ): Cannot be prosecuted
違反容疑(いはんようぎ): Alledged
傷害(しょうがい): Injury
—————————————
GoEMON is a sharing and community connection platform in Japan. We want to build a community to help foreigners have a better life in Japan by sharing the real experiences of foreigners in Japan.
#GoEMON #News

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COMMENT FROM DEBITO: “A lack of information”!? [Well, in the original Japanese, it just says, “For reasons left unclear.”] Anyway, watch the video above.  Yet another example (see the McGowan Case for another) of how even when you have photographic or audio evidence of abusive behavior, the laws are only as good as the people enforcing them.  If public prosecutors will not do their job and prosecute, the laws specifically against violent acts mean nothing.

Consider this: How many of you out there have been in a situation where the bullying in Japan escalated from verbal to physical?  Personally, I have, many times.  And it’s no wonder why — as evidenced here, there’s nothing official to stop or hold abusers accountable.  This is despite all the public promises of reform of Japan’s already abusive, exploitative, and deadly “Trainee” system.  In a sense, this poor guy is lucky he didn’t end up laid up in the hospital or worse!  Debito Arudou, PhD

=====

PS:  I got out of my bullying situations by fighting back.  But that usually had mixed results — too many times in Japan the victim gets blamed for either “overreacting”, or for disrupting things by reacting at all.  And it’s one reason why Japan remains a society where bullies dominate.  Because who dares, wins.  D.

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UPDATE AUGUST 19, 2022:  Other media gave more detail that the case was dropped due to a settlement.  Article follows, translation mine:

============================

ベトナム人技能実習生への暴行事件 建設会社の元従業員4人を不起訴に 岡山区検
YahooNews.co.jp, 2022.8.4(木), courtesy of LP
https://news.yahoo.co.jp/articles/faa361ab11a2bc6d7c7c865e7044a2e57d3eb716

岡山市の建設会社で働いていたベトナム人技能実習生に暴行し、けがをさせたとして書類送検されていた元従業員4人を岡山区検察庁は不起訴処分としました。

この事件は2019年秋に来日したベトナム人技能実習生の男性が、職場の岡山市の建設会社で約2年間、日本人従業員から暴行を受け肋骨を折るなどのけがをしたと訴えていたものです。

2022年6月、岡山県警は傷害などの疑いで当時従業員だった4人を書類送検していました。

岡山区検は不起訴処分とした理由について明らかにしていません。

実習生を保護していた労働組合によりますと、建設会社と監理団体から実習生に謝罪がありその後、解決金が支払われ示談が成立したとしています。ENDS
============================

Translation by Debito:

Violence against a Vietnamese Trainee:  Okayama Public Prosecutors decide not to prosecute four former [Japanese] employees at construction company

Yahoo News, August 4, 2022

A case sent to Okayama District Public Prosecutors, where four former [Japanese] employees at an Okayama city construction company were violent towards a Vietnamese Trainee co-worker, causing him injuries, has been dropped from prosecution.

The Vietnamese male Trainee, who had arrived in Japan in the Fall of 2019, reported that over the course of about two years, he had endured violence from Japanese co-workers at an Okayama construction company workplace, including injuries such as broken ribs.

In June 2022, Okayama Police sent the four Japanese workers to prosecutors for injurious damages.  Public Prosecutors did not give a reason why they decided not to prosecute.

According to the labor union protecting the Trainee, there was an apology from the construction company and the administering agency (kanji dantai), with restitution (kessaikin) paid through private settlement.  ENDS

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FURTHER COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Well, if the “Trainee” feels that honor has been satisfied through apologies and restitution, so be it.  And according to this article, his abusers seem to have gotten fired.

But let’s consider how this should have proceeded:

  1. The violence shouldn’t have gone on for two years.  There should have been a way to report it to authorities at the first sign of violence, particularly to those authorities who got the “Trainees” here in the first place, and gotten him transferred him out of there immediately.
  2. It shouldn’t have taken the painstaking amount of effort on the part of the victim to make a video and get a labor union involved before authorities sat up and took notice.  Even broken ribs wasn’t enough evidence?  How many months of everyday hell and pain did this poor “Trainee” have to endure?
  3. The workplace should have been screened better as an acceptable workplace, and then monitored afterwards.  This isn’t the first case of foreign “Trainee” or “Researcher” workplace abuse by any stretch.  Abuse, according to the labor unions, is in fact the norm.  According to labor union leader Torii Ippei, companies that are NOT abuse their foreign workers are “very rare” (goku mare).

This case shows just how much, despite calls for reform of the system for decades, things have NOT progressed.  By now, things like this shouldn’t still be happening.  But official negligence is the norm here. Again, good thing the “Trainee” had the video of the savage treatment that resulted in broken ribs and untold mental damage. But he shouldn’t have had to. Debito

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Even more detail here (excerpt):

ベトナム人技能実習生への暴行で示談成立 建設会社・監理団体が謝罪
西本秀 朝日新聞 2022年5月7日
https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASQ5675PYQ4XPITB003.html

ベトナム国籍の技能実習生の男性(41)が実習先の岡山市の建設会社で2年間にわたって暴行を受けたとし、動画を公表して訴えていた問題で、男性を保護した労働組合・福山ユニオンたんぽぽ(広島県福山市)は、会社や、実習生を仲介した監理団体との間で示談が成立したことを明らかにした。

ユニオンによると、建設会社シックスクリエイトは、暴行があったとし、監理団体の岡山産業技術協同組合は、保護責任を果たせなかったとしてともに男性側に謝罪し、補償金を支払うという。

シックスクリエイトの代理人弁護士は「取材は受けない」とした。監理団体は「示談により問題が円満解決に至った」としつつ、内容は「関係者のプライバシーに関わり、詳細を明らかにすることを差し控えさせていただきます」とコメントした。

国も問題視 計画認定取り消しに
男性は2019年10月に来… rest at https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASQ5675PYQ4XPITB003.html

======================
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Japan Times on neighborhood sento bathhouse restoration activists: Omits history of how Japan’s already-declining public bath industry hurt itself with “Japanese Only” signs

mytest

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Hi Blog. Particularly dear to my heart is the issue of public baths in Japan (onsen and sento), as racist exclusionism is something my friends and I have dealt with for decades (including a successful civil suit in Otaru that went all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court, a couple of books in English and Japanese, and even a doctoral dissertation). Despite all these years of recording their “Japanese Only” signs and activities, already people seem to be trying to forget, or remembering not to remember, how this industry already in decline did itself no favors by being racist.

The most recent example of historical revisionism was in a Japan Times article about “Sento Samaritans”, where it didn’t even mention that past.  The article is excerpted below. I wrote in their Comments Section in reply:

======================
Debito: I applaud the efforts of these movements to keep neighborhood sento open. However, the writer of this article (and perhaps the activists themselves) neglected to mention an important part of history, where public/private baths have refused entry to foreign and foreign-looking residents and customers. If offering this communal experience is “an important channel of communication between neighbors”, then it’s also important to recognize the fact that sometimes sento and onsen have undermined themselves by putting up “Japanese Only” signs, and not recognized “foreigners” as fellow neighbors. Openness to all members of the community should also be part of their slogans.
======================

The JT article is excerpted below.

Also, The Japan Times in general seems to be forgetful of this discriminatory history as an editorial policy, as their archive on recent articles regarding Sento demonstrates. The JT laments the decline of the industry (for example, here) without getting into how some of their decline is their own fault. That’s particularly galling, considering I wrote for the Japan Times for two decades a regular column, in addition to other stringer articles, on this very subject.

Seems The Japan Times doesn’t prioritize this type of issue anymore. So much for reporting “in the public interest”.  This is how history gets unlearned and eventually repeats itself.  Just wait for the next moral panic blamed on “foreigners”, and communal doors to a public service will shut all over again.  Even if if drives the excluder out of business.  Talking about preservation without including this issue is in fact counterproductive for the industry.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Sentō Samaritans: The fight to save urban bathhouses
Activists believe bathing for a coin means soaking up culture
The Japan Times, August 6, 2022 (excerpt)
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2022/08/06/general/sento-bathhouse-historians/

Dozens of elderly regulars, families with children and young Tokyoites from all over the city strip, shower off and soak.

This was the scene during a scorching weekend in July at Inari-yu, a rejuvenated sentō (public bathhouse) in Kita Ward’s Takinogawa neighborhood. Together in baths ranging from warm to very hot, bathers admired the bright blues and greens of a recently repainted mural of Mount Fuji over their heads.

Built in 1930, Inari-yu is a rare surviving example of the shrine-like miyazukuri architectural style typical of Tokyo’s prewar bathhouses. The main attraction for visitors, though, was the reopening of the century-old nagaya, a type of Edo Period (1603-1867) rowhouse, adjacent to the sentō. Inari-yu’s staff originally lived in this building, but it had been abandoned for decades — until three years ago, when Sento & Neighborhood, a nonprofit that aims to revive historic bathhouses, started working with Inari-yu’s fifth-generation owners to restore the nagaya.

At the inaugural event, Sento & Neighborhood organized activities such as a lecture by an architectural historian, a community breakfast and a neighborhood walking tour. Next to Inari-yu’s entrance, a market with local food vendors added to the colorful and festive atmosphere.

Unmissable for the attendees, of course, was also a visit to the bathhouse. Stepping out of the heat and into Inari-yu’s cool, soothing interior, bathers shed their clothes and their fatigue in the spacious changing rooms with simple wooden decor overlooking a small, outdoor koi pond.

“Bathhouses are a space where I can ground myself,” says Sam Holden, who first found solace in sentō when he was a graduate student in Tokyo.

Holden, who labels himself an urban activist, is a writer, translator and renovation specialist. He founded Sento & Neighborhood together with four associates in 2020 with the idea of “changing historic bathhouses as little as possible but finding a way for them to become sustainable,” Holden explains, hinting at the financial difficulties that many sentō face…

[History of Sentos redacted]

To Holden, visiting bathhouses means exploring the back alleys that embody a deeper layer of Japan’s urban fabric tucked away from busy and anonymous main streets — and one that has been part of Japanese cities for centuries.

“Across the street from the bathhouse you have the liquor shop where the grandpas gather, the vegetable grocer and tofu shop and all sorts of local eateries,” Holden says. “Preserving a bathhouse means not only preserving that building, but this neighborhood network.”

Read the full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2022/08/06/general/sento-bathhouse-historians/

======================
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Migrant Integration Policy Index rates Japan as “Integration Denied”, and “Critically Unfavorable” in terms of Anti-Discrimination measures. And this is for 2019, before Covid shut Japan’s borders.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s an interesting website called the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX, www.mipex.eu).  Who are they? According to its website (excerpt, full text here),

The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) is a unique tool which measures policies to integrate migrants in countries across six continents, including all EU Member States (including the UK), other European countries (Albania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine), Asian countries (China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates), North American countries (Canada, Mexico and US), South American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile), South Africa, and Australia and New Zealand in Oceania.

Policy indicators have been developed to create a rich, multi-dimensional picture of migrants’ opportunities to participate in society. In the fifth edition (MIPEX 2020), we created a core set of indicators that have been updated for the period 2014-2019 (see Methodology). MIPEX now covers the period 2007-2019. The index is a useful tool to evaluate and compare what governments are doing to promote the integration of migrants in all the countries analysed.

The project informs and engages key policy actors about how to use indicators to improve integration governance and policy effectiveness…

Thus it offers comparatives for how proactive countries are with their immigration policies.  It released its rankings for Japan covering the year 2019, in which it concludes (underlined emphases by Debito):

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Conclusions and recommendations

Japan scores 47/100, slightly below the average MIPEX country (49/100) because Japanese policies still refuse to recognise that Japan is a country of immigration. This denial leads to contradictory policies that create as many obstacles as opportunities for foreign nationals. Japan’s approach to integration is categorised as “Immigration without Integration”. While Japan is a leader far ahead of the other countries in this category, its policies still deny basic rights and equal opportunities to newcomers. Foreign nationals can find some ways to settle long-term in Japan. However, Japanese policies only go halfway to guarantee them equal opportunities, (e.g., on health and education), while also denying them several basic rights, most notably protections from discrimination.

Japan needs to invest more on all the three dimensions, especially to guarantee immigrants with the same basic rights as Japanese citizens. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Japan’s current policies encourage the public to see immigrants as subordinates and not their neighbours.

Foreign residents in Japan enjoy relatively favourable access to family reunification, permanent residence and the health system. However, foreign nationals and their children still face major obstacles to education, political participation and non-discrimination. Immigrants’ children receive little targeted support in the education system in Japan, similar to the situation of other countries with low number of migrant pupils. Furthermore, potential victims of ethnic, racial, religious or nationality discrimination have little chance to access justice in Japan. Japan is one of the only MIPEX countries still without a dedicated anti-discrimination law and body. Japan is the among bottom three countries for anti-discrimination policies, together with other ‘immigration without integration’ countries.

Japan’s approach is slightly ahead of poorer Central European countries with equally small and new immigrant populations, but far behind other developed countries, including Korea. In comparison to neighbouring Korea, foreign nationals in Japan face weaker integration policies in the labour market, education, political participation, and anti-discrimination. Besides Korea, Japan’s policies are most similar on MIPEX to Israel and stronger than the other MIPEX Asian countries (China, India and Indonesia).

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For those who succumb to TL;dr, MIPEX provides solid visuals (https://www.mipex.eu/japan):

COMMENT: It’s as we’ve been saying here on Debito.org for decades:  This is what happens when you are the only developed country without a national law against racial discrimination.  And remember, this is the report as of 2019.  I look forward to seeing the next report, where it takes into account Japan’s racist policy of closed borders (even to lawful and Permanent Residents, for a time) due to Covid.  I strongly doubt Japan’s numbers will improve.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets up “foreign media policing website” where anyone can report to J govt any foreign info “incompatible with our country’s standpoint”. Actually, quite within character.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something for the undergraduates taking classes on critical thinking and government censorship to write a midterm essay on:

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put up a website that enables anyone to submit to the government “information about any accounts in overseas [media] relating to our country that is based on misunderstandings of the truth/facts (jijitsu), or is incompatible with our country’s standpoint.”

https://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/p_pd/pds/page22_003885.html

Here are some essay writing prompts.  Discuss:

  1. Why is the Japanese government, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, getting involved in policing foreign media?  Are they the new international media police?
  2. Why is there an assumption that “our country” has a defined “standpoint” that uniformly faces the rest of the world?  And whose “truth” is this?
  3. Where did the line-item budget come from to pay these MOFA bureaucrats to act as the media police?  Don’t they have enough on their plate already managing, y’know, our country’s diplomacy?

Actually, I might be able to answer the third one.  There’s a political dimension to all this.  Check out this tweet from SNA on Dietmember Onoda Kimi:

Yeah, we’ve talked about Onoda Kimi before.  She’s the American-born former dual-national American-Japanese MP who advocates for antiforeigner public policy that would go against her foreign father’s interests.  As I wrote for SNA back in 2020:

You can see how deep the pathology runs in Kimi Onoda, LDP Upper House Diet Member from Okayama. She similarly insinuated on March 30 that government subsidies should be denied Non-Japanese residents. But this is stunningly ironic because she was born in America to an American father. She even held American nationality until 2016 (when she was ratted out and gave it up), meaning she too was a foreigner in Japan.

That’s how deep Japan’s dehumanizing antibodies run — where even a self-hating haafu would effectively deny equal treatment to her own father! What immense psychological scars from childhood bullying have prompted her to deny any ties to her minority origins, and to pander for the approval of majority whim that Non-Japanese Residents belong on a separate and unequal tier in society?

If we ever meet, one question I’d like to ask is, “Who hurt you?”

Anyway, good job, Onoda Kimi.  Mission accomplished.

Actually, what MOFA is doing is very much within the Japanese Government (GOJ)’s character anyway.  The GOJ is very sensitive to how they are perceived abroad, historically stepping in many times to “correct misperceptions” in foreign media.  See herehere, here, here, here, and here, for example.  (And it’s a stark contrast to, for example, the Americans, who ignore outright disinformation even when it affects their own citizens abroad.)

Granted, compared to the US’s negligence (even making outright threats against their US citizens for not ignoring racial discrimination in Japan), I’d rather that a government step in to correct public misperceptions when their citizens abroad stand to get hurt.  But I’m also suspicious of the GOJ’s motives, as evidenced by the links above, as their “standpoint” towards historical and “factual” interpretation is riddled with ahistorical revisionism.

Moreover, asking for the public’s participation like this is redolent of the “Snitch Sites” the Immigration Bureau deployed in 2004, so that anyone could anonymously sicc the GOJ on any foreigner they thought could be an “illegal” — much to the delight of all the Zainichi Korean haters out there.

In sum, this “MOFA foreign media policing site” is yet another politically-motivated government-sponsored website that is encouraging online abuse and feeding the trolls.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him

mytest

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Hi Blog.  After the Abe Assassination, people have been asking me what I think about it.  In short, I think Abe’s historical revisionism is what got him killed.  Opening of my latest SNA column 35:

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Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History

By Debito Arudou,  Shingetsu News Agency, July 18, 2022

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/07/18/visible-minorities-abes-assassination-and-the-revenge-of-history/

SNA (Tokyo) — The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has occasioned a lot of valuable, eye-opening discussions in the media, but few if any have focused upon how Abe’s death could be seen as a form of karmic payback–-what happens when you ignore the lessons of history in the pursuit of raw political power.

The discussions have instead focused on the veneer of Japan’s “safe” society being blown away by a homemade gun; or about how the world’s democracies have been deprived of a Japanese leader comfortable on the international stage (while egregiously overlooking all the damage he did to Japan’s democracy).

A few intrepid journalists (starting with the SNA) have explored the swamp of Abe’s political connections with the “Moonies” religious cult, and how that probably gave motive to the killer.

To me the most absurd debate has been whether Abe’s death was an “assassination” at all –- the Japanese media have uniformly refused to use the corresponding word ansatsu, portraying it as merely a “shooting event” (jugeki jiken).

These important topics have been covered elsewhere by people with more expertise, so this column will take a different tack. It will discuss the role of national narratives in a society, how dishonest national narratives stunt the maturity of societies, and how a willful ignorance of history due to these national narratives circled back to kill Abe.

First, let’s talk about what national narratives are: stories created by governments, education systems, and media that unify people within a nation-state. For example, Japan sees itself as a pure-blooded monoethnic society that can be mobilized under shared collective goals to accomplish political and economic miracles. On the other hand, the United States sees itself as a “melting pot” of immigrants and cultures whose harnessed diversity has made it the richest, most powerful nation in the world. And so on.

Accurate or not, all societies create national narratives as a matter of necessity. They tell us what we as a group believe and share as collective history. Without them, policymakers would have great difficulty getting disparate people to obey social norms and laws, or accept their status as a member of society. When people believe that they share a history, starting with national education from childhood, political “legitimacy” can be entrenched. You really know it has worked when someone “loves” their country so deeply that they’ll die for it.

But there’s a problem endemic to creating a shared history–you have to decide who’s a member of society and who’s not. Narratives that unify also must exclude. You can’t have an “in-group” without the existence of an “out-group” to contrast yourself with. You can’t have “citizens” without also having “foreigners.”

Sooner or later even the most well-intentioned people make mistakes that turn people against each other, privileging some people at the cost of others, disenfranchising and even killing in the name of national integrity.

So from that comes two types of history: a “good” one that is celebrated, and a “bad” one that people generally don’t want to talk about.

Consider a few examples of the latter:

When the European powers of the world were colonizing other lands, they soon discovered they couldn’t extract treasure without exterminating local peoples. Consider Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean.

Or as the United States grew and developed, “Manifest Destiny” wielded an unspeakable impact on Native Americans–and that’s before we mention the horrors of chattel slavery.

Japan too didn’t secure its borders without committing cultural genocide against the Ainu and Ryukyuans. There was also that brief episode in the last century when it decided to “liberate” Asians abroad under the auspices of a racist Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The point is that every country has a dark side, and any honest historical accounting would allow for that.

Unfortunately, most countries would rather see themselves as the “good guys” in their own narrative, and either downplay or ignore the atrocities committed in the name of the nation.

That’s a bad idea for a number of reasons: not only because it produces poor public policy that leaves past injustices and grievances unresolved, but also because it leaves people blind to the more genuine lessons of history.

For example, the American tendency to see the US Civil War as merely a good-spirited contest between North and South economic and cultural needs overlooks the fact that owning people as property was the central cause of the war. And yet, narratives are still circulating in the South that downplay slavery and its impact.

Why do you think there’s so much backlash these days towards Critical Race Theory, which highlights the legacy of unequal racialized treatment still embedded within current legal systems and narratives? It is because many people would rather just pretend these issues are all settled.

Similarly, why do you think there’s so much backlash in Japan to teaching about atrocities like the Unit 731 biological warfare, the Nanjing Massacre, the brutal colonization of Korea and China, or the government-sponsored sexual slavery of the Comfort Women? It is because some would prefer to pretend that it never happened.

This is where Abe comes in–he was deeply committed to historical revisionism, asserting that Japan was a victim (not an aggressor) in the Pacific War, no more guilty of wrongdoing than any other great power. He also wanted to remove many of the “Western” elements (such as civil rights and individual liberties) that had been enshrined in Japan’s “Peace Constitution” to prevent a recurrence of Japan’s past militarism.

For people like Abe, a national narrative depicting Japan as the “bad guys” would force Japanese to feel shame about their country and to “love” it less. That’s the rubric behind his enforced patriotism and revised compulsory education curriculums.

It was an immature approach which forestalls ever coming to terms with and learning from the past.

Some other countries are more mature about it. Germany, for example, has accepted that its inexcusable historical deeds are just that–inexcusable–and contemporary Germans are taught as such.

There’s no denying that Nazi Germany was one of the worst political systems that ever existed. German schoolchildren are rightly taught to “Beware the Beginnings” (Wehret den Anfängen); that is, to be vigilant against something similar ever happening again.

South Africa has done something similar with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canada is finally coming to grips with its genocidal Indian Residential School System. And so on. Some societies acknowledge a portion of their dark past and try to move forward on a healthier basis.

On the other hand, societies with dishonest historical narratives wind up stuck in the past, continuously refighting and relitigating old battles. Remember what George Santayana said about people not learning from history? They’re doomed to repeat it.

Was American mob violence against the US Capitol on January 6 something entirely new? In fact, this sort of thing happened in city and state legislatures many times in the past. Have you ever heard of the Meridian Race Riot of 1871, the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874, the South Carolina Race Riots of 1876, and the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898? Probably not, and that’s the point. If you don’t know about them, it’s like they never happened.

These and many other incidents evicted anti-slavery politicians from elected offices in the South, established Jim Crow laws for nearly a century, and created the longstanding ahistorical narratives that pervade some elements of Trumpist politics to this day.

In other words, the Capitol insurrection was in fact a repeat from a historical blueprint..

Likewise, the Abe assassination was, in the longer view of history, not unique. Mark Schreiber recently offered a “guided historical tour” in the Asia Times on the long list of political killings in Tokyo alone, calling it “practically routine” in times that are not so distant from our own.

But such history was so suppressed in favor of “safe Japan” narratives that Abe himself scoffed at the need for additional security around public political events. During a 2015 Diet floor session, Abe officiously dismissed a question from MP Kiyomi Tsujimoto about the possibility of domestic terrorism, sniping that it was an attempt to “denigrate Japan.”

That was one of the historical blind spots that got Abe killed.

Even now the narrative of “safe Japan” is reasserting itself. The Japanese media still won’t accurately portray Abe’s killing as an “assassination.” Yet, as the Japan Times noted, similar political killings are freely portrayed as ansatsu–as long as they happen overseas.

Why? Apparently because, in Japan, assassinations are somehow “historically unexpected.”

Even the excuse that Abe’s killing was not “political” is inaccurate. This was not a random murder. As reported in various media, the killer wanted to retaliate because his family had been financially crippled by the Moonies, and specifically targeted Abe for his connections to them. That sounds political to me. Yet the Japanese media initially tried to suppress Abe’s Moonie connection until SNA and social media commentators broke the story.

Societies that stunt growth with “love-of-country-at-all-costs” narratives do themselves an enormous disservice, and not just because it leads to things like politics through violence.

Japan is still stuck in other hackneyed feedback loops: that it has always been a monoethnic society without actual minorities (it has ethnically cleansed itself numerous times); that it never actually lost the Pacific War (using the term shusen–war’s end–instead of haisen, war defeat) in historical accounts; and that Japan is not responsible for past militarism, much to the aggravation of nearby countries. These are counterproductive to Japan’s present and future.

Ahistoricity also keeps Japan from facing one more essential fact it has known for decades–that it is an aging, stagnating society, facing senescence and insolvency within a generation or two unless it allows immigration. To move forward, it needs to adopt more inclusive narratives.

That means coming to terms with, and teaching, the dark side of its history. The senseless death of Abe, who was the most prominent proponent of head-in-the-sand nationalism in postwar Japan, is a good opportunity for a reevaluation.

Otherwise history will continue to exact its revenge.

ENDS
======================
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 18, 2022

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 18, 2022
Table of Contents:
//////////////////////////////////////

1) Tokyo Musashino City fails to get local referenda voting rights for its NJ Residents (Dec 2021). Absorb the arguments of the national-level xenophobic campaign against it.

2) Archiving my SNA VM12 “A Despotic Bridge Too Far”, on Japan’s racist blanket ban on Foreign Resident re-entry, July 20, 2020 (link to full text)

3) Archiving SNA VM10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko) (link to full text)

And finally…

4) My SNA VM35: “Visible Minorities: Torture and Murder in Japan Detention Centers” (June 20, 2022) including the Sandamali, Suraj, Fernando, Okafor, Ekei etc. Cases.

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

By Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito)
Debito.org Newsletters are as always freely forwardable.

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

1) Tokyo Musashino City fails to get local referenda voting rights for its NJ Residents (Dec 2021). Absorb the arguments of the national-level xenophobic campaign against it.

Here’s yet another example of a local government, a suburb of Tokyo called Musashino, trying to do what’s right for ALL of its residents (including those without Japanese citizenship) by getting their voice heard via voting in local referenda. To stress: These are votes on local, repeat, local referenda (i.e., they’re not actually *electing representatives*) — and the results are not even legally binding. Moreover, according to a source below, 73% of the public supported the move (that is, before the xenophobes and alarmists stepped in to bully and scare the public).

To stress: These are votes on local, repeat, local referenda (they’re not actually *electing representatives*) — and the results are not even legally binding. Moreover, according to the Takao source below, 73% of the public supported the move (that is, before the xenophobes and alarmists stepped in on a national level to bully and scare the public). So witness the typical alarmism behind sharing any political power in Japan. The tactic is simple: portray the granting of any voice in governance to non-citizens as a security issue. The assumption then becomes that enfranchised foreigners will inevitably use their power to hurt Japanese citizens. Substantiating articles follow. Trace the arguments pro and con within and see what I mean. The article from the right-wing rag Japan Forward is of particular notice, reprinting the right-wing Sankei Shinbun’s blatant xenophobic editorial policies; as always it gives us a distillation of intellectualized racism. An academic article as counterweight to the Sankei follows that. A quote of note:

Takao: “This backlash [to the Musashino policy proposal] highlights the LDP’s intention to allow more foreign workers to stay in Japan — to address labour shortages — while also suppressing their rights to maintain the image of a ‘homogeneous’ nation. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has indicated that Japan will need to quadruple the number of foreign workers to over 6 million by 2040 to sustain economic growth. But the civic and political participation of foreign residents in Japan is necessary for the sake of smooth social integration. Despite conservative protests, it is local authorities who are forced to step up, fill the vacuum and cope with the increasing pressure of foreign workers’ needs, which are not well addressed by the national government. Prospects for the further protection of foreign residents’ rights in Japan will hinge on effective policy coordination and leadership at the local level.”

https://www.debito.org/?p=17101

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

2) Archiving my SNA VM12 “A Despotic Bridge Too Far”, on Japan’s racist blanket ban on Foreign Resident re-entry, July 20, 2020 (link to full text)

SNA: How bad does it have to get? I’m talking about Japan’s cruelty and meanness towards its Non-Japanese residents. How bad before people think to step in and stop it?

I think we now have an answer to that due to Japan’s recent policy excluding only foreigners from re-entry at its border, even if they’ve lived here for decades, as a by-product of the Covid-19 pandemic. Japanese re-entrants get let in after testing and quarantine; no other G7 country excludes all foreigners only.

Consequently, many Non-Japanese residents found themselves stranded overseas, separated from their Japanese families, lives and livelihoods, watching their investments dry up and visa clocks run out without recourse. Or perhaps found themselves stranded within Japan, as family members abroad died, and the prospect of attending their funeral or taking care of personal matters in person would mean exile.

However, protests against this policy have been unusually mainstream, including institutions who have been for generations largely silent regarding other forms of discrimination towards foreigners in Japan. Consider these examples of how institutionalized and embedded racism is in Japan:

You’re probably aware that Japan has long advertised itself as a “monocultural, homogeneous society,” denying that minorities, racial or ethnic, exist within it. But did you know that Japan still refuses to include Non-Japanese residents as “people” in its official population tallies? Or to list them on official family registries as “spouses” of Japanese? Or that Japan’s constitution expressly reserves equality under the law for Japanese citizens (kokumin) in its Japanese translation? This complicates things for all Non-Japanese residents to this day…

Full text now archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16172

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3) Archiving SNA VM10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko) (link to full text)

SNA: In a recent SNA Speakeasy on “Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus Era,” I argued that Non-Japanese (NJ) must band together and be vocal about claiming what’s due them as taxpayers. We shouldn’t wait for the government to deign to divvy out what it thinks foreigners want, as if it’s the omotenashi (hospitality) Japan offers any guest. Instead, NJ residents should be telling the government what they want, on their terms; trying to influence policy agendas that affect them by, for example, participating in local government forums and policy deliberation councils (shingikai).

People have been advocating this for years. Why isn’t it happening as often as it should? Because NJ (especially those in the English-language communities) collectively suffer from something I call “guestism”: falling for the fiction that they are merely “guests” in Japan subject to the whims of the Japanese “hosts.” Their mantra is “It’s their country, not mine. Who am I to tell them what to do?”

Still, eventually some NJ live here long enough, develop deep connections and language abilities, and even become Japanese citizens. Some transform into community leaders, prominent business owners and spokespeople, media mavens, and elected officials. They are definitely no longer “guests.”

But once they earn due respect and authority, another problem comes up: Many squander their position by becoming “collaborators.”

Instead of using their power for good, such as showing other NJ how to follow in their footsteps and to assimilate and enfranchise themselves, collaborators pull the ladder up behind them. They actively consort with the powers-that-be to preserve their privilege and to undermine other NJ Residents.

For example, consider Marutei Tsurunen, Donald Keene, and Oussouby Sacko…

Full text is now archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16075

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

And finally…

4) My SNA VM35: “Visible Minorities: Torture and Murder in Japan Detention Centers” (June 20, 2022) including the Sandamali, Suraj, Fernando, Okafor, Ekei etc. Cases.

News Headline: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman.”

SNA: In August 2020, a Sri Lanka national named Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali was arrested for overstaying her visa, and detained in a Nagoya Immigration Detention Center. She had arrived in Japan in 2017, but her student visa was cancelled in 2019 because she couldn’t afford tuition fees. While in detention, she opted not to return to Sri Lanka, reportedly due to reduced flights during Covid and an abusive boyfriend back home.

During her seven months in custody, however, Sandamali’s health steadily declined due to a stress-induced stomach condition. According to the Straits Times, Sandamali “was vomiting blood in her final days, and was so weak that she had no control of her arms and legs. The immigration authorities allegedly turned a blind eye to medical expert advice to put her on an intravenous drip or to grant her provisional release to ease her stress. A report by public broadcaster NHK suggested that officials tend to suspect malingering for minor illnesses in their reluctance to grant provisional release.” […]

On March 6, 2021, Sandamali died in her cell, aged 33. By the time Sandamali’s family received her body, “her skin was wrinkled like an old person, and it was stuck firmly to her bones.” In November 2021, Sandamali’s family lodged a criminal complaint against officials at the Nagoya facility, accusing them of murder through willful negligence.

Unfortunately, as noted above, last week the Nagoya District Public Prosecutor’s Office dropped the Sandamali case, citing an inability to establish criminal liability or even a cause of death, blaming it on “multiple factors.” Multiple factors indeed. Sandamali’s case is not unprecedented. According to CNN, since 1997 at least 27 foreign detainees have died in Japan’s Immigration detention centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks,” because they detain foreigners only).

The main factor here is the cruel and unusual punishment by public officers, expressly forbidden under Article 36 of the Constitution. Yet nobody has ever been held criminally liable for foreigner deaths in detention. That’s what makes Japan’s Gaijin Tanks so cruel and unusual. Let’s consider a few more cases, then talk about the system that killed them…

https://www.debito.org/?p=17080

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

That’s all for this month. Thanks as always for reading!
Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 18, 2022 ENDS

======================
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Tokyo Musashino City fails to get local referenda voting rights for its NJ Residents (Dec 2021). Absorb the arguments of the national-level xenophobic campaign against it.

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Hi Blog.  Sorry to be getting to this issue so late, but here’s yet another example of a local government, a suburb of Tokyo called Musashino, trying to do what’s right for ALL of its residents (including those without Japanese citizenship) by getting their voice heard by voting in local referenda.

To stress:  These are votes on local, repeat, local referenda (they’re not actually *electing representatives*) — and the results are not even legally binding.  Moreover, according to the Takao source below, 73% of the public supported the move (that is, before the xenophobes and alarmists stepped in on a national level to bully and scare the public).

Witness the typical alarmism behind sharing any political power in Japan.  The tactic is simple:  portray the granting of any voice in governance to non-citizens as a security issue.  The assumption then becomes that enfranchised foreigners will inevitably use their power to hurt Japanese citizens.

(See other examples on Debito.org of local governments trying to help their foreign residents — since the national government refuses to — and their successes and failures here and here.)  

Substantiating articles follow.  Trace the arguments pro and con within and see what I mean.  The article from the right-wing rag Japan Forward is of particular notice, reprinting the right-wing Sankei Shinbun’s blatant xenophobic editorial policies; as always it gives us a distillation of intellectualized racism.  An academic article as counterweight to the Sankei follows that.  A quote of note:

Takao:  “This backlash [to the Musashino policy proposal] highlights the LDP’s intention to allow more foreign workers to stay in Japan — to address labour shortages — while also suppressing their rights to maintain the image of a ‘homogeneous’ nation. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has indicated that Japan will need to quadruple the number of foreign workers to over 6 million by 2040 to sustain economic growth.

“But the civic and political participation of foreign residents in Japan is necessary for the sake of smooth social integration. Despite conservative protests, it is local authorities who are forced to step up, fill the vacuum and cope with the increasing pressure of foreign workers’ needs, which are not well addressed by the national government. Prospects for the further protection of foreign residents’ rights in Japan will hinge on effective policy coordination and leadership at the local level.”

For the record.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Musashino’s foreign vote plan squeaks through assembly panel
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, December 14, 2021
https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14501973

A Musashino city assembly committee on Dec. 13 narrowly approved a proposal to allow short-term foreign residents to vote in local referendums, an issue that has divided this western Tokyo suburb.

The six members of the general affairs committee were evenly split on the plan. The committee chair then cast a ‘yes’ vote to break the tie.

The proposal will be sent to the city assembly’s floor for a vote on Dec. 21.

If approved by the assembly, Musashino will become the third municipality to allow foreign residents listed in a city’s registration system for three straight months to vote in local referendums, following Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture and Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture.

The 108-seat public gallery at the assembly chamber was nearly full by the time discussions started just after 10:30 a.m. The talks continued until 8:30 p.m., with a rest break included.

Under the proposal, residents, including foreign nationals, who are at least 18 years old and have been listed in the city’s basic resident registration system for three straight months can vote in local referendums.

The main issue of dispute at the committee was the three-month requirement for foreign residents.

Two committee members belonging to a Liberal Democratic Party group of the city assembly strongly opposed the proposal.

“From a commonsense perspective, it is nonsense to treat people who have lived in Japan for a long time and foreigners who have only stayed in Japan for three months at the same level,” said one of the opposing members, Taro Kikuchi.

Kikuchi also pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the opportunities for residents to hear the city’s explanation of the issue.

The proposal “is controversial and has divided the city in half,” he said.

Hidenori Dojo, another opponent, warned that the proposal could give short-term foreign residents a say on national security issues or energy policies in a public referendum.

The city’s public referendum ordinance proposal “is in a broad sense an enfranchisement,” Dojo said.

He explained that his stance is not about “excluding and discriminating against foreigners” but he believes “a distinction is necessary.”

A representative of the city government countered Dojo’s argument.

“It is not appropriate to prohibit a resident’s will to express a certain opinion on a matter even if the city does not have jurisdiction over that matter,” the representative said.

Shori Ochiai, the third opponent of the proposal who belongs to junior coalition partner Komeito, said various opinions were expressed over the issue of granting voting rights to foreigners when the basic autonomy ordinance was established to promote decentralization.

Ochiai said those discussions went nowhere.

He also questioned the timing of Musashino city’s proposal.

He noted that the city started designing institutional arrangements for public referendums after the basic autonomy ordinance took effect in 2020.

“Residents have since struggled in their daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, with all this hubbub, many of them are wondering for the first time, ‘What is going on?’”

A city representative acknowledged the need to pass more information about the ordinance to residents.

The three committee members who voted in favor of the proposal included a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and a member of the Japanese Communist Party.

They spent much of their time asking the city questions about how it can ease concerns about possible ramifications from granting voting rights to foreign nationals in referendums.

Taro Yabuhara, the CDP member, asked about the processes that Zushi and Toyonaka went through to establish systems that allowed voting by foreign nationals listed in the basic resident registration system for at least three months.

A Musashino representative said both cities did not face exceptional opposition to their plans from residents or assembly members, and the municipalities also did not see a sudden increase in foreign resident numbers.

Some xenophobic groups have argued that Musashino’s ordinance would result in an influx of special-interest foreign nationals seeking a say in Japanese policies.

But a Musashino official said that such an attempt would be unsuccessful “in a city with a high population density.”

Natsuki Sakurai, an independent politician on the committee, said of such criticism: “Residents of foreign nationalities are shared members of the community. I feel uncomfortable with discussions on whether they are suitable for acceptance in this community or not.”

Sakurai also asked Musashino officials if there are any administrative services that are limited to people with Japanese nationality, a requirement for voting in mayoral and city assembly elections.

“There is no distinction by nationality in terms of services,” a city representative said.

Shigeki Hashimoto, the JCP member, said statements made by city assembly members who oppose the proposal as well as certain media “have misled citizens” by saying that the right to vote in public referendums “is practically a right to vote in local elections.”

A city official agreed with Hashimoto, saying, “Public referendums are close to petitions, defined under Article 16 of the Constitution, and this is different from local election voting rights.”

Ultimately, Tatsuya Fukazawa, a CDP member who chairs the committee, voted for the proposal, making it a 4-to-3 win for the city.

The committee also rejected a petition with 5,277 signatures asking that the proposal be scrapped or tabled for further discussions.

Munenori Kaneko, who heads a group that organized the petition, said about 70 percent of the signatories live in Musashino.

The group has argued that granting foreign residents the right to vote could result in the adoption of opinions that are different from those of the electoral constituencies.

“It can lead to a decline in the functions of the city assembly, whose members are elected by residents with Japanese nationality,” the group said.

(This article was written by Keiichiro Inoue and Atsushi Takahashi.) ENDS

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Tokyo’s Musashino rejects proposal to let foreign residents vote
Kyodo News/Japan Times, Dec 21, 2021
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/12/21/national/politics-diplomacy/tokyo-musashino-rejects-foreign-residents-vote/

The municipal assembly of Musashino in Tokyo on Tuesday rejected a proposed ordinance that would have allowed foreign residents to vote in local referendums.

When first submitted, the proposal divided opinions in the assembly of the suburban city with a population of nearly 150,000. It also drew flak online, with critics saying it could be a step toward granting foreign residents the right to vote in national elections.

The city, which has the popular shopping and residential district of Kichijoji, failed to join two cities that have granted voting rights to foreign nationals in referendums without special conditions — Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture and Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture.

The proposal was voted down by 14 to 11.

Following the assembly vote on Tuesday, Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita said spreading information about the proposal to residents in the city was insufficient, adding that she will listen to citizens’ voices and consider submitting a revised proposal in the future.

The city assembly’s general affairs committee gave the green light to the controversial proposal last week.

Matsushita submitted the proposal to the assembly in November for holding referendums that would have allowed foreign nationals age 18 or above to vote if they have lived in the city for at least three months — the same conditions that would apply to Japanese residents.

“I am aiming to create a city that accepts diversity,” Matsushita said during the committee’s deliberations last week. “Those who have just come to Japan are also part of the community.”

Assembly members with ties to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan supported the proposal, while members associated with the Liberal Democratic Party opposed it, with one arguing the plan had been hastily decided.

“Explanations to citizens have been insufficient,” the LDP assembly member said.

Other than the cities of Zushi and Toyonaka, about 40 municipalities in Japan allow foreign nationals to vote in referendums, but with some conditions applied such as having the status of permanent residency. ENDS

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Musashino assembly rejects proposal to let foreigners vote
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, December 21, 2021
https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14507138

The Musashino municipal assembly in western Tokyo on Dec. 21 rejected the city’s proposal to allow foreign nationals, including short-term residents, to vote in local referendums.

Fourteen assembly members voted against the proposal while 11 were in favor.

The issue has divided the city.

Proponents said the plan would lead to a more diverse society and gives a voice to more people living in the city.

But critics argued that the required period of stay in the city was far too short for the right to vote. They also said information about the proposal had not been effectively distributed to the public.

The proposal said those eligible to vote in public referendums must be 18 years old or older and listed in the city’s basic resident register network system for at least three straight months.

The plan included foreign students and technical trainees.

“I have seriously taken the result of the vote to heart,” Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita said at a news conference after her proposal was rejected.

“I have listened to various opinions from the assembly and residents,” she said. “But I have noted that (such an effort) is not enough, and the issue needs more publicity before we can implement a public referendum system.”

Matsushita also addressed criticism of the three-month-stay requirement and indicated that she will submit another proposal after a review.

“There are voices that say certain conditions are needed, such as the length of stay or a permanent resident status,” she said. “I want to think about that together from now on and find a better way.”

In an earlier vote on Dec. 13, the city assembly’s six-member general affairs committee was evenly split on the proposal. The committee chair tipped the scale by voting “yes,” sending the proposal to a full vote from the assembly.

After the city announced the proposal in November, Diet members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and others voiced opposition. Some argued that such a plan “will grant quasi-voting rights to foreigners without any careful consideration.”

Xenophobic groups have also rallied in the city’s downtown area and around city hall, using a propaganda vehicle to blare out their opposition.

Supporters of the proposal said of such rallies, “Coercive promotions and extortion-like behavior have been prevalent.”

(This article was written by Keiichiro Inoue and Atsushi Takahashi.) ENDS

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EDITORIAL | Musashino City Council Did the Right Thing in Rejecting Foreigner Voting

Under the now-rejected ordinance, non-Japanese living in the city for only three months could have voted, raising fears of foreign influence on local decisions impacting national security.

December 28, 2021 By Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun
https://japan-forward.com/editorial-musashino-city-council-did-the-right-thing-in-rejecting-foreigner-voting/

A draft ordinance that would have allowed voting on local referendums without distinguishing between foreign residents and Japanese nationals was voted down in a plenary session of the Musashino City Council in western Tokyo on December 21, 2021.

The city council has shown good judgment, and we applaud the decision. If the proposed ordinance had been approved, its ripple effect could have spread to other municipalities.

Local referendums have the potential for exerting influence over issues affecting the national interest, such as national security and energy policy. In light of the gravity of the matter, it is only natural that the city council has rejected the draft ordinance. The city government of Musashino, which proposed the ordinance, must take the outcome to heart.

The ordinance would have granted foreign residents, such as students and technical intern trainees, the right to vote in referendums if they have lived in the city for three months or more, and are at least 18 years old. The council’s general affairs committee passed the city government-sponsored ordinance on December 13. Pros and cons of the draft were debated before the proposed ordinance was brought to a vote on December 21, with arguments divided on points such as whether it would “boost diversity” in Musashino, and the “need for certain standards” before voting. The outcome was that the proposed ordinance was rejected by a majority vote.

After the vote, Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita stated, “There was a view that the city government had done an inadequate job of informing citizens about the ordinance,” suggesting that she might push for its consideration again. The mayor, however, should abandon any such effort.

Although the mayor insisted that referendums voted on by residents would not be legally binding, the bill explicitly said, “Both the city council and the mayor should respect the result.” If the mayor and council look to the vote for guidance, fears that the referendum could impact the political decision making process would be realized, and non-Japanese would have acquired suffrage.

Fears arose of the city administration and council being swayed by the results of such referendums, impacting political decision making and ending in the foreigners acquiring voting rights.

Seventy-eight municipalities across the country have adopted ordinances on holding local referendums. Of those, 43 have granted voting rights to foreign residents. Unlike Musashino City, however, most have clear stipulations on who can participate in voting, such as limiting eligibility only to non-citizens with permanent resident status.

In its 1995 ruling, the Supreme Court declared that enfranchisement of foreign residents was not permitted under the Constitution. But at the same time the court acknowledged that voting at a local level should be allowed by “those having particularly close relationships with local entities.” The court also set limitations, such as permanent foreign residents of the city.

The Supreme Court decision did not pave the way for voting by foreign nationals, such as students and technical intern trainees who have lived in a city for only three months.

Some pointed out that there have been no particular problems with similar ordinances to the one proposed in Musashino, such as a 2006 ordinance in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture. In another case, however, a 1998 referendum in Okinawa Prefecture on the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement shook national security politics.

Moreover, there can be no guarantee that these ordinances will be non-problematic in the future simply because there have been no major problems so far.

Musashino City should instead place top priority on improving its own efforts to meet the diverse needs of its foreign residents. It could start, for instance, by increasing the number of services which offer access to interpreters. ENDS

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Civic rights for foreign residents sparks backlash in Japan
East Asia Forum, 12 February 2022
By Yasuo Takao, Curtin University
https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2022/02/12/civic-rights-for-foreign-residents-sparks-backlash-in-japan/

The number of foreign residents living in Japan has dramatically increased in the past decade, marking a change for a population traditionally perceived as ‘homogenous’. One local municipality’s debate on civic participation for its foreign residents recently sparked a nation-wide backlash from conservatives and nationalists.

The inflow of foreign residents into Japan increased from 287,100 in 2010 to 592,000 in 2019 — the fourth largest inflow in the OECD. As of October 2021, there were 2.8 million residents of foreign nationality registered in the country.

The debate on how to integrate these new residents into Japanese society is ongoing. By the end of 2021, 42 of Japan’s 1718 municipalities (excluding Tokyo’s Special Wards) had passed public ordinances establishing permanent local referendum systems and granted foreign residents voting rights in them. Zushi in Kanagawa prefecture and Toyonaka in Osaka prefecture even permitted foreign residents to vote without any special ‘period of stay’ conditions.

But in December 2021, the city assembly of Musashino in suburban Tokyo voted against (14 to 11) an ordinance that would have granted foreign residents such voting rights. Progressive Mayor Reiko Matsushita had proposed establishing a permanent local referendum system that would include foreign residents aged 18 or older who had been on the residential register for at least three months. While the referendum results would not be legally binding, the ordinance would require the mayor and the assembly to ‘respect’ them.

In March 2021, Musashino conducted a survey which found 73.2 per cent of respondents agreed that foreign residents should be able to vote in local referendums. Prior to the vote, the city was divided — a backlash from conservative and nationalist politicians and newspapers resulted in street protests against the proposal, while many grassroots community groups were supportive. Voting rights for foreigners had not been an issue in the national lower house election in October 2021, yet Musashino’s proposal gained the attention of the conservative mass media and soon became an issue of national import.

So, how did this whole controversy come about? The issue of non-citizen voting has its roots in the broader policy of local autonomy for Japan’s municipalities.

Ongoing decentralisation in favour of local councils was a key part of public sector reforms in the 1990s, and the Omnibus Law for Local Devolution came into force in 2000. This saw the first local autonomy ordinance (jichi kihon jorei) established in Niseko in 2001, and by 2012 there were 284 such laws — which are known as the ‘constitutions of municipalities’.

The dynamic changed in 2012 when national elections returned the old guard Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power. In 2014 the LDP directed its local branches to ‘respond carefully’ to any initiatives for the enactment of basic local autonomy ordinances. In particular, the LDP Policy Affairs Research Council warned some discretionary power of local authorities went ‘too far’ beyond Japan’s constitutional framework. Consequently, the number of new ordinances dropped from 25 in 2014 to one in 2020.

After a basic local autonomy ordinance came into force, municipalities — including Musashino — regularly started making institutional arrangements for inclusive public referendums. Most proposals for the participation of foreign residents in local referendums were based on these laws.

While some local ordinances followed national guidelines released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, local authorities also drafted many on their own. The LDP tried to break this momentum by arguing ‘jichi kihon jorei represents a denial of the nation’.

In this political climate, Musashino’s proposal was singled out for attack by conservative groups. A group of LDP nationalist politicians, led by Seiichiro Murakami and Shigeharu Aoyama, warned that foreign residents’ rights to vote in referendums could undermine Japan’s national security as the agenda items for referendums are virtually unlimited. In opposing the city’s proposal, Murakami and Aoyama argued it ‘would lead to easily granting foreign nationals rights equivalent to suffrage’. Subsequently, 14 Musashino council members heeded these conservative attacks and voted against the proposal.

This backlash highlights the LDP’s intention to allow more foreign workers to stay in Japan — to address labour shortages — while also suppressing their rights to maintain the image of a ‘homogeneous’ nation. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has indicated that Japan will need to quadruple the number of foreign workers to over 6 million by 2040 to sustain economic growth.

But the civic and political participation of foreign residents in Japan is necessary for the sake of smooth social integration. Despite conservative protests, it is local authorities who are forced to step up, fill the vacuum and cope with the increasing pressure of foreign workers’ needs, which are not well addressed by the national government. Prospects for the further protection of foreign residents’ rights in Japan will hinge on effective policy coordination and leadership at the local level.

Yasuo Takao is Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University, Perth. ENDS

More articles and opinion on the subject at https://www.google.com/search?q=musashino+foreigners+voting

======================
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Archiving my SNA VM12 “A Despotic Bridge Too Far”, on Japan’s racist blanket ban on Foreign Resident re-entry, July 20, 2020 (link to full text)

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Hi Blog.  Archiving the full text of my SNA VM 12, which is a good time capsule of how awful Japan has been towards its foreign residents during Covid.  A link to the full text below.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities Column 12: A Despotic Bridge Too Far
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, July 20, 2020

http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/07/20/visible-minorities-a-despotic-bridge-too-far/

SNA (Tokyo) — How bad does it have to get? I’m talking about Japan’s cruelty and meanness towards its Non-Japanese residents. How bad before people think to step in and stop it?

I think we now have an answer to that due to Japan’s recent policy excluding only foreigners from re-entry at its border, even if they’ve lived here for decades, as a by-product of the Covid-19 pandemic. Japanese re-entrants get let in after testing and quarantine; no other G7 country excludes all foreigners only.

Consequently, many Non-Japanese residents found themselves stranded overseas, separated from their Japanese families, lives and livelihoods, watching their investments dry up and visa clocks run out without recourse. Or perhaps found themselves stranded within Japan, as family members abroad died, and the prospect of attending their funeral or taking care of personal matters in person would mean exile.

However, protests against this policy have been unusually mainstream, including institutions who have been for generations largely silent regarding other forms of discrimination towards foreigners in Japan. Consider these examples of how institutionalized and embedded racism is in Japan:

You’re probably aware that Japan has long advertised itself as a “monocultural, homogeneous society,” denying that minorities, racial or ethnic, exist within it. But did you know that Japan still refuses to include Non-Japanese residents as “people” in its official population tallies? Or to list them on official family registries as “spouses” of Japanese? Or that Japan’s constitution expressly reserves equality under the law for Japanese citizens (kokumin) in its Japanese translation? This complicates things for all Non-Japanese residents to this day…

Full text now archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16172

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My SNA VM35: “Visible Minorities: Torture and Murder in Japan Detention Centers” (June 20, 2022) including the Sandamali, Suraj, Fernando, Okafor, Ekei etc. Cases.

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Visible Minorities: Torture and Murder in Japan Detention Centers
Shingetsu News Agency, June 20, 2022, by Debito Arudou

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/06/20/visible-minorities-torture-and-murder-in-japan-detention-centers/

SNA (Tokyo) — News Headline: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman.”

In August 2020, a Sri Lanka national named Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali was arrested for overstaying her visa, and detained in a Nagoya Immigration Detention Center. She had arrived in Japan in 2017, but her student visa was cancelled in 2019 because she couldn’t afford tuition fees. While in detention, she opted not to return to Sri Lanka, reportedly due to reduced flights during Covid and an abusive boyfriend back home.

During her seven months in custody, however, Sandamali’s health steadily declined due to a stress-induced stomach condition. According to the Straits Times, Sandamali “was vomiting blood in her final days, and was so weak that she had no control of her arms and legs. The immigration authorities allegedly turned a blind eye to medical expert advice to put her on an intravenous drip or to grant her provisional release to ease her stress. A report by public broadcaster NHK suggested that officials tend to suspect malingering for minor illnesses in their reluctance to grant provisional release.”

That’s a questionable decision, since she had lost 20 kilograms from her small frame over seven months—hard to dismiss as mere “malingering” or “minor illness.” And her decline was not sudden: According to the Asahi Shinbun, she had notified her jailers from mid-January about nausea and lack of appetite. Nineteen days before her death, a urine test indicated she was in a state of starvation. The New York Times noted that in her final days she could ingest little more than water, sugar, or morsels of bread, and could barely make a fist or speak. Yet she was again refused provisional release for hospital treatment.

On March 6, 2021, Sandamali died in her cell, aged 33. An August 2021 postmortem probe by Japan’s Immigration Services Agency ruled that Sandamali had been “mistreated” by the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau, formally reprimanding the bureau’s director and three other supervisors for not reporting her requests for examination and treatment to an outside doctor.

But overlooked was cruelty of her captors. According to Nikkei Asia, “one immigration officer allegedly mocked Wishma when she was unable to swallow her drink,” and the Mainichi Shinbun reported that other Immigration officers misled a doctor about her condition two days before her death, dismissing her illness as merely “psychosomatic.”

By the time Sandamali’s family received her body, “her skin was wrinkled like an old person, and it was stuck firmly to her bones.” In November 2021, Sandamali’s family lodged a criminal complaint against officials at the Nagoya facility, accusing them of murder through willful negligence.

Unfortunately, as noted above, last week the Nagoya District Public Prosecutor’s Office dropped the Sandamali case, citing an inability to establish criminal liability or even a cause of death, blaming it on “multiple factors.”

Multiple factors indeed. Sandamali’s case is not unprecedented. According to CNN, since 1997 at least 27 foreign detainees have died in Japan’s Immigration detention centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks,” because they detain foreigners only).

The main factor here is the cruel and unusual punishment by public officers, expressly forbidden under Article 36 of the Constitution.

Yet nobody has ever been held criminally liable for foreigner deaths in detention. That’s what makes Japan’s Gaijin Tanks so cruel and unusual.

Let’s consider a few more cases, then talk about the system that killed them…

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/06/20/visible-minorities-torture-and-murder-in-japan-detention-centers/

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Archiving SNA VM10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko) (Link to full text)

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my Shingetsu News Agency monthly “Visible Minorities” column 10, from two years ago, talking about how some minorities in Japan sell out to authority as soon as they are granted any privilege.  I mention former Diet Member Tsurunen Marutei, Japan scholar Donald Keene, and Kyoto Seika University President Oussouby Sacko, and how they are now ironically perpetuating problems they once faced.  Here are the opening paragraphs with a link to the full text elsewhere on Debito.org. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: The Guestists and the Collaborators

SNA (Tokyo) — In a recent SNA Speakeasy on “Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus Era,” I argued that Non-Japanese (NJ) must band together and be vocal about claiming what’s due them as taxpayers. We shouldn’t wait for the government to deign to divvy out what it thinks foreigners want, as if it’s the omotenashi (hospitality) Japan offers any guest. Instead, NJ residents should be telling the government what they want, on their terms; trying to influence policy agendas that affect them by, for example, participating in local government forums and policy deliberation councils (shingikai).

People have been advocating this for years. Why isn’t it happening as often as it should? Because NJ (especially those in the English-language communities) collectively suffer from something I call “guestism”: falling for the fiction that they are merely “guests” in Japan subject to the whims of the Japanese “hosts.” Their mantra is “It’s their country, not mine. Who am I to tell them what to do?

Still, eventually some NJ live here long enough, develop deep connections and language abilities, and even become Japanese citizens. Some transform into community leaders, prominent business owners and spokespeople, media mavens, and elected officials. They are definitely no longer “guests.”

But once they earn due respect and authority, another problem comes up: Many squander their position by becoming “collaborators.”

Instead of using their power for good, such as showing other NJ how to follow in their footsteps and to assimilate and enfranchise themselves, collaborators pull the ladder up behind them. They actively consort with the powers-that-be to preserve their privilege and to undermine other NJ Residents.

For example, consider Marutei Tsurunen, Donald Keene, and Oussouby Sacko…

Full text is now archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16075

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 20, 2022

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Table of Contents:
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MURDER DECRIMINALIZED
1) Asahi: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman”, predictably ending Criminal Case brought by the family of Wishma Sandamali, and keeping Japan’s deadly “Gaijin Tanks” unaccountable
2) Japan Today expose: How the media failed Japan’s most vulnerable immigrants (Feb 22, 2022)

OTHER UNFAIRNESS
3) MRI on rude and slipshod treatment from Shizuoka hospitals and health care practitioners
4) Kyodo: Japan-born American files suit against Japan’s dual nationality ban

FULL TEXT OF OLDER SNA COLUMNS ARCHIVED
5) SNA VM9: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, April 20, 2020 (full text)
6) Debito’s SNA VM8: “No Free Pass for Japan’s Shirking Responsibility”, Mar 16, 2020 (full text)

… and finally …

7) My SNA Visible Minorities col 34: “Henry Scott-Stokes, Sell-Out to Gaijin Handlers, dies.” May 23, 2022, with ruminations on why foreign journalism in Japan has historically been so astray.
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By Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito)
Debito.org Newsletters as always are freely forwardable
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MURDER DECRIMINALIZED

1) Asahi: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman”, predictably ending Criminal Case brought by the family of Wishma Sandamali, and keeping Japan’s deadly “Gaijin Tanks” unaccountable

Asahi: Public prosecutors will drop their case against senior officials from the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau over the death of a Sri Lankan woman at an immigration detention facility, according to sources. Wishma Sandamali, 33, died in March 2021 at a facility run by the bureau, in a case that sparked widespread outcry over her mistreatment.

The Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office launched an investigation into whether the senior officials in charge at the time had committed murder or negligence as a guardian resulting in death, responding to criminal complaints against them from Wishma’s family and others. Sources said the prosecutors office concluded it cannot establish criminal liability in this case following discussions with another prosecution office that is higher in rank.

COMMENT: We’ve talked about the Sandamali Case here on Debito.org before, as we have the many other cases of death and destruction in Japan’s cruel Detention Centers. One of the reasons they remain so cruel is that they face no accountability, as seen here. And prosecutors declining to prosecute those who kill foreigners have been discussed at length in my book Embedded Racism, Chapter 6, “A ‘Chinaman’s Chance’ in Japanese Court” (with 2022 updates of more cases, including Sandamali’s, in the Second Edition).

https://www.debito.org/?p=17077

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2) Japan Today expose: How the media failed Japan’s most vulnerable immigrants (Feb 22, 2022)

JT: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a strange institution. It’s responsible for the way Japan is perceived abroad, and it decides who receives the opportunity to immigrate. But its jurisdiction over the lives of immigrants largely vanishes when they reach Japan. It’s also the most influential agency that does not play a meaningful role in developing the government’s legislative agenda. Senior MoFA officials can only watch in dismay as less prestigious agencies, including some of Japan’s most corrupt, devise legislation that erodes the rights of immigrants and damages Japan’s international reputation.

A proposed overhaul of Japan’s detention system, scuttled in 2021 after the death of detainee Wishma Rathnayake and a resulting wave of protests, was especially unpopular with Japanese diplomats. The Kishida administration has revived it anyway, with parliamentary debate anticipated this summer. Until recently, MoFA relied on the press to guard against legislative aggression toward immigrants, quietly passing sensitive information to reporters who covered the Ministry of Justice, which enforces immigration law.

According to MoFA officials who acted as my sources during the 10 years I covered immigration, their current reluctance to cooperate with journalists is related to the sense, among the agency’s staff, that the media has become “much louder, but much less effective” on issues of immigration.

The officials I spoke with traced this problem to 2019, when a detainee starved to death at a detention center in Nagasaki, following a four-week hunger strike, named Gerald “Sunny” Okafor… Meanwhile, the press has helped to turn Okafor’s death into a non-story, by disseminating state propaganda that diminishes the death’s significance, then responding to that propaganda with opinion essays instead of investigations.

https://www.debito.org/?p=17013

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OTHER UNFAIRNESS
3) MRI on rude and slipshod treatment from Shizuoka hospitals and health care practitioners

MRI: I have been working and living in Shizuoka City for [close to a decade] now. I have not had any serious illnesses other than a mild case of chronic gastritis but in recent years, I know it has become more serious due to my symptoms becoming more severe regardless of the Takecab that I take daily for it. Due to this health issue becoming more serious, I have been needing to visit various clinics and I have been experiencing what I call indirect refusal.

So, I know that in the past, many foreigners were refused medical care due to not having kokumin kenkou hoken but even though I have a valid card, the doctor will always ignore me while I am trying to explain my symptoms and reason for my visit. Both the doctors and staff of various clinics here in Shizuoka City have almost systematically acted cold, uncaring, unresponsive and even downright rude to me.

After this happened the first couple times, I thought it was just that one particular nurse or doctor that was the problem, but after numerous experiences just like this at a number of other clinics, I realized that this is a big problem that needs to be brought to light.

Every time I am waiting in the lobby of a clinic or hospital here in Japan, I have a constant feeling that I am wasting my time and money. I almost always leave a clinic kicking myself because the doctor did indeed do everything they could to avoid helping me… [Specific names of institutions and their treatment follow.]

https://www.debito.org/?p=17067

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4) Kyodo: Japan-born American files suit against Japan’s dual nationality ban

Kyodo: A Japanese-born American said Thursday she has filed a lawsuit with a Japanese court claiming that the country’s nationality law, which bans its citizens from also holding a foreign nationality, violates the Constitution.

Yuri Kondo, 75, who currently lives in Fukuoka in southwestern Japan and filed the lawsuit at the Fukuoka District Court, said at a press conference with her legal team that acquiring U.S. citizenship should not have automatically stripped her of her Japanese one. Kondo, who was born in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, moved to the United States in 1971 to attend graduate school and began practicing law in Arizona in 1997.

After becoming a U.S. citizen in 2004, she attempted to renew her Japanese passport in 2017 but her application was rejected. She is currently in Japan on her U.S. passport. Kondo claims that Article 11 of the nationality law, which stipulates that Japanese citizens automatically lose their nationality upon gaining a foreign nationality, violates the right to pursue happiness and equality as guaranteed by the Constitution.

COMMENT: Let’s go through just how arbitrary, complicated, and racialized Japan’s Nationality Law is…

https://www.debito.org/?p=17062

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FULL TEXT OF OLDER SNA COLUMNS ARCHIVED
5) SNA VM9: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, April 20, 2020 (full text)

SNA (April 2020) — 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 full text archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16031

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6) Debito’s SNA VM8: “No Free Pass for Japan’s Shirking Responsibility”, Mar 16, 2020 (full text)

SNA (March 2020) — 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…

Full text archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=15978

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… and finally …

7) My SNA Visible Minorities col 34: “Henry Scott-Stokes, Sell-Out to Gaijin Handlers, dies.” May 23, 2022, with ruminations on why foreign journalism in Japan has historically been so astray.

SNA: Henry Johnstone Morland Scott-Stokes, patrician among Japan’s foreign correspondents since 1964, recently died in Tokyo at the age of 83, but not before he did untold damage by performing as a foreign handmaid to Japan’s fascists.

A man described as “tweedy” and “entertaining and congenial,” Briton Scott-Stokes was nonetheless a man of privilege, lucky enough to land in Japan as Tokyo bureau chief of the Financial Times only three years after graduating from Oxford.

Becoming bureau chief of a major newspaper at the wizened old age of 26 might seem odd today, but back then foreign journalism in Japan had lower standards, and the field was infused with neocolonial attitudes towards the “natives.” Fluency in your assigned country’s language was not required.

Nor was Japanese required at the other “Big Three” English-language newspapers in Japan, as Scott-Stokes later became bureau chief of The Times of London and the New York Times through the 1970s and early 1980s. For a man described as “someone who really understood Japan,” he spent his entire 58 years in Japan as a functional illiterate, unable to fluently read, write, or speak Japanese…

Most hacks in his station moved on to other countries or settled into a quiet life in Japan, living a harmless twilight existence as cottage consultants in their cups. Scott-Stokes didn’t. He didn’t just continue to rely on his privileged access to Japan’s elite for his income; he decided to embrace their fascist tendencies…

Entire article (which stoked much controversy) at
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/05/23/visible-minorities-henry-scott-stokes-sell-out-to-gaijin-handlers/
Anchor site for commentary at
https://www.debito.org/?p=17038

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That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading!
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 20, 2022 ENDS

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Asahi: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman”, predictably ending Criminal Case brought by the family of Wishma Sandamali, and keeping Japan’s deadly “Gaijin Tanks” unaccountable

mytest

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Hi Blog. The Wishma Sandamali Criminal Case has sadly reached a predictable end: Japanese prosecutors have dropped their case against the people in charge of the Immigration “Gaijin Tank” Detention Center that killed her through negligence.

We’ve talked about the Sandamali Case here on Debito.org before, as we have the many other cases of death and destruction in Japan’s cruel Detention Centers. One of the reasons they remain so cruel is that they face no accountability, as seen here.  And prosecutors declining to prosecute those who kill foreigners have been discussed at length in my book Embedded Racism, Chapter 6, “A ‘Chinaman’s Chance’ in Japanese Court” (with 2022 updates of more cases, including Sandamali’s, in the Second Edition).

The Civil Case for damages brought by the Sandamali family is ongoing.  But I am not optimistic about justice being done there either.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, June 17, 2022, courtesy of lots of people.
https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14647083

Public prosecutors will drop their case against senior officials from the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau over the death of a Sri Lankan woman at an immigration detention facility, according to sources.

Wishma Sandamali, 33, died in March 2021 at a facility run by the bureau, in a case that sparked widespread outcry over her mistreatment.

The Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office launched an investigation into whether the senior officials in charge at the time had committed murder or negligence as a guardian resulting in death, responding to criminal complaints against them from Wishma’s family and others.

Sources said the prosecutors office concluded it cannot establish criminal liability in this case following discussions with another prosecution office that is higher in rank.

The decision is expected to be communicated to those who made the criminal complaints, including Wishma’s family members, on June 17 at the earliest.

This will effectively end the investigation into criminal liability of the senior officials.

According to a report compiled by the Immigration Services Agency in August last year, Wishma came to Japan as a student in June 2017.

She was held at the detention facility after being arrested for overstaying her visa in August 2020.

Her health rapidly deteriorated in the facility and she started to complain about loss of appetite and nausea from mid-January 2021.

Her urine test showed that she was in a state of starvation on Feb. 15, 2021, 19 days before her death.

After that, she became even more ill and died on March 6, 2021.

The report admitted that Wishma died of an illness, but also said that “multiple factors might have caused her death and it is difficult to determine which one was the cause.”

Her family members maintain, however, that she would not have died had she received proper medical treatment, such as with an intravenous drip or hospitalization.

In November 2021, they lodged a criminal complaint with the Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office against the then chief of the bureau, the person who acted as the chief guard at the detention facility on the day of her death, and other officials.

They argued that the officials committed murder thorough willful negligence and did not care if she died.

Earlier, in June 2021, a member of the teaching staff at a university in Nagoya had lodged a criminal complaint with the same district public prosecutors office against the bureau’s officials, alleging their conduct amounted to death through aggravated abandonment.

Wishma’s family members are also seeking around 156 million yen ($1.17 million) in damages from the state and that court case is still ongoing at the Nagoya District Court. ENDS

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Debito’s SNA VM9 archived: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, April 20, 2020 (link to full text)

mytest

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Hi Blog. This is an archive link to my regular monthly Visible Minorities column 9 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, with a link to the full text archived.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese
By Debito Arudou
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column, April 20, 2020

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…

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Read the full text archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16031

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MRI on rude and slipshod treatment from Shizuoka hospitals and health care practitioners

mytest

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Hi Blog. For all of the positive things about Japan’s near-universal health coverage system, there’s still no accounting for the rude, if not outright exclusionary, treatment that NJ often get from Japan’s health care practitioners. We’ve covered this many times on Debito.org (see several stories here, for example). Here’s another testimonial from a NJ patient I’ll call MRI. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

=============================

From: MRI
Subject: Issues with doctors in Shizuoka City
Date: May 6, 2022
To: debito@debito.org

Hello Dr. Arudou, I am another concerned foreigner living here in Japan.

I have been working and living in Shizuoka City for [close to a decade] now. I have not had any serious illnesses other than a mild case of chronic gastritis but in recent years, I know it has become more serious due to my symptoms becoming more severe regardless of the Takecab that I take daily for it. Due to this health issue becoming more serious, I have been needing to visit various clinics and I have been experiencing what I call indirect refusal.

So, I know that in the past, many foreigners were refused medical care due to not having kokumin kenkou hoken but even though I have a valid card, the doctor will always ignore me while I am trying to explain my symptoms and reason for my visit. Both the doctors and staff of various clinics here in Shizuoka City have almost systematically acted cold, uncaring, unresponsive and even downright rude to me.

After this happened the first couple times, I thought it was just that one particular nurse or doctor that was the problem, but after numerous experiences just like this at a number of other clinics, I realized that this is a big problem that needs to be brought to light.

Every time I am waiting in the lobby of a clinic or hospital here in Japan, I have a constant feeling that I am wasting my time and money. I almost always leave a clinic kicking myself because the doctor did indeed do everything they could to avoid helping me.

There have been times where doctors will “do a test” for a couple minutes and then quickly tell me that “I am healthy” and that “there is nothing wrong with me”. When I explain that my symptoms are sometimes terrible, they just laugh it off and tell me that they can prescribe me some medicine. The ineffective “put a band-aid over a shotgun wound” solution it seems.

These experiences have left me completely jaded with regard to the medical care system for foreigners here in Japan. It almost seems as if they couldn’t care less if we become ill and die because we are just foreigners after all. I guess the Hippocratic oath here in Japan only applies if you are of Japanese decent! I find it ironic that the stress of dealing with these doctors in pursuit of treating my health issue is actually causing my health issue to become worse!

My first experience was at Watanabe Clinic (わたなべクリニック) located in Minami-cho just south of Shizuoka Station. When I went to sit down there was a woman that had her handbag sitting on the chair next to me and after I sat down she clutched her handbag and looked at me as if I were some kind of criminal. I merely stated that she doesn’t need to clutch her handbag because I am not a thief. The doctor must have overheard me say this to the woman because he actually wrote down on the referral paper to another doctor that I am “kind of a strange person”. I did not bother reading the referral written in Japanese at the time because I just assumed he wrote a professional referral stating only the facts and the reason why I needed to have an MRI.

Of course, the hospital staff were unusually cold and uncaring toward me and it was a bit confusing during my visit. It wasn’t until I actually read the referral that I realized what he had written down. I was shocked and so was my Japanese girlfriend. She couldn’t understand how a doctor could get away with writing such unprofessional things about someone and not face any trouble for it.

I just experienced another strange occurrence today at a famous gastroenterology clinic here in Shizuoka City called Takano Surgery and Gastroenterology Clinic (高野外科胃腸科医院). This clinic is headed by director Satoshi Takano. Satoshi Takano performed an endoscopy on me 7 years ago and diagnosed me with chronic gastritis. Since then I moved to a different area and I have been receiving my prescription of Takecab from another clinic, which has not been giving me trouble so far since I only go there to pick up refills of my medicine.

So during today’s visit at Takano Surgery and Gastroenterology Clinic, I was trying to explain my worsening symptoms and mentioned that he diagnosed me with chronic gastritis 7 years ago. He looked at the old photos of my endoscopy and said in an irritated tone that I do not have chronic gastritis. Then I presented him a photograph from the endoscopy where he had written that I have gastritis on the backside. Then he let out a sigh and rechecked the photos again and then said that I do have chronic gastritis and that he just did not check all the images closely enough. He didn’t even apologize!

He still had the nerve to act like I was the one being troublesome. He kept trying to rush me and wouldn’t even let me explain my current symptoms. He seemed impatient with me and he kept asking if I want an endoscopy or what and this was before I could even explain my symptoms and get his feedback.

It was busy at the clinic today, but I have experienced doctors and staff rushing me even on days where the clinic was not busy at all. It is as if their mission is to get the foreigner out of the clinic or hospital as quickly as possible without actually seriously addressing their health issues.

So, today I basically paid 1,200yen to have an argument with a xenophobic doctor who was anything but professional.

Another terrible experience was at a clinic here in Shizuoka City called Ohya Hazama Clinic. After I moved to Oya Town, I came to this clinic for an attempt at an endoscopy. Before the endoscopy, I was given anesthetic that was supposed to put me under while he did the procedure. I guess he must not have given me enough because I did not pass out or fall asleep. I remained awake and the staff seemed annoyed by this. They came back into the room with a pillow and a blanket and turned off the light for about 20 minutes and told me to try to fall asleep. Well, I tried but I was unable to do so. Both the doctor and the nurses almost seemed irritated with me. Ridiculous as it sounds, it seems as though they were blaming me not falling asleep from the anesthesia as my fault! The doctor said to me that I can reschedule another day for an endoscopy and I told him that I will do that and left. I never returned there since.

Another wonderful experience I had was at a clinic called Shizuoka ENT Clinic (静岡ENTクリニック). While waiting to be seen by the doctor at this clinic, I noticed how friendly the staff and nurses were with all of the Japanese patients by making eye contact, smiling, answering their questions, thanking them and telling them to take care of themselves.

When it was my turn to go up to the front desk, I received none of the above. All of the staff immediately stopped smiling, they would look down while speaking with me, they seemed annoyed when I asked a couple questions, they seems cold and almost unwilling to even help me. One of them assumed that I couldn’t even speak Japanese and asked me if I could fill out a form and was explaining where I write my name and basic information. The entire experience only lasted a couple minutes but their ignorance and xenophobia was mind blowing.

When I finally had a chance to see the doctor, I explained all this to her. She couldn’t care less of course and just brushed it off. Although this doctor prescribed me the medicine I needed for my sinus infection, the overall experience was so terrible that I will never return there. I feel the same way about these other clinics. I am almost at the point where I feel like I might die of a serious illness such as cancer because none of these doctors seem willing to even look into what is going on in my body. It is a bit ridiculous that as a tax payer here in Japan, I even need to entertain thoughts about returning to my home country just to receive basic health care and visit a doctor that will provide me with proper medical care.

I apologize for the long-winded email, but I read one of your articles and I felt the need to contact you about some of my worst experiences here in Japan. I have even more horror stories than this, but these are the worst of them.
Best Regards, MRI

======================
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