Debito.org Dejima Award #6 to Mishima Village, Kagoshima Prefecture, for subsidizing outsiders to move and live there — unless they are foreign

mytest

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Hi Blog. As Japan’s depopulation proceeds and the countryside continues to empty out, we have seen ruralities offering FREE land if people will only build, move, and live there.

Now we have another place offering even more generous terms. From The Japan Times, May 25, 2015:

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

[…] The village of Mishima, composed of the small islands of Takeshima, Iojima and Kuroshima, has been trying to lure people to move there by offering the choice of a calf or a ¥500,000 lump sum, plus another ¥100,000 to help with moving expenses.

The generous offer — which is temporarily on hold while officials rethink the conditions — includes monthly grants for the first three years of residence, ranging from ¥85,000 a month for a single person to ¥100,000 for married couples. Also on offer are three-bedroom houses for rent at low prices, and subsidies for child delivery.
==================================

Sweet. Locals have been trying to lure people here since 1990. That is, until the wrong kind of people began inquiring:

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

[…] Of all the emails the village received in the two-week period between the end of April and mid-May, 90 percent came from Serbians, Croatians and Brazilians, a local official said Monday, adding that the village office has also received more than a dozen phone calls from foreigners.

The official said that eventually, for various reasons, the village decided not to accept any of the applicants. Most who applied gave up on their plans to relocate after they were discouraged by the reality of the situation, or had only been looking for an easy escape from the pressure of daily life.

“People are not aware that life here is not as simple as they imagined,” he said, adding that the language barrier may lead to problems of communication.

“It’s a small village. There is no hospital and finding a job here is not a piece of cake,” he said, adding that most people seemed discouraged after learning about the hurdles they might face.

“People here can take advantage of the bountiful nature, fresh air and beautiful landscapes, and it’s a good place to live a quiet life,” the official said, describing the more appealing aspects of starting a new life there…
==================================

Oh. Suddenly, life there is tough. So tough they’ll turn people away, sight unseen. If those people happen to be foreign.

How open-minded. I assume the next argument will be that if the place becomes overrun with foreigners, they will vote to secede from Japan. Seriously, this argument has been made before.

So allow me to award the Village of Mishima in Kagoshima Prefecture a coveted Debito.org Dejima Award, granted only to those who display eye-blinkingly stupefying bigotry and closed-mindedness that defies all logic, reason, and entreaty. We’ve only granted five of these before in the twenty years Debito.org has been in existence, so Mishima is in exceptional company. May the mindsets you display die out before all the people do in your isolated little speck of the world. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Entire source article visible at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/25/national/overseas-interest-in-relocation-campaign-surprises-kagoshima-village/

ENDS

Arimura Haruko, Minister for the Empowerment of Women: Immigration is a “Pandora’s Box”, offers weird Team Abe arguments to justify

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Now let’s get to the narrative by Team Abe on immigration.  Despite calling for the expansion of the officially-sanctioned system of often-slavery that the “Trainee” Program constitutes (even cynically saying that we need cheap temporary foreign labor for constructing the 2020 Olympics), and the recognized need for caregivers below, we have a government official below charged with empowering people (a worthy goal in itself) also advocating the disempowerment of others — not giving people who would be contributing to Japan any stake in its society.

BloombergArimura051215

That’s one thing.  Another is how this Minister for the Empowerment of Women Arimura Haruko is justifying this organized disenfranchisement of NJ.  Despite being married to a NJ herself, she uses him as a fulcrum (his family in Malaysia forcing their Indonesian nanny to sleep on the floor), alleging that mistreatment of immigrants is something that naturally happens (okay, without their proper enfranchisement, yes) and that it would be “unthinkable in Japan” (oh, is she as a government official ignorant of the much bigger abuses of that “Trainee” program that have been going on for more than two decades)?


https://youtu.be/wt__lHCuH5g

Completing the effect of working backwards from preset conclusions, Arimura then brings the song home by blaming foreigners for their own disenfranchisement:  alleging their terroristic tendencies (a common trope for the past decade since PM Koizumi in 2005), and how bringing them here would be a “Pandora’s Box”.

Suck on the bitter lozenge that is Team Abe’s world view, and read on to see how this probably otherwise well-intentioned minister married to a NJ has to play Twister with illogic and weird social science to justify a warped narrative.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Japan Cabinet minister wary of opening ‘Pandora’s box’ of immigration
by Isabel Reynolds and Maiko Takahashi
Bloomberg, May 12, 2015
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-12/japan-minister-says-get-women-working-before-immigration-option
Commentary by the usual suspects at The Japan Times May 13, 2015 at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/13/national/social-issues/japan-must-put-women-work-opening-pandoras-box-immigration-female-empowerment-minister/

Japan should fix its shrinking workforce by enabling women to work, before turning to the ‘Pandora’s box’ of immigration, the country’s minister for the empowerment of women said in an interview last week.

Haruko Arimura, a 44-year-old mother of two, said Japan must act fast to change a trend that could otherwise see the workforce decline by almost half by 2060. But she warned if immigrants were mistreated — something she’d witnessed overseas — it raised the risk of creating resentment in their ranks.

“Many developed countries have experienced immigration,” she said in her Tokyo office. “The world has been shaken by immigrants who come into contact with extremist thinking like that of ISIL, bundle themselves in explosives and kill people indiscriminately in the country where they were brought up,” Arimura said.

“If we want to preserve the character of the country and pass it on to our children and grandchildren in better shape, there are reforms we need to carry out now to protect those values.”

Some economists have urged the government to accept more foreigners to make up for a slide in the working age population. While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has noted there is a need for workers from overseas to help with housework and care of the elderly, he’s promoted female workers instead — appointing Arimura to the new post last year to spearhead the effort.

Arimura, whose husband is from Malaysia, said more immigration could add to social tension. For example, she felt uneasy when she saw one of her husband’s relatives make an Indonesian nanny sleep on a hotel floor while family members slept in beds.

“It’s a matter of course over there, but it would be unthinkable in Japan,” she said. “It would build up dissatisfaction with society.”

Few Foreigners
Japan’s working-age population may fall as low as 44.2 million by 2060 from 81.7 million in 2010, according to a projections from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. At the same time, people aged 65 or over will rise to almost 40 percent of the population.

Relying only on women to make up the shortfall may be difficult, given that one in three wants to be a full-time housewife, according to a survey published by the government in 2013. About 60 percent leave their jobs when they have their first child.

Increased immigration poses its own challenges in Japan. Cultural barriers to outsiders are rooted in a two-century isolationist policy under the Tokugawa Shogunate, which banned most immigration until 1853. A genre of writing called nihonjinron focuses on the theory that the Japanese are a unique people.

The number of registered foreign residents has been flat since 2006 at just over 2 million. That’s out of a population of about 127 million.

‘Precious’ Lifestyles
Public attitudes toward new arrivals may be changing. About 51 percent of Japanese support a more open immigration policy, according to a survey published by the Asahi newspaper last month. Some 34 percent oppose the idea.

“There are things we should do before we talk about that Pandora’s box,” Arimura said.
Her task is to convince voters that putting more women to work is the best solution. She said she realized the policy could cause confusion among backers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party given its past support for traditional family arrangements.

The government has no intention of interfering with the “precious” lifestyles of women who want to devote themselves to their families, Arimura said. Instead, she said it wanted to support those who might otherwise be forced to abandon careers because of family responsibilities, or who wish to resume working after raising children.

Female Managers
Arimura described as “a good start” a new draft bill obliging employers with more than 300 staff to publish gender breakdown statistics and plans to promote women. While non-compliance carries no penalty, she said the legislation would give a picture of how women are faring at work and pointers on the problems they face.

While Abe wants women to fill 30 percent of management positions by 2020, he faces an uphill task. Women accounted for just over 8 percent of management positions in private-sector companies employing more than 100 people last year, according to government data.

“In terms of tackling the low birth rate and promoting women, the next five or 10 years will decide the trend for Japan, whether it goes up or down,” Arimura said. “In a way, it’s the last chance.”

ENDS

Tangent: NYT Op-Ed: Foreigners Are Attacking … American TV, within US TV programs. Contrast with Japan.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In my previous blog entry, I mentioned the disenfranchisement of foreigners from Japanese media, and my upcoming book (out in November) will discuss further the effects of that in terms of tolerance of difference and counteracting public defamation.  As a Debito.org Tangent, let’s contrast this with the degree of access that foreigners in America have to influence the domestic narrative and talking points.  I don’t know how unusual this is on a country-to-country scale (Debito.org Readers are welcome to mention the foreign anchors/pundits holding court outside the US and Japan), but given the influence that American media has worldwide, this is not a small matter.  The NYT does a survey below.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Foreigners Are Attacking … American TV!
By VIKAS BAJAJ New York Times MARCH 30, 2015
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/opinion/foreigners-are-attacking-american-tv.html

American late-night television shows have probably never had so many anchors with foreign accents as they will have soon. Trevor Noah, a South African comedian, will become at least the third non-American native to host a popular TV comedy show later this year when he takes over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart. He will join two Britons, John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” and James Corden, who recently started hosting “The Late Late Show” on CBS.

Mr. Noah is an unconventional choice to host a show on American television, which has had plenty of British actors and comedians over the years. He was born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father and is from a country where mixed race unions are still uncommon. And, perhaps most important, many Americans have never heard or seen him perform.

But Mr. Noah’s foreignness might be just what the “The Daily Show” and American television broadly need. It is hard to remember now, but when Mr. Stewart took over the show and later spun off “The Colbert Report,” fake news was not a big part of our comedy diet. Yes, there was the Weekend Update segment on “Saturday Night Live,” but it came on just once a week and did not always deliver the goods.

Maybe what we really need now is to have foreigners apply their brand of satire to the United States — its politics, culture and race relations — to tell us something about ourselves that our homegrown comedians are not capturing. And they can perhaps also enlighten us about what’s funny and tragic in the rest of the world as Mr. Oliver has done ably on his show. Aside from a few jokes about Europe, most late-night shows rarely dwell on international subjects.

Still, Mr. Noah’s appointment has disappointed some fans of “The Daily Show” who had hoped that Comedy Central would pick a woman like Samantha Bee, who is leaving the show to start her own satirical program on TBS. It is disappointing that none of the several late-night shows on the air now are hosted by a woman. Perhaps, Ms. Bee will so successfully shatter that glass ceiling that the executives at other networks will seek out more women to be hosts.

There will probably also be criticism from some quarters that Mr. Noah, Mr. Oliver and Mr. Corden represent a foreign invasion of television that is depriving hard-working American comedians of important jobs. Just last week, a columnist for Deadline.com suggested that some deserving white actors were not getting roles on new TV shows because the industry was designating many more characters as reserved for nonwhite actors.

I for one am looking forward to Mr. Noah’s stint in the anchor chair. I found his three appearances on “The Daily Show” to be funny in a unique way — watch him explain why it was bad for the United States to try to lure top chess players away from other countries. And I laughed at clips of his standup act in which he mimics the odd speaking style of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. I hope he is just as unsparing to our politicians.

ENDS

Kyodo: Summary Court overturns fine levied on Filipino-Japanese man after Osaka police botch assault probe — that punished him for defending himself against drunk Japanese assailants!

mytest

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Hi Blog. Check this article out, followed by a comment by Debito.org Reader and submitter JDG:

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

NATIONAL / CRIME & LEGAL
Filipino-Japanese exempt from fine after Osaka police botch assault probe
KYODO NEWS/JAPAN TIMES APR 24, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/04/24/national/crime-legal/filipino-japanese-exempt-from-fine-after-osaka-police-botch-assault-probe/

OSAKA – The police investigation into a street brawl in Osaka in 2013 that resulted in a fine for a Filipino-Japanese man was superficial and should never have caused charges to be filed, a court in Osaka has ruled.

In a rare ruling, the Osaka Summary Court decided to exempt the 23-year-old defendant from punishment despite finding him guilty of assault, after hearing that the police failed to provide him with a Tagalog interpreter. The man can only speak limited Japanese.

According to the ruling, two drunken men began a quarrel with the defendant on a street in Osaka in June 2013. When one of them grabbed his collar, the Philippine-Japanese man punched him in the face, causing a broken bone.

Neither of the drunks was indicted. But the court initially ordered the Filipino-Japanese man to pay a ¥300,000 ($2,500) fine in January 2014. The defendant filed a complaint and sought a formal trial, leading to a ruling that effectively canceled the fine on Feb. 26.

The ruling was finalized on March 13 after the appeal period expired.

“This is de facto innocence,” said Masanori Matsuoka, the defendant’s lawyer. “It’s an excellent ruling that criticized the investigation of a man who cannot speak Japanese sufficiently.”

Judge Akinori Hatayama said it is unfair to punish only the Filipino-Japanese man, given that the drunken man was not indicted for assault.

The judge criticized the prosecutors for charging the defendant without properly considering the case and based purely on the degree of physical injury that resulted from the scuffle.
ENDS

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

JDG: Well, this is an interesting case. Now, if we take the poor reporting to mean that ‘Filipino-Japanese’ = naturalized Japanese citizen of NJ descent, this story is quite telling.

Naturalized Japanese citizen is stopped in Osaka by two drunk Japanese guys, who grab his shirt collars whilst shouting at him. The naturalized Japanese punches one in the face in self-defense and is arrested, charged, goes to court, and is fined.

The Japanese assailants, since they are ‘victims’ of their own victims self-defense, are not apprehended, and win compensation from their victim!

Thankfully, this was over-turned at a [summary] court. But the fact that it played out like this clearly shows the intense institutional racism of the Japanese police and legal system. In effect, if you are Japanese, you can commit assault (by western standards) on NJ (well, anyone who was not born Japanese), and the legal system recognize you as the victim if you are injured whilst attempting assault!

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

Quite.  And, I might add, if he hadn’t taken it outside the criminal justice system (I assume) into Summary Court, he would have never gotten this ruling on the record either.

Clearly somebody had to go down for this incident in the cops’ eyes.  And since they saw what they considered to be a NJ involved (naturalized or not), they charged and convicted him.  Wrongly so, as this court ruling demonstrates — nearly two years later!  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

1912 essay: “Japanese Children are no Menace in Hawaii” (from a “Prosperity-Sharing System for Plantation Laborers” handbook), with surprisingly inclusive arguments

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something very interesting I found while researching other things, and the first step I’m taking to start grounding my research in a Hawaiian context.  An old essay in a plantation-era manual on “sharing prosperity” amongst the capitalists in the islands, talking about Japanese newcomers and second-generationers.  Written more than 100 years ago, it offers perspectives long before their time, and also attitudes more inclusive than I would anticipate.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Here are the pages scanned (click on image to expand in browser), with full text retyped below them:

Meadprosperitysharing1Meadprosperitysharingsystem002Meadprosperitysharingsystem003

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

JAPANESE CHILDREN ARE NO MENACE IN HAWAII
AMERICAN-HAWAII, PEOPLE AND INDUSTRIES
(By Wallace K. Farrington)
From “Prosperity-Sharing System for Plantation Laborers”, by Royal D. Mead, 1912

One of the favorite fads of the alarmists is to point with fear and trembling to the large number of Japanese children who are supposed to be growing up in the Territory of Hawaii, and who are expected, by the alarmists, to control the electorate at some future day.

Japanese born in the Territory may of course elect to accept American citizenship and vote. Theoretically they might overwhelm the population other than Japanese-American. But it is to be supposed that people of other races and nationalities will not cease to grow and increase.

The facts are that there is a steady exodus of Japanese children born in these islands to the homes of Japanese parents in Japan. In other words a very large proportion of the Japanese send their children back to Japan as soon as they are old enough to travel.

This is proved by the statistics. For the seven years from 1905 to 1911 inclusive the departures of Japanese children for Japan from the port of Honolulu exceeded the arrivals by 6,734. In other words excess of Japanese children born in the islands and sent back to the home of their parents in Japan amounted to about one thousand a year for seven years. This exodus is going on continually.

It is true that the parents of many of these children previous to their being sent away take out certificates of birth showing that they were born in Hawaii.

The records of the office of the Secretary of the Territory gives the fol-lowing totals of certificates of Hawaiian birth, which it should be understood is merely a record of American birth, for the years under comparison:

HAWAIIAN BIRTH CERTIFICATES ISSUED TO JAPANESE.

MINORS

Year Males Females Total [if difficult to understand, click on pages above to see original charts]

1906 60 6

1907 16 0 16

1908 353 42 395

1909 715 68 783

1910 2611 325 2936

1911 7 8 15

3708 443 4151

ADULTS

Year Males Females Total

1907 213

1908 437

1909 404

1910 7 6 13

1911 011

17 11 28

It thus appears that less than two-thirds of the excess of Hawaiian-born Japanese who were sent back to the homes of their parents took out certificates to establish the fact that they were born on American territory.

The purpose of securing these certificates is undoubtedly to assure these children the right of free entry to the United States should at any future time rules be laid down by Japan or the United States to restrict the movement of the Japanese laboring classes between the two countries.

The Hawaiian-born Japanese as shown by the records of the Japanese consulate in Honolulu for the years 1905 and 1911 inclusive a period of seven years, amounted to a total of 18, 775 divided as follows:

Year ….. 1905 1906 1907

Male ….. 1167 988 1134

Female … 1070 933 1045

Total ….. 2237 1921 2179

1908 1909 1910 1911 Grand Total

1505 1578 1668 1608   9, 648

1365 1428 1832 1454   9, 127

2870 2006 3500 3062   18, 775

Taking into consideration the death rate for this period, it would be safe to say that during the seven years, inclusive, a surplus of ten thousand Japanese children male and female remained in the Territory of Hawaii to become citizens of the United States.

If none other than Japanese children were born in Hawaii from year to year the alarmists might have some ground for their fear. The Portuguese-American and the Hawaiian-Americans are more prolific than the Japanese, and there is also the Chi-nese-American and the Caucasian races to be taken into account. It should also be borne in mind that there is a steadily increased influx of Americans from the mainland.

To claim or expect that these Japanese children will control the electorate in the sense of voting as a unit is preposterous.

It should be remembered that these children are attending the American schools. They are instructed in the English language. They are in their play and in the work associated with the American children of all classes and thus are growing up in an American atmosphere.

On this point we quote from an article by Prof. M. M. Scott, principal of the McKinley High school and a foremost educator of Hawaii for many years. This article was published in a previous issue of the Bulletin “People and Places of Hawaii. ” In this Mr. Scott says:

“To show more clearly the voting population in the near future, it may not be amiss to give the statistics of the school population for the year taken from the report of the superintendent of Public Instruction: nationalities: Hawaiian,4767; half-castes, 3691; American, 999; British, 189; German, 265; Portuguese, 4777; Scandinavian, 67; Japanese, 6095; Chinese, 2797; Porto Ricans, 447; Korean, 168; unclassified, 594.

“It will be seen from this table that nearly 9000 of the approximate 25, 000 children in all the schools, both public and private are Orientals, i. e., Japanese and Chinese. There are no compiled figures ready at hand to show the number of these two nationalities born here. Most of the Japanese native to the territory are of very recent birth, as it is for the last few years only that the Japanese brought their women folk here. They are a Virile and fecund race. Though most of the Japanese in Hawaii are young and vigorous men in the prime of manhood, either unmarried or have left their wives in Japan, yet last year were born 3024 Japanese children in this territory.

“There are some that are concerned lest these children, growing up here will not assimilate to American ideals. They have too intense a patriotism for their own country, it is said. Such criticism ignores a well established truth that those who have no love for their native land or race, will not become patriotic adopted citizens. The Japanese have ever been a loyal people. Under feudalism, they were almost fantastically loyal to their feudal lord. Feudalism being abolished, their loyalty was with equal zeal transferred to the Emperor—to Japan as a whole. Ambassador Uchida recently touching Honolulu on his way to Washington, advised the Japanese boys born here, and intending to live here, to become patriotic American citizens.

“The American public school is the great assimilating crucible, which transfuses and blends the various nationalities. How could it be otherwise? One language, one literature, one playground, the same songs, manners and customs—coupled with mild and just laws, giving equal opportunities to all, irrespective of race.

“Nor is this mere theory. There have been born in Hawaii both Chinese and Japanese, educated here to man’s and woman’s estate, and, going back to their own country, have found themselves entirely at variance and out of sympathy with things there. Provision is made in Hawaii for the sound education of all its youth of all nationalities, in a public school system not surpassed in any state or territory of the mainland. Education is free and compulsory. A school is kept open for forty-two weeks in the year in the remotest country districts. It would he an anomaly to find an adult Hawaiian who can not read and write, most of them in both English and Hawaiian. This laudable foresight in providing means for the training of the young originated with the early missionaries, whose descendants, many of whom are now men and women of wealth and social influence, are leaders in all the activities that make for the betterment of the rising generation of all our races. Interest in education is not confined to any one class. Planters, business men, lawyers, doctors—all urge upon every legislature the importance of generous provisions for the education of the youth of the land. ”

There is nothing in evidence thus far to show that the Japanese-American citizen will not make as loyal and trustworthy an American as the other races and nationalities that have been absorbed by the American body politic and are now numbered among the Americans who set the highest standards of citizenship.

Of course Hawaii is doing something new in this connection. But the first fruits of the Chinese-American gives every promised that the American influence in Hawaii over the Oriental of the Far East will be as bene-flcient and will develop as certainly a good and loyal American as the Americanism of the Eastern and Middle States in its influence on the Oriental of the Asia Minor, Russia and the population of what is in general terms the Near East.

No American need worry over the future of Hawaii’s Americanism if the present immigration policy, agreeable to both Japan and the United States, is followed out. That is, to allow Hawaii to assimilate what Oriental population it already has, and at the same time balance the proportions by allowing, for a time a larger immigration of toilers from Europe.

ENDS

Kyodo: Ryukoku U exchange student denied “No Foreigner” Kyoto apartment in 2013; MOJ in 2015 decides it’s not a violation of human rights!

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. I’m sorry for taking some time to get to this: I’ve been rather busy recently, and I was hoping that an English-langauge article would take this issue up and save me the need to carve out some time translating from the vernacular press. Found a couple references (a passing one here and a more elaborate contextualizing in the Japan Times here), but they’re missing a couple of important nuances, so here goes:

47News.jp (article below) reports that the Ministry of Justice Legal Affairs Bureau has refused to acknowledge a “No Foreigners” apartment as a violation of human rights.  This is the outcome of a case back in 2013, where an exchange student at Ryuukoku University was denied a flat despite going through the Student Union, and he took it to the Bureau of Human Rights for the official word on the subject.  Now more than two years later (presumably the poor chap wasn’t living on the street in the interim), the MOJ determined that the foreigner-averse landlord had not violated anyone’s human rights, refusing to elaborate further.  Great.  Job well done and great precedent set, BOHR.

Two things of note before I get to the article:  One is a media bias.  Note how once again the 47News.jp article portrays the issue incorrectly in its sidebar illustration:

foreignerdiscrim47Newsjp033015

(from 47News.jp, March 30, 2015)

It’s not “Foreigner Discrimination” (gaikokujin sabetsu no jirei). It’s racial discrimination, because the first case they cite (the Otaru Onsens Case in 1999) eventually has a Japanese being refused too.  Yet the Japanese media will almost always refuse to undermine the incorrect narrative that racial discrimination never happens in Japan.

Second thing is that Japan’s generally ineffective Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu) has a long history of blind-eyeing the very thing it’s charged with protecting against.  As further evidence of its ineffectuality – even complicity with discriminators – here is an example where the Sapporo BOHR advised a local government (Otaru) that it has no legal obligation to pass ordinance against racial discrimination, only suggesting that the city make such an ordinance if it considers it necessary.  This from my book “Japanese Only:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Tokyo: Akashi Shoten) , pg. 347 in the English version:

jinkenyougobu112999

(Annotations within the document by the Sapporo BOHR.)  Further, the BOHR has denied information to claimants on the pretext of protecting claimants from their own privacy, so I wholeheartedly agree with the exchange student’s complaints about the lack of transparency.  So this latest event of saying a blanket exclusionary policy as not a violation of human rights is but one more example to record on Debito.org for posterity.

Translation of the article without footnotes follows, with full article in Japanese. Any errors are mine.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

(Foreigner Apartment Refusal) Ministry of Justice on “No Foreigners” apartments:  not acknowledged as a violation of human rights.  Student Union that introduced the apartment apologizes to student.

47News.jp, from Kyodo, March 30, 2015, provisional translation by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

A European exchange student in his twenties who wished to rent an apartment in Kyoto could not get a rental contract because the apartment was “No Foreigners”.  He asked for recourse from the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Affairs Bureau in Kyoto for discrimination against foreigners, but the Legal Affairs Bureau refused, stating, “We cannot determine that the facts constitute a violation of human rights.”

The Student Union at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, who acted as the interlocutor to the realtor, apologized to the student, and has ceased introductions to places that refuse foreigners.  The university has advised the Student Union to improve its services.  The student’s supporters have voiced the need for seeing how the Legal Affairs handled the issue as a problem.

Lack of Transparency

The Ministry of Justice has called for the end of street demonstrations expressing discrimination against foreigners that may be called hate speech [sic].  On its online home page it introduces a case of “a barber who refused customers on the basis of them being foreigners” as a violation of human rights.  As to this case of the refused student, the Ministry of Justice refused to explain further why this was not acknowledged as the same.  The student criticized the situation, saying “the Legal Affairs Bureau’s handling lacks transparency.”

The student attempted to rent the apartment in Kyoto through the Student Union in January 2013, but was told at the Union that the landlord refused. In September 2014, the Bureau notified him that “We decided that it was unclear that there had been a violation”.  “We admonished (keihatsu, or “enlightened”) the Student Union.”  According to Ministry of Justice guidelines, even in cases where there has not been a violation of human rights, admonition can be carried out.  

However, the exchange student raised the question, “Wouldn’t most Japanese think that this is discrimination?  Would only admonishing without any legally-binding force actually stop this from happening again?”  He repeated, “I had the chance to learn and grow from learning Japanese culture, but I was quite hurt by this problem.”

Easing the Unease

Ryuukoku’s Student Union leader Doumen Yuuko sees that this landlord’s refusal to rent to foreigners is but a “vague feeling of unease” (bakuzen to shita fuan).  Thanks to this case, the Student Union no longer refers students to renters that have “no foreigners” policies.  She said that recently the Union is politely explaining to landlords that the former will handle any troubles that result from unpaid rents and differences in lifestyles.  Ms. Doumen added, “As a university, we accept many kinds of people.  It’s important that we see diversity not only in regards to foreign exchange students.”

When contacted by Kyodo News for a comment, the representative for the Bureau, a Mr. Ohyama Kunio, responded, “We cannot comment on that case, or on whether we took up that case.”  For the sake of preserving privacy, the Bureau does not publicly speak as a matter of principle on cases that have been raised for relief.

Ms. Moro-oka Yasuko, a lawyer that takes on cases of foreigner discrimination, suggested, “They probably are thinking that because the landlord refused the exchange student before it got to the contract stage, that’s why it didn’t become an explicit violation of human rights.”  

The Japanese Government, a signatory to the UN Convention for the the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has the duty to forbid discrimination.  However, Japan’s human rights organs have a deep-rooted image of having “insufficient enforcement power”.  Ms Moro-oka charged, “As agreed to in the treaty, Japan must make a law to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.”

MAIN ARTICLE ENDS.  (Footnotes untranslated.)

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

【外国人入居拒否】 法務局、人権侵犯認めず アパートの「外国人不可」 仲介の大学生協は謝罪
47News.jp 2015/03/30 Courtesy of HT
http://www.47news.jp/47topics/e/263652.php

入居を希望した京都市のアパートが「外国人不可」のため、賃貸契約できなかった欧州出身の20代の留学生が、法務省の京都地方法務局に外国人差別だとして救済措置を求めたところ、法務局は「人権侵犯の事実があったとまでは判断できない」と退けた。

不動産相談窓口でアパートを仲介した龍谷大(本部京都市)の生協は留学生に謝罪し、「外国人不可」の物件紹介を中止。大学側も生協に改善を促した。留学生の支援者らから、法務局の対応を疑問視する声があがっている。

▽透明性欠く
法務省はヘイトスピーチ(憎悪表現)と呼ばれる外国人差別の街頭宣伝をなくそうと呼び掛けており、ホームページでは「外国人であることを理由に理容店が客を拒否した」というケースを人権侵害として紹介している。救済を求めた留学生に対しては、申し立てを認めなかった理由の説明を断った。留学生は「(法務局の対応は)透明性を欠いている」と批判している。

留学生は2013年1月、生協の窓口で京都市内のアパートを借りようとしたが、外国人を拒む家主側の意向を生協で伝えられた。法務局は14年9月、「侵犯事実不明確の決定をした」と留学生に通知。「生協には啓発を行った」とも伝えた。法務省の規定では「啓発」は人権侵犯がない場合も実施できる。
だが、留学生は「多くの日本人はこれが差別だと思っていないのではないか。法的拘束力もない啓発だけで再発が防げるのか」と疑問を投げかけ、「日本文化を学んで成長の機会を得られたが、この問題では傷ついた」と振り返った。

▽不安解消
龍谷大生協の 堂免裕子 (どうめんゆうこ) 専務理事は、家主側は部屋を外国人に貸すことに「漠然とした不安」を感じているとみている。今回の問題をきっかけに、「外国人不可」の賃貸住宅の仲介をやめた。最近は、未払い家賃の補償制度や生活習慣をめぐるトラブルへの対応を、家主側に丁寧に説明しているという。堂免さんは「大学はいろいろな人を受け入れる。留学生に限らず多様性(ダイバーシティ)という観点が重要だ」と話す。

法務省人権擁護局は共同通信の取材に対し「そうした事案を取り扱ったかどうかも含めてお答えできない」( 大山邦士 (おおやま・くにお) 調査救済課長)と答えた。同省はプライバシーの保護などを理由に、人権救済の申し立てへの対応は原則として公表していない。

外国人差別問題に取り組む 師岡康子 (もろおか・やすこ) 弁護士は「留学生に対し家主が契約の段階で断るといった行為がないと人権侵犯には当てはまらない、と考えているのではないか」と推測する。

日本政府は「人種差別撤廃条約」に加入し、政府は差別を禁止し終わらせる義務を負っている。だが人権団体の間では「実行が不十分」という見方が根強い。師岡氏は「条約に合致するよう、あらゆる差別行為を禁じる『人種差別撤廃法』をつくるべきだ」と訴えている。 (沢康臣)

◎人種差別撤廃条約

人種差別撤廃条約 人種差別をなくすため、日本を含む170カ国以上が結んでいる。あらゆる人種差別を撤廃する政策をとり、差別を禁止することを義務付けている。1965年に国連総会で採択され、69年に発効。日本は95年12月に批准した。しかし留保条件を付け、人種差別思想の流布や差別の扇動を罰する法律をつくる義務については、憲法の表現の自由との関係で履行しない余地を残した。
◎人権侵犯

人権侵犯 各地の法務局は差別などの訴えを受け付けると、「人権侵犯(侵害)」に当たるかどうか調べ、救済や再発防止をはかる。調査や救済措置に強制力はない。人権侵犯があったと認定した場合、加害者を対象にした「勧告」「説示」や、関係機関への「要請」などの救済措置をとる。悪質な場合は警察に告発する。人権侵犯がなければ「不存在」、有無を確認できなければ「不明確」と決定する。
(共同通信)

ABC News Radio Australia interviews me on multiethnic Japanese Ariana Miyamoto’s crowning as Miss Japan 2015

mytest

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Hi Blog. Very briefly (as it’s a busy time here at the Colorism Conference — plus another blog post out tomorrow on my upcoming JT column), here is a link to my recent interview last weekend with ABC NewsRadio Australia, on the crowning of multiethnic Japanese Ariana Miyamoto as Miss Japan (which the African-Americans at my conference were quite aware of).  Listen to it (our bit starts at minute 6:24) at:

http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4207325.htm

Some context from other media:

arianamiyamotocnn032515 arianamiyamoto012715

As for the radio program, I’m pretty pleased with how it came out.  Thanks ABC.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Spoke at Washington University at St. Louis Law School Colorism Conference April 3, on skin color stigmatism in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog. I was invited to present at a very high-profile Global Perspectives on Colorism Conference at the Harris World Law Institute, University of Washington at St. Louis School of Law, joining some excellent speakers with impressive backgrounds. The first day had some really informative presentations (much more rigorous and thoughtful than the Ethnic Studies class I took at UH), and I hope to be just as rigorous and thoughtful tomorrow during my fifteen minutes.

wuls2015colorismconfflyer

Title:  Skin color stigmata in “homogeneous” Japanese society
Speaker:  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, Scholar, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Abstract:  Japanese society is commonly known as a “homogeneous society”, without issues of “race” or skin color stigmata.  This is not the case.  The speaker, a bilingual naturalized Japanese of Caucasian descent, has lived for a quarter century in Japan researching issues of Japanese minorities.  He has found that biological markers, including facial shape, body type, and, of course, skin color, factor in to differentiate, “other”, and subordinate people not only into “Japanese” and “non-Japanese”, but also into “cleaner” and “dirtier” people (and thus higher and lower social classes) within the social category of “Japanese” itself.  This talk will provide concrete examples of the dynamic of skin-color stigmatization, and demonstrate how the methods of Critical Race Theory may also be applied to a non-White society.

Details on the conference at

http://law.wustl.edu/harris/pages.aspx?ID=10184

You can see me speak at

http://mediasite.law.wustl.edu/Mediasite/Play/154d49c8babe4e5ca11ab911dd6c97031d (minute 1:42)

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Debito.org quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid

mytest

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Hi Blog. Story still ongoing, and we got quoted in the SCMP. Hopefully all this attention from the outside world will make the Sankei Shinbun (or maybe even the author) recant and retract the story. I will be pleasantly surprised if it does, but bigots of this age group rarely do, and after all the recent Asahi Shinbun bashing after admitting they ran a badly-sourced story the Sankei probably doesn’t want to admit they were wrong either. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Top Japanese author Sono backs racial segregation saying it’s ‘impossible to live alongside foreigners’
Ayako Sono, 83, suggests that a version of South Africa’s apartheid could work in her country

February 15, 2015, by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1713536/top-japanese-author-sono-backs-racial-segregation-saying-its-impossible

A well-known Japanese author and columnist who advised the government has sparked outrage by claiming foreigners should live in separate areas from Japanese people.

In an opinion piece for the conservative Sankei newspaper last week, Ayako Sono, 83, suggested that the infamous apartheid system that was practised in South Africa between 1948 and 1994 would be appropriate for Japan.

“It is next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them,” Sono wrote.

“Ever since I learned of the situation in South Africa some 20 or 30 years ago, I have been convinced that it is best for the races to live apart from each other, as was the case for whites, Asians and blacks in that country,” she said in the piece.

She cited the case of an apartment block in Johannesburg that was, under apartheid, reserved for white families. As soon as the laws were changed, she said, the property “fell to pieces” because black people have large families.

“Ever since learning of this, I have said that humans can do many things together – business, research, sports, to name but a few – but when it comes to living, this is one area where the races must live apart.”

Sono was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to an education panel in 2013.

Her comments have provoked anger among human-rights activists.

“It’s a stunning cognitive dissonance. After calling the apartheid system ‘racial discrimination’ in her column, she advocates it,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese who was born in the United States and has become a leading rights activist after being refused access to a public bath in Hokkaido because he is foreign.

“Is it no longer racial discrimination in a Japanese context?” he asked. “Or does she think racial discrimination is not a bad thing?

“I hope – and I stress hope – this will be dismissed as the wistful musings of a very old lady who is way out of touch,” he added.

“But she occupies a position of authority, and I fear her attitudes are but the tip of the iceberg in Japan’s ultra-conservative ruling elite.”

Internet users have also weighed in on the argument, with tens of thousands of messages on Twitter and other online forums condemning Sono’s comments.

“The problem is not that this woman exists or holds these views,” wrote one commentator. “After all, every country has its far-right misanthropes, neo- Nazis, etc.

The problem is that this woman holds these views while being somewhat revered, even decorated.”

Another asked how Sono, or the Japanese government, would react if another country advocated rounding up Japanese nationals and segregating them purely because of their nationality, while the Sankei was criticised as a “vile, racist paper”.

Arudou said he intended to continue fighting for the rights of foreign nationals living in Japan, adding: “There is a widespread tautological feeling that foreigners don’t deserve human rights because they’re foreigners.

“It begs the question about whether a society can see non-citizens as fellow humans,” he said.
================================================

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as “Outrage as top author backs racial segregation”
ENDS

Japan Today: Gov’t to tighten controls on foreign trainee program, by creating another special overseeing agency

mytest

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This was in my “drafts” folder for years.  Archiving it for the record without commentary from me.  Debito (April 2021).

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

Gov’t to tighten controls on foreign trainee program
Japan Today NATIONAL JAN. 31, 2015 – TOKYO — Courtesy of CB
http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/govt-to-tighten-controls-on-foreign-trainee-program

The government has announced plans to create a special agency to oversee the foreign trainee program which has come in for criticism for exploiting foreign workers.

According to the government, the agency—which will have legal authority—will re-evaluate the purpose of the Technical Intern Training Program to provide interns with a wider variety of occupations as well as the possibility of extending their work period, Sankei Shimbun reported Friday.

More specifically, the training program will be extended from 3 years to 5 years. Some occupations related to nursing and care-giving will be added to the current 69 categories.

In response to increasing concerns over human rights violation, there will be more measures to protect employees, a government spokesman said.

The most common complaints include employers delaying payments, taking workers’ passports, pressuring trainees to work long hours and not letting them leave their dormitories overnight, Sankei reported.

To deal with such cases, the agency will examine contracts between employers and agencies that arrange for foreign trainees to come to Japan. If violations are found, the agency will face the loss of its license.

The Japan International Training Occupation Organization will also be given more authority to supervise companies that accept trainees.

The government plans to submit a bill to create the supervisory agency to the Diet this spring.

ENDS

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

Poignant commentary from Japan Today readers:

SumoBoy:  So in other words, very little will be done. First off, we have yet another new government agency that will “oversee” this problem. In other words, some ex-MITI bureaucrat will get himself a nice cushy amakudari job. The number of companies that can exploit these workers will increase from previously and contracts will be extended, which will benefit the employer more than the employee.

Finally we have this:

To deal with cases of abuse, the agency will examine contracts between employers and agencies that arrange for foreign trainees to come to Japan. If violations are found, the agency will face the loss of its license.

So this new agency will examine the “contract” of a worker complaining of doing 40 hours over the extra overtime a week. But as everyone can see, the “contract” clearly states the worker shall only work a maximum of 35 hours a week. So since the “contract” is within legal guidelines it’s “Nothing to see here, move along.”

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

M3M3M3:  Maybe I’m just cynical but creating a ‘special agency’ is also a way to insulate the government from criticism. If we hear more horror stories, the Minister of Labour will now be able to point fingers at the agency and say ‘I had no idea, but it’s very regrettable that they didn’t do their job properly’. I don’t understand why the Ministry of Labour can’t take direct responsibility for oversight of this.

ENDS

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan”

mytest

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Hi Blog. A discussion about the following article has already started here, so I thought it prudent to promote it to its own blog entry for proper discussion. First the article, then my comment.  (N.B.: people who commented before who wish to repost their commment here, go ahead.)

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

Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”
RocketNews, January 23, 2015
Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”
Courtesy of lots of people

In 2014, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, along with two other scientists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in creating bright blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura held only a master’s degree and worked with just one lab assistant for a small manufacturer in rural Japan, yet he was able to find a solution that had eluded some the highest paid, best-educated researchers in the world.

If his story ended there, he would no doubt be the poster boy for Japanese innovation and never-say-die spirit, but in the years since his discovery, he has instigated a landmark patent case, emigrated to the US, given up his Japanese citizenship and become a vocal critic of his native country. Last week, the prickly professor gave his first Japanese press conference since picking up his Nobel and he had some very succinct advice for young Japanese: Leave.

Although Nakamura praised the Japanese culture of cooperation, hard work and honesty, he called out the education system for focusing too much on the limited goals of exams and getting into big companies. He pointed out that it is failing to give young people the English skills they need to function on a global level.

“Zero incentive”

“In the world, Japanese people [have] the worst English performance,” he said. “Only they are concerned about Japanese life. That’s a problem.”

He also said that lack of exposure to foreign cultures breeds a parochial ethnocentrism and makes young Japanese susceptible to “mind control” by the government.

Nakamura slammed Japan for failing to ensure that inventors are fairly compensated for their work, something that stifles innovation and provides “zero incentive” for employees to be creative.

Article 35 of the patent law says that patent rights belong to the inventor, but in practice, companies dictate the terms of compensation to their employees. In fact, Nakamura’s former company paid him the equivalent of just US$180 for his Nobel-winning invention. Nakamura sued in 2001 and a Tokyo court determined that his patent had generated about US$1 billion in revenue. Nakamura settled with the company for US$8 million.

“The most important thing is to go abroad and…see Japan from outside the country.”

Since the litigation, many companies have switched from giving employees a flat fee for patent rights to a percentage of royalties, but the Japan Business Federation has also begun lobbying the government to clarify the law and place patent rights squarely with companies. Prime Minister Abe has hinted that he would like to do so.

“If the Japanese government changes the patent law, it means basically there would no compensation [for inventors]. In that case, I recommend that Japanese employees go abroad,” said Nakamura.

In general, Nakamura encouraged young Japanese to leave, whether to get a better education, to expand their world view or to be better compensated for their work. Despite his criticisms, he is not advocating a wholesale abandonment of Japan either. Rather, a more internationalized population could be the key to meaningful reforms.

“The most important thing is to go abroad and they can see Japan from outside the country. And they understand, …oh, now I can understand bad thing of Japan. That’s the most important thing, no? Japanese people have to wake up about Japanese bad things, you know. I think that’s very important.”

ENDS
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COMMENT:  Wow.  “Slave” Nakamura not only refused to settle for the pittance regularly doled out to inventors in Japan that transform innovation and profit for Japan’s corporate behemoths (yes, he sued — millions of people do in Japan every year — and he won!), but also he wouldn’t settle for life in Japan as it is.  He emigrated and now publicly extols the virtues of not being stifled by Japan’s insularity (and governmental mind control!?).  Pretty brave and bracing stuff.  Bravo.

It isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened within Japan’s intelligentsia.  How many readers remember the “Tonegawa Shock” of 1987?

When the 1987 Nobel Prize was given to [Susumu] Tonegawa, who had moved to the US so he could be inspired and free to carry on his research, Japanese academics took notice and some were humiliated. Tonegawa had asserted that if he had remained in Japan, he would have had to spend years courting favor with mentors and dealing with disinterested colleagues, lagging unchallenged and unmotivated, certainly never to attain Nobel laureate. The press labeled the phenomenon as “Tonegawa Shock” which described the actions of similar Japanese scientists, such as Leo Esaki, a 1973 laureate in physics, who left Japan to work at IBM in the US. [Source]

The Tonegawa Shock set off a chain of events that led to the despotic Ministry of Education deciding to “enliven” (kasseika) Japan’s education system by doing away with tenure.  Sounds great to people who don’t understand why tenure exists in an education system, but what happened is that the MOE first downsized everyone that they could who was not on tenure — the NJ educators on perpetual contract eemployment (ninkisei) — in what was called the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994 where most NJ teachers working in Japan’s prestigious National and Public Universities over the age of 35 were fired by bureaucratic fiat.  It was the first activism that I took up back in 1993, and the underlying “Academic Apartheid” of Japan’s higher education system exposed by this policy putsch became the bedrock issue for Debito.org when it was established in 1996.

With this in mind, I wonder what reverberations will result from Dr. Nakamura encouraging an exodus?  Hopefully not something that will further damage the NJ communities in Japan.  But if there is more NJ scapegoating in the offing, you’ll probably hear about it on Debito.org.  That’s what we’re here for.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

A TOP TEN FOR 2014
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 83 for the Japan Times Community Page
Published January 1, 2015 (version with links to sources)

Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/01/01/issues/hate-muzzle-poll-top-10-issues-2014/

 | 

Hate, muzzle and poll: a top 10 of issues for 2014

BY DEBITO ARUDOU, The Japan Times, January 1, 2015

As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the top 10 human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order:

10) Warmonger Ishihara loses seat

This newspaper has talked about Shintaro Ishihara’s unsubtle bigotry (particularly towards Japan’s NJ residents) numerous times (e.g. “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2012). All the while, we gritted our teeth as he won re-election repeatedly to the National Diet and the Tokyo governorship.

However, in a move that can only be put down to hubris, Ishihara resigned his gubernatorial bully pulpit in 2012 to shepherd a lunatic-right fringe party into the Diet. But in December he was voted out, drawing the curtain on nearly five decades of political theater.

About time. He admitted last month that he wanted “to fight a war with China and win” by attempting to buy three of the disputed Senkaku islets (and entangling the previous left-leaning government in the imbroglio). Fortunately the conflict hasn’t come to blows, but Ishihara has done more than anyone over the past 15 years to embolden Japan’s xenophobic right (by fashioning foreigner-bashing into viable political capital) and undo Japan’s postwar liberalism and pacifism.

Good riddance. May we never see your like again. Unfortunately, I doubt that.

9) Mori bashes Japan’s athletes

Japan apparently underperformed at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (no wonder, given the unnecessary pressure Japanese society puts on its athletes) and somebody just had to grumble about it — only this time in a racialized way.

Chair of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics committee Yoshiro Mori (himself remembered for his abysmal performance as prime minister from 2000 to 2001) criticized the performance of Japanese figure skaters Chris and Cathy Reed: “They live in America. Because they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.” This was factually wrong to begin with, since through their Japanese mother, the Reeds have always had Japanese citizenship. But the insinuation that they weren’t good enough because they weren’t Japanese enough is dreadfully unsportsmanlike, and contravenes the Olympic charter on racism.

Mori incurred significant international criticism for this, but there were no retractions or resignations. And it isn’t the first time the stigmatization of foreignness has surfaced in Mori’s milieu. Since 2005 he has headed the Japan Rugby Football Union, which after the 2011 Rugby World Cup criticized the underperforming Japan team for having “too many foreign-born players” (including naturalized Japanese citizens). The 2012 roster was then purged of most “foreigners.” Yet despite these shenanigans, Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup right before the Tokyo Olympics.

8) ‘Points system’ visa revamp

In a delicious example of JBC SITYS (“see, I told you so”), Japan’s meritocratic Points-based Preferential Treatment for Highly Skilled Foreigners visa failed miserably in 2013, with only 700 people having even applied for the available 2,000 slots six months into the program.

JBC said its requirements were far too strict when it was first announced, predicting it would fail (see last year’s top 10, and “Japan’s revolving door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” JBC, March 6, 2012). Policymakers arrogantly presumed that NJ are beating down the door to work in Japan under any circumstances (not likely, after Japan’s two economic “lost decades”), and gave few “points” to those who learned Japanese or attended Japanese universities. Fact is, they never really wanted people who “knew” Japan all that well.

But by now even those who do cursory research know greater opportunities lie elsewhere: Japan is a land of deflation and real falling wages, with little protection against discrimination, and real structural impediments to settling permanently and prospering in Japanese society.

So did the government learn from this policy failure? Yes, some points requirements were revamped, but the most significant change was cosmetic: The online info site contains an illustration depicting potential applicants as predominantly white Westerners. So much for the meritocracy: The melanin-rich need not apply.

Good luck with the reboot, but Japan is becoming an even harder sell due to the higher-ranking issues on our countdown.

7) Ruling in Suraj death case

This is the third time the case of Ghanaian national Abubakar Awadu Suraj has made this top 10, because it demonstrates how NJ can be brutally killed in police custody without anyone taking responsibility.

After Suraj was asphyxiated while physically restrained during deportation in 2010, for years his kin unsuccessfully sought criminal prosecutions. Last March, however, the Tokyo District Court ruled that immigration officials were responsible for using “illegal” excessive force, and ordered the government to pay ¥5 million to Suraj’s widow and mother.

The case is currently being appealed to the Tokyo High Court. But the lesson remains that in Japan, due to insufficient oversight over Immigration Bureau officials (as reported in United Nations and Amnesty International reports; four NJ have died in Immigration custody since October 2013), an overstayed visa can become a capital offense.

6) Muslims compensated for leak

In another landmark move by the Tokyo District Court, last January the National Police Agency was ordered to compensate several Muslim residents and their Japanese families, whom they had spied upon as suspected terrorists. Although this is good news (clearly noncitizens are entitled to the same right to privacy as citizens), the act of spying in itself was not penalized, but rather the police’s inability to manage their intelligence properly, letting the information leak to the public.

Also not ruled upon was the illegality of the investigation itself, and the latent discrimination behind it. Instead, the court called the spying unavoidable considering the need to prevent international terrorism — thus giving carte blanche to the police to engage in racial profiling.

5) ‘Japanese only’ saga

If this were my own personal top 10, this would top the list, as it marks a major shift in Japan’s narrative on racial discrimination (the subject of my Ph.D. last year). As described elsewhere (“J.League and media must show red card to racism,” JBC, March 12, 2014), the Japanese government and media seem to have an allergy when it comes to calling discrimination due to physical appearance “discrimination by race” (jinshu sabetsu), depicting it instead as discrimination by nationality, ethnicity, “descent,” etc. Racism happens in other countries, not here, the narrative goes, because Japan is so homogeneous that it has no race issues.

But when Urawa Reds soccer fans last March put up a “Japanese only” banner at an entrance to the stands at its stadium, the debate turned out differently. Despite some initial media prevarication about whether or not this banner was “racist,” J.League chair Mitsuru Murai quickly called it out as racial discrimination and took punitive action against both the fans and the team.

More importantly, Murai said that victims’ perception of the banner was more important than the perpetrators’ intent behind it. This opened the doors for debate about jinshu sabetsu more effectively than the entire decade of proceedings in the “Japanese only” Otaru onsen case that I was involved in (where behavior was ruled as “racial discrimination” by the judiciary as far back as 2002). All of this means that well into the 21st century, Japan finally has a precedent of domestic discourse on racism that cannot be ignored.

4) Signs Japan may enforce Hague

Last year’s top 10 noted that Japan would join an international pact that says international children abducted by a family member from their habitual country of residence after divorce should be repatriated. However, JBC doubted it would be properly enforced, in light of a propagandist Foreign Ministry pamphlet arguing that signing the Hague Convention was Japan’s means to force foreigners to send more Japanese children home (“Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents,” JBC, Oct. 8). Furthermore, with divorces between Japanese citizens commonly resulting in one parent losing all access to the children, what hope would foreigners have?

Fortunately, last year there were some positive steps, with some children abducted to Japan being returned overseas. Government-sponsored mediation resulted in a voluntary return, and a court ruling ordered a repatriation (the case is on appeal).

However, the Hague treaty requires involuntary court-ordered returns, and while Japan has received children under its new signatory status, it has not as yet sent any back. Further, filing for return and/or access in Japan under the Hague is arduous, with processes not required in other signatory countries.

Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction, and JBC hopes that respect for habitual residence continues even after international media attention on Japan has waned.

3) Ruling on welfare confuses

Last July another court case mentioned in previous top 10s concluded, with an 82-year-old Zainichi Chinese who has spent her whole life in Japan being denied social-welfare benefits for low-income residents (seikatsu hogo). The Supreme Court overturned a Fukuoka High Court ruling that NJ had “quasi-rights” to assistance, saying that only nationals had a “guaranteed right” (kenri).

People were confused. Although the media portrayed this as a denial of welfare to NJ, labor union activist Louis Carlet called it a reaffirmation of the status quo — meaning there was no NJ ineligibility, just no automatic eligibility. Also, several bureaucratic agencies stated that NJ would qualify for assistance as before.

It didn’t matter. Japan’s xenophobic right soon capitalized on this phraseology, with Ishihara’s Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) in August announcing policies “based on the ruling” that explicitly denied welfare to NJ. In December, in another act of outright meanness, Jisedai made NJ welfare issues one of their party platforms. One of their advertisements featured an animated pig, representing the allegedly “taboo topic” of NJ (somehow) receiving “eight times the benefits of Japanese citizens,” being grotesquely sliced in half.

You read that right. But it makes sense when you consider how normalized hate speech has become in Japan.

2) The rise and rise of hate speech

Last year’s list noted how Japan’s hate speech had turned murderous, with some even advocating the killing of Koreans in Japan. In 2014, Japanese rightists celebrated Hitler’s 125th birthday in Tokyo by parading swastika banners next to the Rising Sun flag. Media reported hate speech protests spreading to smaller cities around Japan, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered little more than lukewarm condemnations of what is essentially his xenophobic power base. Even opportunistic foreigners joined the chorus, with Henry Scott Stokes and Tony “Texas Daddy” Marano (neither of whom can read the Japanese articles written under their name) topping up their retirement bank accounts with revisionist writings.

That said, last year also saw rising counterprotests. Ordinary people began showing up at hate rallies waving “No to racism” banners and shouting the haters down. The United Nations issued very strong condemnations and called for a law against hate speech. Even Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto confronted Makoto Sakurai, the then-leader of hate group Zaitokukai (which, despite Japan’s top cop feigning ignorance of the group, was added to a National Police Agency watch list as a threat to law and order last year).

Unfortunately, most protesters have taken the tack of crying “Don’t shame us Japanese” rather than the more empowering “NJ are our neighbors who have equal rights with us.” Sadly, the possibility of equality ever becoming a reality looked even further away as 2014 drew to a close:

1) Abe re-election and secrets law

With his third electoral victory in December, Abe got a renewed mandate to carry out his policies. These are ostensibly to revitalize the economy, but more importantly to enforce patriotism, revive Japan’s mysticism, sanitize Japan’s history and undo its peace Constitution to allow for remilitarization (“Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2013).

Most sinister of all his policies is the state secrets law, which took effect last month, with harsh criminal penalties in place for anyone “leaking” any of 460,000 potential state secrets. Given that the process for deciding what’s a secret is itself secret, this law will further intimidate a self-censoring Japanese media into double-guessing itself into even deeper silence.

These misgivings have been covered extensively elsewhere. But particularly germane for JBC is how, according to Kyodo (Dec. 8), the Abe Cabinet has warned government offices that Japanese who have studied or worked abroad are a higher leak risk. That means the government can now justifiably purge all “foreign” intellectual or social influences from the upper echelons of power.

How will this state-sponsored xenophobia, which now views anything “foreign” as a security threat, affect Japan’s policymakers, especially when so many Japanese bureaucrats and politicians (even Abe himself) have studied abroad? Dunno. But the state secrets law will certainly undermine Japan’s decades of “internationalization,” globalization and participation in the world community — in ways never seen in postwar Japan.


Bubbling under:

a) Jisedai no To’s xenophobic platform fails to inspire, and the party loses most of its seats in December’s election.

b) Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Japan’s biggest drugmaker, appoints Christophe Weber as president despite the Takeda family’s xenophobic objections.

c) Media pressure forces Konsho Gakuen cooking college to (officially) repeal its “Japanese only” admissions process (despite it being in place since 1976, and Saitama Prefecture knowing about it since 2012).

d) All Nippon Airways (ANA) uses racist “big-nosed white guy” advertisement to promote “Japan’s new image” as Haneda airport vies to be a hub for Asian traffic (“Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad,” JBC, Jan. 24, 2014).

e) Despite NJ being listed on resident registries (jūmin kihon daichō) since 2012, media reports continue to avoid counting NJ as part of Japan’s official population.

ENDS

Holiday Tangent: Hanif Kureishi on UK’s Enoch Powell: How just one racist-populist politician can color the debate in an entire society

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, and Happy Impending Holidays. As a Holiday Tangent, the Guardian offers an excellent account of life for migrants, immigrants, and citizens of color in a society in flux (Great Britain in the 1970s, as it adjusted to the effects of a post-empire Commonwealth).  It depicts well how one racist-populist politician, Enoch Powell, could affect an entire society, and though fear-mongering invective effectively accelerate the othering and subordination of residents.

But that was just one person.  Imagine the effects of a proliferation of Enoch Powellesque racists and fearmongerers throughout a society, such as the leader of a party (Hiranuma Takeo), the governor of the capital city (like Ishihara Shintaro), or the Prime Minister of an entire country (like Abe Shinzo), or Japan’s entire national police force (see here, here, and here in particular).  Enoch had his effects, and Kureishi can now look back with some degree of “the past is a foreign country” relief.  Japan cannot.  Not right now.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Hanif Kureishi: Knock, knock, it’s Enoch
The novelist and screenwriter remembers the effect of Enoch Powell – it’s impossible not to summon his ghost now that immigration is again centre of the political stage
The Guardian, Friday 12 December 2014, courtesy of PKU
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/12/enoch-powell-hanif-kureishi

I was 14 in 1968 and one of the horrors of my teenage years was Enoch Powell. For a mixed-race kid, this stiff ex-colonial zealot – with his obscene, grand guignol talk of whips, blood, excreta, urination and wide-eyed piccaninnies – was a monstrous, scary bogeyman. I remember his name being whispered by my uncles for fear I would overhear.

I grew up near Biggin Hill airfield in Kent, in the shadow of the second world war. We walked past bomb sites everyday. My grandmother had been a “fire watcher” and talked about the terror of the nightly Luftwaffe raids. With his stern prophet’s nostalgia, bulging eyes and military moustache, Powell reminded us of Hitler, and the pathology of his increasing number of followers soon became as disquieting as his pronouncements. At school, Powell’s name soon become one terrifying word – Enoch. As well as being an insult, it began to be used with elation. “Enoch will deal with you lot,” and, “Enoch will soon be knocking on your door, pal.” “Knock, knock, it’s Enoch,” people would say as they passed. Neighbours in the London suburbs began to state with some defiance: “Our family is with Enoch.” More skinheads appeared.

It was said, after Powell mooted the idea for a Ministry of Repatriation, that we “offspring”, as he called the children of immgrants, would be sent away. “A policy of assisting repatriation by payment of fares and grants is part of the official policy of the Conservative party,” he stated in 1968. Sometimes, idly, I wondered how I might like it in India or Pakistan, where I’d never been, and whether I’d be welcomed. But others said that if we were born here, as I was, it would be only our parents who would be sent back. We would, then, have to fend for ourselves, and I imagined a parentless pack of us unwanted mongrels, hunting for food in the nearby woods.

Repatriation, Powell said, “would help to achieve with minimum friction what must surely be the object of everyone – to prevent, so far as that is still possible, a major racial problem in the Britain of AD2000.” It was clear: if Britain had lost an empire and not yet recovered from the war, our added presence would only cause more strife – homelessness, joblessness, prostitution and drug addiction. Soon the indigenous whites would be a “persecuted minority” or “strangers” in their own country. It would be our turn, presumably, to do the persecuting.

The influence of Powell, this ghost of the empire, was not negligible; he moved British politics to the right and set the agenda we address today. It’s impossible not to summon his ghost now that immigration is once again the subject of national debate. Politicians attack minorities when they want to impress the public with their toughness as “truth-tellers”. And Powell’s influence extended far. In 1976 – the year before the Clash’s “White Riot” – and eight years after Powell’s major speeches, one of my heroes, Eric Clapton, ordered an audience to vote for Powell to prevent Britain becoming a “black colony”. Clapton said that, “Britain should get the wogs out, get the coons out,” before repeatedly shouting the National Front slogan “Keep Britain White”.

A middle-class, only child from Birmingham, socially inept and repressed, Powell had taken refuge in books and “scholarship” for most of his life. He was perhaps happiest during the war, spending three years in military intelligence in India. Like a lot of Brits, he loved the empire and colonial India, where he could escape his parents and the constraints of Britain. Many Indians were intimidated by and subservient to British soldiers, as my family attested. Like most colonialists, Powell was a bigger, more powerful man in India than he’d have been in England. No wonder he was patriotic and believed giving up the empire would be a disaster. “I had always been an imperialist and a Tory,” he said.

On his return in 1945, Powell went into politics. Like the grandees he aspired to be, he took up churchgoing and fox-hunting. Before his speeches on race, he was an obedient, relatively undistinguished servant of the state. But he was also, in fact, a proto-Thatcherite: a supporter of the free market and lower taxes with a utopian vision of unregulated capitalism where, miraculously, everything people required would be provided by the simple need for profit. Soon, as Thatcher said, there would be no alternative.

But, in 1968, that great year of newness, experimentation and hope, when people were thinking in new ways about oppression, relationships and equality, there was a terrible return. This odd Edwardian figure popped up into public life, and decided to became a demagogue. Richard Crossman, in his diary of 1968, worried about Powell’s celebrity appeal to “mass opinion, right over our parliament and his party leadership”.

Appealing to the worst in people – their hate – is a guaranteed way to get attention, but it is also fatal. Powell talked in whole sentences and was forever translating Herodotus, so was known for his cleverness. But he wasn’t smart enough to resist the temptation of instant populism for which he traded in his reputation. Racism is the fool’s gold, or, rather, the crack cocaine of politics. The 1970s was a dangerous time for people of colour – the National Front was active and violent, particularly in south London, and it was an ignoble sacrifice for Powell to attack the most vulnerable and unprotected, those workers who had left their homes to come to Britain. He elevated his phobia to a political position, and there was no going back.

Like many racists, Powell was nostalgic in his fantasies: before all this mixing, there was a time of clarity and plenitude, when Britishness was fixed and people knew who they were. Powell refused to allow his certainties to come into contact with reality. He had wanted to know India, but barely troubled himself with Britain and, apart from some weekends in Wolverhampton, lived most of his life in Belgravia.

In contrast to the crude caricatures of people of colour perpetrated by Powell, the Guyanese-born, Cambridge-educated writer ER Braithwaite – who served in the RAF before becoming a teacher in the East End because he couldn’t get a job as a engineer – writes in detail about race between the late-40s and the mid-60s. Three important works in particular, To Sir, With Love, Reluctant Neighbours and Choice of Straws engage with this era. From this clear-eyed, brave novelist we learn about the everyday humiliations, abuse and remarks that people of colour had to face after being invited to help run the NHS and transport system. To make the future it wanted, Britain needed the best doctors, engineers, architects, artists and workers of all kinds, and it imported them, before insulting them.

Powell liked to complain about every vile “imputation and innuendo” made about him; he was keen to be a martyr and victim. Braithwaite, for his part, really suffered. He catalogues the systemic and degrading exclusion from jobs and housing that so disillusioned immigrants about the British with their babble about fairness, liberty and the mother country. His books describe the rage and hate that relentless humiliation inevitably engenders – as colonialism did, in its time. Powell probably intuited the simple idea that tyranny creates resistance, and grasped that future conflicts would be caused by the tyranny he supported, hence his apocalypticism.

Powell developed his own schoolmasterish look. Always in black, sometimes in a long overcoat and occasionally in a little homburg, he was punky and subversive, and came to enjoy making everyone furious with his provocations. And he had the cheek to call us “a roomful of gunpowder”. He didn’t fit in; but he certainly liked to disorientate and traumatise us. After he spoke, we were in freefall; we didn’t know where or who we were. Powell wanted to confirm us as outsiders, as unintelligible and unwanted, but this helped us clarify things and created resistance. Out of Clapton’s statements, for instance, came Rock Against Racism, created by artists, musicians and activists to combat fascism. Then there was identity politics. We were not nothing; we had histories and, unlike him, we had futures.

Powell was creating the conflict he claimed to be the solution to. He soon found himself supported by the National Front. Powell had called himself a Nietszchean as a young man, but Nietzsche would have hated the wretched appeal to the mob or herd. Powell was merely addressing the bitter rabble, and, for so fastidious a man, this would have been distasteful, and he must have considered how incapable our intelligence can be when it comes to protecting us from the temptations of self-destruction.

He cheated his followers, because all he gave them was the brief thrill of superiority and hatred. Nothing substantial altered in the world, and the wild, amoral capitalism that developed from his Hayek-inspired economic vision created wealth for some, but otherwise had no respect for the homes or jobs of Powell’s followers, nor for the other things he cared about – tradition, national borders, patriotism or religion.

Although he was attacked and condemned by students wherever he went, he didn’t trouble himself to think about the profound social changes sweeping the country, as young people attempted to liberate themselves from the assumptions of the past. Britain wasn’t decaying, it was remaking itself, even as it didn’t know how the story would end.

In London now, if you stroll through the crowds on a bright Sunday afternoon near the museums and decorated shop fronts, even for those of us who have been here for years, this multiracial metropolis – less frantic than New York, and with more purpose than Paris, and with its scores of languages – seems like nothing that has ever been made before. And it grows ever more busy, bustling and compelling in its beauty, multiplicity and promise, particularly for those of us who remember how dull and eventless London could seem in the 70s, especially on Sundays.

Britain survived Powell and became something he couldn’t possibly have envisioned. He was a pessimist and lacked faith in the ability of people to cooperate with one another, to collaborate and make alliances. The cultural collisions he was afraid of are the affirmative side of globalisation. People do not love one another because they are “the same”, and they don’t always kill one another because they are different. Where, indeed, does difference begin? Why would it begin with race or colour?

Racism is the lowest form of snobbery. Its language mutates: not long ago the word “immigrant” became an insult, a stand-in for “paki” or “nigger”. We remain an obstruction to “unity”, and people like Powell, men of ressentiment, with their omens and desire to humiliate, will return repeatedly to divide and create difference. The neoliberal experiment that began in the 80s uses racism as a vicious entertainment, as a sideshow, while the wealthy continue to accumulate. But we are all migrants from somewhere, and if we remember that, we could all go somewhere – together.

ENDS

Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from ARUDOU, Debito (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:
Donate towards my web hosting bill!
All donations go towards website costs only. Thanks for your support!

Hello Blog. Here’s something that might go relatively unnoticed unless we bring it up here at Debito.org:

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Go master Seigen Go dies
The Yomiuri Shimbun
December 01, 2014
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001757079, courtesy of JK.

Go master Seigen Go, heralded as the strongest professional player in the Showa era, died of old age early Sunday morning at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 100.

Funeral services will be held with only close relatives in attendance, but a more public farewell ceremony is expected to be held at a later time.

Go was born in 1914 in Fujian Province, China. His talent at go was recognized at an early age, and in 1928 he came to Japan at the age of 14. Go became a disciple of Kensaku Segoe, a seventh-dan player, and was quickly promoted to third dan the following year. He was granted the ninth dan in 1950 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1979.

In 1933, Go and fifth-dan player Minoru Kitani announced a new strategy focusing on the center of the board, which has become the basis of modern go strategy.

Go dominated professional circles until his retirement in 1984, waging fierce battles with top players.
ENDS

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

Why does this matter to Debito.org? As submitter JK notes:

Hi Debito: IMO there’s more going on here than just a typical obituary — to me, the article is an NJ success story. BTW, it’s a shame the article doesn’t detail Go’s decision to naturalize at 65 instead of earlier (e.g. 1950 when he reached ninth dan).

Quite. We hear all sorts of provincial navel-gazing whenever somebody foreign dominates a “Japanese” sport like sumo (to the point where the Sumo Association has to change to rules to count naturalized Japanese as “foreign”, in violation of the Nationality Law). Maybe there was that kind of soul-searching when Go ascended, I don’t know (it was two generations ago). But it is a remarkable legacy to leave behind, and I wonder if there are any Go-nerds out there who might give us some more background. Like JK, I think there’s a deeper story here. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014

mytest

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Hi Blog. I want to say thank you to everyone who read this and made it the the #1 most-read article at the JT Online for two days, and again for a number of days later!  Dr ARUDOU, Debito:

justbecauseicon.jpg
TIME TO BURST YOUR BUBBLE AND FACE REALITY

By Debito Arudou
JBC 82 for the Japan Times Community Page
December 4, 2014

Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/

I want to open by saying: Look, I get it.

I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on.

After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning. Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. You might even have believed that people are governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”

Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed — if you happened to be male, that is).

Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.

But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.

Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan.

You don’t. Unless you marry an elite whose family funds your whims, you’ll discover that as you get older, opportunities narrow and doors close.

The first major life stage might be getting married — so easy to do here. Then you’d better lose the Peter Pan lifestyle and find a way to support your sudden kids. Or you’ll never see them again after the divorce.

Then you finally land that steady job that might lead to a career. But it’s hard enough nowadays for Japanese in their 20s and 30s to land secure employment (let alone climb the corporate ladder), so why should Johnny Foreigner cut in? Even if you manage to, people often assume tokenism and don’t take you seriously. The bamboo ceiling is pretty impenetrable.

But what about your trusty Genki Gaijin shtick? You’ll look jolly silly doing it as a geriatric, playing the perpetual dancing monkey, never the organ grinder.

Finally, as is true for everyone in Japan, the older you get, the less wriggle room you have in your career. Good luck comfortably changing jobs in your 40s or 50s. Most of the influential and reasonably self-actualized people in Japan are elites who spent their lives marrying into connections and cultivating Old-Boy networks, awaiting the right time to be catapulted into the next generation of leaders. NJ OBs in powerful positions? Unlikely.

Part of that is by design: Enough NJ live the life of Riley and assume the future will take care of itself. After all, for their fellow unambitious and unobtrusive Japanese corporate drones, it will; except that they will likely live a pre-designed, boring and “normal” workaday life taken care of by the state.

But for NJ, given the recent court decision about their welfare benefits, the perpetual weakness of their contract employment, and employers not paying into their pension systems with impunity, a “normal” career is not at all guaranteed. NJ have to be vigilant at an age when everyone else seems to be partying.

Another part is the shocking realization in many NJ (especially in those brought over during the 1980s Golden Age of Kokusaika (“internationalization”) who are now reaching late middle age and retirement) that they were working under a delusion: They were never seen as a colleague in the workplace. More as a pet.

This became evident as younger Japanese co-workers, who had less qualifications, time or experience in the company, got promoted over them. After all, what self-respecting Japanese wants some NJ as their senpai (senior) in the workplace? Suddenly, despite following all the rules, NJ didn’t get the same rewards.

So, after a quarter-century in Japan, I get it. And here’s what you oughta get by now:

If NJ don’t do something outside the bubble they’ve lived in so far, they might end up as some anonymous dead gaijin on a gurney, unremembered and unmourned, merely cremated and disposed of by authorities unsure of your next of kin. I’ve seen it happen — an accelerating number of times.

Why? Parables such as the one about “boiled frogs” come to mind (i.e., the frog who never noticed the temperature of the water around him rising until it was too late to jump out), but more insightful is what Pierre Bourdieu called the “illusio,” i.e., the belief that the great lifetime “game” we all agree to play is worth playing, and the fiction we collectively choose to follow is reality.

The fiction we have been accepting as reality is: Japan will treat NJ equally as long as they play the game by Japanese rules. This shows a sore lack of self-reflection about the NJ’s place in Japanese society, where those rules are stacked against them properly assimilating. It’s not because NJ always elect to be treated like guests. Guest treatment is in fact the default.

For example, have you ever noticed how difficult it is for NJ to become established in Japan’s essential, respected and licensed jobs — e.g., as doctors (and nurses), lawyers, engineers, administrative-level bureaucrats, etc.? Instead, where are they consigned? Factories, education, tenuous entrepreneurship, contracted tech, as nonadministrative corporate drones, and in entertainment. These jobs are basically fungible and expendable. And they are the default.

That’s why NJ must learn how to become “hosts.” By this I mean that they must offer Japan something that cannot be dismissed as a mere trifle or token effort.

That skill must be precious enough that NJ residents can choose to deny it to Japan, should they ever want to reclaim their power, self-respect and dignity. The NJ who exclusively do what Japan needs, and who cannot be replaced with a Japanese substitute (for example, people acting as indisposable ambassadors of Japanese knowledge — e.g., Ed Reischauer, Donald Richie or Donald Keene), can hold their skills hostage and become secure, respected, even immortal.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but face reality: What do you have to offer Japan? I’m not asking if there is something you do well; I’m asking: After all these years, is there something that you can do that Japan positively cannot live without? If not, then Japan can easily live without you, and you could be headed for the gurney.

No doubt people will decry this column. Look, I “get” that too, for it’s a natural part of illusio maintenance. People trapped in their bubbles will fight to their last breath to avoid having them burst. Facing the reality of their perpetual second-class caste status would force them to admit that they made a mistake by submitting to Japan’s default subordination processes — that they traded their entire life for something that they ultimately found no stake in.

Criticize away if that makes you feel better. It’s more comforting to play the game and party on. For now. But as your twilight years approach, you’ll look back in anger and wish you’d created a different bubble. Japan as an entire society does too, what with all this wasted human potential, as it fades into international irrelevance.

Debito Arudou’s “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

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

Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/. And this will be the anchor site for the article, so comment both below and at the JT if you like. As always, thanks for reading! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Louis Carlet et al. on the misunderstood July 2014 Supreme Court Ruling denying welfare benefits to NJ: “no rights” does not mean automatic NJ denials

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Two weeks ago Debito.org wrote on the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Japan’s ruling that NJ have “no right” to social welfare (seikatsu hogo) because they are not citizens.  I have been hearing rumblings that the media have been misinterpreting this ruling due to linguistics and politics, and that an adjudged no legal right has not resulted in denials.  I submit to you the corrections from Tozen Union’s Louis Carlet, with a followup from another Debito.org Commenter that are simply too good to languish within comments.

Nevertheless, as noted in that earlier Debito.org post, the point remains that there are some very nasty and xenophobic people in Japan’s political system who are capitalizing on what people think the Supreme Court said.  Which may mean, in this increasingly ultra-rightist political climate, that the effect might ultimately be the same.  Have a read.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

LOUIS CARLET:  [Japan Times’] Otake’s article is mistaken on two major points. First, the Supreme Court in no way found foreigners ineligible for welfare. Second, the ruling, far from landmark, upheld the status quo. 

The highest court overturned the High Court’s actual landmark ruling which said that foreigners have “quasi rights” to welfare. 

Up until then foreigners never had the “guaranteed right” (kenri) to welfare but they were and are eligible just like Japanese citizens. 

I think the problem is mistranslation. Kenri means a guaranteed right whereas “no right” in English suggests ineligible. 

The only difference arising from not having the kenri is that if the welfare office rejects an application from a citizen then the Japanese person can appeal the decision to the office. A foreigner with no kenri for welfare cannot appeal at the office but only in court. 

That is the ONLY difference between how foreigners and Japanese are treated by the welfare office. 

Foreigners get welfare just like Japanese do. In fact the plaintiff currently gets welfare although originally rejected.

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

OsFish:  Debito, I am very glad Louis Carlet wrote to you – I had been preparing a similar message, but his is a more authoritative voice than mine. There has been some very bad press coverage in English about this ruling, coverage which is potentially damaging for foreigners. If people wrongly believe they cannot get a benefit, they will not try to claim it. Foreigners are still eligible for this benefit (known as seikatsu hogo), and have been since the 1950s, and they get it, and on the same terms as Japanese, by dint of a Ministry notice that the ruling recognised (and which is part of Japan meeting obligations under international treaties; it’s not a fragile ornament). All this is important to know as it’s no fun being destitute.

I particularly appreciate Louis’ description of the appeal situation, which confirms something which had been leaking out in between the poor reporting: the plaintiff in the original case didn’t even have her court appeal reversed. The ruling has that little impact on the day to day situation for non-citizens. (Not that the lack of right of appeal in the office directly is a good thing, but still, I hope your readers get the point.) Newspapers have contacted municipalities with large foreign populations and they have confirmed: absolutely no change in practice. My own contacts in local government have said the same thing, and were quite distressed at the misinformation going around social media in English.

I hope you will allow me a clarification that adds to Louis Carlet’s message, and to point out a related an important error made by the Japan Times commenter Charles in the calculations that you borrowed, an error that he graciously admitted in later comments when I pointed it out to him. Once this error is taken into account, and once you delve into the figures, I think it becomes clear that the target of the right-wing party’s suggested reforms is – inevitably – not westerners, but zainichi Koreans.

The clarification that needs to be repeated over and over again is that “welfare” here does not mean “welfare” in its biggest sense of all social expenditures, such as pensions, health costs, unemployment insurance and so on. It does not mean shakai hoken in any sense at all. Welfare in this limited sense is a means-tested benefit for people who have fallen through the gaps of insurance-based social protection because they cannot contribute, or are not under the umbrella of a contributor. The main recipients are long-term disabled, single mothers (abandoned by their partners) and elderly with inadequate or no pension rights. It is a completely different system to shakai hoken and operates on a different logic of desert and eligibility. Broadly speaking, the same social insurance/social assistance split operates in large parts of the industrialised world. Japan more or less imported its system from Europe.

To repeat: welfare here does not mean shakai hoken. Please rest easy, and do NOT consider opting out based on this ruling; it’s got nothing legally or logically to do with shakai hoken. And in any case, welfare is not being taken away. People in dire straits need to know that.

To the calculations: The specific error Charles made (and acknowledged) was to take the budget for all social expenditures – including social insurance expenditures such as pensions – and compare that to expenditure on foreign recipients of one specific benefit – seikatsu hogo.

If I may run the actual calculations for you, we’ll get a clearer picture, and I think we’ll possibly see more clearly the motivations for a far right Japanese nationalist party in acting on this:

The seikatsu hogo budget for the whole of Japan was 3.8 trillion yen in 2014, according to an NHK report this year (the page has expired, unfortunately). If we assume that the 122 billion figure in the Japan Times article is correct, then we have “foreign” recipients taking up 3.2% of all seikatsu hogo expenditures. With a “foreign” population of just under 2%, that does actually mean that “foreigners” are taking more than their share of seikatsu hogo.

However, we can delve further into the figures to find out who these “foreigners” are. If you look at the excel file at no. 15 in this list, you can see the breakdown (the data are a few years old, but they’re almost certainly representative of the situation now): http://www.e-stat.go.jp/SG1/estat/GL08020103.do?_toGL08020103_&listID=000001107137

What should jump out at you is that 66% of all recipients are Koreans – almost all probably zainichi SPRs: a group that really stretches the concept of “foreign”, I’m sure you’ll agree. Of those Koreans, and quite disproportionately compared to other groups, around half of the recipients are old people. I would hazard a guess that this is a strong reflection of the economic disenfranchisement of the first post-war generation of zainichi. These are people who were disproportionately not properly or poorly integrated into the economy and welfare system. (For what it’s worth, incomer “foreigners” claim less than their “share”, but this shouldn’t be too surprising or interpreted as anything meaningful, as residence status is attached to visa status, is attached to good evidence of financial stability. Of course there are going to be fewer incomer recipients.)

Let’s combine this fact that Koreans make up the bulk of recipients with the far-right party’s suggestion that “foreign” recipients should naturalise or leave. For a westerner claiming social assistance, it would be very hard indeed to naturalise if you could not demonstrate financial stability. It’s pretty much out of the question. However, for zainichi Koreans, that financial stability condition doesn’t apply. The rules for SPR naturalisation are not strict.

So it looks to me like an attempt to coerce elderly impoverished zainichi Koreans into giving up their nationality and identity. That’s why this relatively small amount of budget money matters to these thoroughly unpleasant people.

ENDS

Osaka Mayor Hashimoto vs Zaitokukai Sakurai: I say, bully for Hash for standing up to the bully boys

mytest

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Hi Blog. Making the news recently is this very unusual public smackdown in the halls of the Osaka government:

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Osaka mayor gets into shouting match with head of anti-Korean group
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES, OCT 21, 2014

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/21/national/social-issues/osaka-mayor-engages-shouting-match-head-anti-korean-group/

OSAKA – Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto met with the head of an anti-Korean group Monday as he considers cracking down on hate speech rallies in the city, but they ended up having a shouting match in which they more or less just insulted each other.

The meeting with Makoto Sakurai, who heads the group commonly known as Zaitokukai, at City Hall was tense from the beginning, with both men calling each other names.

Sitting 3 meters apart, the two came close to a scuffle at one point before people around them intervened. The meeting, which was open to the media, last just 10 minutes, far shorter than originally planned.

During the meeting, Hashimoto said: “Don’t make statements looking at ethnic groups and nationalities as if they are all the same. In Osaka, we don’t need guys like you who are racists.”

The meeting took place at the request of Zaitokukai, which describes itself as a group of citizens who do not tolerate privileges for Korean residents of Japan.

In a ruling in July, the Osaka High Court determined that rallies staged by the group near a pro-Pyongyang Korean school amounted to racial discrimination.

Lee Sin Hae, a journalist and Korean resident of Japan, said after watching the face-off between Hashimoto and Sakurai that she didn’t want people to get the impression that there is no difference between the two just because they both resorted to using abusive language.

“Zaitokukai is still campaigning in the streets. I want the mayor to actually go to places to see that terrible things are happening,” said Lee, who is suing Zaitokukai over online abuse.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

I don’t think this article really captures the event well. See it for yourself on YouTube (courtesy MS):

FULL VERSION (which captures the flavor of Sakurai bullying and berating the press at the very beginning):
橋下市長 在特会・桜井誠会長と面談 2014-10-20 フルバージョン
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxL383jN484

SHORT VERSION (excellent for capturing the register of the language:  bully vs. bully):
橋下徹vs在特会・桜井誠 【全】10/20
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACRxHAC-tyg

SAKURAI’S FOLLOW-UP (also instructive for showing just how little substance he actually has behind his argumentation):
在特会桜井誠 橋下徹市長との対談後の感想
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dMHEpoMruA

COMMENT:  A journalist friend whom I highly respect had this to say about the event:

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

I’m sure some people will view this showdown between Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and Makoto Sakurai, leader of Japan’s hate speech movement, as high drama, but it struck me as pathetic. Sakurai struts in front of the media, telling NHK and the Mainichi that they “hate Japan”, then sits fanning himself waiting at what looks like a school desk for Hashimoto. They get into a shouting match at roughly the same level as my three-year-old. Hashimoto has been praised for facing down Sakurai but he made a mistake: he should never have sat in the same room as this pathetic schoolyard bully.

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

I think it’s more significant than mere high drama.  I think it is a very necessary smackdown of a person who has spent his whole life taking advantage of Japan’s weakness towards bullies, cringing before loud voices and verbal abuse.  A person like Sakurai should have been socked a few times in the schoolyard for this behavior long before he ever reached adulthood (looking at him, I doubt he’s ever really taken a punch, despite all his protestations about the lack of “manliness” in the Hashimoto exchange).  A dork like this, full of sociopathic hangups who goes through life this perpetually unchallenged, can grow this big.

Sakurai is a bully.  I was raised by a bully for a stepfather, and I personally have learned that you never show a bully any weakness during confrontation.  And you inevitably must stand up to them as I believe Hashimoto did.  People will be confused about what it all means (as the Kyodo article above certainly was), but I have to admit this is the second time (here is the first) that I have respected one of Hashimoto’s actions.  He was clearly telling this oaf that he should not generalize about a whole minority, and that his discriminatory actions are not welcome in his city.  And he did it in the same register as he was being addressed.  Good.  Fire with fire.

Bureaucrats who have spent their lives behind desks and never entered a fray like this have glass jaws in a verbal debate arena.  My experience watching the Foreign Ministry in 2007 unable to handle Right-Wing bullyboys during a human-rights hearing is a prime example.  It is time even public officials learned to use the register of fighting words, as Hashimoto did.  Otherwise the fighters will dominate the dialog by drowning everyone else out.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE OCTOBER 23, 2014:

Oh oh. Osaka Mayor Hashimoto has just come out, according to J-Cast.com, in favor of making the Regular and Special Permanent Residents into one unified category. Meaning he buys into the Zaitokukai’s core (surface) argument that the Zainichis should not have “special privileges” (as opposed to earned rights, thanks to their historical contributions to the Japanese Empire and their aberrational status as generational foreigners). Courtesy of MS.

Now it’s time for me to make some qualifications.  As others have said, I now agree that what Hashimoto did was a publicity stunt, to make himself look like the “softer side” of Japan’s exclusionary nationalism.  I will stand by my statement that his proclaiming that hate speech of the Zaitokukai ilk as wrong and unwelcome, and his demonstrating how and why hate speech should be fought against, are positive steps.  But this statement that the Zainichi should simply be made invisible, after all that has happened between Japan and Korea historically, is not positive.  As the headline below questions, would this make the hate speech disappear?  I say no.  People don’t hate certain foreigners because they have special privileges.  That’s just a ruse.  They hate foreigners because they are racist xenophobes.

橋下徹「在日の特別永住者制度を見直す」 これでヘイトスピーチも差別もなくなる?
2014/10/22 19:48 J-Cast News
http://www.j-cast.com/2014/10/22219051.html?p=all

在日韓国・朝鮮人らの特別永住者制度について、維新の党共同代表で大阪市長の橋下徹氏が、見直して一般永住者制度への一本化を目指す考えを示した。特別扱いしなくなれば、ヘイトスピーチも差別もなくなるのではないかというのだ。
「在日特権を許さない市民の会」会長との罵り合いになった面談で、橋下徹氏は、「文句があるなら、国会議員に言え」との発言を繰り返した。その国会議員を抱える政党代表を意識してか、橋下氏は、面談翌日の2014年10月21日、在特会の主張を受けたかのような発言をした。
「ほかの外国人と同じように制度を一本化していく必要がある」
在日韓国人らについて、「特別扱いすることは、かえって差別を生む」と記者団に答え、在特会のヘイトスピーチで標的の1つになっている特別永住者制度を問題視したのだ。報道によると、橋下氏は、ほかの外国人と同じように制度を一本化していく必要があるとの考えを示した。つまり、特別永住者制度を止めて、一般永住者制度だけにするということだ。

Rest of the article below in the Comments Section.

JT: Ishihara and Hiranuma’s conservative party to submit bill halting welfare for needy NJ a la July Supreme Court decision

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In a show of xenophobia mixed with outright meanness, Japan’s political dinosaurs (we all know what a nasty person Ishihara Shintaro is, but remember what kind of a bigot Hiranuma Takeo is too) will propose legislation that will officially exclude NJ taxpayers down on their luck from receiving the benefits to social welfare that they have paid into.  Put simply, they are seeking to legislate theft.  Oh, and just in case you think “if you want equal rights in Japan, you should naturalize“, they’ve thought of that too, and according to the article below are calling for naturalization to become more stringent as well.

This is on the heels of a dumbfoundingly stupid Supreme Court decision last July that requires Japanese citizenship for access to public welfare benefits.  I’ve heard people say that all this decision did was clarify the law, and that it won’t affect the local governments from continuing to be more humanitarian towards foreign human residents.  But you see, it HAS affected things — it’s now encouraged rightists to codify more exclusivity, not leftists more inclusivity.  In this currently far-right political climate in Japanese politics and governance, more exclusionism, not less, will become normalized, as long as the mindsets and actions of these horrible old men are allowed to pass without comment or critique.

Well, that’s one reason Debito.org is here — comment and critique — and we say that these old bigots should have their legacy denied.  But remember, it’s not as simple as waiting for the Old Guard to die off (Nakasone Yasuhiro, remember, is still alive and pretty genki at age 96), because a new generation of conservative elites are waiting like a row of shark’s teeth to replace the old.  Be aware of it, and tell your voting Japanese friends about how this affects you.  Because no-one else can with such conviction.  You must do all that you can so your legacy, not theirs, wins.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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THE JAPAN TIMES: NATIONAL
Conservative party to submit bill halting welfare for needy foreigners
BY MIZUHO AOKI, STAFF WRITER
AUG 26, 2014, courtesy of john k and pku
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/26/national/conservative-party-submit-bill-halting-welfare-needy-foreigners/

Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) said Tuesday it plans to submit a revised bill to the extraordinary Diet session this fall to exclude poverty-stricken non-Japanese residents from receiving welfare benefits.

The opposition party, launched this month by conservative lawmakers including former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, said the public assistance law should be revised in accordance with the recent landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that permanent residents of Japan are not entitled to welfare benefits for financially needy people.

“Based on the ruling, it is (our duty) to revise the public assistance law,” Hiroshi Yamada, the secretary-general of the party, told a news conference in Tokyo.

Regardless of whether foreign residents pay taxes in Japan or not, the public assistance law is only for “Japanese nationals,” he stressed. Another law should be created to deal with foreigners, he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in July that permanent foreign residents of Japan are ineligible for welfare benefits, in response to a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency.

The public assistance law stipulates that only Japanese nationals are eligible to receive the welfare payments. Even so, municipalities have been providing welfare benefits, such as monthly stipends for living expenses and housing, to financially needy foreigners with permanent or long-term residency status for years.

This practice was based on advice issued by the central government in 1954 to accept applications from foreigners in dire need of aid from a “humanitarian” point of view.

The conservative opposition party, headed by Takeo Hiranuma, was officially established on Aug. 1 after breaking from Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party). Its basic policies, unveiled in July, include denying non-Japanese residents the right to vote in national or local elections as well as introducing stricter standards for foreigners to obtain citizenship.

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 79, on Japan’s Visible Minorities, Sept. 4, 2014 (version with links to sources)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Thanks as always for reading, and for putting this column once again at #1 for two days at the Japan Times Online:

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“VISIBLE MINORITIES” ARE BEING CAUGHT IN THE DRAGNET
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Column 79 for the Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Community Page, September 4, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/09/03/issues/visible-minorities-caught-police-dragnet/
Version with links to sources, previous discussion on Debito.org about this issue here.

Around noon on Aug. 13, in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, a local apartment manager notified the police that a “suspicious foreigner” was hanging around the nearby JR train station.

Cops duly descended upon someone described by the Asahi as a “20-year-old male who came from the Philippines with a Japanese passport” (sic). [archived here if dead link]

When asked what he was doing, he said he was meeting friends. When asked his nationality, he mentioned his dual citizenship. Unfortunately, he carried no proof of that.

So far, nothing illegal here: Carrying ID at all times is not legally required for Japanese citizens.

But it is for foreigners. So the cops, convinced that he was really a foreigner, took him in for questioning — for five hours. Then they arrested him under the Immigration Control Act for, according to a Nikkei report, not carrying his passport, and interrogated him for another seven.

In the wee hours of Aug. 14, after ascertaining that his father is Japanese and mother foreign, he was released with verbal apologies. That hardly suffices. If any of you have ever undergone Japan’s “voluntary questioning” and/or 23 days of interrogation after arrest, you know how harrowing it can be.

And this isn’t the first instance.And this isn’t the first instance. On Feb. 25, 2006, a 28-year-old foreign-looking Japanese woman was arrested in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, for not carrying a foreign passport.

Grounds for suspicion? According to the Mainichi Shimbun, she was carrying an envelope with Portuguese writing on it. Unable to talk because she was reportedly “not good at speaking to strangers,” she was released when they finally contacted her family after more than a full day of interrogation.

Milder cases are more commonplace: The New York Times (July 8, 2010) featured the account of a Japanese writer-translator who had been pulled aside repeatedly by Tokyo police officers for being “too tall and dark-colored,” and had even been asked to show the contents of her purse.

I too have been stopped and asked the personal questions reserved only for criminal suspects (shokumu shitsumon) on numerous occasions, but fortunately talked my way out of getting arrested for being a Japanese without a “gaijin (alien registration) card.”

As The Japan Times has been chronicling for years, the people particularly vulnerable during Japan’s perennial mission to smoke out “illegal foreign visa overstayers” are those who “look foreign.” That leads us to the point of this piece: Japan desperately needs a new concept to account for Japanese who don’t look it. How about visible minorities?

This concept and term has gained currency in minority studies. For example, the Canadian government uses it when referring to the treatment of people who may not at first glance “look” like the majority population.

Of course, it’s tough to discuss minority issues in allegedly “homogeneous Japan.” Our government has long denied any domestic minorities exist (see www.debito.org/japanvsun.html) You still get the occasional politician doing so (such as a Sapporo city assemblyman on Aug. 11), despite Japan’s parliament formally recognizing the Ainu as one in 2008.

But that hasn’t deterred Japan scholars from studying the Ainu, as well as the Okinawans, the burakumin historical underclass, Zainichi Korean and Chinese generational foreigners, South American workers of Japanese descent, and the 2 million registered foreign residents.

Yet Japanese studies have generally overlooked how physical appearance plays a part in Japan’s racialization dynamics. Even recent work, such as Kyle Cleveland’s insightful chapter on ethnic minorities in the 2013 book “Critical Issues in Contemporary Japan,” does not mention physical appearance or skin color as an issue in discrimination. He describes minorities in Japan as “invisible.”

I disagree. And those detained for looking foreignly suspicious, singled out for bullying for being “half” or “gaijin” in schools, and denied entry to “Japanese only” establishments, might also.

Moreover, unlike other minorities, visible ones cannot “pass” as Japanese in terms of physical appearance, and thus face different forms of discrimination. Further, visible minorities also include Japanese citizens, bringing in issues of guaranteed equal protection under the law.

It also leads to the fundamental question of “What is a Japanese?” As my doctoral research demonstrated, “Japaneseness” is linked to physical appearance by Japan’s laws, law enforcement, public policy, jurisprudence and media messages. And as seen in the Ushiku, Tokyo, Sapporo and Saitama cases above, you have to “look Japanese” to be treated as such.

Overlooking the existence of Japan’s visible minorities must stop. Thousands of Japanese children have been born to international marriages. Thousands have naturalized. Nearly half of Japan’s entire registered non-Japanese population are permanent residents. Well over half of those again (the regular permanent residents, as opposed to the Zainichi) are people who came from overseas. There is enormous diversity that is being under-analyzed.

In fact, let’s go one step further: Permanent residents should claim their minority status themselves. After all, if you can stay here as a permanent part of a society, you can qualify as a minority. That includes the foreign scholars of minority issues, who despite decades living in and researching in Japan, don’t appear to consider themselves members of a minority.

That’s the big-picture stuff for this month. Now let’s turn to some concrete policy measures the government can take to reduce the chances of people getting wrongfully detained.

First, if the Japanese police must go gaijin hunting, then train them properly in immigration law.

Any Immigration Bureau official knows that: a) foreigners are not required to carry a passport at all times (that’s why gaijin cards exist) unless they are unregistered tourists; b) naturalized Japanese exist; and c) dual nationality is legally possible until the day you turn age 22 — and, in any case, it is not grounds for suspicion, detention or arrest.

The Ushiku police in particular should have known all this. Ushiku hosts one of Japan’s biggest foreigner prisons, the East Japan Immigration Control Center. Then again, conditions there are so harsh that detainees carried out hunger strikes and even committed suicide there in 2010. So maybe this is how Ushiku police are trained.

Law enforcement also needs to let go of the narrative that “foreigners are suspicious.” If some old crank busybody calls the cops on some kid waiting for his friends, officers should demand more grounds than just his or her “foreignness.”

But, above all, the authorities need to acknowledge Japan’s diversity by accepting the concept of visible minorities, and start making policies to protect the Japanese who cannot “pass.”

Once again, that means creating that Holy Grail of a racial discrimination law. However, we can start off small by officially depicting Japaneseness as a legal status, not a bloodline-determined mystical concept entwined with racial purity. Fat chance under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, I know, but it must happen someday.

Ultimately, Japan’s visible minorities are the canary in the coal mine. How they are treated is a bellwether of how Japan will handle its inevitably increasing diversity. Otherwise, if you — or your kids — happen to be too tall, dark or scary, you had better start carrying your Japanese passport around.

==================================
Debito Arudou’s “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon as an ebook. For more details, see www.debito.org/handbook.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause usually appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

UN: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Japan 2014: Little progress made

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Two posts ago I talked about the UN’s most recent report on Japan’s human rights record (and how there seems to have been almost no progress made).  Well, also interesting is the public record of the give-and-take between UN officials and Japan’s mission to the UN.  That’s below.  It offers a glimpse of the mindsets of Japan’s representatives, and how they will defend Japan’s status quo no matter what.  The parts that are germane to Debito.org are bolded up, so have a read.  This is probably a glimpse as to what courses the GOJ will (not) take regarding human rights issues in future.

BTW,  If you want to see how much has not changed (these UN reviews happen every two years), get a load of what happened last time Japan faced the music in the UN regarding its human rights record, back in 2010.  The GOJ even claimed Japan was taking “every conceivable measure” to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2008 (yeah, except for an actual law against racial discrimination, unrequited since 1996!).  Debito.org’s archives and analysis go back even farther, so click here.  And when everyone by now realizes that Japan’s human-rights efforts are a joke (seriously, back in 2013), the Japanese representative will angrily shout to the audience, “Why are you laughing?  SHUT UP!  SHUT UP!”  This is not a joke.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Japan
UN OHCHR 21 August 2014, courtesy of LK
http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14957&LangID=E

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today completed its consideration of the combined seventh to ninth periodic report of Japan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Presenting the report, Akira Kono, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Japan was actively working on measures to establish a comprehensive policy to ensure the respect of the human rights of the Ainu people, focusing on the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony. Refugee recognition procedures had been reformed, and Japan strictly practiced the principle of non-refoulement. A nationwide campaign called “Respect the rights of foreign nationals” sought to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against foreigners. In 2020 Japan would host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and in the spirit of the Olympic Charter’s anti-discrimination principles, Japan continued to work to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

During the discussion, issues raised by Committee Experts included the prevalence of racist hate speech in Japan and the lack of anti-discrimination legislation, the situation of Ainu indigenous people and recognition of the people of Okinawa, and remedies for the victims of sexual slavery during World War II (so-called ‘comfort women’). The exploitation of foreign technical interns, the withdrawal of funding for Korean schools in Japan and reports of systematic surveillance of Muslims in Japan were other issues raised.

In concluding remarks Anwar Kemal, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Japan, said Japan had a democratic constitution and therefore should be able to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. It should be able to tackle racist hate speech without impeding upon the right to free speech and should install a national human rights institution without delay. It also needed to improve its protection of the rights of Korean, Chinese and Muslim minority groups in the country.

Mr. Kono, in concluding remarks, said Japan would continue to make tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation without permitting any form of discrimination, including racial or ethnic, and would engage in further cooperation with the international community to that end.

The delegation of Japan included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Comprehensive Ainu Policy Office, Ministry of Justice, Human Rights Bureau, Immigration Bureau, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, National Police Agency and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will begin its review of the combined tenth and eleventh periodic report of Estonia.
Report

The Committee is reviewing the combined seventh to ninth periodic report of Japan: CERD/C/JPN/7-9.

Presentation of the Report

AKIRA KONO, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, explained some of the major steps that the Government of Japan had taken towards the implementation of the Convention. Japan was actively working on measures to establish a comprehensive policy to ensure the respect of the human rights of the Ainu people. The focus of the efforts was the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony, the opening of which was timed to coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The space would be a symbol of Japan’s future as a society that respected harmony with diverse and rich cultures and different ethnic groups, while respecting the dignity of the Ainu people, who were indigenous to Japan, and dealing with the problems faced by Ainu culture.

Refugee recognition procedures were carried out in accordance with Japan’s refugee recognition system which took effect in January 1982, and a refugee examination counsellor system was established to enhance the system’s neutrality and fairness. Japan strictly practiced the principle of non-refoulement. The standard processing period for refugee applications was set at six months, and procedures were expedited by an increase in the number of refugee examination counsellors from 19 to 80. Pamphlets available in 14 languages offered guidance concerning procedures which were available at regional immigration bureaus and on the internet. User-friendly procedures for applications had been adopted, including the use of an interpreter in the desired language of the applicant.

Under its framework for resettlement of refugees Japan had accepted 63 Myanmarese refugees who had been sheltered at a refugee camp in Thailand, aiming to make an international contribution and provide humanitarian assistance. [NB:  These refugees refused to come to Japan.] Furthermore, Myanmarese refugees temporarily staying in Malaysia had been made eligible for acceptance, as well as family members of refugees Japan had accepted in the past who were currently in Thailand. The Government strove to support the steady acceptance and local integration of resettled refugees through measures, including guidance on daily life, Japanese language training and employment placement.

The Government emphasized the importance of human rights education and awareness-raising based on the concept of mutual respect for human rights with a correct understanding not only of one’s own human rights but of the rights of others, as well as awareness of the responsibilities that included the exercise of rights. There were awareness-raising activities nationwide, including lectures and distribution of literature under the slogan “Respect the rights of foreign nationals”, to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against that group. The Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice had established Human Rights Counselling Offices for foreign nationals, which offered interpretation in English, Chinese and other languages. The organs could also investigate complaints of rights infringements and take the appropriate measures.

Japan would host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, which would be a festive occasion for the whole of Japan, from Hokkaido, where the Ainu people lived, all the way to Okinawa. The Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter stipulated that ‘any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise was incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement’. In light of the spirit of the constitution of Japan and the Olympic Charter, Japan would continue to work tirelessly to improve its human rights situation and not permit any form of discrimination, including on the basis of race or ethnicity.

OSAMU YAMANAKA, Director, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, gave in-depth oral answers to the list of issues submitted by the Committee prior to today’s review. Mr. Yamanaka spoke about anti-discrimination related domestic laws, and confirmed that discrimination on the basis of race was prohibited in Article 14 of the constitution, as well as in relevant laws and regulations including in the fields of employment, education, medical care and transport. The dissemination and expression of racist thought could constitute a crime of defamation and other crimes under the Penal Code in certain cases, while a racially discriminatory act constituted a tort under the Civil Code. The Government was making efforts to implement the Act on the Limitation of Liability for Damages of Specified Telecommunications Service Providers and the Right to Demand Disclosure of Identification Information of the Senders which limited the liability of a provider in cases, for example, where information on the Internet infringed the rights of others.

Mr. Yamanaka briefed the Committee on activities to promote human rights education, such as training programmes for teachers, judges, officials, probation officers and members of the police force, among others. He described efforts to eliminate discrimination against the Burakumin, as well as discrimination in the fields of employment, in the selection of tenants for rental housing and in social education.

Regarding indigenous peoples, Mr. Yamanaka said the Government of Japan only recognized the Ainu people as indigenous, and that people living in Okinawa Prefecture or born in Okinawa were not subject to ‘racial discrimination’ as provided for in the Convention, but would discuss the issue further during the dialogue. Since Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese administration in May 1972 the Government had implemented various measures which had resulted in the gap with the mainland being reduced, especially in the field of social capital development.

Concerning the Ainu indigenous people, Mr. Yamanaka said the Government aimed to promote public understanding through education and awareness-raising, develop the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony, promote research concerning the Ainu people, promote Ainu culture including the Ainu language, promote the effective use of land and resources, and promote business as well as measures to improve livelihoods.

Turning to people of non-Japanese nationality, such as immigrants, Mr. Yamanaka also highlighted the ‘Respect the rights of foreign nationals’ campaign which aimed to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against foreign nationals. He also neither confirmed that refusing accommodation in a hotel solely on the grounds that the person was of a specific race or ethnicity was nor [sic] permitted under the Inns and Hotels Act. The Government supported efforts to increase the number of hotels and Japanese inns registered under that Act, so foreign tourists could stay with peace of mind.

Government actions to combat trafficking in persons were also described, as was the application procedure for asylum seekers, the treatment of detainees and the objection system regarding immigration procedures and deportation.

Questions by the Country Rapporteur

ANWAR KEMAL, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Japan, said on a positive note Japan had many of the attributes of a great country with an ancient sophisticated culture. It had not hesitated to share its wealth and technical know-how with developing countries. Since the end of the Second World War, it had established a democratic constitution with a wide range of provisions to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. However, under the Convention State parties were required to enact legislation specifically to combat racial discrimination. Article 14 of the Japanese constitution prohibited racial discrimination but did not cover all five grounds for discrimination listed in the Convention. Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation was therefore needed.

Turning to other positive measures Mr. Kemal said the State party had made progress in several areas, for example it had consulted members of civil society for the report, albeit to a limited extent. More importantly, it had taken a number of measures to address the problems faced by the Ainu indigenous people and had taken special measures to uplift the standards of living of the people of the Ryukus. It had also provided training and orientation sessions to public officials to sensitize them about the problems faced by minorities in Japan.

The Committee was concerned about the continued incidence of explicit racist statements and actions against groups, including children attending Korean schools, and the harmful and racist expressions and attacks via the Internet, particularly against the Burakumin. Japan would be aware of the Committee’s latest general recommendation on racist hate speech, in which it made it clear that freedom of speech was not absolute and did not permit individuals or organizations licence to demonize vulnerable groups. Human Rights Council members had drawn attention to more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches in Japan since 2013. What actions was Japan taking to curb hate speech, including from public officials? Was victimization of vulnerable groups against Japanese culture? If so, firm action by the State party could be justified, said Mr. Kemal. In addressing acts of injustice it was sometimes necessary to confront and punish wrong-doers, and Japanese history had many such examples.

In 2010 the Committee requested Japan to ensure equal treatment between Japanese and non-Japanese in the rights of access to places and services intended for use by the general public, such as restaurants, bathhouses and hotels. However, the Human Rights Committee last month in Geneva concluded that Japanese and non-Japanese were not treated equally, and there were many signs displayed in such public facilities stating that access was only for the Japanese. Could the State party please comment?

The exploitation of interns, or apprentices from overseas countries under a Government programme was an issue raised by civil society. They were reportedly not taught any technical skills but were used as cheap manual labour, working long hours and being mistreated. Japan had negative growth ? its population was shrinking. Perhaps it would be better to have a proper immigration programme to get workers into the country, rather than using the ‘intern’ programme which was discriminatory, commented Mr. Kemal.

Outlining other areas of concern, Mr. Kemal said the Committee’s last set of concluding observations to the State party in 2010 referred to discrimination against the Burakumin. However, the State party omitted reference to the Baraku problem in its latest report. Civil society reported that although the living conditions of the Baraku had improved over recent years, thanks to special measures, the gap in the standard of living between Baraku and the majority remained wide, and social discrimination continued to be a troubling problem.

While Japan was maintaining its commitment to establish a national human rights institution compliant with the Paris Principles, progress was painfully slow, in particular since November 2013. All the treaty bodies, including this one, would be highly satisfied the day Japan enacted the appropriate legislation to meet this commitment.

In 2010 the Committee recommended that Japan adopt an approach where the identity of non-Japanese nationals seeking naturalization was respected, and that official application forms and publications dealing with the naturalization process refrain from using language that persuaded applicants to adopt Japanese names for fear of discrimination. The report was silent on that matter.

Mr. Kemal also asked what the State party was doing to address the phenomenon of double discrimination, in particular regarding women and children from vulnerable groups.

Japan had made limited progress towards implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and had also been urged to consider ratifying the International Labour Organization Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries. Mr. Kemal noted that UNESCO had recognized the number of Ryukyu languages as well as the Okinawans’ unique ethnicity, culture and traditions. Had Japan been engaging in consultations with Okinawan representatives?

Efforts made by the State party to facilitate education for minority groups were noted with appreciation by the Committee, yet still there was a lack of adequate opportunities for Ainu children or children of other national groups to receive instruction in their language. Similarly, complaints had been made that the State party had stopped funding Korean schools, despite it guaranteeing the right for children of Korean residents in Japan to learn their native language and culture.

Questions by the Experts

Japan tended to get a poor press in human rights battles due to films and stories about the Second World War, commented an Expert, but it was not forgotten that it was one of the most advanced philosophies and had inspired many peoples in Asia in the fight against colonialism. Japan obviously had an advanced infrastructure for the promotion and protection of human rights and had made good progress. Nevertheless, there was a streak of insularity in the Japanese nature and immigrant communities frequently faced discrimination.

Civil society representatives showed the Committee a very disturbing video about racist hate speech targeting Korean residents in Japan, said an Expert. He gathered the Prime Minister of Japan agreed, as per his statement last month that Japan must take measures to combat racist hate speech. To what extent had senior officials condemned the sort of racist hate speech seen in that video?

There was a serious problem of racial discrimination in Japan, said an Expert. Some extreme right organizations and individuals claimed they had Japanese superiority. Some even had deep-rooted colonial concepts, he said. They were xenophobic; they degraded, harassed and provoked foreigners wantonly and sometimes even perpetrated violent acts against them. They used the newspapers, internet, TV and other media to spread their racist hate speech. The extreme right groups held demonstrations, even flying Japanese military flags used during the Second World War in order to revive militarism. They went unpunished by the authorities, and so became increasingly wanton in their practices. Their victims had no access to justice, and the police ignored their complaints.

Some senior politicians, including cabinet ministers, had made racist statements which sought to mislead the people of Japan and distort history. They also spread the so-called ‘theory of China threat’. That was because Japan had no special law against discrimination and no national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles.

The Ainu and seven other languages and dialects were threatened, said an Expert. Happily, measures had been taken to reinvigorate the Ainu language and now many people spoke it, but what had been done for the other languages? The Ainu were recognized as indigenous peoples and had access to their ancestral land, at least on Hokkaido. Could the delegation speak more about their land rights?

What about the repatriation of former Japanese emigrants back to Japan? An Expert asked about a case of Japanese people who moved to Brazil before moving back to Japan, and how they were welcomed and integrated back home.

The issue of sexual slavery, known as ‘comfort women’ dating back to World War II was an ongoing violation. Almost 90 per cent of the women ? who were mostly from minority groups ? had by now passed away, but the Government continued to deny they were sex slaves, rather asserting that they were wartime prostitutes. That caused untold agony for those women; they and their families deserved recognition of their victim status and reparations. The Expert also asked about discrimination against women, particularly women from minority groups, and whether Japan would consider taking affirmative action.

What was the State party’s understanding of race, as scientifically, races did not exist: all humans belonged to the same race, said an Expert. What was covered by Japan’s definition of race and was it only limited to citizens of Japan?

Exactly how many Koreans were resident in Japan, asked an Expert, commenting that the approximate half a million Koreans in Japan appeared to bear the brunt of racial discrimination. What were the reasons for the discriminatory treatment, he asked, was it due to differences in culture or in language? Many non-Japanese people felt they had to change their names into Japanese names in order to avoid discrimination. They were not treated equally to other Japanese, added an Expert, and were not allowed to hold public sector positions.

The ending of the waiver programme for Korean schools and subsidies for school fees was not only a major concern, in depriving many children from adequate education, but a symbol of wider discrimination. Furthermore, the restrictions on uniforms for Korean students, which hampered their self-identity, were another issue.

Response by the Delegation

On education, a delegate said children of foreign nationals could attend public schools in Japan for free, and the Government was making efforts to establish a system which guaranteed opportunities for children of Korean residents in Japan to learn their native language and culture and to promote international understanding among Japanese children. However, most Korean residents who did not wish to attend Japanese schools attended Korean schools established in Japan.

Regarding the withdrawal of tuition support of children attending Korean schools in Japan, a delegate explained that it had become apparent that the Korean schools did not meet the requirements to receive the tuition funding, therefore, the funding had been withdrawn. One reason was that the schools had a close relationship with an organization related to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and as the schools could not prove their independence they no longer benefitted from the Public School Tuition Fee Support Fund. If the schools could demonstrate their independence or when diplomatic relations of Japan and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were restored then the Government would re-evaluate whether the schools could benefit from the Support Fund once again. Korean schools were recognized by prefectural governorates as “miscellaneous schools” as were other international schools, for example British or Chinese, and were not discriminated against.

On hate speech and incitement to racial discrimination, a delegate said any expression of hate ? insult, defamation, intimidation, and obstruction of justice ? was a crime that could be invoked under the Criminal Code of Japan. He referred to the video mentioned by Committee members as well as allegations that the police attended xenophobic demonstrations to protect the demonstrators from anti-racism campaigners. A delegate from the National Police Agency said they provided security at those demonstrations in an impartial way, not to protect the demonstrators but to protect public security in general.

In June this year Prime Minister Abe said hate speech was damaging Japan’s pride within the international community and that the issue should be and would be dealt with squarely. He called upon his party to deal with the issue, reported a delegate. Support was given to victims of hate speech and other human rights violations by the Japan Legal Support Centre which had offices throughout the country. The offices provided support programmes for financially distressed people such as free legal aid or temporary payments to lawyers.

The objective of “technical internships” for foreign nationals was to transfer the skills, techniques and knowledge of Japan to foreign nationals in order to contribute to the human resources development of developing countries. There had been instances of misconduct by the receiving organizations and reports of non-payment of wages and long working hours. Consequently in June 2014 Japan revised its strategy and started a ‘drastic inter-agency review’ of the system. Government agreements with sending nations were also reviewed. The ‘drastic review’ would be completed by the end of 2014, and in 2015 a new surveillance system and operational institution would be implemented.

Japan’s position on the ‘comfort women’ issue was that it did not meet the definition of racial discrimination defined in the Convention, and was not relevant to the Committee. Furthermore, Japan opposed the term ‘sexual slavery’ which it found inappropriate. However, the Government wished to sincerely and honestly respond to the Committee’s concern, said a delegate, and so it would explain measures taken for the ‘comfort women’.

In the past Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to many countries, particularly Asian women, said a delegate. The Government, squarely facing those historical facts, expressed its deep remorse and heartfelt apology, and feelings of sincere mourning for all victims of World War II, both at home and abroad. Prime Minister Abe had said publicly that he was deeply pained to think of the ‘comfort women’ who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering beyond description, as had previous Prime Ministers of Japan. The Prime Minister had also written letters of apology to the women (copies of the letter were shared with the Committee).

Compensation had been dealt with through the San Francisco Peace Treaty, bilateral agreements and other treaties, and legally speaking the settlement had clearly been made. However, recognizing that the ‘comfort women’ issue was a grave affront to the honour and dignity of a large number of women, the Government and people of Japan had established the Asian Women’s Fund in 1995, to extend atonement from the Japanese people to the former ‘comfort women’ in the form of money donated by the people of Japan, for women from the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan, as identified by their Governments. Additionally, the Asian Women’s Fund paid for medical and psychological care, welfare support and even welfare projects such as those in the Netherlands for women who suffered incurable psychological or physical damage during World War II. The Asian Women’s Fund was disbanded in March 2007 but the Government continued to implement follow-up activities.

Regarding reports that foreign nationals were refused access into some hotels, a delegate said the Inns and Hotels Act prohibited the refusal of access to a foreign national solely on the grounds of their race or ethnicity. Additionally, the Development of Hotels for In-Bound Tourists Act served to improve hotel accommodation for tourists. Complaints about discrimination by hotels, and other public facilities such as restaurants, public areas or public transport could be made under the Act on the Optimization and Promotion of Public Facilities.

The Advisory Council for Future Ainu Policy made policy recommendations to the Government in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Japan voted for. Japan believed the exercise of the indigenous Ainu’s rights in accordance with the Declaration should only be restrained when their rights impeded upon the rights and best interests of the wider Japanese public. Ainu representatives accounted for one-third or more of the members of the Advisory Council, the delegate added.

Regarding Ainu indigenous people who did not live on the island of Hokkaido, a delegate referred to a 2008 resolution adopted unanimously by the Parliament which demanded recognition of the Ainu people as indigenous. The declaration found that the Ainu people had lived mostly in the north of Japan’s archipelago, particularly on the island of Hokkaido, and had their own unique language of culture. Ainu people living in other areas were surveyed to learn about their living conditions, he added.

The Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony would open in 2020, to coincide with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Space would feature museums, traditional Ainu houses and handcraft studios where people could learn about the Ainu people’s world view, especially of the natural world. The space would serve as the National Centre for the Restoration of Ainu Culture. Efforts to promote Ainu language and culture across Japan were described by a delegate who also said although it was not envisaged to use Ainu in the classrooms of all schools, in many schools attended by Ainu students children did have the opportunity to study the language and culture of Ainu.

The value of the people of Okinawa was recognized and their rights were guaranteed. Their valuable culture and traditions were promoted and preserved within the law. Following the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in May 1937 the Okinawa Promotion Plan and related Act were adopted to guide measures to develop Okinawa’s social infrastructure. As a result, the gap between Okinawa and the mainland was narrowing and steady improvement was being seen.

The Government recognized trafficking in persons as a serious human rights infringement and treated it as such. In 2004 it launched the Action Plan of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and since then the number of victims had decreased annually to around 20 to 30 per year. Compensation was paid, with coordination from the International Organization of Migration, to support victims.

A delegate said it was a nationally accepted principle that public officials with national power to make public decisions had to have Japanese nationality. That was not unreasonable. There were many jobs in the civil service where persons without Japanese nationality were employed, such as laboratories and research institutions. Furthermore, other professions, such as nursing, were open to non-Japanese nationals.

Regarding refugees and asylum seekers, a delegate said they should not be sent back to their original countries if they faced any risk to their person on their return. The delegate spoke about the refugee application process, and said even if an applicant for refugee status did not receive it, they could still apply for residency in Japan even without humanitarian consideration. Although in some cases they would be deported, Japan did not return people to certain countries, as per the Refugee Convention and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

Concerning social welfare for foreign nationals, a delegate said Japan’s social welfare system had undergone several changes, including deletion of the requirement that foreign nationals in Japan had to meet the same requirements as Japanese nationals, for example to benefit from the national pension system. Today foreign nationals were covered by the pension scheme. The Revised National Pension Act of 2012 further reduced the qualifying period from 25 to 10 years, starting in October 2015. Reports that individuals undergoing naturalization were encouraged to adopt Japanese names and characters were not true, said a delegate.

If a foreign national spouse was divorced from their Japanese spouse then he or she lost their status as a Japanese resident. However, that did not mean the person was automatically deprived of their residency status. They had to apply to the Government with details of their background, life in Japan and reasons for the divorce ? or death of their spouse. If the person had a child who needed to stay in Japan then the person would usually be given long-term resident status to stay in Japan. According to nationality law a child who had a Japanese father or mother at the time of birth would obtain Japanese nationality by birth, a delegate confirmed.

Human rights education was provided at developmentally appropriate levels in schools. Authorities, based upon the guidelines, sought to particularly support youth who had difficulties, as well as widows. Mother and Child Family support funds helped vulnerable families with subsidised childcare. The Basic Plan for Gender Equality adopted in 2010 further had provisions to support women suffering from discrimination. A delegate also spoke about the establishment of Human Rights Counselling Offices under the Legal Affairs Bureau, which investigated cases of suspected human rights infringements and provided remedies. The Bureau also ran telephone hotlines for women and children to report violations.

Japan was seriously considering lifting its reservation to Article 14 of the Convention, which related to individual communications. There were international treaties yet to be ratified by Japan, including International Labour Organization Conventions 111 and 169, on Migrant Workers Rights and on Domestic Workers, as well as the Convention on Stateless Persons, the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and the Convention on Genocide. The Government recognized the ideals of those Conventions but had to carefully consider their consistency with Japanese law and the legislative efforts that would be required to accede to them.

Follow-Up Questions from the Experts

An Expert said a delegate had asserted that the Committee could raise questions about historical cases, even if they happened 100 years ago, if relevant to the Convention. The Expert believed the issues of ‘comfort women’ and land taken from indigenous peoples were relevant.

Was it correct that the Japanese Government did not recognize the existence of indigenous people on its island of Okinawa? What was being done to terminate or moderate the surveillance of Muslims, an Expert asked. An Expert said the Committee reserved its right to use the ‘sexual slavery’ terminology rather than ‘comfort women’, which was also used by the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Committee.

Response by the Delegation

A delegate responded to questions about alleged systematic monitoring of Muslims in Japan. He said if this was true, they were monitored not because of their religion but was simply as a matter of public security. A delegate from the National Police Agency added that details of information gathering activities to prevent future terrorism could not be disclosed, but noted that the police collected information according to the law.

Japan had its own view on Okinawa, said a delegate. Japan had many islands in its archipelago on many of which traditions with unique traits had been developed, as on Okinawa. Everybody in Japan had the right to enjoy their own culture, practice their own religion and speak their own language ? nobody was denied those rights. The Japanese recognized their rich culture and traditions and had a Plan of Action for the Promotion of Okinawa.

Statistically, in 2013 there were 3,349 people of Brazilian nationality entering Japan, and by the end of the year 181,268 of people with Brazilian nationality were living in Japan.

Concluding Remarks

ANWAR KEMAL, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Japan, said Japan was making progress in the implementation of the Convention. Japan had a democratic constitution and therefore should be able to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which would plug the gaps in the domestic legislation as recommended by the Committee five years ago. It should be able to tackle racist hate speech without impeding upon the right to free speech. It should install a national human rights institution without delay. And the State party should enact measures to bring the standard of living of the Ainu people, as well as the Ryukyu, up to that of the rest of the population without delay. Japan also needed to improve its protection of the rights of Korean, Chinese and Muslim minority groups in the country. He thanked the delegation for the productive dialogue.

AKIRA KONO, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, thanked the Committee for the fruitful dialogue, for its comments and interest, and said the reviews were a valuable process that helped the Government improve its implementation of the Convention. Japan would continue to make tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation without permitting any form of discrimination, including racial or ethnic. The Government would engage in further cooperation with the international community to that end.

_______

For use of the information media; not an official record

Colin Jones on NJ rights after the Supreme Court welfare verdict of July 2014: None but what MOJ bureaucrats grant you

mytest

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Hello Blog. In what is for me the best JT article of the year (and well worth bumping my JBC column to next week), Colin Jones lifts the lid off Japanese constitutional and legal history and shows definitively the evolution of rights for non-citizens (or lack thereof). Occasioned by the recent Japan Supreme Court verdict which states that NJ are not guaranteed social welfare, the article’s upshot is this:

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Think you’ve got rights as a foreigner in Japan? Well, it’s complicated
The Japan Times, August 6, 2014, BY COLIN P.A. JONES

Excerpt: This newspaper’s well-intentioned July 27 editorial declaring that the social safety net should be for all taxpayers is perfectly understandable — particularly given that the petitioner was an elderly Chinese who was born and spent her whole life here. Unfortunately, it is a mistake to equate feeding the maw of whatever tax-fueled Leviathan nation state you happen to live in with being entitled to anything from it in return. This is particularly true in Japan, where by law it is generally more important that one of your parents be Japanese than where you were born, raised or paid taxes. After all, being a dutiful taxpayer alone won’t get your visa renewed or keep you from getting kicked out of the country; why should it get you a welfare payment either?

Thus, if you live here on a foreign passport, you might want to snuggle up in a comfy chair and read through the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, since for most purposes, that is your constitution. Having its roots in an Occupation-era decree modeled after U.S. immigration laws then in effect (missing some important features, as will be discussed later), the ICRRA did not become a “law” until 1982, when it was amended in connection with Japan’s accession to the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. I say it is your constitution because in 1978, the Supreme Court acknowledged that most constitutional protections did extend to foreigners, but only within the framework of the immigration laws and regulations, including the broad administrative discretion granted by these to Ministry of Justice officials.

So, you can pay your taxes, participate in that anti-nuclear demonstration and maybe even have a run-in or two with the cops, but at the end of the day your ability to live in Japan may ultimately be at the discretion of a bureaucrat’s view of some of the very subjective standards set forth in the immigration laws and regulations, such as whether you have been “good” or “engaged in the activities related to your residence status.” In my experience bureaucrats are generally nice, and most of the time it is probably more work for them to kick you out than to let you stay, particularly if you have a Japanese spouse and/or children. But it is probably safer to assume that you do not have any right to be in Japan; that being the case, assumptions about rights to welfare or just about anything else would seem equally suspect.

It is worth bearing in mind that Japan’s Korean population was divested of its Japanese nationality by nothing more than a Ministry of Justice interpretation of the 1952 peace treaty — an interpretation that paid little heed to what effect that would have on the people effectively rendered stateless as a result. That was a different era, of course, but if push comes to shove in any dispute with the government, it is probably safe to expect that you will lose, and nothing in the Constitution will likely affect that outcome.

This should be obvious to anyone familiar with Japan’s system of immigration detention and deportation, which exists in an parallel dimension where due-process requirements and the constitutional protections against arrest, detention and punishment do not apply, because the deprivations of freedom and deportations are not punitive and the administrative process by which cases are resolved are not “trials.”

An Occupation-era ordinance that would have established a system of oversight through separate quasi-judicial commissions was never put into force, leaving the whole process comfortably within the control of the Ministry of Justice. In any case, by the logic of the Supreme Court decision mentioned above, those who are not in the country in accordance with the ICRRA may not be entitled to constitutional protections anyway.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/08/06/issues/think-youve-got-rights-foreigner-japan-well-complicated/
////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Well, this has been but one event in the death of the NJ communities by a thousand cuts (and the source of a number of smug comments by some saying “See, NJ really don’t belong in Japan, and if they want to, they should naturalize.”  As if it’s their fault for not doing so.  And as I’ve said before, that is no panacea; if you are a Visible Minority, you still will not receive equal treatment in Japanese society.)

But what I’d like to have clarified is Colin’s point about whether or not people (particularly non-citizen permanent residents) who pay taxes really have no rights to expect the benefits from The State.  Although Colin’s approach is strictly legalist (naturally), I would conjecture that they do (I have seen first-hand how foreigners are allowed to have much greater senses of entitlement here, for example, in the United States) or at least should.  But the relativists (who insist that Japan is no outlier in this regard; they so want to be right in their own minds that they will even support unequal treatment that affects them adversely) will not take Debito.org seriously even if I start citing laws from overseas.

So let me ask Debito.org Readers to assist me in doing a little research.  Let’s find some law journals and other academic research written by specialists that give comparative rights for non-citizen residents in an international light.  Here are two research questions, with research boundaries incorporated:

  • Are non-citizen residents (particularly permanent residents, as taxpayers) entitled to the same social welfare benefits (e.g., unemployment, child support, and other safety-net measures designed to  rescue citizens from destitution) in other developed countries?  (Let’s say the G8, or widen it out to the OECD if necessary.)  
  • Do guarantees of civil and human rights guaranteed in the national constitutions of developed countries also apply to “all people/residents”, including non-citizens, or are they strictly reserved for citizens, as they apparently are in Japan?

Note that we are not looking for absolute equality (that’s impossible, otherwise there would be no benefit to citizenship).  But simply put:  Do foreign residents receive the same guarantee against various social adversities elsewhere as a legally-enshrined human right, or not?

Please send us some links to some articles in the comments section, with pertinent excerpts/abstracts included.  Let’s spend some time researching this.  I’ll let this blog entry be the anchor site until next week, when my column comes out on how racial discrimination makes whole societies go crazy.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Yomiuri: TV shows to get foreign-language subtitles by 2020 for “foreign visitors” to Tokyo Olympics. Nice, but how about for NJ residents now?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something a little less dramatic (but no less pesky and maybe even indicative of something unconscious) for a hot summer Sunday in Japan.  Article and comments courtesy of KM.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Hi Debito!  Here’s another indication that the government cares more about short-term visitors than about the foreigners who actually live here:

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TV shows to get foreign-language subtitles by 2020
July 22, 2014, The Yomiuri Shimbun, courtesy of KM
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001439680

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will develop a system to show Japanese TV programs with subtitles in foreign languages, including English and Chinese, to provide a more comfortable viewing experience for foreign visitors, according to sources.

In response to the increasing number of visitors from overseas, the envisaged system will be launched by 2020, the year in which the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held, the sources said.

Behind the ministry’s decision were requests from foreign visitors for more foreign-language subtitles for domestic TV programs. The envisaged system will be offered for news programs related to visitors’ safety and security during their stay, as well as variety shows.

A TV station broadcasts a program in the original Japanese, then the contents are automatically translated by a system to produce the foreign-language subtitles. Finally, the subtitles are sent to TV screens via the Internet.

The ministry will form a promotional organization comprising broadcasting stations, IT firms, electronics companies, research institutes and others by the year-end. The organization is expected to begin trials in fiscal 2015.

The ministry will encourage the communications and IT industries to take part in offering translation and subtitle distribution services for the system. The promotional organization will be tasked with studying how the cost of translation services and distributing the subtitles should be covered.

ENDS

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

KM:  I have a few thoughts about this:

  1. It probably would be nice to have more programing with English subtitles (and subtitles in other languages) but I’m a bit surprised that such a huge adjustment to daily programing in Japan would be made on behalf of those visiting short-term for the olympics. Of course, it would be open to anyone but the article (and a similar article in Japanese) makes it sound like the olympics and the comments of short-term visitors are primary motivations for the change.
  2. The article says that Japanese content will be “automatically translated by a system to produce the foreign-language subtitles.” Such subtitles might be intelligible for things like a weather forecast, but I can’t imagine them being of much use (except as something to laugh at — because of their poor quality) with variety programs.
  3. Instead of making a major adjustment like this to satisfy the whims of short-term visitors, perhaps the money to make this change could be spent to improve the quality of disaster information and disaster warning systems for people who actually live here.

 

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

Japanese:

テレビに外国語の字幕、五輪までに実現…総務省
2014年07月21日 読売新聞
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/it/20140721-OYT1T50025.html

総務省は、テレビのニュース番組などに英語や中国語など外国語の字幕が表示されるよう取り組む方針だ。

東京五輪・パラリンピックが開かれる2020年までに表示が始まるようにする。増加する訪日外国人が、より快適に過ごせる環境を整備する狙いだ。

日本を訪れた外国人から、テレビ番組に外国語の字幕を増やしてほしいとの声が出ており、滞在中の安心・安全にかかわるニュースのほか、バラエティー番組などで対応することにした。

字幕は、インターネットと接続するテレビに表示する。放送局が番組を電波で流し、自動翻訳システムで外国語に変換した字幕をネット経由で画面に映す仕組みを想定している。年内に放送局やIT企業、家電メーカー、研究機関などによる推進組織を設立し、15年度から実証実験を始める。

ENDS

AFP: “Tarento Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture”. I wish her well, but the hyperbolic hype is not warranted

mytest

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Hi Blog. I’m coming to this issue a few days late, but this article has made an enormous splash in media worldwide. It’s about the latest “haafu” celebrity phenom, Rola, or Satou Eri. Read on, then I’ll comment:

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Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture
By Alastair Himmer
AFP/Japan Today/Japan Times/et al. ARTS & CULTURE JUL. 15, 2014, courtesy of TJL
Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture
Japanese fashion model and TV personality Rola poses for photographs during an interview with AFP in Tokyo on May 20, 2014

In celebrity-obsessed Japan with its conveyor belt of 15-minute stars, fashion model and “talent” Rola is blazing a meteoric trail at the forefront of a galaxy of mixed-race stars changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture.

Turn on the TV and there’s no escaping the bubbly 24-year-old of Bengali, Japanese and Russian descent—she even dominates the commercial breaks.

A marketing gold mine, Rola smiles down celestially from giant billboards, her wide eyes and girlie pout grace magazine covers and she even greets you at vending machines.

But Rola, who settled in Japan when she was nine, has done it by turning the entertainment industry on its head, her child-like bluntness slicing through the strict convention that governs Japanese society.

“Whenever people told me to speak politely, I never worried about it,” she told AFP in an interview. “I’m not talking down to anyone. I’m not a comedian, it’s just how I am. It’s just being open-hearted and trying to make people open theirs.”

But it is not just her quirky charm that is breaking down barriers. Japan’s largely mono-ethnic society—a culture where skin whitening creams are still huge business—has long been mirrored by its entertainment industry.

Rola and host of others are beginning to change that.

Half-British singer and actress Becky is another superstar with model looks and a huge fan base in Japan, while half-French newscaster Christel Takigawa helped Tokyo win the 2020 Olympic vote as the city’s ambassador for “cool”.

Their rise to fame mirrors a shift in attitudes in Japan, which only opened its doors to the outside world in the middle of the 19th century and where foreigners—those without Japanese nationality, even if they were born here—make up less than two percent of a population of 127 million.

“Being of mixed race was once looked down upon,” said sociologist Takashi Miyajima. “Now foreign entertainers are admired in Japan as something untouchable. You could even say they benefit from positive discrimination.”

Rarely now do you see TV shows without at least one “haafu” (the Japanese pronunciation of “half”, meaning “mixed race”), such has been the shift.

“Young Japanese women want to be like Rola,” said psychologist Yoko Haruka, a regular on Japanese TV. “They buy the same clothes, bag. It’s like a cartoon world, the baby-face effect.

“She has the foreign look: long legs, small face, but because she is ‘half’, she’s not an object of envy at all. She’s an idol like Madonna was, but closer and easier to relate to.”

Rola’s trademark puffing of the cheeks, ditzy catchphrases, infectious giggle and carefree charm have helped make Japan’s most famous ‘It Girl’ a smash hit with legions of adoring fans.

She believes the shifting landscape has had a positive effect on Japan.

“Nationality isn’t important,” she said, dressed in tight blue jeans under a floral one-piece. “I used to think Japanese people weren’t open and should lighten up. But Japan has become brighter.

“People copying me is cool,” she added in her helium voice. “If I can do one thing to help bring a tiny improvement to Japan, that’s great.”

Born of a Bangladeshi father and a half-Japanese, half-Russian mother, Rola’s eccentricities helped overcome the language barrier when young, once turning up at elementary school in pajamas she mistook for her new uniform.

“Normally if you can’t communicate it’s frustrating but I only have fun memories of childhood,” she said. “When I was small I’d play with Barbie dolls and the next day I’d jump in the river with boys catching crayfish or playing with turtles. Maybe that’s why I use a lot of hand gestures. I naturally just made friends.”

In a culture that once might have passed over her darker tone, Rola’s exotic looks have clearly helped—she was scouted by a modelling agency on the streets of Tokyo when she was in high school.

Following in the footsteps of mixed-race glamor girls such as Jun Hasegawa and racing driver Jenson Button’s fiancee Jessica Michibata, Rola has also taken peak-time television by storm.

Japan can take its celebrity worship to extremes, David Beckham once having a giant chocolate statue dedicated to him in Tokyo while his mohican hairstyle triggered a personal grooming craze among local women during the 2002 World Cup.

“I don’t get stressed (by fame),” said Rola. “People come up to me on the street and go ‘Hi, Rola!’ as if I’m their friend.”

When not shooting commercials for everything from cosmetics or beer to headache pills or battered octopus balls, Rola is at the gym—or fishing.

“When the next trends hit, the ‘half’ (mixed race) boom will calm down a bit,” said Haruka. “But that might take a while.”

For now, Rola’s girl-next-door innocence continues to bewitch.

Asked to sum herself up in one word, she closes her eyes and offers: “A salmon, maybe. They’re not just tasty, they swim hard up rivers, so they’re tough little critters.”

ENDS

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

COMMENT:  First off, I wish Rola well.  I hope she continues to make the media splash she’s making.  I of course prefer that people think that “Haafu” (or rather, “Doubles”) are desirable rather than derisible.  On this note, a commenter on Japan Today offered a very erudite comment, so let me quote it:

=============================================
jpn_guy JUL. 14, 2014 – 09:46AM JST
The positive reaction to mixed-race models is certainly better than not wanting them on screen. It’s “anti-racist” and to be welcomed. To a certain extent, I guess it does show Japan is becoming more open and tolerant.

But like most things, it’s not that simple. For one thing, all these women are stunning beautiful. Everyone loves a good-looking girl. We knew that already! But not all mixed race people in Japan could, or even want to be, celebrities. Kids like mine just want normal lives. They might want to be a lawyer, a pilot, a shipbuilding engineer or a dental technician.

As I said, the high visibility of mixed-race people in better than being vilified and ignored, for sure. But it’s also a sign of fetishism, and a refusal to see mixed race people as just “one of us”. Celebrities are “special” by definition. Ironically, that’s why visible minorities have less difficulty breaking into this field.

The complex impact of mixed-race celebrity is well illustrated by the fact that “half-French newscaster Christel Takigawa” is actually a fully Japanese citizen by the name of Takigawa Masami – the name she used when she began her career. Apparently, so many people rang in to ask why someone with a Japanese name did not “look Japanese”, the producers forced her to use her “foreign-sounding” middle name, so that it better matched her face.

In other words, Takigawa’s success is dependent on people setting her apart as foreign even though she is Japanese. A few years ago, another TV presenter (Yutaka Hasegawa) referred to her disparagingly as “that foreigner” (ano gaijin), although to be fair he was heavily criticized by her fans (though not reprimanded by his employer).

Another example is the comedian and fully Japanese citizen Horita Seiki Antony who markets himself as “Antony”.

I remember reading about cases of mixed-race people with traditional Japanese sounding names being asked “where do you get off having that name with a face like that?”

It’s great to see all sorts of people on TV. When you get to know people, Japan is generally a warm and friendly society. But we should be very careful in making the broad claim that that Rola and her colleagues are “breaking down barriers in Japan’s largely mono-ethnic society”.

Through no fault of their own, they are sometimes perpetuating the stereotype of the exotic other.

When local people treat mixed race people and foreign people in non-celebrity fields just like anyone else, then we will have true progress.
=============================================

Complete agreement, especially with the sociology. As for the media angle, I think the longer people like us have been here, we become skeptical of the “latest thing” after seeing so many “tarento” fizzle out without much impact. As another Japan Today commenter put it: “Back in the ’60s it was Karmen Maki and Ann Lewis. In the 70s there were Linda Yamamoto, Kathy Nakajima, Saori Minami and a cutsie singing trio with the stage name Golden Half. In the 80s, Rie Miyazawa, Anna Umemiya, etc. Nothing new under the sun.”

Of course, most “tarento” blaze and then fizzle without making any real impact, least of all “changing the DNA Japanese pop culture” as this article and its pundits claim. Rola in particular does not seem to be consciously promoting any increase in social tolerance of “haafu” — she’s just doing her thing, entertaining with a new (or actually, not all that new, but for now fresh-sounding) schtick as an ingenue. Of course.  That’s her role as an entertainer.  This has been the role of so many other entertainers, including the Kents (Kent Derricott made his pile and returned to the US to buy his mansion on the hill in Utah for his family; Kent Gilbert did much the same and lives in Tokyo with a residence in Utah as well), Leah Dizon (remember her?, already divorced from the Japanese guy who made the baby bump the speed bump in her career; she’s trying to make a comeback in Japan while based in Las Vegas), Bob Sapp, Chuck Wilson, and many, many more that I’m sure Debito.org readers will recount in comments below.

Sadly, none of these people have really made or will make a long-term impact on Japan’s mediascape. The best long-seller remains Dave Spector, who is a very, very exceptional person in terms of persistence and media processing (not to mention stellar language ability), but even he makes little pretense about being anything more than an “American entertainer” for hire.  Other impactful persons I can think of are Peter Barakan and perhaps these people here.  So it’s not non-existent.  But it’s not powerful enough to permit “Doubles” to control their self-image in Japan, either.

Again, I wish Rola well, like I wish any broad-minded entertainer well, but I believe she is just riding a trendy wave at the moment.  Her schtick is as filling and substantial to consume as cotton candy — take one bite and you get nothing left in your mouth. Especially since any little-girl act has a very short shelf life. That’s why the headline of “Changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture” is simply too high an expectation. Celebrating Rola as if she’s the next Beatles is a bit hollow and ahistorical, when Japan has never had a Beatles in terms of gaijin tarento.

This overhype (even the academics cited are going along for the ride, one of whom carelessly errs by calling her “foreign”) can be fatal for many an entertainer when people eventually tire of her current incarnation. Even if Rola becomes “successful” by revamping her act to become more substantial, she’ll just be as subsumed and co-oped as Miyazawa Rie or Becky is. Or as forgotten as Leah Dizon within a few years. Let’s hope not, and let’s hope that she becomes a long seller. But I doubt it.  Because the ingenue trail she is blazing (or rather, is being blazed for her by her agents) of the “sexy-baby-voice tarento” genre has never really allowed for that.

Bonne chance.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JDriver on J Driver License renewals and questionable legality of residency/Gaijin Card checks to ferret out “illegal overstayers”

mytest

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Hi Blog. We’ve discussed on Debito.org before the rigmarole of NJ drivers in Japan getting J Driver Licenses, being subjected to extra intrusive procedures that are of questionable legality. Well, a Debito.org Reader decided to do his civic duty and ask for some reasons why. And this is what he found out. Read on and feel free to contribute your own experiences. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

//////////////////////////////////////////////
July 13, 2014
Hi Debito, I’m a long time reader, but rarely have time to comment. I’ve had a pretty disheartening, if not entirely surprising, experience recently when I went to renew my drivers license and thought I’d share it with you and perhaps your readers if you find it worthwhile to share.

As you might know, residents of foreign citizenship (外国籍の方 in the bureaucratic parlance) are required to show their residence cards or in other way demonstrate their status of residence when getting or renewing their drivers license. Obedient citizen as I am, of course I went along with it and presented it when asked, but I did make clear I would like to be clarified on the legal basis for such a request. I didn’t expect that the person doing the registration would know something like this off the top of their head, but I was intended on talking to someone eventually who could point to this and that paragraph of this or that law that governs these circumstances.

So after all the procedure was finished and I got my license, I went to the window I was told I’d get my questions answered. The first person could only, after quite a while, produce the Immigration law article 23, which only says that you are in general required to present the passport or the residence card when the police and other authorities ask for it “in the execution of their duties.” So I asked for a specific law or ordinance that shows that in this concrete case it is indeed their duty to ask for the card. I got sent to her boss, who again only wasted my time with the same answer (Immigration law) and got irritated and dismissed me, but not before arranging for me to see the final boss of bosses, who should be able to answer my, I thought very simple, question i.e. what is the legal basis for what you’re doing?

Neither the last guy could legitimize the demand in legal terms, so we agreed that he will research it and call me later to let me know. He did call later the same day, only to tell me that after all, the legal basis would have to be in the Immigration law, because he couldn’t find any other! He said it is all done to prevent the “illegal overstayers” from getting drivers license, as if that, or any other goal, would justify working outside of legal framework.

I was flabbergasted that apparently no one in the whole Koto drivers center (江東試験場) knew the legal basis of their actions. I understand the receptionists, but I went four stages up their hierarchy and still nobody could justify their demands in legal terms. I’ve read the law on traffic before I went there and knew it did not specify this (道路交通法 http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S35/S35HO105.html) but I revisited it again afterwards. Neither it, nor the other major traffic law (道路法 http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S27/S27HO180.html) even mention status of residence or residence cards at all, and most certainly not when specifying the circumstances in which the authorities can refuse to issue you the license (physically unfit, alcoholism etc) It actually specifically states that they must issue you the permit if these do not apply, and you’ve passed the test (Article 90
公安委員会は、前条第一項の運転免許試験に合格した者(当該運転免許試験に係る適性試験を受けた日から起算して、第一種免許又は第二種免許にあつては一年を、仮免許にあつては三月を経過していない者に限る。)に対し、免許を与えなければならない。)

So I am now faced with an inevitable conclusion that they asking for residence cards is likely ILLEGAL. Of course, this is a condition which only applies to foreign residents, so it is unlikely to cause a national uproar, but it is nevertheless very unsettling, and not only for NJ, which might be the primary target at present. My biggest problem in all this is that they seemed genuinely baffled that someone is asking for a legal basis for their conduct, and the inability of the whole place to come up with a justification. It seems to me the bureaucracy is very much used to acting outside the legal framework, or at the very least, do not think of their daily work as something done only on the firm basis of law.

I would be very much interested to hear your and your readers thoughts and perhaps similar experiences. I am seriously considering refusing to show the card next time, but bring the printed letter of the law which says they are obliged to issue me with a permit.

Sincerely, JDriver

MLB J-baseball player Kawasaki Munenori doing his best to speak English to North American media. Debito.org approves.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  While we’re on the subject of sports, here’s something that I found very positive:  A Japanese baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays named Kawasaki Munenori doing his darnedest to meet the domestic press:


Courtesy http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2014/04/18/japanese-baseball-player-gives-epic-interview/

I have written in the past about how certain other Japanese athletes overseas do it differently.  In fact, my very first newspaper column (in the Asahi Evening News — remember when it was titled that?) way back in 1997 was a grumble (what else? I’m Debito) on how J-baseball pioneer Nomo Hideo (remember him?) was skiving in terms of trying to connect with his adoptive community:
nomoAEN

I will admit right now that I’m no expert on sports, but from what I’ve seen (and I’m welcome to correction/updates), many of Japan’s athletes overseas don’t bother to publicly learn the language, or connect all that much with their local community. Baseball superstar Ichiro is the immediate example that comes to mind, as AFAIK he assiduously avoids American media; some might justify it by saying he’s all business (i.e., focused on the game) or trying to avoid gaffes.  But I still think it comes off as pretty snobby, since these sportsmen’s lives are being supported by fans, and they should give something back.

If I had a hotline into their brain, I would tell them to go further — exhort them to  countermand the dominant discourse that English is too hard for Japanese to learn well.  And then I would exhort even further:  J sportsmen in the big leagues get treated pretty well (especially salarywise — that’s why they’re no longer playing in Japan!), yet you never hear them speaking up about the shoe on the other foot, on behalf of the often lousy and discriminatory treatment many NJ sportsmen get treated in Japan (imagine if the United States put such stringent foreigner limits on their baseball team rosters, for example; contrast it with how many foreign players (more than a quarter of the total in 2012) MLB actually absorbs!)

Again, sports isn’t quite my field, and if you think I’m being inaccurate or unduly harsh, speak up!  People have in the past:  Here’s an archived discussion we had nearly twenty years ago about Nomo in specific; I daresay that despite all the trailblazing Nomo did, and the wave of Japanese baseball players going overseas to seek fame and fortune, little has changed in terms of giving back.

That’s why Kawasaki is such a lovely exception, doing his level best to connect.  His earnestness is very endearing. Debito.org gives two thumbs up!  May more follow his example.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014, with links to sources

mytest

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Hi Blog. Thanks as always for putting my article in the Top Ten most read on the JT Online once again!
justbecauseicon.jpg
========================================
Humanize the dry debate about immigration
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 76 FOR THE JAPAN TIMES
June 5, 2014, courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/06/04/issues/humanize-dry-debate-immigration/
Version with links to sources.

Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.

However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace (also here) — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!

And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.

Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work. After all, we have that time-sensitive 2020 Tokyo Olympics infrastructure to build — oh, and a Tohoku to reconstruct someday. And no self-respecting white-collar Taro wants those 3K (kitsui, kitanai and kiken — difficult, dirty and dangerous) jobs. Never mind that policymakers have rarely cared about the NJ already here investing their lives in Japan, long discouraged from settling via revolving-door visa regimes, and even bribed to leave in 2009.

So, come back! All is forgiven!

Predictably, the Shinzo Abe administration recently announced the expansion of the “trainee” program. You know, that exploitative, abusive and unmonitored system that has imported NJ since 1990, free from the protections of labor law? The one that causes dozens of NJ deaths from overwork and other “unknown causes” every year, and keeps many in conditions of virtual slavery? Despite a decade of criticisms from human-rights groups, parliamentarians and the United Nations, these three-year visas have been lengthened by two more so we can exploit them longer.

And then, a previously taboo word entered the discussion: imin (immigration). It made such an impact that prominent debate magazine Sapio made it June’s cover story.

Sapio_June.Cover

Michael Hoffman reviewed this spread in the JT in his Big In Japan column on May 24, “Will Japan be a country that welcomes all?”

Great. But I’ll answer Michael’s question right now: no — and not just for an obvious reason like Japan’s innate mistrust of outsiders. We also have a structural problem with how the concept of imin is being framed. It goes beyond constant othering and alienation: NJ aren’t even being seen as people.

Last time this debate came up, I lambasted the government for shutting NJ long-termers out of the deliberation councils drafting policies affecting them. I also mentioned how policymakers avoided the word imin.

So now imin has been formally broached — albeit while being stigmatized: The person in charge of the Immigration Bureau, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, immediately said NJ would present “adverse effects on security.” (Note to ad agencies: Don’t hire Tanigaki to sell your product.)

But imin has also been dehumanized. Look up “immigrant” in an English-Japanese dictionary and you get words such as ijūmin, ijūsha, imin rōdōsha and, oddly, mitsunyūkokusha and fuhō nyūkokusha (illegal immigrant). But these aren’t immigrants: These are migrants, here temporarily, as properly translated by domestic NGOs looking out for NJ interests, such as the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (Iju Rodosha to Rentai Suru Network).

The word for “immigration,” meaning something permanent, is imin — denoted on the Denshi Jisho dictionary site as a “sensitive” word (of course; that’s why the government avoided using it for so long).

But we still have no word for an immigrant as an individual person, such as iminsha, with its own honorific sha — in the same vein as ijūsha (migrant), rōdōsha (laborer), teijūsha (settler, usually a Nikkei South American), zairyūsha (temporary resident), eijūsha (permanent resident) and even (in a few government documents) kikasha (naturalized citizen).

It’s just the clipped imin. That means nobody gets to claim “I am an immigrant” in Japan. (Try it: “Watashi wa imin desu” sounds funny.) And this in turn means immigration remains a strictly statistical animal. Lost in this narrative is the idea that when we import labor, we import people. With lives. And needs. And voices to be heard.

This kind of framing damages the debate by taking away the immigrant’s voice. Take that Sapio special: From the very cover, you’ll notice that not one visible minority is featured among the talking heads.

Sapio_June.Cover

Almost all those speechifying inside are elite Japanese (including former Tokyo governor and professional bigot Shintaro Ishihara, which already signals where things are headed): the same old pundits defending their ideological camps with no real new ideas.

But more indicative of the framing of the debate is the main photo on Sapio’s cover: a hate-speech rally showing anti-Korean demonstrators vs. anti-racism counterdemonstrators. (A smaller inset photo shows South Americans at a labor-union rally. Their faces are visible, unlike those in the larger photo, which were blurred out to protect people’s privacy. More evidence of powerlessness: Apparently NJ aren’t people with privacy concerns.)

Hang on: An anti-Korean rally is not an issue of immigration; it’s got more to do with Japan’s unresolved historical issues with its neighbors.

If you define “immigrants” as NJ who have moved to Japan and made a life here as long-term residents (if not regular permanent residents, or ippan eijūsha) — i.e., the “Newcomers” — that’s a different group than the one being demonstrated against.

Being targeted instead are the “Oldcomers” — the Zainichi Korean and Chinese special permanent residents (tokubetsu eijūsha), descendants of former citizens of empire who have been living in and contributing to Japan for generations. The Oldcomers are not the “immigrants” in question — and from this blind spot, the debate goes askew.

Sapio’s editorial on discrimination towards NJ (pages 20-21) not only neglects to mention any examples of discrimination against Japan’s Newcomers; it also crosses its analytical wires by citing the Urawa Reds “Japanese only” exclusionary banner at Saitama Stadium last March as hate speech against the Oldcomers.

Hang on again: That “Japanese only” banner would not have affected the Zainichis. “Japanese only” is a narrative targeting Japan’s visible minorities, i.e., those who don’t “look Japanese” enough to pass an exclusionary manager’s scrutiny. Naturally, after several generations here, Zainichi can quietly enter a “Japanese only” zone without drawing hairy eyeballs. And while the historical wrongs done to the Zainichi in Japan are very worthy of discussion, they should not suck the oxygen out of the debate on immigrants.

But I believe this is by design: By entangling the debate in the same old Zainichi issues, the xenophobes can derail it with the same old paranoid fears about granting rights to potentially subversive North Korean and Chinese residents. This makes the true iminsha not only voiceless but invisible.

That’s exactly what the xenophobes want. A common theme in rightist writings is “more foreigners means less Japan,” and admitting more visible minorities (which inevitably happens when you import people) will always bring forth that tension. Best to just argue as if they don’t exist.

So what to do? Be Gandalf and say “That shall not pass!” Just as the Urawa Reds fans’ “Japanese only” banner forced the domestic media in March to finally admit that racial discrimination happens in Japan, we must force the nation’s elites to reframe the concept of immigration and humanize the immigrants behind the statistics. Allow the public to see a way to welcome Newcomers not only as individuals, but also as long-termers, immigrants and, ultimately, as citizens with the same rights and obligations as every other Japanese.

The elites will resist this, because the economic incentives are clear: The more powerless and invisible you keep NJ, the easier it is to exploit them.

So, if you want to finally address one of Japan’s structural problems, start by popularizing the word iminsha. Let regular folk with regular lives attach that term to an NJ neighbor they know. Then give them a voice.

Otherwise, it’s same old debate, same old (and getting older) Japan.
========================================

Debito Arudou received his Ph.D. from Meiji Gakuin University in International Studies in April. Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

Saitama’s Konsho Gakuen school, “Japanese Only” since 1976, repeals rule only after media pressure, despite prefecture knowing about it since 2012

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Significant news:  In addition to the bars, bathhouses, internet cafes, stores, restaurants, apartment rental agencies, schools, and even hospitals, etc. that have “Japanese Only” policies in Japan, the media has now publicized a longstanding case of a tertiary education institution doing the same.  A place called Konsho Gakuen (aka “Saitama Cooking College”, “Saitama Confectionary College” in brochures featured on NHK) in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, offering instruction in cooking, nutrition, and confections, has since it opened in 1976 never accepted NJ into their student body.  This exclusion was even written in their recruitment material as a “policy” (houshin):

konshogakuenJapaneseOnlyhoushin

People knew about this.  A Peruvian student denied entry complained to the authorities in 2012.  But after some perfunctory scolding from Saitama Prefecture, everyone realized that nothing could be done about it.  Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan.  Nobody could be penalized, and it was unclear if anyone could lose a license as an educational institution.

So finally it hits the media.  And after some defiance by the school (claiming to NHK below inter alia that they don’t want to be responsible for NJ getting jobs in Japan; how conscientious), they caved in after about a week and said that the policy would be reversed (suck on the excuses they offered the media for why they had been doing it up to now — including the standard, “we didn’t know it was wrong” and “it’s no big deal”).

Debito.org would normally cheer for this.  But the school is just taking their sign down.  Whether they will actually ALLOW foreigners to join their student body is something that remains to be seen (and the J-media is remarkably untenacious when it comes to following up on stories of racial discrimination).  When we see enrollments that are beyond token acceptances (or happen at all, actually) over the course of a few years, then we’ll cheer.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

‘No foreigners allowed’ cooking school backtracks, will accept foreign applicants
May 23, 2014 Mainichi Japan, Courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140523p2a00m0na018000c.html

A private vocational school in Saitama Prefecture which had barred foreigners from enrollment has reversed course and will begin allowing foreign applicants for the 2015 academic year, the Mainichi has learned.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported in its May 23 morning edition that the Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture-based Konsho Gakuen states explicitly in its student recruitment material that “foreigners cannot enroll. This is school policy. Please be aware that this school does not accept foreigners.” Konsho Gakuen, established in 1976, operates three schools, one each for cooking, nutrition and confections.

A school representative told the Mainichi that it was “not accepting press inquiries,” and that the school’s policy “is exactly what it says (in the pamphlet). Foreigners had better go somewhere else.” According to a source related to the education sector in the prefecture, the school was “worried there would be trouble if it had many students staying in Japan illegally.”

Meanwhile, the prefectural educational affairs department said that the same “no foreigners” passage was included in Konsho Gakuen’s materials for both academic 2013 and 2014. Furthermore, the prefecture had formally requested in January and August last year that the school “select students for admission fairly, based on ability and aptitude,” but that Konsho Gakuen had not responded.

At about 11 a.m. on May 23, after the story had appeared in that morning’s edition of the Mainichi Shimbun, Konsho Gakuen board chairman Akio Imai called the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare — which overseas cooking schools — to apologize, according to ministry sources.

Imai was quoted as saying, “Starting from this academic year’s entrance exams, we will begin accepting foreign applicants.” He also apparently said the no-foreigners passage in Konsho Gakuen’s student recruitment materials would be deleted.
ENDS

Original Japanese article:

埼玉の専門学校:外国人入学を拒否「開設以来の方針」
毎日新聞 2014年05月23日 07時45分, Courtesy of MS
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20140523k0000m040129000c.html

来年4月の入学者向けに作られた埼玉県製菓専門学校の募集要項
調理師や栄養士を養成する埼玉県熊谷市の私立専門学校が、生徒の募集要項に「外国人の入学は出来ない」と明記していることが分かった。県が公正な選抜をするよう依頼したが、運営法人は「開設以来の学校の方針」として応じなかった。行政側に指導権限がないことから、差別的な取り扱いが是正されない状態が続いている。【奥山はるな】

外国人の受け入れを拒否しているのは、学校法人今昌学園(今井明巨理事長)が運営する埼玉県調理師専門学校と同栄養専門学校、同製菓専門学校の3校。書類選考と面接で入学者を決めているが、来年4月の入学者向け募集要項に「外国人の入学は出来ません。これは本校の方針です」と明記している。

今春や昨春入学分の要項も同様で、連絡を受けた県学事課は昨年1月と8月、法人に「本人の能力や適性をもって公正に選抜してほしい」と依頼したが応じなかった。

取材に対し、今井理事長は「(取材は)受けられない。理由はない」「募集要項にある通りだ。別の学校に行けばよい」と話したが、県内の教育関係者によると「不法滞在の学生が増えたら困る」と理由を説明しているという。

県学事課は「私学なので県が法的根拠をもって指導するのは難しいが、他校でこのような事例は聞いたことがない。誠に遺憾」と法人を非難。調理師などの養成機関として指定している厚生労働省関東信越厚生局は「外国人の入学について法令上の定めはなく、はっきり改善を求められない」とした。

文部科学省専修学校教育振興室は「教育基本法が定める教育の機会均等は外国人にも可能な限り適用されるべきだというのが通説で、不当な差別は望ましくない」とする一方で、「背景や事情があるのかもしれず個別具体的には判断できない」としている。

法人は1976年設立。県によると、3専門学校の在学者(5月1日現在)は調理師156人▽栄養140人▽製菓83人−−の計379人。

国籍による差別を巡っては、試合会場でサポーターが「JAPANESE ONLY」と書いた横断幕を掲げた問題で、3月にサッカーJリーグ1部の浦和レッズがリーグから処分を受けた

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

THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 23, 2014, NATIONAL
School axes policy of barring foreigners
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI STAFF WRITER
(excerpt of the bottom half of the article, full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/23/national/school-axes-policy-of-barring-foreigners/

[…] When contacted by The Japan Times, Imai said he had decided to ditch the policy and said all three schools would start accepting applications from foreign students from the next academic year.

The decision came only a few months after an incident at a J. League soccer game fueled a nationwide debate about racial discrimination. At the game, fans of the Urawa Reds hung a banner above the stadium entrance declaring, in English, “Japanese Only.” The J. League punished the team for failing to remove the banner by forcing it to play its next home game in an empty stadium.

“I acknowledge that the (‘no-foreigner’ part) of our admission policy was terribly misleading,” Imai said without elaborating.

Imai said the remote location of his cooking schools in Kumagaya kept them somewhat isolated from the trends of globalization, making the mere thought of taking in foreign students “inconceivable.”

“I also acknowledge that we’ve had this fear about what would happen if we accepted foreigners. We’ve been afraid that there will be unpredictable consequence if we do,” Imai said without elaborating.

As for the no-foreigner policy, Imai said he never thought it would be considered discriminatory or xenophobic, despite warnings from the prefectural government, which has no authority to order a change in the private school’s policy.

“I thought other schools were doing the same, too,” he said.

After media pressure built, however, he spoke with the schools’ principals and decided Friday that he should make the admission policy “fairer” and bring it “up to date.”
ENDS

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

埼玉の専門学校が外国人の入学拒否
NHK 5月23日 12時14分, Courtesy of MS
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140523/k10014668071000.html (with video)

埼玉の専門学校が外国人の入学拒否
調理師などを養成する埼玉県熊谷市にある専門学校が生徒の募集要項に、「外国人の入学はできません」と記載して入学を断っていたことが分かり、埼玉県は運営する学校法人に改善を指導しましたが、これまでに応じていないということです。

この専門学校は、埼玉県熊谷市にある学校法人「今昌学園」が運営する調理師や栄養士などの専門学校3校です。

埼玉県によりますと、おととし11月、これらの専門学校の生徒の募集要項に「外国人の入学はできません」と記載されていると外部から指摘があり、県が調べたところ外国人の入学を断っていることが分かりました。

埼玉県は外国人の入学を認めないのは不適切だとして、学校法人に対し、能力や適性に基づいた公正な入学試験を行うよう口頭や文書で繰り返し改善を指導したということです。

これに対し、学校法人は「設立以来の学校の方針だ」として指導に応じていないということです。
「今昌学園」の役員はNHKの取材に対し、「外国人を受け入れないのは就職まで面倒をみることができないためで、昭和47年の設立以来受け入れていない」と話しています。

厚生労働相「調査し適切に対応」

この専門学校を調理師免許を取るための養成施設として指定している田村厚生労働大臣は、「差別的な扱いがあるとすれば望ましくない。どうして拒否しているか背景をしっかり調査したうえで、適切に対応したい」と述べ、学校関係者から聞き取り調査を行い、指導を行うかどうか検討する方針を示しました。

文部科学相「拒否は大変遺憾」

下村文部科学大臣は「外国人であることで差別があってはならない。意欲や能力、志がある人に対しては日本人、外国人を問わずチャンスを提供するべきで外国人という理由で入学を拒否することは大変遺憾だ。埼玉県に適切に指導してもらいたい」と話しました。
ENDS

SAPIO Mag features special on Immigration to Japan: Note odd media narratives microaggressing NJ (particularly the Visible Minorities) into voiceless role

mytest

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Hi Blog. As noted in the Japan Today article cited below, SAPIO debate magazine (June 2014) devoted an issue specifically to the issue of immigration (imin) to Japan (what with the Abe Administration’s renewed plan to import 200,000 NJ per year).

Good. But then it fumbles the issue with all manner of narratives that microaggress the NJ immigrant back into a position of being powerless and voiceless.  First, let’s start with SAPIO’s cover, courtesy of MS:

Sapio_June.Cover

COMMENT:  Notice anything funny?  Start with the sub-headline in yellow talking about having a vigorous debate from “each world” (kyaku kai).  Each?  Look at the debaters being featured in the bubbles.  See any Visible Minorities there?  Nope, they’re left out of the debate once again.  All we get are the typical powerful pundits (probably all Wajin, with “Papa Bear” Wajin Ishihara second in line). , Where is the voice of the immigrant?

And by “immigrant”, I mean people who have immigrated to Japan as NJ and made a life here as long-term resident if not actual Permanent-Residency holder.  The people who have indefinite leave to remain.  The “Newcomers“, who work in Japan and work for Japan.  As depicted in the picture of the labor-union demonstrators in the inset photo in the top right.

Now look at the larger photo.  It’s a xenophobic demo about issues between Japan and Korea (and no doubt China).  That’s not a debate about immigration.  It’s a hate rally airing historical grievances between Japan and it’s neighbors, gussied up as a jerry-rigged issue about “Zainichis having special privileges as NJ” (the very root complaint of the Zaitokukai group, which, even if those “special privileges” were meaningfully true, ought to happen anyway what with all the contributions the Zainichi have made to Japanese society both as prewar citizens of empire and postwar disenfranchised residents for generations; but I digress).  Anyway, the point is that the cover does not convey the issue of “immigration in Japan” accurately.  Zainichi issues dominate.

Finally, note how all the Wajin demonstrators have their faces blocked out in the photo.  Clearly Wajin have privacies to protect.  Not so the NJ protesting in the photo inset.  Hence NJ once again have fewer rights to privacy in the Japanese media.  Just like this photo from the racist Gaijin Hanzai Magazine of yore (remember that?  more information here). Comparative powerlessness in visual form.

gaijinhanzaipg11

Next up, check out the Japan Today writeup on the SAPIO special:

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

Consultant urges ‘one-of-a-kind’ immigration policy for Japan
JAPAN TODAY KUCHIKOMI MAY. 12, 2014 – TOKYO —
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/consultant-urges-one-of-a-kind-immigration-policy-for-japan, courtesy lots of people

In its cover story for June, Sapio devotes 14 articles—including a contribution by former Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara—and 23 pages to wide-ranging discussions on the subject of immigration. It looks like substantial changes are coming, and coming soon. What form should immigration take? What are the merits and demerits?

Management consultant Kenichi Ohmae is, if anything, a pragmatic person. He also expresses his ideas logically and persuasively, and he has devoted a lot of thinking to the issue of immigration, which he suggests be adopted as a policy in three successive stages.

First of all, the demographics don’t lie: by 2050 the largest age segment in Japan’s population pyramid, both for males and females will be those in their late 70s, with fewer and fewer younger people. If this course is maintained, people in their productive ages will decline rapidly. Ohmae says he pointed this out more than 20 years ago. During his past four decades as a business consultant, he has observed that in general, introduction of foreign workers in Japanese businesses has been carried out in five-year increments, during which time problems and challenges are resolved through a trial-and-error basis.

When one looks back 25 to 30 years, to the economic “bubble,” Japan found itself with a labor shortage, particularly in construction and manufacturing. It began bringing in “Nikkeijin” (people of Japanese ancestry) from Latin America, along with Pakistanis, Iranians and others. Since there was no visa status for manual laborers, they entered on tourist or student visas, and the government feigned disinterest when they took blue-collar jobs.

Then the bubble collapsed, and these workers were summarily dismissed. The number of illegal foreign workers declined, and Japan was soundly criticized for its lack of interest in the workers’ welfare.

The current Abe government appears inclined to issue guidelines that will expand entry by foreign workers in such fields as construction, nursing care, agriculture and household domestics. On the other hand, it’s proceeding with measures to ensure that the entry of such foreigners not be mistakenly construed as “immigration policies.” In other words, time limits will be imposed on those workers’ stays. Inevitably, this will result in a repeat of the mistakes and troubles that happened after the collapse of the bubble.

Considering that the Japanese babies being born now will take from 15 to 30 years before they start contributing to Japan’s economy, it’s clear that immigration offers Japan’s only hope to preserve its economic vitality. And, Ohmae emphasizes, now is probably its last chance to take meaningful action.

The three stages Ohmae proposes are: First, Japan should emulate Silicon Valley in attracting 1,000 skilled people a year from such countries as Israel, India, Taiwan, Russia and East European countries. But these people should not be limited only to the field of Information Technology. They would be concentrated in six “clusters” around the country, mostly in large urban areas where they and their families would be made to feel at home with access to churches, schools and so on.

The second stage is to find a way to attract 100,000 professionals a year in the category of work titles with the “shi” suffix (such as “kangoshi” or nurse), trained care providers, attorneys, firemen, etc), all of which are currently in short supply.

The third stage is to accept blue-collar workers, of whom at least 300,000 per year will be needed to keep Japan’s economic engine purring. Ohmae suggests the Japanese government set up and fund preparatory schools in countries likely to supply labor, where students can learn the basics of the Japanese language, laws, customs, and so on before they arrive. And passing an examination will entitle them to a Japanese-style “green card,” permanent residence and the right to work. Such a system is likely to help avoid concentration of unskilled foreigners who would gravitate to the slums that have created social problems in other countries.

When considering the future of immigration, Ohmae also urges the importance of avoiding its politicization among Japanese, so that when people debate its pros and cons, this can be done dispassionately, without tarring one another with “right wing” or “left wing” labels.

ENDS

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

COMMENT:  Although unusually well-intentioned (check out his paternalistic and misogynistic attitudes about Burmese and Aung San Suu Kyi in 1997’s SAPIO), Ohmae, despite his verbal distancing from Japan’s perpetual “Revolving Door” visa regimes, fundamentally recycles the same old ideas about bringing in brainy NJ (unscientifically linking job skills with thoroughbred nationalities/ethnicities and sequestering them in their own enclaves, once again), with no apparent suggestion about making these immigrants into Japanese citizens.  Well, we don’t want to give them too much power to actually have any say over their own lives here.  NJ can come here to work so that we Wajin can stay economically afloat, but that’s all.  They shouldn’t expect much more than the privilege to work and stay in our rich country for as long as they’re needed.

I’ll leave the readers to parse out all the unconscious “othering NJ” microaggressions for themselves, but, ultimately, the question remains:  Where is the specialist commenting on “immigration” (there are people well-studied in that science; try the United Nations) who will lend a specifically-trained viewpoint to the debate, instead of the same old, hoary Wajin pundits defending their ideologies?

Finally, consider the opening editorial article in SAPIO below, which explores the issue of discrimination in general in Japan.  Despite the title (which rightfully talks about hate speech towards Zainichi Koreans and Chinese as shameful for a first-world country), it opens with some soul-searching about the Urawa Reds fans’ “JAPANESE ONLY” banner in Saitama Stadium as an example of Japan’s discriminatory attitudes.  Fine.  But then the article is hijacked once again by the (very important, but not complete) issues of domestic discrimination towards the Zainichi.

Remember, this is an issue also devoted to IMMIGRATION.   The numbers of the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese (i.e., the “Oldcomers”) have been dropping for many years now.  They are not the immigrants of note.  The immigrants, as I defined above, are the NEWCOMERS.  And once again, their voice is not represented within the debate on discrimination or assimilation in Japan.  Those minorities, particularly the Visible Minorities, are silenced.

What’s particularly ironic in the citation of the Urawa Reds’ “Japanese Only” banner is that IT WOULD NOT HAVE AFFECTED THE ZAINICHIS.  “Japanese Only” as a narrative very specifically affects those who do not “look Japanese“.  Thus any Zainichi in Saitama Stadium that day would have “passed” as “Japanese” on sight identification, and could have chosen to sit in those exclusionary stands.  Thus SAPIO, like just about all Japanese media I’ve ever seen, once again crosses its analytical wires, and with these narratives riddled with blind spots and microaggressions, Japan’s “immigration” issue will not be resolved.

That said, I think PM Abe knows this.  That’s why his administration is going back to bribing Wajin to have more babies.  More on that here courtesy of JK.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Sapio_June1 Sapio_June2

 

ENDS

 

New facial recognition systems at J border: Once again, testing out the next-gen loss of civil liberties on the “Gaijin Guinea Pigs”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  First, take in this:

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

Face recognition system to be tested again at Japanese immigration
Kyodo News, April 19, 2014, courtesy of JK
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/140419/face-recognition-system-be-tested-again-at-japanese-im

The government plans to restart from August a test on a facial recognition system to speed up immigration checks at airports and prepare for an expected surge in visitors for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, officials said Saturday.

The Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau will reintroduce the system on a trial basis for Japanese passengers at Haneda and Narita airports for about five weeks, after a series of errors in the first test in 2012 led the ministry to forgo its plan to adopt the system.

Facial recognition systems check passenger photos taken during inspections against data in a chip in their passports. Britain and Australia have introduced such systems.

The bureau conducted the first test on roughly 29,000 people between August and September 2012, but the system failed to recognize about 17 percent of the passengers.

A panel of experts told the Justice Ministry in May last year it should introduce the facial recognition system to increase use of automated gates to leave and enter the country, quicker than conventional immigration inspections.

Automated gates at major airports equipped with fingerprint recognition technology are unpopular with passengers as they require prior registration. The facial recognition system will not need it.

ENDS

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

COMMENT:  Now let’s survey the narratives of justification in this article.  We have the argument that it’s allegedly for a looming event (NJ swarm from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even though it’s more than six years away!), the convenience factor (faster processing of people, this time without even registering!), and the bandwagon argument that others are implementing it (Britain and Australia, whose civil societies have had more robust debates on the issues of privacy and civil liberties).  All of these arguments were made during the reinstitution of NJ fingerprinting in 2007, and that time it wasn’t for a specific event, but rather for anti-terrorism [sic] in general.  And as Debito.org has argued many times before, once you get the public softened up on the idea of taking away civil liberties by testing it on one sector of the population (in this case, the Gaijin Guinea Pigs, since foreigners in every society have fewer civil and political rights), it gets expanded on the rest of the population.

Let’s enter the No-Brainer Zone:  I anticipate the facial recognition software will be implemented nationwide more seamlessly than any other intrusive technology yet, since it is so convenient and doesn’t require individual registry or even much hardware installation.  There’s even a profit motive.  Consider this:

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

EDITORIAL
Stores sharing shoppers’ faces
The Japan Times, APR 12, 2014, courtesy of JK

Over 100 supermarkets and convenience stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area have been recording images of shoppers’ faces as part of antishoplifting measures. Though the stores have posted signs stating cameras are in place, the stores have been sharing the biometric data of customers without their knowledge.

Such sharing should be considered an invasion of privacy and going against the intention of Japan’s Personal Information Protection Law.

After 115 stores of 50 separate companies installed a shoplifting prevention system, they obtained the power not only to record every customer’s face but also to share that record in a network.

If a person shoplifts or makes unreasonable complaints, camera footage of the person is turned into biometric data and classified into categories such as shoplifter or complainer. That data is then stored on the firm’s server and made available to other stores.

When the same face is recognized at another store, the staff is notified that the blacklisted person is in their store.

Because the accuracy rate of current recognition software has become extremely high — 99.9 percent accurate by some accounts — the data is more or less equivalent to the original image. That means that even when the original images of the faces are not made available, a nearly complete replication of that face, in data form, is being shared.

The problem is the lack of checks on the system. Seemingly whoever has access to the network could classify customers according to an arbitrary criterion. But what constitutes an “unreasonable” complaint is open to question. And whether an act of shoplifting is reported to the police and whether the suspect is convicted of the crime is a matter of the law. It should not be a matter of how an employee feels about it.

Unfortunately with this technology, stores are now able to put people on a blacklist for any reason whatsoever.

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/04/12/editorials/stores-sharing-shoppers-faces/

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

Comments at the JT to this article were very poignant regarding the probable treatment of Visible Minorities:

Steve Jackman
I suspect that this technology and sharing of data is also being used to target shoppers who are visible minorities for extra surveillance. If so, that would explain accounts I have heard from some foreign residents of Japan that security guards seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere when they are visiting shops (especially, certain large department stores in the Tokyo area).

=============================
phu
While I’d stop short of absolutely connecting this to such accounts, it was also my first thought that the abuse of this system would immediately (or at least very promptly) swing to surveillance of minorities.

The article uses the term “blacklist” without explicitly stating that the customers HAVE been blacklisted, as in disallowed from entering one of the stores in the network. In the absence of that actual claim, and based on what should be the illegality of this practice, I’m not convinced that’s actually happening: As presented, the whole thing seems more arbitrary than barring a convicted criminal from the premises of one store (which would be reasonable in some circumstances) and closer to cooperative discrimination, whether legally justified or not, and whether directed at minorities or at ethnic, resident Japanese.

=============================
Steve Jackman
The risk and a likely scenario of a system like this, which lacks proper checks-and-balances, is that the actions of a single shop employee at a store can result in a shopper getting forever blacklisted and tagged for extra surveillance at many other stores.

What if this employee is inherently suspicious of all foreigners in general, or harbors racist feelings towards anyone who does not appear Japanese? Such an employee can end up blacklisting and tagging a foreign shopper not for anything specific that the customer has done, but rather out of the employee’s own paranoia against non-Japanese shoppers.

=============================
phu
Certainly. In places where minorities are either accepted or largely ignored, this would still be unacceptable (as you say, it puts too much power in arbitrary and unchecked hands, regardless of how it’s used), but Japan’s pronounced discrimination problem does make it hard to ignore the likelihood of abuse skewing towards minorities.

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

Food for thought as the dragnets draw ever tighter. Although the 2020 Olympics have been used as justification for positive pro-NJ rights issues (see for example here and here), here’s an example of where it’s doing the opposite. Japan’s policymakers get weird whenever the outside world is going to drop by for a visit. Not only when they’re being called over to stay awhile. ARUDOU Debito

Suraj Case: Tokyo District Court finds “illegal” excessive force, orders GOJ restitution to family of NJ killed during deportation (contrast with UK case)

mytest

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Hi Blog. Some moderately good news also came down the pipeline a few days ago, when the Suraj Case of police brutality and death in detention was drawn to a conclusion in Civil Court.  The Tokyo District Court faulted the GOJ with “illegal” excessive force, and doled out restitution of a paltry sum of about USD $50,000 for a man’s life.  Hokay.  For many (unless there is an appeal), that means case closed.

It’s good that somebody was found fault with.  Up until now, Japan’s Immigration Bureau got away with a clear case of cold-blooded murder of a NJ being manhandled by overzealous authorities.  However, this was a decision that took place in CIVIL Court, not Criminal, meaning no criminal penalty has been applied to Suraj’s killers.

Contrast this with a very similar murder case that just came down in the UK:  The Mubenga Case.  Same time line (an excruciatingly slow four years), same class of human being as far as the developed countries see it (a dark African man from Ghana/Angola), and same killing while in official custody.  Except in the UK case, you get arrests, a charge of manslaughter, and killers’ names made public.  In other words, the System in the latter case is less likely to protect individuals for their excesses, which is the much better deterrent for them to do this brutal act again.  Thus we’re more likely to see Surajs happen than Mubengas, since Japan’s criminal prosecutors decided not to pursue Suraj’s case at all.  And so the Suraj Case remains Japan’s shame, and should be a deterrent for future immigrants to come to Japan:  In Japan’s overall criminal system of “hostage justice”, an overstayed visa may become a capital offense.  Arudou, Debito

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

Officials faulted in death of Ghanian
Court rules immigration used ‘Illegal’ force on deportee
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, STAFF WRITER
THE JAPAN TIMES, MAR 19, 2014

In a landmark verdict, the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday ruled that immigration officials were responsible for the death of a Ghanaian man they were forcibly deporting in 2010.

Finding that the officials “illegally” used excessive force to subdue Abubakar Awudu Suraj aboard a plane, the court ordered the government to pay about ¥5 million to his Japanese wife and his mother, who lives in Ghana.

The pair had sought more than ¥130 million in damages, arguing that Suraj, who was 45 at the time, suffocated while being subjected to abuse.

It’s the first time a court has ordered immigration officials to pay damages for the death of a foreigner they mistreated.

Caught overstaying his visa in 2006, Suraj was ordered deported. In March 2010, accompanied by a group of immigration officials, he was taken aboard a private jet at Narita airport.

Prior to takeoff, officials bound his arms and legs, stuffed a towel in his mouth and bent him forcibly forward, cutting off his air supply. They said later they were concerned Suraj might put up a violent struggle.

“Their effort to restrain him crossed the line to such an extent it can never be defended as necessary and reasonable,” presiding Judge Hisaki Kobayashi said, slamming their act as “dangerous” and “illegal.”

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/19/national/officials-faulted-in-death-of-ghanian/

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

Contrast this with what happened on about the same time line line with an incident in the UK:

Jimmy Mubenga: three G4s guards to be charged with manslaughter
CPS says Stuart Tribelnig, Terry Hughes and Colin Kaler will be charged over 2010 death of Mubenga at Heathrow airport
theguardian.com, Thursday 20 March 2014 08.26 EDT, courtesy of SendaiBen
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/20/jimmy-mubenga-death-three-g4s-guards-charged-manslaughter

Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained by the three guards on board a plane at Heathrow airport in October 2010.
Three G4S guards are being charged with manslaughter following the death of a man as he was being deported from the UK.

Jimmy Mubenga, 46, died after being restrained by the three on board a plane at Heathrow airport in October 2010.

On Thursday the Crown Prosecution Service said the guards, Stuart Tribelnig, 38, Terry Hughes, 53, and Colin Kaler, 51, would be charged with manslaughter.

Malcolm McHaffie, deputy head of CPS special crime, said: “There is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute Colin Kaler, Terrence Hughes and Stuart Tribelnig.”

Mubenga’s wife, Adrienne Makenda Kambana, said: “My children and I have waited a long time for this decision. We hope the CPS will now move this case forward quickly. We feel like we are another step closer to getting justice for Jimmy.”

The three guards were arrested following Mubenga’s death but in 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring any charges against them.

That decision was reviewed following an inquest into Mubenga’s death last year in which a jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing following an eight-week hearing.

McHaffie said: “We have completed a fresh review of all of the evidence relating to the death of Jimmy Mubenga, including the new evidence arising from the inquest, and decided that three men should be prosecuted for manslaughter.”

The CPS said it had decided not to prosecute G4S for corporate manslaughter.

“We have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute G4S for either offence and, due to the fact that related proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” it said in a statement.

Mubenga and his wife came to the UK in 1994. His family says that as a student leader in Angola he had fallen foul of the regime and was forced to flee. After a protracted legal battle he was granted exceptional leave to remain and he and Kambana moved to Ilford in Essex, where they set up home with their five children.

In 2006 Mubenga was convicted of actual bodily harm and sentenced to two years in prison following a brawl in a nightclub.

After serving his sentence he was transferred to an immigration detention centre and the process to deport him began.

On Thursday the family’s solicitor, Mark Scott, welcomed the CPS’s decision to prosecute the guards, adding: “It has been a three-and-a-half year struggle for the family to get to this point and they hope to get on with their lives once this final challenge is met.”

The three guards are due to appear at Westminster magistrates court on 7 April.

Solicitors for the three said they would be vigorously denying the charges. A statement on behalf of Hughes, Kaler and Tribelnig said: “My clients are very disappointed with the CPS’s decision, having previously been told after a very lengthy police investigation that no charges would be brought against them. They will be vigorously denying these charges in court.”

Deborah Coles, co-director of the Inquest campaign group, which has supported Mubenga’s family, said the CPS’s decision “reiterates the importance of legal aid for families to be represented at inquests”.

“It is legal aid that ensured a robust examination of all the evidence, which has ultimately resulted in today’s welcome decision. The cuts to legal aid mean that cases like this in the future may well not receive this kind of scrutiny.”
ENDS

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

More press:

Court slams ‘illegal’ restraint in death of Ghanaian deportee, orders compensation

AJW/Asahi Shimbun, March 19, 2014

By TSUYOSHI TAMURA/ Staff Writer

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201403190089

The Tokyo District Court blasted the “illegal” restraint methods used by immigration officials that led to the death of a Ghanaian national who was being deported four years ago and ordered the central government to pay about 5 million yen ($49,000) in compensation to his family.

Abubakar Awudu Sraj, 45, died on March 22, 2010, aboard an aircraft at Narita Airport.

His 52-year-old Japanese wife sued the central government, demanding 130 million yen in compensation.

On March 19, the Tokyo District Court declared that Sraj’s death was due to suffocation caused by illegal methods of restraint used by immigration security guards and ordered the payment of compensation.

Hiroshi Komai, professor emeritus at the University of Tsukuba specializing in international sociology, said the verdict highlighted the lack of human rights awareness in the Immigration Bureau.

“The Justice Ministry should seriously accept the verdict and make every effort to prevent a recurrence,” Komai said. “The whole world will be watching to see what it does.”

Sraj’s widow felt a sense of vindication.

“I believe that my husband, in exchange for his life, brought to light an issue for Japanese society,” she said.

The Tokyo District Court verdict said immigration officials used restraints on a man who was putting up very little resistance.

“The (act of restraining) was illegal because the possible danger far outweighed the need and appropriateness for such restraint,” Presiding Judge Hisaki Kobayashi said in the verdict.

The restraints used violated internal regulations at the Justice Ministry.

According to a report compiled by the Justice Ministry, Sraj’s hands and ankles were cuffed, and he was gagged with a towel as several security guards carried him onto the aircraft. Those guards then pushed Sraj’s back, forcing him to hunch forward in his seat.

Both of his wrists were further bound to his belt with a plastic band.

The district court accepted that version of events, and said that while Sraj showed indications that he did not want to be deported before he was placed on the plane, once aboard he showed little resistance.

“Breathing restrictions due to the gag and the limitations on movement of the chest and diaphragm caused by being forced into a posture of having his face near his knees led to breathing difficulties that caused death by suffocation,” the verdict said.

The court rejected the central government’s argument that Sraj died due to heart problems, and that the method of restraint had no causal relationship with his death.

At the same time, the district court also recognized that Sraj repeatedly said he did not want to board the plane while he was being taken to it. The court said such remarks led to the judgment that Sraj was partly responsible for having to be forcibly restrained.

For that reason, the court decided that the central government only had to pay half the damages incurred by Sraj’s death.

The Ghanaian first arrived in Japan in 1988 on a short-stay permit. After working in factories, he was arrested in 2006 for immigration law violations.

Following his death, the Chiba prefectural police sent papers to prosecutors for 10 security guards on suspicion of causing death through violent acts by government workers. However, in July 2012, the Chiba district public prosecutors office decided not to indict any of the 10 individuals.

Sraj’s bereaved family members are considering asking the prosecution inquest committee to take up the matter.

An official with the Immigration Bureau at the Justice Ministry said, “We will decide on what steps to take after sufficiently considering the contents of the verdict.”

The verdict comes almost four years to the day of Sraj’s sudden death. His widow still has not come to terms with the senseless way in which he was taken from her.

“My husband was not treated as a human,” she said.

During the trial, lawyers for the central government argued that Sraj put up fierce resistance as he was being deported.

However, the video shown by officials of the Chiba district public prosecutors office to his family showed a calm Sraj walking on his own two feet. Security guards carried him onto the plane.

“The primary goal of the guards was to carry out the deportation, so they likely did not think they were dealing with another human,” Sraj’s widow said.

She first met Sraj in 1988, and they began living together the following year. They married in 2006. The Tokyo District Court rescinded a deportation order for Sraj in 2008 on the grounds the couple was legally married.

However, the Tokyo High Court the following year overturned the lower court ruling on the grounds that because the couple had no children and because the wife worked, there was no pressing need for her to have a husband.

Sraj said at that time that foreigners could not win in Japan.

The restraints used against Sraj were widely criticized. The Ghanaian Embassy filed a protest with the government. The British magazine Economist said Japanese society was avoiding the issue.

In its annual report on the human rights situation in nations around the world, the U.S. State Department called the restraining methods used in Japan cruel and inhumane.

The Justice Ministry regulations said that only handcuffs and rope could be used to bind individuals. While ankle cuffs were not allowed, Sraj was cuffed on both his hands and ankles. The plastic band used on Sraj’s hands was also prohibited and towels were not allowed to be used as gags.

However, when the Immigration Bureau released the results of its investigation into the case in 2012, it said Sraj was a “special case” that permitted the use of such devices.

Despite defending the methods used, the Immigration Bureau subsequently revised its internal regulations. Those now clearly state that ankle cuffs are prohibited. New regulations also call for videotaping as much as possible when deporting individuals to allow for a visual record.

After Sraj’s death, the Immigration Bureau stopped deporting individuals against their will.

However, from July 2013, the bureau began chartering planes for forced deportations of individuals in groups, a major change from the past practice of deporting individuals one at a time on commercial flights.

Human rights groups have criticized the resumption of deportations without consent on the grounds the life and the will of the deportees are being ignored.

ENDS

Immigration Bureau: Points System visa and visual images of who might be qualified to apply

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Hi Blog. Got this from KM a short time ago, regarding Japan’s “Points System” visa:

=================================
February 23, 2014
Hi Debito! Don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill but the illustration at the top of this page interests me:

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/index.html

Almost all of the “highly-skilled” people have non-Asian looking noses. The only people that look like they might be from Korea or China are a family and the father is dressed as a factory worker. Like I say, I don’t want to read too much into this illustration but it does seem to be indicative of a tendency to want to exclude people from neighboring countries from the “preferred” group of foreigners.
=================================

Here’s the image:
pointssystemimageimmigration

What do you think? Is there mountaining out of molehills here? ARUDOU, Debito

Former PM and Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori bashes his Olympic athletes, including “naturalized citizens” Chris and Cathy Reed (PLUS article on J athletes’ shortened lifespans due to the pressure)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Aaand, the inevitable has happened:  Japan’s apparently underperforming athletes (particularly its ice skaters) have invited criticism from Japan’s elite.  Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori Yoshiro, one of Japan’s biggest gaffemeisters when he served an abysmal stint as Prime Minister, decided to shoot his mouth off about champion skater Asada Mao’s propensity to choke under pressure.  But more importantly, as far as Debito.org is concerned, about how the American-Japanese skating siblings Cathy and Chris Reed’s racial background has negatively affected their performance:

“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

Oh.  But wait.  They’re not naturalized.  They always had Japanese citizenship, since their mother is Japanese.  And how about Japan’s other athletes that also train if not live overseas (such as Gold Medalist Skater Hanyu Yuzuru, who now hails from Toronto)?  Oh, but he won, so that’s okay.  He’s a real pureblooded Japanese with the requisite yamato damashi.

In fact, the existence of people like Mori are exactly the reason why Japan’s athletes choke.  As I’ve written before, they put so much pressure  and expectation on them to perform perfectly as national representatives, not as individuals trying to achieve their personal best, so if they don’t medal (or worse yet, don’t Gold), they are a national shame.  It’s a very high-stakes game for Japan’s international athletes, and this much pressure is counterproductive for Japan:  It in fact shortens their lives not only as competitors, but as human beings (see article by Mark Schreiber after the Japanese articles).

Fortunately, this has not escaped the world media’s glance.  As CBS News put it:  “Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!”  But expect more of this, for this is how “sporting spirit” is hard-wired in Japan.  Because these types of people (especially their invisible counterparts in the media and internet) are not only unaccountable, they’re devoid of any self-awareness or empathy.  If they think they can do better, as one brash Japanese Olympic swimmer once said, why don’t they try doing it themselves?  Then she was taken off the team, never to return.  ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////
WINTER OLYMPICS
Tokyo 2020 chairman Mori critical of Asada, ice dancing brother and sister
AP/Japan Today SPORTS FEB. 21, 2014, courtesy JDG, Bob, and Dosanko
http://www.japantoday.com/category/sports/view/tokyo-2020-chairman-mori-critical-of-asada

TOKYO —The head of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic organizing committee has criticized Japanese figure skater Mao Asada’s performance in the women’s short program at the Sochi Olympics.

The two-time world champion finished 16th in Wednesday’s short program after falling on her opening triple axel. Asada was a silver medalist at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where she finished second to South Korea’s Yuna Kim.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who became the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s chairman last month, said Asada has a habit of “always falling at the most critical time” of a competition. He blamed Asada’s short program shortcomings on her participation in the earlier team event at Sochi.

Asada performed sensationally in the free skate on Thursday night, however. She landed her trademark triple axel and wound up with a season’s best of 142.71. That gave her a total of 198.22.

“I thought I could do it,” Asada said through a translator. “I tried my best, and everything went according to practice.’

While in office, Mori had a reputation for making contentious comments. And his appointment to the Tokyo 2020 committee was criticized by some analysts who believe the 76-year-old former PM is too old to hold such a position.

Asada was selected for the inaugural team competition in the hope Japan would win a medal, but she also fell on the triple axel and Japan placed fifth.

“We shouldn’t have taken part in the team competition,” Mori said. “The psychological damage Asada incurred must have remained,” for the short program.

Mori was also critical of Japanese ice dancers Chris and Cathy Reed, who were born in the United States but compete for Japan.

“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

==========================================
Also featured in USA Today, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Metro Montreal, The Japan Times, and others.  As CBS Sports put it:

Mr. Mori wasn’t done yet, taking a shot at Japanese ice dancers Chris Reed and Cathy Reed, the children of a Japanese mother and American father who were born and raised in the U.S. but renounced American citizenship in order to compete for Japan.

“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!

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

Here are some Japanese articles with the original quotes:

森元首相 リード組に「五輪出場の実力はなかったが…」
「負けると分かっていた」 講演する森元首相
講演する、東京五輪・パラリンピック組織委員会会長の森元首相
Photo By 共同
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/02/20/kiji/K20140220007629530.html
[ 2014年2月20日 17:05 ]

東京五輪・パラリンピック組織委員会会長の森喜朗元首相は20日、福岡市での講演で、ソチ五輪・フィギュアスケート団体について「負けると分かっていた。浅田真央選手を出して恥をかかせることはなかった」と述べた。

また、フィギュアスケート・アイスダンスのキャシー・リード、クリス・リード組について「米国に住んでいる。(米国代表として)五輪出場の実力はなかったが、帰化させて日本選手団として出した」と語った。

浅田が団体でトリプルアクセル(3回転半ジャンプ)を成功させれば、アイスダンスの劣勢を盛り返し、銅メダルを獲得できるとの期待が日本チームにあったとの見方を強調。「(団体戦で)転んだ心の傷が残っているから(SPで)転んではいけないとの気持ちが強く出たのだろう」との同情も示した。

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

森元首相の真央らへの発言要旨
日刊スポーツ [2014年2月20日19時20分]
http://www.nikkansports.com/general/news/f-gn-tp0-20140220-1260348.html

森喜朗元首相は20日、福岡市での講演で、ソチ五輪フィギュアスケート団体について「負けると分かっていた。浅田真央選手を出して恥をかかせることはなかった」と述べた。さらに女子ショートプログラム(SP)で16位だった浅田選手を「見事にひっくり返った。あの子、大事なときには必ず転ぶ」などと評した。

森喜朗元首相の講演でのフィギュアスケートに関する発言要旨は次の通り。

頑張ってくれと見ていましたけど(浅田)真央ちゃん、(ショートプログラムで)見事にひっくり返りました。あの子、大事なときには必ず転ぶんですね。

日本は団体戦に出なければよかった。アイスダンスは日本にできる人がいない。(キャシー・リード、クリス・リードの)きょうだいはアメリカに住んでいるんですよ。(米国代表として)オリンピックに出る実力がなかったから、帰化させて日本の選手団として出している。

浅田さんが(団体戦に)出れば、3回転半をできる女性はいないから、成功すれば3位になれるかもとの淡い気持ちで出した。それで、見事にひっくり返ってしまった。

その傷が残っていたとすれば、ものすごくかわいそうな話。負けると分かっている団体戦に、浅田さんを出して恥をかかせることはなかった。

転んだ心の傷が残っているから、自分の本番の時には、何としても転んではいけないとの気持ちが強く出たのだと思いますね。勢いが強すぎて転んでしまいました。(共同)

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

See also http://sankei.jp.msn.com/smp/sochi2014/news/140220/soc14022019180058-s.htm

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

Japan Sports Pressure and Shortened Lifespans

(forwarding, courtesy of the author–Arudou Debito)

This Mainichi article, based on a piece that appeared in Flash four years ago, is about the sad fate that seems to befall Japan’s Olympic athletes. I thought I’d recycle it today. Mark

Star-studded sportsmen speed swim the Styx
Flash, 10/31/2000
By Mark Schreiber (translated by the author)

Researchers have announced findings that compared with ordinary people, their lives are shortened by six years, asserts Kunihiko Kato, an assistant at Tokyo University’s department of physical science.

To whom is Kato referring? Chain smokers? Heavy boozers? People who live in houses under high-tension power lines, or those who refuse to pay protection to gangsters?

Indeed, what activity is scientifically recognized as being so hazardous, it threatens to send otherwise robust citizens of the world’s longest-lived nation to an early grave?

The answer, reports Flash, is to earn a place on the Japanese Olympic team. Or perhaps even worse, to win a medal.

Tragic examples are legion. Take Masatoshi Nekota, a member of the volleyball gold medalist at the 1972 Munich Olympics, who succumbed to cancer at age 39. Or three other outstanding athletes, who also died in their 39th year: 1968 Mexico City men’s gymnast and bronze-medal winner Takeshi Kato, a cancer victim; steeplechase runner (Mexico) Takeshi Endo, who died of heart failure; and broad jumper Hiroomi Yamada (Mexico), who suffered a fatal stroke.

Sports glory and public acclaim failed to bring any peace of mind to marathon runner Kokichi Tsuburaya, who took the bronze medal at Tokyo in 1964. Psychologically tormented when injury forced him to miss the games four years later, he committed suicide. The note he left read, simply, “Cannot run any more.” He was 27.

“Just at Japan Steel Corporation, where I was employed, seven former olympians have already passed away,” marathon silver medalist Kenji Kimihara (Mexico) tells Flash. “Overall, I’d say about 30 or so have died.”

Kimihara, now 60, is particularly saddened when recalling those who perished by their own hand. In addition to fellow marathoner Tsuburaya, these include swimmer Ryoko Urakami and 80 meter hurdler Ikuko Yoda.

“Everyone showed them respect, but they felt stigmatized by the title “olympic team member” attached to everything they did subsequently,” sighs Kimihara. “I suppose it just became too much of a burden.”

But while mental pressures took a toll on Japan’s olympians, the sheer physical abuse can’t be disregarded either.

“After driving myself so hard during my teens, I wanted to just go back to being a normal person,” recalls Mexico City weight lifting silver medalist Masaru Ouchi, now 57. “But I’m a physical wreck. When I reached my forties, I felt like I was already sixty.”

Tokyo University’s Kato is convinced scientific data contradicts the general image of olympians and professional athletes as superb physical specimens. “Intense activity causes stress to build up, and excessive secretion of Corticotropin releasing hormone result in lowered immunity. Resistance to disease declines. There’s a greater likelihood of developing cancer.”

“Exercise causes oxygen consumption to increase, generating a toxic substance called free radicals that are harmful to the body,” Kato adds.

One side effect of too much activity may be osteoporosis. Citing data on 13 female long-distance runners, Kato notes that the average bone density of eight was 90 percent or below the normal values, and four had bone density levels equivalent to women in their seventies.

“We believe this was caused by the intense training, which lowered the volume of fat in their bodies, causing loss of calcium because they did not secrete sufficient female hormones.”

“Upholding Japan’s national honor was a heavy burden for those olympic athletes in the past,” says Kimihara. “When today’s athletes feel pressured, I’d like to see them channel their stress into constructive outlets.”

With so many depressing stories, Flash wonders, will “Q chan” — petite and personable Sydney marathon winner Naoko Takahashi — be all right?

FORWARDED ARTICLE ENDS

SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots

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Hi Blog. When looking through my “Draft” posts (i.e., the ones I put on hold for publication later), I noticed that I forgot to blog this one when it came out. It’s another instance where Debito.org got it right (filed under the category of SITYS, or “See I Told You So”).

When the GOJ came out with its “Points System” in 2012, we said that it would be a failure (actually even before that — in its embryonic stage Debito.org still doomsaid, see here and here), because, as the previous links discuss, a) its standards are awry and too high (even giving no real weight to the NJ who took the trouble to learn Japanese), and b) it is underpinned with an elite arrogance that NJ are beating down the doors to enter rich and safe Japan no matter what (without paving the way for them to be treated equally with Japanese in terms of employment or civil rights). Japan isn’t as attractive a labor market as Japan’s bureaucrats might think, for structural and systemic reasons that Debito.org has been substantiating for decades.  And yes, as the article below substantiates, the “Points System” has failed — less than half the number of people the GOJ was aiming for bothered to apply.

Sorry for the delay in postings these days (I have a monster project that I have to finish up, so blogging has to go on the back burner). Let me just put this post up as a matter of record (I already incorporated the information into my January Japan Times JBC column; see Item 4), and I’ll put something different up tomorrow for discussion. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////
NATIONAL
Initiative fails to lure high-skilled foreigners
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI
The Japan Times, DEC 24, 2013
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/12/24/national/initiative-fails-to-lure-high-skilled-foreigners/

After drawing too few applicants, a government-led initiative to attract “highly skilled foreigners” was overhauled Tuesday by the Justice Ministry.

Started in May 2012, the program is designed to shore up the thinning domestic labor force. Statistics from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research show the population will plunge to about 90 million by 2050 from 127 million at present.

Foreign applicants receive “points” based on such criteria as academic achievement, career background and annual income. More than 70 points earns access to a raft of visa perks, such as the right to work no matter the visa status, visas for parents and housekeepers to care for children, and a fast track to permanent residence. Examples of highly skilled professionals include researchers, university professors, corporate executives and engineers.

While the ministry believed 2,000 foreign residents in Japan a year would qualify, only 700 had applied as of September, immigration bureau official Nobuko Fukuhara said.

The system has been criticized as setting too high a bar for applicants. For example, those under 30 years of age had to earn at least ¥3.4 million annually to qualify, while those over 40 needed to exceed ¥6 million.

With the changes Tuesday, anyone earning over ¥3 million is eligible. The minimum income requirement will be scrapped altogether for academics, who are at a disadvantage due to their relatively lower income.

In another move to help academics, their scholarly achievements will be given more points.

Bonus points will also be added for applicants’ Japanese language skills and experience studying at Japanese schools.

“We’re fully aware just giving foreigners visa perks wouldn’t be such a big incentive for them to come to Japan,” said Fukuhara, who noted Japan needs to adopt more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries.
ENDS

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

ONE MORE COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  The Coda is maintained at the very end of the article, reinforcing the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money…

Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008!

mytest

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Hi Blog. Just got this interesting note from Debito.org Reader JDG:

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

Food for thought…

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

NATIONAL
Foreign workers in Japan hit record 717,504
JIJI, JAN 31, 2014, reprinted in The Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/31/national/foreign-workers-in-japan-hit-record-717504/

The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.

The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007.

The increase reflected an improvement in the employment situation amid the economic recovery and Japanese companies’ growing moves to hire foreigners with special skills, according to the ministry.

The number of Chinese workers was the highest, at 303,886, or 42.4 percent of the total, followed by Brazilians at 95,505, or 13.3 percent, Filipinos at 80,170, or 11.2 percent, and Vietnamese at 37,537, or 5.2 percent.

The number of Chinese workers rose 2.5 percent. Filipino and Vietnamese workers increased 10.0 percent and 39.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the number of Brazilian workers fell 6.3 percent.

Of all foreign workers, 27.3 percent were in Tokyo, followed by 10.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture, 5.9 percent in Kanagawa Prefecture, 5.3 percent in Osaka Prefecture and 5.2 percent in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The government is considering accepting more foreign workers under its growth strategy and reviewing on-the-job training programs for foreigners.
ENDS
///////////////////////////////////////////////

JDG comments: The number of NJ workers in Japan has hit record levels, apparently.

Now, when I saw this, I expected to read lots of stern warnings about the danger of NJ *infiltration* into Japan, but the article claims that this increase is due to the J-gov’s amazing efforts to attract NJ with ‘special skills’ (and, of course, because *our great leader’s* economic policy is a godsend).

But hang on! I thought that the scheme to attract 2000 ‘elite gaijin’ a year was pronounced a failure?

Upon further reading it seems that most of these ‘gaijin with special skills’ are from asia (mainly China) leading me to suspect that their ‘special skill’ is their preparedness to work for minimum wage. Also,the biggest number is in Tokyo. So I suspect that rather than Tokyo being over-run with Chinese millionaire stock-brokers, it could be more accurate to deduce that these Nj are doing all the KKK jobs that the Japanese think they are too good for- combini’s and waitressing.

Interestingly, because this is being touted as a symptom (sorry, I meant ‘result’) of Abe’s economic policy, it will now be difficult for the NPA to announce the next ‘gaijin crime-wave’. I predict that when Abe throws a sickie, such an announcement will come. JDG
==========================

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Okay, there’s something fishy going on here. Check out this cover from Ekonomisuto of January 15, 2008, now more than six years ago, which puts the figure of NJ working in Japan at more than 930,000 (the すでに93万人 in the subtitle after the yellow kanji) — a helluva lot more than the allegedly record-breaking 717,504 quoted in the article above.

ekonomisuto011508cover

I have the feeling that statistics somewhere are being kneaded for political ends (unsurprisingly), as JDG notes. We must show a recovery of sorts no matter what (ironically now pinning part of it on NJ workers in Japan), making Abenomics a bubble in thought as well as in economic stats. What a shame that JIJI seems to be parroting the ministerial line of calling it record-breaking without any research or critical thinking.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the more standardized statistics from the Ministry of Justice (not MHLW) which shows how many NJ are registered as LIVING in Japan. NJ do a lot more in Japan than just work, and the figure given for Brazilians in Japan (95,505) seems remarkably small compared to the hundreds of thousands that lived (or used to live) in Japan in previous years. If those new MOJ stats are out, somebody please feel free to track them down and repost (awfully busy at the moment). Thanks. ARUDOU, Debito

ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”, with links to sources

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Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers.  Thank you as always for reading and commenting.  2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (came out a few days later than usual, since there was no paper on January 2, on January 7, 2014).

Thanks to everyone once again for putting it in the most-read article for the day, once again. Here’s a version with links to sources. Arudou Debito
justbecauseicon.jpg

THE JAPAN TIMES ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
The empire strikes back: the top issues for non-Japanese in 2013
BY ARUDOU Debito
JANUARY 7, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/01/06/issues/the-empire-strikes-back-the-top-issues-for-non-japanese-in-2013/

Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:

11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat (see “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ,” JBC, Aug. 5).

10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.

9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.

8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability (“By opening up the debate to the real experts, Hashimoto did history a favor,” JBC, June 4).

7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests (see “Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right,” JBC, Sept. 1).

6. Xenophobia taints No. 1 cleanup

The Fukushima debacle has been covered better elsewhere, and assessments of its dangers and probable outcomes are for others to debate. Incontrovertible, however, is that international assistance and expertise (despite this being an international problem) have been rejected due to official xenophobia.

Last January, The New York Times quoted Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of the Environment Ministry and the man in charge of the cleanup, as saying that foreign technologies were somehow not applicable to Japan (“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example”), and that foreigners themselves were menacing (“If we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there”). Nishiyama resigned several months later, but Fukushima’s ongoing crisis continues to be divisively toxic both in fact and thought.

5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty

As the last holdout in the Group of Eight (G-8) nations yet to sign this important treaty governing the treatment of children after divorces, both houses of the Diet took the positive step in May and June (after years of formal nudging by a dozen countries, and a probable shove from U.S. President Barack Obama last February) of unanimously endorsing the convention, with ratification now possible in 2014.

As reported on previous Community pages, Japanese society condones (both in practice and by dint of its legal registration systems) single-parent families severing all contact with one parent after divorce. In the case of international divorces, add on linguistic and visa hurdles, as well as an unsympathetic family court system and a hostile domestic media (which frequently portrays abducting Japanese mothers as liberating themselves from violent foreign fathers).

The Hague treaty seeks to codify and level the playing field for negotiation, settlement and visitation. However, Japanese legal scholars and grass-roots organizations are trying to un-level things by, among other things, fiddling with definitions of “domestic violence” to include acts that don’t involve physical contact, such as heated arguments (bōgen, or violent language) and even glaring at your partner (nirami). Put simply: Lose your temper (or not; just seethe) and you lose your kids. Thus, the treaty will probably end up as yet another international agreement caveated until it is unenforceable in Japan.

4. Visa regimes get a rethink

Two years ago, domestic bureaucrats and experts held a summit to hammer out some policies towards foreign labor. JBC pointed out flaws in their mindsets then (see “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese,” July 3, 2012), and last year they ate some crow for getting it wrong.

First, a highly touted “points system” for attracting highly skilled workers with visa perks (which JBC argued was unrealistically strict; see “Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” March 6, 2012) had as of September only had 700 applicants; the government had hoped for 2,000. Last month, the Justice Ministry announced it would relax some requirements. It added, though, that more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries, were also necessary — once again falling for the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money.

In an even bigger U-turn, in October the government lifted its ban on South American NJ of Japanese descent “returning” to Japan. Those who had taken the repatriation bribes of 2009 (see “Golden parachutes for Nikkei mark failure of race-based policy,” JBC, April 7, 2009), giving up their accumulated welfare benefits and Japanese pensions for an airfare home, were now welcome to return to work — as long as they secured stable employment (as in, a one-year contract) before arrival. Good luck with that.

Again, what’s missing in all this is, for example, any guarantee of a) equal protection under labor and civil law against discrimination, b) equal educational opportunities for their children, and c) an integration and settlement program ensuring that revolving-door visas and tenuous jobs do not continue forever. But the Abe administration has never made a formal immigration plan one of its policy “arrows”; and, with the bigger political priorities discussed below, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

3. Hate speech turns murderous

This was also the year that the genteel mask of “polite, peace-loving Japan” slipped a bit, with a number of demonstrations across the nation advocating outright hatred and violence towards NJ. “Good Koreans or bad, kill them all,” proclaimed one placard, while another speaker was recorded on video encouraging a “massacre” in a Korean neighborhood of Osaka. An Asahi Shimbun reporter tweeted that anti-Korean goods were being sold on Diet grounds, while xenophobic invective (even rumors of war with China) became normalized within Japan’s salacious tabloids (see here and here).

It got so bad that the otherwise languid silent majority — who generally respond to xenophobia by ignoring it — started attending counterdemonstrations. Even Japan’s courts, loath to take strong stands on issues that might “curb freedom of speech,” formally recognized “hate speech” as an illegal form of racial discrimination in October, and ordered restitution for victims in one case (a Zainichi Korean school) and a year of actual jail time in another (for harassing a company that had used a Korean actress in its advertising).

However, leading politicians offered only lukewarm condemnations of the hatred (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “dishonorable,” months after the fact) and no countermeasures. In fact, in April, Tokyo’s then-governor, Naoki Inose, slagged off fellow Olympic candidate city Istanbul by denigrating Islam — yet Tokyo still got the games.

Meanwhile, people who discussed issues of discrimination in Japan constructively (such as American teacher Miki Dezaki, whose viral YouTube video on the subject cost him his job and resulted in him retreating to a Buddhist monastery for a year) were bullied and sent death threats, courtesy of Japan’s newly labeled legion of anonymous netto uyoku (Internet rightists).

This political camp, as JBC has argued in the past two annual Top 10 lists, is ascendant in Japan as the country swings further to the right. With impressive victories:

2. LDP holds both Diet chambers

In July, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party accomplished its primary goal by chalking up a landslide victory in the Upper House to complement its equally decisive win in the Lower House in December 2012. Then, with virtually no opposition from the left, it got cocky in its deceptiveness.

Shortly after the election, Deputy PM Taro Aso enthused aloud about Nazi Germany’s policymaking tactics, advocating similar stealth for radical constitutional reforms before Japan’s public realizes it. Later it became clear that LDP reform proposals (excising, for example, “Western” conceits of individuality, human rights and a demystified head of state, and replacing them with the duty to “respect” national symbols, the “public interest” and “public order”) might be too difficult to accomplish if laws were actually followed. So off went Abe’s gaijin-handlers on overseas missions (see “Japan brings out the big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6) to announce that reinterpretations of the Constitution’s current wording would resolve pesky postwar restrictions.

Meanwhile, Abe was being rebranded for foreign consumption as a peace-loving “ethnic nationalist” instead of (in JBC’s view) a radical historical revisionist and regional destabilizing force. Not only was his recent visit to controversial Yasukuni Shrine repackaged as a mere pilgrimage to Japan’s version of Arlington National Cemetery, but Japan’s remilitarization was also portrayed as a means to assist America and the world in more effective peacekeeping operations, as seen in Abe’s “human security” and “proactive peace policy” neologisms.

As always, a liberal slathering of “peace” talk helps the munitions go down. Just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. For curtains are precisely what are being drawn with the passage of:

1. The state secrets law

In a country where most reforms proceed at a glacial pace, the Act on Protection of Specified Secrets took everyone by surprise, moving from the public-debate back burner to established law in mere weeks. We still don’t know what will be designated as a “secret,” although official statements have made it clear it would include information about Fukushima, and could be used to curtail “loud” public rallies by protesters LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba likened to “terrorists.”

We do know that the punishments for leakers, including journalists, will be severe: up to 10 years’ jail for leaking something the government says it doesn’t want leaked, and five for “conspiracy” for attempting to get information even if the investigating party didn’t know it was “secret.” It’s so vague that you can get punished for allegedly “planning” the leak — even before the leak has happened or concrete plans have been made to leak. Although resoundingly condemned by Japan’s media, grass roots and the United Nations, it was too little, too late: Stealth won.

The state secrets law is an unfolding issue, but JBC shares the doomsayers’ view: It will underpin the effort to roll back Japan’s postwar democratic reforms and resurrect a prewar-style society governed by perpetual fear of reprisal, where people even in privileged positions will be forced to double-guess themselves into silence regarding substantiated criticism of The State (see the JT’s best article of the year, “The secret of keeping official secrets secret,” by Noriko Hama, Japanese Perspectives, Nov. 30).

After all, information is power, and whoever controls it can profoundly influence social outcomes. Moreover, this law expands “conspiracy” beyond act and into thought. Japan has a history of “thought police” (tokubetsu kōtō keisatsu) very effectively controlling the public in the name of “maintaining order.” This tradition will be resuscitated when the law comes into force in 2014.

In sum, 2013 saw the enfranchised elite consolidating their power further than has ever been seen in the postwar era, while Japan’s disenfranchised peoples, especially its NJ residents, slipped ever lower down the totem pole, becoming targets of suspicion, fear and loathing.

May this year be a healthy one for you and yours. ARUDOU, Debito

Holiday Tangent: Other Americans who have relinquished US Citizenship (not just me; I am in good company)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I found this tasty website on TIME Magazine, showing that other famous Americans have chosen to relinquish their US citizenship.

http://swampland.time.com/2013/11/13/so-long-uncle-sam-famous-americans-who-renounced-their-homeland/

Think singers Tina Turner and Maria Callas, film directors John Huston (AFRICAN QUEEN and MALTESE FALCON) and Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, actors Jet Li and Yul Brynner, performers Yehudi Menuhin and Josephine Baker, writers T.S. Eliot and Shere Hite, politicians Valdas Adamkus (Lithuanian President) and Andreas Papandreaou (Greek PM), and businesspeople Earl Tupper (of Tupperware) and Eduardo Saverin (co-founder of Facebook — yes, the guy with the chicken problem in the movie SOCIAL NETWORK).

I found this even tastier Wikipedia entry giving stories of dozens of people who have not only given up their US legal status, but also even got it back after doing so (Liz Taylor!) or never clearly gave it up (Bobby Fischer, Grace Kelly, Jesse Ventura, and Boris Johnson — yes, that Boris Johnson, London Mayor!)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_former_United_States_citizens_who_relinquished_their_nationality

I could spend hours here (and have) reading the cases and following the links.  Many of the stories are fascinating, such as:

  • Activist against racial discrimination in America, seminal researcher of what would eventually become Critical Race Theory, and personal hero W.E.B. Du Bois took Ghanian citizenship (at age 95!) when, in a fit of clear asshollery, the US State Department refused to renew his US passport from abroad (he was in Ghana managing the Encyclopedia Africana project in 1961).  He then lost American (he didn’t renounce) because US laws at the time forbade voluntary naturalization and swearing an oath of allegiance to other countries.
  • Engineer family Mr. and Mrs. William Gorham, formerly of Gorham Engineering in San Francisco, naturalized into Japan (in 1941!) and became Gouhamu Katsundo. According to the entry, “Gorham, a native of San Francisco, moved to Japan with his wife and children in 1918, where he worked as an engineer for various predecessors of Nissan before transferring to Hitachi. He and his wife renounced U.S. citizenship to naturalize as Japanese citizens in May 1941, apparently to escape increasing wartime restrictions on foreigners. He worked on jet engines at Hitachi during the war, while his son moved to Washington, D.C. and joined the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence.” That son Don, a graduate of Tokyo Imperial University in 1941, died in 2011.
  • Python Terry Gilliam: “Gilliam was born in Minneapolis. In 1968, he obtained British citizenship, then held dual U.S. and British citizenship for the next 38 years. In January 2006 he renounced his U.S. citizenship, describing the George W. Bush administration as having created an environment “scarily similar to the Orwellian nightmare” of his 1985 film Brazil.”
  • Doctor Ma Haide, formerly George Hatem, who helped eliminate leprosy and some forms of VD in China (died 1988). His entry: “Born in Buffalo, New York to Lebanese American parents in 1910, Hatem came to Shanghai in the 1930s to set up a medical practice. In 1949 he became the first foreigner to naturalize as a citizen of the People’s Republic of China.”
  • Activist Garry Davis: “Davis was born in Bar Harbor, Maine. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Davis renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1948 in Paris in order to become a “citizen of the world”, and created the first “World Passport”.” Meaning he had the citizenship of NO country.  That’s pretty brave.
  • Private Dancer Tina Turner “was born in 1939 in Nutbush, Tennessee, and rose to international fame as a singer. She began dating German music executive Erwin Bach in 1985, and moved to Zürich with him in 1994. Her application for Swiss citizenship was approved in April 2013, and she confirmed her relinquishment of U.S. citizenship to the U.S. Embassy in Bern in October 2013.” That’s only a few months ago, and what occasioned the TIME Magazine article mentioned above.

There are a few patterns: In the old days people renounced because of tax issues (which is why I believe there is still a stigma attached to doing it (e.g., “the yacht people”), as the US remains practically the only country that taxes its citizens abroad), marrying overseas royalty, running for political office overseas, and as a sign of political protest (e.g., becoming Canadian to avoid the Vietnam War draft). Nowadays we see more lifestyle choices (becoming a citizen of the land in which you live, such as Tina Turner turning Swiss), sports (being able to represent other countries in The Olympics), or occupational choices or opportunities.

The people who are associated with Japan include, of course, Donald Keene, but also James Abegglen (veteran of Iwo Jima, Economics Professor at Sophia University, and author of 1985’s KAISHA and 1958’s THE JAPANESE FACTORY; died 2007), Cathy Reed (ice skater), and Takamiyama Daigoro (Jesse Kuhaulua, sumo wrestler). There is no mention, however, of other sumo wrestlers who took Japanese citizenship, such as Konishiki, Akebono, or Musashimaru. One assumes they did not renounce (good for them; don’t).

My point is that the Americans are so convinced that American citizenship is so coveted and honored that one must be crazy to ever give it up (I personally have been called a “traitor” by an official at the US State Department for doing so).  Not true.  As one can see by that Wikipedia article, people have been doing it for as long as there have been formal citizenships to adopt or forsake.  It’s a legal status like any other.  And anyone who plans to live in the country, any country, for good I think should take it.

Further, countries should finally come to their senses that having multiple citizenships is not worrisome, and allow this to happen without forcing anyone to relinquish.  Many are.  Good for them.  And good for us.  I am in good company.  Arudou Debito

Tokyo Metro Govt issues manual for J employers hiring NJ employees: Lose the “Staring Big Brother” stickers, please!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader JF found this sticker up in Ikebukuro a few weeks ago:

NJstarephoto

Issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Youth and Safety Policy Division, it says that the employer of this establishment will not hire illegal foreign workers.  The slogan rimming above says, “Office declaring its promotion of the proper employment of foreigners”, complete with The Staring Eyes of Big Brother that probe all souls for criminal intent, sorta thing.  Like this one, snapped in Tamagawa last September:

TheEyeNPAstarephoto
(which says, “We won’t overlook crime!  If you see anyone suspicious, call the cops!”)

JF comments:  “I sort of see what they are trying to say with it, but I still think this sticker is bad style and puts all of us in a bad light. Suggesting yet again that many foreigners work illegally, while the actual percentage is probably tiny.”

It is, the number of so-called “illegal foreigners” long since peaking in 1993 and continuing to drop, despite police propaganda notices claiming the contrary (see for example here and here).

JF did a bit more searching about the origin of the stickers, and discovered a downloadable manual directed at employers about how to hire foreign workers legally:
http://www.seisyounen-chian.metro.tokyo.jp/chian/gaikokujin/24manual.pdf

Here’s the cover:

gaikokujinhiringmanualcover

Entitled “Gaikokujin Roudousha Koyou Manyuaru” (Hiring Manual for Foreign Workers), you can download it from Debito.org at http://www.debito.org/TokyotoGaikokujinHiringManual2013.pdf.

It opens reasonably well, with the first sentence in the preface (page 1) stating that illegal overstaying foreign workers aren’t just a cause of the worsening of public safety (yes, that old chestnut again), but they also have human rights, and influence the economic competitiveness of Japan.  It talks about the five-year goal of halving the number of illegal overstayers starting from 2003, and how that did indeed succeed, but there are still about 70,000 illegal foreigners still extant, with about 70% of them entering the country with the goal of working illegally (I don’t know how they determined that without installing a “mental goal detector” at the airport, but anyway…).  It also talks about the change in policy sloganing away from “strengthening policy against illegal foreign labor” in 2003 to the promotion of “proper employment of foreign workers” in 2009 and 2010; okay, that’s a bit better.

The manual defines “illegal labor” on page 3, and the new immigration procedures of 2012 on page 2 — with very clear outlines of what employers should check to make sure everything is legal (the Zairyuu Kaado (ZRK), the replacement for the old Gaitousho), and what criminal fines and penalties might happen if they don’t.  Page 4 describes what is on the ZRK, who gets it and who doesn’t, and what types of visas in particular should be checked for work status.  Page 5 tells the employer how to read official documents and stamps, and page 6 elaborates on how to spot forgeries.  There’s even a GOJ website the employer can use to verify details on said NJ employee, with a surprising amount of technical detail on how the ZRK is coded (see here and here) discussed on page 7.  The manual continues on in that vein for a couple more pages, essentially telling the employer how to read a ZRK (or old remaining Gaitousho) and visa stamps like an Immigration official.  Pages 12 and 13 talk about visa regimes and what times of work fall into each, and 14-15 offer more warnings to employers about not following the rules.  The book concludes with how to treat longer-term NJ, and offers contact numbers for questions.

COMMENT:  I welcome more thoughtful comments from other Debito.org Readers, but I think this manual (overlooking the “Staring Big Brother” stickers; albeit that may just be a cultural conceit of mine) is a good thing.  For one reason, it’s inevitable:  Employers have to be told the rules clearly and the punishments for not following them (as opposed to the NJ alone getting punished for overstaying, with little to no penalty for the employer — who often wants or forces NJ to overstay in order to put them in a weaker wage bargaining position); let’s hope employer punishments are “properly” enforced in future.  For another, the illustrations are less racialized than usual, to the point where it is unclear who is “Japanese” and who is “foreign” on page 16.  Good.  Definitely progress, compared to this.

My only misgiving is that this feels like a training manual for how to operate a complicated piece of consumer electronics, and for that reason is dehumanizing.  It also might deter people from hiring NJ if things are this potentially mendoukusai.   That said, I’m not sure in what other way that information could have been transmitted; links to better-executed foreign employment manuals for other countries welcome in the Comment Section.  What do others think?  Arudou Debito

AFP: Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing at J detention center while doctor at lunch

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s another long-standing issue within Japan’s criminal justice system — the two-tiered system of incarceration for foreigners only.  When one is being detained for a violation of Japan’s criminal code, you have prison for those convicted and the daiyou kangoku interrogation centers for those awaiting conviction (and almost everyone (95%) who is indicted under this system confesses to a crime, thanks to the unsupervised and harsh interrogation techniques).  Almost everyone who confesses to a crime (the most-cited figure is >99%) gets convicted and probably goes to prison.  Don’t get arrested in Japan or else this will happen to you.

But then there are the detention centers for foreigners with visa issues who can be incarcerated indefinitely.  This is unlike Japan’s prison system where 1) there are international standards for incarceration, and 2) there is a maximum limit — as in a prison sentence — to the duration for inmates.  Not so Japan’s foreigners.  And not so, as you can see below, Japan’s asylum seekers, where yet another NJ has died in custody due to, the article notes below, lax oversight over the health of their detainees.

I bring this up because this case will no doubt soon be forgotten.  Like the other issues of violenceunsanitary food leading to hunger strikes and suicidesImmigration brutality leading to an uncharged murder of a detainee, and more.  No wonder some people would prefer an overseas refugee camp than come to Japan to languish and perhaps die in a Gaijin Tank.  Best to archive it here as yet another brick in the wall.  Arudou Debito

SEE ALSO:  Johnson, The Japanese Way of Justice (2002), pg. 243.

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

Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing at detention center while doctor at lunch
By Harumi Ozawa. AFP/Japan Today NATIONAL OCT. 25, 2013, courtesy of JK

http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/asylum-seeker-dies-at-detention-center-while-doctor-at-lunch

See also http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/27/national/asylum-seeker-dies-in-japan-so-doctor-can-have-lunch-ngo/

An asylum-seeker collapsed and died after staff at a Japanese immigration center failed to call for a medic, allegedly because the doctor was having lunch, a pressure group said Thursday.

Anwar Hussin, a member of Myanmar’s Rohingya ethnic group, fell ill shortly after he was detained on Oct 9, according to People’s Forum on Burma, a Japan-based NGO headed by a Japanese lawyer.

Citing the 57-year-old’s cousin, the group said Hussin had been complaining of a headache all morning and fell unconscious as he began eating lunch in his cell.

Fellow detainees—seven people of different nationalities—called for help because he was vomiting and having spasms, the NGO said.

Detention center staff rejected their requests that a doctor be called, saying Hussin was just “having a seizure” and that the duty medic was on his lunch break, the group said, citing detainees who had spoken to the dead man’s cousin.

A doctor was summoned 51 minutes after Hussin’s collapse, according to a timeline given to his cousin by the center.

Staff made an emergency call four minutes after the doctor’s arrival and 55 minutes after being made aware of the problem, the timeline showed.

Hussin died in hospital on Oct 14, it said.

A spokeswoman for the Tokyo Immigration Bureau said a man in his 50s from Myanmar died of subarachnoid haemorrhage—a stroke—after collapsing in the detention center, confirming the dates given by the pressure group.

But she declined to confirm or deny the claims made by the NGO over how long it took for the doctor to be called.

“We refrain from disclosing details because it concerns private matters,” said the spokeswoman.

“We are aware that some people have complained the man was neglected for some time,” she said, adding the bureau believes staff handled the case appropriately. She said officials had explained the situation to the man’s surviving family in Japan.

The People’s Forum on Burma, which supports democratization of Myanmar and aids refugees from the country when they arrive in Japan, disputes this.

“The bureau did not inform the family of (Hussin’s) hospitalization. It was learnt from other detainees,” said a spokeswoman.

Immigration officials gave few details until two days after Hussin’s death, the spokeswoman said, and then only when his cousin repeatedly pressed them.

Hussin came to Japan in 2006 and made two applications for asylum, both of which were rejected, according to the group, which said he was waiting for the result of his second appeal when he was detained.

The Rohingya—described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities—face travel restrictions, forced labor and limited access to health care and education in Myanmar, rights groups say.

Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Muslim Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the NGO’s claims over Hussin’s death.

But Shogo Watanabe, the lawyer who leads the NGO, said detention centers were frequently slower than they should be in emergency medical situations.

“This is the result when the country has failed to protect people who need to be protected,” he told AFP.

Hiroka Shoji, of Amnesty International Japan, said it was worrying that immigration staff apparently had power of veto over whether or not a sick detainee should see a doctor.

Japan tightly restricts the number of immigrants and asylum-seekers it accepts.

According to Justice Ministry figures for 2012, 2,545 people applied for asylum, of whom 368 were from Myanmar—the second largest nationality group after the Turkish.

Japan accepted 18 refugees during the year.

Human rights activists, lawyers and migrant communities in Japan have complained for years about harsh treatment by immigration officials and about conditions at detention centers.

A Ghanaian died in 2010 while he was being restrained allegedly by up to 10 immigration officials as they tried to deport him.

Rights activists have claimed he was gagged with a towel, recalling a similar but non-fatal case in 2004 when a female Vietnamese deportee was handcuffed, had her mouth sealed with tape and was rolled up in blankets.

(c) 2013 AFP

Donald Keene Center opens in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture. His life and library can be seen, for a price.

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Hi Blog.  Saw this interesting poster in, of all places, an elevator in Narita Airport last September:

DonaldKeeneCenter

Yes, that’s our Donald Keene, currently aged 91, whose center last September 21 was opened up in Kashiwazaki (for those who unfamiliar with that part of Niigata Prefecture, K-town is in between Nagaoka and Joetsu; nice beach) in order to transmit “the excellence of Japanese literature” (watashi wa ninon bungaku no subarashisa o tsutaetai).

This is an important event, as it counts as an established NJ legacy on the scale of Edwin Dun and of course Lafcadio Hearn/Koizumi Yakumo (both of whom have their lives immortalized in building form).

Now, where Debito.org has taken issue with Keene is with not with his scholarship or contributions to the field of Japanese studies (indeed admirable), but with his naturalization while publicly denigrating NJ.  As chronicled here and in the Japan Times, he himself made a big fuss about how he was becoming a Japanese citizen for selfless reasons, e.g., to “become one of them“, to show “solidarity with the Japanese people” in their time of great need, so that he might help victims of the Tohoku Disasters in some way.

Fine.  But he also threw in all sorts of irrelevancies and nastiness, such as making himself out to be morally superior to other NJ residents (contrasting himself with those allegedly fleeing Japan like the mythical “Flyjin”, mentioning how he wasn’t committing crimes like they were — despite actual NJ crime trends).  It was a poor show of social science by a trained researcher.

If he’s going to be mean, then he’s going to have his record scrutinized like everyone else.  So, despite his promises to “contribute to areas affected by the [Tohoku] disaster“, by now what has he done?  Put his Donald Keene Center in Tohoku to attract tourists?  Sorry, Kashiwazaki is quite far away from the disaster areas, and the Donald Keene Center website doesn’t even mention the events in Tohoku as any form of motivation.  Visited Tohoku like other NJ to help out with relief efforts?  Well, according to his English Wikipedia entry, he gave a speech in Sendai; thanks, but…  Or opening up his library for free to the public?  No, sorry, that’s not how business is done:

DonaldKeeneCenter2

Not sure where profits are going.  Again, no mention of contribution to disaster relief on the Center’s website.

And of course, there is one very big contribution to Japan he could still yet make.  One very big open secret about douseiaisha in Japan is that even if they can’t get officially married (due to Japan’s koseki system), they can still adopt one another and establish inheritance rights.  That’s precisely what Keene did by naturalizing, getting his own koseki, and then adding his partner to it.  So in this worldwide wave of tolerance/reactionary intolerance towards gay marriage, gay rights is another issue Keene could use his influence to raise awareness about (and before you say he’s too old to do so, consider George Takei).  But no.

Again, these are all a person’s life choices, and I will respect Keene’s.  Except for the fact that he doesn’t respect others’ life choices (he should read “Yes I Can” by Sammy Davis Jr., and learn something about not denigrating other minorities in his position to advance himself, and then pulling up ladders of opportunity behind him). He doesn’t seem to be keeping his public promises.  His pandering to stereotypes about NJ, plus public gestures of self-hugging while making a show of his apparent self-sacrifices, are disingenuous upon closer inspection.

I’m not in the habit of paraphrasing Depeche Mode (I’m famously a proud fan of Duran Duran), but maybe it’s time to start.  A stanza of “Everything Counts” applies here:

“All for himself, after all.”

That is not the best legacy for immigrants and former NJ to leave behind.  Arudou Debito

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

UPDATE OCTOBER 8, 2014:  Dr. Donald Keene reiterates his belief that NJ left in significant numbers after the 3/11 Disasters in Tohoku in a recent Yomiuri interview. Even though I demonstrated in a Japan Times column that this was not the case in April 2012.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10081
So much for his role as a scholar… 

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

Message Special / Donald Keene / My life now is the happiest that I ever had: Scholar
Kunihiko Miura / The Yomiuri Shimbun
11:11 pm, October 05, 2014
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001615967

When the terrible things happened in Tohoku, and especially when I read that many foreigners who had lived in Japan, worked in Japan, were leaving the country, I was very angry, and I wondered what I could do to show I was different. (REST OF THE ARTICLE IN COMMENTS SECTION BELOW).

Good news: Japan Times Community Pages expanding from two-page Tuesdays to four days a week

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Hi Blog.  Good news.  With an imminent tie-up between The Japan Times and The New York Times, the Community Pages (which I have written for since 2002) will expand from its present two pages on Tuesday to four days a week.  The JT explains in more detail below.  Proud to be part of this writing crew.  We are the only English-language newspaper that is covering issues in this degree of depth in ways that matter to the English-reading NJ communities, and now we’re getting even more space.  Bravo.  Thank you to everyone for reading and encouraging this to happen.  — Arudou Debito, JUST BE CAUSE Columnist, The Japan Times

communityauthorsOct2013

justbecauseicon.jpg

 

Growing Community: the JT’s most talked-about section is about to get larger

From Thursday, Oct. 17, the Community pages will be expanding to four days a week from the present double-page spread on Tuesday and single Saturday page in the print edition. Here’s a taste of what to expect from mid-October:

Monday

Recognizing that a huge number of our readers work in the education sector, Monday’s main feature, Learning Curve, will focus on aspects of the teaching profession in Japan, from eikaiwa to JET and higher education.

Louise George Kittaka will continue to answer readers’ questions for Lifelines, with lawyers from the Tokyo Public Law Office’s Foreigners and International Service Section addressing legal issues on the second Monday of the month.

Learning-related listings and letters will also run Mondays.

Tuesday

Writers including David McNeill, Jon Mitchell and Simon Scott will continue to tackle the big issues for The Foreign Element.

Opinion pieces that in the past would have been published here will shift to Thursday’s page.

Views From The Street will be staying put, tapping the views of people around the country about everything under the rising sun.

Free listings related to causes and campaigns will feature on Tuesdays, as will feedback about the previous week’s columns.

Thursday

Debito Arudou’s Just Be Cause will appear on the first Thursday of the month, with Hifumi Okunuki’s Labor Pains on week two.

Oct. 17 will see the debut of Law Of The Land, a new column by legal expert Colin P.A. Jones.

Fourth (and fifth) Thursdays will offer an open space for opinion, to be called Foreign Agenda.

Readers will still have a forum to vent in Hotline to Nagata-cho.

Listings related to shared pursuits — from discussion groups to sports clubs — will run on Thursdays.

Saturday

Japan Times stalwarts Amy Chavez (Japan Lite) and Thomas Dillon (When East Marries West) will alternate week by week, offering their wry observations about life in Japan from the wilds of the Seto Inland Sea and Tokyo, respectively.

Saturday will continue to be the place to find out more about the diverse range of individuals that make up the foreign community of Japan, with personality profiles, reports on events and organizations, and the occasional embassy profile in Our Man/Woman In Tokyo.

Mixed Matches will focus on multicultural relationships, while Saturday’s listings will cover social and religious events.

ENDS

TheDiplomat.com: “In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?”, on the debate about Japan’s increasing diversity

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Hi Blog. I was contacted recently for a few quotes on this subject (an important debate, given the increasing diversity within the Japanese citizenry thanks to international marriage), and I put the reporter in touch with others with more authoritative voices on the subject. I will excerpt the article below. What do you think, especially those readers who have Japanese children or are “half Japanese” (man, how I find that concept distasteful in Japan’s lexicographical context) themselves? Me, I think it’s a helluva lot more sensitive than this example of pap (succumbing to the temptation to zoologize people) passing as journalism about “haafu” that appeared in the J-media about a year ago. Arudou Debito

hafuthefilm

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In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?
Mixed-race individuals and their families seek acceptance in a homogeneous Japan.
The Diplomat.com, October 03, 2013
By J.T. Quigley (excerpt), courtesy of the author
Entire article with photos at http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

“Spain! Spain!” the boys shouted at her and her brother, day in and day out at a summer camp in Chiba prefecture. The incessant chanting eventually turned into pushing and hitting. One morning, she even discovered that her backpack full of clothes had been left outside in the rain.

“It was the worst two weeks of our lives,” recalls Lara Perez Takagi, who was six years old at the time. She was born in Tokyo to a Spanish father and Japanese mother.

“When our parents came to pick us up at the station, we cried for the whole day. I remember not ever wanting to do any activities that involved Japanese kids and lost interest in learning the language for a long time, until I reached maturity and gained my interest in Japan once again.”

By the year 2050, 40 percent of the Japanese population will be age 65 or older. With Japanese couples having fewer children than ever before, Japan is facing a population decline of epic proportions. However, one demographic continues to grow: Japanese and non-Japanese mixed-race couples. But in one of the world’s most homogeneousous countries, is Japan ready to accept their offspring?

Biracial Japanese nationals like Takagi are an increasingly common sight in Japan. The latest statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare indicate that one out of every 50 babies born in 2012 had one non-Japanese parent. Additionally, 3.5 percent of all domestic marriages performed last year were between Japanese and foreigners. To put those numbers into perspective, the earliest reliable census data that includes both mixed race births and marriages shows that fewer than one out of 150 babies born in 1987 were biracial and only 2.1 percent of marriages that year were between Japanese and non-Japanese.

Takagi is one of a growing number of hafu – or half Japanese – who have grown up between two cultures. The term itself, which is derived from the English word “half,” is divisive in Japan. Hafu is the most commonly used word for describing people who are of mixed Japanese and non-Japanese ethnicity. The word is so pervasive that even nontraditional-looking Japanese may be asked if they are hafu.

Rather than calling someone mixed-race or biracial, some believe that the term hafu insinuates that only the Japanese side is of any significance. That could reveal volumes about the national attitude toward foreigners, or perhaps it’s just the word that happened to stick in a country where mixed-race celebrities are increasingly fixtures on television.

No Entry

Olaf Karthaus, a professor in the Faculty of Photonics Science and Technology at the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology, is the father of five “hafu” children. Far from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, he raised them in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, which makes up 20 percent of Japan’s total land mass, yet houses only five percent of the population.

In 1999, Karthaus visited an onsen (hot spring) with a group of international friends, all married to Japanese spouses. The onsen had decided to deny entry to foreigners after some negative experiences with Russian sailors, hanging signs that read “Japanese Only” and refusing entry to all foreigners.

The Caucasian members of his group were flatly denied access to the bathhouse based on their foreign appearance. When management was asked if their children – who were born and raised in Japan and full Japanese citizens – would be allowed to bathe, the negative attitude toward anyone who appeared to be non-Japanese became shockingly clear.

“Asian-looking kids can come in. But we will have to refuse foreign-looking ones,” was the onsen’s answer. Negative sentiment had trickled down from a group of rowdy sailors to defenseless toddlers.

Karthaus, along with co-defendants Ken Sutherland and Debito Arudou – an equal rights activist who was born in the U.S. but became a naturalized Japanese citizen – sued the onsen for racial discrimination. The plaintiffs won, and the onsen was forced to pay them one million yen ($10,000) each in damages. The case made international headlines and shed light on issues of race and acceptance in Japan.

Regardless of Karthaus’ negative experience, he expresses a deep fondness for Japan and says that none of his children have been direct victims of racism.

“My son got called a gaijin (a Japanese term that literally means outsider – as opposed to the more formal gaikokujin, which means foreigner) once, in the third grade. But there was no discrimination otherwise for my other kids,” Karthaus tells The Diplomat. “My eldest daughter actually dyed her hair to look more foreign.”

Legal Complexity

Many observers see a loosening of immigration policy as a potential remedy to the birth-rate issue, but Japan, which along with the Koreas topped the list in a Harvard Institute study of the most racially homogeneous countries, is largely unwilling to accept an influx of foreigners.

“Although the government cannot prevent media hyperbole, the Justice Ministry could do much more with its crime statistics, which belie the common perception that immigrants are to blame for increases in petty crime and drug abuse,” writes Bloomberg.

For those foreigners who have made a home in Japan, the law for any biracial children they have is complex. While children can enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship, the government doesn’t allow hafu to retain their dual nationality after age 22. According to the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau, this decision is based on concerns over what would happen in the event of international friction or military action between a dual-citizen’s other country and Japan.

“It’s not just a matter of ‘but what if we declare war on your other country – which side will you choose?’” says Arudou, who changed his name from David Aldwinckle after obtaining Japanese citizenship in 2000. He renounced his U.S. citizenship two years later, in accordance with the strict rules against being a dual national.

“There have been debates on revising to allow dual [citizenship], due to Nobel Prize winners who naturalized overseas, but they failed because, again, people worried about loyalty and hidden foreigners,” Arudou adds.

The denial of dual citizenship beyond age 22 was actually put in place quite recently, in a 1984 amendment to the Japanese Nationality Act. Japan is a jus sanguinis country, meaning that citizenship is based on blood, not location of birth. With an increase in the number of mixed-race couples giving birth to children with dual citizenship, the government decided that restrictions were necessary to preserve national sovereignty.

Rest of the article at:
http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

Is Japan ready for Olympics? Kyodo: Hokkaido bathhouse refuses entry to Maori visiting scholar due to traditional tattoos

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maorirefuseekyodonews091213

Maori woman refused entry to bath due to traditional tattoos
SAPPORO, Sept. 12, 2013 Kyodo News, courtesy of JK
http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2013/09/245956.html

A public bath facility in Eniwa, Hokkaido, refused entry to a Maori woman from New Zealand due to her face tattoos, a facility official said Thursday.

The Maori language lecturer, 60, has the tattoos, called ta moko, worn traditionally by some indigenous New Zealanders, on her lips and chin. She was in Hokkaido for a conference on indigenous languages in the town of Biratori in the northernmost prefecture.

On Sunday afternoon a group of 10 people involved in the conference visited the thermal baths but were refused entry by a facility staff member.

When a member of the group claimed the decision was discriminatory, the staff replied that the facility prohibits entry to anyone with tattoos in order to put customers at ease.

“Even if it is traditional culture, a typical person cannot judge the context behind the tattoos,” the facility official told reporters.

An Ainu language lecturer who was in the group said he felt sorry to disappoint an important guest.

“It is unfortunate that other cultures are not understood,” he said.

According to the food and sanitation section of the Hokkaido prefectural government and the National Federation of Public Bath Industry Trade Unions, the law on public baths allows operators to refuse entry to customers with infectious diseases, but does not rule on customers with tattoos.

Prohibition of tattoos is often used by public facilities in Japan to prevent entry by members of the country’s organized crime groups, many of whom have tattoos on their bodies.

ENDS

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Hi Blog.  Oh the ironies of the above happening.  It’s standard practice nationwide at many public bathhouses to refuse entry to Japanese with tattoos because they might be yakuza, and it’s long been a debate when one gets NJ who have tattoos as fashion statements.

isawafront

(Courtesy Debito.org Rogues’ Gallery. Note sign and people with tattoos, on left.  And while we’re at it, note sign that refuses foreigners who can’t speak Japanese and who don’t have valid visas.  More information here.)

But what really floors me is that a) it’s in Hokkaido, site of the famous Otaru Onsens Case (where people were refused entry just for being foreign; well, okay, just looking foreign), b) it’s in Hokkaido, site of the indigenous Ainu (whose conference in Biratori this indigenous Maori lecturer was attending), and c) it’s a traditional face tattoo, which the Ainu themselves used to have before the GOJ outlawed them:

ainuliptattooing

(Courtesy http://www.ksc.kwansei.ac.jp/~jed/CompCult/)

Well, luckily for these bathhouse owners the GOJ erased that culture in its indigenous Ainu, not to mention erased most of the Ainu culture and people themselves.   So nobody in Japan can claim cultural suppression of expression of tattoo culture anymore since suppression worked so well.

But wait, there’s more irony.  Check this out:

Gov’t aims to complete national Ainu museum for 2020 Olympics
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130911p2a00m0na034000c.html

アイヌ政策推進会議:「象徴空間、20年に」 五輪に合わせ政府方針
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20130911dde041010025000c.html

Full text of articles below.  Submitter JK notes:

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

On the one hand, it’s about time the Ainu get the recognition they deserve.  Yet on the other hand, focusing on the Ainu creates a cultural blind spot:

“The project aims to end discrimination against Ainu people in Japan and create a society where people of different ethnicities can live together in harmony.”

Wait, hold on – why stop with just the Ainu? Why not end discrimination against *all* people in Japan and create a society where people of different ethnicities can live together in harmony?

My fear is that the GOJ will use the Olympics to politicize the Ainu at the expense of other NJ (e.g. Zainichi  Koreans, immigrants).

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

That’s precisely the point, really.  If we’re the GOJ, we’ll turn a blind eye towards (if not actively promote) the cultural suppression and denial of domestic ethnic diversity.

Except when we’re on our best behavior because the eyes of the world are on us.  Then we’ll pay lip service to the ending of discrimination against one minority group.  Never mind the others.

And if anyone comes here during the Olympics and gets refused service somewhere?  Sorry, shikata ga nai.  We have no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.  Even though it’s closing in on twenty years since we promised to do so when signing the UN CERD in 1995.  Maybe if you give us the Olympics a few more times, we’ll promise to protect a few more minorities.

I assume the Maori researcher has a topic for her next research paper.  Arudou Debito

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

先住民族マオリ女性の入浴拒否 北海道・石狩管内の温泉、顔の入れ墨理由に(道新 09/12 06:25)

http://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/news/donai/491172.html
ニュージーランドの先住民族マオリの言語指導者で、日高管内平取町で6日まで開かれたアイヌ語復興を目指す講習会の講師を務めた女性が、石狩管内の民間の温泉施設で顔の入れ墨を理由に入館を断られていたことが11日、分かった。講習会関係者は「入れ墨はマオリの尊厳の象徴であり、大変残念」としている。

女性はエラナ・ブレワートンさん(60)。講習会関係者ら約10人で8日、札幌市内でのアイヌ民族の行事を見学後、入浴と食事のため温泉施設に行った。その際、ブレワートンさんの唇とあごの入れ墨を見た温泉側が「入れ墨入館禁止」を理由に入館を断った。同行したアイヌ民族の関係者らが温泉側に「多様な文化を受け入れることが必要では」と再考を求めたが聞き入れられなかった。

同温泉は、入り口に「入れ墨入館禁止」の看板を設置。入れ墨がある人の入浴はすべて断っているという。ブレワートンさんは「深い悲しみを感じた」と落胆。温泉の支配人は「入れ墨にもいろいろな背景があることは理解するが、一般客はなかなか分からない。例外を認めると、これまでの信頼を裏切ることになる」と説明している。<北海道新聞9月12日朝刊掲載>

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

Gov’t aims to complete national Ainu museum for 2020 Olympics
September 11, 2013 (Mainichi Japan)
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130911p2a00m0na034000c.html

SAPPORO — The national government’s panel to work on revitalizing Ainu culture has decided to complete the building of an Ainu-themed museum and memorial park around Lake Poroto in Shiraoi, Hokkaido, by the summer of 2020, with a goal to promote Japan’s multiethnic culture during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, chairman of the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion, said, “The government aims to make the 2020 Olympics an opportunity for people overseas to learn about Ainu culture.” His comments came during a panel meeting on Sept. 11 to explain the plan to complete construction of the “Symbolic Place for Ethnic Harmony” as a national center for Ainu culture revitalization before the Games begin in Tokyo in July 2020.

The project aims to end discrimination against Ainu people in Japan and create a society where people of different ethnicities can live together in harmony. It will conduct studies on Ainu history and culture while working on human resource development for the cultural preservation of the Ainu. The government also plans to bury bones of Ainu people at the site, which have been collected from their graves for research purposes by institutions including the University of Tokyo and Hokkaido University.

An expert panel on Ainu policy blueprinted the idea of building the memorial museum and park in 2009 as the 2008 Diet resolution concluded that the Ainu were an indigenous people of Japan.
ENDS

Original Japanese:

アイヌ政策推進会議:「象徴空間、20年に」 五輪に合わせ政府方針
毎日新聞 2013年09月11日 東京夕刊
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20130911dde041010025000c.html

政府の「アイヌ政策推進会議」(座長・菅義偉官房長官)が11日、札幌市であり、北海道白老(しらおい)町のポロト湖周辺に整備するアイヌ文化の復興拠点「民族共生の象徴となる空間」(象徴空間)を2020年度にオープンする工程表を決定した。

菅官房長官はあいさつで、東京五輪が開催される20年7月までに象徴空間を完成させる考えを示し、「(東京五輪を)海外の皆さんにアイヌのことを知っていただく機会にしたい」と述べた。

象徴空間はアイヌ差別の歴史に終止符を打ち、多民族共生社会の実現を目指す拠点。アイヌの歴史や文化の展示・調査研究、アイヌ文化の伝承と人材の育成などを行うほか、北海道大や東京大などが研究目的でアイヌ墓地から収集した遺骨を慰霊する。

「アイヌを先住民族とする」とした国会決議(08年6月)を受け、政府の「アイヌ政策のあり方に関する有識者懇談会」が09年に象徴空間構想を打ち出した。【千々部一好】
ENDS

 

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 67 Sept 10 2013 “If you’re jozu and you know it, hold your ground”

mytest

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==================================
IF YOU’RE JOZU AND YOU KNOW IT, HOLD YOUR GROUND
JBC 67 for the Japan Times Community Page, September 10, 2013
By ARUDOU Debito
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/09/09/issues/if-youre-jzu-and-you-know-it-hold-your-ground

It’s been a long, hot summer, so time for a lighter topic for JBC:

A non-Japanese (NJ) friend in Tokyo recently had an interesting experience while out drinking with coworkers. (For the record – and I only say this because how you look profoundly affects how you are treated in Japan – he is a youngish Caucasian-looking male.)

His Japanese literacy is high (which is why he was hired in the first place), but his speaking ability, thanks to watching anime in America from childhood, is even higher — so high, in fact, that his colleagues asked him whether he is part-Japanese!

That kinda harshed his buzz. He wondered how he should respond. Should he abide by Japanese manners and deferentially deny his jouzu-ness? Or accept the praise with a “thank you” and a smile?

I commented that he should not only say thank you and accept the accolades, but also claim the part-Japaneseness. Yes, lie about it.

Why? Because this simple-looking interaction involves several issues, such as social hierarchy, bad science and privacy. And if not handled well, this episode could end up eroding his standing within this group

First, hierarchy: Long-time readers of this column are by now aware that I see most social interactions in terms of power relationships.

Especially in Japan, where just about everything from politeness levels to porn is a matter of power. There is almost always some element of social stratification, e.g., by age, gender, educational level, kohai/senpai status etc. involved.

One’s social standing naturally affects expectations of how people should behave, and what manners one should adopt. But manners get really screwy if NJ are involved.

For example, consider the expectations behind international communication strategies. It’s pretty much axiomatic that NJ who don’t “look Japanese” can’t possibly speak Japanese. NJ must speak and be spoken to English!

Which means that if somebody has the courage to address an NJ (overcoming the group psychosis of English instruction in Japan; see “Don’t blame JET for Japan’s bad English,” JBC Sept. 8, 2010), he will often take it as a personal affront if the NJ defies expectations by clicking into Japanese.

Even if no umbrage is taken, the Japanese-speaking NJ is still treated as deviant. You see that in frequent microaggressive behavior like “hen na gaijin” snipes, or the occasional public figure candidly wishing that “gaijin” weren’t fluent (see “Newscaster regrets anti-foreigner quip”, Asahi Shinbun, Dec. 21, 2006).

That’s one issue. The second is the bad science. Do people seriously believe that having Japanese ancestry makes you better at Japanese?

Actually, many do. But that’s quite unscientific. Admittedly, growing up where people are speaking Japanese around you is helpful for learning what I call “Kitchen Japanese,” i.e., unaccented speech but limited literacy. However, not all people with Japanese blood grow up in a Japanese-language environment, so the connection remains tenuous.

In any case, bloodline doesn’t account for my NJ friend’s Japanese literacy, which rarely happens without structured and disciplined study. He accomplished it, hence the compliments. But the praise is still entangled within a “blood = ability” narrative.

Fact is, Japanese language is a skill, which means it can be learned by anyone able to learn a foreign language, regardless of bloodline or background.

Which leads us to the third issue: privacy. What business was it of my friend’s co-workers to ask about his background?

That’s why he should feel free to lie about it. After all, everyone else in Japan lies about things that are nobody’s business.

Consider the single young lady with the ring on her finger. Ask her where she got it and she’ll probably say she bought it for herself. Even if her kareshi gave it to her last night at the love hotel. Why? Because personal matters are kept private.

Lying is nothing controversial. I’ve talked before about how not telling the truth is a standard practice of adult life in Japan (see “The costly fallout of tatemae and Japan’s culture of deceit,” JBC Nov. 1, 2011).

But in this case, lying might actually do some good. By confounding expectations.

Confounding expectations erodes stereotypes. And an excellent way to do this (as comedians and satirists throughout the ages have done) is by poking fun through absurdity.

Naturally, there will be some resistance. Critics of this column essentially believe that Japanese society can never be satirized, i.e., using humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to criticize societal stupidity and folly. That’s what this column has done for years, engendering howls of “cultural insensitivity” etc.

They’re missing the point of irony and satire within social commentary. Since Japanese humor doesn’t have much sarcasm, avenues are limited for pointing out foibles. Fortunately, you can still be absurd and get your point across.

Let’s play this out. Consider what would happen if my visibly-Caucasian friend were to (falsely) claim Japanese lineage in this setting.

The dogmatists will be pleased to have their expectations confirmed – quite possibly bloodline is the only explanation they’ll accept.
The critical thinkers may pause and say to themselves, “Hang on, really?” And maybe, just maybe, a few will realize that the question is patently absurd, and that blood is irrelevant to learning skills.

But what if my friend instead went the route of humility and showed deferential manners? He’d lose. Because, again, Japanese manners are not applied equally to NJ.

For example, even if a Japanese says, either as a response or a disclaimer, “My language ability is no good,” it is usually taken as pro forma humility. People pretty much know “he’s just saying that” and don’t take it all that literally.

However, if a NJ does it, it reaffirms the narrative and expectation that NJ don’t speak Japanese.

But there are knock-on effects for NJ, especially if they have acted deferentially to their juniors: They’ve cut themselves off at the knees and taken themselves down a rung on the social hierarchy.

Never do that. As I’ve written before (“Toot your own horn – don’t let the modesty scam keep you down,” ZG Sept. 2, 2012), once you drop down a peg, the group is probably not going to give it back. Hierarchy is not only something you earn. It’s something you claim.

After all, most native speakers of Japanese cannot appreciate what non-natives have gone through to reach fluency. As I’ve said before, communicating in Japanese is not all that difficult. What’s difficult is communicating with Japanese people.

You have to get over the Catch-22: People not speaking to you in Japanese because it’s not good enough, yet it’s not getting good enough because people won’t speak to you in Japanese. All the power relations and ingrained prejudices accompanying just about every social interaction work both as a barrier and a subordinator for NJ.

So when complimented, say thank you. You’ve earned it, so own it. And if they ask you to play to their expectations, only do so in a way that is to your advantage. Because it’s only going to get more difficult as you get older, and all the young pups who have trouble accepting NJ as senpai will happily enforce stereotypes, and police you back into the Dumb Gaijin category. Then you will languish as a permanent subordinate, unrecognized for your herculean efforts.

Defy disempowering expectations, or ultimately it will be your expectations – of equal and respected treatment in Japan after all your investments and sacrifices – that are defeated.
ENDS

Summer Tangent: Korea Times on racial discrimination in South Korea: Striking parallels with Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I’m about to vacation the blog for a few weeks for the summer, but before I do, here’s some food for thought about the debate on discrimination in this part of the world.  Contrast the Korea Times article below about racial discrimination in South Korea with any article about racial discrimination in Japan.  I see striking parallels, especially given my experience as a naturalized Caucasian Japanese myself.  The debate in South Korea seems to be falling into similar mental traps and policy-level blind spots.

(And in case you’re wondering, no, sorry, I’m not going to engage “Japan Lite” columnist Amy Chavez’s recent ill-considered column on racial discrimination; she essentially makes the argument that we “foreigners” should stop acting like “spoiled children”, and instead essentially be grateful for being discriminated against as minorities in Japan — as it will give us “compassion” for the plight of minorities in our “home countries” (as opposed to insights on how to prevent discrimination happening to our friends and children in Japan).  I’m avoiding it for the same reason I didn’t engage columnist Gregory Clark back in 2009 when he claimed that “antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people”  (also because Chavez has a history of writing silly racialized columns like this one in 2009).  It just seems that everyone has an opinion about “racism” and “discrimination”, but few have either the training or the insight for how to deal with it in ways that don’t simply reflect their biases arising from their position in society (something CRT calls “structural determinism“).  In Chavez’s case, her argument (which she unsophisticatedly tries to apply universally to “we foreigners”), has simply become a self-loathing expression of her White Guilt; I’ll let others such as Black Tokyo or Loco in Yokohama take that issue on with more verve and insight (as Black Tokyo did Clark)).

Anyway, back to the article, for some real insights.  Arudou Debito

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Are we bigots?
Foreigners say Koreans biased against blacks
By Jonathan Breen. The Korea Times 2013-07-16
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/07/116_139377.html
Courtesy of TKS

Alex, an Ethiopian by birth, is a naturalized Korean, so he was shocked when a bar in Seoul refused him entry because of the color of his skin.

“I went to a bar in Itaewon and they said, ‘Sorry, we don’t want any blacks,’” said the 31-year-old, who asked to be identified only by his first name. “I showed them my I.D. card to show them I am a Korean, but they said no.

“Koreans don’t think there is a lot of discrimination in Korea, but there is,” he said.

Four years ago Indian professor Bonojit Hussain won a landmark case in a Seoul court for racial abuse. The incident led to the introduction of legislation to ban discrimination based on race or nationality, but the bills have stalled in the National Assembly.

But is xenophobia a widespread problem or is it exaggerated based on a few well-publicized incidents?

Sabine Etienne, a black American exchange student in Korea, is writing a thesis on Korea’s immigration policy. “Xenophobia is definitely an issue in Korea, it is an issue of acceptance,” she said. “The process of becoming a citizen is very long and hard and I think foreigners never feel like they are on the same level as Koreans.”

Despite this, there are several high-profile examples of foreigners who have found acceptance as naturalized Koreans, including the Philippines-born lawmaker Jasmine Lee and German-born Lee Charm, the current head of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).

Lee, whose birth name was Bernhard Quandt, became a Korean citizen in 1986. On becoming KTO chief in 2009 he said, “I am so deeply moved that I’ve been finally accepted as a Korean. All my regrets about naturalizing have vanished.”

However, Alex, who is married to a Korean, complains about a lack of acceptance from Koreans, including from his wife’s family.

“My wife’s family didn’t accept me at first, now they are saying they are more open, but it is still tough. We see them one maybe two times a year. It is not like family,” he said.

Alex added that he has decided to postpone having children because of the hostility he has experienced in Korea. “Until I see change I don’t want to have kids.”

In a report submitted to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 2003, the Korean government explained that the “homogeneity of the Korean people and the relative lack of multiethnic experiences have been conducive to prejudice against foreign cultures and people.”

But Hyung-il Pai, a professor of Korean history at the University of California, argues in her book, “Constructing ‘Korean’ Origins,” that the idea of a pure Korean race is a myth constructed by Japanese colonial scholars and Korean nationalists.

The archaeological record actually shows that Korea’s historical development reflected diverse influences from throughout Northeast Asia.

Nonetheless, “Race as the basic unit of analysis in Korean history was the pedestal on which the nation was built. Race or blood was considered the most critical factor in Korean identity formation,” she explained about modern Korean attitudes on history.

These views have become accepted wisdom among Koreans. “I think there has only been one race in Korea, and we have a long history ― we were very closed off for a long time,” said Jun Dae-un, a student.

“Korea didn’t attack other people, they were always attacked by other countries. That is why Koreans are not very open-minded to foreigners, we think ― ‘they can steal my things, my jobs, my chances,’” he said.

Korea’s isolation from most of the rest of the world during the Joseon Kingdom has contributed to the belief that Korea is a cultural and racial homogenous society.

“We opened to other countries quite late. It was late compared, for example, to Japan or China. So we are not used to seeing foreigners,” said Charyong, a painter, who wants to be identified only by her first name.

“And we kind of believe this concept that says we are Han people, the Han race, like we are all the same blood, we are not mixed race, compared with Japan for example ― Japan is very mixed race. People believe we are all one race, one blood,” she said.

“That is an underlying concept ― people are not thinking about it all the time ― but it is the basis for our culture, so when we see foreigners we think they are different. We notice the difference, we notice that they are not the same,” she continued.

Some believe that discrimination against foreigners is also based on a mixture of racial and class prejudices.

“The extent of xenophobia is heightened among foreign migrant workers who have darker skin colors because they are easily identified,” said Rev. Frank Hernando from the Presbyterian Church in Korea. “And (they) are perceived by Koreans as coming from very poor economic and social backgrounds.”

He said that Filipino migrant workers are often subject to verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment in the workplace because of these attitudes.

Other foreigners also spoke of their economic background as a cause for Korean discrimination.

“Koreans don’t like people from countries with worse economic situations than their own,” said Shylean Ghosh, an Indian worker at a garment factory in Uijeongbu. “If you are from America they like you, if you are from somewhere like India, like me, even if you have a lot of money they look down on you. If you are from America but have no money, they still don’t look down on you.”

Kim Padernal, a Filipino embassy driver in Seoul, said, “Koreans think they are better than us, because Korea is a progressive, successful economy, and the Philippines is poorer.”

Artist Charyong said Koreans don’t think of migrant workers as equals. “People think their (migrants’) country must be worse than Korea, because they are here working, and they work for what is so little money.” She added that Americans have a more positive image because of their help and support during the Korean War and their long-term presence in the country as a result.

Shin Gi-Wook, a professor of sociology at Stanford University, California, feels Korean attitudes toward foreigners are “hierarchical.”

“Korean racism is hierarchical in the sense that Koreans view white Caucasians more positively than Southeast Asians,” he said. “Koreans are not used to living with different ethnic or racial groups but with the influx of migrant labor and foreign brides, Koreans need to learn (to live) with ethnic non-Koreans.”

Kim Doo-nyeon, a law professor at Jungwon Univeristy, blames the local media for, spreading feelings of xenophobia.

“There is a tendency in the media to assume and exaggerate foreigners or illegal immigrants as future criminals,” he said. “The media is very responsible for xenophobia in Korea. They must stop producing news that is going to make people hate foreigners.”

Charyong added, “When people see something they don’t know it is often their first reaction to defend themselves from it because they don’t know what it is.

“I think the solution is more exposure to foreign culture.”

END

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

mytest

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Hi Blog. Thanks for making my article once again one of the top-read articles on the day of publication!  Arudou Debito

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Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ
By ARUDOU Debito
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 66 FOR THE JAPAN TIMES COMMUNITY PAGE
August 6, 2013
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/08/05/issues/ol-blue-eyes-isnt-back-tsurunens-tale-offers-lessons-in-microcosm-for-dpj/
Version with links to sources

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

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

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

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

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

Tsurunen became an MP partly because, as a Caucasian Newcomer, he offered protest voters something different (even visibly) from established expectations. But he wasn’t a sphinx. He said he would speak up for outsiders, promote intercultural tolerance, and support laws banning discrimination in housing and employment (New York Times, Mar. 8, 2002).

However, mere months later he distanced himself from “foreigner issues.” In a 2002 interview, he told me that his basic policy was to hitch his fortunes to the DPJ. Quote:

“There will be cases, such as international problems, where… I will have to vote along party lines, even if it is at odds with my personal convictions… After all, if I don’t follow party discipline, I will be expelled from the party. Then I won’t be able to do my job. I will maintain my ability to say my own opinion, but at important times I will be a party man. That’s how I stand.”

That’s not much of a stand. Yet as the DPJ’s fortunes rose to become a viable ruling party, Tsurunen became more invisible.

Where was Tsurunen (or his staff) when the United Nations visited the Diet on May 18, 2006, presenting preliminary findings about racial discrimination in Japan?

When the DPJ took power and began presenting significant proposals enfranchising outsiders, such as suffrage for Permanent Residents and anti-discrimination laws, where was Tsurunen when opposition debates became racialized and xenophobic?

When bigoted politicians such as Shintaro Ishihara and Takeo Hiranuma began questioning the loyalty of Japanese with “foreign ancestors” (“Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues”, JBC May 4, 2010), why wasn’t Tsurunen standing up for himself? After all, if not him, who? (The most vocal protests were from Mizuho Fukushima, the leader of a different party altogether.)

Not only did Tsurunen fail to influence the debate, he even relinquished control over his own public narrative and identity.

He famously gaijinized himself in the Japan Times (“Mind the gap, get over it: Japan Hands,” Dec. 28, 2010) by calling himself a “foreigner,” and telling people to accept and work with their fate as permanent outsiders.

Despite some public backpedaling and capitulation, Tsurunen’s attitude never changed, and even after twelve years in office he never tried to transcend mere first impressions of being Japan’s First Gaijin MP.

As proof, check out one of his pamphlets shortly before this election, where he even metaphorically offered to “change the color of his (blue) eyes” (“me” no iro kaete, i.e., change his mind). Now that’s what I call racialized pandering!

tsurunenmarutei2013pamphletcrop

See full pamphlet at http://www.debito.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/tsurunenmarutei2013pamphlet.jpg

So in the end, what was Tsurunen’s agenda? Unclear, because he let others dictate it.

As did the DPJ. And that’s why they fell from power.

To give them some credit, Japan’s politics has entrenched difficulties for newcomers. The DPJ inherited a system corrupted by decades of LDP rule and patronage, firmly nestling Japan in now more than two “lost decades” of economic stagnation. Yet regime change was so inconceivable that the 2009 election had to popularize a new word in Japanese (seiken kōtai) to reflect a new party coming to power.

The DPJ also had the bad luck of the March 11, 2011 disasters happening on their watch. Given how badly Japan’s nuclear industry botched their job (plus refused to cooperate with the DPJ), this would spell doom for any party in power.

Nevertheless, here’s where the DPJ is culpable:

During its short time in power, the DPJ made some impressive policy proposals in very clear precedent-setting manifestos. The problem is that during the crucible of public debate, they didn’t stand by them.

The DPJ’s first major sign of fragility was their policy cave-in vis-à-vis the US Government over American bases in Okinawa (JBC, “Futenma is undermining Japanese democracy”, Jun. 1, 2010).

This eventually cost us our first DPJ prime minister, and gave glass jaws to future policy proposals sent into public policy brawls. Increased welfare services? Bogged down. Historical reconciliation with neighbors? Lame. Renewable energy? Nixed. Any other issues than border disputes? Weak.

Eventually, the DPJ could neither control their party narrative nor or set the public agenda. By the time PM Noda took charge, the electorate and the media were somehow convinced that a gridlocked Diet (due to the LDP’s machinations) was the DPJ’s fault!

Allowing the LDP to set the agenda is particularly fatal in a society that fixates on brands (and the LDP is THE default political brand of Postwar Japan), and generally roots for winners rather than underdogs. (After all, if the media is constantly telling you that the DPJ is going to lose, why would you waste your vote on them?)

Contrast this with how clear the LDP has been about their intentions over the past year, even if it includes erasing Postwar democratic liberalism.

This column argued last November (“If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on”) that Japan’s Right should show their true colors, so the electorate could decide if they wanted a Diet of historical revisionists, bigots, and xenophobes. The debate was indeed in technicolor. And last December, with the DPJ’s resounding electoral defeat, voters decided that xenophobia was okay with them.

Then this column argued last February (“Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan will suffer”) that if both Houses of Parliament went LDP in July, this would bring about radical constitutional revisions affecting civil liberties. Last month, voters apparently decided that was okay too. Thus a perfect storm of politics had completely routed Japan’s Left.

But many Leftists still deserved to lose their position in the Diet because they were too timid or disorganized to carve a space for themselves in Japan’s political narrative. We knew more about who they were not (the LDP), rather than who they were.

Similarly, Tsurunen will be remembered as a person with insufficient self-awareness of his role in Japanese politics. He openly called himself an “outsider,” then refused to fight for issues that concerned outsiders. Like Tsurunen, the DPJ ultimately accepted their fate as permanent outsiders.

So, barring an unlikely “no-confidence” vote, we have around three more years of LDP coalition rule. During this time in the political wilderness, Japan’s Left had better learn the power of controlling their own narrative, and grasp the fact that the party in power should set the terms of debate on public policy. If they ever want to be insiders again, seize the agenda accordingly.

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

Debito Arudou’s updated “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan” is now available as a downloadable e-book on Amazon. See www.debito.org/handbook.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community pages of the month. Send comments and ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.
ENDS

Yomiuri on “Points System” visa: “Too strict”, few takers, under review by Justice Ministry (which institutionally will never be able to fix it)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  An attempted panacea to Japan’s lack of formal immigration policy floated many moons ago (and discussed here and here) was a “Points System” visa, here to bring “higher-skilled” workers (koudo jinzai).  I critiqued it for its probable failure in the Japan Times here.

The failure has officially happened.  Even the Justice Ministry admits below that the visa regime has attracted few people, and that, as Debito.org has reported before, is because its requirements are too strict.

But to me it’s no wonder it failed.  It’s not merely (as alluded below) an issue of criteria, but rather institutionalized treatment of immigrants.  We saw attitudes towards immigration last summer when ministries debated how immigrants should be treated, and cross-ministerial officials only weakly offered the same old hackneyed conclusions and lessons unlearned:  Privilege granted to Nikkei with the right bloodlines, more attention devoted to how to police NJ than how to make them into Japanese citizens (with their civil and human rights protected), insufficient concern given for assimilation and assistance once NJ come to Japan, and almost no consultation with the NJ who are already in Japan making a life as to what assistance they might need.

This is what happens when you put a people-handling policy solely in the hands of a policing agency (i.e., the Justice Ministry):  Those people being perpetually treated as potential criminals.  There is automatically less focus on what good these people will do and latent suspicion about what harm they might.  It doesn’t help when you also have an administrative regime trying to find any excuse possible to shorten visas and trip immigrants up to “reset the visa clock” for Permanent Residency, through minor administrative infractions (not to mention the fact that changing from your current visa to this “Points System” visa resets your “visa clock” once again).  It’s official ijiwaru, and without a separate ministry (i.e., an Imincho) specifically dedicated configuring immigration or integration into Japanese society, things will not be fixed.  Arudou Debito

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

Few foreigners tempted by points system
August 7, 2013. The Yomiuri Shimbun, courtesy of JK
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000435956

A points-based preferential immigration system expected to attract 2,000 highly skilled foreign professionals to Japan annually accepted only 17 foreigners in its first 11 months, a dismal result that has prompted the government to review the criteria experts have blamed for the low number, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The system was adopted by the government last May to encourage skilled foreigners to take up residence in Japan and help boost Japanese economic growth. It gives these specialists privileges such as a shorter minimum-required period of stay for obtaining permanent residence.

Foreigners doing research at universities and other institutions, those with professional skills and corporate managers are eligible to use the system. They are given points in accordance with such criteria as academic credentials, professional and scholastic achievements and promised annual income.

For instance, a researcher with a doctorate who will work at an academic institution is awarded 30 points, while one with a master’s degree gets 20 points. Applicants who get at least 70 points in total are recognized as “highly skilled professionals” and can receive preferential immigration treatment including the right to acquire permanent residence within five years instead of the normal 10; permission for a spouse to work here; and permission to bring a parent to Japan to help look after the professional’s children.

However, only 17 foreigners were admitted to Japan under the point system between May 2012 and early April this year. This number rose to 434 when foreigners who were already in Japan and successfully applied for the system are added. The total includes 246 from China, 32 from the United States, 19 from India and 16 from South Korea.

In April and May, an expert panel at the Justice Ministry discussed reports that the current criteria were too strict.

One criticism was that the yearly income guideline was based on the salary of company workers, making it difficult for researchers at universities with lower yearly incomes to gain high points. Another was that only applicants with a yearly income of at least 10 million yen are allowed to have a parent accompany them to Japan.

After hearing these reports, the goverment began considering the easing of the criteria. Some possibilities include raising the points given for research papers submitted or patents obtained from the current ceiling of 15 points, shortening the minimum-required period of stay from five years to three for applying for permanent residence, and allowing foreigners on lower yearly incomes to bring an accompanying parent.

These issues will be worked out among the Justice, Foreign and Health, Labor and Welfare ministries, with the government planning to amend the system by year-end.

The government’s policy of increasing the number of foreigners to be admitted into Japan via the points system was specified in its growth strategy compiled in June.

“To help our country win in the global competition for excellent manpower, we’ll review the system and call on universities and companies to make better use of it,” said a senior official at the Justice Ministry, which is in charge of immigration control.

ENDS

WSJ: Abenomics’ Missing “Third Arrow: The absence of immigration reform from Abenomics bespeaks a deeper problem”

mytest

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As I will be discussing in my next Japan Times column due out next week, one of the things that the LDP has been good at during this election cycle has been controlling the agenda.  By diverting attention away from contentious constitutional reform by talking about economic reform (or at least the promise of it), Abe and Co. have used imagery of loosing “three arrows” (monetary easing and fiscal stimulus, then eventually structural reforms).  The Economist (London) on June 15 wondered if “Abenomics” had “failed before it even properly began“.

As Debito.org and others have been saying for years now, you can’t have sustained growth without a healthy and energetic workforce, especially as society ages, pensioners crowd out taxpayers, and public works continue to fill in the gaps and crowd out entrepreneurship.  And if you want youth, energy, and entrepreneurialism, you cannot beat immigration and the Can-Do Make-Do Spirit of the Immigrant.

But the strong xenophobic tendencies of the LDP and the dominant fringes within the ruling side of Japan’s politics have made this currently politically untenable.  And here’s the Wall Street Journal giving us their take on why a serious immigration policy should have been one of the GOJ’s “arrows”.  Arudou Debito

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

Mr. Abe’s Missing Arrow
The absence of immigration reform from Abenomics bespeaks a deeper problem.
By JOSEPH STERNBERG
Tokyo
WSJ BUSINESS ASIA June 26, 2013
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324637504578568613127577972.html

If there’s one reform that’s symbolic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s eponymous program to rejuvenate the Japanese economy, it’s immigration.

By importing new consumers and workers, immigration is crucial to stimulating domestic capital investment by companies. By expanding the taxpaying population base, it improves the government’s fiscal position. Immigration will facilitate foreign direct investment, boosting productivity.

All of that makes immigration reform precisely the kind of bold and deep change Mr. Abe promises. But the thing that makes immigration reform most emblematic of Abenomics is that despite its importance to Japan’s future, it is almost entirely absent from the agenda.

No one should underestimate the economic damage done by the country’s demographic emergency. Deaths have outnumbered births since 2005, and now that the inflow of expatriates is slowing, the net population has contracted for two years in a row. The age distribution skews ever older. As of 2010, Japan already had the lowest proportions of its population in the 0-14 years and working-age 15-64 years brackets of any developed economy, at 13.2% and 63.8% respectively. By 2050, those age cohorts will have shrunk further, to 9.7% and 51.5%, according to Statistics Bureau estimates.

Fewer people means fewer consumers. This is one of several interconnected explanations for why Japanese companies are so reluctant to invest at home. It also means fewer workers. One implication is that unless Japan could radically increase productivity per worker—by as much as 3% or 4% per year, an unusual level for a fully developed economy—it will be impossible to deliver the sustained 2% GDP growth Mr. Abe has promised.

IMAGE: Softbank Corp President—and third-generation immigrant— Masayoshi Son.

Yet Abenomics only hints at these realities, never quite facing them head-on. Mr. Abe’s emphasis on boosting the embarrassingly low female labor force participation rate is an acknowledgment that Japan needs more workers. But that is only a temporary measure in light of inexorable demographic change, which policy makers seem to forget affects women as much as men.

Japan needs as many as 10 million immigrants by 2050 to offset natural population decline, according to Hidenori Sakanaka of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute. Many of Mr. Abe’s other goals ultimately depend on immigration. For instance, unanswered in Mr. Abe’s plan to open thousands of new child-care centers so that mothers can return to their careers is the question of who will staff them. Immigrants are the most plausible solution.

Abenomics is not entirely silent on immigration. Mr. Abe proposes revising the points system used to evaluate the visa applications of high-skilled immigrants to make it easier for them to enter, and also to reduce to three years from five the amount of time a foreigner must live in Japan before qualifying for permanent residency.

Both of these would be useful changes, but don’t represent the bigger conceptual leap Japan needs to make. Tokyo can’t afford human resources “winner picking” any more than it can afford to continue the industrial winner picking of yore. Since immigration imports entrepreneurial talent, immigrants also will be vital to achieving the productivity growth Japan needs.

Successful entrepreneurs, like successful business ideas, pop up where and when a bureaucrat least expects them. Masayoshi Son, founder of SoftBank and one of Japan’s most successful living entrepreneurs, is the grandson of otherwise unremarkable pig-farming illegal immigrants from Korea. Japan needs to cast as wide a net as possible for more families like that.

***
The problem, of course, is that immigration will be hugely disruptive to Japan’s way of life, which is undeniably comfortable. Per capita GDP, especially when adjusted for falling prices, is healthy, thank you very much, despite anemic growth in the economy overall. Unemployment is low, even if an inefficient labor market and low productivity suppress wages. Crime is practically unheard of.

The social stability Japanese prize is not noticeable in high-immigration developed economies such as the U.S. or Western Europe. Hearing a foreigner from a place where Latin American drug cartels are active or unassimilated Muslim immigrants burn cars in the suburbs argue for more immigration, the Japanese not unreasonably say, “You must be kidding.” In theory, Japan may have no alternative to immigration if it wants to return to sustained growth. In reality, you’re asking people to upend their society in pursuit of an abstract economic goal.

Investors have lately panned Abenomics, rightly, for its lack of daring. Optimists hope this is a political calculation that a month before a major election is no time to introduce bold reforms, and that more and better is on the way later. But reflection on the immigration problem raises a different prospect. Any meaningful reform will be deeply disruptive—whether in terms of new immigrants let in, small farms consolidated and old farmers retired, new businesses started and old firms bankrupted. In all the hubbub about Abenomics, everyone forgot to ask whether Japan really wants the upheaval needed to restart growth. Unless and until Japanese are willing to tolerate such changes, Abenomics will be more wish than reality.

Mr. Sternberg edits the Business Asia column.
ENDS

Anti-Korean Upper House candidate Suzuki Nobuyuki wants Japan closed to immigrants and rearmed with nukes (CORRECTED)

mytest

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Hello Blog. It’s election time again, and of course we get all sorts of weirdos coming out of the woodwork. In past campaigns we’ve had antiestablishment types (love this campaign video), and also xenophobic types (this one was a shocker back in 2011 — here’s his campaign video). But here’s one candidate this time around who targets Koreans in particular:

suzukinobuyukicampaignposterjuly2013

Suzuki Nobuyuki, a candiate for Tokyo in the Upper House for the far-right Restoration Party Shinpuu (New Winds, not to be (easily) confused with Ishihara’s Restoration party), calls for the end of relations with Korea, an end to immigration (imin), and even the barring of Koreans from entering Japan (how he’ll deal with the Zainichi already here is unclear from his slogans). Oh, and he also wants Japan to rearm itself with nuclear weapons (kakubusou) — now that’s even fodder for Japan’s increasingly isolationist future.

(UPDATE JULY 18:  It has been pointed out in the Comments Section below that the poster above of Suzuki was misunderstood, in that Suzuki is trying to use his bad-boy image of meddling with monuments overseas — so much so he’s been barred from entering South Korea — as an election campaign tactic.   Sorry for the error, and thanks for the corrections.  He makes his barring from South Korea the banner item on his newspaper blurb too.)

Here’s his newspaper blurb, courtesy of MS (click on image to expand in your browser):
SuzukiNobuyuki2013election

It has the typical right-wing tropes about a strong country with sufficient autonomy to defend itself from Chinese invasion, defending Japan’s honor by weeding out “masochistic” (jigyaku) history from education and reestablishing the family unit along traditional lines (no doubt meaning bringing back the Ie Seido), returning Japan to its status as the “world’s safest country” by bringing back the “world’s safest energy source,” nuclear power, and kicking out immigrants so they don’t take jobs away from Japanese (even though NJ were brought in as official policy during Japan’s labor shortage to do the dirty jobs Japanese don’t want in the 3K sector; oh, never mind — facts don’t matter to these people).

Nasty ideology seeing the light of day these days in Japan. Are there still people not becoming alarmed yet? The stuff coming out of the mainstream political parties involving constitutional revisions is even scarier.

Other election watchers seeing stuff that’s bothering them are welcome to contribute (don’t forget links. Here’s Shinpuu’s). Arudou Debito

Assessing outgoing MP Tsurunen Marutei’s tenure in the Diet: Disappointing

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Hi Blog.  In keeping with the upcoming Upper House Election in Japan in less than one week (July 21), one member whose seat is up for renewal is Tsurunen Marutei, the septagenarian Finland-born naturalized Japanese. He has spent a great proportion of his life in Japan running for elections in local positions (successfully), then nationally (not so successfully, but finally squeaking in on the last rung of Proportional Representation seats by “kuri-age“, when the person who got in instead, Ōhashi Kyosen, gave up his seat in disgust with Japan’s political system).  Tsurunen then won his second six-year term in 2007.  This was significant, since it could be argued that Tsurunen now had a more secure mandate thanks to his works.

However, next week Tsurunen looks likely to lose his Diet seat.  And in Debito.org’s opinion, so be it.  On the eve of this rather ignominious end to what should have been a noteworthy political career, let’s assess here what Tsurunen accomplished:  As far as Debito.org is concerned, very little.   As I have written elsewhere:

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

Normalization of the Gaijin’s permanent “foreigner” status: The self-proclaimed “foreigner” MP Tsurunen Marutei 

 Another naturalized citizen was also undermining Japan’s naturalization regime. Tsurunen Marutei, Japan’s first European-born Caucasian MP, assumed office in Japan’s Upper House in 2002 promising to “speak up for the outsiders”, “promote intercultural tolerance and laws banning discrimination in housing and employment” while cultivating support from the Zainichi Korean minority.[1] However, after distancing himself from “foreigner issues” in a 2002 interview with the author and in a 2006 interview with Metropolis magazine,[2] he was conspicuously absent from a Diet meeting with United Nations Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene in 2006 regarding the latter’s preliminary report on racial discrimination in Japan.[3] Then, in an interview with the Japan Times conducted in English, Tsurunen was quoted as follows:

We are foreigners and we can’t change the fact. But still Japanese accept us into this society as foreigners… I don’t need to try to be Japanese or assimilate too much. I want to be accepted as a foreigner and still contribute to this society. It’s no problem for me to be a foreigner — it’s a fact… I always say I am Finn-born Japanese.[4]

There were many critiques of this statement with some questioning the legal validity of the statement “Japanese foreigner” from a national representative in the Diet sworn to uphold Japan’s laws. As racialized concepts of “Japaneseness” were being established beyond legal parameters by xenophobic public officials (such as Ishihara Shintarō), Tsurunen, the most prominent Visible-Minority naturalized citizen of Japan, instead of protesting was normalizing and justifying the racialization of Japanese citizenship – by calling himself a “foreigner”, and thereby enforcing his Gaijin status upon himself.

Tsurunen responded to the criticism: “I wish to thank everyone for their comments. As people have pointed out, my use of the English word ‘foreigner’ was inappropriate. I was trying to express that I am not a ‘Japan-born Japanese’ and used ‘foreigner,’ but strictly speaking I should have said ‘foreign-born person,’ or, as I said in the article, ‘Finn-born Japanese.’ I regret using expressions that gave rise to misunderstandings, and would like to offer my apologies.”[5]

Notwithstanding this gaffe, Tsurunen, facing re-election in 2013, published this pamphlet (click on image to expand in browser):

tsurunenmarutei2013pamphlet

(MP Tsurunen’s 2013 support pamphlet with bio and basic policy stances.)

Note the slogan on the right third of the pamphlet: “‘Me’ no iro kaete, ganbarimasu.” (I will change the color of my “eyes” [change my outlook] and do my best). Further rendering the kanji for “eye” in blue to match his eyes, Tsurunen is highlighting his physical attributes as a Visible Minority as part of his public appeal, and thus further “othering” himself in what may be a desperate act to maintain his Diet seat.


[1] “Yugawaramachi Journal: Japan’s New Insider Speaks Up for the Outsiders.” New York Times, March 8, 2002.

[2] Interview, March 4, 2002, archived at www.debito.org/tsuruneninterview.html; “Foreign-born lawmaker puts Japan’s acceptance of outsiders to the test.” Metropolis Magazine, August 9, 2006.

[3] On May 18, 2006, 2-3PM, at the Shūgi’in Dai-ichi Kaikan, Diene gave a preliminary presentation of his findings to MPs and the general public. I was present, as were several MPs, but Tsurunen was not. In cases where the MP is absent due to schedule conflicts, it is protocol to send a secretary to the event to leave the MP’s business card (meishi) as a show of support. Tsurunen’s office sent no representative and left no card.

[4] See “Mind the gap, get over it: Japan hands.” Japan Times, December 28, 2010.

[5] See Arudou Debito, “Naturalized Japanese: Foreigners no more.” Japan Times, February 1, 2011.

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

CONCLUSION:  As Tsurunen noted in his interview with Debito.org back in 2002, his only policy was to hitch himself to the DPJ.  Quote:  “[T]here will be cases, such as international problems, where we in the Upper House will have to put things to a vote. I will have to decide there and there pro or con. At that time, I think I will have to vote along party lines, even if it is at odds with my personal convictions. If asked by the media before or after why I did that, I will have to say that that’s how party politics work. After all, if I don’t follow party discipline, I will be expelled from the party. Then I won’t be able to do my job. I will maintain my ability to say my own opinion, but at important times I will be a party man. That’s how I stand.” That’s not much of a stand.

And now that the DPJ has gone down in flames, so will he; Tsurunen as the election looms clearly has little he can use to recommend himself for his job except the color of his eyes.  This unremarkable politician, who once said he’d fight for the “outsiders”, in the end did little of that. In fact, it seems Tsurunen fought only for himself, wanting a Diet seat only as a matter of personal ambition and status — to be Japan’s first at something.  Even if it was to occupy what he seems to have made into a sinecure.  Same as any politician, people might argue.  But Tsurunen, with all the visibility and potential of Japan’s first foreign-born and Visible-Minority Japanese MP, squandered a prime opportunity to show what Visible Minorities in Japan can do.

If anything, Tsurunen deserves to be remembered as a person who had no spine, conviction, clear moral compass (despite being a member of Japan’s religious community), or worst of all self-awareness of his minority background in Japan.  He was, for example, no Kayano Shigeru, Japan’s first and only Ainu MP.  And ultimately Tsurunen will be a footnote in history if he remembered at all — a man who called himself a “foreigner” yet refused to fight for the rights or issues that concerned or influenced them.  Mottai nai.  Time to retire into obscurity. Arudou Debito

2012 revisions to immigration and registry laws shaking down NJ for Pension & Health Insurance back payments

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Hi Blog. This entry is more of a query than a conclusive essay. I raise the question because we’re seeing the intended aftereffects of the 2012 revisions to the Immigration law (which allowed for NJ to be properly registered as residents on the Juuminhyou, but also centralized control of IC-Chipped Gaijin Cards in the national government) emerge. And allegedly more targeting of NJ in terms of social welfare schemes.

A friend of mine writes in (edited):

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

Don’t know if you’ve heard about the latest moves by the GOJ to milk foreign residents of their hard-earned cash. They are looking into NJ with the help of that new IC chip torokusho card and making people pay for the kokumin hoken health insurance AND nenkin pension they have never paid into.

I know several people who have been hit with this and it has drained their bank accounts.  They can’t even afford the plane ticket to go back home and see ailing parents. They said a lien would be put on their account/pay checks if they didn’t pay.

A teacher I know (in his 40s) has been here some 10 years and has NEVER paid into the health insurance scheme nor nenkin. He called up city hall inquring about this and they said yes indeed he is delinquent will have to pay up all those missed years! They asked his name and he said thank you and hung up the phone! 

Another friend of mine got zapped for back payments. Every month he was being charged fines/penalties for late payments. So even if he negotiated returning to a monthly fee he would still have to pay a huge amount in extra fees. So he paid it off lump-sum and has depleted all of his savings.

The health insurance is important as one needs that to ensure treatment here, but having NJ pay into the nenkin scheme if they feel they will not be here forever to pay into it is ridiculous.  Any advice on how to get around this? I’d love to hear what you think on the matter.

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

COMMENT: We talk about Japan’s social welfare systems in detail in HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (and my eBook GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN). Personally, I take the side of everyone paying in. I believe that everyone in a society should support the national umbrella insurance systems, because opting out by saying, for example, “I’m not sick now so I don’t need it; I’ll only sign up when I get sick,” is fair-weather freeloading, as if you’re expecting a return on an investment when you need it but you didn’t make the investment in the first place.  (National systems can’t remain solvent like that. These issues were developed and ironed out during the Obamacare debates.)   Also, saying that “I can’t see myself retiring in Japan so I shouldn’t have to pay into Japanese pension” is also bad logic, especially given Totalization Agreements Japan has arranged with a number of societies (also covered in HANDBOOK/GUIDEBOOK) for pensions to be started and completed in different countries.

That said, there are a couple of issues that affect NJ differently here.  One is that one of the reasons why some J have not paid in is because their employer (who is responsible to pay in half of their employees welfare benefits if they work 30 hours a week and up, i.e., full time) didn’t pay in their half.  This is often unbeknownst to the NJ employee and a tax dodge by the employer.  Yet the person who gets chased down for the back payments is the NJ employee.

Another issue that affects everyone is that Japan’s pension system basically requires 300 months (25 years) of work before you qualify for any pension (although I have heard that might be changing to 10 years’ minimum investment).  That’s the longest minimum pension investment for any industrialized society.  But since that affects everyone, that’s part of the price you pay to live in Japan.

The difference is that for the Japanese public you get a nicer attitude and less draconian enforcement.  Japanese just get official posters nicely cajoling them to pay into the social welfare schemes, but there is no real enforcement unless they want future pension payments (or to avoid public shame, as was seen in 2004 when Japanese politicians were caught not paying in).  But for NJ, now that all of their visa and registry issues have been consolidated behind Central Control, their very visa renewals are contingent upon paying into social welfare, and they’re being chased and shaken down for the money.  It’s a very different approach, and the newfound dragnet further encourages bureaucrats to scrutinize and treat NJ as potential social deadbeats.  It’s one more official way to treat NJ as “different”.

Anyone else out there being officially shaken down?  And for how much?  Arudou Debito