DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART 2: New eBooks by Debito on sale now

mytest

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART TWO

Hello Newsletter Readers. This month’s Newsletter is a little late due to a press holiday on May 7, the date my Japan Times column was originally to come out. So this month you get two editions that are chock full of important announcements. As a supplement, here is information about three new books of mine that are now out in downloadable eBook form:

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1) Debito’s eBook “GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $19.99

rsz_finished_book_coverB&N

Following December’s publication of the revised 2nd Edition of long-selling HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS comes a companion eBook for those who want to save paper (and money). A handy reference book for securing stable jobs, visas, and lifestyles in Japan, GUIDEBOOK has been fully revised and is on sale for $19.99 USD (or your currency equivalent, pegged to the USD on Amazons worldwide).

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/handbook.html

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2) Debito’s eBook “JAPANESE ONLY: THE OTARU ONSENS CASE AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN JAPAN” now available in a 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

japaneseonlyebookcovertext

It has been more than ten years since bathhouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up “NO FOREIGNERS” signs at their front doors, and a full decade since the critically-acclaimed book about the landmark anti-discrimination lawsuit came out. Now with a new Introduction and Postscript updating what has and hasn’t changed in the interim, JAPANESE ONLY remains the definitive work about how discrimination by race remains a part of the Japanese social landscape.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html

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3) Debito’s eBook “IN APPROPRIATE: A NOVEL OF CULTURE, KIDNAPPING, AND REVENGE IN MODERN JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

In Appropriate cover

My first nonfiction novel that came out two years ago, IN APPROPRIATE is the story of a person who emigrates to Japan, finds his niche during the closing days of the Bubble Years, and realizes that he has married into a locally-prominent family whose interests conflict with his. The story is an amalgam of several true stories of divorce and child abduction in Japan, and has received great praise from Left-Behind Parents for its sincerity and authenticity.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html

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Thanks for reading and perhaps purchasing!  Arudou Debito

ENDS

Tangent on Sexual Minorities: Gay marriage trends worldwide, and how Japan’s Douseiaisha do it: Donald Keene’s marriage by Koseki adoption

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Today I’d like to take readers on a bit of a tangent, as this blog tends to focus on minorities in Japan in terms of “race”, social, or national origin.  We don’t talk much about Sexual Minorities, such as the LGBT communities in Japan (particularly the Douseiaisha, Japanese for Homosexuals), and how they are missing out on the wave of legalized gay marriage worldwide.  Consider this from The Economist:

====================================
economistgaymarriage042213

Daily chart
Altared states
Apr 22nd 2013, 14:40 by Economist.com
http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/04/daily-chart-14?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/dc/altaredstate
More countries legalise gay marriage

TENS of thousands of people thronged the streets of Paris at the weekend to protest against a gay-marriage bill that is set for a second reading in the National Assembly on April 23rd. They are unlikely to stop its passage. The bill, which is an election pledge by the Socialist president, François Hollande, was passed by a large majority at its first reading in February despite fierce opposition organised by conservative and Catholic groups. France is not the only country where gay marriage has been on the legislative or judicial agenda in recent weeks. On April 17th New Zealand became the 12th country to legalise gay marriage, though the law will not come into effect until August. Uruguay, too, has passed a similar bill that awaits the signature of the president before it becomes law. And in late March the American Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a case on the constitutionality of the Defence of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to a man and a woman. In all these countries—and indeed in much of the West—opinion polls show public support for same-sex marriages.
ENDS
====================================

Debito.org applauds this trend of legalizing gay marriage.  Meanwhile Japan, as you can see above, to its credit has no law criminalizing homosexuality.  It, however, does not permit gay marriages due to the vagaries of the Family Registry (Koseki) System.  In short, only a wife and a husband by gender can create a married family unit.

But as has been pointed out here on Debito.org before, people find ways to get around this.  Gay couples, in order to pass on inheritance rights, adopt each other into the same family unit on the Koseki.  The problem is for international couples that non-citizens cannot be listed on a Koseki as husband or wife.

So here is how LGBT foreigners can get around it:  Naturalize and adopt.  As Debito.org previously suggested might be the case, famous naturalized Japanese Donald Keene has done it, and recently gone public about it:

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ドナルド・キーンさんが養子縁組 三味線奏者の上原さんと
Sports Nippon, April 30, 2013, courtesy of Mumei
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/society/news/2013/04/30/kiji/K20130430005714360.html

日本文学研究者のドナルド・キーンさん(90)が、浄瑠璃三味線の奏者、上原誠己さん(62)と養子縁組したことが30日、分かった。キーンさんが29日、新潟市内で行った講演で明らかにした。

誠己さんによると、キーンさんが日本国籍取得を表明した2011年春ごろから養子縁組の話が持ち上がり、昨年3月に正式に「キーン誠己」となった。

06年11月、誠己さんが古浄瑠璃について教えを請うためにキーンさんを訪問して交流が始まった。大英博物館で台本が発掘された人形浄瑠璃「弘知法印御伝記」を09年、約300年ぶりに復活上演した際も、キーンさんの助言を受けた。

誠己さんは「五世鶴沢浅造」として長年公演に出演。1997年に故郷の新潟市に戻り、家業の酒造会社を手伝いながら、三味線の指導や奏者の活動を続けた。

現在は東京都内でキーンさんと同居し、スケジュール管理や食事作りなどに携わる。誠己さんは「健康管理をしっかりやり、多忙な先生を支えたい」と話している。
ENDS
====================================

Congratuations, Don.  Seriously.  May you accomplish all the goals that remain before you in the years left to you.  My only requests, as I have made several times before, are that 1) you do not make a pandering show of it as some kind of “solidarity with the Japanese” kinda thing; and 2) you do not denigrate others (i.e., NJ, by insinuating statistically incorrectly that NJ are less likely to be loyal to Japan (as “Flyjin”) or more likely to be criminals).  Clearly the real reason you naturalized was a lot less selfless than you portray (which is fine, but let’s have a bit less public self-aggrandizing and self-hugging, please).  It is unbecoming of a person of your stature in Japan-related academia.

Anyway, that’s the template for how you do it.  Gay NJ who wish to marry Japanese and get the same inheritance rights should naturalize and adopt one another.  Or else, barring naturalization, go overseas to a society more enlightened about Same-Sex Marriage and get married.  Bonne chance.  Arudou Debito

RocketNews: Automatic PR Status awarded to grads of Kyoto universities? Positive proposal by Kyoto Governor that will come to naught

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something interesting.  It will come to naught, of course, but it shows how local governments are much more responsive to the needs of NJ than the central government (which is dominated by the control-the-borders-and-police-foreigners-only mindset of the Ministry of Justice).  Although the central government occasionally deigns to listen to the locals (especially when they band together and say, “Our NJ residents need this!” as per the Hamamatsu Sengen of 2001), ultimately the regular blind spots prevail, and I think they will in this case too (as awarding Permanent Residency is the job of the MOJ, not local governments).  Arudou Debito

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Japanese Permanent Resident Status to be Awarded to Overseas Students? A New Appeal by the [Governor] of Kyoto
RocketNews24, April 15, 2013 by Andrew Miller, courtesy of JK and others
http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/04/15/japanese-permanent-resident-status-to-be-awarded-to-overseas-students-a-new-appeal-by-the-mayor-of-kyoto/

On April 10, the [Governor] of Kyoto Keiji Yamada made public his intentions to appeal to the government to award overseas students who graduate from Kyoto [universities] with the right to permanent residence. It is a proposal entitled ‘Kyoto University Special Ward’ and also incorporates other supportive measures for foreign students. With a decrease in student intake within Japan in recent years, it is hoped that by providing incentives for academically skilled overseas students, Kyoto will not only be able to compete with other cities like Tokyo but will also be able to add a new lease of life to its cultural city.

The plan to introduce incentives for overseas students came to light after The Japanese Business Federation and Kyoto’s prefecture office held a panel discussion on how to revive the town. The same prefecture estimated that due to decrease in birth rates, the number of students enrolling in university was also likely to see a significant decrease in years to come. Looking at the birth rate statistics from 2011, it is predicted that the 160,000 students currently residing in Kyoto will see a 25,000 student decrease in the future.

On the other hand, the number of overseas students currently residing in Kyoto is 6,000. According to research carried out by Kyoto Prefecture, several universities in Singapore have over a 60 percent foreign student uptake. What’s more, the same students are awarded the right to permanent residence upon graduating. Singapore is no doubt leading the way in attracting, and fostering, talent from abroad.

At the same panel discussion, Kyoto’s [Governor] was enthusiastic about providing an environment like Singapore in which to support foreign students with finding employment after graduation, and nurturing talent through education.

With air of conviction, Kyoto’s [Governor] put his proposition to the panel:

“What I’d like to ask you to consider is whether overseas students who graduate from Kyoto [universities] and take part in the city’s job training program can be given permanent resident status. I’d like to work with everyone in producing an effective policy.”

It is reported that at the end of the discussion all the parties were keen to provide a fertile ground in which to foster a “University utopia” and backed the mayor’s proposal. Kyoto Prefecture is set to cooperate with the parties concerned and appeal to the government to put this measure in place during the year.

ENDS

Original article linked from RocketNews:

京の留学生に永住権を 府が「大学生特区」提案へ
京都新聞 4月10日(水)
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20130410-00000024-kyt-l26

京都府の山田啓二知事は10日、京都の大学を卒業した留学生に対し、永住権が申請できる資格を付与するなどの支援策を盛り込んだ「京都大学生特区」を国に提案する方針を明らかにした。国内の学生が減るなか、世界から優秀な学生を取り込んで都市間競争に勝ち残り、地域の活性化を図りたい考え。

京都経済同友会と府庁(京都市上京区)で行った「大学のまち・京都」を考える懇談会で明らかにした。

府によると、2011年生まれの人の大学入学推計は、出生数の減少で、11年に入学した人に比べ17・2%減になる見込みで、京都でも現在約16万人いる学生数が約2万5千人減る計算になるという。一方、京都の大学の留学生は現在、約6千人。府の調査では、シンガポールには学生の3分の2を留学生が占める大学があり、卒業後には永住権が与えられる。留学生の獲得で先行しているという。

山田知事は同友会から、オール京都体制での人材育成策や留学生の生活・就職支援を求めた提言書を受け取り、「京都の大学を卒業して、オール京都でやった職業訓練コースを受けた人には永住権の申請ができるぐらいの便宜を(留学生に対し)はかってもらえないか。(経済団体の)みなさんとともに、思い切った施策を打っていきたい」と話した。

府や京都市、京都大、経済団体などのトップでつくる「京都の未来を考える懇話会」は、税制優遇や研究・起業支援などが柱の「大学ユートピア特区」を提唱しており、府は今後、関係団体と連携して本年度中にも国に特区申請を行う予定。

ENDS

TV Tokyo bangumi: “Why did you come to Japan?” interviews NJ arrivals at Narita, reifies mainstream media discourse of NJ as tourists, not residents

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Hi Blog. Check this out, courtesy of Japan Today:

tvtokyoNJwhatareyoudoinghere
Courtesy http://www.japantoday.com/category/picture-of-the-day/view/what-are-you-doing-here

Submitter JDG argues:
====================================
Saw this story on Japan Today (link): It’s a story about a poster campaign to advertise a TV show where NJ straight off the plane are asked why they came to Japan. In the poster, ‘talent(less)’ J-celebs, and a variety of caricatured NJ are proffering answers (‘maid’ cafes, lolitas, etc).

“I think that there are two ways of looking at this.

“The first is that they are proceeding from the false assumption that all NJ in Japan are visitors who must be here for some uniquely crazy ‘Japanese’ experience that they can’t get at home, and plays into the myth that there are no NJ long term residents who are here because of their jobs, or family connections. Whilst ignorant and not very helpful for understanding the wide variety of NJ identities, it is a common enough mistake for the Japanese to make.

“However, my second thought is that this poster is an inadvertent and unintended insight into a darker aspect of Japanese psychology on the NJ issue. What if we suppose that this poster is not the product of some ignoramus who genuinely knows nothing of NJ realities in Japan, and believes the myth totally? What if this poster simply reflects a more widespread and deep rooted opinion that NJ shouldn’t be living in Japan because they have families or business here? What if the poster is deliberately not offering reasons such as ‘I’m here because I’m on the board or directors of (insert J-company here)’, or ‘I’m here to get my children back’, or ‘I’m here with the IAEA to inspect your reactors’?

“These are exaggerations, of course, but the point that I am making is that this poster in itself is a tool of devision, disenfranchisement, exclusion, subjugation, and othering. All that, and created with a lack of self-awareness in the process? A frightening indicator of the extent to which discrimination is normalized in japanese society.”
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I would concur in particular with the aspect of maintaining the dominant discourse in Japan of NJ as “guests”, i.e., “temporary visitors, not residents”, mixed in with the shades of “Cool Japan” that helps Japanese society revalidate and even fetishize itself through foreigners.

But it’s essential (by definition) that this revalidation message remain positive — as in, “Japan is a nice place that is polite to everyone, especially its guests”. That is one of the positive aspects of “guestism” — hosts don’t get their status quo challenged. After all, why would somebody spend so much money and fly in just to come and bad-mouth the place? It’s a pretty safe and not-at-all-random sampling that will probably match the TV network’s editorial and entertainment conceit.  (And on the off-chance if not, no need to broadcast the views of quite clearly rude people.)

Media enforcement of Guestism has a long history, really. Back in 2009, Debito.org caught NHK asking specifically for NJ guests on its “COOL JAPAN” program “who have lived in Japan for less than one year”, as if they would have more insights on Japan than somebody who has lived in Japan longer. Like, say, for example, participants in the reviled and acclaimed bangumiKOKO GA HEN DA YO, NIHONJIN” (1998-2002; even my fellow plaintiffs and I were allowed to appear regarding the Otaru Onsens Case), which featured diversity of opinion in all its screaming glory, but still allowed NJs to speak in their own words in Japanese.  KKGHDYN was probably the high water mark of Japan’s assimilation of NJ viewpoints into Japan’s generally foreign-resident-free media (one that shuts itself off so effectively from NJ voices in Japan that nearly HALF, i.e., 46%, of all respondents (Japanese, natch) to a recent Cabinet survey didn’t even know that Nikkei Brazilians have been living in Japan on a special visa status for the past two decades!), but after the “foreigner as criminal” GOJ and media blitz of the 2000s, we’re right back to Bubble-Era-and-before attitudes towards NJ in the domestic media.

So in the end, asking people, “So how do you like Japan?” mere minutes after landing is probably within character.  But it’s awful media representation.  Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 62, Apr 2, 2013: “Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class”

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Hi Blog.  Thanks to everyone who read my article, as it has been trending within the most-read articles within the past couple of days once again this month.  Here it is on the blog for commentary with links to sources.  Enjoy!  Arudou Debito

justbecauseicon.jpg
Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class
BY ARUDOU Debito
The Japan Times, Just Be Cause Column 62, published April 2, 2013
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/04/02/issues/tweak-the-immigration-debate-and-demand-an-upgrade-to-denizen-class/
Version below with links to sources

Crucial to any public discussion is defining the terms of debate. However, often those terms must be redefined later because they don’t reflect reality.

One example is Japan’s concept of “foreigner,” because the related terminology is confusing and provides pretenses for exclusionism.

In terms of strict legal status, if you’re not a citizen you’re a “foreigner” (gaikokujin), right? But not all gaikokujin are the same in terms of acculturation or length of stay in Japan. A tourist “fresh off the boat” has little in common with a noncitizen with a Japanese family, property and permanent residency. Yet into the gaikokujin box they all go.

The lack of terms that properly differentiate or allow for upgrades has negative consequences. A long-termer frequently gets depicted in public discourse as a sojourner, not “at home” in Japan.

Granted, there are specialized terms for visa statuses, such as eijūsha (permanent resident) and tokubetsu eijūsha (special permanent resident, for the zainichi Korean and Chinese generational “foreigners”). But they rarely appear in common parlance, since the public is generally unaware of visa regimes (many people don’t even know foreigners must carry “gaijin cards”!).

Public debate about Japan’s foreign population must take into account their degree of assimilation. So this column will try to popularize a concept introduced in the 1990s that remains mired in migration studies jargon: denizen.

Denizenship,” as discussed by Tomas Hammar of Stockholm University, is a mid-step between migrant and immigrant, foreigner and citizen — a “quasi-citizenship.” In his 1990 book “Democracy and the Nation State,” Hammar talks about three “entrance gates” for migrants to become citizens: 1) admission to the country, 2) permanent residency, and 3) acquisition of full citizenship.

Denizens have passed the second gate, having become resident aliens who have been granted extensive civil and social citizenship rights — including national and/or local suffrage in some countries.

Although denizens lack the full political rights of a citizen, scholars of international migration note that countries are increasingly giving denizens faster tracks to full citizenship, including relaxation of blood-based nationality (e.g., in Sweden, Holland, Switzerland and Germany), official guidance in naturalization procedures after obtaining permanent residency (e.g., United States), greater tolerance for dual citizenship (e.g., Mexico) and some electoral rights (e.g., European Union). [all claims within books by scholars below, but some quick references here]

A similar discussion on denizenship has taken place in Japanese academia, thanks to Atsushi Kondo (1996), Chikako Kashiwazaki (2000) and Akihiro Asakawa (2007) et al., all of whom rendered the term in katakana as denizun, translating it as eijū shimin (permanent “citizens,” so to speak).

Perhaps this will come as no surprise, but their extensive research highlighted the comparatively closed nature of Japanese immigration policy. Japan has been an outlier in terms of citizenship rules, going against the trend seen in other advanced democracies to enfranchise denizens.

For example, Japan has an intolerance of dual nationality, high hurdles for achieving permanent residency, arbitrary and discretionary rules for obtaining full citizenship, few refugees, and strict “family” blood-based citizenship without exception for future generations of denizens (which is why Japan is still home to hundreds of thousands of zainichi “foreigners” 60 years after their ancestors were stripped of Japanese citizenship).

Essentially, Japan does not recognize denizenship. This was underscored during recent debates on granting local suffrage rights to permanent residents (gaikokujin sanseiken). Opposition politicians stated clearly: If foreigners want the right to vote, they should naturalize.

Sadly, steps to humanize the debate, by incorporating the perspectives of long-term residents themselves, were not taken, creating a tautology of disenfranchisement. The antireformers eventually won the debate, retrenching the binary between “foreigner” and “citizen” and obscuring the gray zones of long-term residency.

There are long-standing systemic issues behind this entrenchment. As Kashiwazaki notes: “The system of naturalization is not designed to transform foreign nationals promptly into Japanese nationals. Restriction on naturalization corresponds to the government’s stance on border control, namely that Japan does not admit immigration for the purpose of permanent settlement.”

As discussed on these pages numerous times, the firewall keeping foreigners from ever becoming settlers is maintained by Japan’s revolving-door visa regimes, strict punishments for even slight administrative infractions that “reset the visa clock,” and a permanent “police the foreigners” credo from a Justice Ministry not configured for immigration or integration.

This has a long history. As Japan’s “Immigration Bureau” has argued repeatedly after it designed the postwar rules on any foreign influx (here in 1959): “Since Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, policies of controlling both population growth and immigration are strongly called for. It should therefore be a government policy to severely restrict the entry of foreigners into Japan. Particularly because there are undesirable foreigners who would threaten the lives of Japanese nationals by criminal activity and immoral conduct.”

After a high water mark of “internationalization” in the 1990s, Japan’s conservatives in the 2000s (backed up by periodic official “foreign crime” and “visa overstayer” campaigns to scare the public) managed to stem the tide of liberalization seen in other advanced democracies, turning Japan into an immigration Galapagos increasingly reactionary towards outsiders — even as demographics force Japan’s decline.

Like the people it represents, denizenship as a concept remains invisible within Japan’s public discourse, oblivious to how foreigners actually live in Japan. Categorically, people are either gaikokujin or nihonjin. Rarely if ever are the former termed eijūsha, eijū shimin, imin or ijūsha (immigrants).

Let’s tweak the terms of debate. If you’re planning on living in Japan indefinitely, I suggest you get your neighbors warmed up to the fact that you as a non-Japanese (let’s at least avoid the dislocated, transient trappings of the generic word “foreigner”) are not merely gaikokujin. You are jūmin (residents). And as of 2012, most of you now have a jūminhyō (residency certificate) to prove it.

Then spread the word through the grass roots, such as they are. Upgrade your status and mollify the binary. Or else you’ll just be stuck in a rhetorical limbo as something temporary and in transit. Not good for you, not good for Japan.

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

Debito’s most recent publication is “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance” in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (japanfocus.org/site/view/3907) Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Pages of the month. Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp.

SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles

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Hi Blog.  We’ve talked about Japan’s “Points System” before on Debito.org, where I took a dim view of it as just another “revolving door” labor visa regime to bring people over, leech off their prime working lives, and then boot them back home without letting them settle and reap the rewards for contributing to Japanese society (cf. the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “foreign caregivers“, all of whom I have written about for the Japan Times).

Well, now, in yet another episode of SITYS (“See I Told You So”), Asahi reports the “Points System” is going through similar “revisions” as the visa scams above due to a dearth of applications.  As I thought would happen — the PS’s qualifying hurdles are simply too high.

Even if one assumes good faith in Japan’s policymakers (some of whom do see the slow-motion demographic disaster in progress due to crushing public debt unsupportable by a society that is shrinking and aging) who might want to treat “foreign laborers” as people, Japan’s bureaucrats are so paranoid about NJ somehow “abusing” the system that they make it practically impossible for anyone to ever “use” the system to their benefit.  Again, the GOJ keep wanting “workers” and discover to their surprise later that they imported “people”, with livelihood needs beyond mere work hours converted into “the privilege of living in Japan”.

These policy failures will keep happening again and again until NJ are treated as “people”, and given a fair chance by the GOJ at becoming “Japanese” (with transfers of political, economic, and social power — and that includes input at the policymaking stage too).  But I still don’t see that happening anytime soon.  Arudou Debito

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Strict conditions hamper certification system for foreign skilled workers
Asahi Shimbun AJW March 24, 2013, courtesy of JK
By SEINOSUKE IWASAKI/ Staff Writer
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201303240055

A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned.

In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced.

The program covers the following fields: research, engineering and management. Points are awarded on the basis of a person’s experience and capabilities.

An individual who receives a certain number of points can, for example, bring his or her parents to live in Japan or gain permission for a spouse to work, something that few foreign workers had been able to do until a year ago.

According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.

Foreign applicants have complained to immigration offices about the strict conditions, particularly one pertaining to income levels.

Shao Huaiyu, a renewable energy researcher at Kyushu University, applied at the recommendation of school officials soon after the system was introduced last May.

He was certified as highly competent after receiving 100 points out of a maximum 140 in the researcher division based on his doctor’s and patented inventions.

Shao planned to ask his parents to come from China and help raise two daughters, aged 2 and under 1 year old.

But his application was refused because of an additional condition that called for an annual income of 10 million yen ($106,000) or more.

“It is almost impossible for a university researcher in his or her 30s to earn 10 million yen,” Shao said. “By the time I can earn that much, my children will have grown up.”

The Justice Ministry plans to review the system. An Immigration Bureau official said the system has not been widely publicized overseas due to limited budgets.

Junichi Goto, a professor of labor economics at Keio University, is opposed to the planned review, saying looser conditions could jeopardize a ban on unskilled laborers.

He has also expressed concern that some foreigners could abuse the system by bringing their parents over simply to get advanced medical treatment under the nation’s universal health insurance system.

A similar point system has been introduced in Canada, New Zealand and other countries eager to accept skilled immigrants.

According to the Canadian Embassy, 90,000 to 110,000 engineers and their families enter the country each year.

Even among industrialized countries, Japan is regarded as exercising very strict control over immigration.

The Japanese program is intended to attract only those whose skills are needed in Japan, rather than increasing the number of foreign nationals working in this country by loosening the immigration control law.

ENDS

JT/Kyodo: Record high applicants for J refugee status. Why media fixation on refugees? Because they are a bellwether of Japan’s “legitimacy as a competent, advanced, Western democracy”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Making national news whenever statistics come out is how Japan deals with (i.e., mostly rejects) refugees. I was always curious about why refugee numbers have always been considered newsworthy (when there are many other significant NJ-related statistics that merit more fanfare but don’t, such as the number of “Newcomers” with Permanent Residency overtaking the “Oldcomer” Zainichis with Special Permanent Residency in 2007, representing a sea change in the composition of permanent immigrant NJs in Japan).  But then I found something in an academic writing that put things in perspective:  Acceptance of refugees are one bellwether of Japan’s acceptance of international norms, as part of its “greater role in international cooperation” and an attempt “to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy”.  First the most recent news article, then the academic article to put it in perspective:

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

NATIONAL
2012 saw record-high 2,545 people apply for refugee status in Japan
The Japan Times/KYODO
MAR 20, 2013, courtesy of JK
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/03/20/national/2012-saw-record-high-2545-people-apply-for-refugee-status-in-japan

A record 2,545 foreigners applied for refugee status in Japan in 2012, the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau said Tuesday.

While the figure marked an increase of 678 compared with the previous year, there was a drop in the number of those who were actually granted refugee status, the bureau said.

In 2011, there were 21 foreigners recognized as refugees, but for 2012, the number fell to 18.

Among those who applied, Turkish nationals constituted the largest group, with 423, followed by 368 from Myanmar, 320 from Nepal and 298 from Pakistan, the bureau said.

A bureau official could not provide the exact reason behind the rise in refugee applications.

Meanwhile, the number of foreigners who were denied refugee status but were allowed to stay in Japan on humanitarian grounds totaled 112, the bureau said.

Since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees.

ENDS

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

Now read this excerpt from Kashiwazaki Chikako (Associate Professor of Sociology at Keio University). 2000. “Citizenship in Japan: Legal Practice and Contemporary Development.” In T. Alexander Aleinikoff, and Douglas Klusmeyer, eds., From Migrants to Citizens: Membership in a Changing World. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pp. 448-50.  I retype in all paragraphs preceding the section on refugees to Japan, to give you the geopolitical context under which bureaucrats created refugee policy.

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

INTERNATIONAL LEGAL NORMS AND CHANGES IN INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT

Since the mid-1970s, Japan has come into prominence in the international arena as a major player in the world economy.  Internationalization became a slogan for the new direction of the country, with demands from both within and abroad to open, to take a leadership role, and to assume international responsibility.  For the Japanese government, successful economic development provided the opportunity to assume a greater role in international cooperation and to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy.  To do so would require accepting an emerging set of international legal norms, including those in the area of citizenship.

Among international legal norms, the most relevant to the recent development of citizenship are the UN conventions on human rights and the rights of migrant workers and noncitizen residents.  In Western Europe, international conventions on human rights have provided legal and normative underpinnings to the extension of partial citizenship rights to noncitizen residents.  The goal of economic integration through free movement of people within the common market has also facilitated legislation regarding the legal rights and protection of migrants.

Another major impetus for changing laws regarding citizenship and nationality is the principle of gender equality.  The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women required that signatory countries accord the same rights to women as they do to men in regard to their children’s nationality.  Consequently, a number of countries that had a patrilineal jus sanguinis system shifted to the bilineal system where children obtain both their father’s and mother’s nationality.

In the absence of an equivalence in European integration, the role and the extent of international coordination are expected to be different for the Japanese case.  Nevertheless, Japan has also been under the constraints of international legal norms.  Admission of Indochinese refugees and the adoption of bilineal jus sanguinis [in 1984] are two examples that show the impact of international factors on nationality and citizenship regulations.

The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 generated refugees from Indochina.  In the same year, the G7 Summit meeting was established. As the only Asian country admitted to membership in the G7 Summit, Japan was obliged to take some steps to accommodate refugees.  In 1978, the Japanese government permitted the settlement of refugees within the set limit of the ceiling.  The initial quota was only 500 refugees, although it was gradually expanded to 10,000 by 1985.  At the end of 1997, 10,241 Indochina refugees had been accepted for settlement [Shutsunyuukoku Kanri 1998].

Although the number of refugees settled in Japan was small, their arrival had a strong impact on the social rights of resident aliens.  With the acceptance of refugees, the Japanese government was compelled to join relevant international conventions.  Japan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural, Rights in 1979, and then ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981.  Provisions in these conventions required that resident aliens be treated equally with the citizens of the country in the areas of social security and welfare.  Consequently, several legal changes removed eligibility restrictions based on nationality in such areas as national pension and public housing.  Furthermore, the creation of a new residential status for refugees in 1981 contributed to improvement in the legal status of preexisting long-term resident aliens.

EXCERPT ENDS

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COMMENT:  So you see, Japan basically only acceded to these international norms and agreements as a vanity project — a matter of “not looking like an outlier” in the international community.  Not because policymakers had any good-faith interest in helping NJ or outsiders in need come to Japan and settle.  That’s why we see honne hiccoughs from time to time (like the one in 2010 when a 78-year-old Zainichi granny was denied social welfare by Oita Prefectural Government — where a court ruled that “Welfare payments to non-citizens would be a form of charity“.  So much for those international treaties guaranteeing equal treatment being respected by Japan’s judiciary!).  We’ve also seen how Japan simply will not pass a law against racial discrimination (despite signing another international agreement, the UN CERD, in 1995) — and will in fact counteract anyone who does.  So in this context, Kyodo’s reporting that “since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees,” should come as no surprise.  The GOJ has no intention of keeping its international treaty promises.  They are merely national self-esteem boosters, not real guidelines or goals.  Arudou Debito

Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here are a couple of interesting cases that have fallen through the cracks recently, what with all the higher-level geopolitical flurry and consequent hate speech garnering so much attention.  With not much to link them thematically except that these are complaints made into public disputes, let me combine them into one blog post and let them stand for themselves as bellwethers of the times.

First up, we have a criminal complaint filed with the police for classroom bullying resulting in serious injury due to his Pakistani ethnicity.  This is one of a long line of cases of ethnic bullying in Japan, once again with insufficient intervention by authorities, and we’re lucky this time it hasn’t resulted yet in PTSD or a suicide.  Like it has in these cases here with an ethnic Chinese schoolgirlwith an Indian student in 2007, or a Filipina-Japanese student in 2010 (in the last case NHK neglected to mention ethnicity as an issue).  Of course, even here the Mainichi declines to give the name of the school involved.  Whatever happened to perennial promises of a “major bullying study” at the ministerial level a couple of years ago to prevent things like this?  Or of grassroots NGO actions way back when?

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

Pakistani student’s parents file complaint against classmates over bullying

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130219p2a00m0na006000c.html

TAKAMATSU — The parents of a 13-year-old Pakistani junior high school student here have filed a criminal complaint with police, accusing their son’s classmates of bullying and injuring him.

A male Pakistani student at a public junior high school in a town in Kagawa Prefecture was bullied and seriously injured by his classmates, his parents alleged in a complaint filed on Feb. 18 with prefectural police.

The parents requested on the same day that the town’s board of education investigate the case and take measures to prevent a recurrence as they claim the student has been racially abused by four of his classmates since last spring. However, the education board denies bullying took place at the school.

According to the parents who held a news conference, the student was verbally bullied about the color of his skin by four of his classmates ever since he entered school last April. The parents claim that the students would make racist comments that their son’s skin was “dirty” and that they told him to “go back to his home country.”

The student was also physically bullied repeatedly by his classmates. Last November, one of the four classmates tripped him over when he was running in the hallway, severely injuring his legs and face. Since that incident, the student reportedly has to use crutches to walk.

The student’s 41-year-old father said, “We asked the homeroom teacher and vice principle multiple times to improve the situation but they failed to take any action.”

February 19, 2013 (Mainichi Japan) 

傷害容疑:「いじめで重傷」告訴…パキスタン籍の中1両親

毎日新聞 2013年02月19日 00時37分(最終更新 02月19日 09時33分)

http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20130219k0000m040116000c.html

 香川県中部の町立中学校に通うパキスタン国籍の1年男子生徒(13)が同級生からの暴行で重傷を負ったとして、男子生徒の両親が18日、傷害容疑で県警に告訴した。昨春以降、同級生ら4人から人種差別的な暴言によるいじめも続いているといい、両親は同日、町教育委員会に調査と再発防止を申し入れた。町教委側は「いじめはなかった」と否定している。

記者会見した両親らによると、男子生徒は昨年4月の入学直後から同級生4人に肌の色の違いを言われ「汚い」「国へ帰れ」など人種差別的な発言をされ、足を蹴られるなどの暴行も繰り返し受けたという。昨年11月には、校内の廊下を走っていて4人のうち1人に足を掛けられ転倒。足や顔などに重傷を負ったという。男子生徒は今も松葉づえで登下校している。父親(41)は「担任や教頭に何度も改善を訴えたがかなわなかった」と話している。【鈴木理之、広沢まゆみ】

婚約破棄:「在日差別意識に起因」 女性が市議を提訴
毎日新聞 2013年01月28日 15時00分(最終更新 01月28日 16時11分)
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20130128k0000e040180000c.html

婚約相手だった兵庫県内の自治体の30代男性市議に自分の祖父が在日韓国人だと告げたところ、婚約を破棄されたとして、大阪市の会社員の女性(28)が市議に550万円の損害賠償を求める訴訟を大阪地裁に起こした。市議側は結婚できない理由として「政治的信条から消極的にならざるを得なかった」と説明しているが、女性側は「差別意識に起因し、不当だ」と批判している。人権問題に詳しい専門家からは市議の対応を問題視する声が上がっている。

提訴は昨年10月。訴状などによると、市議と女性は結婚相談所の紹介で同3月に知り合った。市議は同6月、「あなたのことが大好きです」などと書いた手紙を渡して「結婚したい」と伝え、女性も承諾した。しかしその数日後、女性が自分の祖父は在日韓国人だと市議に伝えると、市議は「韓国の血が流れている」などとして婚約を破棄したという。女性自身は日本国籍だった。

市議側は地裁に提出した書面で「結婚したい」といったん女性に伝えたことは認めた上で、「保守派の政治家として活動し、在日韓国人らに対する選挙権付与に反対するなどの政治的スタンスをとっており、政治的信条などから結婚できないと考えた」と説明。さらに「婚約は成立していない」として請求の棄却を求めている。

市議本人は取材に「弁護士に任せているのでコメントできない」としているが、女性は「どれだけ人を傷つけたのか、深く受け止めてほしい」と話した。在日外国人問題に詳しい田中宏・一橋大名誉教授は「結婚で出自を問う発想は問題だ。政治家としての考え方があるから正当化されるものではない」と指摘している。

判例などによると、双方の両親や友人らに婚約の意思を伝えている▽結納や指輪の交換をした−−などの事実があれば、婚約が成立したとみなされる。過去には、日本人男性から国籍を理由に婚約を破棄されたとして韓国籍女性が男性に慰謝料などを求めた訴訟で、大阪地裁は83年、「民族差別の存在に起因した迷いから婚約破棄したのは不当」として、男性に約240万円の支払いを命じた判決がある。【渋江千春】
ENDS

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And finally, courtesy of japanCRUSH last January, we have this interesting titbit:

Japanese defense minister Onodera Itsunori is the latest politician to enter the fray by calling former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio a ‘traitor’ on a television programme. Onodera’s remark came after Hatoyama commented to Chinese officials that the Senkaku Islands should be recognised as disputed territory, rather than Japanese territory, during his trip to China. Interestingly, Hatoyama caused further controversy this week when he apologised for the Nanjing massacre.

Translations courtesy of japanCRUSH:

Defense Minister Calls Hatoyama a ‘Traitor’ (kokuzoku)

Sankei Shinbun:  On the evening of January 17, defense minister Onodera Itsunori gave a scathing criticism of Hatoyama Yukio, who met with Chinese officials in Beijing, for his acknowledgement of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture as being a disputed territory between Japan and China. Onodera stated, ‘This is a huge negative for Japan. At this, China will announce to the world that there is a dispute, and form international opinion. For the first time in a long while, the word ‘traitor’ came to mind’. Onodera spoke on a BS-Fuji news programme.

鳩山氏は「国賊」と防衛相

産經新聞 2013.1.17 22:29 [鳩山氏の不思議な行動
 小野寺五典防衛相は17日夜、北京で中国要人と会談した鳩山由紀夫元首相が沖縄県・尖閣諸島は日中間の係争地だとの認識を伝えたことについて、「日本にとって大きなマイナスだ。中国はこれで係争があると世界に宣伝し、国際世論を作られてしまう。久しぶりに頭の中に『国賊』という言葉がよぎった」と述べ、鳩山氏を痛烈に批判した。BSフジの報道番組で語った。
===========================

Defense Minister Onodera: Former Prime Minister Hatoyama is a ‘Traitor’

JIJI/YahooNews.jp:  On the evening of January 17, defense minister Onodera Itsunori appeared on a BS-Fuji television programme, and said that ‘This is a huge negative for Japan. I shouldn’t really say this, but for a moment the word ‘traitor’ came to mind,’ strongly criticising former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio’s remark that ‘It is important to recognise that the Senkaku islands are a disputed territory’.

The defense minister showed his anxiety, saying ‘Although there is no dispute, and (Senkaku) is native Japanese territory, the Chinese will announce to the world that this is what a former Japanese prime minister thinks, and indeed world opinion will be formed as though there really is a dispute’.

鳩山元首相は「国賊」=小野寺防衛相

時事通信 1月17日(木)22時37分配信

 小野寺五典防衛相は17日夜、BSフジの番組に出演し、「尖閣諸島を係争地と認めることが大事だ」との鳩山由紀夫元首相の中国での発言について「日本にとって大きなマイナスだ。言ってはいけないが『国賊』という言葉が一瞬、頭をよぎった」と述べ、強く非難した。
防衛相は「係争などなく(尖閣は)固有の領土なのに、中国側は、日本の元首相はこう思っていると世界に宣伝し、いかにも係争があるかのように国際世論がつくられてしまう」と懸念を示した。

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20130117-00000197-jij-pol

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So this is what it’s coming to.  Dissent from prominent Japanese (who, in Hatoyama’s case, are no longer even political representatives) who act on their conscience, deviate from the saber-rattling party line, and show any efforts at reconciliation in this era of regional brinkmanship get decried as “traitors”.

Check out this photo essay link from the Sankei showing Hatoyama and missus provocatively bowing and praying at Nanjing (text of article follows):

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

鳩山元首相が「南京大虐殺記念館」訪問 中国、「安倍内閣牽制」に利用も
産經新聞 2013年1月17日
http://photo.sankei.jp.msn.com/kodawari/data/2013/01/17hatoyama/

【上海=河崎真澄】中国を訪問中の鳩山由紀夫元首相は17日、日中戦争で旧日本軍による南京占領で起きたとされる「南京事件」の資料などを展示する江蘇省南京市の「南京大虐殺記念館」を訪問した。日本の首相経験者が同館を訪れるのは、海部俊樹、村山富市両元首相に続いて3人目。

中国版のツイッター「微博」などでは、「もっと日本に鳩山元首相のような人が増えればいい」といった同館訪問を歓迎する発言に加え、「記念館で鳩山はざんげしろ」「日本人は歴史を直視しろ」などとの書き込みもある。鳩山氏と対比する形で、東南アジア歴訪中の安倍晋三首相を「右翼的思想だ」と警戒感をむき出しにした発言も目立つ。

歴史認識をめぐって植民地支配と侵略を認めた「村山談話」を継承しつつ、新たな談話の作成を進める安倍内閣に対し、中国側はいわば同館への鳩山氏訪問のタイミングを利用し、牽制する狙いもありそうだ。

鳩山氏は16日の賈慶林全国政治協商会議主席ら中国要人との会談で、沖縄県の尖閣諸島について、日本政府の公式見解と異なり中国との「係争地」と発言、波紋を広げている。
///////////////////////////////////

Doesn’t seem like there is much space for tolerance of moderate or diverse views (or people) anymore.  Arudou Debito

Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm

mytest

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Hi Blog. Something I came across during my readings. Thought you might find it interesting.

Over the years I have gotten from many corners (particularly from people who have not researched things too deeply) how “jus sanguinis” (law of blood) requirements for Japanese citizenship are not all that far from the international norm, and how Japan’s Nationality Law (which requires blood ties to a Japanese citizen for conferral of Japanese nationality) is but one example of many in the community of nations that confer nationality/citizenship by blood.

Well, I knew both from experience and in my gut that there was something wrong with that. I felt that Japan’s method of conferring nationality/citizenship was quite specially exclusive (for example, we’ve had half a million Zainichi former citizens of Empire excluded from full “Denizenship” (see below) in Japanese society for three Postwar generations now, and only a tiny number of people becoming naturalized Japanese citizens every year).  This exclusion (which every nation does when deciding national membership, but…) has been done in ways unbecoming of a country with the reputation of being a legitimate, competent, advanced Western democracy — one Japan has had since its emergence as a “rich society” in the 1980s — and thus expected to take on a greater role in international cooperation (such as acceptance of refugees) by accepting international legal norms (such as signing and enforcing international treaties).

Now I’ve found something in writing from someone who HAS researched things deeply, and she too finds that Japan’s policies towards the outside world are outside the international norm.

These are excerpts from Kashiwazaki Chikako (Associate Professor of Sociology at Keio University). 2000. “Citizenship in Japan: Legal Practice and Contemporary Development.” In T. Alexander Aleinikoff, and Douglas Klusmeyer, eds., From Migrants to Citizens: Membership in a Changing World. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pp. 434-74.

Regarding trends in immigration policies for Japan’s developed-country brethren:

Comparative research suggests that citizenship policies might be effectively employed for the integration of immigrants in a democratic society.  Citizenship policies in a broad sense include rules for not only the attribution of full, formal citizenship but also the admission of legal migrants and the extension of “partial” citizenship for resident aliens.  The Japanese case is similar to other advanced industrial countries in that recent labor migration represents south-north migration or migration from developing countries to developed countries.  Experiences of Western European countries in particular provide useful points of comparison when studying the case of Japan, because Japan in its modern national state form was constructed by an indigenous majority group rather than by immigrants, as in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Contemporary debates about citizenship policies in Western European countries have their roots in immigration in the post-WWII era.  In response to sharp increases in the immigrant population, governments of these countries restricted admission and encouraged return migration in the 1970s.  The result was the settlement of former “temporary” workers and an increase in family reunification.  As immigrants were becoming a permanent feature of the society, host countries in Western Europe turned increasingly toward incorporation.  Over time, foreign workers and their families obtained a greater scope of citizenship rights.  Referred to as “denizens”, resident aliens with permanent status enjoy extensive civil and social citizenship rights, if not electoral rights on the national level. 

Denizens, however, do not possess full citizenship, notably full political rights.  For fuller integration of immigrants into a democratic political community, it becomes important to give them the opportunity for them to obtain full citizenship, not just denizenship.” (435-6)

Regarding the claim that Japan is “not an outlier” in terms of conferring nationality by blood ties, and the frequent defense that “other rich countries, such as Germany, also do it”, consider this:

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

Regarding the GOJ’s intolerance of dual nationality:

“The current international trend in coordinating nationalities is to have a greater degree of tolerance for the incidence of multiple nationality than for statelessness. The principle of “one nationality for everyone” is therefore increasingly understood to mean at least one nationality, rather than “only one,” for each person. Furthermore, migrant-sending countries have tended to support dual nationality, which would allow their nationals to retain close relationships with their country of origin while enjoying full rights and protection in the host country. Outside Europe, Mexico’s recent move to allow dual nationality for those who became naturalized U.S citizens is another example. Insisting on the desirability of “only one” nationality, the official stance of the Japanese government, therefore deviates from the current international norm.” (451)

Regarding official policy for migration and integration:

“The system of naturalization is not designed to transform foreign nationals promptly into Japanese nationals. Restriction on naturalization corresponds to the government’s stance on border control, namely that Japan does not admit immigration for the purpose of permanent settlement.” (443)

The justifications, when proffered by the Ministry of Justice all the way back in 1959, still resonate today as current:

“Since Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, policies of controlling both population growth and immigration are strongly called for. It should therefore be a government policy to severely restrict the entry of foreigners into Japan. This is all the more so because there are undesirable foreigners who would threaten the lives of Japanese nationals by criminal activity and immoral conduct.” (MOJ Shutsunyuukoku Kanri, 1959, pg. 3) (441).

So there you have it, from another researcher. It has never been policy in Japan, despite all the promises we heard in the “Kokusaika” 1980s about “getting in, making the effort to work hard in Japanese companies, learning the language and culture, and ultimately becoming Japanese like everyone else”, to let immigrants stay or make it easier for them to stay.  So it’s not going to happen (no matter what recent flawed GOJ Cabinet opinion polls claim about the public’s “no longer rejecting” NJ), because of official government policy not to let people settle, and because policymakers don’t trust foreigners to ever be “Japanese”.

In any case, it’s not a matter of being “socially accepted” by our peers — friendships on the individual level can happen.  The problem is more a matter of allowing NJ to take our place in the hierarchy — allowing for NJ and former NJ to have some transference of power and rights to them (such as letting them become sempai) in Japan beyond alien status, beyond mere “partial citizenship” and “Denizenship” through increasingly-tougher Permanent Residency, but into granting full citizenship with extensive civil and social citizenship rights while allowing them to keep their ethnic identity.  But no.  NJ are not to be trusted, because they might, unlike Japanese, commit crime or engage in immoral conduct.  As Kashiwazaki indicates above, those systematic and persistent exclusionary attitudes are outliers amongst Japan’s developed-country brethren.  Arudou Debito

UPDATE:  Okay, one more researcher weighs in, pithily.  From the same book, Part Four Introduction, pp. 383-5, by Aristide R. Zolberg, who writes in comparative perspective:

“Japan and Israel surely stand out as the ‘odd couple’ of the comparative citizenship project, each of them being an outlier in which one element of citizenship policy has been extrapolated into a dominant feature.  In short, Japan comes closer than any other economically advanced constitutional democracy to retaining a fundamentalist version of jus sanguinis, and the ‘blood’ involved is the immediate and concrete one of family or lineage, rather than merely the usual ‘imagined’ national community.” (385)

ends

Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter

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Hi Blog.  I received this two days ago and am reposting (as is) with permission.  The International Olympic Committee is currently in Japan considering Tokyo as a venue for the 2020 Summer Games.  In light of recent events that point to clear examples of discrimination and advocacy of violence towards, for example, Koreans (see below), human rights groups in Japan are advocating that the IOC understand that these actions violate the Olympic Charter and choose their venue accordingly.  Articles, photos, and letters follow from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren), Tanaka Hiroshi in the Mainichi Shinbun, and sources demonstrating that, for example, all GOJ educational subsidies for Korean ethnic schools have been eliminated as of 2013 from government budgets.

Academic Tessa Morris-Suzuki might agree with the assessment of rising discrimination, as she documents on academic website Japan Focus the protection of xenophobic Rightists and the police harassment of their liberal opponents.  Her conclusion: “But there is no rule of law if the instigators of violence are left to peddle hatred with impunity, while those who pursue historical justice and responsibility are subject to police harassment. There is no respect for human rights where those in power use cyber bullying in an attempt to silence their opponents. And democracy is left impoverished when freedom of hate speech is protected more zealously than freedom of reasoned political debate.”  Have a look.

SITYS.  This is yet but another example of Japan’s clear and dangerous swing to the Right under PM Abe.  And granting an Olympics to this regime despite all of this merely legitimize these tendencies, demonstrating that Japan will be held to a different standard regarding discrimination.  Wake up, IOC.  Arudou Debito

REPORT BEGINS:

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

Date: 2013/3/3Dear Sir/Madam,

I am … an activist against racism. I hope you to know about
racism against resident Koreans, especially  emergent crisis of Korean
ethnic schools by the central and local governments’ oppression in
Japan, even though the governments would invite the Olympic Games 2020
to Tokyo.

I’ve attached a letter to you below.

The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission arrived in
Tokyo on last Friday and it is going to inspect Tokyo from 4th to 7th
March.

It would be great honour if you handle this issue.
All the best, [redacted]

Japan Network for the Institutionalization of Schools for
Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities

Email: sangosyo@gmail.com

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

Tokyo – a city which discriminates against Korean children
January 2013

We hope to inform you that Tokyo is not an appropriate city for the
Olympic Games based on the Fundamental Principals of the Olympics,
especially that of anti-discrimination.
The main reason for this is that the central and Tokyo governments
officially discriminate against Korean children who attend Korean
schools, which are key to maintaining the Korean communities in Japan.

Koreans in Japan are an ethnic minority who were forced to come to
Japan under the Japanese colonial rule of Korea and settle there even
after WWII. Throughout their enforced stay here they have faced
various difficulties. After the liberation from the Japanese colonial
rule, Koreans in Japan established their own ethnic schools in various
places in Japan in order to maintain their own language and culture
that had been deprived from them under the Japanese colonial rule.

Although the Japanese government has not recognized Korean schools as
regular and official schools and has been imposing institutional
discrimination upon them such as exclusion from a financial support
scheme of the central government, the Korean community has been
sustaining their schools on their own for more than 60 years. The
total number of Korean schools in Japan is approximately 70, including
kindergarten, primary to high schools, and university. Nearly 10,000
Korean children whose nationality is South Korean, North Korean and
Japan are learning in those schools today, even though 80-90 % of
Korean children attend Japanese schools.

The new Democratic Party administration proposed the plan of a
so-called “Free High School Tuition” system in October 2009 as soon as
it was established. The then plan intended not to collect tuition fees
from students of public high schools in Japan and to supply students
of private schools and minority schools authorized by local
governments as “vocational school” including Korean schools with a
subsidy of the amount equivalent to the tuition fee of public high
schools.

In March 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination expressed concern about the approach of some
politicians who had suggested the exclusion of Korean schools from the
bill of “Free High School Tuition” due to the diplomatic issues
between Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The
reason for this concern was the discriminatory effects of such a
policy. However, the policy was instigated in April 2010 and since
then the central government has been discriminating against Korean
school students. They have been excluded from this system for nearly
three years, although students of 37 minority high schools including
International schools, Chinese schools and Brazilian schools have been
supplied with subsidies through this system.

On the other hand, all 27 prefectural governments where Korean schools
are located accepted them as “vocational schools” and have been
providing subsidies to Korean schools for decades, even though the
central government requested prefectural governments to not accept
them as any kind of schools in 1965.

However, the decision of the central government to exclude Korean
schools from “Free High School Tuition” has led to the new
discriminative situation in which five prefectural governments
including Tokyo have stopped their subsidies to Korean schools. Tokyo
had supplied financial aid to Korean schools for at least over 15
years. In 2009, it provided about 27,000,000Yen (190,000 Pound);
however, Tokyo has stopped its subsidies to Korean schools since 2010
without providing a clear rationale.

In addition, the then Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro officially said
that he would reconsider the accreditation of Korean schools in Tokyo
as “vocational schools” in March 2012. If the accreditation of
“vocational school” is revoked, it will cause extensive damages to
Korean schools. For instance, Korean schools will become completely
exempt from the “Free High School Tuition” system and there will be no
possibility to receive any financial support from local governments.
Furthermore, Korean schools will be forced to pay consumption tax for
tuition fee.

In December 2012, as soon as the Liberal Democratic Party won the
General Election and established its new government, it declared it
would revise an ordinance in order to exclude Korean schools due to
political tensions between Japan and North Korea, primarily the
abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.

In January 2013, Korean schools and school children in Osaka and Aichi
prefecture brought a lawsuit before the court, and Korean school
children in Tokyo are preparing lawsuit concerning these
discrimination.

Racism in Japan is generally increasing, encouraged by the racial
discrimination by the central government. The number of demonstrations
repeating hate speech against Non Japanese nationals, especially
Korean, communities has been increasing in Japan (Annex1). The police
are just gazing at the demos without restricting them because there is
no anti-discrimination law nor hate speech legislation in Japan so
that the demos has been unchecked.

ENDS

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

REFERENCE MATERIALS:

List of Annexs

1, The images of demonstration by anti-Korean racists in Korean Town of Tokyo

2, The Statement of President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations objecting to exclusion of Korean Schools from applying Free High School tuition policy

3, The Article of The Mainichi Shimbun (23 February, 2013)

4, The situation of the cut of the subsidies to Korean schools from local governments in Japan

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

Annex 1: The Images of Demonstration by Anti-Korean Racists

(February 2013, in Korean Town of Tokyo)

 antikoreandemosShinOhkubo020913

Video URL: http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2136038266418742101

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

Annex2: Statement of President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations objecting to exclusion of Korean Schools from applying Free High School tuition policy

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced a proposed amendment to ministerial ordinance on December 28th, 2012, which amends a part of enforcement regulations regarding free tuition for public high schools and subsidies for private high schools. As for the high schools where foreign students are enrolled such as international schools and ethnic schools, the current enforcement regulations define the subject for the policy as either high schools that are confirmed through its embassy to have curriculum equivalent to that of high schools in its native state, or high schools that are certified by international evaluation body, while the rest of the schools that are evaluated as having curriculum equivalent to that of Japanese high schools can be the recipient of the subsidies, whether or not Japan has diplomatic relations with its native state, after the minister of the MEXT designates each school individually. The proposed amendment is to delete the grounds for the individual designation.

Regarding the purpose of this revision, the minister of MEXT, Hakubun Shimomura, stated at the press conference on December 28th, 2012, that the proposed amendment is aimed at deleting the grounds for designating Korean schools because there is no progress to resolve the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) abduction of Japanese citizens, which makes it clear that this proposed amendment is aimed at excluding Korean Schools from applying the Free High School tuition policy.

As we stated in the “Statement on Subject High Schools of the Free Tuition Bill” on March 5th, 2010, the main purpose of this bill is “to contribute to the creation of equal educational opportunities by alleviating the financial burdens of high school education”, which is also demanded by Article 28 of Convention on the Rights of the Child. Considering the fact that Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as International Bill of Human Rights (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) guarantee the right to receive education with ethnic identity being maintained, the current ministerial ordinance which would include international schools and ethnic schools is in a right direction. Furthermore, it is revealed through the process of the deliberation on the bill that, as the Government’s collective view, the designation of high schools for foreign students should not be judged by diplomatic concern but should be judged objectively through educational perspective.

On contrary to that, this proposed amendment is to refuse to provide subsidies based on the grounds that there being no diplomatic relations between Japan and DPRK or no progress to resolve the DPRK’s abduction issue, either of which has nothing to do with the right of the child to receive education. It is a discriminative treatment which is prohibited by Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan.

Korean Schools in Japan completed applying for the designation based on the current bill legitimately by the end of November, 2011, this upcoming amendment is to extinguish the regulations considered as the grounds for applying and refuse the Korean Schools’ application retroactively after more than two years from the application, which poses serious doubt on its procedure.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations strongly urges that the proposed amendment be withdrawn whilst the review of the application from Korean schools be concluded promptly based on the current law and screening standard.

February 1st, 2013

Kenji Yamagishi, President

Japan Federation of Bar Associations

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

Annex3: The Article of The Mainichi Shimbun

 

Discrimination against Korean Schools need be reconsidered

Hiroshi Tanaka

Honorary Professor at Hitotsubashi University

24 February, 2013 

Since the host city for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics games will be determined in September, the Governor of Tokyo Metropolitan, Naoki Inose, has started Bids for Olympics in earnest. Under such circumstances, would it be right for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Japanese Government to continue discriminating Korean Schools in Japan?

At the time of Nagoya bid for the 1988 Summer Olympics, Nagoya City had “Nationality Clause” for the employment of teachers at public school which has been open to foreigners in Tokyo or Osaka, thus preventing foreigners from applying. A nongovernment human right committee in Nagoya sent an English letter to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), urging IOC to consider the serious issue on human rights of Nagoya City and to be sufficiently concerned about the improvement of moral qualification in the Olympic Movement to determine the host city. It was Seoul that was chosen as the host city in September, 1981. Though it is uncertain whether or not the letter had anything to do with the decision, it must be remembered that discrimination is unforgivable matter in the international community.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government had previously been providing subsidies worth of 15,000 yen per a student to each of 27 schools for foreign students. However, the Metropolitan Government has stopped providing subsidies to Korean Schools alone since 2010 and not on the budget next year either. There has been no illegal act on the Korean Schools side. The education of the child should not be confounded with international affair.

So called “Free High School tuition law” was implemented in the same year 2010, which was applied not only to Japanese high schools but to vocational schools and high schools for foreign students as well. Students from each of 39 high schools, such as Brazilian Schools, Chinese Schools, (South) Korean Schools and International Schools were provided with subsidies equivalent to the tuition for the public high school.

Nevertheless, the decision over whether or not (North) Korean Schools would be applicable to the policy still remains unmade and students at Korean Schools have already graduated without ever receiving subsidies over the last two years.

Following the birth of Abe Cabinet, the Minster of the Ministry of Education, Culture, sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Hakubun Shimomura (aka Hirohumi Shimomura) amended the enforcement regulations of Free High School tuition law with the purpose of excluding Korean Schools alone from the policy because there is no progress to resolve Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens. The law’s main purpose is “alleviating the financial burdens of high school education” and “to contribute to the creation of equal education opportunities”. Doesn’t this amendment to the enforcement regulations go beyond the limitation of a delegated order?

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)  expressed its concern about the exclusion of Korean Schools from Free High School tuition policy in the Concluding Observation in March, 2010, after reviewing the report submitted by Japanese Government and recommended Japan to consider acceding to the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (adopted in 1960, 100 signatories). The concern of CERD became realized by Abe Cabinet.

The report from Japanese Government to the UN Committee on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights is to be reviewed in coming April. List of Issues from the Committee says “Please provide information on the impact of the measures taken to address the persistent discrimination against children belonging to ethnic minorities and migrant families, in particular children of Korean origin”. Female students at Korean Schools used to go to school wearing chima jeogori, the traditional Korean form of dress. It’s been a long time since it became unseen in order to avoid harassment and assaults by heartless Japanese citizens.

Olympic Charter states “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” Discrimination against Korean School is incompatible with Olympics.

Discrimination against Korean Schools need be reconsidered.

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

Annex4: The situation of the cut of the subsidies to Korean schools from local governments in Japan ( 2009 – 2013 )

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Prefecture

(start date of subsidy)

Total amount of subsidy

Total amount of subsidy

Total amount of subsidy

Total amount of subsidy

Total amount of subsidy

Tokyo

(1995)

23.5 million

0

0

0

Cut from the budget

Saitama

(1982)

9 million

0

0

0

Cut from the budget

Osaka

(1988)

185 million

87 million

0

0

Cut from the budget

Miyagi

(1992)

1.5 million

1.5 million

0

0

Cut from the budget

Chiba

(1985)

5.6 million

5.6 million

0

0

Cut from the budget

Hiroshima

(1992)

13.8

million

10.1

million

9.6

million

0

Cut from the budget

Kanagawa

(1977)

72.5

million

63

million

63

million

63

million

Cut from the budget

Yamaguchi

(1992)

2.4

million

2.4

million

2.3

million

2.2

million

Cut from the budget

Based on a survey by The Association of Korean Human Rights in Japan

All the currency unit is Japanese yen ( 1 euro≒123 yen, 1 dollar≒93 yen [as of 22 Feb 2013] )

ENDS

Feb 9 2013 Tokyo Shin-Ohkubo Anti-Korean demonstrator slogans: “Good or Bad, Kill All Koreans” etc.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It was only a matter of time.  Debito.org has reported on anti-NJ demonstrations in the past (start here).  And after the Takeshima/Dokdo Islands dispute, public displays of xenophobic hatred by Japan’s strengthening Right Wing has been increasingly directed towards Zainichi Koreans in their Tokyo neighborhoods (see here, last September).

Now comes the next step:  Public demonstrations advocating violence and death, marching through an ethnic Korean neighborhood in Tokyo for maximum effect and impact.  They are happening.  Check out these photos of demonstrator signs, taken February 9, 2013, courtesy of a human rights lawyer and used with permission:
antikoreandemosShinOhkubo020913
Here is a video of that demonstration, taken in Shin-Ohkubo along Meiji Doori and Ohkubo-Doori on February 9, 2013:

Also: http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2136038266418742101

This information has come to me as part of a campaign to inform the International Olympic Committee about Japan’s discriminatory practices towards its ethnic minorities, in violation of the IOC Charter.  I will have that report up tomorrow.

COMMENT: “KOREANS: HANG YOURSELVES, DRINK POISON, LEAP TO YOUR DEATHS.” “GOOD OR BAD, KILL ALL KOREANS.”  At this rate, it is only a matter of time before these threats of violence become real.  Still holding out hope that “Japan is a peaceful, nonviolent society” and is therefore somehow exceptional?  Heed this warning:  People are people anywhere you go, and when encouraged in this way to resort to violence, eventually there will be blood.  Time to wake up and recognize what is happening in Japan before it is too late.  Arudou Debito

UPDATE:  This incident is causing debate in the lower-brow domestic press.  Nikkan Sports, April 15, 2013, courtesy of MS (click on image to expand in browser).

nikkansports041513

Amazing new Cabinet survey finds “81% welcome ‘foreigners’ of Japanese descent”. Festival of cognitive dissonance!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  This has already been discussed better elsewhere, but it would be remiss of Debito.org to not give a bit of space to this amazing Cabinet survey:

From the Japan Times/Kyodo:

//////////////////////////////////
Poll: 81% welcome foreigners of Japanese descent
KYODO MAR 2, 2013

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/03/02/national/80-of-japanese-welcome-foreigners-of-japanese-descent/

More than 80 percent of respondents in a new poll said they are open to foreign nationals of Japanese descent living in the nation, the Cabinet Office reported.

The office’s first survey of its kind, released Thursday, found 80.9 percent of respondents expressed openness to living alongside those with Japanese ancestry, including Brazilian and Peruvian descendents of Japanese immigrants. Only 12.9 percent opposed the idea.

Of the 3,000 citizens canvassed in January for the poll, 59.7 percent were also in favor of the central government and municipalities assisting non-Japanese residents to a greater extent, for instance by providing Japanese-language classes for unemployed young people and recruiting interpreters at Hello Work job-placement offices.

“With more opportunities to interact with foreigners, (Japanese people) are eventually no longer rejecting” the idea of accepting non-Japanese nationals in society, a Cabinet Office official remarked.

As of the end of 2011, there were fewer than 300,000 foreigners of Japanese descent living in the country, of whom 210,000 were Brazilians and another 50,000 Peruvians, the Cabinet Office said.
ENDS
//////////////////////////////////

Now just sit back in your chair and let that sink in for a moment. We have the highest level of government in Japan conducting a slanted survey (available in Japanese here) asking not about public acceptance of NJ, but rather a breed of NJ, specifically “Nikkei Teijuu Gaikokujin” (non-citizen residents of Japan who are of Japanese lineage). Why would that be the question asked? What policy is retroactively being sought to be justified? And why is this angle newsworthy?

Apropos of a few answers, here are some comments garnered from Debito.org and elsewhere:

==============================
AS: “Blood = Japanese v.2?”

JDG: “It’s a brilliantly pointless piece of reporting, for the sake of massaging the egos of the Japanese readers, and assuring them that Japan is a ‘modern’ country… J-public are finally willing to accept foreigners… as long as they are ‘Japanese’ foreigners… I feel like I have gone back in time 5 years. The same politicians are back, the same old economic policies are back, and now Japan wants all those Nikkeijin they paid to go home, to come back too?”

Puddintain: “Imagine a similar poll in a country mostly populated with folks of white European descent that found that 80% percent of them were willing to live with immigrants of white European descent! Wouldn’t that be something amazing?”
==============================

Robert Moorehead’s JAPANsociology blog offers a more in-depth analysis of the Cabinet survey itself, so I won’t repeat. The most poignant parts of it for me was:

==============================
Moorehead: The survey asked respondents if they knew that there were Nikkei living in Japan, and how they knew this. Nearly 53 percent the respondents either knew that Nikkei were living in Japan, or had heard about it. 46 percent answered that they did not know that this group was living in Japan… [!!!]

On the one hand, I’m encouraged by the support for Nikkei in Japan. It’s certainly better than if they had said the opposite. But … I’m skeptical. South Americans in Japan, Nikkei and non-Nikkei alike, have told me very clearly that they do not feel included in Japanese society. Instead, borrowing some phrases from Eli Anderson’s The Cosmopolitan Canopy, they’re perpetually ‘on probation.’ In this provisional status, any misstep can be used against you as a sign of the fact that you’ll never fit in…

Hopefully government officials will use this survey to promote further initiatives to empower the Nikkei (and hopefully other non-Japanese) in Japan. Publicly conducting the survey, posting it on the Cabinet Office website, and releasing it to the press, may indicate that the government is testing public support for such initiatives.

http://japansociology.com/2013/03/02/80-of-japanese-welcome-foreigners-of-japanese-descent/
==============================

COMMENT: Bingo! As has been noted before on Debito.org, the Cabinet, in its sessions last summer on how to “accept” NJ into Japanese society for future economic vitality, only showed interest in the treatment of Nikkei. Nikkei, you see, are somehow part of “us” (due to Wajin blood conceits), and it looks like Japan’s policymakers are going to give the old failed Nikkei worker importation strategy another try, and cite this “shooting fish in a barrel” survey to support it.

Anyway, if the Cabinet is so keen on taking surveys, how about its perpetually embarrassing (and, as I’ve reported in the Japan Times, very flawed) Cabinet Survey on Human Rights that it conducts every four years? I just found the 2012 version here, a year late, clearly made public with significantly less fanfare (I searched for it as late as last October).  Perhaps because the results in the past were far more revealing about Japan’s cognitive dissonance regarding human rights (over the past decade or so, only a bit more than half of respondents answered affirmatively to the survey question, “Should foreigners have the same human rights protections as Japanese?”), meaning a large proportion don’t support granting equal human rights to foreign humans!  You see, human rights for NJ, by the very nature of having to ask this kind of question, are optional in Japan.  Less so, it would seem based upon this new Cabinet survey, for the “foreigners” with the right bloodline.  Which is the conceit that this new Cabinet survey is pandering to.

Ultimately, I believe the GOJ will once again fall into the same old shortsightedness (like so many other societies) of wanting “workers” only to discover later they brought in “people”.  And then, as before, society will seek to denigrate if not get rid of them as soon as they actually have needs (such as health care to provide, children to educate, lifestyles that reflect their backgrounds, retirement pensions to pay, political power to cede) that run counter to the original national plans…  Arudou Debito

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

PS:  I will talk about the new 2012 Human Rights Survey shortly, (for the record, it’s archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20130210112833/http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h24/h24-jinken/index.html) after my next Japan Times JBC column comes out next Tuesday JST.  Seems like the surveyers read my 2007 JT column criticizing it, and changed the survey questions regarding NJ discrimination this time.

For the record:
〔参考1〕 外国人の人権擁護についての考え方,,,,,
,該当者数,日本国籍を持たない人でも、日本人と同じように人権は守るべきだ,日本国籍を持たない人は日本人と同じような権利を持っていなくても仕方がない,どちらともいえない,わからない
,人,%,%,%,%
平成19年6月調査(注1),”1,766″,59.3,25.1,10.8,4.8
平成15年2月調査(注1),”2,059″,54,21.8,15.7,8.5
平成9年7月調査(注1),”2,148″,65.5,18.5,11.5,4.5
平成5年7月調査(注1),”2,274″,68.3,20.4,8,3.2
昭和63年7月調査(注2),”2,320″,61.8,16.7,12.3,9.2
(注1)平成5年7月調査から平成19年6月調査までは、「日本に居住している外国人は、生活上のいろいろな面で差別されてい,,,,,
ると言われていますが、外国人の人権擁護について、あなたの意見は次のどちらに近いですか。」と聞いている。,,,,,
(注2)昭和63年7月調査では、「生活上のいろいろな面で、外国人は差別されていると言われていますが、外国人の人権擁護に,,,,,
ついてあなたの意見は次のどちらに近いですか。」と聞いている。,,,,,
https://web.archive.org/web/20130220074813/http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h24/h24-jinken/zh/h14san1.csv

Quoted in Die Zeit newspaper: “Japan: Old and Xenophobic” (German with machine translation)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Sometimes I wish the Star Trek Universal Translators were already here.  But we’re getting closer.  Here’s a Google Translate version of an article that came out in Die Zeit newspaper a couple of months ago that cites me and others about Japan’s political problems with creating an immigration policy.  Not a lot here that frequent readers of Debito.org don’t already know (except for the give-and-take access to export markets for the bilateral nursing agreements between Indonesia and The Philippines), but here’s a German media take on the issue.  There are some bits that are a bit clumsily translated, so corrections welcome.  Arudou Debito

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

JAPAN
Old and xenophobic
Japan on the day of elections: the economy is running out of workers. Immigrants may bridge the gap, but locals reject strangers.
DIE ZEIT, December 6, 2012, by Felix Lill
Courtesy of author Felix Lill, OM, and Google Translate (cleaned up a bit, corrections welcome)
Original German at
http://www.zeit.de/2012/50/Japan-Wirtschaft-Arbeitskraefte-Einwanderer

To Ezekiel Ramat would be the Japanese economy actually tear. [??]  The 24 year old geriatric nurse is young, well educated and unmarried. Moreover, the man hails from the Philippines, who for almost two years in Japan, lives for two-thirds of the salary of his Japanese colleagues. But instead of being welcomed with open arms, Ramat needs after-hours cramming. After four years, he must either pass the Japanese nurse exam – or leave the country.

The contents Ramat knows that from his training at home. But the three Japanese alphabets in which the questions are asked, make it almost impossible for foreigners to pass the test. Only one in ten may remain at the end.

“I’m learning every day,” says Ramat. “Maybe I have a 50-50 chance.” He says he’s even hopeful about the December 16th Japanese parliamentary elections: A new government , which will most likely represent to current polls business-oriented Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), must be on the future of Japan. “Japan’s economy still needs foreigners working. It would be unwise to kick us again.”  So gives Ramat courage.

An immigration campaign would be political suicide

For decades, Japan has been in a shaky position. The once-booming industrial nation barely registered economic growth. The national debt – in terms of economic power – is higher than that of Greece.

Even today, every fourth Japanese is over 65 years old . The birth rate is so low that the population will decline by 2050 from 127 million today to below 90 million. Several governments have tried to counter by more kindergartens, child care allowance and the like, but little has borne fruit. In 100 years, there might be only 40 million Japanese.

Now there is a lack of skilled labor, falling tax revenues, and no one knows who is going to pay in the future the growing pension claims. According to calculations by the United Nations, by 2050 only 17 million workers will be found to fund the pensions.

But there is a solution: Immigrants like Ezekiel Ramat. Japan’s foreign population is currently 1.3 percent, extremely low for a highly developed country: Germany has at about 8.5 percent foreigners. In Japan, the number of immigrants in recent years even went down. But strange: no one in politics seems to care about immigration policy. Neither the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) nor the main opposition parties mention the subject at all in their campaigns. When asked, all assert that they want to promote more immigration. But they make no specific proposals.

“In Japan, it would be political suicide to run an immigration campaign,” says Arudou Debito. The author of US-Japanese origin has long been involved with Japan’s foreign policy, and has also just written his doctoral thesis. “Most Japanese can not imagine having to share their country with foreigners.” Opinion polls recorded in recent years paint a foreigner-skeptical picture.

Only half of the Japanese supported the idea of ​​granting foreigners the same fundamental rights as Japanese. A third of the population was against further immigration. Three-quarters think that in ten million immigrants would exceed the limit of what is acceptable.

“Which party is under such circumstances to make active immigration policy?” Asks Debito. He even a few years ago made headlines when he sued a Japanese hot spring, which had denied his two American-looking daughters entry. [Sic:  it was one of my daughters, not both.]  To date, Japan has no law to protect foreigners against [racial] discrimination.

Japan has tried to compensate for an aging society through immigrants. As the dangers of shrinking population became known in the eighties, Japan courted Japanese-born Brazilians for simple tasks. By 2004 this had risen to almost 300,000. But since there was a lack of integration programs, a lot of Brazilians in Japan never felt at home.

In addition, policy making and media sentiment against the newcomers blamed the increasing proportion of foreigners for a rise in crime. With the start of the financial crisis, it was finally opportune to send back the foreigners out of the country. From 2009, each Brazilian has been offered a one-way ticket to South America, on condition they never seek work in Japan [sic: on the same visa status].

In June 2008, the Liberal Democrat Cabinet of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced a plan by which within 50 years about ten million immigrants should be admitted. The number of foreign students should rise by 2025 to one million per year. But both Fukuda and his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, who ruled Japan from 2001 to 2006, saw the acceptance by the Japanese the biggest obstacle. At the end of his administration, Koizumi said, “If the number of foreign workers exceeds a certain level, there will be conflict.  It should be prevented. “

To not rely on the consent of the electorate, Japanese bureaucrats concluded their last bilateral contracts through the back door. Agreements with the Philippines and Indonesia that were hardly discussed publicly allowed Japanese companies market access and in turn allowed the posting of caregivers for sick and elderly to Japan.

A sign for a better immigration policy was not there. “The main objective of these agreements was to support our export economy,” says Takahiro Wakabayashi, who is in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of business with Southeast Asia. Wakabayashi does not deny the need for more immigration itself, but on the question of why this insight occasions little action, he gives an answer that is heard again and again: The topic of immigration is controversial. “We should have the economic capacity to take in more people. But the unions fear in such a case falling wages.”

Young foreigners be exploited – and then sent away

The author Debito believed that the current provisions for foreign workers are therefore less restrictive, so they do not remain in the country in the long term. “The examination system at the nurses is intended to take advantage of some of the best years of young foreigners and then return them home. The system works: Theoretically, everyone has the chance to make it to a status of unlimited right of residence [sic:  I did not say anything about Permanent Residency], but almost no one gets it. “

If there are alternatives to more immigration to Japan? One might raise the retirement age, which is 65 years. But that would be very expensive for the company. In Japan, namely, the principle that with increasing seniority and higher salaries are paid. In addition, today many Japanese retirees take new jobs, because their pension is not enough. Women, of which less than two-thirds have a job complain that there was not enough childcare.

In the eyes of the scientist Naohiro Ogawa, it is a matter of time before Japan’s “demographic time bomb” explodes. “Until Japan is willing to open the door to more immigrants, the countries that would like to send today, workers have long since been in the situation of labor shortage. Worldwide, the population growth back already. ” [??]

And the patience of Japanese contractors is limited. For example, Clifford Paragua of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo. He says: “We could do a lot more than the current 600 workers send to Japan. Japan could use a lot more. “In the Middle East 800,000 Filipinos are working in hospitals, their education will also be recognized, and they came through with English mostly. Why,” asks Paragua, should “young Filipinos choose Japan?”

No matter who wins: Even after the election will probably not change much in the integration policy. Many of the few foreigners who make it to Japan, such as geriatric nurses Ezekiel Ramat, will send half of their income to the family back home – and then leave after a few years the country again.

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” says Naohiro Ogawa. Because immigrants would not just do the work and pay the pensions, they would not buy the products of Japanese manufacturers and with their own children compensate the lack of Japanese youth.” Ogawa says that his people would only think about it once properly. “Economic understanding would suffice.”
ENDS

Book Review: “At Home Abroad” by Adam Komisarof, a survey of assimilation/integration strategies into Japan (interviews include Keene, Richie, Kahl, Pakkun, and Arudou)

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BOOK REVIEW
At Home Abroad: The Contemporary Western Experience in Japan“, by Adam Komisarof. Reitaku University Press, 2012. 251 pages, ISBN: 978-4-892025-616-1

athomeabroadcover

(Publisher’s note:  On sale in Japan through Amazon Japan, in North America through Kinokuniya USA)
Review exclusive to Debito.org, January 20, 2013
By ARUDOU DEBITO (updated version with errata corrected and Robin Sakamoto’s photo added)

At Home Abroad” is an important, ambitious academic work that offers a survey, both from academics in the field and from people with expertise on living in Japan, of theories on how people can assimilate into foreign culture both on their own terms and through acquisition of local knowledge. Dr. Komisarof, a professor at Reitaku University with a doctorate in public administration from International Christian University in Tokyo, has published extensively in this field before, his previous book being “On the Front Lines of Forging a Global Society: Japanese and American Coworkers in Japan” (Reitaku University Press 2011). However, this book can be read by both the lay reader as well as the academic in order to get some insights on how NJ can integrate and be integrated into Japan.

The book’s goal, according to its Preface, is to “address a pressing question: As the Japanese population dwindles and the number of foreign workers allowed in the country increases to compensate for the existing labor shortage, how can we improve the acceptance of foreign people into Japanese society?” (p. 1) To answer this, Komisarof goes beyond academic theory and devotes two-thirds of the book to fieldwork interviews of eleven people, each with extensive Japan experience and influence, who can offer insights on how Westerners perceive and have been perceived in Japan.

The interviewees are Japan literary scholar Donald Keene, Japan TV comedian Patrick “Pakkun” Harlan, columnist about life in rural Japan Karen Hill Anton, university professor Robin Sakamoto, activist and author Arudou Debito, Japan TV personality Daniel Kahl, corporate managing director of a Tokyo IT company Michael Bondy, Dean of Waseda’s School of International Liberal Studies Paul Snowden, Tokyo University professor and clinical psychologist Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, politico and business executive Glen Fukushima, Keio University professor Tomoko Yoshida, and Japan scholar Donald Richie (photos below).

As Komisarof acknowledges in his section on caveats (pp. 11-2), these people have a “Western cultural heritage” (as nine are from the US) and are mostly Caucasian; he notes that he confines his analysis to “Westerners”, and does not “presume to address the experiences of Korean permanent residents of Japan or people from developing countries,” as “both deserve to have entire books written about their experiences, which are in many ways quantitatively different from non-Japanese who have moved here by their own volition from affluent nations” (ibid). To counter this, Komisarof taps into “other types of diversity among the interviewees in terms of ethnicity, profession, and gender” (ibid) (e.g., Anton is African-American, Murphy-Shigematsu and Fukushima are of Japanese descent, and Yoshida is a Japanese raised abroad; three — Sakamoto, Arudou, and Murphy-Shigematsu — were naturalized Japanese at the time of their interview).

Being self-aware of these caveats salvages the science, but the interviews (despite good questions from Komisarof) are uneven and do not always speak to the point. Donald Keene comes off as patrician and supercilious about his position in Japan (not to mention out of touch with the way that most NJ live in Japan) when he says: 

There is still a hard core of resistance to Japanese culture among foreigners living in, say, Minato-ku. […] All of their friends are non-Japanese — with the exception of a few Japanese friends who speak English fluently. They live in houses that are completely Western in every detail. They read the English newspaper, The Japan Times, and they know who danced with whom the night before. They are still living in a colony. But I think that colony has grown smaller than ever before and has been penetrated by new people who want to learn about Japan. If you read about Yokohama in 1910, it would have been a very strange family that thought it was a good idea to let their son or daughter to go to a Japanese school and learn anything about Japan. They would never think in terms of living here indefinitely. They would think, “When we finish our exile here, we will go to a decent place.” (23)

donaldkeenenhk
Donald Keene, courtesy of NHK

No doubt, this may have been true in Yokohama back in 1910. But that is over a century ago and people thought even interracial marriage was very strange; nowadays it’s not, especially in Japan, and I doubt many NJ residents see Japan as a form of “exile”. Keene remains in character by depicting himself as a Lawrence of Arabia type escaping his colony brethren to get his hands dirty with the natives (somehow unlike all the other people interviewed for this book; I wonder if they all met at a party how Keene would reconcile them with his world view).

pakkunmakkun

Patrick Harlan also comes off as shallow in his interview, mentioning his Harvard credentials more than once (as wearers of the Crimson tend to), and claims that he is sacrificing his putative entertainer career income in America by “several decimal places” for “a good gig here”.  Despite his linguistic fluency to be a stand-up manzai comic, he makes claims in broad strokes such as “Ethnic jokes don’t even exist [in Japan]. People are treated with respect.” (36)  He also talks about using his White privilege in ways that benefit his career in comedy (such as it is; full disclosure: this author does not find Pakkun funny), but makes assertions that are not always insightful re the points of assimilation/integration that this book is trying to address. Clearly, Dave Spector would have been the better interview for this research (although interviewing him might be as difficult as interviewing Johnny Carson, as both have the tendency to deflect personal questions with jokes).

karenhillantonRobinSakamotopaulsnowdenglenfukushima
(L-R) Karen Hill Anton, courtesy of her Linkedin Page; Robin Sakamoto, courtesy of Robin Sakamoto; Paul Snowden, courtesy of the Yomiuri Shinbun;Glen Fukushima, courtesy of discovernikkei.org.

Other interviews are more revealing about the interviewee than about the questions being broached by the book.  Both Karen Hill Anton and Robin Sakamoto, despite some good advice about life in Japan, come off as rather isolated in their rural hamlets, as does a very diplomatic Paul Snowden rather ensconced in his Ivory Tower. Glen Fukushima, although very politically articulate, and highly knowledgable about code-switching communication strategies to his advantage in negotiations, also sounds overly self-serving and self-promoting.

Daniel Kahl’s interview is the worst of the book, as it combines a degree of overgeneralizing shallowness with an acidulous nastiness towards fellow NJ.  For example:

I can read a newspaper and my [TV] scripts… I know about 2000 kanji, so I’m totally functional, and I think that’s a prerequisite for being accepted.  I hate to say it, but there are a lot of foreigners who complain, “I’m not accepted in society!”  That’s because you can’t read the sign that explains how to put out your garbage.  And people get mad at you for mixing cans with bottles.  Simple as it may seem, those are the little things that get the neighbors angry. (206)

danielkahljapanprobe
Poster of Daniel Kahl courtesy of Ministry of Justice Bureau of Human Rights, caption courtesy of Japan Probe back in the day.

Especially when Kahl says:

I think that a foreigner who comes here and makes the effort can definitely be accepted. If you feel that you are not, then you’ve already got a chip on yours shoulder to begin with. […] For example, do you remember the incident in Hokkaido when the Japanese public bath owners had a “No Foreigners” sign up in front of their buildings? I guess two or three foreign folks got really upset about that, and they sued the place. Why would you sue them? Why don’t you go talk to those people? Tell the, “Look, I’m a foreigner. But I’m not going to tear your place up. Could you take down that sign?” Then the Japanese might have explained that they weren’t doing it to keep out all foreigners, but to keep out the drunk Russian sailors who were causing all the trouble in the first place. I don’t know all of the details, but these foreigners thought that they were making a political and legal statement. It could have been made very effectively, though, without embarrassing that city or the public bath owners. The foreigners were trying to change the law, but it was a pretty confrontational way to do so. I can almost guarantee that those foreigners are going to have a hard time being accepted by the Japanese in general. (100)

 

Kahl is exactly right when he says, “I don’t know all of the details,” since just about everything else he says above about the Otaru Onsens Case is incorrect. For example, it was more than “two or three foreign folk” getting upset (Japanese were also being refused entry, and there was a huge groundswell of support from the local community); one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit mentioned is not foreign. Moreover, as Arudou mentions in his interview, they did “go talk to those people”: they spent more than fifteen months talking one-on-one with all parties to this dispute, until there was no other option but to go to court (which millions of Japanese themselves do every year).  Moreover, at least one of the plaintiffs, Dr. Olaf Karthaus, is very well assimilated into his community, having graduated two children (with a third in junior high) through Japan’s secondary schooling, becoming Director at the Department of Bio- and Material Photonics at the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology, and participating daily in his Sapporo church groups.  In any case, Kahl’s lack of research is inexcusable, since he could have easily read up by now on this case he cites as a cautionary tale:  There are whole books written in English, Japanese, or even free online in two languages as an exhaustive archive available for over a decade as a cure for the ignorant. There’s even, as of 2013, an updated Tenth Anniversary Edition eBook downloadable for Amazon Kindle and Barnes&Noble NOOK, moreover for a very reasonable price of $9.99 or yen equivalent.  One can safely conclude that Kahl chooses to be ignorant in order to preserve his world view.

michaelbondytomokoyoshidastephenmurphyshigematsu
(L-R) Michael Bondy courtesy of his Linkedin Page; Tomoko Yoshida courtesy of Keio University; Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu courtesy of Stanford University.

The best interviews come from Bondy (who offers much practical advice about getting along in a Japanese-hybrid workplace), Yoshida and Murphy-Shigematsu (both of whom have some academic rigor behind their views of the world, and express their measured views with balance, deep thought and intuition). But the best of the best comes last with Donald Richie, who shows that old people do not necessarily become as curmudgeonly as Keene. Just selecting one nugget of insight from his excellent interview:

If I could take away the things that I don’t like about Japan, then it wouldn’t be Japan anymore. So I’ve always made an attempt to swallow Japan whole — not to discriminate so much between what I like or don’t. This is not as important as, “Does this work or not?” or “Does this serve a wider purpose or not?” These are more important questions than whether I like them or not. I’ve never paid too much attention to what I don’t like and conversely what I do like about Japan. […] But what I do like is the sense of interconnectiveness. […] When workmen used to try to make a wall and a tree would get in the way, they would make a hole in the wall to accommodate the tree instead of the other way around. This used to be seen on a regular basis. Alas, it is no more. A lot of the things which I like about Japan have disappeared. If this symbiotic relationship was ever here, it is not here anymore. The Japanese have down terrible things physically to their country. That would be something which I do not like about Japan. But if I dice it into likes and dislikes, and I have difficulty doing that, there wmust be a better way to see differences. Indeed, in my wriitng, I try not to rely on like and dislike dichotomies. I rely more on what works and doesn’t work. (172)

donaldrichie
Donald Richie still courtesy of his film anthology

That said, Richie does careen into Keene territory when he carelessly compares NJ in Japan with autistic children in a kindergarten:

If an autistic child goes to a kindergarten, he becomes a legal member of that class, but he’s still an autistic child.  So he has double citizenship.  That is very much me — like any foreigner here.  He is put in a special class for autism, but at the same time,  he is given all of the honors and securities of belonging to this particular class.  He gets a double dose.  And if he is smart, then he recognizes this. (224)

This is not a good comparison, as it likens extranationality to a mental handicap.  And it also ignores the racialized issues of how somebody “looks” in Japan (as in “looks foreign”) with how somebody is treated (as a “foreigner”), when autism is not a matter of physical appearance.  It also assumes that people can never recover from or overcome a birth-based “autism of national origin” (this author’s paraphrase), becoming acculturated enough to “become a Japanese” (whereas autism is, as far as I know, a lifelong handicap).  This clearly obviates many of the acculturation strategies this book seeks to promote.  Richie may stand by this comparison as his own personal opinion, of course, but this author will not, as it buys into to the notion of surrendering to a racialized class (in both senses of the word) system as being “smart”.

In the last third of the book, Kamisarof takes these interviews and incorporates them into the following questions, answered with balanced input from all participants:

  1. When do Westerners feel most comfortable with Japanese people?
  2. How does Westerners’ treatment in Japan compare to that of immigrants and long-term sojourners in their home countries?
  3. Is there discrimination against Westerners in Japan?
  4. How does discrimination in Japan compare to that in Western countries?
  5. Is it right to play the Gaijin Card?
  6. Are Westerners accepted more by Japanese people if they naturalize to Japan?
  7. Can Westerners be accepted in Japan, and if so, what do they need to do to belong?
  8. Can popular public ideas about who belongs in Japanese society move beyond nationality?
  9. How are Japanese perceptions of Westerners changing?

After this remix of and focus upon individual strategies, Komisarof devotes his final chapter to bringing in academic discussions about general “acculturation strategies”, based upon attitudes and behaviors (both on the part of the immigrant and the native), putting them into a classic four-category strategy rubric of “Integration” (i.e., the “multicultural salad”), “Assimilation” (i.e., the “melting pot”), “Separation” (i.e., segregation into non-mixing self-maintaining communities), and “Marginalization” (i.e., segregation from mainstream society with self-maintenance of the non-mainstream community discouraged). In an attempt to choose the “best” acculturation strategy, Korisamof then builds upon this rubric into a sixteen-category “Interactive Acculturation Model” that may lose most non-academic readers. He concludes, sensibly:

“Merely increasing the non-native population in Japan without improving acculturation strategy fits is insufficient and may cause further problems. Instead, it is critical that a sense of BELONGING and PARTICIPATION, rather than mere coexistence, be shared between Japanese and the foreign-born residents in their midst… ” (237, emphases in original). “The underlying message of this book for all nations wrestling with unprecedented domestic diversity is that the inclusion of everyone is essential, but only through mutual efforts of the cultural majority and minorities can such inclusion become a reality. Creating living spaces where people can feel a sense of belonging and share in the benefits of group membership is an urgent ned worldwide, and it is happening, slowly, but surely, here in Japan. (239)

This has been a perpetual blind spot in GOJ policy hearings on “co-existence” (kyousei) with “foreigners”, and this book needs a translation into Japanese for the mandarins’ edification.

If one could point to a major flaw in the book, it would not be with the methodology.  It would be with the fieldwork:  As mentioned above, the interviews do not ask systematically the same questions to each interviewee, and thus the answers do not always speak to the questions about assimilation strategies Komisarof later asks and answers.  For example, Arudou’s typically rabble-rousing interview style offers little insight into how he personally deals with the daily challenges of life in Japan.  (For the record, that information can be found here.)  As is quite typical for people in Japan being asked what Japan is all about and how they “like” it, the interviewees answer in individually-suited ways that show myopic views of Japan, redolent of the fable about the Blind Men and the Elephant.  Not one of the respondents (except for, in places, Arudou) talks about the necessity for a sense of community building within NJ groups themselves, i.e., unionizing, creating anti-discrimination or anti-defamation leagues, or fostering the organizational trappings of the cultural self-maintenance that may be essential or is taken as a given within other non-Westerner transplant communities (although disputed by Ishi, 2008).  Instead, all we hear about (due to the lines of questioning within the fieldwork) are how atomistic people create their own psychological armor for “dealing with Japan”.

Another important issue remains fundamentally unaddressed by Komisarof:  How one must assume “good faith” and “reciprocity” on the part of Japanese society bringing in NJ to work, and how these assimilation strategies being offered must one day bear fruit (as the interviewee proponents claim they will.  Harlan:  “True acceptance comes when you are contributing to society as fully as anyone else.” (200)).  But what if your full contributions to Japan are not being fully recognized, with long-term friendships, promotions, equal access to social welfare, and even senpai status over Japanese?  As the links to each of these topics attest, this is not always the case.  Under Komisarof’s assimilation strategies, what do you do then?  Give, give, and give for many years and then just hope society gives something back?  What guarantees should there be for reciprocity?  There is only so much a mentally-healthy individual can contribute, sacrifice, and offer to “assimilate” and “integrate” into a society before feeling used and used up.

That said, if you want an insightful, thoughtful book that will introduce you to the global academic debate on transnational migration, assimilation, and integration, moreover tailored to the peculiar milieu of Japan, Komisarof’s “At Home Abroad” is it.

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

SOURCE:  Ishi, Angelo Akimitsu (2008), in David Blake Willis and Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Eds., “Transcultural Japan:  At the borderlands of race, gender, and identity.”  New York:  Routledge, pp. 122-5.

Copyright ARUDOU Debito 2013.  All rights reserved.

US Senator Daniel Inouye dies, Mazie Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan; contrast with do-nothing self-gaijinizing Tsurunen

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Hi Blog.  Second in a series of two of prominent passings is American Senator Daniel Inouye, a notable Congressman who held on to his congressional seat longer than even legacy legislator Ted Kennedy.  As per the local obit excerpt below, he had a quite glorious career in the military as part of the groundbreaking 442nd (some veterans I’ve even met in Hawai’i), then was a pathbreaker for Asian-Americans as a public servant.

http://www.kitv.com/news/hawaii/Sen-Daniel-K-Inouye-dead-at-age-88/-/8905354/17808008/-/wsjrh/-/index.html
Senator Inouye began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Senator Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.

But consider how he was able to do this, as pointed out by submitter PKU:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/442nd_Infantry_Regiment_%28United_States%29
President Roosevelt announced the formation of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team (the “Go For Broke” regiment), saying, “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.” Ultimately, the draft was instated to obtain more Japanese–Americans from the mainland and these made up a large part of the 14,000 men who eventually served in the ranks of the 442nd Regiment.

Now this is important.  Even as least AS FAR BACK AS FDR (the better part of a century ago), we had the United States at the highest levels of public office attempting to disentangle race/national or social origin from nationality.

This is something that Japanese society to this day has never accomplished (Japan’s Nationality Law still requires blood for citizenship, and from that derives the entanglement of race and legal status).  Nor is Japan really trying.  I speak from personal experience (not to mention court precedent) when I say that civil and political rights in Japan are grounded upon being “Japanese”, and “Japaneseness” is grounded upon phenotype (i.e., “looking Japanese”).  This MUST be untangled by Japan if it ever hopes to encourage people to come in and settle down as “New Japanese”, not to mention allow people of mixed heritage to breathe as people of color and diversity.  But I neither see it happening soon, nor are progressive steps even being taken towards it (I am in fact arguing that Japan in recent years has been regressing… see herehere and here).

As further proof of the helpfulness of a society with notions of citizenship disentangled from race/national or social origin, we have another Senator from Hawaii who just got elected, Mazie Hirono — and she wasn’t even born in the United States!  She was born in Japan.

Now, you might say that, well, Finland-born Caucasian Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei has also been elected to high office in Japan, so big deal.  But Tsurunen has been at his post for more than a decade now, and he’s squandered the opportunity by settling into it like a sinecure — doing just about nothing for the rights of NJ in Japan (such as not even bothering to attend or send a rep to a UN CERD meeting at the Diet on May 18, 2006).  In fact, Tsurunen has even gone so far as marginalize and gaijinize himself!  If one gives him the benefit of the doubt (I don’t, but if), such are the effects of constant pressure of being socially “Othered” in Japan, despite his legal duty to uphold his constitutional status as a Japanese citizen and an elected official.

In comparison, the hurdles Hirono overcame were significant but not insuperable.  Even though she was nowhere near as articulate or politically thoroughbred as her Republican opponent, former Hawai’i Governor Laura Lingle, Hirono still grossed nearly double the votes (261,025 to 155,565) last November 6 to clinch the seat.  Further, if the legacy of Inouye is any template, I think Hirono will do more than just settle for being a symbolic sphinx in her role as a legislator.  Because she can — in a polity which can elect people for life despite their foreign (or foreign-looking) backgrounds, she has more opportunities in society than Tsurunen ever will — or will make for himself.

My point is, the disentanglement of race/social origin from nationality (i.e., rendering clearly and politically at the highest levels of government) is something that every state must do if it is to survive as a nation-state in future.  Given its demographics, especially Japan.  Arudou Debito

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November 6, 2012, 10:59 PM JST
Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan
By Yoree Koh
http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2012/11/06/japanese-born-woman-set-to-make-u-s-election-history/

Associated Press, Courtesy of CC

UPDATE: U.S. Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono defeated former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle on Tuesday night, according to the Associated Press. Ms. Hirono becomes the Aloha State’s first woman senator as well as the first Japan-born immigrant to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

As Japan’s politicians jockey over when to hold the next general election, one of Japan’s own is on the cusp of making U.S. election history.

Recent polls show Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono is favored to win the open Senate seat in Hawaii when voters cast their ballots Tuesday. If successful, Ms. Hirono will usher in a wave of firsts. She will be the first Japanese immigrant to be elected senator. She will also be the first Buddhist and Asian-American woman. She will be the first woman senator to represent the Aloha State, and is already the first foreign-born woman of Asian ancestry to be sworn into Congressional office.

The 65-year-old congresswoman was born in Fukushima, the northeastern prefecture where the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is located. When she was 8 years old, her mother moved the family to Hawaii. Ms. Hirono once said the immigrant experience and being raised by a single mother in economically difficult circumstances made her a “feisty and focused” lawmaker. She became a naturalized citizen in 1959, the same year Hawaii became a state.

Regardless who wins, Hawaii will get its first woman senator. Ms. Hirono, currently serving her third term in the House of Representatives, is up against former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican and long-time political rival to whom Ms. Hirono lost the 2002 gubernatorial race. The two women are chasing the seat opened up by Hawaii’s 88-year-old junior senator, Daniel Akaka, a Democrat. After a 36-year career, Mr. Akaka, the Senate’s only Chinese American, announced his retirement last year.

Scores of Americans of Japanese descent have been elected to public office since World War II. Case in point: If Ms. Hirono wins, both senators from the Aloha State will be of Japanese descent. Senior senator Daniel Inouye, who is also a Democrat, made his own imprint on Asian American history as the first Japanese American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and later, the Senate. The 88-year-old Mr. Inouye has been a senator since 1963, making him the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history.

There have been only five Asian American senators until now. Four have represented Hawaii and one has represented California.

But no Japanese-born–or any Asian-born for that matter–has been elected to the Senate. According to the U.S. Senate Historical Office, of 1,931 senators who have been sworn in since 1789, there have been 58 born outside the U.S. Most immigrated from Ireland (16), England (12) and Canada (10). One each came from Cuba, Mexico, Antigua and Sweden. People who have been U.S. citizens for at least nine years are eligible to be senator.

Ms. Hirono is a familiar face among Hawaii’s Democratic establishment. Since returning from the mainland after earning a law degree from Georgetown University, she served for 14 years in the state legislature, eight years as lieutenant governor and is currently in her fifth year in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her one election failure was her bid to become governor in 2002. But it raised her profile, both at home and in Japan. State broadcaster NHK covered her campaign extensively and had plans to televise the 2002 election live, according to a Chicago Tribune story.

Ms. Hirono, whose immigrant story seems to resonate with Hawaii’s diverse voting population, has campaigned fully backing President Barack Obama’s platform, casting her opponent as a Republican lackey. The Hawaiian-born president recently recorded a radio ad for Ms. Hirono, noting that she once worked with his late grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.

“So Mazie isn’t just a reliable partner of mine in Washington; she is part of my ohana at home in Hawaii. Now, I need Mazie’s cooperative style and commitment to middle-class families in the U.S. Senate,” said the president in the ad released Saturday. “Mazie is a nationally recognized leader in early childhood education. A staunch defender of Medicare and Social Security.”

Ms. Lingle’s campaign challenges Ms. Hirono’s past claims of support for the middle class. “Contrary to her rhetoric and her efforts to portray herself as caring about working people, Mazie Hirono’s actions clearly illustrate either that her words are just talk or that she simply does not understand the impact of her votes,” said Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, Ms. Lingle’s campaign manager, in a statement on Oct. 23.

In the final days of campaigning, polls indicated Ms. Hirono breaking away from her opponent with as much as a 22-percentage-point lead.

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

mytest

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Hi Blog. Thanks everyone for putting this article in the Top Ten Most Read once again for most of New Year’s Day (and to the JT for distinguishing this with another “Editor’s Pick”). Great illustrations as always by Chris Mackenzie.  Here’s hoping I have more positive things to say in next year’s roundup… This version with links to sources. Enjoy. And Happy New Year 2013.  Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013

The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10

By ARUDOU DEBITO

Back by popular demand, here is JBC’s roundup of the top 10 human rights events that most affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan in 2012, in ascending order.

10. Keene’s naturalization (March 7)
News photo

This should have occasioned great celebration in Japan’s era of crisis, but instead, scholar Donald Keene’s anointment as a Japanese citizen became a cautionary tale, for two reasons. One was his very public denigration of other NJ (despite their contributions as full-time Japan residents, taxpayers and family creators) as alleged criminals and “flyjin” deserters (JBC, Apr. 3), demonstrating how Old Japan Hands eat their young. The other was the lengths one apparently must go for acceptance: If you spend the better part of a century promoting Japanese literature to the world, then if you live to, oh, the age of 90, you might be considered “one of us.”

It seems Japan would rather celebrate a pensioner salving a wounded Japan than young multiethnic Japanese workers potentially saving it.

9. Liberty Osaka defunded (June 2)
News photo

Liberty Osaka (www.liberty.or.jp), Japan’s only human rights museum archiving the historical grass-roots struggles of disenfranchised minorities, faces probable closure because its government funding is being cut off. Mayor Toru Hashimoto, of hard-right Japan Restoration Party fame (and from a disenfranchised minority himself), explicitly said the divestment is due to the museum’s displays being “limited to discrimination and human rights,” thereby failing to present Japan’s children with a future of “hopes and dreams.”

In a country with the most peace museums in the world, this politically motivated ethnic cleansing of the past augurs ill for cultural heterogeneity under Japan’s right-wing swing (see below).

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10619 http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

8. Nationality Law ruling (March 23)
News photo

In a throwback to prewar eugenics, Tokyo District Court ruled constitutional a section of the Nationality Law’s Article 12 stating that a) if a man sires a child with a foreigner b) overseas, and c) does not file for the child’s Japanese citizenship within three months of birth, then citizenship may legally be denied.

Not only did this decision erode the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that granted citizenship to international children born out of wedlock, but it also made clear that having “foreign blood” (in a country where citizenship is blood-based) penalizes Japanese children — because if two Japanese nationals have a child overseas, or if the child is born to a Japanese woman, Article 12 does not apply. The ruling thus reinforced a legal loophole helping Japanese men evade responsibility if they fool around with foreign women.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10060 http://www.debito.org/?p=1715

7. No Hague signing (September 8)
News photo

Japan’s endorsement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction became a casualty of months of political gridlock, as the opposition Liberal Democratic Party blocked about a third of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s bills.

The treaty outlines protocol for how children of broken marriages can avoid international tugs of war. As the Community Pages have reported umpteen times, Japan, one of the few developed countries that is not a signatory, remains a haven for postdivorce parental alienation and child abductions.

Since joint custody does not legally exist and visitation rights are not guaranteed, after a Japanese divorce one parent (regardless of nationality) is generally expected to disappear from their child’s life. Former Diet member Masae Ido (a parental child abductor herself) glibly called this “a Japanese custom.” If so, it is one of the most psychologically damaging customs possible for a child, and despite years of international pressure on Japan to join the Hague, there is now little hope of that changing.

Sources:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html
http://www.debito.org/?p=10548

6. Immigration talks (May 24-August 27)
News photo

In one of the few potentially bright spots for NJ in Japan this year, the Yoshihiko Noda Cabinet convened several meetings on how Japan might go about creating a “coexistence society” that could “accept” NJ (JBC, July 3). A well-intentioned start, the talks included leaders of activist groups, local governments and one nikkei academic.

Sadly, it fell into old ideological traps: 1) Participants were mostly older male Japanese bureaucrats; 2) those bureaucrats were more interested in policing NJ than in making them more comfortable and offering them a stake in society; 3) no NJ leader was consulted about what NJ themselves might want; and 4) the Cabinet itself confined its concerns to the welfare of nikkei residents, reflecting the decades-old (but by now obviously erroneous) presumption that only people with “Japanese bloodlines” could “become Japanese.”

In sum, even though the government explicitly stated in its goals that NJ immigration (without using the word, imin) would revitalize our economy, it still has no clue how to make NJ into “New Japanese.”

Source:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10396

5. Mainali, Suraj cases (June 7, July 3)
News photo

2012 saw the first time an NJ serving a life sentence in Japan was declared wrongfully convicted, in the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali. The last time that happened (Toshikazu Sugaya in 2009), the victim was released with a very public apology from public prosecutors. Mainali, however, despite 15 years in the clink, was transferred to an immigration cell and deported. At least both are now free men.

On the other hand, the case of Abubakar Awudu Suraj (from last year’s top 10), who died after brutal handling by Japanese immigration officers during his deportation on March 22, 2010, was dropped by public prosecutors who found “no causal relationship” between the treatment and his death.

Thus, given the “hostage justice” (hitojichi shihō) within the Japanese criminal prosecution system, and the closed-circuit investigation system that protects its own, the Japanese police can incarcerate you indefinitely and even get away with murder — particularly if you are an NJ facing Japan’s double standards of jurisprudence (Zeit Gist, Mar. 24, 2009).

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=9265
http://www.debito.org/?p=10407
“Hostage justice”: http://www.debito.org/?p=1426

4. Visa regimes close loop (August)
News photo

Over the past two decades, we have seen Japan’s visa regimes favoring immigration through blood ties — offering limited-term work visas with no labor law rights to Chinese “trainees” while giving quasi-permanent-residency “returnee” visas to nikkei South Americans, for example.

However, after 2007’s economic downturn, blood was judged to be thinner than unemployment statistics, and the government offered the nikkei (and the nikkei only) bribes of free airfares home if they forfeited their visa status (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009). They left in droves, and down went Japan’s registered NJ population for the first time in nearly a half-century — and in 2012 the Brazilian population probably dropped to fourth place behind Filipinos.

But last year was also when the cynical machinations of Japan’s “revolving door” labor market became apparent to the world (JBC, March 6) as applications for Japan’s latest exploitative visa wheeze, “trainee” nurses from Indonesia and the Philippines, declined — and even some of the tiny number of NJ nurses who did pass the arduous qualifying exam left. Naturally, Japan’s media (e.g., Kyodo, June 20; Aug. 4) sought to portray NJ as ungrateful and fickle deserters, but nevertheless doubts remain as to whether the nursing program will continue. The point remains that Japan is increasingly seen as a place to avoid in the world’s unprecedented movement of international labor.

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10010
http://www.debito.org/?p=10497
http://www.debito.org/?p=10340
International labor migration stats http://www.oecd.org/els/internationalmigrationpoliciesanddata/internationalmigrationoutlook2012.htm

3. New NJ registry system (July 5)
News photo

One of the most stupefying things about postwar Japan has been how NJ could not be registered with their Japanese families on the local residency registry system (jūmin kihon daichō) — meaning NJ often went uncounted in local population tallies despite being taxpaying residents! In 2012, this exclusionary system was finally abolished along with the Foreign Registry Law.

Unfortunately, this good news was offset by a) NJ still not being properly registered on family registries (koseki), b) NJ still having to carry gaijin cards at all times (except now with potentially remotely readable computer chips), and c) NJ still being singled out for racial profiling in spot ID checks by Japanese police (even though the remaining applicable law requires probable cause). It seems that old habits die hard, or else just get rejiggered with loopholes.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10414
http://www.debito.org/?p=9718
Remotely readable computer chips http://www.debito.org/?p=10750

2. Post-Fukushima Japan is bust
News photo

After the multiple disasters of March 11, 2011, there was wan hope that Japan’s electorate would be energized enough to demand better governance. Nope. And this despite the revelations in December 2011 that the fund for tsunami victims was diverted to whaling “research.” And the confusing and suppressed official reports about radioactive contamination of the ecosystem. And the tsunami victims who still live in temporary housing. And the independent parliamentary report that vaguely blamed “Japanese culture” for the disaster (and, moreover, offered different interpretations for English- and Japanese-reading audiences). And the reports in October that even more rescue money had been “slush-funded” to unrelated projects, including road building in Okinawa, a contact lens factory in central Japan and renovations of Tokyo government offices.

Voters had ample reason for outrage, yet they responded (see below) by reinstating the original architects of this system, the LDP.

For everyone living in Japan (not just NJ), 2012 demonstrated that the Japanese system is beyond repair or reform.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=9745
http://www.debito.org/?p=9756
http://www.debito.org/?p=10706
http://www.debito.org/?p=10428
http://www.debito.org/?p=9698
http://japanfocus.org/-Iwata-Wataru/3841

1. Japan swings right (December)
News photo

Two columns ago (JBC, Nov. 6), I challenged former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara (whose rabble-rousing bigotry has caused innumerable headaches for disenfranchised people in Japan, particularly NJ) to “bring it on” and show Japan’s true colors to the world in political debates. Well, he did. After a full decade of successfully encouraging Japanese society to see NJ (particularly Chinese) as innately criminal, Ishihara ratcheted things up by threatening to buy three of the privately-owned Senkaku islets (which forced the Noda administration to purchase them instead, fanning international tensions). Then Ishihara resigned his governorship, formed a “restorationist” party and rode the wave of xenophobia caused by the territorial disputes into the Diet’s Lower House (along with 53 other party members) in December’s general election.

Also benefiting from Ishihara’s ruses was the LDP, who with political ally New Komeito swept back into power with 325 seats. As this is more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes, Japan’s bicameral legislature is now effectively unicameral. I anticipate policy proposals (such as constitutional revisions to allow for a genuine military, fueling an accelerated arms race in Asia) reflecting the same corporatist rot that created the corrupt system we saw malfunctioning after the Fukushima disaster. (Note that if these crises had happened on the LDP’s watch, I bet the DPJ would have enjoyed the crushing victory instead — tough luck.)

In regards to NJ, since Japan’s left is now decimated and three-quarters of the 480-seat Lower House is in the hands of conservatives, I foresee a chauvinistic movement enforcing bloodline-based patriotism (never mind the multiculturalism created by decades of labor influx and international marriage), love of a “beautiful Japan” as defined by the elites, and more officially sanctioned history that downplays, ignores and overwrites the contributions of NJ and minorities to Japanese society.

In sum, if 2011 exposed a Japan in decline, 2012 showed a Japan closing.

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10854
New arms race:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20302604 (Watch the video from minute 5.30:  the Hyuuga, Postwar Japan’s first new aircraft carrier is now in commission, two new big aircraft carriers are in production.)

Bubbling under (in descending order):

• China’s anti-Japan riots (September) and Senkaku-area maneuvers (October to now).

• North Korea’s missile test timed for Japan’s elections (December 12).

• NJ workers’ right to strike reaffirmed in court defeat of Berlitz (February 27).

• NJ on welfare deprived of waiver of public pension payments (August 10), later reinstated after public outcry (October 21).

• Statistics show 2011’s postdisaster exodus of NJ “flyjin” to be a myth (see JBC, Apr. 3).

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10055
http://www.debito.org/?p=10081

Debito Arudou and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012’s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp.
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013
ENDS

Japan now a place to avoid for international labor migration? NHK: Even Burmese refugees refusing GOJ invitations, electing to stay in Thai refugee camp!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In this time of unprecedented migration of labor across borders (click to see some international labor migration stats from the ILO and the OECD), I think increasingly one can make a strong case that Japan is being seen as a place to avoid.  As I will be mentioning in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out January 1, 2013), as part of my annual countdown of the Top Ten most influential human rights issues in 2012 affecting NJ in Japan, Japan’s “revolving-door” visa regimes (which suck the most productive work years out of NJ while giving them fewer (or no) labor law protections, and no stake in Japanese society — see here and here), people who are even guaranteed a slot in Japan’s most difficult visa status — refugees (see also here) — are turning the GOJ down!  They’d rather stay in a Thai refugee camp than emigrate to Japan.  And for reasons that are based upon word-of-mouth.

That’s what I mean — word is getting around, and no amount of faffing about with meetings on “let’s figure out how We Japanese should ‘co-exist’ with foreigners” at the Cabinet level is going to quickly undo that reputation.

Immediately below is the article I’m referring to.  Below that I offer a tangent, as to why Burmese in particular get such a sweetheart deal of guaranteed GOJ refugee slots.  According to media, “From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants.  Those numbers are tiny in comparison with Canada, which accepted more than 42,000 refugees last year, despite having a much smaller population than Japan.  But they are also tiny in comparison to European countries such as France and Italy. On a per capita basis, Japan’s rate of accepting refugees is 139th in the world, according to the United Nations.”  This means that Burmese make up between a third to a half of all refugees accepted!  Why?  As a holiday tangent, consider the elite-level intrigue of a wartime connection between the Japanese Imperial Army and SLORC…  Arudou Debito

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Japan to receive no Myanmar refugee this year
via NHK
Published on Wednesday, 26 September 2012
http://www.houseofjapan.com/local/japan-to-receive-no-myanmar-refugee-this-year

All 16 people on a list of Myanmar refugees preparing to enter Japan have dropped out of the program. They have decided to remain in a camp in northwestern Thailand.

The 16, from 3 families, said they were worried about life in Japan. They had already quit studying Japanese language and culture.

The Japanese government started the program 2 years ago to help refugees who escaped from conflicts and persecutions in their home countries.

45 people from 9 families have used the program to move to Japan.

One of those leaving the program this year said he wanted his children to study technology in Japan, but was concerned that he had no support network in the country.

He had planned to move to Japan with his wife and 4 children.

Myanmar’s democratization has convinced some refugees to return home.

The Japanese government says it plans to continue the program next year.

ENDS

Now for the political intrigue:

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

JPRI Working Paper No. 60: September 1999
Japan’s “Burma Lovers” and the Military Regime (excerpt)
by Donald M. Seekins
http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp60.html

Japanese people often claim that their nation has a “special relationship” with Burma. Most older Japanese think of Michio Takeyama’s novel Biruma no tategoto (translated by Howard Hibbett as Harp of Burma), the story of Private Mizushima, a good-hearted soldier who is separated from his comrades and dons the robes of a Buddhist monk. When his unit is repatriated to Japan after the war, he refuses to go with them, staying behind to take care of the remains of the Japanese war-dead. As many as 190,000 Japanese soldiers died in Burma in 1941-1945, and groups of veterans regularly visit the country to relive old memories and pray at the graves of fallen comrades.[…]

The most important legacy of the Japanese occupation was the establishment of a powerful national army, Tatmadaw in Burmese, which grew out of the BIA and was largely modeled on Japanese rather than British lines. Many of its officers studied at Japanese military academies during the war. Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, a leading member of the military junta that has ruled Burma since September 1988, commented in November 1988, “We shall never forget the important role played by Japan in our struggle for national independence” and “We will remember that our Tatmadaw [army] was born in Japan.”1 Ethnic minorities like the Karens and Shans who have experienced the Tatmadaw’s counterinsurgency campaigns in the border areas claim that its brutal behavior was inspired by the Imperial Japanese Army.[…]

Postwar Economic Ties

Postwar relations between Japan and Burma were primarily economic in nature. Official ties began in 1954, after Tokyo and the U Nu government signed a peace treaty and a war reparations agreement, which brought the struggling young state some US$250 million in Japanese goods and services, supplemented by “quasi-reparations” amounting to US$132 million between 1965 and 1972. Tokyo allocated these additional “quasi-reparations” (jun baisho) on the grounds that the original funds were insufficient compared to those given other Asian countries.

During this period, many Japanese who went to Burma as diplomats or technical advisers fell in love with the country. Back home, they were called biru-kichi (Biruma-kichigai, “crazy about Burma”), a remarkable attitude given the condescension with which most Japanese officials regarded their poor Asian neighbors. Japanese were impressed by the professionalism and honesty of Burma’s civil servants, who used reparation funds conscientiously, in contrast to some other recipient governments.

Many Japanese also identified with the country because of shared Buddhist values, although the schools of Buddhism (Theravada in Burma, Mahayana in Japan) are different. Their social ethics are similar, however, stressing respect for elders and educated people, strong family ties, and a sense of mutual obligation. But while Japan had rapidly modernized and is losing many of these traditional values, Burma seemed to have preserved them uncorrupted by modernity.

According to the well-known business guru Ken’ichi Ohmae, who visited Burma in 1997 with a Japanese business delegation and was a quick convert to the biru-kichi mindset, “Even I, with much contact with many Asian countries, have seen no other country in Asia whose morality is so firmly grounded in Buddhism.”2 Ohmae compares Burma favorably with China where allegedly “they do everything for money.” Burma also evokes his nostalgia for Japan’s rural past: “Seeing the lives of the people in Myanmar [Burma], I remembered Japan in previous years. I was raised in the countryside in Kyushu, where children always walked around barefoot, the lights were not electric, and the bathrooms had no running water. The current Myanmar mirrors these memories of farming villages in Japan.” While biru-kichi is a refreshing alternative to the insular Japan-is-unique worldview, it is not unmixed with other motives, as the title of Ohmae’s November 26, 1997, article in Sapio (magazine) suggests: “Cheap and Hardworking Laborers: This country Will Be Asia’s Best.” […]

Many inside Japan’s business world–and their supporters in academia and the media–seem to share a common goal with the junta: discrediting Aung San’s daughter. Given her central role in the struggle for democracy, it is not an exaggeration to say that if she could be marginalized and lost the support of the international community, big corporations in Japan and elsewhere would find it easy to get their governments to snuggle closer to the junta. Without Suu Kyi, full economic engagement and recognition would surely follow swiftly.

Kazushige Kaneko, director of an obscure Institute of Asian Ethnoforms and Culture in Tokyo, repeats the junta’s racist charges that Aung San Suu Kyi sold out her country by marrying a foreigner, the late Oxford professor Dr. Michael Aris. He writes, “For example, if Makiko Tanaka [the daughter of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and today a member of the Diet] stayed in America for thirty years and returned with a blue-eyed American husband and children, do you think we Japanese would make her our prime minister?” (The Asia 21 Magazine, Fall 1996).

Nor is the attack on Aung San Suu Kyi confined to fringe figures. In an April 1995 article published in Bungei Shunju, Yusuke Fukada claims that Burmese are sending out a “love call” (rabu kooru) to Japan for economic assistance and that Suu Kyi is the only real obstacle to better relations. The reason she is so uncompromising with the military regime, Fukada argues, is her marriage to an Englishman. “If she had married a Japanese, she would have made quite different decisions.” In the June 1996 issue of Shokun, Keio University Professor Atsushi Kusano expresses amazement that Suu Kyi has become a figure of international stature, attributing it to a campaign by the mass media.8 […]

Two factors seem to account for Japan’s ambiguous Burma policy. One is the strength of its business interests, counterbalanced by pressure from Japan’s Western trading partners who take a less indulgent stance toward the junta. Some observers cynically suggest that Western governments, especially Washington, act as Tokyo’s “superego” on human rights, inhibiting it from pursuing its usual economics-first policies. But Liberal Democratic Party cabinets cannot ignore business interests, which have been stepping up pressure for full engagement since 1989, using means both fair and foul. The best of both worlds for policymakers in Japan would be a transition to civilian rule, either involving Aung San Suu Kyi or someone else. This could legitimize more active aid policies as well as greater investment by Japanese companies. But given the political situation, this is unlikely to happen soon.

Second, if Tokyo strongly supported the democracy movement in Burma, this would inevitably reflect on its policies toward other countries such as China and Indonesia, where the stakes for Japan are much higher. Some Americans have criticized their own government’s inconsistency on this matter: the Clinton Administration maintains sanctions on little-known Burma but maintains full economic engagement with the regime in Beijing.

Japanese elites are not used to and do not like open debate, especially on foreign policy. Some members of the Diet are interested in Burma, both pro- and anti-junta, but the issues are rarely discussed, even the junta’s misuse of debt relief funds for the procurement of weapons. Bureaucrats and LDP bigwigs keep policy initiatives to themselves, which means that their actions often appear incomprehensible or arbitrary to outsiders, including Japanese citizens. The flap over so-called humanitarian aid for Rangoon’s airport is an example of this. In a way, Tokyo’s Burma policy, deeply influenced by the sentimental Orientalism of the business world and its allies, says as much about the limitations of Japanese-style democracy as it does about the lack of democracy in Burma.

Full article at http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp60.html

ENDS

2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan on sale Dec 2012, updated

mytest

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Hi Blog. I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN goes on sale in December 2012.

This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012.

A table of contents, excerpt, and more details on what’s inside and how you can get the book here. Those rave reviews here.

Get ready to get yourself a new copy! Arudou Debito

(Oh, and my Japan Times JBC column has been postponed a week due to a major scoop this week that will fill the Community Page…)

Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan

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Hi Blog.  The UN Human Rights Council has once again prodded Japan to do something to improve its record on human rights (and this time the GOJ, which must submit a report every two years, actually submitted something on time, not eight years overdue as a combined “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Report”).  Here’s how the media reported on their interplay:

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

Japan Times Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012

U.N. prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows
Kyodo
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121104a8.html

GENEVA — A panel under the U.N. Human Rights Council has endorsed some 170 recommendations for Japan to improve its human rights record, including Tokyo’s handling of the so-called comfort women issue, the euphemism for the Imperial army’s wartime sex slaves.

The Universal Periodic Review’s working group, which is tasked with examining the human rights records of all U.N. member states, compiled 174 proposals for Japan in a report summarizing the findings from a session held last week.

While the recommendations are not legally binding, Japan has been asked to provide a response by March, when the Human Rights Council will convene for a regular session at the United Nations office in Geneva.

During last week’s session, China, North and South Korea, and numerous other countries proposed that Japan recognize its legal responsibility and provide adequate compensation to women forced into sexual slavery across Asia by the Imperial army before and during the war.

Other recommendations include the safeguarding of Japanese citizens’ right to lead a healthy life, in light of the enormous amount of radioactive fallout spewed over a vast area by the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The town of Futaba, which found itself in the center of the nuclear storm since it cohosts the wrecked plant, had actively campaigned for the inclusion of this right.

The report also called on Japan to abolish the death penalty after more than 20 countries, including prominent EU member states, objected to its continued use of capital punishment.

ENDS

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

Universal Periodic Review – MEDIA BRIEF

Wednesday 31 October (afternoon)

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Highlights31October2012pm.aspx

(Disclaimer: The following brief is intended for use of the information media and is not an official record. The note provides a brief factual summary of the UPR Working Group meeting with the State under review and does not cover all points addressed. An official summary of the meeting can be found in the Working Group report.)

[NB:  Emphasis in bold italics added by Debito.org.]

State under review Japan
Represented by a 30-member delegation headed by Mr. Hideaki Ueda, Ambassador in charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Documents To access national report, compilation of UN information, and summary of stakeholders’ information, visit the Japan page of the UPR website
Troika * Bangladesh, Libya, Peru
Opening statement by State under review Few points raised in the  opening statement of State under review:
(See full statement on the Japan page of the UPR extranet )

  • The head of delegation noted that in July 2009 Japan ratified the Convention on enforced disappearance and in April 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up the Division for the Implementation of Human Rights Treaties;
  • In March 2011, Japan extended a standing invitation to the Special Procedures and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health was visiting the country next month;
  • In September 2012, the Cabinet adopted a decision confirming the content of a Bill to establish a Human Rights Commission  which will be an independent body compliant with the Paris Principles;
  • The Government of Japan was of the view that the application of the death penalty was unavoidable in the case of the most heinous crimes and therefore considered that the immediate abolition of the death penalty was not appropriate;
  • Japan has been working to realize a gender-equal society in various fields based on the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality formulated in December 2010;  furthermore, an Action Plan for Economic Revival through Women’s Active Participation was formulated for a gender-equal society;
  • Japan drew up an Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons in 2009 and in July 2011 the Government compiled guidelines outlining the measures to be taken by the concerned ministries and agencies engaged in combatting in persons;
  • Japan was carrying out intensive institutional reforms concerning persons with disabilities and was moving towards an early ratification of the Convention of the rights of persons with disabilities, which it has already signed;
  • In June 2008, the Diet adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people and in July 2009 the Advisory Council for the Future Ainu Policy proposed basic principles for the future Ainu policies aiming to build a rich and cohesive society where Ainu people can live with a sense of pride;
  • Noting that 19 months had passed since the earthquake of March 2011, the head of delegation stated that in order to achieve reconstruction the Government was committed to alleviating the continuing hardship of the people affected by the disaster and was decisively carrying out reconstruction projects without delay;
  • Responding to questions posed in advance, a member of the delegation noted that per the Constitution of direct or indirect discrimination was prohibited in Japan; as far as children who were born out of wedlock, provided that the authorities were notified of the birth the registration of the child’s birth was permissible;
  • In response to questions posed by States during the review, the delegation noted that the majority of Japanese people were of the view that the death penalty was unavoidable and that a life sentence in place of a death sentence was unfair for the prisoner as they were not given the possibility of release;
  • Discrimination in recruitment, wage disparity and dismissal on the basis of pregnancy were prohibited by law.
Participants In total 79 States participated in the dialogue:  28 HRC members and 51 observers  (Statements available onthe Japan page of the UPR extranet)
Positive achievements Positive achievements noted by delegations included, among others:

  • The promotion of disaster reduction policies and efforts to respect human rights during the reconstruction;
  • The extension of a standing invitation to the Special Procedures;
  • Measures to uphold the rights of the child and to combat human trafficking;
  • Steps to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities;
  • Initiatives to prevent violence against women and to advance women’s rights and the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality;
  • Achievements in the field of socio-economic development and the realization of the MDGs.
Issues and Questions Issues and questions raised by the Working Group included, among others:

  • Plans envisaged to abolish the death penalty or impose a moratorium;
  • Efforts to reform the prison/detention system and to uphold the rights of prisoners;
  • Measures to address cases of child abduction and child pornography;
  • Plans to set up a national human rights commission in compliance with the Paris Principles;
  • Steps to enhance the gender equality and eliminate gender stereotypes;
  • Anti-discrimination legislation, particularly targeting migrants and disabled persons.
Recommendations States participating in the dialogue posed a series of recommendations to Japan. These pertained to the following issues, among others:

  • Abolishing the death penalty or establishing a moratorium on its use, and establishing a national dialogue in this regard; and considering imposing a life sentence in place of a death sentence;
  • Reforming the detention system (Daiyo Kangoku) to bring it in line with international standards;
  • Defining discrimination in national legislation in line with the CERD and prohibiting all forms of discrimination including on the basis of age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or nationality and adopting specific legislation to outlaw direct and indirect racial discrimination and guaranteeing access to effective protection and remedies through competent national courts;
  • Strengthening efforts to promote and protect the rights of migrants including through public awareness and implementing a comprehensive anti-discrimination law providing effective protection against discrimination against persons with disabilities;
  • Facilitating the acquisition of nationality by all children born on its territory who would otherwise be stateless and ensuring free birth registration;
  • Taking further steps to raise public awareness of, and to eliminate gender stereotypes against women and ensuring greater political representation and participation of women in public life;
  • Conducting a comprehensive study on the situation of minority women and developing a national strategy to improve living conditions for minority women;
  • Taking measures acceptable to the victims of the issue of so-called “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War;
  • Adopting a plan of action to combat sexual exploitation of children, child pornography and prostitution and to provide assistance to victims of sexual exploitation, and reviewing legislation with a view of criminalizing the possession of child pornographic materials;
  • Step up efforts to establish a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles;
  • Protecting the right to health and life of residents living in the area of Fukushima from radioactive hazards and ensuring a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health in that connection;
  • Ratification of human rights instruments:  the Convention on the rights of migrant workers, the Palermo protocol on human trafficking, OP to the CESCR, the 2nd OP to the ICCPR, the OPCAT, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the 3rd OP to the CRC,  the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, and the OP to CEDAW.
Adoption of reportof Working Group The adoption of the report of the UPR Working Group on Japan is scheduled to take place on Friday, 2 November
  • The troikas are a group of three States selected through a drawing of lots who serve as rapporteurs and who are charged with preparing the report of the Working Group on the country review with the involvement of the State under review and assistance from the OHCHR. 

Media contact: Rolando Gómez, Public Information Officer, OHCHR, + 41(0)22 917 9711, rgomez@ohchr.org
============================

DETAILED SOURCES

http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12667&LangID=E

http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,JPN,4562d8cf2,506d55922,0.html

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/JPSession14.aspx

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

So you see, once again the GOJ is avoiding the topic of creating a legal framework to protect people against racial discrimination — claiming it’s already forbidden by the Japanese Constitution (but as we’ve stressed here umpteen times, no explicit law in the Civil or Criminal Code means no enforcement of the Constitution).  But all the UN HRC seems to be able to do is frown a lot and continue the talk shop.  Further, the UN still chooses the word “migrants” over “immigrants”, which makes NJ (and their J children) who need these rights look like they’re only temporary workers — the “blind spot” continues.  Meanwhile, Fukushima and the death penalty seem to have sucked all the oxygen out of the debate arena regarding other human rights issues.

What follows is what Japan submitted to the HRC for consideration.  As you can see, it’s basically cosmetic changes, open to plenty of bureaucratic case-by-case “discretion”, amounting to little promise of fundamental systemic or structural changes.  Arudou Debito

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

From http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/506d542e2.pdf
A/HRC/WG6/14/JPN/1
(screen captures of section pertinent to Debito.org, pages 15-16)

ENDS

NYT on Donald Keene “becoming one of them”, in an underresearched article that eulogizes the man before time

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Hi Blog.  I didn’t know the New York Times was in the habit of writing eulogies before their subject dies.  But that’s essentially what happened earlier this month with their write-up on Donald Keene.

Frequent readers of Debito.org will remember why I take such a dim view of Keene’s ignominious actions at the twilight of an illustrious career.  I’ve devoted a Japan Times column to how a scholar of his standing used poor social science in his public statements alluding to the “Flyjin Myth” and the fiction of foreigners as criminals.  Despite this, Keene has still refused to acknowledge any of the good things that NJ residents have done (not only in terms of disaster relief “in solidarity” with “The Japanese”, but also on a day-to-day basis as workers, taxpayers, and non-criminals).  Nor has Keene amended his public statements in any way to reflect a less self-serving doctrine — thus elevating himself while denigrating others in his social caste.  In essence, Keene has essentially “pulled up the ladder behind him”, stopping others from enjoying the same trappings of what the NYT claims is “acceptance”.  Thus, how NJ sempai in Japan (even after naturalization) eat their young to suit themselves is a fascinating dynamic that this article inadvertently charts.

This article represents a missed research opportunity for an otherwise incredibly thorough reporter (Martin has written peerless articles on Fukushima, and I simply adored his report on the Ogasawaras).  How about this for a research question:  Why else might The Don have naturalized?   I say it doesn’t involve the self-hugging cloaked as some odd form of self-sacrifice.  How about investigating the fact that while gay marriage is not allowed in Japan, adoption (due to the vagaries of the Koseki Family Registry system) is a common way for same-sex partners to pass on their inheritance and legacies to their loved ones — by making them part of their family.  Naturalization makes it clear that there will be no extranationality conceits to interfere with the smooth transfer of claims.  This article could have been a fine peg to hang that research on.

Not to mention the fact that even seasoned journalists at the NYT can fall for The Fame:  Ever hear of the old adage that enables many a minority to receive the veneer of “acceptance” despite all the racialized reasons to deny it?  It’s called:  “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.”   Yes, so many lovely “thanks” from strangers in coffee shops; but as I’ve written before, The Don sadly won’t be around for any denouement once The Fame inevitably fades.

(Then we get to a few semantic issues unduly unsophisticated for the NYT:  the old stereotypes within about Japan as “a racially homogeneous nation” — haven’t we gotten beyond that yet?  Well, there is a sop thrown in to qualify the reconfirmed Flyjin Myth with “many foreign residents and even Japanese left the country.”  Yes, EVEN Japanese left Japan.  Huh.  Of course, under normal circumstances, NJ would never stay and Japanese would never leave, even if the food chain is getting irradiated and the GOJ, as Martin has so assiduously reported in the past, has been unforthright about it.  But that’s me putting on my semantic “microaggression” cap; excuse the digression…)

Anyway, if one gives the NYT the benefit of the doubt here, I think the tack of the article should have been, “A person has to jump through THIS many hoops in order to be considered ‘one of them’ [sic] in Japan?  Go through all of this, and you should be ‘accepted’ by the time you are, oh, say, ninety years old.”  Instead, this development is portrayed as a mutual victory for The Don and Japan.

Why is this not problematized?  Because this article is a eulogy — it’s only saying the good things about a person (not yet) departed, and about a society that will not realize that it needs New Japanese who are younger and able to do more than just feebly salve (instead of save) a “wounded nation”.  That’s the bigger metaphor, I think, The Don’s naturalization represents to today’s Japan.  Arudou Debito

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

New York Times, November 2, 2012
Lifelong Scholar of the Japanese Becomes One of Them
By MARTIN FACKLER, courtesy of AH

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/03/world/asia/with-citizenship-japan-embraces-columbia-scholar.html

TOKYO — WITH his small frame hunched by 90 years of life, and a self-deprecating manner that can make him seem emotionally sensitive to the point of fragility, Donald Keene would have appeared an unlikely figure to become a source of inspiration for a wounded nation.

Yet that is exactly how the New York native and retired professor of literature from Columbia University is now seen here in his adopted homeland of Japan. Last year, as many foreign residents and even Japanese left the country for fear of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident that followed a deadly earthquake and tsunami, Dr. Keene purposefully went the opposite direction. He announced that he would apply for Japanese citizenship to show his support.

The gesture won Dr. Keene, already a prominent figure in Japanese literary and intellectual circles, a status approaching that of folk hero, making him the subject of endless celebratory newspaper articles, television documentaries and even displays in museums.

It has been a surprising culmination of an already notable career that saw this quiet man with a bashful smile rise from a junior naval officer who interrogated Japanese prisoners during World War II to a founder of Japanese studies in the United States. That career has made him a rare foreigner, awarded by the emperor one of Japan’s highest honors for his contributions to Japanese literature and befriended by Japan’s most celebrated novelists.

Dr. Keene has spent a lifetime shuttling between Japan and the United States. Taking Japanese citizenship seems a gesture that has finally bestowed upon him the one thing that eludes many Westerners who make their home and even lifelong friendships here: acceptance.

“When I first did it, I thought I’d get a flood of angry letters that ‘you are not of the Yamato race!’ but instead, they welcomed me,” said Dr. Keene, using an old name for Japan. “I think the Japanese can detect, without too much trouble, my love of Japan.”

That affection seemed especially welcome to a nation that even before last year’s triple disaster had seemed to lose confidence as it fell into a long social and economic malaise.

During an interview at a hotel coffee shop, Japanese passers-by did double takes of smiling recognition — testimony to how the elderly scholar has won far more fame in Japan than in the United States. A product of an older world before the Internet or television, Dr. Keene is known as a gracious conversationalist who charms listeners with stories from a lifetime devoted to Japan, which he first visited during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

BUT what is perhaps most remarkable about Dr. Keene is that Japan, a racially homogeneous nation that can be politely standoffish to non-Japanese, has embraced him with such warmth. When he legally became a Japanese citizen this year, major newspapers ran photographs of him holding up a handwritten poster of his name, Kinu Donarudo, in Chinese characters. To commemorate the event, a candy company in rural Niigata announced plans to build a museum that will include an exact replica of Dr. Keene’s personal library and study from his home in New York.

He says he has been inundated by invitations to give public lectures, which are so popular that drawings are often held to see who can attend.

“I have not met a Japanese since then who has not thanked me. Except the Ministry of Justice,” he added with his typically understated humor, referring to the government office in charge of immigration.

With the patient air of someone who has tussled with Japanese bureaucracy before, he listed what he called the absurd requirements imposed upon him to take Japanese citizenship, including documentation to prove his completion of elementary school in New York City. Still, in a nation that welcomes few immigrants, Dr. Keene’s application was quickly approved. To become Japanese, Dr. Keene, who is unmarried, had to relinquish his American citizenship.

His affection for Japan began in 1940 with a chance encounter at a bookstore near Times Square, where Dr. Keene, then an 18-year-old university student at Columbia, found a translation of the Tale of Genji, a 1,000-year-old novel from Japan. In the stories of court romances and intrigue, he found a refuge from the horrors of the world war then already unfolding in Europe and Asia.

Dr. Keene later described it as his first encounter with Japan’s delicate sense of beauty, and its acceptance that life is fleeting and sad — a sentiment that would captivate him for the rest of his life.

When the United States entered the war, he enlisted in the Navy, where he received Japanese-language training to become an interpreter and intelligence officer. He said he managed to build a rapport with the Japanese he interrogated, including one he said wrote him a letter after the war in which he referred to himself as Dr. Keene’s first P.O.W.

LIKE several of his classmates, Dr. Keene used his language skills after the war to become a pioneer of academic studies of Japan in the United States. Among Americans, he is perhaps best known for translating and compiling a two-volume anthology in the early 1950s that has been used to introduce generations of university students to Japanese literature. When he started his career, he said Japanese literature was virtually unknown to Americans.

“I think I brought Japanese literature into the Western world in a special way, by making it part of the literary canon at universities,” said Dr. Keene, who has written about 25 books on Japanese literature and history.

In Japan, he said his career benefited from good timing as the nation entered a golden age of fiction writing after the war. He befriended some of Japan’s best known modern fiction writers, including Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe. Even Junichiro Tanizaki, an elderly novelist known for his cranky dislike of visitors, was fond of Dr. Keene, inviting him to his home. Dr. Keene says that was because he took Japanese culture seriously.

“I was a freak who spoke Japanese and could talk about literature,” he joked.

Japanese writers say that Dr. Keene’s appeal was more than that. They said he appeared at a time when Japan was starting to rediscover the value of its traditions after devastating defeat. Dr. Keene taught them that Japanese literature had a universal appeal, they said.

“He gave us Japanese confidence in the significance of our literature,” said Takashi Tsujii, a novelist.

Mr. Tsujii said that Dr. Keene was accepted by Japanese scholars because he has what Mr. Tsujii described as a warm, intuitive style of thinking that differs from what he called the coldly analytical approach of many Western academics. He said that this has made Dr. Keene seem even more Japanese than some of the Japanese novelists whom he has studied, like Mr. Mishima, an ultranationalist influenced by European intellectual fads.

“Keene-san is already a Japanese in his feelings,” Mr. Tsujii said.

Now, at the end of his career, Dr. Keene is again helping Japanese regain their confidence, this time by becoming one of them. Dr. Keene, who retired only last year from Columbia, says he plans to spend his final years in Japan as a gesture of gratitude toward the nation that finally made him one of its own.

“You cannot stop being an American after 89 years,” Dr. Keene said, referring to the age at which he got Japanese citizenship. “But I have become a Japanese in many ways. Not pretentiously, but naturally.”
ENDS

Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it

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Hello Blog. My old friend Sakanaka Hidenori, who has had his writings featured on Debito.org in the past, has bravely spoken out once again to talk about Japan’s inevitable decline into oblivion if present trends continue. He calls for a revolution through immigration and… well, let me excerpt from the Japan Times article on him that came out yesterday.  Says things that have also been said here for a long, long time.  Arudou Debito

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

‘Only immigrants can save Japan’
The Japan Times, October 21, 2012
By MICHAEL HOFFMAN, Special to The Japan Times

PHOTO CAPTION: Face of change: Hidenori Sakanaka, the former Justice Ministry bureaucrat and Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief fears the nation is on the brink of collapse, and says “we must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.”

Japan as we know it is doomed.

Only a revolution can save it.

What kind of revolution?

Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”

That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.

It’s an unlikely resume for a sower of revolution. Sakanaka clearly sees himself as such. His frequent use of the word “revolution” suggests a clear sense of swimming against the current. Other words he favors — “utopia,” “panacea” — suggest the visionary.

“Japan as we know it” is in trouble on many fronts. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent tsunami and nuclear disasters, struck a nation whose economy had been stagnant for 20 years while politicians fiddled and government floundered. But that’s not Sakanaka’s point. He is focused on demographics. “Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” […]

No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth.

Sakanaka claims to have found one.

Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” […]

It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121021x3.html
ENDS

ZakSPA!: “Laughable” stories about “Halfs” in Japan, complete with racialized illustration

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader CJ submits the following ZakSPA! page talking about Japan’s genetic internationalization in tabloid style: How “funny” it is to be a “half.”

http://www.zakzak.co.jp/zakspa/news/20121009/zsp1210091400003-n1.htm

Reading through the articles (enclosed below), I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, it’s good to have the media acknowledging that there are Japanese kids of diverse roots and experiences out there, with some tone of saying how silly it all is that so many people get treated in stereotypical ways (with a “roundtable of halfs” at the end giving their own views on the situation). On the other hand, the level of discourse gets pretty low (“some foreigner talked to me in Narita Airport in English and it was so frightening I felt like crying”), and an opportunity to actually address a serious issue of how Japan has changed is wasted on parts laughing, parts crybabying, parts confirmation that treating people as “different” because they look “different” is a natural, if not inevitable, part of life in Japan. I’ll let Debito.org Readers read for themselves and decide whether this important topic is being broached properly.

Definitely not cool, however, is the topic page with the prototypical illustration of a “half”:

We have not only some phenotypical “othering” going on here, but also the trope of “being foreign means you can’t use chopsticks”. One would think that most multiethnic Japanese (not to mention anyone regardless of nationality — it’s a skill) would have few problems with that. But it’s supposed to be funny, in a “microaggressive” sort of way. Har har. Arudou Debito

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“一般人ハーフ”のトホホな体験談を紹介!外見、言葉、文化…

★[一般人ハーフ]のトホホな日常 ZAK X SPA! 2012.10.09

外見でトホホ編

バラエティ番組を中心に、今、ハーフタレントが大人気!しかし一般人ハーフは、いいことばかりじゃないようで、日本人離れした外見がトホホな事態を招くことも。

「高校に進学するときに引っ越しをして、誰も知ってる人がいない学校に。そしたら『あいつ何者?』って感じで、最初の1週間は周りからものすごく注目されました」(オランダとのハーフ男性)

初日の休み時間には、彼を一目見ようと学年中が押しかけ、廊下が黒山の人だかりになったとか。

「話しかけてくるわけでもなく、ワイワイ言いながら遠巻きに見てるだけで……。動物園のパンダになったような気分でした」って、どんなド田舎の学校だよ!?

「ハーフって○○だよね」という思い込みで、ミョーなことを言われちゃうこともある。

「『ハーフなのに背が低いよね』ってよく言われます。ベッキーだって158cmで、 私と一緒。背の低い白人ハーフもいることを知ってほしい(笑)」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)

逆に、「ハーフ」と聞いて視界にフィルターがかかってしまった例も。

「『やっぱり外国の人だからまつ毛が長いですね』『顔が小さいですね』と言われる。ホメようとしているんでしょうけど、現実と全然違う。だって、普通の日本人(父母ともに日本人=以下同)の平均と変わらないですから」と苦笑するのはスリランカとのハーフ女性。

「学生の頃はよく『金髪紹介しろよ』『妹いないの?』『姉さんいないの?』とか言われました(笑)」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)って、妹や姉がいたら何する気だ!?さらに「お母さんはキレイか?」とも聞かれたそうだが、いったい何を期待してるのやら。 ハーフにエロな妄想を抱く日本人は男女を問わないようで、「ガイジン顔(白人系)だからか、『エッチ好きなんでしょ』と言う人も。ルーマニアハーフの友達は『このおしり、本物?』と女性に触られたとか」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)とは、同性でもセクハラの域。

「新宿の風俗で“ウマ並み”と思われて断られた。腹が立つより切なかった」(イタリアとのハーフ男性)ってのは、ある意味うらやま……いや、お気の毒さまでした。

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■言葉でトホホ編

ハーフの皆さんが日本人に必ず一度は言われるというセリフ。それは「○○語で何か話して!」だ。

「腹が立つとまではいかないけど、ロシア語を話せるとわかったら、『何かしゃべってみて』と言われるのが困る。何かってナニ?」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)

聞いたところで、さっぱりわかりゃしないだろうにねえ。

仕方なく何か適当にしゃべったとしても、「ハンガリー語は(日本人には)ピンとこない言語なので、しゃべると必ずビミョーな空気になる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)というのも切ない。

別の意味でタチの悪いのが、「語学を少々たしなんでいます(キリッ」という日本人だとか。

「社内で英語がペラペラとされている人が、自分との関わりを避けようとするので笑ってしまった」(イタリアとのハーフ女性)という程度ならカワイイもの。

「フランス語が少しできる日本人女性には、必死にフランス語を使おうとする人が多いですね。気がつけば私は日本語で話し、相手は限られたフランス語で返している状態に。お互いの会話のリズムが悪くなるし、正直、迷惑です」(フランスとのハーフ女性)

気分だけはパリジェンヌのつもりなのかもね……。

普通に日本語で話しただけで驚かれたり「お上手ですねー」とホメられたりするのは日常茶飯事。そこで「『やぶさかでない』とか、『さもありなん』みたいな言葉を使うと、驚き度が3段階ぐらいアップする」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)ってのも何だかなー。

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■言葉でトホホ編

ガイジン顔を見るや否や、「日本語が話せない」と勝手に思い、妙な対応をする日本人も多い。

「日本で、初対面の人に『○○でーす!』と日本語であいさつしているのに、私と一緒に来た日本人に『このコ、どこのコ?』と聞かれること多数。日本語で話しかけてるんだから、私に聞いてー」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)

耳で聞いた「日本語のあいさつ」より、目の前の「ガイジン顔」のほうが脳内で勝っちゃったのね。

「夜に車を運転中、ナンバープレートを照らすランプが切れていたらしく、パトカーに『止まりなさい』と言われたのですが、警官は自分の顔を見るや『日本語わかりますか?』。日本語がわかるから停車したんですけどね」(オランダとのハーフ男性)とはごもっとも。

「駅員に日本語で発車ホームを尋ねたら変な英語で返され、何言ってるかわからなくて電車に乗り遅れたことがあります」(スイスとのハーフ女性)となると大迷惑だ。

英語で話しかけるならまだしも、インチキ外国人化する人もいる。

「『ニホンゴ、ワカリマスカ?』『コレ、ヨメマスカ?』と、カタコトで話しかけられることが。『はいはい、わかりますよ!』と大声で答えてます」(カナダとのハーフ女性)、「日本語で話しているのに、やたらカタカナ語や外来語を使ってくる」(アメリカとのハーフ女性)って、お前はルー大柴か!

「図書館で本を読んでいたら、中年男性がそーっと近寄ってきて、『日本語読めるんですか?』と聞かれました。日本語を読めない人が、本を開いて見つめて何をするというのでしょう?」(フランスとのハーフ女性)

実は、ナンパだったのかも!?

■トイレで外国人に英語で話しかけられてビビった!

日本生まれの日本育ちだったり、非英語圏と日本のハーフだったりで「英語が話せない」というハーフは少なくない。それゆえトホホな思いをすることも。たとえば、トルコとのハーフ男性の場合、「日本の私立中高一貫校に入ったら、みんな私よりも英語ができて、中1の頃はバカにされました」。

日本人だけでなく、外国人にも英語が話せると見られてしまう。

「子供のとき成田空港のトイレで、隣に来た外国人からいきなり英語で話しかけられた。どう返していいかわからず、“最中”なので逃げられず、怖くて泣きたくなりました」(オランダとのハーフ男性)

「困るのは英語で道を尋ねられたとき。わかる英語だけ言って、あとは日本語で対応。悲しいのは、クラブで英語で声かけられて日本語で答えるとガッカリされること。『ヤダー、ニセモノじゃん!』って」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)

でも、最近は慣れて「そういう反応を楽しんでる」のだそうだ。

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■文化でトホホ編

「日本と○○のハーフです」と言うと、その国の文化や国民性に関するステレオタイプなイメージを押しつけられるのもハーフの悩み。

「『ドイツと言えばビール!サッカー!お城!ロマンティック街道!』と言われますね。あと、『シャウエッセン』(笑)。それは日本で売ってるソーセージでしょ。ドイツとはまったく関係ないよ……」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)

まあ、日本人がフジヤマ、ゲイシャ、テンプラとか言われるようなもんか。ただ、当たってる場合もあって、「『父親がロシア人』と答えると『お父さんは大酒飲み?』と聞かれる。でも、本当に大酒飲みなので『ウイスキーならオンザロックで7杯くらい』と正直に答える」と苦笑するのはロシアとのハーフ女性。とはいえ、「『バナナで釘が打てるのか』『プーチンは好きか』とかも聞かれるけど、そんなん知らんがな!」とのことだ。

相手に興味を持つのはいいけれど、「初対面で親しくもないのに、根掘り葉掘り“取り調べ”みたいに聞くのはやめてほしい」(カナダとのハーフ女性)と、うんざりしているハーフは多い。

「日本人であると説明しても同列に扱ってもらえず、失礼な質問攻めにあったり、執拗な外国人キャラづけによるからかいを受ける」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)なんて声も。ガイジン顔だからってハーフタレントと同じようにイジられたら、そりゃウザいよな。

その点、日本人にとって馴染みの薄い国の場合は、「お国はどちらと聞かれたら、『半分ポーランドです』と答える。オランダやポルトガルなどと違って、日本人にポーランドのイメージがない。だから、それ以上あまりツッコまれない。ある意味ラク」(ポーランドとのハーフ男性)だとか。たまに聞かれるのは「酒をたくさん飲むんだろ?」で、「これは本当(笑)。ドイツとロシアに挟まれた国だからねー。ポーランドではウオッカをショットグラスのストレートで飲む。最高でボトル2本空けたことがあります。日本人の友達はつぶれちゃいます(笑)」って、それは個人差あるのでは……?

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■文化でトホホ編

ハーフの食生活にも、誤解と偏見がいっぱいだ。

「牛丼屋で黙って座っていたら、スプーンにフォークまで出してくれるが、黙ってお箸で食べる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)

「コンビニのおにぎりを食べてると『似合わないね』『違和感ある』と言われ、パン類やピザなどを食べてると『似合うね』と言われる」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)

フランスとのハーフで現在は主婦の女性は「『家では何料理を作るの?』と食生活に変な興味を持たれることに辟易しています」と眉をひそめる。

「日本人が想像するようなフランス料理を家で作るわけがありません。普通に日本の家庭料理です、と答えると驚かれたり、フランスの食事が恋しくないのかと心配そうに聞かれるのにも、ややうんざり」

いまだ日本人の“おフランス”イメージは抜けず!?

「ハーフというだけで、その国を代表する人みたいな扱いをするのはやめて!」と訴えるのは、スイスとのハーフ女性。

「たとえばコーヒーに角砂糖を2個入れると、『スイス人はコーヒーにお砂糖を2個入れるんですね』と言われます。違います。私がそうしているだけです。2個の人、1個の人、ブラックで飲むスイス人もいます。個人差をまったく無視し、私のすべての行動をスイスと結びつけないでください……」

逆に「『我々日本人は~』と聞かされるのも疲れます。『私の母も日本人やけど全然ちゃうで!』と言いたくなる」と憤慨する。

「高齢の方には『先の大戦では日独伊三国同盟でしたね』と、やけに好意的な人がたまにいる」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)ってのも、喜んでいいのかどうなのか。

戦争がらみでは「『北方領土を返せ』と言われる。直接言われたり、知らない人からメッセが来たり」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)って、お門違いもいいところだ。

別の意味で非礼極まりないのが下ネタ関係。「ガイジン=エッチという先入観からか、妙に下ネタを振ってくる人、やめてほしい」(アメリカとのハーフ女性)、「『ロシアの女性ってエッチも情熱的なんだよね~』『ハーフとエッチしたことないからさせて~』とか言う男。バイカル湖に沈めたい」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)など怒りの声多数。

何を勘違いしてるのか知らんけど、そういう輩は味噌汁で顔洗って出直してこーい!

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■ハーフ座談会

サンドラ:まずは“ハーフあるある”から。「その顔で○○?」ってよく言われませんか?

荒川:「その顔でヒロシ?」とよく言われます(笑)。純日本人に見られたことは皆無。イギリス人の友達にも「ガイジン顔」「日本人には到底見えない」と言われたことがあります。

中澤:初対面ではなく、長い付き合いの友達でも、和食を食べていると「似合わないねー」と言われます(笑)。

一同:あるあるー!

中澤:おにぎりの中身は「梅干しじゃなく、せめてツナにしろ」とかね(笑)。

サンドラ:私たちガイジン顔の人に「おにぎりが似合わない」と言うのは、日本人に「ハンバーガーが似合わない」「ステーキ食べるな」って言っているようなもの(笑)。

林:マックで食べてると、「めっちゃ似合う」とか言われます。別に嫌な気分はしないけど。

サンドラ:知らない日本人から声かけられることも多いですよね。

小林:いきなり「英語しゃべって」と来ることも。さすがに小学生、大きくても中学生くらい。

荒川:小さい子が必ず「アメリカ人だ!」と言うのが不思議。「英語人だ!」って言われたことも(笑)。

齋藤:急いで駅の階段を駆け上がっていたら、知らない人が突然「グッドモーニング!」って。とっさに「おはようございます!」と返してしまいましたが、妙な感じでした(笑)。

中澤:話したがるおじさんとかいませんか?飲み屋でフッと目が合うと、急に英語で話しかけてきたりするような--。

林:俺はそういうの嫌。露骨に“嫌ですオーラ”出してます。

中澤:自分はわりと話します。頑張ってるんだな、と思って。でも、さっきまで俺、日本語で話してたんだけど……という(笑)。

サンドラ:顔見知り程度の人が、英語の練習したくて誘ってくることって、ありますよねー。

一同:あるあるー!!

齋藤:「私、英会話習いたいから、ランチでもどう?今から全部英語ね」って(苦笑)。

中澤:そういうときは、しゃべらないですね。母が英会話の先生をしているんですが、1時間何千円でやっているわけです。それと同じことをタダでやれって言われているようなものですから。

小林:英語関連で言うと、私が日本語話せるとわかっているのに、親戚がときどき会話に英単語を交ぜて話してきますね。「はい、これお茶、ティーね」とか……。

一同:(爆笑)

林:俺は日本生まれで英語は頑張って勉強して覚えたのに、テストでいい点数取っても「ハーフだからいいよな」って言われたことがあります。

小林:私も母がフランス人だから英語は関係ないんですけど、小中学校と、まあまあ勉強はできるほうだったんです。それで、英語も成績よかったんですが、周りはやっぱり「ラクしていい点数取れていいねえ」って感じで。

齋藤:私は中1まではよかったんですけど、中2のときに赤点取ってしまって(笑)。そこから頑張って勉強するようになりました。

サンドラ:ハーフと言うと「家では何語で話すの?」というのもよく聞かれる質問ですよね。

中澤:「父とは日本語、母とは英語」と言うと「じゃあ両親の間では?」って聞かれて「英語です」って。そういうのをいちいち答えなきゃいけないんですよね。

サンドラ:もっと進むと、「夢は何語で見てるんですか?」「寝言は何語ですか?」とか。

中澤:「痛いときは『アウチ!』って言うの?」とか(笑)。

サンドラ:あと「ミドルネームはないの?」というのも。

一同:それは必ず聞かれますね。

荒川:小さい頃はミドルネームがありましたが、自分はそれが嫌だった。病院などで名前を呼ばれると、みんなが一斉に注目する。親に懇願して、小学校に上がる前に今の名前に変えた。昔は今より金髪でほかの子と全然違うから、見た目もコンプレックスでした。

中澤:わかります!自分も小さい頃、髪が真っ茶で目立つから、それで先生に目をつけられたし。

■半分は日本なのに日本の部分はスルーされる

サンドラ:「どこの国?」と聞かれるのはいいけど、聞いてどうするのかなって気もする。「どっちがドイツ?」「父」と言うと、もう次は「お父さんとお母さん、どこで知り合ったの?」となる。

中澤:勝手に家系図を作られているみたい(笑)。

小林:どうして初対面の人に、そこまでファミリーストーリーを話さなきゃならないの?

齋藤:普通、親のなれそめなんか聞かないよね。で、ハーフと知ってから「俺、鹿児島と兵庫のハーフだから」とか言う人も。

一同:いるー!超あるある!

サンドラ:いろいろ聞かれながら、半分日本人なんだけどなあ、って思います。日本とドイツだと言っているのに、日本はスルーでドイツのことばかり。それが悔しい。

中澤:日本人が出身地の話で仲間意識を持つのはわかるけど、ハーフ相手だと仲間探しではなく違いを探してるって感じがする。

サンドラ:純日本人でもみんなが直毛の黒髪ではないのに、そこから外れると「違う人」。そう教育されてきたから、大人になっても「ハーフは違う人」と思うのかも。

小林:母の国のフランスだけでなく、「日本のどちら?」って、父の国のことも聞いてくれたらうれしい。同じ和歌山出身の人なら、すごく盛り上がれそう。でも、聞かれたことはありません(笑)。

中澤:日本の中に現にある多様性に目を向けてほしいですよね。

サンドラ:若いギャルたちは意外に「どこの国の人?」とか聞いてこない。もう少しで「いろんな日本人がいる」というのが“普通”になるかもしれませんね(笑)。

■司会 サンドラ・ヘフェリンさん ドイツ育ちの日独ハーフ。日本在住歴15年。著書『浪費が止まるドイツ節約生活の楽しみ』(光文社)、『ハーフが美人なんて妄想ですから!!』(中公新書ラクレ)ほか。HP「ハーフを考えよう」http://half-sandra.com/
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 54 Aug 7, 2012: “For nikkei immigrants in Japan, it doesn’t have to be a bug’s life”

mytest

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. My latest, up for comments. Thanks for making it a Top Ten Most Read once again and an Editor’s Pick to boot! Enjoy. Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE
For nikkei immigrants in Japan, it doesn’t have to be a bug’s life
By ARUDOU DEBITO
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120807ad.html

As Beto awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his futon into a gigantic cockroach.

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. In his native land down south, he had been a person — if at times underprivileged due to his nikkei status. So, years ago, he “repatriated” to Japan, attracted by promises of better milk and honey. Yet now he felt even more marginalized by the locals here, who called themselves “people” yet treated him at times like he was an insect.

Beto scurried off to work, where people shied away and refused to sit by him in the train cars. But as the end of the line approached, the coach filled up with fellow cockroaches, and people stopped paying attention.

The people at his factory also took no notice of his metamorphosis. His supervisors were used to dealing with cockroaches. Bugs seemed an inevitable part of lower-rent circumstances. As in the train, it seemed some people had learned to “co-exist” with them in close quarters.

In public, however, reactions were different. Alone, Beto was often seen as something exotic, maybe even collectable if there was a curious person flitting about who was interested in “speaking bug.” But if seen as part of a swarm, people’s knee-jerk reactions were to take steps against them. Bugs might overrun the place, making it feel less the realm of the masters, more of the roaches.

Speaking of the masters, politicians were calling for strict controls of the cockroach population. For what did the gokiburi (sometimes dissed as “gai-kiburi”) actually do? Nothing visibly important, and they were always found in the dirtiest places. What kind of house were we keeping if cockroaches were around?

Cockroaches, after all, weren’t like other insects. They were compared unfavorably to the skilled worker bees from rich countries, who were overtly adding to the national honey pot. Also, remember, worker bees have a sting. You had to respect that — not rattle the nest if you wanted to keep scraping at the luscious honeycombs they built.

But the politicians warned against wasps. Sure, those yellow jackets served some pollinating function in the wilting countryside, but they should never be allowed to build nests. For they too had stings, and deviously stung in hordes. Approach them carefully, for they were unpredictable, emboldened by the world’s biggest hive just a short flight away.

Even stronger stings were found among the white-faced hornets. Their nests here were very secure, kept because they offered Japan considerable honey. So as long as the hornets mostly policed themselves on some rock far from the mainland, their stings, kept in full public view and sharpened often, managed to scare off the yellow jackets.

In contrast, cockroaches like Beto had no sting. They didn’t even bite. They just scurried about doing their business, quietly collecting crumbs through their allotted niches in society, unrecognized for their long-term contributions to Japan’s food chain.

That’s why cockroaches were so easily kicked around. Few people raised a stink if someone stomped on them, for example, for being grubby while sorting rubbish on garbage day.

Beto recalled how past insects had been kept under control. Remember the stink bugs of yore who sold fake telephone cards? They incurred the vindictive wrath of Japan’s then-largest corporate giant, who convinced the authorities to fumigate — closing off entire parks to any insect, and stamping them out through visa nonrenewal. For good measure, the pheromone of public money was used to attract them into building sports stadiums. Once hastily completed, the stink bugs were bottled up and booted out.

That should have put the insects in their place. But a decade ago, a self-styled Sanitizer-General claimed Japan was breaking out in hives, and campaigned about “cleaning house.” Whole areas of Tokyo were apparently so infested that public stability — even purity — was imperiled. The Sanitizer got all his wishes, including Japan’s first neighborhood security cameras, antiterrorist legislation, and routine public harassment of anyone who bugged him. Plus reelection no matter how old and vitriolic he got.

Fortunately, cockroaches were distant from Tokyo, so they managed to keep their clusters. But their turn came during the economic downturn of 2008, when the government sprinkled pheromones on airplanes and spirited a clutch of them away.

Beto himself stayed on. Factory work was what he did well, and he thrived quietly within his nook. He stayed past 2011 — when the honey turned sour, then salty and hot. He even stayed when all the other insects, so long decried as pests, somehow metamorphosed into rats and then were decried for leaving a sinking ship.

But as of this morning, when he realized that he was just a cockroach, Beto began to wonder if it wasn’t time to claim his place in the food chain.

That would require acting like a person, with a sense of entitlement in Japan. He would have to emerge from his exoskeleton and become more articulate in the language. He would have to start convincing fellow roaches to come out of the cracks. They would have to build more hives in public view — not just cluster around the occasional ethnic restaurant or local samba festival.

They would also have to stop letting the people convince them that, despite decades of contributions to the national honey pot, bugs were here only by the vicissitudes of labor-migration economics and the good graces of an indifferent government.

Beto could — dare he think it out loud? — even refuse to fill the honey pot until they were acknowledged and respected like worker bees. With stings. With the will to unionize, then strike if their nest was rattled enough. Striking was something those in the most secure jobs — the public servants — couldn’t even do.

Still, the public-servant drones didn’t need to. Drones were already people, not insects, even though they had hidden stings of their own. The bugs, on the other hand, would have to swarm upon Tokyo to show off their stings.

Of course, it would be difficult for people to ever see immigrants as anything more than bugs. But it was worth a try. After all, people can only spend so much of their life bottom-feeding, crushable at any time with no reprisal or payback just because they happen to be underfoot. Beto scuttled off to become human again.

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With apologies to Franz Kafka. Debito Arudou’s latest publication is the Hokkaido Section of Fodor’s Japan, on sale now. Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Yomiuri: Iwate town sponsors Vietnamese future doctor — and people reportedly react with trepidation

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In light of how NJ nurses under a national visa program have been treated in the face of a chronic careworkers shortage, here we have a case where even local sponsorship of a NJ doctor is also viewed (according to the Yomiuri, which may indeed in the interest of “balance” be conjuring up a tempest in a teapot) with suspicion because she is a foreigner.  After all, she might not stay!  Then again, so might not anyone else being trained on that scholarship program regardless of nationality.  Ah, but foreigners are different, you see.  They always represent a flight risk…  Anyhoo, good news tainted with an editorial bias of caution and trepidation just because the subject is NJ.  Arudou Debito

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Town turns to Vietnam for future doctor
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 23, 2012), courtesy of JK
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120622004307.htm

ICHINOHE, Iwate — Facing a serious and chronic shortage of doctors, the town of Ichinohe felt it necessary to look overseas to find medical staff willing to live and work in the rural area.

The town plans to spend more than 10 million yen on school and living expenses for a Vietnamese woman on the condition that she will practice medicine in the town for at least seven years after obtaining her license.

The unusual plan raised eyebrows when the town ran it by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and some residents have questioned why the town is sponsoring a foreigner.

However, Ichinohe Mayor Akira Inaba believes the unprecedented plan is just what the town needs.

“The scholarship program for Japanese medical students hasn’t attracted enough applicants to meet its quota,” he said. “We have no other choice but to secure our doctors on our own.”

The foreign student the town plans to sponsor is 18-year-old Luu Hong Ngoc, who will graduate this month from Vietnam National University’s High School for the Gifted in Ho Chi Minh City. The school is one of Vietnam’s most prestigious.

Inaba visited Ho Chi Minh City after a local sewing plant began accepting Vietnamese vocational trainees. Ngoc’s grandmother served as the mayor’s interpreter in Ho Chi Minh City, and told him that her granddaughter hoped to become a doctor overseas.

Inaba asked to see Ngoc’s school transcript and requested other information about her. Her records showed her to be a qualified and enthusiastic student, and after receiving a letter of recommendation from Ngoc’s school, the town decided to invite her to Japan.

Municipalities in Iwate Prefecture run a joint scholarship program to support medical students, which Ichinohe participates in. The scholarship provides each student with 200,000 yen a month and pays a lump sum of up to 7.6 million yen when the recipient enters medical school.

However, for several years the scholarship has failed to fill its quota. The program also provides no guarantee the recipient will work in Ichinohe after receiving a medical license.

These difficulties are what pushed the town to decide to independently fund Ngoc’s medical education.

The entire process will take eight to 10 years and cost 10 million yen to 20 million yen. In return, the town will receive a pledge from Ngoc to work for at least seven years at the town’s prefectural hospital.

The town plans to allocate funds for Ngoc’s costs for this fiscal year in a supplementary budget to be submitted in September.

Inaba said Ngoc’s grandmother, who learned Japanese in Moscow, is “Japan’s No. 1 fan in Vietnam.”

The town has heard that Ngoc is telling people she plans to study other subjects besides the specialized course to help her become a better doctor.

Ngoc is scheduled to come to Japan by the end of the year. In the spring, she will begin studying for the medical school entrance exam at a national university while learning Japanese at a vocational school in Morioka.

However, some residents and members of the town assembly have raised concerns about the plan, such as what would happen if Ngoc decided to return to Vietnam before finishing the course, or why the town is sponsoring a Vietnamese person in the first place.

The town government has said it will take steps so the money will have to be returned if Ngoc does not fulfill the work agreement, possibly through a contract.

Ichinohe, population 14,000, has a prefectural hospital and four internal medicine clinics, with a total of 18 full-time doctors.

However, many people must visit hospitals in Morioka, about 100 kilometers away, because local facilities lack obstetrics and outpatient ophthalmology departments.

“I hope what we do will draw attention to the lack of doctors in rural areas,” Inaba said. “We’ll keep looking for more talented young people in Vietnam.”
ENDS

Weekend Tangent: Louis Vuitton Journeys Award shortlisted J movie short has multicultural couple

mytest

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Hi Blog. As a Weekend Tangent, here’s a letter from a Debito.org Reader who has appeared in a short film you might be interested in.  I’ll let him tell you about it:

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July 4, 2012
Debito-san,

In late May 2012, I was approached by a young and passionate Tokyo guy. He asked me if I can act in a short silent movie. He said that he is shooting this movie to participate in Louis Vuitton’s Journeys Awards competition. The competition gives emerging artists/producers/directors an opportunity to get into limelight.

When he explained me the script, I could see why he approached me specifically. The story was about an Indian professional who was married to a Japanese woman. The Indian had to return to India … and the movie was about the moments of emotions after he told this to his wife. He was asking me to share the real moments of my life for his movie!

Please check the following link to watch the (5 minute) movie online.
http://www.journeysawards.com/en_US/shortlisted/Departure/

While this movie is not directly related to your core topics of discussion in debito.org, I think the selection of this movie in shortlisted 10 (from among 100s of submissions), proves two things in a very subtle way… two very important things.

SYNOPSIS (from site):  

DEPARTURE

A Japanese woman, Yuko is about to move out from Japan since her Indian husband got transferred to his own country India. In spite of having a great devotion and affection to her husband Yuko can’t stop feeling the anxiety to depart for her new life in India and the reluctance to be apart from her parents and her hometown. Impulsively running from the reality, she needs to find a faith for herself.

What does the movie’s shortlisting success prove? …

1) Young Japanese artists/producers/directors are open to multicultural Japan and they are willing to take a chance on Japan that is not homogeneous.

2) Multicultural Japan can compete just as effectively as monocultural Japan (there is another movie from Japan also in shortlisted 10!)

If you think that the above topic/note will be of interest to your blog readers, please feel free to post it.

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(And feel free to vote for it, Debito.org Readers, if you want. Arudou Debito)

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 July 3, 2012: “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for NJ”

mytest

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Hi Blog. My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 dated July 3, 2012, is on the Japanese Government’s renewed policy debate on creating conditions conducive to immigration (without actually portraying it in any way as “immigration” (imin), just more NJ residents). It’s their attempt to address Japan’s demographic and probable economic nosedive despite their assiduous efforts over the decades to a) exploit NJ as temporary workers on a revolving-door labor visa regime, b) blame NJ for all manner of social ills, including foreign crime and desertion, and in the process c) poison the public debate arena for productive discussion about ever treating NJ well enough that they might want to actually stay (since the past three years have seen the NJ population continuously dropping, after 48 years of unbroken rise). The writing’s on the wall, and the GOJ is finally doing something constructive. But (as usual) the bureaucracy is controlling the agenda, and the typical blind spots are coming into play, so as things stand now I think the policy drive will be ineffective.  Have a read and a think.  Arudou Debito
justbecauseicon.jpg

In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese

The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 for the Community Page
By ARUDOU Debito
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120703ad.html

Last month the Japanese government took baby steps toward an official immigration policy. Ten ministries and several specialist “people of awareness” (yūshikisha) held meetings aimed at creating a “coexistence society” (kyōsei shakai) within which non-Japanese (NJ) would be “accepted” (uke ire).

This is a positive change from the past two decades, when Japan cultivated an unofficial unskilled labor visa regime that a) imported NJ as cheap work units to keep Japanese factories from going bankrupt or moving overseas, and then b) saw NJ as an inconvenient unemployment statistic, fixable by canceling visas or buying them tickets home (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009).

Yes, we’ve seen this kyōsei sloganeering before. Remember the empty “kokusaika” internationalization mantra of Japan’s ’80s bubble era?

But this time the government is serious. Sponsored by the Cabinet, these meetings are considering assimilationist ideas suggested by local governments and ignored for a decade.

Why? Attendees acknowledged that Japan needs NJ to revitalize its future economy.

Unusually, their discussions were open to public scrutiny (www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/index.html) Thank you. And here scrutiny comes . . .

The good news is that the meetings’ heart is in the right place. A fuller analysis of the materials can be found at www.debito.org/?p=10271, but what they’re getting right includes:

• State-supported Japanese language education for all NJ.

• State-supported education for all NJ children (so they don’t wind up as an illiterate unskilled underclass).

• More multilingual information online and in public access areas.

• Proper enrolment for NJ in Japan’s health, unemployment and social welfare systems.

• More assistance with finding NJ employment and resolving unemployment.

• Some attention to “cultural sensitivity” and “mutual respect” issues (not just the one-way gripe of “how NJ inconvenience us Japanese on garbage day”).

• Better coordination between all levels of government for more comprehensive policies, etc.

Bravo. But there are some shortcomings:

First, definitions. What do “coexistence” and “acceptance” mean? Just letting people across the border? Gated communities? Official recognition of ethnic minorities and domestic “foreign cultures”? Acceptance of ethnic differences as “also Japanese”? Or repressing and overwriting those “foreign cultures” (a la the Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans and Taiwanese in Meiji Japan). Without making the terms of discussion clear, we can’t see ultimate intentions.

Second, hard-wired in the proceedings is a narrative that “offsets” and “others” NJ. We have the standard embedded policy invective of “our country” (wagakuni — but isn’t Japan the country of all its residents?), with the issue couched negatively as “the foreign laborer problem” (gaikokujin rōdōsha mondai). If NJ are not treated as intruders, then they are “guests” (as opposed to just human beings) being indulgently granted something from above.

Third, the ministries are considering vague “environmental preparations” (kankyō seibi) before more NJ get here. (But wait, aren’t NJ already here? Or are we somehow wiping the slate clean?)

OK, fine — semantics. But then you read how each ministry’s proposal further betrays an odd predisposition toward NJ:

The Justice Ministry complained that they can’t “administer” (kanri) NJ properly once they cross the border. But with upcoming reforms to NJ registration systems ferreting out more visa miscreants, that’s fixed, they added. Phew. Not much else was proposed.

The health ministry suggested making some important improvements to welfare and employment systems. But nothing too legalistic — after all, discrimination against NJ as workers is already forbidden (kinshi) by law (as if that’s made much difference so far). They also heralded the preferential treatment for “high-quality” (shitsu no takai) NJ from now on through a new “points system” (critiqued as problematic in my March 6 column).

The Cabinet talked exclusively about assisting nikkei — NJ of Japanese descent. Never mind residents from, say, China or the Philippines; bloodlines take priority.

The education ministry recycled old ideas, saying that we need to teach NJ the Japanese language and, er, not much else — not even any antibullying proposals.

Nothing at all from the attending ministries of foreign affairs, finance, trade and industry, transport and tourism, or forest and fisheries.

The most useless report was from the National Police Agency, who, with a single page of statistics cooking up a NJ crime rise (despite a dramatic fall across the board (JBC, April 3)), advocated more policing, much like the Justice Ministry did. (Funny thing, that: Are the police invited to every policy meeting on the treatment of Japan’s residents, or only for policies concerning those inherently untrustworthy NJ residents?)

The biggest problem was the lack of diversity. As this article went to press, all attendees were older Japanese men (OK, two women), with approximately the same socioeconomic status and life experience. Not one NJ attended.

Thus everyone relied on third-party “reports from the field” (genba de), as if NJ are exotic animals studied from binoculars in their habitat. Not even the token Gregory Clark (who never misses an opportunity within these pages to claim how open-minded the Japanese are because they plonk him on blue-ribbon panels) was shoehorned in.

If the people for whom this policy is being created are not present at the agenda-setting stage, the inevitable happens: blind spots.

Here’s the major one: Where is the legal apparatus (hō seibi) to back up those “environmental preparations”?

For example, where is a proposed amendment to the Basic Education Law (to remove the conceit of kokumin, or Japanese national) to ensure that Japanese schools can no longer refuse NJ children an education?

Where is a proposed punishment for the employer who treats his NJ workers unequally, such as by not coughing up their required half of social insurance payments?

What about that law against racial discrimination? Again, these meetings are a well-intentioned start. But I think the outcome will still be policy failure. For there is still no discussion about making NJ feel like they “belong,” as “members” of Japan.

Academic Yumiko Iida (a Japanese, so no claims of cultural imperialism, please), in her award-winning research about Japanese identity (see www.debito.org/?p=10215), argued that there are four things any viable nation-state must create to make its people feel like “members”:

1) A shared memory of the past (i.e., a national narrative) that links them all.

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations attached to it.

3) A world view that makes sense.

4) Hope for the future that other people share.

Consider how NJ are denied these things:

1) NJ have little presence in Japan’s history (remember the old saw, “Japan merely borrows ‘things’ from overseas and then uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them”) so, as these meetings indicate by their very attendance roster, NJ are forever an exogenous force to Japanese society.

2) As discussed on these pages (JBC, June 5), NJ are systematically othered, if not completely ignored as even a minority community within Japan, and that will naturally discourage a feeling of moral obligation to Japan.

3) A world view that does not acknowledge the existence of entire minority peoples cannot possibly make sense to those peoples.

4) Hope for the future in a Japan in decline is a hard sell even for Japanese these days.

The point is, if this policy discussion is to go beyond political theater, the GOJ must now use the dreaded word “immigration” (imin). It must also prepare the public to see immigrants as members of Japanese society — as minority Japanese.

This committee has not. It had better start.

In this era of unprecedented opportunities for world labor migration, Japan must be more competitive. Above all, it must lose the arrogant assumption that people will want to come to Japan just because it’s Japan.

Japan must seriously think about how to be nice — yes, nice — enough to NJ so that they’ll want to stay. And that means making them feel equal in terms of importance and inclusion — as though they belong — with everyone else.

So you want to create public policy that reflects, not dictates, what NJ need? Then listen to those of us already here. The government has admitted you need us. Treat us as an exogenous force at your peril.

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Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp. For readers’ views on last month’s column, please visit www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120703hs.html
ENDS

Asia Pacific Bulletin: “Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s some evidence of how the debate regarding Japan’s need for immigration is starting to percolate through USG policy circles — this time the Asia Pacific Bulletin.  It’s another well-intentioned brief article for busy policymakers, but with a couple of mistakes:  1) since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend” is not quite right since it was on a downward trend before 3/11 too (in fact, when I was debunking the “Flyjin” Myth in my Japan Times column I demonstrated how the decreasing trend in NJ numbers was largely unaffected by the multiple disasters); 2) the “stagnant policy discussion at the national levelhas in fact been restarted and quite actively discussed starting from May onwards (perhaps after Mr. Menju sent the article to press, but the APB website notes their turnaround on articles is mere weeks), as has been discussed here in detail on Debito.org.   But Mr. Menju does get some important things very, very right — as in the other J media-manufactured myth of NJ crime and social disruption (especially the NPA’s involvement in cooking the numbers), how this dynamic forestalls a healthy discussion on immigration policy, and Japan’s overall need for immigration despite all the years of active ignoring of local governments’ advice on tolerance and acceptance.  Decent stuff, and worth a read.  Arudou Debito

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Analysis:  Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival
Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 169
Publisher: Washington, D.C.: East-West Center in Washington
Publication Date: June 27, 2012
By Toshihiro Menju, courtesy VW
http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/accepting-immigrants-japan’s-last-opportunity-economic-revival

BIO:  Toshihiro Menju, (Facebook profile here) Managing Director of the Japan Center for International Exchange, explains why “A proactive decision on accepting immigrants could very well be a constructive solution for two of Japan’s most salient problems: a shrinking economy spurred by a declining population.”

Japan is very slowly beginning to recover from the enormous economic and infrastructural setbacks caused by the March 11, 2011, earthquake. One reason for the slow pace of recovery is due to Japan’s shrinking and aging population, a phenomenon that is gradually and detrimentally affecting Japanese society as a whole. As of November 2011, Japan’s population totaled 128 million, ranking it tenth in the world after Russia. Historically, Japan’s large population has contributed to its dynamic economic output, providing a well-educated workforce along with a large domestic consumer market. However, since 2005 the total population has been in decline for the first time since WW II. Indeed, over the next decade it is expected to decrease by 5.3 million people, a significant decline of four percent, more than the entire population of Shikoku, Japan’s fourth largest island.

Unfortunately, Japan, unlike other developed economies, has only experienced two brief baby booms. The first baby boom, which occurred immediately after WWII, lasted just three years, until abortion became legal in 1949. Ironically, concerns over a sudden swell in population resulted in an increase in the number of pregnancy terminations. Furthermore, that post-WWII generation started a national trend where each subsequent generation has had fewer and fewer children, as evidenced by the brief baby boom in the early 1970s. As a result, today, the demographic decrease in Japan of children under the age of 15 is a serious national concern. Since 2003, over 400 public elementary, junior high, and senior high schools have closed every year directly as a result of demographics. It is estimated that between 2005 and 2025 the Japanese labor force–ages 15 to 64–will decrease by approximately 14 million, and at the same time citizens aged 75 and over will increase by 10 million. The economic, civil, and societal implications for such a dramatic and sudden demographic change are unprecedented.

Lack of Political Debate on Immigration
Currently, Japan has strict controls regarding foreign immigration, and there is no coherent national government policy or debate on how to utilize immigration to constructively address the issue of a declining population. Foreigners residing in Japan during 2010 totaled 2.13 million, almost two percent of the population. Currently 690,000 foreign residents are Chinese. Koreans rank second at around 570,000, of which 400,000 are direct descendents of Koreans who immigrated to Japan before WWII. The third largest group, at 230,000, is of Japanese-Brazilian descent, with a sudden increase in the early 1990s due to a relaxation in the immigration law for Japanese descendants living in South America. However, the number of Japanese-Brazilians living in Japan decreased rapidly after the 2008 global economic crisis. In addition, since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend.

There are three obstacles that hinder acceptance of immigrants or that even prevent starting a discussion at the national level on the subject of immigration. These three impediments are: the fear of social disruption attributed to immigrants as often witnessed in Europe and the United States; an increase in the rate of unemployment for Japanese citizens, especially among the youth; and an increase in the number of crimes committed by immigrants.

The first anxiety is a byproduct of the Japanese media’s coverage of immigrant issues in Europe, as well as in the United States. Japanese media coverage only presents the negative aspects of immigration in these countries; there is very rarely any coverage on the positive attributes of immigrants in these societies. The second apprehension is also unfounded, as Japan can tightly control the number and educational levels of incoming immigrants. The labor deficit within the agricultural, fishery, manufacturing, and service industries is a significant problem, combined with the fact that many Japanese youth refuse to work in these labor intensive and low-paying jobs.

The increase in crimes perpetrated by immigrants is also a misconception. Japan’s National Police Agency has, since 1990, featured a special section on crimes committed by foreigners in the annual Crimes in Japan report, and this has fueled the debate on the possibility of a spike in criminal activity due to an influx of immigrants. However, what is not widely discussed is that the number of crimes committed by foreigners has actually been steadily declining since 2005.

Healthy discussion on immigration is also inhibited by a number of other factors including ultra-nationalistic groups who are very vocal and unduly critical of neighboring countries. Furthermore, the perception in Japan of Imin–immigrants–is generally negative, with the public belief that if the door is opened, a flood of poor people from around the world will suddenly rush in. In reality, Japan is surrounded by a high language barrier that hinders non-serious immigrants.

Local Initiatives
However, in spite of the stagnant policy discussion at the national level, some local governments and grassroots organizations have been very active in accepting foreigners. This trend developed in the 1980s to help increase the number of foreign students in local communities, and the movement was boosted in the 1990s when Japanese-Brazilians suddenly increased from just a few thousand to 300,000 within approximately ten years. Tabunka-Kyosei–living together in a multi-culture–became the buzz word for these local movements. Local governments, including Toyota city (home town of Toyota motors), formed the Coalition of Cities with Foreign Residents in 2001. This coalition has campaigned for broader acceptance of foreigners living in Japan. Initiatives include submitting petitions to the central government for the establishment of a national immigration agency and provisions for the education of immigrant children. More recently, some rural mayors have begun openly discussing the merits of accepting immigrants into their communities, explaining that without these additions their communities will soon become ghost towns due to aging and depopulation.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan have already used their limited political capital working on controversial legislation to raise domestic tax rates and tackling the thorny issue of restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants. They will not take on another controversial topic such as immigration at this moment in time. However, pro-immigration grassroots movements will continue to grow and eventually their arguments will reach the national level.

But the question is when. If it takes too long, a healthy recovery fueled by new immigrants will be more difficult to achieve, and another opportunity for Japan’s economic revival will have been missed. A proactive decision on accepting immigrants could very well be a constructive solution for two of Japan’s most salient problems: a shrinking economy spurred by a declining population.

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About the Author

Toshihiro Menju is Managing Director and Chief Program Officer at the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE). He can be contacted via email at tmenju@jcie.or.jp.

ENDS

GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre

mytest

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Hi Blog. Following up on my blog post of June 10: “GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them“, here is an evaluation of the GOJ’s third meeting of June 15, 2012. It’s taken a while to report on this since The Cabinet took their time putting the meeting’s materials online, but here is the cover page for proceedings, courtesy of http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/dai3/sidai.html

(click to expand image)

Once again, let’s walk through the materials provided. First up, the people (the yuushikisha “people of awareness” experts, presenting their views to the GOJ.  Here are the links:

1.開会
2.中川大臣挨拶
3.議事
  外国人が生活する「現場」での課題、取組について
  (有識者からのヒアリング)
  • 鈴木康友氏 (静岡県浜松市長)
  • 中山弘子氏 (東京都新宿区長)
  • 田村太郎氏 (多文化共生センター大阪代表)
  • 坂本久海子氏(NPO法人愛伝舎理事長)
4.閉会
【配付資料】
 資料1 鈴木氏提出資料
 資料2 中山氏提出資料
 資料3 田村氏提出資料
 資料4 坂本氏提出資料
 参考資料1 第2回検討会議(6月1日)における主な発言
 参考資料2 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(要綱)
 参考資料3 当面の検討会議スケジュール
 参考資料4 有識者ヒアリング参集者
 参考資料5 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)

As noted in my June 10 post, these are the backgrounds of the presenters:

Mr Suzuki Yasutomo is Mayor of Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture (since so many NJ are clustered there working in factories; here’s his “manifesto” linked, with emphases on NJ children’s education, proper communication between Hamamatsu gaikokujin shimin (thank you) and the regular sort, and facilities).  Ms Nakayama Hiroko is the Kuchou of Tokyo Shinjuku-ku (where the famed “a lawless zone of foreign crime” Kabukicho is; however, here’s her very well organized and readable “manifesto” for the next four years, which has decent mentions of, yes, “multicultural coexistence” and some proposals to back them up (see policies 51-53)).  Mr Tamura Taro is representative of the Multicultural Center Osaka (which works a lot with Nikkei Brazilian issues).  Ms Sakamoto Kumiko is head of NPO Aidensha (which works with Portuguese speakers etc. in Mie Prefecture explaining Japan’s rules, helping them get homes and proper insurances, and assisting in translations etc.).  They all seem informed and on the level, albeit there is weighting towards dealing with Nikkeis rather than just NJs.  Now let’s look at what they presented to the GOJ:

ITEM ONE:  Hamamatsu Mayor Suzuki’s powerpoint:

Mayor Suzuki opens with an overview of the major changes in the makeup of NJ since 1990, with the doubling of the NJ population and then the drop after the “Lehman Shock” and Fukushima.  Particularly noted was the drop in their (local) Brazilian population (which makes the GOJ’s focus on Nikkei NJ all that more puzzling, given the absence of the Chinese and Filipinas/nos, as the other top NJ (and growing, unlike the Brazilians) at this forum).  Suzuki makes the salient point that cities around Hamamatsu have been cooperating for more than a decade now to create policies helping their NJ residents (e.g., The Hamamatsu Sengen, up to now studiously ignored by the GOJ).  He gives the demographics of his NJ, particularly how long they’ve been here (nearly half for more than 15 years [!]), and that nearly half of them have Permanent Residency (and 83% have long-term visas).  He talks inter alia about Hamamatsu’s measures taken (e.g., Japanese language teaching, in which 89% of teachers are “volunteers” not assisted by the GOJ), and laments that there is no compulsory education for NJ children guaranteed by law [!!].  He also talks about the “lack” (ketsujo, the same word used when decrying a lack of common sense) of unified policy or promotion on the part of the GOJ (particularly singling out the Cabinet for treating NJ as “a laborer problem” and over-focusing on Nikkei [!!!] concerns), and an overall “lack of aim to accept NJ” (gaikokujin no uke ire houshin no ketsujo).  He proposes a) that a joint integrated social policy be created and promoted at the national level; b) that teijuu (Long-Term Residency, a quasi-PR visa hitherto reserved for the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians) policies be expanded to all NJ; c) that a “NJ Bureau” (kyoku) be created in the short term, a “NJ Agency” (gaikokujin chou) be created in the medium term; d) that this “coexistence” series of meetings be made continuous; e) that a research council be established with more yuushikisha and people who have experience in education (gakushoku keikensha), and f) that a non-partisan politician group be created within the Diet to debate more on how to accept (uke ire) NJ. [!!!!]

(COMMENT:  Wow.  Let me just interject bowdlerized Hendrix here:  “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy!”)

ITEM TWO:  Shinjuku-ku Head Nakayama’s powerpoint:

Ms. Nakayama opens with a view “from the field” (genba de) of how NJ live their lives (I guess that’s somehow better than having NJ actually there at the meeting).  Her 14-page but very readable powerpoint goes through the statistics of the NJ under her mandate:  11% of all residents (appropriately now worded as juumin) are NJ, with the top three quarters  (37% each) Koreans and Chinese; fewer PRs than the national average (far more people, particularly close to half of all the Chinese, are there on “student” visas (ryuugaku; shuugaku) due to the local J language schools and Waseda), along with a jump (more than doubling) in the number of PRs; a quarter of all NJs live in the (traditionally Korean district) of Ohkubo, and a fifth are young, in their twenties.  Interesting stats, but….  Just when you think this presentation will end as a show-and-tell, we get a few slides on Shinjuku-ku’s attempts at multicultural coexistence policies:  Japanese language training (taught again by volunteers) at their Tabunka Kyousei Plaza, with a paid course (1500-4000 yen per semester) once or twice a week in ten locations, and a multilingual “consultation corner” in English, Korean, Chinese, Burmese, and Thai.  There is some Japanese language teaching for Grade and Jr. High schoolers both at the Ku-level and at some Ku-ritsu schools.  There some “guidelines” handbooks for life and disaster prevention in Korean, Chinese, English, and Japanese, and finally rah-rah the end of the presentation, where she says that we at the local level are doing lotsa stuff to help people, but there’s a limit to what they can do:  We have to come up with a unified philosophy (ri’nen) for how we’re going to systematize social welfare, employment, education, children’s upbringing, and lifestyles for NJ, etc., etc.  There were no grounded proposals beyond that, making Ms Nakayama’s presentation a definite anticlimax to Mayor Suzuki’s suggestions.  In the end, this felt like a bureaucratic presentation justifying budgets.

ITEM THREE:  Multicultural Center Osaka Head Tamura’s powerpoint:

Tamura also opens with the “genba de” view (sorry, must just be the title they were given by the bureaucrats, but Suzuki above shirked it), first introducing his NPO and what it does (promoting daibaashiti; okay, that sounds better to me than the hackneyed and misunderstandable “coexistence”) though its five centers nationwide.  Tamura was deeply involved in the volunteer efforts for relief and recovery in Tohoku area over the past year.  Comes off as a good egg.  Then he gets to his points about NJ residents:  He pointed out three “weak spots” (3 tsu no zeijaku sei) in how NJ live their lives as J residents:  1) a language and customs barrier (i.e., lack of instruction and access to policy), 2) legal recourse (little to no translation systems or personnel, or guaranteed access to education or boards of education), and 3) misunderstandings and prejudices on the part of Japanese society (e.g., “Hey, they came here of their own accord so they can fend for themselves”, or “the increase in NJ threatens our public safety”).  This results in their being excluded from education, employment, accommodation, and welfare.  NJ should not be seen as “weak” in themselves, but rather as in a weakened position in society.  He advocates inter alia that 1) NJ be seen by society not as “temporary stayers” but as “permanent citizens” (eijuu suru shimin — with an effective chart comparing the rise of PR Newcomers over the PR Oldcomers on page 4); 2) gentle and sophisticated (teinei) policies for coexistence be created reflecting the diversity in NJ based upon their specific areas of residence (with four sophisticated models proposed for a) major cities, b) places with high NJ populations, c) suburbs, and d) provinces, quite specific in detail; page 5); 3) four groupings for dealing with the major parties to this issue — the local governments, the national government, the local Japanese residents and industry, and — yes — the NJ communities (finally, an acknowledgment of a sense of domestic ethnic community without it being construed as a threat to Japan); again, quite detailed on page 6); 4) consider the future Japan with one million NJ PRs (nearly at that point already), and what should be done about it — inter alia:  a) consultations with NPOs and local governments, b) not seeing problems as specifically “foreign problems”, c) public acknowledging the good that NJ do for Japanese society, d) social workers that include NJ residents, and e) laws to back up any policies.  [!!!!!]  Very, very good stuff indeed!

ITEM FOUR:  NPO Aidensha Head Sakamoto’s powerpoint:

Sakamoto gave a very thick and academic series of essays that probably put the bureaucrats to sleep, opening with an organizational chart of how NPOs and NGOs relate to society at large in their activities.  She gave an over-detailed laundry list of the activities her NGO has carried out (including how find free computer courses and how to register e-messages; filter, Ms. Sakamoto!).  Amidst some very meaningful jobs Aidensha does (e.g., assisting people out of DV situations, finding housing, assisting with visa and social insurance issues, etc.) was the overwhelming chaff of giving case studies and telling stories about their hard work, when all the audience merely wanted was conclusions and advice.  Her points, when filtered of chaff, useless stats, and photographs were inter a lot of alia, 1) helping non-native speakers of Japanese get around and fend for themselves, 2) educating NJ children, 3) resolving employment and unemployment problems, 4) finding stable lives and residences, and, er… f) we should be nice and respectful to one another.  When we get into what I call “Kumbaya Territory”, you lose the bureaucrats.  I hope somebody patted her on the back for all her hard work, since that’s what it seemed like she wanted.

The other five items at the links above were recap:  Items 1) and 2) were the Minutes and Attendees from the previous meetings (which I covered in my blog entry here), 3) was the schedule of meetings previous and future (the next one will be July 3, with more yuushikisha, and the fifth one will be at a later date and feature interim thoughts on what concrete policies to pursue).  Item 4 tells us who are the scheduled yuushikisha for the July 3 meeting (including — gasp! — an actual NJ, or rather, former NJ, naturalized former Brazilian Angelo Ishi of Musashi University, along with three other regular Japanese academics from Tsukuba, Keio, and Dokkyou Universities).  The final Item 5 was a summary of the points under consideration so far regarding realizing a “Coexistence Society with Foreigners” all over again.  The problems listed therein were also recaps of ones covered in my previous blog entry.

COMMENT:  Alright, this is a positive series of developments, with inputs much better than the first two meetings (it’s a pity the short-sighted bureaucrats almost always get first dibs on agenda setting, with the people who might offer different opinions, such as Angelo Ishi, thrown in later down the line as an afterthought.  Nevertheless, it’s a good Third Act in this political theatre, where people who contributed to the June 15 Meeting have made their points, two of them saying things I would have said (down to the semantics).  Good.  Still, however, no mention of that law against racial discrimination…

More on the July 3 Meeting when it goes online no doubt in a few weeks.  Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them

mytest

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  We have an important announcement courtesy of academic listserv H-JAPAN:

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

H-JAPAN
May 31, 2012
Date: Thu, 31 May 2012
From: JFMorris
Subject: Multiculturalism in Japan

Dear List members,

A committee has been set up within the Cabinet Office of Japan, composed of the vice-ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministiry of Law, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education etc, Health etc, Agricutlure etc, Industry etc, Land etc, Police to investigate and recommend policy on “co-existence with foreigners”. Information on the committee can be found at the following URL.

http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/index.html

The documentation provided here gives a very succinct summary of what the government (national level bureaucrats?) of Japan think about “foreigners” here, and how they formulate their perceptions of what the “problems” are, and very vaguely hint at where they see future solutions.

John Morris
Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University

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

COMMENT:  Many thanks to John Morris for the link.  I wish he would have elaborated on the contents of the summaries, so I will.

As concerns the goals of Debito.org (inter alia the promotion of multiracial/multicultural tolerance and and of diversity in Japanese society), here are some points of note:

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

SUMMARY:  This is not the first time the organs of the Japanese government have talked about “coexistence with foreigners” (gaikokujin to no kyousei shakai jitsugen), but more likely than not these happen at the local level (cf. the Hamamatsu Sengen, which happened repeatedly from over a decade ago yet was studiously ignored at the national level).  Now that discussion on this is taking place at the national, Cabinet level, this is a positive development.  However, these meetings (two so far, the first one was less than an hour) at the outset show the hallmarks of so much Japanese policymaking:  a biased agenda (with all the normalized invective of “wagakuni” (our country) semantically offsetting those foreigners (who have to “co-exist” with Japanese, not merge into one polity)) regarding the policy treatment of people without any input from the people being treated.  Inevitable blind spots, such as an overemphasis on Nikkei and children’s education, are already latent in the materials below.  In any case, this is a very interesting and rare view into the dialogs and mindsets behind the creation of public policy re Non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan.  More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.

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

Here is the cover of the anchor site for this policy debate (click to enlarge):

The goal written therein is interesting:  “This deliberative meeting on ‘a society coexisting with foreigners’ has been set up so that related government ministries can deliberate comprehensively in close cooperation with one another, regarding the various problems related to environmental preparations (kankyou seibi) for realizing a society where we can coexist with foreigners who have livelihoods in Japan, in order to promote the undertaking of related policies at all levels of government.” (my translation)

Okay, we’re coordinating something regarding “policy issues” (which is good, since in Japan’s tate-wari bureaucracy the ministries don’t coordinate much with each other).  So who’s attending?  According to the attached konkyo kouseiin for the May 24, 2012 meeting (click to enlarge):

It’s all governmental vice ministers (fuku daijin) from The Cabinet, Internal Affairs & Communications (Soumusho), Justice, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education, Health & Welfare, Agriculture, Forests & Fisheries (how are they related?), METI, Posts and Communications, and the National Police Agency (there as a jichou).  The chair is former Education Minister Nakagawa Masaharu (under the interestingly-named title of “State Minister in Charge of the Foreign Laborer Problem” (gaikokujin roudousha mondai o tantou suru kokumu daijin), meaning semantically we’ve already problematized a latent “problem” of foreigners into foreign laborers). (More on Nakagawa in Japanese at the renewed Noda Cabinet Profiles here)

Note that there is not a single Non-Japanese (NJ) involved anywhere at the agenda-setting stage.  (Not even the token Gregory Clark, who never misses an opportunity to claim how open-minded the Japanese must be because officials insert him on blue-ribbon shingikai deliberation councils and committees.  Maybe that’s for the better this time, since we really don’t need bigoted geriatric liars with an incredible sense of entitlement telling the GOJ what to do about NJ residents who have completely different socioeconomic statuses to his.)  Anyway, it seems the government obviously knows best what to do with the “foreign laborer problem” from the outset.  Who needs foreign residents’ involvement when it’s a Japan issue?

Note how there is some vital lack of definition.  What does “coexistence” mean exactly — tolerance, acceptance, gated communities, patchwork cultural neighborhoods, or complete subsumption of “foreign cultures” in favor of “Japanese culture” (douka)?  Nor is the “kankyou seibi” made all that clear.  For example, does this this include a law (with actual penalties for offenders) against racial discrimination?  People won’t leave home without it.

You can see the materials submitted to participants in the first meeting, including several reference materials from each ministry from the following links (this was clearly a meeting planned well in advance; good):

【配付資料】
 資料1-1 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について
 資料1-2 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(開催要綱)
 資料1-3 当面の検討会議スケジュール(案)
 資料1-4 有識者ヒアリング候補者(案)
 資料2 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)
 資料3 法務省提出資料
 資料4 厚生労働省提出資料
 資料5 文部科学省提出資料
 資料6 警察庁提出資料
 資料7 内閣府提出資料

Material 1-1 is interesting in that the main goals are listed as:

  1. What form a society coexisting with foreigners will take
  2. What “environmental preparations” (kankyou seibi) will be undertaken to realize this society
  3. How to enliven (kasseika) the national debate (kokumin teki giron) which will also include the acceptance (uke ire) of foreigners
  4. What other topics and issues of special attention (ryuu i ten) will be involved in realizing this coexistence with foreigners

Those goals are elaborated in greater detail within Material 1-1 (more below).  Prima facie, these are all positive directions, especially the national debate bit to get the public on board to convince them that NJ are also a part of society. However, unclear (as always) is the word “uke ire“, which can run the gamut of meanings from “acceptance and embracement” to “just letting them cross the border into Japan” (as in the yahoo dictionary definition example:  “この国は移民の受け入れに年間2,000人の枠を設けている The quota of immigrants to be received [acceptedinto this country is set at 2,000 per year.”)  Given Japan’s record on immigration policy (and the fact that even the word “imin” (immigrant/immigration) doesn’t seem to be appearing anywhere, this word does not conjure as positive an example of acceptance *as Japanese residents and Japanese citizens* as one would like.

Material 1-1 also mentions in that greater detail the two steps that this plan will take:  1) GOJ deliberations on the kankyou seibi, 2) public debate on how to “accept foreigners”.  However, this will take place ONLY AFTER the kankyou seibi are firmly established.  The policy aim also stresses that it policy is not to be expanded to accept more foreigners (uke ire kakudai), but rather it is important first “to improve the many problems of foreigners who are actually living in our country”, listed as issues of lifestyles, education, labor conditions etc..  Kankyou seibi must be done first, however.  Then, however, if I’m not somehow misunderstanding this, it stresses in the next paragraph how our country must increase its attractiveness and appeal as a place that will “draw foreigners in to revitalize our society” (wagakuni shakai ni katsuryoku o motarasu gaikokujin o hikitsukeru).  Somehow I have the feeling I’ve heard this before.  And again, a “smooth public debate” is fine.  But how about seibi-ing that legal environment to outlaw discrimination?  Not clear.

It’s not any clearer when you read the finer print.  Material 2 above lists these as the problems to be addressed already (paraphrases):

  1. Our country needs high-quality people (koudo jinzai) to keep us vibrant in this era of globalization and aging/falling Japanese population, so for that dynamism we need foreigners.  
  2. There have been “social costs” (shakaiteki kosuto) to bringing foreigners into our country before, particularly in regards to lifestyles, education, and labor, so this should not be broadened due to [and I’m seriously translating this bit:] “being opened up as an international society will probably lead to our country’s reputation being downgraded” (kokusai shakai ni okeru hirakareta kuni to shite no hyouka o teika saseru koto ni mo tsunagaru). [Moodys, are you listening?]
  3. We want to attract “better foreigners” (again, koudo jinzai), given what happened with the Nikkei South Americans and NJ residents living here so far, with more systematic policies to bring them in and maintain our country’s reputation.
  4. We need these plans to be medium- and long-term, given the demographics.
  5. We need to keep our people (kokumin) in the debate loop and build consensus for the future about bringing in foreign labor.

Wow, what paroxysms of grief those lackluster NJ entrants up to now have put Japanese society through!  That said, these are the things (page 3) this panel is thinking about regarding how to treat NJ (in other words, its not just what we can take from NJ, but also what we need to give them):

  1. Policies that will make them functional in Japanese (e.g., promotion of J language learning in local areas, with appraisals, encouragement of teachers, and possible requirement (gimu zukeru koto) [for visa renewals?])
  2. Educating their children (e.g., stopping school absenteeism, putting in qualified J language teachers in public schools, assisting NJ children into higher-quality education, promoting education in NJ schools [!!!], promoting J language education for their parents, offering NJ children other educational opportunities, etc.)
  3. How they will be hired and will work (e.g., not merely treating them as cheap labor but improving their working conditions and social insurance, with job training in sectors such as nursing, agriculture etc., through bringing in higher-skilled workers, and even think about a “foreign employment law” (gaikokujin koyouhou) [!!!]  This would not be limited to the Nikkei South American workers [was it implicitly before?])
  4. How they will have medical treatment and social security (e.g., get them on Social Insurance, get their kids covered, and think about to set up an effective translation system)
  5. Stable places for them to live (e.g., offer basic information about how and where to live, and take measures to alleviate the fears of private-sector landlords afraid of NJ)
  6. How to deal with “public safety” problems (e.g., how to police NJ in this age of globalized crime)
  7. How to make information available in several languages (e.g., multilingual internet sites, more information sent overseas [??], one-stop information and assistance centers, multilingual disaster information, multilingual traffic information and driver license tests)
  8. Mutual respect for each others’ culture and promoting understandings (e.g., multicultural education, and thinking about introducing an integrated program for Japanese studies as soon as people enter Japan)
  9. How to work in coordination with local governments and burden-share (e.g., have local governments understand the needs of their local NJ and offer them concrete and customized service)  Etc.

There are further clarifications for each subject from page 4 onwards (listed in parentheses afterwards).  This is some very heady and prescient stuff (I can see why bureaucrats don’t want sweaty-headed public debate meddling until they get the “environment” set up first), and something which if carried out will be a great improvement over the past.  However, unclear again is how some issues (such as apartment refusals) will be enforced through the existing legal/administrative framework, or how the present system will be changed to make jobs more secure and equal in treatment (such as in Japanese academia (which I happen to know a bit about), which advertises that it wants foreign PhDs but then only offers them limited-term contracts, not tenure or an equal collegial footing).  Nice to have this wish list.  Better to say, however, that we need legal structure (hou seibi) to back it up, even at this drawing-board stage.

The MOJ’s brief (Material 3 above) starts out with bare stats of who and how many NJ are here and what they are up to.  But then on page 7 they get into how NJ should be administered (kanri — natch, that’s their job).  But it uses the hackneyed kokusaika (internationalization) of Japan just in terms of numbers without (as usual) indicating an understanding about what true internationalization really means (as in making NJ into Japanese).  Instead, the MOJ focuses (as usual) on how little control they have over NJ once they pass through Japan’s borders, and advocates the quick implementation of policy carrots and sticks — carrots portrayed as keeping tabs on NJ’s social welfare and children’s education (as if that’s within their mandate), and sticks meaning visa overstayers get rooted out ever more efficiently.  We’ve seen this in action in the upcoming end of the Gaijin Cards (in favor of remotely-trackable Zairyuu Cards (mentioned on page 8 ) that link visa approval to enrollment in Japan’s insolvent pension schemes), and it’s pretty plain to see who’s engineered that future fiasco.  If you’re ready for a giggle, check out the smiling “example NJ” on page 9 being subjected to this proposal, complete with white skin and blue eyes (even though most of the NJ these labor policies will attract are probably not White people — because they never have been).  In sum, the MOJ offers nothing new except more policing.

The Health & Welfare Ministry’s brief (Material 4 above) offers the background information on what NJ are up to again, but has on page 2 a special focus (over half the page) on how to care for Nikkei NJ (displaying once again that GOJ focus on offering more assistance “to the family” linked by Japanese blood).  The measures proposed are decent (mentioned in the Material 2 outline above).  For the the garden-variety NJ, however, it’s not clear what’s to be done as discrimination by nationality in working conditions and in introductions to jobs is already “outlawed” (kinshi) (as if that’s made much difference up to now).  But the Ministry points out (page 3) how there’s no clause in the laws guaranteeing equal treatment regardless of nationality in the social insurance system, and wants improvements made regarding how foreigners are employed.  The solution to this Ministry is the upcoming revisions in the registry rules to make everyone accountable under the pension and social welfare systems.  Not much new here — no mention of how to stop J employers screwing their NJ workers out of social insurance by not paying their half of the required contributions, for example.  A newer idea, however, is on page 4, where they outline the policy for attracting higher-quality NJ (again, koudo jinzai), i.e., a “points system” (itself highly problematic) for which came into effect May 7 of this year; the Ministry wants 300,000 “shitsu no takai” foreign students etc. to be handled under “job matching” systems at Hello Work unemployment agencies nationwide.  It also wants GOJ assistance with post-university job searches and internships, and reformed personnel management with clearer hiring practices for international workers.  Okay, decent stuff, but let’s wait and see if any of this comes to fruition.

The Ministry of Education’s brief (Material 5 above) is brief indeed, with a rehash of what they say they concluded in May 2010:  Deliberation of how to institute Japanese language education environments in Grade School and Junior High, and allowing NJ schools in Japan to become educational foundations [!!!].  More details are on page 2, where details of note include an increase of Japanese-language teachers by 350 souls (to a total of 1385 people nationwide) since 2009, making and distributing educational guidebooks, yada yada.  Also notable is the lumped treatment of J “returnee children” (rendered as kikoku/gaikokujin jidousei) as foreigners.  No mention of reforming the Basic Education Law (kyouiku kihon hou) to also guarantee education to non-citizens (given the restrictive kokumin clauses already within it, which still enables Japanese schools to refuse NJ children).  No anti-bullying discussions, either, or possible sensitivity training workshops for teachers if not students.  MoE’s assumptions within its lackluster proposals seem to be that if you make some motions to teach foreigners (and somehow by extension returnee Japanese) the Japanese language, they’ve done their job and all’s resolved nationwide.

The National Police Agency’s brief (Material 6 above) is even briefer, with one page of crime stats (which has dramatically fallen across the board yet they managed to squeeze in a crime rise somehow — i.e., NJ as collaborators with Japanese in Japanese crimes) with fingers pointed at Chinese, Vietnamese, Peruvians, and Brazilians as inter alia thieves and marriage visa defrauders.

They offer no proposals whatsoever.  Why are they even in on this discussion?  (The MoJ is already offering enough policing.)  Do we get the police involved on every social policy reform council, or is it just because we’re dealing with inherently untrustworthy criminal NJ?

The Cabinet’s brief (Material 7 above) offers a full overview of “our own” — with seven pages concentrating solely on Nikkei NJ.  Aside from this more-than-just-a-little offensive blood-fixation prioritizing of foreigners in Japan, we have observations about how these days Nikkei cannot get jobs or get Japanese language skills, their kids cannot get an education, and how they’ve taken emergency policies since January 2009 (as opposed to the GOJ’s emergency airlift of Nikkei — only — back to South America from April 2009?).  The rest of the proposals are basically as above, in what seems to be a summary of everyone’s positions.

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

Future discussions (a total of five meetings, through July, according to Material 1-3 above) will involve a hearing with experts in the field on “the shape of the NJ coexistence society” (Meeting 2, June 1, details below); another meeting with those experts “about taking on the issues ‘in the field’ (genba de) where NJ have their livelihoods” (Meeting 3, June 15, preliminary details below); yet another meeting with those experts about accepting those NJ (regarding “views” (shiten) and “issues warranting special attention” (ryuu i ten) in accordance with realizing that co-existence society) (Meeting 4).  And finally, the last scheduled meeting for now will bring the previous meetings’ discussions together to consider a 25-year tentative plan for realizing those concrete policies for kankyou seibi.

It’s a better-formed plan and timetable for discussing these issues than I’ve ever seen before (and it’s also been opened to public scrutiny).  All good, but here’s your scrutiny:

I still have no idea what kankyou seibi is (neither do they, I think; that’s why they’re getting together to discuss it).  But the inputs are as usual limited to people (presumably no women, no young people, and no working-class people) who will never be directly affected by this policy because they have never been foreigners in Japan.  I’m probably reading too much into the following, but semantically, NJ are seen as almost a different breed of animal that needs to be studied in their natural habitat.  Still no sign of any of those NJ animals being let in on any GOJ meetings to speak for themselves.

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

Meeting Two was held very promptly afterwards, on June 1, 2012, and for what looks to have been a longer time (two hours on paper).  Here’s the cover page (click to enlarge):

Now involved are three “persons of awareness” (yuushikisha), who are a Mr. Ikegami Shigehiro (a full professor from Shizuoka’s University of Art and Culture, who writes a lot about Indonesian culture and migrant Indonesians; even uses the word “emigrants”), a Mr. Iguchi Yasushi (a former bureaucrat at the Ministry of Labor turned full professor at Kansai Gakuin University, whose specialty is the unemployed and labor migration; here’s his CV in English), and a Mr Satou Gun’ei (Vice Dean at Tokyo Gakugei University’s Center for Research in International Awareness, whose specialty is on transnationals and Japanese language education, particularly Japanese children overseas).

Again, these people are no doubt well-intentioned and well-researched about situations facing NJ in Japan.  But they are not NJ, with “NJ awareness”; there is no substitute for that.

You can see their submitted materials here (along with other materials from that meeting) from these links:

【配付資料】
 資料1 池上氏提出資料
 資料2 井口氏提出資料
 資料3 佐藤氏提出資料
 参考資料1 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(要綱)
 参考資料2 当面の検討会議スケジュール
 参考資料3 有識者ヒアリング参集者
 参考資料4 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)

Another brief summary of the materials above:

Mr Ikegami (Material 1) offers an overview that goes beyond Nikkei to include Chinese and Filipinas/nos too.  Aside from overviews of the economic forces at work on NJ labor, he saliently proposes (of note): 1) officially defining “multicultural coexistence” (tabunka kyousei), 2) coordinated entry and social integration procedures, 3) regional coordination that includes NJ, etc.  He also endorses an awareness of “transnational livelihoods”, not dividing the issue into “Japanese and foreigners”, etc.  His heart’s in the right place, but proposals are still at the slogan stage.  I assume he elaborated on his points orally.

Mr Iguchi (Material 2) has a five-pager that still resorts to the divisive “wagakuni” (our country) invective, but still endeavors to portray NJ as deserving something more than just a ticket home.  He stresses the issue of “social integration” (shakai tougou).  He writes a bit of fluff here and there that the bureaucrats are probably not interested in (such as the treatment of Burmese refugees), but does overturn a few unconsidered stones:  how the mixed bag of overseas policies towards foreign “cultural identities” have resulted in potential backlashes if they are not respected; how “multicultural coexistence” is not an imported concept in Japan’s case, but one generated from Japan’s grassroots — i.e., from Japan’s local governments, such as when Kawasaki City passed policies in the 1990s benefiting “foreign-national residents”; how important language is for not only communication, but also for securing permanent residency and citizenship [!!]; how NJ rights must be respected and enforced through Hello Work and local governments [!!], etc.  He advocates immediately 1) the GOJ use the July NJ registration reforms as an opportunity to get Hello Work and local governments helping NJ enlisted in employment insurance and social insurance, as well as to promote secure jobs for them, and 2) get employers to properly insure their NJ employees and ensure flexibility towards covering their families.  He advocates that within the next five years NJ get up to speed in Japanese through standardized education, evaluation, and systematic accreditation of J language teachers.  Beyond that, mid-term suggestions include 1) proper technical accreditation for young NJ trained technicians aimed at properly matched markets, 2) periodic lists of vocations in desperate need of workers and training programs for NJ to fill them, 3) exchanges through educational accords with other countries at the university level to bring in foreign researchers and students (as well as beef up language accreditation for imported NJ workers, with targeted language education for them; example cited being the plight thus far of foreign nurses and health care workers).  His final, underlined conclusion was that to restore Japan’s economic vitality, it is essential to bring in NJ (specifically high-quality foreign labor, Nikkei, technical trainees, and refugees [!!] for specific industries, and to accomplish that, concrete policies are necessary to encourage proper administration of NJ as well as encourage social integration at the national, regional, and local levels.  Surely true.  The attitude, however, is still one of “we’re going to wipe the slate clean and start treating foreigners better from when they enter at the border”, not one of making things better for the NJ already here.  Ah well, gotta start somewhere, I suppose.

Mr Satou (Material 3) offered a bullet-point summary, focusing on 1) the present state of NJ children’s education, 2) evolution of the characteristics of educational policies towards NJ children, 3) issues within those education policies, and 4) future issues with a view towards multicultural coexistence.  Quite frankly, it was jolly difficult for me to understand within which was an observation and which was policy advice.  Some points made that don’t overlap Ikegami’s and Iguchi’s, to wit:  1) education of NJ has not developed into talk of reform of the education system to accommodate them, but rather of how individuals will cope with their education, 2) basic principles of guarantees of rights from the perspective of multiculturalism must be made clear before proper “acceptance” (uke ire) can take place, 3) Japanese children should be schooled in tolerance of others as fellow residents (shimin — rendered later as “citizens” (as in shiminsei no kyouiku, “citizenship education”)).  Good stuff and better constructs included, especially the new civics lessons, but in the end, this came off as a laundry-list outline/survey of issues and problems with relatively unclear proposals.

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

Meeting 3, according to Material 1-4 distributed May 24, 2012, says that the June 15 hearing will involve the mayor of Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture (since so many NJ are clustered there working in factories), the unnamed head of Tokyo Shinjuku-ku (where “a lawless zone of foreign crime” Kabukicho is; I assume a bureaucrat?), a Mr Tamura Taro, representative of the Multicultural Center Osaka (which works a lot with Nikkei Brazilian issues), and a Ms Sakamoto Kumiko, head of NPO Aidensha (which works with Portuguese speakers etc. in Mie Prefecture explaining Japan’s rules, helping them get homes and proper insurances, and assisting in translations etc.)

Again, all no doubt well-intentioned people.  A bit top-heavy on the Nikkei Brazilian front, again.  I guess Chinese aren’t prioritized as highly due to a lack of blood ties, and where are the Peruvians, Filippinas/nos, and other NJ?

The remaining materials were essentially repeats of the earlier materials.  Enough; my eyes are tired.  Points I missed or got wrong, please feel free to correct.  Thanks for reading. Arudou Debito

UPDATE JUNE 27, 2012:  MEETING THREE OF JUNE 15, 2012 CRITIQUED HERE:

GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre

Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader Aly Rustom has taken the trouble to write this up for critique and debate.  I think it deserves some.  Putting this up with the reminder that this is under the “Discussions” category (where I moderate more loosely), and that I don’t necessarily agree with all or even any of it.  Have a think.  Arudou Debito

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

March 8, 2012
Ways to fix Japan
By Aly Rustom

Prologue

It has taken me over a year to write this piece. I have put my heart and soul into making this reading as concise as possible. This is a small essay on the problems of Japan, and my personal opinion on how to fix them.

These days, Japan is suffering from a lot of socioeconomic problems. Whenever I talk to people and ask how can we fix them, no one ever has an answer. Everyone just folds their arms, tilts their head and says “Muzukashii” (Its difficult) Well, I do have a few solutions.
I have written a small piece here on how to solve these problems. I have written this as a foreigner who has lived in Japan for over ten years and has the unique perspective of looking at things from both the inside and the outside.

It is not my intention to try to tell Japan or it’s people what to do. Nor do I have any delusions of grandeur that the Japanese will all of a sudden sit up and take notice of what I have to say. I am only writing this to show that there are concrete steps that can be taken to heal Japan, and that all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box to make this happen. I am also hoping that this small piece will at least start up some degree of discourse which will eventually lead to some level of action sometime in the future. I also felt the need to vent, as I see a beautiful country being destroyed since no one wants to take the helm and do what needs to be done.

There are those who will attempt to paint me as a Japan basher. Let me respond to this accusation early:

1. I am married to a Japanese and have lived here for over a decade. Most of my friends are Japanese, and I do speak as well as read and write the language.

2. Criticism is not bad unless it simply takes the form of negative complaining. Constructive criticism is good and it shows that I care enough to write out my thoughts and observations that I have accumulated for over a decade and am willing to share them with everyone.

So without further ado, let’s start:

Taxes

A. Sales Tax, Health Insurance and Public Education

While everyone doesn’t want to pay higher taxes and the debate about raising the sales tax is a sensitive issue, there would be an easier way to sell the idea. Instead of raising sales tax from 5 to 10% and upsetting everyone, why not raise it to 20% with the promise that health care and education becomes completely free. People would be far less apt to complain if their trips to the doctor and their children’s education becomes free and guaranteed. This will also help the Japanese government compete with the private health insurance companies and most people probably will opt for the public option since they are already paying the taxes for it. Also this will ensure that foreigners will be in the system as well since it is included from the very beginning in our taxes. Also, our public schools have problems with parents who don’t pay for the school lunches or uniforms which forces the schools to shoulder the cost. Raise the taxes and include all these costs into the inescapable tax system, and these problems will be solved.

B. City and Ward Taxes

First, the ward and city taxes should be calculated and taken out from people’s salaries along with the income tax. Second , Increase ward and city taxes on residents and companies based in Tokyo and other large cities, while offering companies and residents tax breaks for moving outside of the cities. Cities like Tokyo and Osaka should have extremely high living taxes in order to encourage more migration to the countryside, and companies should also have to pay hefty taxes for having offices and factories in these major cities.

Taxes should be significantly lower taxes for relocating outside the big cities, and residents and companies alike should be given big tax breaks and benefits for relocating to towns (machi) instead of small cities (shi). The government can invigorate these towns by having more funds be allocated to building train stations and train lines in towns without them and not to fixing roads that don’t need fixing. If the government invests in better and more convenient transportation, companies might be more apt to relocate outside the major cities and spread the population around a bit more, breathing some life in these dying costal towns.

C. Pachinko and Hostess club taxes

The government should more heavily tax the pachinko parlors. Their profit margin is huge, and much of it is sent to North Korea as many of the owners are North Korean. It would be extremely prudent to propose a hefty tax on all parlors, say about 20-25% of all their profits. Let us not forget that recently, tax authorities have stated that about 40 corporate groups running pachinko parlors across Japan have not declared over ¥100 billion in total taxable income with back taxes amounting to several billion yen. Why is this happening? Why doesn’t the government apply more scrutiny to these establishments and not only force them to pay their taxes, but also raise their tax rate?

The hostess clubs are another type of establishment that should also be taxed heavily. That money can then also be used to fund more government social programs that would benefit the public instead of encouraging more vice.

D. Fast Food Tax

Another business sector that should be taxed is the fast food industry. The government needs to tax fast food restaurants more. Fast food should not be this cheap. The problem is that it is encouraging young as well as older people to eat more unhealthy food. As the economy stagnates more and more people flock to cheaper venues. Unfortunately most of the cheapest venues are fast food restaurants which serve unhealthy food. They need to be taxed heavily to become less attractive price wise to people, and to let the family restaurants in Japan enjoy a resurgence in popularity.

Working hours

The working hours MUST be strictly defined and implemented. The nation cannot continue to overwork its people, because fathers are becoming estranged from their families. Why not implement a system similar to France , where when an employee works overtime one week, they get those hours in off time the following week. Somewhere between 35-40 hours a week maximum should be the working norm. Companies should also be heavily fined for overworking their employees. If a company is forcing its employees to work overtime, that usually means that company is suffering from inadequate manpower and therefore should hire more employees. Companies could also get tax breaks for hiring more workers a particular year and pay more tax for laying off workers. One of Japan’s main reasons for its economic decline is the lack of domestic demand and and over reliance on exporting it’s goods and products overseas. Why is there no domestic demand? Because everyone is working all the time, and no one is out spending money to stimulate the economy. Why is that? Oh, because they have no free time. People who work all the time don’t spend money. People who don’t spend money don’t stimulate the environment.

Minimum Wage and the working class

I would strongly urge the government to raise the minimum wage to 1000¥ an hour, and set the basic starting wage to no less than 250,000¥ per month regarding full time workers. This would certainly boost public spending and give people some measure of financial stability. The companies can easily afford to do this. Japan should learn from the US’s mistake and salvage its middle class. If it doesn’t, the nation will collapse financially, as America surely will. If Japan does not find a way to stimulate domestic spending it will be doomed. The only way to secure Japan’s future is to ensure that even people on minimum wage can afford to contribute financially to society which along with less working hours would greatly contribute to the increase of domestic demand.

Holidays

A. Summer and Winter

Why not have a Winter vacation for two weeks and Summer vacation two weeks so that people can recharge their batteries twice a year?Also people should have the option of combining their two weeks into one month to allow them to a take longer vacation once a year. It’s common knowledge that countries with a high rate of productivity also allow lots of off time for their citizens. Longer vacations would also mean that people would not be so apt to kill themselves every year. Overworked people develop a sense of hopeless, because they see their lives as nothing except work. The meaning of life becomes lost to them, and they become jaded. Walking around the forests near Mt Fuji and trying to stop suicides isn’t going to do it. Changing the system will. Also, lets not forget another important point: people on holiday tend to spend their money which in turn stimulates the economy’s domestic demand.

B. Public Holidays

The first thing that should be done is the following: when a national holiday falls on a Thursday, that Friday should also be a day off. If the public holiday falls on a Tuesday, that Monday should also be a paid holiday, and that should be the case regardless of whether or not the employee is part or full time.

Housing

Many of the rules and regulations regarding renting apartments in Japan are bizarre and draconian. Some of these ancient ways of doing business really need to change. One of the things that really needs to change regarding housing is this stupid idea of key money (reikin). This is nothing more than a form of legalized bribery given to a landlord by a prospective tenant, and it should be stopped. This key money issue is causing problems in society. For example, many employees are finding it difficult and expensive to move closer to work, because key money is very expensive . So instead they remain in their previous dwellings and commute up to two hours one way to work. This in turn affects their productivity, makes them more tired, and less happy in life generally . It’s also just simply not good for society and the economy of this country for people to be less mobile and less able to change their living quarters.

Fees

Another thing that really needs to be stopped is fees on late payments. The reason for this is very simple: these fees then sink people more deeply into debt and they are less able and less likely to pay off their debts which leads to suicide. There’s no doubt that these late fees are a huge contributing factor to suicide as people list debts as one of the main reasons for their suicides. The government and landlords have a right to demand their taxes and rent, but they have no right to place any additional fees on people who already are struggling to pay. It’s stupid to force people more into debt and then spend lots of money and resources trying to stop them from killing themselves when the government itself is partially to blame.

Hay fever

The hay fever affliction is a problem that is severely overlooked in Japan. It is amazing to see the amount of hype that has been given in the media to the Swine Flu pandemic while complete and utter indifference has been displayed toward a far more widespread pandemic: hay fever. And yet, the remedy is staring everyone right in the face: start cutting down all the various birch trees that cause the different types of hay fever.

A. Suffering population
We have a nation of red eyed, runny nosed sneezers whose productivity is ebbing due to this condition. And every year, the people’s condition gets worse. People are suffering, the nation’s productivity rate is dropping, and the healthcare cost is rising from this condition. In addition to that, a third of all children are afflicted with this condition.

B. Weakened military
Lets also not forget about national security. What happens if the nation finds itself in a situation where it has to defend itself without warning all of a sudden? Imagine a coughing swollen eyed SDF…

C. Creating jobs and income through better use.
Cutting down all these useless trees which make people sick and planting, shall we say, various fruit trees like apple, orange, and banana trees etc. which are healthy for people would get rid of the hay fever problem as well as provide a source of income and nutrition for the nation. In addition to that, if the government subsidizes this endeavor instead of whaling which is causing Japan diplomatic problems it could generate record profits, create more jobs, save money otherwise that would be spent importing fruit, and give Japan some measure of independence. Imagine the number of farming jobs that can be created through an endeavor like that, not mention some degree of national security in being able to grow your own food to feed your population as opposed to spending money importing it.

D. Domestic supply of wood
All these useless trees could be an excellent source of wood for a number of years and temporarily save Japan a lot of money on wood imports, not to mention the number of logger jobs that would be created by that industry.

Smoking

Anti-smoking laws should be enacted in Japan more vigorously. Currently, North America, Australia and Europe all have strict anti-smoking laws and the Middle East is starting to follow in their footsteps. It is embarrassing that Japan still is so far behind and backward in that respect. Japanese smokers are becoming less and less prevalent in society these days . The Japanese government estimates that less than 20% of the population are smokers. It is imperative for Japan to enact antismoking laws to protect the children and pregnant women from secondhand smoke which is even more dangerous than direct smoking. Add to that the point mentioned beforehand regarding hay fever, and you have a major health hazard that will deeply affect adults and children alike.

A. Public Places
First, a law that prohibits smoking in any public place including restaurants and bars is desperately needed. We need a smoke free public area society.

B. Vending Machines
Second, the nation must do away with the cigarette vending machines. The less convenient it is to buy cigarettes the less people will be apt to smoke. It makes it so much easier for people who are trying to quit smoking to quit when they don’t see these vending machines in their faces every day.

C. Tobacco Tax
Finally, introduce a very hefty tobacco tax to further discourage people from taking up or continuing to smoke. A pack of Marlboros shouldn’t cost less than 1000 yen. In fact, they cost closer to 2000 yen through the increased taxes. It is incredible that in a country as expensive as Japan a pack of cigarettes would only cost 400 yen. And let’s not forget that these are imported cigarettes.

Immigration

This has always been a sensitive topic in Japan. There are ways to slowly bring the population to a stable count.

A. Born in Japan
First, allow all people born in Japan to have Japanese citizenship. Zainichis and children of LEGAL immigrants should be allowed to become citizens automatically.

B. Parents 0f Japanese nationals
Second, foreign parents of Japanese citizens should also have the right to become citizens. If your own flesh and blood is Japanese, shouldn’t you be recognized as one as well?

C. Investors
Third, people who buy a house or bring a certain amount of money into the country should also be allowed to become citizens. They are, after all, stimulating the economy.

D. Employers of Japanese nationals
Finally, people who start a business and employ Japanese nationals as well people with a lot of money who invest in the country should also be given that right. People who give their money to Japan should be rewarded with its citizenship. All of this would increase the number of Japanese nationals without actually opening up immigration just yet. A slight liberalization of the rules might help soften the Japanese people to the prospect of immigration in the near future.

Government sponsored programs

A. Free or cheap English Day Care centers
One of the reasons the Japanese women are refusing to marry is that many of them fear not being able to go back to work due to the lack of public facilities that can accommodate their children. Well, how about the government funding a new version of the JET program in which foreigners can be brought to Japan to simply be day care center nannies. They would just play with the kids and watch cartoons with them in English and other things like that. The toddlers would learn English naturally through games and come to like it because they wouldn’t be studying, just playing with the language. They would shed their fear of foreigners because they would be exposed to them at an early age. That would also allow the mothers to go out and work or pursue a hobby, which would certainly encourage them to have more babies since the government is finally stepping in and helping them. Why not make all day care centers in Japan English speaking? This would ensure all Japanese children would grow up with very good English speaking skills and give young women encouragement to have more children.

B. Government run Japanese language programs.
It would very prudent of the local governments to hold daily language classes in a public facility that aid foreigners in understanding and learning the Japanese language and culture. This would help foreigners assimilate better in the society which would benefit Japanese people as much as foreigners. The government should also declare that employers of foreign nationals cannot forcibly overwork their foreign employees to the point where they cannot attend these language classes thereby making their integration into Japanese society more difficult and more time consuming. The companies must allow employees to attend these classes.

Epilogue

In a perfect world, this would happen. However, I am not optimistic. I know the Japanese system too well.

The Japanese politicians will never implement such drastic measures to save their country. None of them have ever shown themselves to be mavericks. This is the really sad part. There are ways to fix this country. It’s just that no one will stand up and do it. People just sit and discuss and pretend they are concerned, but no one really is. The Japanese today are a far cry from the Japanese of long ago who would die for their country. Those before thought nothing of committing suicide for their country. However, today’s politicians are not even willing to take a few political risks for a better future for Japan. What future is left for the Japanese people?

ENDS

Iida Yumiko on the nation-state, and how it includes people in the national narrative for its own survival (or in Japan’s case, how it doesn’t)

mytest

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Hi Blog. As I’ve been hitting the books these days in terms of theories of nation-state formation and concomitant creation of racialized societies, I found something I think readers of Debito.org might be interested in:

This is an excerpt from the late Dr. Iida Yumiko, from her book “Rethinking Identity in Modern Japan” (Routledge, 2002), pages 264-5. Plough through it, as it is written in the (often impenetrable) prose of academics (and don’t get derailed by words like “ontological”, please), and afterwards I’ll rewrite it in simpler language and tell you why it is germane to Debito.org:

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

Iida: “As a collective human organization, the nation necessitates a common set of functional rules articulated in the form of a narrative. […] Since individuals are born into a socio-cultural system that ontologically precedes them, they are predisposed to certain patterns of meaning and behavior operative in the existing symbolic system; their sensory experiences, emotional attachments, and sense of moral duty, all of which occupy an import an place in the social life of humanity and society, are built upon such cultural bases.

“State hegemonic power, thus, rests on its ability to weave the identity of its subjects into the reigning system of symbolic meanings, which the subjects in their everyday practices then embody. Further, the survival of the nation-state and the well-being of its subjects [sic] are dependent upon, and reinforced by, the existing symbolic system. Naturally, the form and intensity of such connections between the state and the subject varies from place to place; arguably, the linkage is much less significant in the advanced industrial societies of the West, where ‘culture’ appears less of an immediate issue and the state’s power to regenerate ‘hegemonic consensus’ is constituted more by the legal and institutional apparatus.

“The question of degrees not withstanding, however, the fact remains that the hegemonic reproduction of the nation is dependent upon its subject being provided with such socio-cultural foundations for shared memories of the past, as sense of communal moral obligation, a coherent vision of the world, and collectively articulated hopes.

If in the current global context the nation-state is indeed being dismantled [by the effects of multinational corporations, global migration of capital and labor, etc.], then the danger looms nigh that highly disruptive forces contained within the bounds of the nation-state will be unleashed, forces which at present are more or less circumscribed by the established symbolic links constituting, albeit hierarchically, the order and stability between a nation and its subjects.

Since the normal functioning of the nation-state is a necessary condition for the stability of the individual subjects whose everyday lives are integrated into hegemonic political-cultural institutions, contesting hegemony runs a number of risks, for ‘to battle the temporal constructions of power is to battle the self and to damage the readily available means of achieving comfort and assurance’.”  ENDS

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

Now leaving aside Iida’s problematic use of “subjects” (as opposed to “citizens” or “nationals”), let me rearticulate this passage for readers who aren’t used to academic writing and then comment:

TRANSLATION:  Every country has to convince the people who live within it to accept that a) there is a country that they are members of, and b) that there are rules they have to follow in order to be members (obeying the laws, paying taxes, potentially giving up one’s life to defend it, etc.).  When power becomes this unquestioned, it becomes (to use Gramsci’s word) “hegemonic”, in other words, normal enough to be invisible and generally unquestioned.  Almost all people on this planet, born into a nation-state, accept that they are members of one country of another (by dint of having a passport, a tax home, accountability before the law etc.) and play by the rules because that’s how they were socialized.

But there is a give-and-take here.  The nation-state must give its members four things in order for them to adopt the rules of play and pass them down to the next generation.  These are, according to Iida above:

1) A shared memory of the past (i.e., a national narrative) that links them all,

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations to it,

3) A world view that makes sense,

4) Hope for the future that other people share.

COMMENT:  Fine.  Now, as this relates to Debito.org:  What do NJ in Japan get?

1) A shared memory of the past?  Not really, since what NJ generally hear in the national narrative (and replicated in ignorant overseas media and scholarship) is how foreigners, if any influence at all in Japanese society, are generally exogenous influences (Chinese writing, Perry, MacArthur, the gaijin du jour/baseball star revved up for mass consumption and soon forgotten, etc.).  NJ are not seen as part of Japan’s domestic past or legacies.  Japan takes any foreign influence and makes it “Japanese”, as we keep hearing, and that’s what makes Japan “unique”.  Any attempts to correct that ahistory are generally shouted down as not home-grown (by now by definition) or else ignored as just temporary (again, by definition, since the domestic media won’t appraise it either long-term or as something domestic; for example, look how much trouble I’ve had just getting the Japan Times to be the only media outlet giving simple Obituaries to long-term NJ residents and their legacies).

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations?  Not really. I’ve mentioned before (see my last blog post, for example) how NJ communities are not even acknowledged in Japan (Japan as a nation has enough trouble ever acknowledging that even domestic minorities exist).  If anything, NJ are (by default, only — something not actively generated by the nation-state) linked by who they are NOT (i.e., not Japanese), rather than by who they ARE; which, the record shows, is not much of a basis for a community (communities here have to link themselves, as the independent outsider Zainichi and Nikkei media demonstrate).

As for moral obligations, Rick Gundlach has written some very thoughtful posts on how NJ, as they rip at each other in public, do it beyond the regular moral bounds of Japanese society (his most recent: “a lot of what foreigners do in Japan is make up their own rules about what is and is not acceptable, or legal, or socially desirable, in Japan. They seldom rely on what is actually legal, or what the Japanese would themselves like to have the foreign community do“) — in essence, NJ are left out of being held accountable under domestic standards for their actions (as you’ll see when the Japanese police act so lackadaisically towards NJ-on-NJ crime).  That is perhaps the best evidence yet of just how outside the Japanese sense of community NJ are.

3) A world view that makes sense?  I don’t think even many Japanese would assert without reservation that Japan’s world view makes sense, especially after the Fukushima Disasters; it’s just that most Japanese are having trouble seeing any alternative (or seeing one but unsure how to get enough people on board to get it enforced) given how people are socialized towards nation-state power in Japan.

But in regards to NJ, since many CAN see an alternative, the oft-touted national narrative often makes even less sense.  Even before Fukushima, being told constantly, for example, that Japan is #1 at just about everything, that only Japan has the best stuff in the world (be it vegetables to consumer electronics — even crappy housing under generations of recycled mortgages are somehow justified) and has the safest classless most equitable society etc. (except when something that isn’t supposed to happen does happen — like theft, violence, discrimination, or clear class-based elite privilege — it comes as a great shock to many), and you foreigners are damned lucky to be here in our Japan — not contributing to it, of course, but somehow taking advantage of it (i.e., by getting paid for your labor).  Then one begins to wonder if the national narrative is not a form of group psychosis.

4) Hope for the future that other people share.  This was the biggest denouement after Fukushima, when a lot of people, seeing the lies and obfuscations that were coming out of the media essentially to protect the elite and corporatist sides of Japan, lost hope that Japan could ever fix itself.  Again, this loss of hope was not something that only affected the NJ, but when NJ began to be partially and specifically blamed (as “Flyjin“) for Japan’s troubles under the new post-3/11 national narrative, then what hope for the future was there for NJ to live normal lives as regular, untargeted, unaccused members of Japan’s domestic community?

In sum, one of the reasons I believe why NJ have little sense of “belonging” to Japan is not only that they are constantly “othered” and alienated (through the daily processes of “Microaggressions“, which happen in every society), but also that in Japan’s case they are by-and-large egregiously deprived of the four essential requirements that are incumbent upon a nation-state to make people accept that nation-state as something with hegemonic power over their lives.  And that’s why so many NJ in the end feel little affinity and will just pick up and leave.

Even if NJ do make the investment (family, home, loans, language and acculturation, even permanent residency/citizenship), they are generally not included in Japan’s national narrative.  This is a fatal flaw in Japan’s nation-state engineering, and it will not keep people coming to and staying in a depopulating Japan if they will never feel “Japanese”, by design.  Arudou Debito

Yomiuri: J population falls record 259,000 in 2011 (as does NJ pop.); Keidanren think tank sees ROK surpassing J GDP by 2030

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
Novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  Here are two sobering articles regarding Japan’s unsustainability.  The first indicates that Japan’s population decrease is, as predicted, accelerating, dropping by a record quarter-million in 2011 alone.  Now, let’s acknowledge the caveats:  This may be a blip due to the horrendous year that 2011 was for Japan.  However, the death toll from the triple disasters is only estimated (highball) at around 20,000, less than a tenth of the overall fall in Japanese population.  Moreover, if people say that this is due to people fleeing the country (meaning they’ll come back when the coast is clear, i.e., the fall is but temporary), okay, but then, I can’t help but point out, it’s clear the preponderance of the “flyjin” phenomenon is, once again, not due to NJ fleeing.  So I’m not so sure that “fleeing” is the cause either.  I’ll just chalk this development as more evidence of Japan’s unsustainability without immigration.

The second article is, I believe, more alarmist and latently jingoistic — appealing to nationalism to get Japan to pull its socks up.  A think tank affiliated with Keidanren (and we know how influential they are in the public policy realm — through them we got our new NJ cheap labor visa regimes from 1990 onwards) is saying that, horrors, Japan will not only drop in the world rankings (which we’ve anticipated for quite a while now due to demographics), THEY’LL FALL BEHIND SOUTH KOREA!!  Why South Korea (as opposed to, say, Spain)?  Because that would be a blow to national pride — a former colony and perpetual rival that we’ve always felt superior to (and who can apparently only use but the simplest cameras) shaming us in the world economy rankings!

Whether or not these predictions come true is irrelevant (after all, as Debito.org Reader Charuzu has pointed out in comments elsewhere, if and when the ROK and the DPRK reunify the costs will be horrendous) — if you don’t want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and have the Koreans lord it over us, DO SOMETHING!!, is basically the underlying call.  After all, we’ve had warnings for well over a decade now that Japan’s population is going to fall and cause economic stagnation, and that didn’t change public policy all that much.  It seems that only appeals to nationalism (and this time, targeting foreigners outside Japan, not within, as the latter strategy merely eliminated NJ labor and immigration as a possible solution), not appeals to logic, will pull Japan out of an economic nosedive.  Arudou Debito

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

Japan’s population falls 259,000 in 2011

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 19, 2012), courtesy of JK
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120418005881.htm

Japan’s population plunged more than 250,000 in the year until Oct. 1, with the number of children declining precipitously during this period, according to the government.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s Current Population Estimates put the population at 127,799,000, down 259,000 from a year ago, a record 0.2 percent decline since comparable data became available in 1950.

The number of children aged up to 14 against the total population was a record low 13.1 percent, while the number of people aged 65 or older was the highest ever at 23.3 percent.

The population estimates, which are based on national censuses carried out every five years, include foreign residents.

To calculate the total population, the internal affairs ministry used data from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on natural changes in population–the number of births minus deaths–and social changes–the number of persons who entered Japan minus those who left.

This is the third time Japan’s population has decreased following 2005 and 2009, but the number of births was the lowest ever at 1,073,000.

With deaths outnumbering births by 180,000, the population in the natural change category declined for the fifth year in a row. The decrease is widening year by year.

According to the estimates, the number of children aged up to 14 totaled 16,705,000, a record low, while the elderly population rose 268,000 from a year ago to 29,752,000, an all-time high.

“The figures indicate the pace of the nation’s graying is accelerating,” an internal affairs ministry official said.

In the social change category, the population fell 79,000 from a year ago. Of them, non-Japanese residents who lived in Japan for 90 days or longer fell 51,000, the largest decline ever.

In looking at the child population, working generation (15 to 64) and the elderly, the ministry said the elderly outnumbered the child population in 46 of the 47 prefectures. Okinawa Prefecture was the exception.

In Hokkaido and 23 other prefectures, people aged 75 or older outnumbered children.

The impact of the last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake and the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were seen in the population estimates, particularly in the number of people who left Japan.

Fukushima Prefecture saw the largest decrease in population, with a 1.93 percent decline from a year ago.

Iwate Prefecture suffered a 1.21 percent drop, followed by a 1.03 percent decline in Akita Prefecture and a 0.91 percent plunge in Miyagi Prefecture.

ENDS
//////////////////////////////////////////////
The Japan Times, Thursday, April 19, 2012 (excerpt)

S. Korea poised to overtake Japan in GDP per capita by 2030: report

By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer, Courtesy of DB

A think tank affiliated with the Keidanren business federation is predicting that South Korea will pass Japan in gross domestic product per capita around 2030.

The 21st Century Public Policy Institute also says in a report issued Monday that Japan could even be dropped from the category of developed countries by 2030 unless the low birthrate and dwindling population are addressed. 

“A declining population and the world’s fastest aging society will combine to have significant effects on the economy,” the report says.

“Unless something is done, we are afraid Japan will fall out of the league of advanced nations and again become a tiny country in the Far East.”

The institute assumes the population will drop to 116.6 million in 2030 from 128.1 million in 2010, with the percentage of working age people falling to 49.1 percent from 51.4 percent. Under these assumptions, the institute laid out four scenarios in GDP per capita.

In all but the most optimistic one, South Korea tops Japan in GDP per capita.

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120419f2.html

Discussion: Reader Eric C writes in with an argument for “giving up on Japan”. What do you think?

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
Novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. I was going to write on something else today, but I got this letter as a post comment this morning. It’s considered and considerate — usually letters on this topic are nasty flames, criticizing me personally for ever doing what Debito.org has been doing for (as of next month) fifteen years now. And it’s also a useful exercise to think about why we do the things that we do.

I won’t answer it, for now. I’ll open it up for discussion here on Debito.org and see how other people think. Thanks for writing in, Eric. Arudou Debito

//////////////////////////////////
Eric C
Submitted on 2012/03/18
Debito:
Thank you on behalf of all NJ who have lived in Japan or are living in Japan. You are doing brilliant work. I agree with almost everything you say and do and I am in awe of your energy, perseverance and spirit.

However, the more I read your site and columns and learn about your story, the more I find myself wondering why you keep trying. I lived in Japan for years and I did what you did, but on a lesser scale: I fought discrimination, xenophobia and racism as hard as I could. I like to think I gave as good as I got, if not better. I caused a fair bit of hell at my local kuyakusho, at immigration, with the police and with various random racist folks. That’s not to say I went around with a chip on my shoulder: I had a lot of Japanese friends, spoke the language well and really tried to fit in. But, finally, I decided to leave Japan and I don’t regret it. Not for a second. Every day I’m out of there, I give thanks that I had the balls and foresight to leave.

My question to you is why do you keep trying? I don’t want to be negative, but I think even you have to admit that Japan and the Japanese are not really going to change. Not in any meaningful way. They are xenophobic to the core, perhaps even genetically so. The society is feudal, with only the flimsiest veneer of legality. There is no real law – power and connections are all that matter. Japan reached a highpoint of openness and internationalization in the early 90s, and it’s been rapidly closing and going backwards since then. As the country stagnates and gets poorer, it’s going to become less and less welcoming to foreigners. I mean, the mayors of the three main cities in Japan are all nationalists and, most likely, racists.

Frankly, I don’t even think it’s worth trying to change Japan. They’re not worth it. Let them go their own miserable way to stagnation and backwardness. Let the world pass them by. Japan is like a stubborn old geezer in your neighborhood who does something offensive (letting his dog bark all night, for instance). You know that arguing with him is a waste of time. The only sensible thing to do is move away. Fuck him, to be direct about it.

You’ve fought the good fight, Debito, and a lot of gaijin owe you a huge debt of gratitude. But, for your own peace of mind, why not let someone else take up the burden? Or, better yet, wouldn’t it be best for all NJ to simply pack up and leave and let the Japanese do whatever it is they want to do? Let them sing the kimigayo morning, noon and night. Let them teach English so poorly that no one can speak it. Let them lobotomize their kids in the name of educating them. Let them claim that their actions in WWII were one vast charitable mission to spread peace and love throughout the world. Let them sink slowly into the swamp of their own bloody minded ignorance.

It’s not our job to “fix” their society. It’s not our job to educate them about how the world really works. It’s not our job to try to bring them into the modern world.

Sorry, this is a bit of a downer of a post, but anyone who knows Japan as well as you know it must surely realize that the defining characteristic of modern Japan is the inability to change. They’re so stubborn that if you ask them to change, they’ll consciously avoid changing just to spite you. I mean, why do you think they keep whaling and dolphin killing when it requires vast government support to keep doing it? They do it precisely because the world tells them to stop.

I say, leave them to it and live your own life.
ENDS

UPDATE:  The author has offered more lengthy and elaborate comments below here and here.  You might want to read them first before going on to everyone else’s.

Congratulations Donald Keene on getting Japanese citizenship. Now stop making yourself out to be somehow morally superior to NJ.

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
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Hi Blog. Good news.  Congratulations to The Don for getting his Japanese citizenship, and on what looks to be an expedited schedule (of only four months, according to the Yomiuri below.  Of course; the guy is in his ninetieth year!)  I think it’s good that an old man can realize his twilight dreams, and take advantage of opportunities that he has clearly earned as a contributor to Japan in the world.

Quoth Donald in the above press conference:  「日本人として犯罪を起こさないことを誓います」(As a Japanese, I swear not to commit any crimes.)  

That said, I don’t believe that gives him license to continuously bad-mouth other NJ, whom he yet again essentially accuses of desertion, according to the Asahi article trumpeting the news of his successful application below (translation mine):

“…[Keene] received Japanese Permanent Residency, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, knowing about the large numbers of foreigners that distanced themselves from Japan, he said, ‘I came to Japan, where I will always stay. I believe in Japan, is what I wanted to broadcast.'”

Well, if you really said this as reported (and you certainly seem to have done so in the past), then screw you, Donald. As I’ve said before here and here, not only are you buying into this whole J media-generated gaijin-bashing “Flyjin” phenomenon (in ways unbecoming a bona fide academic researcher), but your making yourself out to be more holier-than-thou than other foreigners is childish, pandering, and disrespectful of other people making their own life choices.

And it shows a remarkable naiveté regarding Japan and life in general, since will you never have to face a life in Japan as a non-elite NJ laborer in Japan; moreover, as I’ve said before, as a nonagenarian you won’t be around for any denouement.  Just shut up and take your kudos with grace, already, without denigrating others.  Do something to lose that “mean-old-man” stink you’re repeatedly and needlessly airing in public.  Arudou Debito

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

ドナルド・キーンさん、日本国籍取得 震災後永住を決意
朝日新聞 2012年3月8日  Courtesy of Mark in Yayoi
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0308/TKY201203080224.html

日本文学者のドナルド・キーンさん(89)が8日、日本国籍を取得し、記者会見した。約40年間、研究・著作活動で米国と日本を行き来し、日本の永住権も取得していたが、東日本大震災後、多くの外国人が日本を離れたと知って「私は日本に行き、ずっといる。(日本を)信じます、と知らせたかった」と話した。

キーンさんは1974年から東京都北区に暮らし、同区の宣伝役「アンバサダー」を務める。戸籍名は「キーン ドナルド」、通称で「鬼怒鳴門(キーンドナルド)」という漢字名も使う。栃木県の鬼怒川と、徳島県の鳴門からとった。

震災後の日本について、キーンさんは「率直に言って、がっかりしている」という。直後は東京からあかりが消えエレベーターも止まり「力を合わせて東北の人を助けている」と感じたが、「いまは明るく、必要のない(電光)看板がたくさんある。東京だけではない。もう忘れているのではないか」と辛口だった。
ENDS

More trappings of The Don’s legacy:

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

ドナルド・キーン記念館設立へ 新潟・柏崎で蔵書贈呈式
朝日新聞 2011年12月4日
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1203/TKY201112030538.html
米ニューヨーク市のハドソン川近くにあったキーンさんの自宅の書斎。柏崎の記念館内に居間と合わせてそっくり再現される=ブルボン提供

記念館に再現されるキーンさんの自宅の居間など。間仕切りや扉をそっくり柏崎に運んできた=ブルボン提供

記念館への思いを語るドナルド・キーンさん=柏崎市諏訪町
[PR]

日本文学研究で知られ、東日本大震災後に日本永住を決めたドナルド・キーンさん(89)の記念館が2013年秋、新潟県柏崎市にできることになった。3日にキーンさんが同市を訪れ、収蔵する書籍や家具の贈呈式が行われた。

キーンさんは07年、柏崎を舞台にした古浄瑠璃の復活を働きかけ、300年ぶりの復活公演に結びつけた。この縁を生かそうと菓子製造のブルボン(同市)が記念館建設を計画した。

同社研修センター2階の約360平方メートルを改装。キーンさんが約30年間暮らし、日本文化を世界に発信する拠点だった米ニューヨーク市の書斎と居間を再現する。寄贈された書籍約1700点、レコードとCD各約300点、家具や調度類約100点も展示する。

ENDS

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

「東北にも奇跡」永住決めたドナルド・キーンさん来日
朝日新聞 2011年9月2日
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0901/TKY201109010409.html

来日し、報道陣の取材に応じるドナルド・キーンさん=1日午後、成田空港第1ターミナル、長屋護撮影

日本文学研究で知られ、日本での永住を決めているドナルド・キーン米コロンビア大学名誉教授(89)が1日午後、成田空港に到着した。キーンさんは9月下旬に日本国籍取得の申請手続きをする予定で、「国籍を取得するとなると、今まではあまり読んでこなかった政治や経済についても、詳しく知る責任がある」と話した。

報道陣から東日本大震災について質問されたキーンさんは「希望があれば乗り越えることができる。終戦直後、私が訪れた東京は煙突しか残っていない街だったが、いまは立派な都会になった。東北にも奇跡は起こる」と話した。何度も訪れたことのある岩手県の中尊寺には近く、2~3泊の予定で足を運びたいという。(山田優)

ENDS

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

Here’s the Yomiuri’s take, with The Don not only bashing NJ and coming here for the sake of “enduring hardships with the Japanese”, but also traipsing off to Africa and India next month, like most Japanese can to escape their hardships.

Keene becomes Japanese citizen

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 9, 2012), courtesy of JK

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120308006608.htm

Donald Keene speaks to The Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo on Thursday morning after learning he has been granted Japanese citizenship.

Donald Keene, a prominent scholar of Japanese literature and culture, has been granted Japanese citizenship, the Justice Ministry announced in a government gazette issued Thursday.

Keene, 89, decided to permanently live in Japan following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

A professor emeritus at Columbia University, Keene studied Japanese literature and culture after serving as an interpreter for U.S. forces during the Pacific War.

Regarded as an authority in the field, he received the Order of Culture in 2008.

He expressed his intention to obtain Japanese citizenship after the March 11 disaster.

“I love Japan,” Keene said, while explaining his decision to move to Japan at a press conference following his last lecture at Columbia University. He now lives in Tokyo.

===

Keene expresses gratitude

Keene expressed his joy over the news that he has been granted the Japanese citizenship in an exclusive interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun at his home in Tokyo on Thursday.

“I’m so glad to finally be able to become Japanese,” a smiling Keene said.

“If my decision encourages the Japanese people, it’s a great joy.”

Keene was informed of the decision by phone by a Justice Ministry official on Thursday morning. He said he expressed his appreciation to the official, repeatedly saying, “Thank you.”

Right after the March 11 disaster, Keene saw the stoic suffering of people in the Tohoku region on TV.

Worried over the news that an increasing number of foreigners were leaving the country, Keene made up his mind to permanently live in Japan. “I wanted to endure the hardships with the Japanese, who had taken good care of me, at a difficult time like this,” he said.

Keene applied for Japanese citizenship in November last year.

He wondered how long it would take to obtain citizenship, but officials only told him it would take some time. He sometimes expressed his anxiety to people around him, saying, “As I’m already 89 years old, I don’t have much time left.”

In the end, he obtained his citizenship in only about four months.

“Donald Keene” became his pen name, and his Japanese name is now Kiin Donarudo.

Starting next month, he will travel by ship to India and Africa for vacation.

“[After returning to Japan], I’ll continue to work more diligently in a suitably Japanese way. I also want to contribute to areas affected by the disaster,” he said with a smile.

ENDS
///////////////////////
Sankei:

「待っていた知らせ」 日本国籍取得のキーン氏 漢字表記は「鬼怒鳴門」

産經新聞 2012.3.8 20:22
日本国籍を取得し、記者会見するドナルド・キーン氏=8日午後、東京・北区役所日本国籍を取得し、記者会見するドナルド・キーン氏=8日午後、東京・北区役所

 海外における日本文学研究の第一人者、ドナルド・キーン米コロンビア大名誉教授(89)の日本国籍取得が認められ、8日付の官報で告示された。キーン氏は同日、名誉区民となっている東京都北区の区役所で会見し、「待っていた知らせで、非常にうれしい」と日本語で喜びを語った。

キーン氏は、これまで1年の半分を日本で過ごしてきたが、昨年1月ごろ永住を決意。東日本大震災後、多くの外国人が帰国する状況を知って、「日本を信じることを示したかった」と日本定住への意志をさらに強固にしたという。昨年9月に来日し、講演や執筆活動を精力的に行ってきた。

この日は北区から、自身で考えた「鬼怒(キーン・ド)鳴門(ナルド)」という漢字表記の名刺を贈られた。名刺の拡大コピーを手にしたキーン氏は、「(執筆などはカタカナ表記の名前を用いるため漢字の名刺は)人を笑わせるために使いたい」と述べ、周囲を笑わせた。

ENDS

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

The Yomiuri gives a picture of a possible Messiah Complex:

率直に言うとガッカリ…キーンさん、復興で苦言

(2012年3月9日08時54分  読売新聞)

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/news/20120309-OYT1T00135.htm

「率直に言うと、がっかりしています」――。日本国籍を取得した日本文化研究者のドナルド・キーンさん(89)は、8日の記者会見で「鬼怒」の雅号通り、震災後の日本の状況にあえて苦言を呈した。

「日本人は力を合わせて東北の人を助けると思っていました」。会見で終始朗らかなキーンさんだったが、震災の話になると表情が引き締まった。そして、「東京は(電気が)明るい。必要のない看板がたくさんある。東京だけではない。忘れているんじゃないか。まだやるべきことは、いっぱいあると思います」と語った。

「わたしは今まで、ある意味、日本のお客さんだった」と振り返ったキーンさんは、国籍取得を機に日本の現状に意見を言うことも考えている。「もしいいことができるとすれば、私のためでなく、日本人のためだと思います」と話した。

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 49: “Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail”

mytest

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, March 6, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE
Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail
By DEBITO ARUDOU
Column 49 with links to sources
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120306ad.html

Last December, the Japanese government announced that a new visa regime with a “points system” would be introduced this spring.

It is designed to attract 2,000 non-Japanese (NJ) with a “high degree of capability” (kōdo jinzai), meaning people with high salaries, impeccable educational and vocational pedigrees, specialized technical knowledge and excellent managerial/administrative skills.

Those lucky foreign millionaire Ph.Ds beating a path to this land of opportunity would get preferential visa treatment: five-year visas, fast-tracking to permanent residency, work status for spouses — even visas to bring their parents and “hired housekeepers” along.

Sweet. But then comes the fine print: You must get 70 points on the Justice Ministry’s qualifying scale (see www.moj.go.jp/content/000083223.pdf) And it’s tough, really tough. Take the test and see if you qualify (I don’t). Symptomatic of decisions by committee, it’s a salad of idealized preferences without regard for real-world application. There’s even a funny sliding scale where you get more points the longer you’ve worked, yet fewer points the older you get.

Interesting is how low Japanese language ability is weighted: only 10 points — in a “bonus” category. One would have assumed that people communicative in Japan’s lingua franca would be highly prized (especially when the call for kōdo jinzai is in Japanese only).

However, I would argue the opposite: Crowds of NJ completely fluent in Japanese are exactly what the government does not want. Visa regimes with illiterate foreigners facing insurmountable hurdles are what maintain Japan’s revolving-door labor market.

For example, consider 2008’s visa program to import elderly-care nurses from the Philippines and Indonesia.

These NJ were all qualified nurses in their own countries, so their only real obstacle was the Japanese language. Yet this visa program required that they pass the same nursing exam that native speakers sit. Within a time limit of three years. Otherwise they lose their visas and get sent home.

This, coupled with a full-time job (of humiliating unskilled labor, including bathing patients and setting tables) and insufficient institutional support for learning kanji, ensured they would fail. And they did: The Yomiuri (Jan. 5) reported that 95 percent of the Indonesians tested over the past three years did not pass — and more than half (even one of those who did pass) have gone home. Future applications have since dried up.

This begs the question: If learning written Japanese was so important, why didn’t the government hire nurses from kanji-literate China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan? Because, I guess, that would be too easy, and we’d get hordes of skilled Chinese. Undeterred by policy failure, the country being asked next for nurses is — drum roll, please — Vietnam.

Now consider another regime: 1990s nikkei South Americans’ special “repatriation” visas.

The nikkei were invited to come to this country based on the assumption that somehow their Japanese blood would make them more assimilable (see Just Be Cause, April 7, 2009). Wrong. So, after nearly two decades of working full-time keeping Japan’s export industries price-competitive, the nikkei were told after 2008’s economic downturn that they were no longer employable. Because of — you guessed it — their lack of Japanese ability.

The government offered only 1 percent of the nikkei any retraining, and the rest for a limited time only a free plane ride home (forfeiting their unemployment insurance and pension claims, natch).

Out they went. Over the past three years, the Brazilian population alone has dropped more than 8 percent per annum, and it’s accelerating. They will probably dip below the fourth-place minority (Filipinos) next year.

Now triangulate this with concurrent “trainee” and “researcher” visa regimes, bringing in even cheaper (sometimes slave-labor) NJ from all the other less-developed countries. Applicants were once again lured with false promises of “training” or “research,” only to be given unskilled labor like cleaning pig sties or pounding sheet metal. And, once again, their visas only lasted one to three years. Back home they mostly went.

I think we can safely say that Japan’s working-visa regimes (including, if you think about it, even the JET Programme) are deliberately designed to discourage most NJ from ever settling here. Given this context, let’s now consider this new “points system.”

While I am in favor of having an objective and reviewable program (for a change) for granting visas, it is still no substitute for a real immigration policy. All of Japan’s visas are temporary migration policies; this new one just aims for a rich elite with a housekeeping entourage.

Not to worry: It will fail to bring in any significant numbers of foreigners. By design. For in this era of unprecedented levels of international migration, think about the incentives available to all governments to use exclusivity as a weapon.

Here’s what I mean: One of the prerogatives of a sovereign nation-state is the ability to make laws about who is a “member” of its society (i.e., a citizen) and who isn’t (i.e., a foreigner).

Axiomatic is that citizens have full rights and foreigners have fewer, meaning that the latter is in a weakened position in society.

This is how countries exploit people: Give them visas that don’t let them get too settled, because foreigners who stay indefinitely might put down roots, agitate for more rights as contributors to society, even — shudder — take out citizenship and expect to be treated like citizens.

So Japan’s visa regimes use criteria that practically guarantee foreigners stay disenfranchised — such as low language ability. After all, an unassimilated foreign populace without the means to communicate their needs remains the perpetual “other.” Then you can siphon off their best working years, send them home with a simple visa nonrenewal, and never have to pay back their social contributions and investments.

But if a nation-state can set boundaries on membership, it must also set criteria for how people can surmount those boundaries and graduate into becoming members — in this case, making foreigners into Japanese citizens.

If it doesn’t, it becomes clear that the goal is to deliberately create a weakened subset of the labor force that can be politically disenfranchised and permanently exploited. This can go on for generations, as the zainichi Koreans and Chinese might attest.

However, for Japan these visa scams are no longer sustainable. Demographically, Japan needs more laborers to pay its taxes, work its factories and service sectors, and support its aging society. It needs measures to make Japan open enough to get people to stay — like, for instance, a law against racial discrimination, protecting residents regardless of nationality from prejudice and inequality. But no.

Still, it really doesn’t matter now, because the jig is up. With decades of economic stagnation and now falling incomes, people are staying away from Japan. After an unbroken rise for 48 years, the registered NJ population in 2011 dropped for the third consecutive year.

International labor is bypassing Japan for other rich countries — those with more accommodating labor practices, more open import/export markets, a more internationally useful language to learn, and a less irradiated food chain.

Japan has the option to believe that immigrants do not belong in Japan’s future. On the other hand, potential immigrants have the option to watch from afar as Japan withers into an economic backwater. Again, by design.

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

Discussions on this issue can be found at debito.org/?p=9848 and debito.org/?p=9809. Debito Arudou’s latest book is “In Appropriate” (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

UPDATE MARCH 13, 2012:  More proof of the agenda and character of GOJ policy, in case you needed it, follows.  Courtesy of Ben

===============================
The Japan Times ,Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Panel advises keeping nursing test in Japanese
Kyodo

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120313f3.html

A health ministry panel is urging the government to keep holding the national nursing test for foreign examinees in Japanese, despite strong calls to let them take it in their mother tongues.

At a meeting last week, the panel also opposed the idea of introducing a foreign-language nursing exam in combination with a Japanese-language aptitude test for foreign applicants seeking nursing licenses.

Amid a nationwide nurse shortage, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will use the report to pick a specific plan for the nurse test to be held this month.

The pass rate for foreign nurse candidates is pathetic at just 4 percent. This includes those undergoing preparatory training in Japan under bilateral economic partnership agreements.

The panel concluded that the present system should be retained as nurses must be able to accurately understand doctors when updating medical records and reading them.

The decision is likely to discourage foreign nurse candidates and the Japanese medical facilities training them. ENDS
===============================

Levin: J citizens of empire stripped of Japanese nationality in 1952, made into Zainichi by bureaucratic fiat — by a simple MOJ office circular (kairan)!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  While doing research two days ago, I ran across this curious footnote in journal article (Levin, Mark, “Essential Commodities and Racial Justice”; Journal of International Law and Politics (NYU, Winter 2001) 33:419, at 500, footnote 288), which tells us a lot of something quite remarkable about how much extra-parliamentary legislative power is invested in Japan’s bureaucracy:  The power to strip entire peoples of their Japanese citizenship (despite their colonial contributions and experience, including fighting and dying in the Imperial Army) by fiat.  By kairan, even.  Read on:

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288. The involuntary de-naturalization [of hundreds of thousands of Koreans and Taiwanese persons resident in Japan] was accomplished by administrative fiat, interpreting the Nationality Lw under an implicit association with the 1951 Peace Treaty between Japan and the Allied Powers.  “In 1952, nine days before the Peace Treaty came into force, the Director-General of the Civil Affairs Bureau in the Ministry of Justice issued a Circular Notice [an internal government document] to the officials concerned, announcing that all Koreans, including those residing in Japan, were to lose their Japanese nationality.” IWASAWA, [“International Law, Human Rights, and Japanese Law” 52, 299 n. 35 (1998)], at 130-31…; see also MORRIS-SUZUKI [“Reinventing Japan: Time, Space, Nation” 11 (1998)], at 190; Foote, [“Japan’s ‘Foreign Workers’ Policy: A View from the United States”, 7 Geo. Immigr. L.J. (1993)] at 724-25.  Although Japanese courts, including the Supreme Court, have consistently upheld the legality of this act, Iwasawa persuasively argues that the court rulings were analytically unsound, that Japan’s action violated international standards regarding nationality, and that the action was unconstitutional because the act “runs counter to Article 10 of the Constitution, which provides, ‘The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by hōritsu [statutes].’ The question should have been settled by a statute enacted by the Diet.”  See IWASAWA… at 131-34; see also cases [Port, “The Japanese International Law ‘Revolution’: International Human Rights Law and Its Impact in Japan”, Stan. J. Int’l. L. 139 (1991)].  Iwasawa’s work is not scholarship from the radical fringes.  Professor Iwasawa belongs to the law faculty at Tokyo University and is one of the leading authorities on international public law in Japan.

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This degree of extralegal power — to the point of a simple office memo to disenfranchise for generations an entire minority in Japan — shows just how abusive and capricious Japan’s mandarins can be.  And the judiciary will back them up!

Another more recent (and no less capricious) example of this, once again involving a very elderly Zainichi (with implications for denying all foreigners in Japan their right to seikatsu hogo, a basic living allowance), can be found here and here (item 6 in my January Japan Times column).  As a procedural note, look how the judiciary once again tried to correct their mistake in favor of the mandarins again within weeks by reversing a lower court decision supporting the Zainichi plaintiff.  If the plaintiff hadn’t stayed alive long enough and taken it to another court, the bureaucrats would have won and there would have been legal standing to deny NJ their welfare payments because it would have been, insultingly, “a form of charity“.

Another interesting anecdotal case of bureaucratic attitudes to the laws that should be governing them (“That’s just a law,” my correspondent claims the bureaucrats said when arbitrarily denying him Permanent Residency under “secret guidelines”), can also be found here.

Be aware.  As evidenced above, the rule of law in Japan is quite weak, especially regarding the control by and the control of Japan’s bureaucracy.  This will not be news to any Japanese lawyer, but for laypeople thinking that Japan (and the treatment of NJ) is not in fact governed by anonymous bureaucrats, FYI.  Arudou Debito

Asahi: Registered NJ population drops again in 2010, GOJ to institute policy of “points system” for future NJ visas this Spring

mytest

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Hi Blog. To kick off a salvo of blog entries on NJ migration/immigration to Japan, here are two articles from the vernacular press. The first one talks about the MOJ’s institution of a “points system” for future NJ visas, in order to encourage “foreign researchers, doctors, managers and people with specialized knowledge or skills” to come to Japan — with higher value accruing to those with good educational pedigrees, higher salaries, etc. “People with more than 70 points” will be considered “higher-degree people with capabilities” (koudo jinzai), with an annual quota of about 2000 souls. They’ll get special benefits like easier visa conditions for wives and children (something currently reserved for those here on foreign expat packages in the financial markets), and five-year waits for Permanent Residency (instead of the usual ten for those not married to Japanese), and no doubt more.  It’s scheduled to start from this Spring.

Fine, let’s have an objective and reviewable system for immigration (or in Japan’s case, just plain old inward migration), but there are two assumptions here, 1) that people are still simply beating a path to Japan now as a matter of course (when by now there are plenty of other rich countries in the region that are better at, say, foreign languages and import infrastructure, not to mention without an irradiated food chain), and 2) a guarantee of things that are fundamental to making a life here without harassment for being different (such as, say, oh, a law against racial discrimination, and checks and balances against a police force that sees racial profiling, street harassment, and even home invasion as part of its mandate). Japan has had plenty of opportunity to take some safeguards against this, and the fact that it won’t yet still wants to get people to live here anyway to offset its demographic crisis is just plain ignorant of reality.

The second article talks about the effects of a society with institutions that aren’t all that friendly or accountable for its excesses — the second drop of the registered NJ population in two years, after a rise over 48 straight years. I talked about this briefly in my January Japan Times column (as one of the Top Ten Human Rights Events for 2011), so for the record, here is a vernacular source.  I think, sadly, that people are starting to wise up, and realize that Japan isn’t all that open a place to settle.  Arudou Debito

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外国人の年収などを点数化 「高度人材」には優遇措置
朝日新聞 2011年12月28日, Courtesy MS
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1228/TKY201112280216.html

研究者や医師、経営者ら専門知識や技術を持つ外国人にもっと日本に来てもらおうと、法務省は出入国管理に「ポイント制」を導入する。学歴や年収に応じて点数をつけて高い人ほど日本に居やすくする仕組みで、平岡秀夫法相が28日、概要を公表した。来春にも始めることを目指す。

新しい制度では、外国人の学歴や職務の経験年数、年収などの項目ごとに点数を積み上げていき、70点以上で「高度人材」と認定する。年間約2千人が対象になる見込み。

高度人材と認められると、日本で原則10年以上暮らさないと受けられない永住許可を5年で得られるようになる。また、ともに来日する配偶者が仕事に就ける時間の制限(週28時間以内)を緩やかにするほか、3歳未満の子がいる場合には本人や配偶者の親も呼び寄せられる。いまは外資系企業の幹部にだけ認められている「家事使用人」を連れてくることも認める。
ends
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外国人登録者、2年連続減 法務省「長引く不況影響」
朝日新聞 2011年6月3日20時30分
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0603/TKY201106030453.html

法務省は3日、2010年末現在の外国人登録者数は213万4151人で、09年末に比べ5万1970人減ったと発表した。毎年の統計をとり始めた1961年以降、09年に初めて減少に転じてから2年連続で減った。同省入国管理局は「世界金融危機後の不況が長引き、多くの日系ブラジル人らが出国した影響が大きい」とみている。

国籍別では、1位の中国が約6600人増えて68万7千人。2位の韓国・朝鮮(約56万6千人)は特別永住者の日本への帰化が進み、約1万2千人減った。3位のブラジル(23万人)は約3万7千人の大幅減少。4位のフィリピン(約21万人)は微減だった。
ends

http://www.e-stat.go.jp/SG1/estat/List.do?lid=000001074828
ENDS

Mainichi: NHK Press publishes book about NJ “underground reality” (e.g., prostitution, fake marriages and citizenships, profiteering). Contrast with interview with freewheeling cannibal Sagawa Issei.

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  Speaking of Japanese media profiteering off NJ by peddling images of them to the public (after in some cases killing them first, e.g., Ichihashi Tatsuya, Sagawa Issei — more on him below), here we have a quick book review of some author depicting NJ adding to the undercurrent of Japan’s crimes and misdemeanors (N.B., in two articles that are quite different in English and Japanese, as the Mainichi is quite prone to doing).

While I haven’t read the book to see if there is any element of, “If these guys had better opportunities in Japan, they might not resort to these trades” (i.e., it’s not because NJ are intrinsically predisposed to criminality, despite what other Japanese media has nakedly asserted), it still panders to the latent NPA-promoted public prejudices of “foreigner as criminal”, sensationalizing the lives of NJ residents in Japan.

Pity.  There is significantly less media about the regular lawful contributions NJ make to Japanese society.  But I guess a book about someone who does his or her day job, brings home the paycheck to put food on the table, spends the weekends playing with the kids, pays taxes on time, and takes on neighborhood association duties, isn’t fodder for selling scads of sensationalism.  But I betcha that’s much closer to the “reality” for far more NJ in Japan.  Arudou Debito

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Writer talks of ‘underground reality’ of Japan’s foreigners in new book
(Mainichi Japan) February 1, 2012, courtesy of JK
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120201p2a00m0et010000c.html

The myth that Japan is a homogenous society lost its veracity long ago. With the growth of globalization, the sight of foreigners living and working in Japan is certainly no longer a rare occurrence.

However, how much do we know about the real lives of Japan’s foreigners?

This is the question that Kota Ishii, a spirited non-fiction writer, raises in his new book, “Nippon ikoku kiko — zainichi gaikokujin no kane, seiai, shi” (Journey through foreign Japan: The money, love, sex and death of foreigners in Japan).

“What happens with the bodies of foreigners if they die in Japan?”; “A Mie Prefecture island: A haven for foreign prostitution?”; “A South Korean church helping Japanese homeless — what is its real aim?” These are just a few examples of what Ishii tackles in his latest work.

Ishii, who has published several books on prostitution, slums and underground businesses in Asia, sheds light this time on different foreign communities in Japan.

The book introduces a South Korean who has conquered the Japanese sex industry by undercutting prices; an Israeli man with an expired visa who pays a Japanese woman to marry him to obtain Japanese nationality; Chinese who flee from the country after obtaining citizenship, and many other examples that portray the reality of “underground” foreign communities in Japan.

Because there are so many fake marriages initiated by foreigners in Japan, some international matchmaking companies even provide compensation to victims, Ishii writes.

The writer further introduces readers to a recent phenomenon among foreigners in Japan: jumping occupations.

Pakistanis opening Indian restaurants is one example from this trend, Ishii writes. Many construction company or factory employees who have lost their jobs are pushed into alternative businesses, the writer explains.

Even while he cuts deeply into the lives of Japan’s foreigners, lending a critical eye to their doings, Ishii manages to portray the people who fight hard to survive in a foreign land with compassion.

“Nippon ikoku kiko — zainichi gaikokujin no kane, seiai, shi” went on sale in January.
ends

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

“Original Japanese story” that was linked from this article:

読書日和:注目です アングラ在日外国人
毎日新聞 2012年1月31日 東京夕刊
http://mainichi.jp/enta/book/news/20120131dde012070018000c.html

日本が「単一民族」の国と言われたのは昔の話。グローバル化が進み、今や街中には外国人がたくさんいる。では彼らの暮らしぶりを、私たちはどれだけ知っているだろうか。

ニッポン異国紀行--在日外国人のカネ・性愛・死」(石井光太著・NHK出版新書・903円)は、外国人による独自のコミュニティーに光を当てている。風俗業界を価格破壊で席巻する韓国人。日本国籍を得るため、日本人女性に金を出して偽装結婚する不法滞在のイスラエル人。日本人と結婚して国籍を得ると、さっさと逃げる中国人もいる。そのため国際結婚紹介業界では「夜逃げ補償」があるとか。

ある現象の背景にも焦点を当てる。パキスタン人などが「インド料理」を作る店が増えている。建築現場や工場で働いていた人たちが、職を失ってやむなく転身しているのだ。

著者は77年生まれ、気鋭のノンフィクション作家。アンダーグラウンドの世界に鋭く切り込む取材力は相変わらずだ。そのまなざしは、ただ彼らを批判するのではなく、むしろ異国で懸命に生きる人々にエールを送っているようだ。【栗原俊雄】

ENDS

PS:  For the purposes of contrast, here’s a creepy interview with cannibal Sagawa Issei; overlook the somewhat questionable journalism, see him speaking after 1:14, and just try not to go slack-jawed…

CNN’s Zakaria: Japan’s economy “has run out of gas”: first trade deficit in 31 years shows J’s decline and “the end of an era”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Reader JD submits this as “Cliff Notes for Debito.org”. Quite so. It’s what we’ve been saying for a while now about Japan in decline (see for example here, here, and here). Only this time, we have something quantitative (and a major economic indicator) to demonstrate it: Japan’s first trade deficit in 31 years. Fareed Zakaria from CNN offers this crisp blog comment. Arudou Debito

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Zakaria: The end of an era for Japan
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN, January 29, 2012
http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/29/zakaria-the-end-of-an-era-in-japan/?hpt=hp_c2

Wherever you are in the world, you’ve probably used or coveted some Japanese product – a Honda four-wheeler; a Toyota Prius, a Sony, a Panasonic TV, a Nikon camera. Since the 1950s, Japan’s exports have flooded the world and fueled an economic miracle at home, making that country one of the wealthiest in the world. Well, this week marks a turning point – one of the world’s great export engines has run out of gas.

What in the world is going on?

For the first time in 31 years, Japan has recorded a trade deficit. In simple terms, that means Japan imported more than it exported last year. Now this is not that unusual for some rich countries: the U.S. has had a trade deficit since 1975, and yet we’ve grown. But the U.S. economy is not built on exports. Japan’s economic rise on the other hand, has been almost entirely powered by exports.

So what has changed in Japan?

The Japanese government would like to blame one-off events: Last year’s earthquake and tsunami crippled factories and shut down nuclear energy reactors. The offshoot of that was decreased economic output, plus they needed to import expensive oil from the Middle East. But natural disasters have only highlighted and accelerated existing trends in Japan: A decline in competitiveness and an ageing work force.

China and other East Asian countries can now produce cheaper products and in greater quantities. Add to that a rising Yen, and Japan’s exporters have been at a disadvantage globally. Toyota’s chief perhaps said it best last year: “It doesn’t make sense to manufacture in Japan.”

Then add to this Japan’s demographics. Between 1990 and 2007, Japan’s working population dropped from 86 to 83 million. At the same time, the number of Americans between the ages of 15 and 64 rose from 160 million to 200 million. In a global marketplace, this is a major handicap for Tokyo.

Between 2001 and 2010, Japan’s economy grew at seven-tenths of one percent – less than half the pace of America’s. It was also well behind Europe. Contrast that with growth per person – or GDP per capita – and Japan actually outperforms America and the Euro Zone.

So while Japan’s economy in aggregate has been hurt by this lack of workers, for the average Japanese worker income is still up and quality of life is still very high. That’s partly why the country has not felt the pressure to reform.

Now it’s easy to extrapolate from the data that Japan’s low growth is not a failure of economic policy, but just a reflection of its demographics. But that’s too simple. In reality, Japan’s industry is becoming less competitive and even per capita incomes will start slowing down.

Tokyo’s policymakers have failed its people – they could have opened up many of its closed sectors to competition, reformed its labor laws to make Japanese labor more attractive, cut pension benefits, and allowed more immigration. Its government could have put the country on a path to reduce its massive debt burden. Instead, we’re now entering an era where one of the great manufacturing nations of history faces a looming current account deficit. With its debt at 211% of its GDP, if the cost of its borrowing increases, Tokyo would face an even greater crisis: A default.

Keeping a rich country competitive is very hard, especially in a democracy where interest groups keep asking for more – more benefits, more subsidies, more protections. They want to be shielded from competitive forces. It is happening in America, just as it happened in Japan. It’s easy to forget how powerful a growth engine Japan was in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

But eventually, it was unable to change its ways, reform, and get less rigid. The result was decline.
ENDS

PS on Gaijin Card Checkpoint at his apartment — Immigration doing door-to-door checks, using physical force (photos included)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Something I’ve noticed about Japan’s anti-crime campaigns:  1) These campaigns are not temporary (as in, “the campaign expires on this date”), meaning inevitable future crackdowns are cumulative (see for example here and here), 2) they quickly take on a racist bent (as NJ are officially depicted as more likely to commit crime, or even just be criminals by existing, as potential “illegal visa overstayers”) and encourage racial profiling in practice (see here and here), and 3) a general lack of legal oversight over the Japanese police means the cops go too far, bending laws (see for example here and here) and in this case targeting politically-disenfranchised people (NJ) who can’t fight back through the system or the media, or even through their political representative (who are basically in on the gaijin bashing for political capital and budgetary gain).

These are all elements of a police state, and the systematic mistrust of foreigners in Japan enables the bureaucracy to carry out in microcosm what Submitter PS (a pseudonym) reports below.  Fortunately this time, PS had the presence of mind to take photographs of these toughs from Immigration, who clearly felt their need to police gaijin overrode their need to treat people with respect and dignity (not to mention without resorting to physical force and with due process under the law).  Arudou Debito

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January 23, 2012
Dear Debito,

My name is PS. I’m a 45-year-old American living and working in Tokyo, where I’ve resided for the last 8 and a half years. I have a valid working visa, pay my Japanese taxes (both national and local), and have never had any unpleasant encounters with the authorities; that is, until last Thursday, Jan. 19. It’s something that I think you should know about.

That morning, an Immigration official showed up at the door of my apartment, unannounced, and demanded to see my passport. I was very suspicious that Immigration (not the police) would make a sudden home visit to do a spot-check, especially since I’ve lived in the same apartment since 2003, and since my address has been registered with the Shinagawa Ward office for over 8 years. Anyway, I asked this gentleman to show me his badge so that I could write down his name and badge number. He quickly flashed me some ID, but I pointed out that I didn’t have the opportunity to see, much less write down, the details. In a belligerent tone, he said in English, “Passport first!” I refused, bid him a good day, and started to close my door. It was at this point that things got out of hand.

The aforementioned gentleman physically blocked my door from closing, and we got into a shoving match that led to my door getting knocked off its tracks. Then, suddenly, four of his associates (2 men and 2 women), who’d apparently been hiding in the stairwell, appeared en masse. Things continued to verbally escalate, though with no further physicality, until one of them finally relented and let me take a photo of his badge. I took the further liberty of photographing the three “men” who were harassing me. The photos are attached. The person wearing the surgical mask in Photos #2 and 3 is the one with whom I tussled. The name stitched on his uniform was “S. Maeda.”

(NB from Debito: This crappy rubber-stamped and handwritten note passes for GOJ ID??)

After I was satisfied that these people were who they claimed to be, I retrieved my alien registration card, which I presented to them. One of these individuals tried to take it from me, but I made it quite clear that the card wasn’t leaving my hand. My name and number were written down, and these people finally took their leave. I will admit to getting very upset and giving them quite the tongue-lashing as they were walking away. I couldn’t help but point out the infringements on my human rights, not to mention the ridiculous waste of manpower – 5 officials to harass one law-abiding “gaijin” who pays their salaries through his tax payments.

After they left, I called my landlady, who rang Immigration on my behalf. The official she spoke said to confirmed that it was indeed their staff who paid me a visit, though the reason was not forthcoming. After I got to work, I rang the U.S. Embassy to report the matter and told my employer as well. My deep concern was that I might “disappear” and wind up in some windowless dungeon, so I wanted to be sure I had some lifelines established.

This experience has left me terribly shaken and deeply resentful. Given my long tenure in Japan, I was aware that the police on occasion took certain liberties that would not be tolerated in most Western countries (e.g. no Habeas Corpus statute, leading to lengthy incarcerations without charges being filed). However, I had no idea that I was living in a virtual police state in which my home could be practically invaded without cause, and I could be harassed by what struck me as a pack of Gestapo agents, the presence of the two women notwithstanding.

Thanks to the excellent resources available on your website, I was able to do some research. As far as I can tell, what Immigration did to me was not legal. I know that the Foreign Registry Law, Section 13, compels me to present my alien registration card to a Ministry of Justice official if he/she asks for it. But can such a person just show up at my doorstep out of the blue and make me produce said ID? The people at issue in my case had no just cause to suspect me and produced no warrant, without which I can’t see how they could justify blocking my door and getting physical with me.

I know you get a lot of e-mail, so I won’t go on any further. However, if you can shed any light on what happened to me (and perhaps spread the word), I’d be very grateful. As I said, this is the first incident of its kind I’ve ever heard of taking place in this country. Thanks for your time in reading this long e-mail.

Best regards, PS

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

FOLLOW-UP FROM PS:

Yes, by all means, please post my story (with the photos) at your website.  It’s fine to use my initials:  “P.S.”

By the way, the American Embassy also got back to me.  They were not much help, just referring me to a link where I could find a lawyer.  In closing, they gently reminded me that, as a foreigner, I was obliged to obey the laws of the country in which I reside, even if they are very different from those of the U.S.  That’s not a point I was disputing, so I wonder if they read my e-mail carefully.

ENDS

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

FINAL COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Ironic how the USG expects their citizens to obey the laws of the land when even Japanese law enforcement won’t.  Would be nice if the USG et.al would at least make their citizens less disenfranchised by giving them an avenue for channeling complaints of this nature.

Japan Times FYI Column: “Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship”, quotes inter alia Debito

mytest

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Hi Blog.  About a month ago Japan Times reporter Masami Ito contacted me for information about GOJ naturalization procedures (I’m honored; there are many other people out there who have done the same, and my information, more than a decade old, is by now probably a bit out of date).  It appeared December 27, 2011 as the year’s last FYI Column.  Excerpt follows.  I enclose the original questions I was asked as well as my answers since they may be instructive.  Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011

FYI

NATIONALITY

Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship

Staff writer

Nationality has long been a controversial issue in Japan. For most, it is something they are born with; for others, it is something they had to fight for. For some, nationality may be a source of pride, while for others, it may be the cause of discrimination.

News photo
Going for the glory: Comedian Neko Hiroshi, who obtained Cambodian nationality in a bid to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, takes part in the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia on Nov. 16. AP / KYODO PHOTO 

Meanwhile, citizenship may be something that they have to sacrifice in order to pursue their goals or dreams — like comedian and runner Neko Hiroshi, who made headlines last month after announcing he had obtained Cambodian nationality in the hope of competing in the 2012 London Olympics.

What are the conditions for obtaining Japanese nationality?

According to the Nationality Law, a foreigner seeking Japanese nationality must have permission from the justice minister. He or she can become a naturalized citizen after clearing several conditions, including being at least 20 years old, residency in Japan for at least five consecutive years, a history of “upright conduct,” and no plans to join groups interested in overthrowing the Constitution or the government.

To file for naturalization, you must submit many documents to the local legal affairs bureau detailing your relatives, your livelihood, job or business, your motive for wanting to become a Japanese citizen, your tax payments, and an oath.

The Justice Ministry says the whole process takes about six months to a year, but some naturalized Japanese have noted it took about a 18 months to get the final seal of approval.

Activist Debito Arudo, who was granted citizenship in 2000, said the process took a couple of years.

“It was rather difficult, with a huge paper chase documenting my complicated family in America, and some unnecessarily intrusive questions about my private life,” he recalled.

Are most requests approved?

[…]

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20111227i1.html

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

Questions asked (in boldface), then my answers:

> 1. When and why did you decide to obtain Japanese
> nationality? Did you have second thoughts about losing
> your original U.S. nationality?

I decided to apply for Japanese nationality back in 1998, after I bought a house and took out a 30-year mortgage.  I realized I lived in Japan like every other citizen, with a family paying taxes and gainfully employed.  So I decided to actually be a citizen, with the right to vote as well.  It was granted in 2000.  And given what I felt about the President Bush II Administration, no.

> 2. Was it easy to get Japanese nationality?

No, it was rather difficult, with a huge paper chase documenting my complicated family in America, and some unnecessarily intrusive questions about my private life.  More at debito.org/residentspage.html#naturalization.

> 3. In what ways did it change your life in Japan? (the
> good side and/or the bad)

It made me feel Japanese and gave me more respect from my neighbors, more rights and better treatment by the authorities.  However, those have been steadily eroded over the past decade as the media has turned more overtly racist and scaremongering (Masami, see my FCCJ No.1 Shimbun article on this at http://no1.fccj.ne.jp/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=481:nothing-has-changed&catid=71:sept-11&Itemid=101, or for your readers shorter link at debito.org/?p=9372), and the government has enacted policies criminalizing foreigners in Japan; as a Caucasian I have been naturally snagged by the dragnets of racial profiling, and this defies my newfound expectations as a citizen.

> 4. From your view, do you recommend foreigners in Japan to seek nationality
> or just keep their permanent status? (I guess this depends on what
> sort of life you are trying to build in Japan…)

Yes it does.  If you want to vote, run for office, effect change in Japan, and “feel like a Japanese”, then naturalize. If you want to lead a quiet life and a hermetic existence here, PR is perfect.  Although I’m hearing that the rigmarole for PR is now becoming comparable with citizenship (Masami, see debito.org/?p=9731 and debito.org/?p=9623).

ENDS

Debito interview with Asia Times: “Overcoming the ‘Japanese Only’ factor”, on human rights and Japan’s future

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Last month I had an extensive interview with Victor Fic of the Asia Times on me, the Otaru Onsens Case, human rights in Japan, and the future.  It went up last week.  While long-term readers of Debito.org might not find much they haven’t heard before, it’s a good “catch-up” and summary of the issues for interested newbies.  Excerpt follows.  Arudou Debito

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

INTERVIEW
Overcoming the ‘Japanese only’ factor
By Victor Fic.  Asia Times, January 12, 2012, courtesy http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/NA12Dh01.html

When US-born Dave Aldwinckle became a Japanese citizen named Arudou Debito in 2000, two Japanese officials told him that only now did he have human rights in Japan. Such prejudice galvanized him into becoming a crusader against anti-gaijin(foreigner) discrimination after braving death threats to him and his family. Is Arudou throwing the egg of morality and legality against the rock of ancient bias? In this exclusive interview with Asia Times Online contributor Victor Fic, he sees Japan turning inward. 

[…]

TO  David “foolish” Aldwinkle [sic]
GET OUT OF JAPAN
YOU ARE A FUCKING GAIJIN
NOT A JAPANESE
FUCK YOU!!
GAIJIN LIKE YOU ARE RUINING THIS COUNTRY
WE WILL KILL YOUR KIDS
YOU CALL THIS DISCRIMINATION?
YOU WANT MONEY THAT MUCH?
GO HOME YANKEE CUNT!
— Death threat in English and Japanese, postmarked February 5, 2001, from Asahikawa, Hokkaido, with a fake name that literally means “full of sperm”, and a fake organization called “Friends of Onsen Local 2”.  Reproduced in “Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Akashi Shoten, Inc. 2006), page 305. [NB: This was the original opening to the interview that Mr. Fic filed with the Asia Times.  It was removed by the editors, which is a pity.  Racial discrimination is an ugly thing, and the content and tone of this death threat is but one symptom.]

Victor Fic: Did you ever think that you would become a Japanese citizen? 

Arudou Debito: Hell no! I wasn’t even interested in foreign languages as a child. But I moved from my birthplace, California, to upstate New York at age five and traveled much overseas, learning early to communicate with non-native English speakers. I’d lived a lot of my life outside the US before I graduated from high school and wasn’t afraid to leave home. But changing my citizenship and my name, however, was completely off the radar screen. I didn’t originally go to Japan to emigrate – just to explore. But the longer I stayed, the more reasonable it seemed to become a permanent resident, then a citizen. Buying a house and land was the chief reason that I naturalized – a mortgage means I can’t leave. More on me and all this on my blog [1].

VF: The contrast with your earlier life is dramatic because you started life as an above average American guy in the northeast …

AD: How do you define “average?” I certainly had opportunities. I grew up in a good educational district and had high enough grades to get into Cornell University, where I earned a degree in government. I springboarded into a quality graduate program at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the UC San Diego, and availed myself of excellent Japanese studies programs, including a mentor relationship with the late East Asia expert Chalmers Johnson. I then did the hard slog of learning the language and culture and it set me up my life as an academic, writer, commentator, and educator about issues Japanese.

VF: Why do you insist that prejudice towards foreigners in Japan is severe? 

AD: It’s systematic. In my latest Japan Times column [2] I discuss the lack of “fairness” as a latent cultural value in Japan. Japanese tend to see foreigners as unquestionably different from them, therefore it follows that their treatment will be different. Everything else stems from that. My column gives more details, but for now let me note that a 2007 Cabinet survey asked Japanese, “Should foreigners have the same human-rights protections as Japanese?” The total who agreed was 59.3%. This is a decline from 1995 at 68.3%, 1999 at 65.5% and 2003 at 54%. Ichikawa Hiroshi, who was a Saga Prefecture public prosecutor, said on May 23, 2011, that people in his position “were taught that … foreigners have no human rights ” [3]. Coming from law enforcement, that is an indicative and incriminating statement.

VF: When immigrants to the West naturalize, they hear “congratulations!” But when you became Japanese, you were greeted with another statement … what was it? 

AD: On October 11, 2000, I naturalized. And yes, I heard “congratulations”. But I was also visited at home by two representatives of Japan’s Public Safety Commission to tell me that they would now take action against the threats and harassment I had been getting during the Otaru Onsens case. They said clearly, “Now that you are a Japanese citizen, we want to protect your human rights.” Meaning rights to protect when I became a citizen – not before.

VF: Can you cite practical examples from daily life? 

AD: Sure…

Interview continues at

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/NA12Dh01.html

Chris Johnson on his 2011 experiences in the “Narita Airport Gaijin Gulag”, a complement to Amnesty’s 2002 expose (Amended)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Last blog entry I talked about Amnesty International’s 2002 report on horrendous treatment and conditions of NJ detainees in Narita Airport. As a complement, here is Chris Johnson, photojournalist at venues such as CNNGo and The Japan Times, offering his unexpurgated experiences there last December.  Despite having a valid visa, he was denied entry, he believes, due to his critical press coverage of TEPCO and government responses to the Fukushima disasters.  He spent 30 hours in the Narita Airport “Gaijin Tank” (which he calls a gulag) before being forced to buy an overpriced one-way ticket and deported, and it changed his views dramatically on Japan’s legal and policing system.

Excerpt follows.  Full report at http://globalite.posterous.com/inside-the-gaijin-tank-dungeon-at-narita-airp-91122

This issue deserves more attention.  Extralegality may be the norm in Customs and Immigration Zones around the world, but extreme treatment is exactly what happens when policing is unfettered and unmonitored.  It is, to put it mildly, unbefitting a society such as Japan’s, with official pretensions towards respecting the rule of law. Especially when you read about Chris’s experience with the private security goons, who seem to have gone beyond any plausible mitigation (“just following orders”) by Milgram.  Were these the people who killed Abubakar Awadu Suraj in 2010 while deporting him, and to this day have not been charged with any crime?  Arudou Debito

NB:  What follows is an updated version of Chris’s report as of January 18, 2011, amending allegations about a private security company called G4S.  Read on for disclaimers:

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

Inside the Gaijin Tank dungeon at Narita Airport in Japan

By Christopher Johnson, freelance photojournalist at CNNGo, The Japan Times, etc.

Globalite Magazine

News, photos and fiction from around the world

Version updated January 18, 2012

Full article at http://globalite.posterous.com/inside-the-gaijin-tank-dungeon-at-narita-airp-91122

Detained for 30 hours and expelled from Japan, a veteran Tokyo-based journalist gets a harrowing glimpse into the trap door at Narita Airport leading into a secretive gulag of rights abuses against thousands of foreign visitors and expats, often by guards hired by airlines 

(((This is a revised, tightened version of an earlier post. It includes a correction based on a comment from a spokesman for g4s, one of the world’s largest companies, which supplies security guards to more than 60 airports. A spokesman says g4s staff are NOT working at Narita. It is not clear who employs the guards accused of mistreating foreigners at Narita.

It includes information about other Westerners wrongfully jailed and expelled from Japan. Also includes comments via Japan Times from former immigration chief, one of the most important critics of detention policy. As previously noted, it is a raw work in progress, unedited, unpolished. Please send comments, anecdotes and info for inclusion in this story.)))

—-When you line up to get your passport stamped at Narita international airport outside Tokyo, look to your right toward a set of “special examination rooms.” That is where the trap door into Japan’s secretive gulag begins.

Most travellers, who regard Japan as a safe country of civilized people, have no idea that thousands of foreign arrivals — just like them — have fallen down that trap door into windowless dungeons in the bowels of the airport. From there, foreigners of all nationalities — seeking a pleasant vacation or a better life in Japan — have vanished into a horrific network of “detention centres” imprisoning thousands of innocent foreigners in appalling conditions.

Most red-eyed foreign arrivals also don’t realize that the immigration officers taking their fingerprints and scanning their passports are working with xenophobic colleagues who have deported on average about 20,000 foreigners every year since 2005, and who have been on trial for themurder of a longtime foreign resident of Japan last year at Narita.

They also don’t realize that airlines, according to the Immigration Bureau, are technically responsible for providing nightmarish dungeons and hiring “security guards” accused of human rights abuses — everything from extortion to theft, torture and denial of rights to call embassies, lawyers or family.

Instead of taking a public stand against the flagrant abuse of their valued customers over the last 15 years, airlines at Narita — knowingly or not — have been reaping windfalls from thousands of expelled passengers forced to purchase one-way tickets at exorbitant prices. Airline officials have not yet replied to requests over the past week for comments on the matter. 

Whether you are a fresh-minded explorer or a jaded expat fluent in the language and culture, the numbers are shocking, and an embarrassing revelation into the darkest side of Japan, a country that prides itself on safety and rule of law.

Amnesty International’s annual report for 2011 says Japan accepted 30 refugees out of about 1000 applicants this past year. It’s not clear what happened to the other 970 or so applicants. Many of them could still be incarcerated.

According to the Immigration Bureau, Japan deports on average 20,000 foreigners every year, including  33,000 in 2005, and another 18,578 in 2010. In other words, Japan kicked out about one-fifth the number of people — 91,778 — who were, as of January 2010, “overstaying their visas”. In reality, “overstaying” means they were dedicating their lives to working for Japanese bosses or employing Japanese in their own businesses, in a country that desperately needs entrepreneurs and job creators. These people, who would normally become immigrants or refugees in other countries, often become prisoners and suicide cases in Japan. All of these people were customers of airlines at Narita. 

That 2010 number — 18,578 individuals with names and families, often in Japan — is enough to fill about 100 jets flying out of Japan during the mass foreign exodus from aftershocks and radiation fears in March.

That number — 18,578 — is similar to the official death toll from the March 11 tsunami, which triggered a wave of international sympathy for the plight of Japan.

Yet other than Amnesty, the UNHCR and some courageous NGOs, few foreign organizations or celebrities have done anything about a system of abuses that ultimately damages Japan’s relations with its key trading partners, causes more than 100,000 people to bear grudges against Japan, andstains the image and balance sheets of airlines who have lost thousands of expelled foreigners as customers. 

Many immigration officers are aware of these issues, and some are trying to reform from within. One of the bureau’s main critics is their former chief, Hidenori Sakanaka. “One year of confinement is mentally tough,” Hidenori Sakanaka, who headed the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau from April 2002 to March 2005, told the Japan Times in July, 2010. The JT noted reports of suicides by a Brazilian and South Korean earlier that year, and hunger strikes at detention centers. “The Immigration Bureau must stop suicides and hunger strikes.”

He said detention centers and the Immigration Bureau must go public about the suicides and treatment of detainees, and also explain how a Ghanaian man, who had been working in Japan for 22 years, died in the custody of immigration officers at Narita airport in March 2010. “The incidents give the Immigration Bureau a chance to improve itself.”

Sakanaka has also authored a book asking readers whether they want “a Bigger Japan” teeming with immigrants, or a “Smaller Japan” with few foreign faces.

Japan’s Immigration Bureau declares on its website (http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/) that it’s motto is “internationalization in compliance with the rules.” It says the bureau makes “contributions to sound development of Japanese society” by “making efforts for smoother cross-border human mobility” and “deporting undesirable aliens”.

The problem, activists say, is their view of who is “undesirable.” In fact, few of the 18,578 deportees in 2010 were hardcore criminals threatening Japanese society. The Japanese media stereotype of them as being poor, dirty, uneducated miscreants is completely wrong. Many deportees have Japanese wives, children, friends and pets. Many are fluent in Japanese, with college degrees and successful careers.

“Jim” is a white male college professor from the United States, who began teaching in Japan about 30 years ago. I first met him in the airport’s “special examination room”. He was wearing a suit and tie like other middle-aged businessmen. He had just walked off a United Airlines flight from America. He wanted to spend Christmas with his 20-year old son, now living with his ex-wife in the Tokyo area. “I got a really cheap ticket, and decided to go for it to see my son,” he says. “The airline let me on, so there shouldn’t have been a problem.”

Jim would spend Christmas in the dank, windowless dungeon, where for 72 hours he was a victim of extortion, theft, strip-searching, abuse, denial of rights and expulsion from Japan at a rip-off price. (I would later discover that he had given speeches supporting anti-nuke protesters in Japan.)

((But even Jim was fortunate compared with Danny Bloom, an American journalist who, after working for five years at the Daily Yomiuri, says he was arrested on charges of overstaying his visa, held in solitary confinement for 41 days in 1995, and deported from Japan. He says he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which affects an estimated 30 million Americans, due to a plane crash in Alaska, and couldn’t fly to Seoul to obtain a work permit. Now exiled in Taiwan, he says he can never return to “the police state” of Japan, even though he still loves Japanese people.)) 

((Other educated white males from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, who have contacted me since this story first appeared, say privately that they were also victims of wrongful deportation and similar abuses.))

 

x–x—x—x—x—x—x–x–x—x–x–x—x–x–x

 

WHO IS WATCHING THE GUARDS?

 

Jim’s ordeal, and my own experience during a 30-hour detention at Narita and expulsion on Christmas Eve from Japan, confirms Amnesty’s reports dating back to the year 2000, when they first discovered a secret gulag housing thousands of foreigners.

As other victims have told Amnesty, it’s a scam, and a money-maker for the airlines and security guards. At Narita, they have arbitrary powers, and they use them. They can decide “Entry Denied”, and then find a rule or excuse to justify it. They don’t have to explain their reasons, and the appeal process is a sham.

Since there aren’t many reports of these abuses at Haneda and other airports in Japan, victims suspect there is a criminal syndicate operating at Narita since at least 1996. One guy marks a paper “Entry Denied.” He hands you off to a guy who shakes you down for 30,000 yen, who then hands you off to another guy who takes away your rights in the dungeon, who then hands you off to another guy who forces you to buy a rip-off plane ticket. If Amnesty is correct in estimating 7 cases per day on average, this syndicate could earn 200,000 yen per day in extortion fees, and 300,000 to perhaps a million yen per day on marked up airline tickets. Where does the money go? Who can stop them from doing this?

My own experience is consistent with several previous cases cited by Amnesty, and at least five other victims who have emailed me their stories. In my case, Asiana Airlines staff at the check-in counter in Seoul saw that I had a proper visa for Japan, and let me board a flight to Tokyo. The immigration officer at Narita, however, didn’t even look through my Canadian passport, where he would have found proper stamps, working visas, and multiple re-entry permits dating back years. While taking my fingerprints, he saw my name pop up on a list on his computer. (I have strong reason to believe that I have been blacklisted due to my critical coverage of TEPCO, Japan Tobacco, Olympus, JAL, the yakuza, fascists, and state neglect of tsunami survivors and nuclear refugees.) He marked a paper and gave my passport to another officer.

After leading me to the “special examinations room”, hostile immigration officials at Narita falsified my statements, disregarded my proof, confiscated my passport and belongings, and arbitrarily denied me permission to enter Japan, where I have built up a career as a journalist covering Asia since 1987.  They gave no sensible explanation for their decision. An officer simply wrote “no proof, entry denied” on a document, and asked me to sign it. I refused.

I was shocked that they could do that. But I shouldn’t have been. Thousands of foreigners arriving at Narita have been victimized by brutal thugs and racists — some of whom are not ethnically Japanese. According to Amnesty, airlines at Narita hire “security guards” to “escort” their passengers to the “detention facilities” — which are de facto maximum security jails. These guards also deny basic human rights, such as phone calls to lawyers, embassies or UNHCR. These guards harass, beat, or torture airline customers into paying “service fees”. In Jim’s case, they abused him until he finally coughed up 30,000 yen, about 400 US. They demanded the same from me, and also took money from my wallet. Gear was also stolen from my baggage.

Then, after passengers have been deported or denied landing rights, they are forced to acquire an overpriced one-way ticket. Since nobody can stop them from stealing or confiscating your possessions, the guards can use your credit cards or cash to buy tickets against your will. Since nobody is overseeing their extra-legal actions, it’s possible that the guards are taking kickbacks from airline staff selling the outrageously priced tickets.

In my case, employees at the airport said that I would have to pay as much as 400,000 yen ($5000) for a one-way ticket from Tokyo to Vancouver and Calgary. With a one-way ticket “purchased” against my will, they forced me onto a flight to Canada without much winter clothing for minus 40 temperatures in Alberta. They even called my longtime Japanese partner in Tokyo and threatened her, saying that if she didn’t pay for the ticket, her partner would face lengthy jail time.

 

After nearly 25 years of life in Asia, I arrived in Canada with 3-days clothing, far away from my house in Tokyo.

 

(((Who are these guards? Who is employing them? In my delirium during detention, I originally thought I saw “gas” written on their uniforms and van. After a rough draft of this story first appeared, several people wrote to say the guards are working for g4s, a UK-based company founded more than 100 years ago. A spokesman for g4s says this is not true. 

 

Adam Mynott, director of media relations at g4s, has kindly requested a correction of this. After being contacted by a reporter with The Economist, Mr. Mynott told me in an email that g4s “does not have any security business whatsoever at Narita Airport, nor are there any g4s affiliated Japanese companies working as security guards at the airport.”

 

I also have found no proof that g4s is operating at Narita. 

 

This raises key questions: who are the guards escorting detainees at Narita? What company are they working for? Why is “gas” written on the side of their van? Since “gAs” and “g4s” look quite similar, is that company “pirating” the logo of g4s, a respected international company? Or is it simply a coincidence?

 

A security company working behind the scenes in Japan might have good reason for wanting to somehow draw upon the global success of g4s. 

 

According to links sent by readers after this story first appeared, g4s is indeed one of the world’s largest companies, with more than 600,000 employees in 125 countries. They reportedly supply security guards to more than 60 airports including Heathrow, Oslo and Vancouver, US military bases in South Korea, Immigration Removal Centers in the UK and detention centres in Australia, a state prison in Birmingham, England, the 2012 London Olympics, US nuclear power plants, oil tankers facing pirate attacks off Somalia, and Japanese embassies around the world. (Note the photo of an armed woman guarding a nuclear reactor: http://careers.g4s.com/2010/11/g4s-nuclear-security-services-corporation-nssc/

 

It’s not clear where g4s operates in Japan. In South Korea, the US military on December 15 (only a week before I returned from Seoul), accused g4s of violating a contract to guard their bases there, according to Stars and Stripes. Former guards have refused to work for the new company for longer hours and lower wages.  These guards have protested outside U.S. Army bases, including Yongsan Garrison, Camp Red Cloud, Camp Casey, Camp Humphreys, Camp Henry and Camp Carroll. (http://www.stripes.com/news/gis-still-manning-gates-in-s-korea-as-contractor-struggles-to-fill-slots-1.163646)

 

A company press release said they won a $400 million contract to screen passengers and baggage at 20 airports in Canada, beginning November 1, 2011. When I passed through airports in Vancouver and Calgary on December 24, I found the security staff to be exceptionally friendly and professional. 

 

The company’s official website (www.g4s.com.) says they help ensure “the safety and welfare” of millions of people worldwide. “We secure airports and embassies, protect cash and valuables for banks and retailers across the globe, safeguard some of the most exciting events in the global sporting and entertainment calendar, and are a trusted partner to governments worldwide,keeping personnel and some of the world’s most important buildings safe and secure. What we do touches people’s lives in nearly every area you can imagine.”

 

((http://www.g4s.com) (info@jp-g4s.com, +81-42-519-9303) US media contact: Fiona Walters, Chief Communications Officer,+1 561 691 6459)

 

(As of January 17, it remains unclear who hired the guards accused of extortion and abuses at Narita since at least 1996. It’s also unclear if the guards, speaking foreign languages during my detention, were Gurkhas from Nepal or nationals of other countries.) 

 

The immigration bureau’s own documents confirm that airlines are responsible for hiring the security guards at Narita. “Concerning your expenses for being in Japan (meal, lodging, guard etc.) till your departure, the Immigration Bureau cannot take any responsibility,” said an officially stamped notice of the Ministry of Justice Tokyo Immigration Bureau, given to me a few hours before my expulsion. “This is a matter between you and your carrier (airline company).”

Many airlines gained respect for flying passengers for free or reduced prices out of danger zones after the 2004 tsunami and 2011 nuclear disaster. ANA and JAL, which use Narita as a hub for their global operations, are among the most respected airlines in the world, and they are highly-regarded for their service and safety. Yet credit card and airline employees have stated that they would not normally reimburse payments in such cases, since their passengers had technically“authorized” purchase by signing forms. As one victim of this scam has noted, it’s the moral equivalent of an armed bank robber getting off because the victimized bank teller, fearing for her life, “signed” the withdrawal slip.

ENDS

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

UPDATE JANUARY 20, 2012 FROM DEBITO

In related news regarding violence/homicide by private security companies towards their detainees, Private Eye (UK) Issue 1291 24 June – July 7, 2011 reported the following:

=======================
PRIVATE SECURITY
G4S locks up the captive market

Scan of the article at
http://www.claresambrook.com/campaign-page/Images-campaign-page/Private-Eye-(21-June-Issue-1291).jpg

CONGRATULATIONS to G4S, the gigantic “Securing Your World” security company that has made sales of GBP 4.2 billion to the Ministry of Justice [UK] alone. Justice secretary Ken Clarke, in reply to a parliamentary question, listed ten contracts with G4S, including running prisons, escorting prisoners and tagging offenders.

This is in addition to its GBP 42 million in Foreign Office security deals (GBP million in Afghanistan alone) — although these are believed to represent the mere tip of an iceberg, because the FO said details of its numerous contracts around world “are not kept centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost”.

Then there is the company’s Welfare to Work bonanza, which, as chief executive David Taylor-Smith told financial analysts last month, “when clocked in next year will be GBP 130 million”, not to mention to the “very strong pipeline”that he boasted was heading G4S’s way from the Department of Health.

Evidently profiting from the public sector carve-up, G4S is the ideal lucrative refuge for former well-connected government ministers such as John Reid, former home secretary and minister of health, defence and transport. Reid, now a peer, went on the G4S payroll in 2008 when he was a backbench MP and is now a G4S non-executive director.

Amid all this good news, only a party pooper would point out that G4S may face corporate manslaughter charges over the death last year of deportee Jimmy Mubenga, after use of “restraint” at Heathrow; or that the company is awaiting sentence in Australia in the case of an Aboriginal elder who was cooked to death (dying of heatstroke and suffer third-degree burns) as he was transported across the outback in the back of a badly maintained G4S van with no air conditioning, little water, and no way of alerting drivers in the front to his dreadful plight. The company has pleaded guilty to charges of failing to ensure the man’s health and wellbeing.

But then, with a maximum penalty of a mere AU$ 400,000 (GBP 260,000), it won’t eat into the profits too much.

——-

Last week it emerged that G4S received 773 complaints last year from removal centre detainees — an increase of 240 on the previous year.
=======================

ENDS

COMMENT: Sorry to bring in an unrelated American political “talking point”, but if “corporations are people”, it seems that unlike people, corporations really CAN get away with murder. And even if G4S was uninvolved in the Narita Airport events discussed on Debito.org, the rot and unaccountability of the thuggish private security firms managing the post 9-11 bonanza seems to be systemwide. This must be known about and done away with.

Changes to Alien Registration Act July 2012 — NJ to be registered on Juuminhyou Residency Certificates at last

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
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Hi Blog. As the first real post of the new year, I thought we should start with a bit of unexpected good news.  Let’s talk about the changes in Immigration’s registration of NJ residents coming up in July.

It’s been in the news for quite a bit of time now (my thanks to the many people who have notified me), and there is some good news within:  NJ will finally be registered on Residency Certificates (juuminhyou) with their families like any other taxpayer.  Maximum visa durations will also increase from 3 to 5 years, and it looks like the “Gaijin Tax” (Re-Entry Permits for NJ who dare to leave the country and think they can come back on the same Status of Residence without paying a tariff) is being amended (although it’s unclear below whether tariffs are being completely abolished).

But where GOJ giveth, GOJ taketh.  The requirement for jouji keitai (24/7 carrying of Gaijin Cards) is still the same (and noncompliance I assume is still a criminal, arrestable offense), and I have expressed trepidation at the proposed IC-Chipped Cards due to their remote trackability (and how they could potentially encourage even more racial profiling).

Anyway, resolving the Juuminhyou Mondai is a big step, especially given the past insults of awarding residence certificates to sea mammals and fictional characters but not live, contributing NJ residents (not to mention omitting said NJ residents from local government population tallies).  Positive steps to eliminate an eye-blinkingly stupid and xenophobic GOJ policy.  Read on.  Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011
Immigration changes to come as new law takes effect in July
By JUN HONGO Staff writer
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20111221a5.html

The revised immigration law will take effect next July 9 and the government will start accepting applications for new residence registration cards on Jan. 13, the Cabinet decided Tuesday, paving the way for increased government scrutiny through a centralized immigration control of foreign nationals.

The amendment will affect foreign nationals who are residing here under medium- to long-term residence status as stipulated by the Immigration Control Act. While some will be exempt from the change, such as special permanent residents of Korean descent, most foreign residents will be required to make a few major changes, including obtaining new registration cards.

The current alien registration cards, overseen by local municipalities, will be replaced with the cards issued by the central government.

According to the Justice Ministry, foreign residents can apply for the new card at their nearest regional immigration office beginning Jan. 13 but won’t receive it until July. However, valid alien registration certificates will be acceptable until the cardholder’s next application for a visa extension takes place.

At that point, the old card will be replaced with the new residence card, which will have a special embedded IC chip to prevent counterfeiting.

The government claims that centralized management of data on foreign residents will allow easier access to all personal information of the cardholder, such as type of visa, home address and work address, and in return enable officials to more conveniently provide services for legal aliens.

For example, documented foreigners will have their maximum period of stay extended to five years instead of the current three years. Re-entry to Japan will also be allowed without applying for a permit as long as the time away is less than a year, according to the Justice Ministry.

Permanent residents, meanwhile, will have to apply for a new residence card within three years from July 2012. Required materials necessary for an application have not been determined yet.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20111221a5.html
ENDS

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

Changes coming to foreign registration, visa system
Japan Today LIFESTYLE JAN. 05, 2012
Courtesy http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/changes-coming-to-foreign-registration-visa-system

TOKYO — On July 9, a new system of residence management will be implemented that combines the information collected via the Immigration Control Act and the Alien Registration Law respectively. Foreign nationals residing legally in Japan for a medium to long term are subject to this new system.

The government will start accepting applications for new residence registration cards on Jan 13, which will then be issued after July 9. To apply for the new card, you are required to appear in person at the nearest regional immigration bureau.

The Ministry of Justice says the new system ensures further convenience for such persons by extending the maximum period of stay from 3 years to 5 years. In addition, a system of “presumed permit of re-entry,” which essentially exempts the need to file an application for permission for re-entry when re-entering Japan within one year of departure, will be implemented.

Upon introduction of the new system of residence management, the current alien registration system shall become defunct. Medium- to long-term residents will get a new residence card which they will be required to always carry with them. Children under the age of 16 are exempt from the obligation to always carry the residence card.

Foreign nationals residing legally for a medium to long term with a status of residence under the Immigration Control Act, EXCLUDING the persons described below, shall be subject to the new system of residence management:

—Persons granted permission to stay for not more than 3 months
—Persons granted the status of residence of “Temporary Visitor”
—Persons granted the status of residence of “Diplomat” or “Official”
—Persons whom a Ministry of Justice ordinance recognizes as equivalent to the aforementioned foreign nationals
—Special permanent residents (for example, of Korean descent)
—Persons with no status of residence

Permanent residents, meanwhile, will have to apply for a new residence card within three years from July 2012.

What is the residence card?

The residence card will be issued to applicable persons in addition to landing permission, permission for change of status of residence, and permission for extension of the residence period, etc. The card is equipped with an IC chip to prevent forgery and alteration, and the chip records all or part of the information included on the card. Fingerprint information will not be recorded in the chip.

The card will contain a portrait photo of the individual and the following information:

—Legal items given
—Name in full, date of birth, sex, nationality
—Place of residence in Japan
—Status of residence, period of stay, date of expiration
—Type of permission, date of permission
—Number of the residence card, date of issue, date of expiration
—Existence or absence of working permit
—Existence of permission to engage in an activity other than those permitted under the status of residence previously granted

New visa and re-entry system

(1) Extension of the maximum period of stay

The status of residence with a period of stay of 3 years under the present system, will be extended to 5 years. As for the status of residence of “College Student,” the maximum period of stay will be extended to “4 years and 3 months” from the current “2 years and 3 months” starting from July 1, 2009.

(2) Revision of the Re-entry System

A foreign national with a valid passport and a residence card will be basically exempt from applying for a re-entry permit in cases where he/she re-enters Japan within one year from his/her departure. In cases where a foreign resident already possesses a re-entry permit, the maximum term of validity for the re-entry permit shall be extended from 3 years to 5 years.

Conditions of Revocation of Status of Residence

Implementation of the new system of residence management includes establishment of the following provisions concerning the conditions of revocation of status of residence and deportation, and penal provisions:

—The foreign national has received, by deceit or other wrongful means, special permission to stay
—Failing to continue to engage in activities as a spouse while residing in Japan for more than 6 months (except for cases where the foreign national has justifiable reason for not engaging in the activities while residing in Japan
—Failing to register the place of residence within 90 days after newly entering or leaving a former place of residence in Japan (except for cases with justifiable reason for not registering the place of residence), or registering a false place of residence
—Forgery or alteration of a residence card
—Being sentenced to imprisonment or a heavier punishment for submitting a false notification required of medium to long term residents, or violating the rules concerning receipt or mandatory presentation of the residence card

For further information, visit http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_1/en/index.html or call the Immigration Information Center at 0570-013904 (weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.)
ENDS

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

Alien Registration Act will be abolished, and Immigration Control Act and Basic Resident Registration Act will be amended as of July 2012! [Courtesy of MM]

http://www.city.inazawa.aichi.jp/ka_annai/shimin/e_nyuukan.pdf 

《Key Changes》

◎ For a household consisting of Japanese nationals and foreign nationals, the conventional system under which the family members can identify themselves by certified copy of the residence record for Japanese nationals (Jumin-hyo) or by certified copy of alien register for foreign nationals (Gaikokujin tourokugenpyo kisaijiko shomeisho), will be abolished and they will be able to uniformly identify themselves by a single residence record (Jumin-hyo).

◎ Like a Japanese national does, a foreign national who moves from one city to another will need to report to the city he/she used to live of the removal and obtain “Certificate of Removal (Tenshutsu shomeisho)” which then needs to be submitted to the city which he/she moves in.

◎ A foreign national will be released from some burdens. → After the changes, a foreign national who has registered with the Immigration Bureau any change to his/her status of residence, an extension of period of stay, etc. will not need to report as such to the city where he/she lives.

◎ The Alien Registration Card (Gaikokujin torokusho) will be replaced by “Residence Card (Zairyu card)” containing less information. → For permanent residents …

A Residence Card (Zairyu card) will be issued by taking procedures at

Immigration Bureau within three years after the law amendment. For others …

A Residence Card (Zairyu card) will be issued at the first extension of period of stay after law amendment or when any change to the status of residence is made at the Immigration Bureau.

Alien registration system will be abolished and aliens will be subject to Basic Resident Registration Act.

Changes to Immigration Control Act will benefit foreign nationals living in Japan.《Foreign nationals entitled to registration to Residence Record (Jumin-hyo)》 Excluding the persons staying in Japan for short periods of time, foreign nationals residing legally in Japan for more than three months with a status of residence. (1) Medium to long term resident (2) Special permanent resident (3) Person granted landing permission for temporary refuge or person granted permission for provisional stay (4) Person who is to stay in Japan through birth or who has renounced Japanese nationality ⇒ Persons who do not fall within any of the aforementioned categories or who do not qualify for the status of residence as of the law amendment (including those who have not reported to the city under Alien Registration Act any change to the duration of stay) will not be registered to Residence Record (Jumin-hyo) and thus certified copies of the residence record may not be issued. If you will need a certified copy of Residence Record (Jumin-hyo), take necessary procedures as soon as possible.

※ For those subject to the new system, a Provisional Resident Record (Kari jumin-hyo) will be sent to you from April 2012 for you to check information contained in the record.

Neither reference date for making Provisional Resident Record (Kari jumin-hyo) nor effective date of the law amendment has yet been decided. Once decided, it will be announced on the City website and other notices.

See the following websites for further details:

Changes to Immigration Control Act! ” (Ministry of Justice) “Changes to the Basic Resident Registration Law – Foreign residents will be subject to the Basic Resident Registration Law -” (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications)
ENDS

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

More from the horse’s mouth at

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_1/en/index.html

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 47: 2011’s Top 10 Human Rights Issues affecting NJ in Japan

mytest

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justbecauseicon.jpg

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE, Column 47

Kim to ‘flyjin,’ a top 10 for 2012

Illustrations by Chris Mackenzie
Version with links to sources

Here’s JBC’s fourth annual roundup of the top 10 human rights events that affected Japan’s non-Japanese (NJ) residents last year. Ranked in ascending order of impact:

10.  Kim Jong Il dies

News photo

This might rank higher with the benefit of hindsight, but right now it’s unclear how things will settle after the succession. Still, potential regime change in Asia’s most wild-card country might improve things for NJ in Japan. The biggest counterargument to granting NJ more rights has been, “If resident Chinese or North Koreans get any power over Japanese, Japan will be lost.”

Kim’s demise may not silence the alarmists (China will still be seen as a threat, especially now; more below), but even a tamping down of the standard foaming-at-the-mouth invective was impossible while “Dear Leader” was still around.

9.  Child abductor Emiko Inoue nicked

News photo

Emiko who? You might not know this case because Japanese media have intentionally omitted her name (even pixelating out her face in photographs) — and the fact she is a convicted felon in America — in their reports. But Inoue is one of the many Japanese who, following a separation or divorce, have abducted and then attempted to alienate their children from their former spouse. In the case of international relationships (because Japan is still not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction), no child, according to activists, has ever been extradited from Japan and reunited with an NJ parent.

But check this out: After abducting daughter Karina in 2008 to Japan from husband Moises Garcia (who was then awarded custody in America), Inoue had the nerve to drop by Hawaii last April and try to renew her green card. Arrested and sent to Wisconsin to face trial, Inoue was given a choice in November by the court: spend a decade or so in jail, or return Karina to Garcia by Christmas. Inoue chose the latter, and Karina was back by Dec. 23 (the mother, incidentally, will remain in the U.S. with visitation rights — a better deal than NJ in Japan ever get in custody battles).

The Karina Garcia case brought further attention to Japan’s insane system of child custody (see Zeit Gists, Aug. 9, 2011Sept. 21 andSept. 28, 2010Jan. 26 , and Feb. 2, 2010; and Just Be Cause Oct. 6, 2009), and made it clear to Japanese abductors that outstanding arrest warrants will be enforced.

Unfortunately, the Japanese public is again getting the pixelated version (e.g., Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24): Poor Karina, who reportedly wants to live in Japan, is forced to live in America to “save her mother” (never mind that her irresponsible mother put everyone in this position in the first place). A victory for the rule of law is yet again spun into victimhood for Japanese.

8.  Olympus whistle-blowing

News photo

The slimy practices of Olympus Corp. garnered a great deal of press this year, thanks to former CEO Michael Woodford’s refusal to go quietly. After raising questions about odd corporate expenditures, Woodford was sacked in October for “a management style incompatible with traditional Japanese practices” — meaning Woodford, whose superhuman tenacity got him from entry level in 1980 to corporate head, was fired for not abdicating his responsibilities.

That an international company would immediately invoke culture to defend their criminality is testament to so much of what is wrong with Japanese corporations. But also consider the plight of NJ employees like Woodford, promised during the bubble years that fluency in Japanese, hard work, sacrifice and company loyalty would bring opportunities. Decades later, it turns out their contributions matter not one whit if they ever speak up with integrity; in the end, they’re just another gaijin out on their ear. “Tradition,” indeed.

As it is unlikely this scandal will lead to any cleanup of Japan’s tribal (and consequently corrupt) corporate culture, the unfortunate lesson is: Don’t work for a Japanese company as an NJ and expect equality and upward mobility.

7.  Death during deportation

News photo

Whatever you might think of visa overstayers, few would argue it is a capital offense. Yet the death of Abubakar Awadu Suraj (ZG, Nov. 1) in March 2010, while being bundled onto an airplane back to Ghana, raised eyebrows not only because of the brutality of his treatment by government officials, but also because of the predictable results when it went to court this year: The domestic media either downplayed or ignored it, foreign media were stonewalled, and investigations by both police watchdogs and the judiciary stalled.

This horrific event confirmed, along with the suspiciously unsolved deaths of Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey (ZG, Sep. 6), that foreigners’ lives are essentially held in low regard by Japan’s police forces (ZG, March 24, 2009) and media (in contrast to the hue and cry when a Japanese is murdered overseas, or by a foreigner in Japan). The point is, once Japan’s unaccountable police get their hands on you, your very life is potentially in jeopardy.

6.  Oita denial of benefits overturned

News photo

In 2008, Oita Prefecture heartlessly rejected a welfare application from a 78-year-old Chinese (a permanent resident born in Japan) because she is somehow still a foreigner. Then, in a shocking ruling on the case two years later, the Oita District Court decreed that NJ are not automatically eligible for social welfare. Finally, in November, this stubborn NJ, in her 80th year, won a reversal at the Fukuoka High Court — on the grounds that international law and treaty created obligations for “refugees (sic) (to be accorded) treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals.”

What caused the confusion was that in 1981, the Diet decided that revising the public welfare law to eliminate nationality requirements was unnecessary, since practical application already provided NJ with benefits. Three decades later, Oita Prefecture and its district court still hadn’t gotten the memo.

Bravo for this NJ for staying alive long enough to prize her case away from xenophobic local bureaucrats and set congruent legal precedents for all NJ.

5.  Japan as No. 3

News photo

2011 was the year that China’s GDP conclusively rose to second place behind the United States’, meaning Japan had to deal with no longer being the largest, richest and apparently most attractive economy in Asia. Marginalization sank in: More NJ studying Mandarin than Japanese, world media moving offices to Beijing, rich Chinese starting to outspend Japanese worldwide, and the realization that a recessionary/deflationary spiral for two (yes, now two) full decades had enabled others to catch up, if not surpass Japan.

It was time for a rethink, now that Japan’s mercantilist economy, largely intolerant of any standards but its own, was being seen as an untenable modern Galapagos. But fresh ideas from long-ignored resident NJ weren’t forthcoming. For they seemed to be leaving.

News photo

 4.  NJ population drops, again

After an unbroken rise between 1961 and 2009, it was announced last June that the total population of registered foreign residents dropped again in 2010, by another 2.4 percent.

Brazilians, once the workhorses of Japan’s most competitive exporters, fell the most in raw numbers (more than 16 percent), while Chinese, already the largest NJ contingent in Japan, still managed to grow a smidge. But that was before the events of last March . . .

 

News photo

3, 2, 1.  The Fukushima nuclear disaster

A no-brainer, this. The chain reactions set in motion on March 11 illuminated so many things that are wrong with Japan’s current system.

Let’s start with the obvious examples: The unwillingness of TEPCO to come clean with their data, of politicians to forsake petty political games of interference, and of administrators to give proper guidance to people in danger- all of this devastated public faith and trust.

Then the abdication of accountability of people supposedly in charge reached new heights as irradiated land and water spread (e.g., Tepco claimed in court (Aera, Nov. 24) that it no longer “owned” the radiation, and was therefore not liable for decontamination).

Meanwhile, despite a huge amount of volunteer work at the grassroots, official relief efforts were so bungled and corrupted that reconstruction funds were even proposed for free tourist plane tickets and whaling!

Then we get to the outright nastiness and hypocrisy of Japan’s media (and the self-hating gaijin toadies) who accused NJ residents (aka “flyjin”) of deserting their work stations ( JBC, May 3). Never mind that under the same conditions Japanese do the same thing (even encourage others to do so; remember, Japan imported Thai workers during Bangkok’s floods), and that NJ contributions before and during the Tohoku disasters were insufficiently reported and praised.

But the most profound realization of 2011 — arguably the worst year for Japan in my lifetime — is how this society cannot fix itself. As I have argued before ( JBC, April 5 and Oct. 4), the culture of ganbatte (do your best), flippantly said to victims by people largely unaffected by the disaster, is once again giving way to expectations of their gaman (silent endurance). Backed up by a dynamic discouraging people from “spoiling things for everyone else” by daring to speak out or complain, activism gets hamstrung.

Meanwhile, the muzzling of investigative journalism, independent academic research and credible criticism outside of official channels further disempowers the public of their right to know.

Conclusion: Generations under Japan’s control-freak “nanny state” have accustomed people to being told what to do. Yet now the public has been deserted, with neither reliable instructions nor the organization to demand them.

Nothing, short of a major revolution in critical thinking and public action (this time — for the first time — from the bottom up), will change Japan’s destructive system of administration by unaccountable elites.

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

2011 was the year the world realized Japan has peaked. Its aging and increasingly-conservative public is trapped in a downward spiral of economic stagnation and inept governance. It is further burdened by an ingrained mistrust of the outsider ( JBC, Oct. 7, 2008) as well as by blind faith in a mythology of uniqueness, powerlessness as a virtue, and perpetual victimhood.

Japan has lost its attractiveness as a place for newcomers to live and settle, since they may be outright blamed for Japan’s troubles, if not ostracized for daring to fix them. Now, thanks to the continuous slow-burn disaster of Fukushima, anyone (who bothers to listen anymore) can now hear the doors of Japan’s historically cyclical insularity slowly creaking shut.

ARUDOU Debito’s novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Twitter @arudoudebito. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Gaijinwife blog on her house check — is having authorities visit Permanent Residency applicant’s home and throughly photograph its interior now SOP?

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Continuing on with arbitrary bureaucracy in Japan (particularly pertaining to NJ, see newfound arbitrary hurdles when getting married or getting rejected for Permanent Residency), check this blog out, excerpted below. This degree of background check used to be the domain of people applying for Japanese citizenship (see what it was like for me back between 1998 and 2000 here, not to mention Sendaiben’s nasty experience here) Now it seems that even PR applicants may have their premises policed and photographed by the authorities. Is this happening to others as well?  Not according to the commenters on Gaijinwife’s blog, but let’s ask Debito.org Readers as well.  Arudou Debito

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“Men in Black”
Gaijinwife blog, Posted on October 21, 2011
http://gaijinwife.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/men-in-black/
Courtesy of MD

Well, actually only one was in black, the other just had on a shirt and tie. Two men from the immigration office – waiting in their car across the street when I got home from shopping at about 3pm.

They show me their ID badges and say they are here to do a checkup on my application for permanent residency that I submitted in August. They give me a piece of paper to sign saying that I give them permission to come into the house and have a look round. I have had no warning they would be coming so it is just pure luck I’m not still in my PJs squiffing wine and watching horny housewife porn on an illegal streaming site.

The first thing they do is take a photo of the array of shoes in the genkan – focussing on the kids shoes. They ask me questions about the kids, where Granny K sleeps and then come into the lounge where they take a photo of the fire – the DVDs and the lego on the mantlepiece above it. We haven’t used the fire this season yet but when we do all the toys and shit will go and the big metal guard will come out – they asked about it. I offered to show them but that wasn’t necessary.

Then they wanted to know where the kids clothes were – as if shoes, lego, DVDs, and a pile of unfolded kids laundry on the sofa wasn’t enough. He even took a picture of a pulled out drawer with kids clothes in it.

I then got quizzed on the futon downstairs – was that the master bedroom? No, I said, it is where I am sleeping cause I’ve got a hacking cough and no point keeping hub up as well. Oh, so you and your hub aren’t sleeping in the same room? No, but we do usually. Would you like to see our bedroom – its upstairs.

So up we go where more photos are taken of our bedroom (bed miraculously made) and kids bedrooms. They inquire about the black and white photo of my parents when they were 20, don’t ask about the empty suitcase out in the hall but do ask about the big backpack by the front door. Hiking? No, that’s an evacuation kit. He wrote something down.

Am presuming it was highly safety conscious gaijin, with relatively clean house who obviously dislikes laundry and sleeping with her husband. Does appear to have all three children as stated on application…

Rest at http://gaijinwife.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/men-in-black/

J on how Japan’s Immigration Bureau uses unlegislated bureaucratic guidelines to trump the letter of the law, in this case re obtaining Permanent Residency

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Second in this series of arbitrary bureaucratic rule in Japan:  Debito.org Reader J sends me this post about the tribulations he’s had getting his Permanent Residency, and how Immigration Bureau bureaucrats feel they are within their mandate to ignore the letter of the law. According to J, even when you show them their guidelines are unlawful under the law, they have replied, “That’s just a law.” Which of course calls into question the rule of law in Japan, and bureaucrats’ attitudes towards being constrained by legislation meant to preserve the consent of the governed in a democracy.  Arudou Debito

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November 8, 2011

Hi Debito, how’s it going? Who do you think is a good lawyer that has appealed a PR declination successfully before?

I think I have an undeniable open-and-shut appeal case in which the courts will most likely overturn an immigration officer’s illegal decline of Permanent Residency.

(Perhaps you remember, I had a car accident once 5 years ago in which I committed a crime – I received probation, since thankfully no people were hurt, only cars damaged.)

What makes [my] PR decline obviously “illegal” is that the following Law was ignored:
(1) 素行が善良であること
(2) 独立の生計を営むに足りる資産又は技能を有すること
(3) その者の永住が日本国の利益に合すると認められること
(注)日本人,永住者又は特別永住者の配偶者又は子の場合は,(1)及び(2)に適合することを要しない。
#1 reason for declination is: having committed a crime.
#2 reason for declination is: being financially too poor.
#3 reason for declination is: not being a profit to Japan.
The Law then nicely goes on to state that reason #1 and reason #2 can NOT be used to decline spouses of Japanese citizens.

So, this means that if an immigration officer wants to legally decline Permanent Residency to a spouse of a Japanese citizen, he is REQUIRED to claim reason #3.

My case is: I’m married to a Japanese citizen (7 years) and yet the immigration officer declined my Permanent Residence using reason #1, “previous conviction”.

So again, who do you think is a good lawyer? I’m willing to pay his standard price, plus, a 500,000 yen bonus upon successfully overturning this illegal refusal of PR.
Please let me know if you have any good ideas of who I should call. Sincerely, J 

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November 8, 2011

Hi Debito. Turns out I don’t need a lawyer after all.

Whoever wrote the original Law saying that reason #1 and reason #2 can NOT be used to decline spouses of Japanese citizens, their goal was clear: to let foreigners married to Japanese citizens become Permanent Residents, regardless of whether they were convicted criminals, or poor, or both.

But then, some bureaucrats within immigration with the opposite goal (limiting PRs) decided to write some new “Guidelines” which say the exact opposite.

These new “Guidelines” (which the Unelected bureaucrats proclaim “trumps” the Laws written by Elected Lawmakers) say that reason #3 includes convictions.

Any rational person looking at the original Law would say that reason #1 refers to crime (素行が善良であること = 法律を遵守) and reason #3 refers to profit:
http://www.moj.go.jp/ONLINE/IMMIGRATION/16-4.html

But now, check out this crafty Heisei 15/16 “update” to the immigration Guidelines (added by unelected immigration bureaucrats) look at the ア、イ、ウ、オ additions:
(1) 素行が善良であること
法律を遵守し日常生活においても住民として社会的に非難されることのない生活を営んでいること
(2) 独立生計を営むに足りる資産又は技能を有すること
日常生活において公共の負担にならず,その有する資産又は技能等から見て将来において安定した生活が見込まれること
(3) その者の永住が日本国の利益に合すると認められること
ア 原則として引き続き10年以上本邦に在留していること。ただし,この期間のうち,就労資格又は居住資格をもって引き続き5年以上在留していることを要する。
イ 罰金刑や懲役刑などを受けていないこと。納税義務等公的義務を履行していること。
ウ 現に有している在留資格について,出入国管理及び難民認定法施行規則別表第2に規定されている最長の在留期間をもって在留していること。
エ 公衆衛生上の観点から有害となるおそれがないこと
http://www.moj.go.jp/nyuukokukanri/kouhou/nyukan_nyukan50.html

Cute. So since the door was opened “too wide” by the original Law, just type up some “Guidelines” that moves the “crime disqualification” from reason #1 into reason #3, et voila!

Now, if I go to court, the court can simply say, “Well, according to this Heisei 15/16 update/addition to the immigration Guidelines (penned by Unelected bureaucrats) you lose. Boom.”

But, your honor, “reason #1” means “didn’t follow the law” (and “reason #1” doesn’t apply to spouses of Japanese citizens) so how can “didn’t follow the law” be added to “reason #3”?

Guidelines written by Unelected bureaucrats are REVERSING and TRUMPING the Laws written by Elected Lawmakers, plus let’s remember that these Guidelines are usually secret.

For example: the LAW says that Passports only have to be shown to immigration officers, but new GUIDELINES say that every Gaikokujin (for example: your single foreigner cousin, living in your house, with a valid visa, NOT RECEIVING KODOMO TEATE [child allowance]) must come allow the Kodomo Teate Section to copy his Passport, or else the couple with kids are penalized.

Perhaps your single foreigner cousin, living in your house, with a valid visa, NOT RECEIVING KODOMO TEATE, refuses to let some “Kodomo Teate city worker” to copy his Passport?

According to the new Kodomo Teate Guidelines, if ANY Gaikokujin living in the house refuses to hand over his Passport, the Kodomo Teate will be taken away from the couple with kids.

So now the couple with children must force any Gaikokujin roommates they are living with to submit to this unlawful new guideline, or else the couple with children will be penalized.

The couple with children do NOT have to ask their Japanese roommates to submit anything, this unlawful new guideline doesn’t dare ask JAPANESE citizens to show their passport.

The reasoning for this guideline is “foreigners spend Kodomo Teate money vacationing in Thailand, but Japanese citizens would never do that, so we don’t check Japanese passports.”

Try asking the Kodomo Teate section for a copy of this new Guideline, they won’t give a copy of it, they won’t even show it to you, because, “Our Guidelines are secret.” Seriously. (!)

Laws made by the Kokkaigin say that we DON’T have to show our Passport except to immigration officers and when getting our ARC, but: new Guidelines say Kodomo Teate as well.

If you are a Japanese person receiving Kodomo Teate, with a non-Japanese living in your house, the new Guidelines say ALL Gaikokujin MUST come show their Passport – or else.

Do the Elected Lawmakers know that their will has been reversed and trumped? Do the Elected Lawmakers know that these new guidelines are in direct conflict with national Laws?

My conversation recently with an immigration official summed it up perfectly, when I read him the Law stating that reason #1 can’t be used against me, he said, “That’s just a law!”

I couldn’t believe it, this officer actually said, in front of his co-workers, “それはただの法律だけ!” His tone was perfectly clear, “WE make the decisions around here, not laws.”

So, nevermind my request for a lawyer, I can see that since the bureaucrats within immigration have craftily moved crime from reason #1 down to reason #3, I can’t get PR, oh well.

Currently in Japan (in my opinion the best country relative to others) a sad state admittedly exists where Guidelines trump Laws: Unelected bureaucrats trump elected lawmakers.

Thanks anyway for the good work you do. Sincerely, J 🙂

PS – I wonder how the majority of Japanese citizens would feel about a Law that says,
“From now, only Elected Lawmakers (and publicly-voted initiatives) can create Laws.
And any Guidelines written by unelected bureaucrats CANNOT conflict with those Laws.
Plus all Guidelines written by unelected bureaucrats must be Public: no Secret Guidelines.”

ENDS

Arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles for registering international marriages in Tokyo Edogawa-ku Ward office. Have things changed?

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  As we start the countdown to the end of the year, let’s turn to feedback from Debito.org Readers who have written in over the months to talk about the arbitrariness of Japan’s bureaucracy towards NJ.  First off, check this out:

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December 5, 2011

Hello! I love your site, first off, as it makes me feel like my frustrations, my concerns, all of it are understood by someone else. Thanks.

My fiance and I went to get married today, and from the second we walked in the door it was: “…oh.” I understand that there have been many occasions of abuse of the system, but my fiance called the offices to ask what we needed to register. We took everything, but the second we walked in the door, it all changed.

My fiance tried to convince me it was HIS fault that the office needed more “proof”. I told him to not give me a load of BS, and eventually he admitted that the staff even told him point blank: “Look, it’s different because you are marrying a foreigner. If she were Japanese you wouldn’t have this problem, but she’s a foreigner.”

We brought every single document that they asked for. He called, made a checklist, and we brought it with us. Now they need everything from all of my “foreign proof and documentation” translated, extra stamps, his parents permission for him to marry me, etc. They told him none of that would be needed when he called, but when it came time to actually “seal the deal”, and we were standing in front of them, that is what we were told. We double checked with my embassy, etc, and we got told the same thing: “You don’t need any of that in your ward, just what you already have”. The items they ask for aren’t even on the ward’s website.

What should I do, as I don’t feel this should be allowed. I looked at your site, but didn’t see it mentioned about what one should do if it is a governmental institution itself.

I’ve dealt with so many sideways looks, been asked not to enter into establishments down south, etc, all because I am not good enough. I am “gaijin”. I’m not sure how you take it. My Japanese professor in college told me he left after 20 years, despite having a fiance, as he couldn’t take it. No matter what he did, he was still always “gaijin”. I understand, finally, what he means.

You are a strong, strong person for having been here so long. My hat is off, permanently, to you. K

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

I responded:

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

December 5, 2011

Hello K. What kind of a place was this? A country bumpkin area, a city ward office? It might take an hour or so to register, but no, none of this is required. My belief if that you got bum staff that day who don’t know what they’re doing (problem is, I don’t think the staff will change from day to day). My best suggestion is that you change ward offices (reregister your husband’s honseki at a different address, via a family member; someplace more modern and used to international marriages). Marriage in Japan is supposed to be pretty easy, comparatively.

More advice in our Handbook for Immigrants at http://www.debito.org/handbook.html

Shall I blog this for more advice from others? I will anonymize your name, of course. Just make it clearer what kind of place this is (even if you don’t give the exact location). Please let me know. Bests, Debito

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

To which K replied:

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

December 5, 2011

Hello and thank you for replying so quickly. I know you must be a very busy person. I appreciate it.

Actually, it was in Edogawa-ku, Tokyo. I came home so mad I could spit, and bitter at the country. I was searching the Internet for advice about discrimination in Japan. I’d looked at your blog, but didn’t see information about discrimination by a government service so was checking elsewhere. You are, however, the only good site with good, current information that I could find, so I decided to email.

It is pretty surprising though, right? I’d expect Tokyo, and Edogawa-ku which is a family area, of all places, to have a more liberal view.

Please blog about it, if you’d like, as I’m interested if other Tokyoites have experienced the same. My fiancé said a lot of foreign women like me, but who wanted to become hostesses or some such, have abused the system so he was expecting some hassle. I say: why should it matter where I am from? Why should the system be so vastly different for foreigner and Japanese marriage in the first place?

I think what insulted me the most was the staff saying to him that the reason it was different because he was marrying a foreigner, straight to his face.

By the way, this was a separate office/branch of the city ward that only dealt with marriages and moving/change of residency. Thank you again! K

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

COMMENT: So, what are experiences of others out there? I certainly didn’t have this rigmarole, but I got married all the way back in 1989. My impression from others has always been that it’s pretty easy to get married in Japan to a Japanese, period. Have things recently changed? Arudou Debito

Thai flood victims getting 6-month visas into Japan to maintain Japan Inc.’s supply lines, then booted back home

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

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Hello Blog. Interesting email from by Reader MD:

///////////////////////////////////////////////////
October 30, 2011

Hello Debito-san, I just found a highly interesting article on the MOFA now issuing 6-month work permits for Thai people to come and work in Japan in order to compensate for the supply-chain problems caused by the extensive floodings in Thailand. As you probably know a lot of Japanese companies now face said supply-chain problems because their Thailand-based production has come to an abrupt halt. The catch, all companies employing Thais for the above mentioned period (6m) have apparently to promise (?) that they send they will send the workers home once their visa runs out.

I only found references to the story in German so far but there should be something in English and possibly in Japanese too. Until now, here’s the story, more or less as reported, on my own English language blog with reference to the original source (German chamber of commerce in Japan):
http://en.schnellinterkulturell.de/2011/10/japanese-visas-for-thai-workers-with-catch/#.Tspu-mDmqxH

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Referential article in English:

The Japan Times, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011
Thai flood-idled to work here

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20111029a2.html
Kyodo
Several thousand Thai workers at Japanese firms operating in Thailand will be allowed to work in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Friday, as companies shift their production in light of the impact of the massive floods in the Southeast Asian country.

Fujimura told a news conference that Japan’s special measures will remedy the supply chain disruptions caused by the floods, which have led to widespread crippling of industries.

The move comes as the floods have forced a number of major manufacturers, including Toyota Motor Corp., to suspend their local operations in Thailand.

Fujimura said the government is looking to accept thousands of Thai workers from about 30 firms for a fixed time frame of roughly six months.

Among the conditions the government will impose on the firms is to make sure the Thai workers return to their home country…

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20111029a2.html

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

COMMENT:  File this yet again under Japan Inc. having its cake and eating it too.  We wouldn’t want to have Japanese corporations losing out because of natural disaster overseas impeding our supply lines, now, would we?  (And as a petty but definitely related tangent, where is the Japanese media when you need them to criticize the Japanese “fly-jin” fleeing the country instead of staying behind to help Thailand recover?  They certainly did their bashing when NJ, and apparently only NJ, allegedly flew the coop post-Fukushima.)  So we’ll temporarily export the workers to Japan, have them keep up with the conveyer belts for the apparent honor of being extant in our safe, clean, modern society (while no doubt working cheaper than native Japanese, as usual), then boot them back as soon as we can so they cause no disruptions to our safe, clean, modern society (like we did our Brazilian cousins back in 2009 when they outlived their usefulness; we get to keep their investments anyway and need show no gratitude).

Good ole foreign workers.  Under Japan’s visa regime, they’re just widgets in the Grand Scheme.  Arudou Debito

Suraj Case of police brutality and death during Immigration deportation in Japan Times Nov 1, 2011

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Sorry to take a day or two to get to this. Here we have more reported (thanks to assiduous folks at the Community Page at the Japan Times) on the Suraj Case, a mysteriously underinvestigated case we’ve mentioned here before of police brutality and death of an African during deportation. What gets me is that even some of the veto gates at the Japan Times, according to the editor of this article on his facebook entry, took issue with the use of the word “brutal” in the headline; given what finally came to light regarding the condition of Mr. Suraj’s corpse below, “brutal” is obviously appropriate. And it would not have come to light at all had not Mr. Suraj’s widow and these reporters not pursued this case with such tenacity. Keep it up, Japan Times. Who else in a milquetoast Japanese media that is generally unsympathetic to NJ issues would give a toss? Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

PHOTO CAPTION: Immigration policy on trial: Abubakar Awudu Suraj died after being restrained by immigration officers with hand and ankle cuffs, a rope, four plastic restraints and a towel gag before a flight to Cairo from Narita airport. Below: An illustrated note that Suraj passed to his wife during her visit to an immigration center during one of his periods in detention. COURTESY OF ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ’S WIDOW

THE ZEIT GIST
Justice stalled in brutal death of deportee
Autopsy suggests immigration officers used excessive force in restraining Ghanaian
By SUMIE KAWAKAMI and DAVID MCNEILL
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101zg.html, thanks to lots of people

Abubakar Awudu Suraj had been in Japan for over two decades when immigration authorities detained him in May 2009. The Ghanaian was told in Yokohama of his deportation to Ghana at 9:15 a.m. on March 22 last year. Six hours later he was dead, allegedly after being excessively restrained by guards.

Jimmy Mubenga also died last year while being held down by three private security guards before takeoff on a British Airways flight from London to Angola. The father of five had lost his appeal to stay in the U.K. and was being deported. Mubenga put up a struggle and died after the guards sat on him for 10 minutes, say witnesses.

But the details of the deportations of two men from rich countries back to their native Africa, and their aftermath, are strikingly different. Mubenga’s death is already the subject of a vigorous police inquiry, front-page stories and an investigation by The Guardian newspaper. The case has been discussed in Parliament, where security minister Baroness Neville-Jones called it “extraordinarily regrettable.”

Suraj has received no such honors. The 45-year-old’s case has largely been ignored in the Japanese media and no politician has answered for his death. An investigation by Chiba prosecutors appears to have stalled. There has been no explanation or apology from the authorities.

His Japanese wife, who had shared a life with him for 22 years, was not even aware he was being deported. She was given no explanation when she identified his body later that day. His body was not returned to her for nearly three months. Supporters believe he put up a struggle because he wanted to tell his wife he was being sent home.

An autopsy report seen in a court document notes abrasions to his face, internal bleeding of muscles on the neck, back, abdomen and upper arm, along with leakage of blood around the eyes, blood congestion in some organs, and dark red blood in the heart. Yet the report bizarrely concluded that the cause of death is “unknown.”

Any movement in the Suraj case is largely down to his wife, who wants to remain anonymous. She won a lawsuit against the Justice Ministry, which oversees immigration issues, demanding it disclose documents related to his death. The documents were finally released in May, more than a year after he died…

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101zg.html

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UPDATE: — Economist (London) reports on Suraj Case, and NPA not allowing journalists to investigate, courtesy CR. Debito
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Justice in Japan
An ugly decision
The Economist Nov 4th 2011, 8:05 by K.N.C.
http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/11/justice-japan?fsrc=scn%2Ffb%2Fwl%2Fblanuglydecision

BOUND and gagged, a man dies in the custody of immigration officers while being forcibly deported. The police investigate slowly. Prosecutors mull the case. The wheels of justice barely turn.

Now, it looks like the case will be dropped completely—and a man’s death go unpunished. Prosecutors in Chiba prefecture, where Tokyo’s Narita airport is located, have decided not to indict the ten officers who carried Abubakar Awudu Suraj’s unconscious body onto an Air Egypt flight in March 2010 before he was declared dead, according to a new report in the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Two official autopsies at the time could not determine the cause of death, though Mr Suraj’s widow saw injuries to his face when she identified the body. A new autopsy however purports to reveal that he had suffered heart disease and says the cause of his death was illness.

This is hard to swallow at face value. Three days after the incident an immigration official told Mr Suraj’s widow “It is a sorry thing that we have done.” Officialdom dragged its heels to such a degree that she had to file criminal charges and later civil charges. The kind of gag that was used to restrain him is prohibited, though its use is said to be commonplace.

Mr Suraj was a Ghanaian national who arrived in Japan in 1988, learned the language, worked odd jobs and married a Japanese woman. He was arrested for overstaying his visa and the courts didn’t accept his requests to remain. The March 2010 deportation was the immigration bureau’s second attempt—after Mr Suraj made such a rumpus the first time round that it had to be stopped. So perhaps officers used a bit of extra force to make sure it didn’t fail.

It is an ugly situation. The authorities surely didn’t mean for Mr Suraj to die in custody. But since he did, the people responsible should be held legally accountable. The Chiba prosecutors, by suggesting they may drop the case, look as complicit as the ten officers themselves.

Addendum, 5 November 2011: When The Economist requested an interview with the Chiba prosecutor’s office, the answer was a firm no. An employee said that interviews are only allowed for members of the prosecutors’ “Kisha Club,” the quasi-formal groups that control the flow of news to major Japanese news organisations (and which tend to turn journalists into stenographers for officialdom, by neutering independent reporting). The employee said that the only time The Economist can prosecutors questions is during an annual “press registration”—whose application deadline is long past. Must every Japanese institution be designed to keep out outsiders?
ENDS

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RE: Civil suit mentioned above:

Japan’s immigration policy
Gone but not forgotten
The Economist Aug 5th 2011, 9:45 by K.N.C. | TOKYO
http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/08/japans-immigration-policy

WRISTS cuffed, ankles bound and with a rolled towel shoved in his mouth, Abubakar Awudu Suraj died in the custody of nine Japanese immigration officers on March 22nd 2010 while being deported to Ghana for overstaying his visa. Since then his widow and friends have sought information—and justice—from the authorities, but have been ignored. On August 5th 2011 they filed a civil suit against the government.

The Chiba prefectural prosecutors have received the results of an investigation but have yet to act. None of the officers have been sanctioned at all, explains Koichi Kodama, a lawyer working on Mr Suraj’s case. He argues that the authorities are trying to cover up misdeeds. For example, restraining a person by using ankles cuffs and a towel is not permitted, he says. And in a videotape of the botched deportation, the supervisor tells the cameraman to stop filming as things get hot, says Mr Kodama.

The civil suit seeks compensation of ¥136m (around $1.5m) from the government for wrongful death. But the real motivation is to hold the authorities to account, explains Mr Suraj’s widow. “I want to reveal the truth without concealing anything,” she says. “They were carrying a human being. I don’t understand why they had to treat him like that. I feel very powerless,” she says.

The Japanese mainstream media have largely ignored the case. (We reported it May 2010 and followed up in December 2010.) The head of the immigration bureau left out unflattering facts about his officers’ conduct when he was called to the Diet (parliament) to explain what happened. A criminal case was filed as well, naming the officers involved, but it has barely budged on the court’s docket. The ministry of justice looks hampered by rather obvious conflicts of interest. The ministry’s agents hold the evidence of wrongdoing that their colleagues are alleged to have committed. The ministry stands responsible for penalising officials within its own ranks.

One small change is that since Mr Suraj’s death, there apparently have not been any other forced deportations. But that only sharpens the question. As long as Mr Suraj’s case is ignored by officialdom, it is Japan’s institutions of justice that fall under suspicion. Every day that the officers who were present when Mr Suraj died don their uniforms and walk into their offices is another day in which the Japanese state looks complicit in a cover-up.
ENDS