Debito’s SNA VM column 57: “Overtourism as racism” (July 1, 2024). Most media on too many foreign tourists in Japan ignores how xenophobes are using “overtourism” to bully foreigners. Debito.org even argues it’s producing discriminatory policies worse than “Japanese Only” signs!

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“OVERTOURISM” AS RACISM

Much media has covered the downside of too many foreign tourists in Japan. Less attention has been devoted to how xenophobes use “overtourism” as a means to bully foreigners.

By Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

SNA Visible Minorities column 57, July 1, 2024

Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/07/01/visible-minorities-overtourism-as-racism/

In late May, Joshua Sherlock, an eight-year resident of Kyoto offering local tours, took a group of foreign tourists on an evening visit of Yasaka Shrine.  They were confronted by a local middle-aged woman (Twitter handle @fujino_ojo), accusing them of ringing the shrine’s bell too loudly and disrespecting a religious place.

Fujino took the liberty of filming the occasion, and according to her video, Sherlock’s group apologized multiple times.  But she still chased after them as they left.  Sherlock repeatedly asked her to leave them alone in English and Japanese, to which Fujino accused Sherlock of discrimination because he spoke English to her.  Finally, he answered in Japanese using the same tone she used on him.  Claiming Sherlock had “rudely brushed her off,” Fujino then uploaded her videos to Twitter where they got a million views.

What happened next was devastating.  According to The Times (London), Sherlock’s family reported people telephoning his home to scream insults and demand he leave Japan.  A removal van arrived to collect their belongings.  Strangers began prowling their neighborhood, and somebody threatened to set their apartment on fire.  His wife began having panic attacks and their daughter was taken out of school.  

Sherlock says that he no longer feels safe in Kyoto, and, suspending his tour services, fears that even stepping outside might result in him being “attacked by a lynch mob of extreme right-wing people.”  

The Times’ headline:  Japanese hospitality wears thin as overtourism takes toll”.

“OVERTOURISM” AS A MEANS OF HARASSMENT 

“Overtourism” has become a trendy word to describe Japan attractions (e.g., Shibuya Scramble, Hachiko, Ginza, Kyoto, Senso-ji, Mount Fuji) being overrun by tourists.  But in Japan the word is specifically associated with “foreign tourists,” i.e., mobs blocking traffic, disrupting local businesses and mores by littering and chattering away in their foreign languages.

I don’t dispute that “overtourism” can happen.  Too many people crowding into a place can produce problems of noise, pollution, disruption, and property damage.  

But be careful about associating it with “foreigners.”  As evidenced by the Karen-esque confrontation at Yasaka Shrine, it’s giving license to Japan’s busybodies, bullies, and xenophobes.

This column will argue that “overtourism” is not only becoming the latest incarnation of racialized bullying, it’s also producing reactionary public policies that are actually worse than the “Japanese Only” signs of yore.

WHAT EXACTLY DOES JAPAN WANT FROM ITS TOURISTS?  

Given Japan’s excellent public transportation systems, tourism has long been a source of economic activity.  As Japanese discovered they had more disposable income, depopulating rural areas realized they needed more revenue.  

So local governments launched programs to encourage people to visit.  Even during the privations of the pandemic, there were subsidized traIns, cut rates on hotel and airplane packages, and ad campaigns for local festivals and seasonal sights encouraging people to get out and spend money.

This included foreign tourists.  Hard to believe now, but Japan once whined that there weren’t enough foreigners sightseeing.  An article in the June 6, 2010, Asahi Shinbun grumbled that Chinese consumers were being “stingy,” noting their “tendency to scrimp on accommodations and meals and bypass tourist attractions for the main purpose of their trips—buying electronic appliances and designer brand clothing and accessories.”  

So the national government steered them towards those attractions with slogans about Japan’s special “omotenashi” (hospitality) and splashy “Cool Japan” and “Yokoso Japan” campaigns worldwide.  For good measure, Japan also sponsored major international competitions such as the FIFA World Cup, the Rugby World Cup, and the Olympics.  

The goal was to make Japan a major world tourism destination.  They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  

In 2023, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, Japan’s tourism sector was forecast to employ about 5.6 million people and represent 6.8% of Japan’s GDP.  With the devalued yen, I expect the numbers will be even better this year.

But there can be too much of a good thing.  Local governments in Kyoto and Mt. Fuji have started restricting entry to certain areas.  A town in Yamanashi famously put up a screen to block a view of Mt Fuji behind a convenience store, blaming this overkill on “bad manners” from foreign tourists.  And as seen in the Yasaka Shrine case, there have been increased confrontations with “culturally disrespectful” tourists.

The flip side is that there are people eager to take offense and capitalize on confrontation.

“CULTURAL DIFFERENCES” USED AS A WEAPON

In 2019, this column wrote about how Halloween in Shibuya was a target of “Xeno-Scapegoating”, where drinking in public was somehow portrayed as an imported problem.  Yes, despite Japan being the origin of “cosplay,” the seasonal festivals and outdoor partying, entertainment sectors in every Japanese city, and the lack of open container laws, Shibuya Mayor Ken Hasebe made that argument with a straight face when he banned all festivities in 2023.

He could because whenever foreigners are proximate to a problem, they tend to get blamed for it.  

Why?  Because of cultural conceits about “unique Japan.”  If Japan is different from everywhere else in the world, foreigners must axiomatically have “different manners” (or they wouldn’t be foreign).  So “cultural differences” are seen as an inevitable source of problems wherever foreigners congregate.

But there are people who take advantage of this dynamic:  bullies.  They exist in every society, but are especially powerful in Japan because of the general avoidance of confrontation.  They get a freer hand to push people around because fewer people push back.

Bullies generally prey on the vulnerable, so they especially like to push foreigners around.  After all, foreigners are supposed to be “guests” (not residents) while Japanese are their “hosts,” so the former occupies a lower rung on the social ladder.  (If you doubt that, consider how it is official policy in Japan’s civil service to not grant administrative jobs to foreigners, expressly because they would have authority over Japanese.  They must remain subordinate.)

This makes foreigners, not to mention Japan’s Visible Minorities (Japanese citizens who do not “look Japanese”), an easy target.  Allow me to illustrate.  

Last month I was lined up waiting for a taxi in front of Tokyo Station, and just as a cab pulled up for me, some pushy middle-aged guy jumped the line and took it.  When I told him in Japanese that I was in fact next, he cursed me out, shouting that I should speak “proper Japanese” (peppered with a few “omae”s to establish dominance).  So I obliged, telling him in “proper Japanese” to get bent and eat shite.  Clearly not used to being challenged by the likes of me, he shut up, took my cab anyway and fumed as the door closed.  I got the next cab and got on with my day.

Now, if any culture-policing Karen at Yasaka Shrine had been filming that, they would have seen people in line apologizing to me.  I also looked over the crowd and saw no hairy eyeballs on me, so clearly they had seen his queue jumping too. 

But the lesson I took from this incident is this:  The bully chose the foreign-looking guy as the spot to jump the queue, thinking he could get away with it.  And he kinda did.  

Now consider what happens when these bullies think they can empower themselves as Culture Police as part of the “overtourism” backlash.

FROM ENFORCEMENT OF THE RULES TO MAKING UP YOUR OWN RULES

Live in Japan long enough and you’ll probably encounter the Culture Police.  They’re essentially the people wanting foreigners to “get off their lawn.”  Of course, all of Japan is their lawn and they consider themselves the arbiter of “the Japanese Way.”  

They’re in parks enforcing arbitrary rules like telling you not to eat in public or talk loudly in foreign languages.  Or they’re gruffly sorting through your garbage bags on Gomi Day assuming foreigners can’t follow the rules.  Or drunkenly giving you a piece of their mind on the street regarding something they’ve taken an instant dislike to, such as your not walking on the correct side of the sidewalk or daring to date a Japanese.  

Some of these weirdos take their policing role quite literally.  There have been cases of people masquerading as uniformed cops to demand foreigners’ ID and get their private details, which is one reason why the government rendered that info invisible on Gaijin Cards.

Usually it’s best to ignore these Karens.  But sometimes you can’t, especially when they swarm online.

Yasaka Shrine is an excellent case in point.  It’s one thing for Fujino to point out somebody’s social faux pas, then accept their apologies in good faith.  It’s a completely different matter to film them and vindictively upload it for millions to see, encouraging doxxing, destroying Sherlock’s livelihood and terrorizing his family.

But the online swarm went even further, calling their shrine visit a “desecration” (fukei), and advocating criminal prosecution under Penal Code Article 188 with 6 months imprisonment and a 100,000 yen fine.  So if they didn’t drive Sherlock out of Japan, they could try to get him arrested.  

All this for ringing a bell too loudly. 

BULLYING CRYSTALIZING INTO BAD GOVERNMENT POLICY

But the overkill doesn’t stop there.  Riding the backlash to “overtourism,” people are already creating nutty policies that target foreigners.

Restaurants are charging higher “foreigner” prices and blaming it on Japan’s cheapening yen.  Local government officials are demanding an entry tax for foreign tourists at attractions.  The Osaka Governor and Himeji Mayor are currently considering a significant Gaijin Surcharge to enter their local castles.  Others have established “foreigner-only” buses and hotels.  

It only promises to get more amateurish.  For example, Remi Kimura, indicatively a “former volunteer guide who currently works in the social media content industry,” somehow got a one-off column published in the Japan Times on June 21 calling for an “arrival tax” on foreigners, to “dissuade some from coming to Japan while funding cultural preservation.”  

What was she basing this on?  She opens with how she went back to her hometown in the Japan Alps, finding a restaurant with “avocado toast” and “cold cuts and bread,” something she claimed “virtually no Japanese person would order.”  To her this was evidence that “tourism has transformed the places of my childhood.”

I’m not sure what she’s trying to preserve beyond her own personal preferences.  I found a charcuterie plate (rendered as such in katakana) at a local craft beer place in Tokyo Jinbocho.  I also found avocado sushi combos in a kaiten sushi restaurant in Engaru, all the way out in the Hokkaido outback.  

Photo:  Avocado on the menu:  Toriton restaurant, Engaru Town, untouristed Hokkaido, June 2024.

Neither place is overtouristed.  So Kimura is essentially blaming foreigners for Japanese tastes evolving when she wasn’t looking.  Get off my lawn!

“OVERTOURISM” COUNTERMEASURES ARE IN FACT WORSE THAN “JAPANESE ONLY” SIGNS

When I put this issue up on Debito.org last month, regular commenters had a lot to say.  One even made the case that Gaijin Surcharges (dual pricing systems, or nijuu kakaku sei) are actually worse than “Japanese Only” signs and rules outright excluding all foreigners.  

First, exclusions cost the company because they lose business.  On the other hand, overcharging foreigners rewards the company with more money.

Second, how will the dual pricing systems be enforced?  Will Foreign Residents have to produce their Gaijin Cards to prove their residency?  Will these ID checks, once unlawfully required by hotels at the behest of the police, now be expanded to regular shops nationwide?  Will Japan’s Visible Minorities also be forced somehow to prove their Japaneseness to get the “local” price?

Third, the pressure to change course disappears.  A “Japanese Only” sign not only invites public shame, it is in fact unconstitutional with lawsuits supporting its removal.  A Gaijin Surcharge is a lot more sustainable and probably harder to challenge in court, especially if the government is behind it.  

So financial incentives are there to make things more expensive for foreigners only nationwide, including those working here and getting paid in Japanese yen like any other Japanese.  The social hierarchies that already force “foreigners” onto a lower social rung are now fostering an economic apartheid.

CONCLUSION:  YOU WANTED THEM HERE.  NOW PROTECT THEM.

The utter irony behind this situation is that, again, Japan wanted tourists to save Japan’s economy.  Now that they’re here doing so, they’re getting punished.  Local governments are succumbing to vocal xenophobes and coming up with discriminatory policies.

Foreign Residents and Visible Minorities are also getting caught in the backlash.  What’s happening to Joshua Sherlock’s family is not just Cultural Karenism.  It’s outright terrorism.   

Japan has for nearly three decades already refused to protect foreigners against racial discrimination despite international treaty promises.  Not protecting them from the “overtourism” bullies is similar negligence.  

What should be done?

First, let’s create an official definition of “overtourism” that doesn’t encourage foreigner bashing and racial profiling.  Have it show some nuance that reflects the fact that plenty of tourists are Japanese citizens and Foreign Residents too.

Second, develop suitable infrastructure to accommodate incoming foreign tourists.  If that means siphoning off numbers to more outlying attractions, make that possible and do the groundwork to prepare locals for any anticipated language and cultural barriers.

Third, bring in qualified tourism experts.  Not the “get off my lawn” Cultural Karens with an aversion to avocado.  From what I’ve witnessed, the “overtouristed” places are already doing a pretty good job.  Get their advice on how to protect our “guests” as good “hosts” should.  

Above all, stop blaming the tourists for doing what you asked them to do—come here and enjoy themselves.  Yes, tourists can be more respectful and mannerly.  But make those rules, norms, and manners clear, and enforce them gently but firmly.

And do it quickly.  Japan’s cultural hypersensitivity is already a source of overseas humor.  Last month The Onion ran a satirical article entitled, “Tourist Immediately Breaks 34 Sacred Local Customs While Deboarding Airplane,” where an American “within 30 seconds of unbuckling his seat belt at the gate, had unknowingly violated countless unwritten rules that inhabitants of Japan had observed for thousands of years.”  

Tourists can always take their money elsewhere. After decades of effort to get them here, don’t let Japan’s Cultural Karens, bullies, and xenophobes spoil things for everyone.

ENDS

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Robert Whiting on “Slaughter in Saitama adds to list of foreigners murdered in Japan, shines light on social issue”, on the Bishop Family Murder Case, an underreported event in 2022 that I consider to be a hate crime

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Hi Blog.  A couple of weeks ago I met up with Robert Whiting, renowned author of books on Japanese baseball, and, most importantly, to me one of the best books on Japan “Tokyo Underworld“.  We had a nice chat.

One of the topics that came up was the Bishop Family Murder Case in Saitama in during Christmas 2022, which didn’t receive enough attention as a hate crime.  Whiting takes it up on his Substack with characteristic thoroughness and historical contextualization, and he has given me permission to reproduce it in full on Debito.org in order to rectify that.  Read on.  Subscribe to his Substack here.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Slaughter in Saitama adds to list of foreigners murdered in Japan, shines light on social issue

 

TOKYO — Tokyo was stunned in late December by the news of the brutal killing of longtime Japan resident William Bishop, a 69-year-old U.S. national, his 68-year-old wife Izumi Morita, and their daughter Sophianna Megumi Morita, 32. All three were found dead outside their residence in Hanno, Saitama, with multiple wounds early Christmas morning.

Later that day, prefectural police arrested the Bishops’ neighbor, a 40-year-old Japanese man named Jun Saito, at his residence around the corner believing he had bludgeoned the Bishop family to death with what was believed to be a hammer. Saito had barricaded himself in an upstairs room, and the police had to force their way in to apprehend him.

The authorities said they had received reports of a man in black clothing carrying what appeared to be a hammer as he left the Bishop home on foot shortly after the murders. They checked video cameras in the area and around the Bishop residence and discovered footage of a man in black clothing attacking a person.

Traces of blood on black clothing was confiscated at the Saito residence. Police also seized multiple potential weapons, including an ax, at the suspect’s residence, according to reports.

Although the three members of the Bishop family were found dead outside the property, blood discovered inside the residence suggested they were initially attacked indoors.

Police believe the victims were struck repeatedly due to multiple injuries found on their bodies which indicated a struggle. William Bishop’s cervical area was severely damaged.

There was a history of conflict involving Saito and the Bishop family, who had reported repeated damage to their car and property on half a dozen occasions, resulting in Saito’s arrest three different times, although Saito was ultimately not prosecuted in any of the cases. According to the Shukan Bunshun of Dec. 30, repair damage to the Bishop family automobile cost ¥1 million, forcing the family to keep their auto under protective cover in a garage behind a locked iron door. There were no reports of trouble with other individuals in the neighborhood.

When police first arrested Saito in January 2022 for damaging the Bishop’s vehicle,  they said that the Bishops told them they did not personally know who Saito was.

The house Saito was living in belonged to his parents, who reportedly moved out because of his violent behavior.

Prosecutors charged him with murder. Saito, in detention, denied the charges.

Although all the facts are not yet in, the suspect appears to be part of a troubled generation suffering from mental disorders, who dropped out of school and work in droves in the ’80s and ’90s, when Japan’s economic bubble burst, Japanese firms retrenched and downsized, and jobs were not readily available. The Japanese government has identified over half a million of these, so-called hikikomori, social recluses, who live at home, passing their time on the Internet — the rise of which has contributed to their continuing isolation, remaining economically dependent on their parents, who, in turn, do not know what they can do to help their offspring find their footing outside of the household and try to hide what they view as an embarrassing situation. Hikikomori have failed to develop necessary social skills and are unable to adjust in a society that is very structured and sensitive to social stigma, one which fails to provide for social resources and professional treatment for mental illness, primarily because parents are too ashamed to seek it for their offspring.

This has become known as the “80-50” problem in recent years as hikikomori children from the post-bubble era are entering their 50’s and their parents are in their 80’s, becoming less and less able to care for them.

 

According to William Bishop’s LinkedIn account, he was a native of Indiana, who first came to Japan in 1974, where he graduated from Sophia University in Tokyo. He then obtained a Master’s Degree from Temple University in Pennsylvania and returned to Japan, whereupon he served as a trade representative for the state of Indiana, worked for Eli-Lily and started his own health care consultancy. He was a member of the Board at Temple University as well as a former chair of the health care committee at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

Fluent in Japanese, Bishop described himself as having a wide range of experience in market access, communications, trade promotion and attracting investment. He was also an author. He wrote novels about the Old West in his spare time.

Bishop’s daughter, who went by Sophianna Bishop, was a resident of Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, who was visiting her parents when the attack occurred. She worked at an advertising agency in Tokyo.

Saito aspired to be a film director, but failed to complete his only film, “The Gift,” a movie directed by Saito about a man with HIV, which he started with funds awarded by a film festival, only to withdraw from the project midway due to “emotional problems.” He then began living a solitary life in the Saitama house. (Bunshun).

Colleagues described Bishop as “dedicated, hard-working and a real leader,” someone who knew more more about Japan’s health policy than anyone else. In Bishop’s Linkedin account tributes flowed in. Abby Pratt, a fellow ACCJ officer, said, “Bill had a great sense of humor and was such a pleasure to work with, one of those people you’ll never forget. I loved how he could seamlessly shift from his rich South Dakota twang to fluent nihongo.”

Simon Farrell, the former editor-in-chief of the ACCJ Journal, added, “Bill was well-travelled, generous, gentlemanly and empathetic, with a deep interest in Japanese culture and language.”

Lance Gatling, head of Nexial, knew Bishop for decades and said, in an interview with Substack, “He was a prim American with a dry wit who was very involved in ACCJ affairs, was VP for years. He was a solid citizen, one who had just bought that house five years ago and retired recently. He was a state rep for some years.”

“Bill was an inoffensive soul, hardly someone you’d consider a bodily threat of any sort. A bit snippy in language at times, so what? A 40-year old hikkikomori living in his parents’ home alone for decades killed Bill, wife and 32-year-old daughter who was visiting. All three, some reports say it was a hatchet.

“I hope they hang him.”


Murder is rare in Japan compared to other countries. Social civility and strict hierarchical codes of conduct are often cited as reasons for the low incidence of violent crimes in Japan.

However, Japanese assaults on foreigners are not new in in the long history of Japan’s relations with the West.

Sonnō jōi was a rallying cry and slogan of a political movement in Japan in the 1850s and 1860s that sought to overthrow the feudal Tokugawa shogunate and restore the Emperor of Japan to the throne. It literally meant “Be Loyal To The Emperor; Expel The Barbarians.” It was a reaction to the treaty signed in 1854 by the Japanese bakufu, or government in place, opening Japan to trade under military threat from U.S. Naval Commodore Matthew Perry and his so-called Black Ships and was vehemently opposed in samurai quarters. It inspired a number of attacks against the Shogunate and attacks against foreigners in Japan by rogue samurai and entire samurai clans.

The most prominent such incident was the murder was of British citizen Charles Lennox Richardson in 1862. Richardson was riding his horse with three other travelers, including a woman, through what is now Tsurumi Ward in Yokohama, when he encountered a retinue of armed samurai escorting the regent of the Satsuma Clan traveling in the opposite direction. Richardson failed to dismount and pay his respects, as required by local custom and law, despite being motioned repeatedly to do so.

“I know how to handle these people” he was quoted as saying to his companions, according to the Japan Herald “Extra” of Sept. 16, 1862.

He was subsequently slashed with a sword and fell from his horse. Several samurai finished the assault, hacking and stabbing at him with swords and lances. Two of Richardson’s male companions were also wounded but escaped. The woman traveling with them was unharmed, a samurai sword barely missing her head, but slicing through her hair and hat, before fleeing in a panic. 

Richardson survived briefly before succumbing in a nearby peasant’s hut.

Richardson’s wounds were described in a recent article by Paul Martin in Japan Forward: “The whole body was one mass of blood; one wound from which the bowels protruded, extended from the abdomen to the back; another on the left shoulder had severed all the bones into the chest; there was a gaping spear wound over the region of the heart; the right wrist was completely divided, and the hand was hanging merely by a strip of flesh; the back of the left hand was nearly cut through; and on moving the head, the neck was found to be entirely cut through on the left side.”  (https://japan-forward.com/the-british-in-bakumatsu-japan-the-namamugi-incident/

 

Mitsubishi later curiously purchased the peasant hut and made it the HQ of the Kirin Brewery. Richardson is buried in a private plot in the Yokohama Foreign Cemetery.

A plaque in front of an apartment building marks the spot of what is known as the ‘Namamugi Incident.’

The incident caused a great deal of alarm in the foreign community based in Yokohama, whose members argued that Westerners were protected under the Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty which exempted them from local requirements.

However, protests over the incident from the British Government were ignored so the British navy, in retaliation, bombarded Kagoshima, destroying many houses and sinking three steamships belonging to the Satsuma Clan. In the end, the Japanese Bakufu military government paid a substantial sum as compensation.

Imperial rule was restored in 1868, under the 15-year-old Emperor Meiji, with Japan beginning its transformation from an isolationist feudal state into an industrialized world power.


Another famous incident was inspired more by greed than by anti-foreign sentiment or revenge. That was the murder on April 4, 1899, of Reverend Thomas Alfred Large, the 31-year old Canadian principal of the Toyo Eiwa school for girls in Azabu. Two men broke into his house at night, knocked his wife unconscious, and stabbed Lange with their swords. He fell to the floor gasping and died shortly thereafter.

As recounted in Mark Schreiber’s excellent book, “The Dark Side: Infamous Japanese Crimes and Criminals” (Kodansha International, 2001, p.125-127). “The Japanese government’s overriding concern were the political implications, if any, over the slaying. If the assailants had acted out of anti-foreign, or anti Christian motives, some feared the Western powers might reject Japan’s ongoing efforts to renegotiate unequal treaties. A substantial reward was posted for information leading to the killers’ apprehension … But the killers’ motive was almost certainly apolitical. In those times, burglars had no apprehensions about robbing foreigners. The Japan Weekly Mail of April 26 observed, ‘Without some hypothesis, it appeared difficult to imagine that the onslaught … could have been incidental to a mere burglary. But several Japanese … say it is the habit of sword-carrying burglars in this country to … simply kill or maim the obstructionist, and then proceed with their thieving work …’ ”

“Newspaper reports of the crime itself were sensationalized and full of inaccuracies, but public opinion was uniformly sympathetic toward the Large family. The vernacular Hochi Shimbun editorialized, ‘… the victim was a foreigner who had come here from a distant land, and was engaged in teaching Japanese students. There is something sad about the fate of a man who dies far away from the land of his birth … How much sadder is the lot of one who falls under the weapons of common burglars in a foreign country. Such a fate should move everyone to pity … We trust, however, that the foreign public will not judge Japan by this catastrophe …’ ”

It wasn’t until five years later that police caught the perpetrators, who turned out to be professional robbers, arresting them on other charges. Both had turned to robbery after running up heavy gambling debts. One of the men was sentenced to 14 years in prison where he died, in 1896. The other, sentenced to 13 years, but was released after serving nine years and nine months as part of an imperial amnesty to commemorate the death of the Empress Dowager in 1898. When the latter’s involvement in the crime was revealed, the statute of limitations had expired one month earlier. When questioned, the man, of course blamed his confederate.


On the other side of the ledger, was American seaman Robert Miller, who was convicted of a triple murder in Yokohama in that same 1899, shortly after a new treaty was signed abolishing the principle of extraterritoriality and giving a Japanese court the right to try foreigner. The crime took place at a saloon called “The Rising Sun” in what is now Yokohama’s Chinatown. Miller, in a drunken, jealous rage over the affections of  the saloon’s comely female proprietress named Suye Tonooka, used a straight razor and claw hammer to murder an American named W. Nelson Ward, who habitually occupied the establishment, and a teenage serving girl named Aki Suzuki who was sleeping with Ward … Police found Miller the next morning snoring away in a nearby bar.

He became the first Westerner to be hanged by Japan, congenially smoking a cigar as he stood on the gallows. (Read all about it here in a detailed piece by Eric C. Han https://www.jstor.org/stable/24243133 as well as Mark Schreiber’s account in The Dark Side. )


Still another famous episode, this one well into the postwar period, when U.S.-Japan relations had become critical in the global fight against communism, was the knife attack on then U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer by a Japanese youth in March 1964 outside the U.S. Embassy. Reischauer was stabbed in the thigh outside the Embassy in what was an apparent assassination attempt. The young man whose name was Shiotani Norikazu, reportedly had a history of mental illness and suffered from a disorder of the inner ear called Meniere’s Disease. He was said to be angry with the U.S. occupation of Japan but apparently did not belong to any political group. Reischauer was taken to the hospital where he received a blood transfusion and recovered.

Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda was moved to apologize twice: Once to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and once to the American public via a live telecast relayed by a communications satellite.

Unfortunately, the blood Reischauer received was tainted with the hepatitis C virus which complicated his recovery and Japan’s Minister of Public Safety was compelled to resign. Reischauer suffered various ailments over the years as a result of the tainted blood and it ultimately contributed to his death 26 years later.


The most famous case of murder in recent years involving a Westerner and a Japanese citizen was that of Lucie Blackman the former British Airways flight attendant who worked as a hostess in a Tokyo night club and was killed by a wealthy patron.  It gained international attention when Tony Blair brought it up to his Japanese counterpart on a visit to Tokyo and the case made the cover of TIME Asia. It was later memorialized in Richard Lloyd Parry’s harrowing account “People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman.”*

It is a phenomenon that causes many Japan observers to ask the question why did it take the disappearance of a white woman at the hands of the Japanese not only to make the cover of TIME, but to cause the authorities to move on behalf of an illegally working migrant. The answer seemed have more to do with economic clout than anything else. Or was it racism?

Complaints by authorities from less-developed countries in Japan, it appeared, were just not worthy of the same attention as those from more developed, Occidental  nations.

Indeed, the March 2007 murder of U.K. English teacher [Lindsay Ann] Hawker at the hands of a Japanese martial artist, who raped and strangled her to death, also received national attention. Her assailant was captured by police after two-and-a-half years on the run and sentenced to life in prison. However, another case involving the 2006 murder of a Japanese pimp by his Thai sex slave who had endured unspeakable abuse, did not. Like so many other cases involving non-western foreigners, in particular, zainichi Koreans, it slipped under the radar.

More on this subject later.

END

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities column 56: Addressing Japan’s Child Abduction Problem (on the recent bill passed to allow joint custody after divorce (May 27, 2024)

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest SNA column.  There are mixed feelings from many people hurt by the Koseki System, but I hold the view that the new law allowing for Joint Custody after divorce is a step in the right direction.  Read on and see what you think.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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ADDRESSING JAPAN’S CHILD ABDUCTION PROBLEM
By Debito Arudou, Ph.D., Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities column 56, May 27, 2024

Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/05/27/visible-minorities-addressing-japans-child-abduction-problem/

It has been one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets.  It has shattered lives and caused enormous international embarrassment to Japan’s reputation as a nation of laws.  It has caused untold misery to countless children and families worldwide.  And amongst all the G7 “developed” nations, it only happens like this in Japan.  

I’m talking about Japan’s issues with child custody and access after divorce.  

Japan has something called the Family Registry (koseki) system.  It serves the important purposes of not only conferring Japanese citizenship, it also prioritizes the family unit over the individual.  A throwback system unamended for more than a century, the Family Registry has a major bug:  If you get divorced, the bureaucracy forces the couple as a registered family unit to cleave back into two unconnected individuals with completely severed family ties. 

The problem is that children are likewise forced into one severed family registry or another,  This means they lose all legal ties with one parent, and that parent (usually the father) has not rights of joint custody or child visitation.  

This means that divorce in Japan completely disappears a “Left Behind Parent’ (LBP) from a child’s life.

This invisibility is enforced by the rest of society too.  For example, if you want to visit your child’s school and find out how they’re getting along, the school will turn you away as a stranger.  Or if you want to say hello to your child at home or on the street, your ex can call the police and have you arrested as a stalker.  Even in extreme cases where the custodial parent dies or abandons the children, grandparents have adopted the kids (since the kids are still legally registered to that family unit) and shut out the LBP all over again!  Despite this, LBP are obligated to pay child support.  So essentially the system is there to punish you for ever getting divorced, since you lose everything and can’t even pay to play.

This cruel system affects everyone in Japan, Japanese citizen or not (as former Prime Minister and LBP Junichiro Koizumi can attest).  But it hits international divorces especially hard.  If you are, say, a foreign resident with a Spouse Visa you void your status to live and work in Japan.  Then on top of that you get specially targeted by two evil narratives.  

One is of course the racial profiling that happens when your ex siccs the police on you, and you get the regular third degree for existing while foreign in Japan.  The other is a conviction that foreigners are naturally violent and prone to spousal or child abuse.  Yes, people actually believe (and are repeatedly told by mass media and even the Japanese government) that despite all the bullying in Japan that goes on at home, school, and the workplace, foreigners are the ones who beat their children because of automatically presumed “cultural differences.”

Your rights are even fewer if you marry a Japanese and live overseas.  Umpteen cases have been recorded of illegal child abductions (e.g., taking a child across an international border without the permission of both parents) by Japanese spouses fleeing to Japan.  Sometimes they are assisted by abduction guidebooks you can find on Amazon Japan.  Sometimes they have been actively abetted by the local Japanese consulate issuing them a new passport, in defiance of overseas court orders granting joint or sole custody to the Non-Japanese parent.  And when the LBP comes to Japan to enforce the court order in Japanese court, they get ruled against because “habitual residence” has already been established here.  She who dares, wins. 

Many a Non-Japanese LBP has been arrested, gone on hunger strike, or even committed suicide due to this nightmarish lack of rights.  And enough international arrest warrants on Japanese spouses have piqued the interest of foreign governments.  Finally, after decades of overseas government pressure (gaiatsu), Japan signed The Hague Convention on International Child Abductions in 2014, only a decade ago.  Unfortunately, Japan just caveated its way out of ever enforcing it.  

People filing claims under the Convention rarely got a Japanese court to side with them.  If the abduction took place many months ago, then “habitual residence” was established and that’s that.  Or there’s the common prejudice that a child naturally belongs more with their mother.  And one verbal claim of “child abuse” or “spousal violence” (which in Japan, according to some spokespeople, could include a raised voice, an angry look, or even a silent stare in an argument) is usually enough to close ranks.  Plus there’s the conceit that Japan’s population is decreasing, so there’s a demographic interest in stopping depopulation through repatriation.  We got our kid back, so that’s that.

This system has even inspired racism.  As I mentioned before, the Japanese mass media and government surveys have long had a white-hot curiosity about finding what causes conflict in any international marriage.  (Japanese men are pretty browned off about losing their women to foreigners—even though the majority of international marriages are Japanese men to foreign women—so there’s a smug satisfaction in knowing that foreign men aren’t perfect either.)  But a Foreign Ministry pamphlet in 2014, issued shortly after Japan signed the Convention, clearly reinforced the narrative that foreigners are violent through illustrations depicting a Caucasian father beating his child.  For good measure, the pamphlet also insinuated that Japanese can’t get a fair deal in a foreign court, and was clearly written working backward from a conclusion that the Convention disadvantaged Japanese.

Likewise, the most creative argument came from far-right propaganda network Sakura TV, which opined in 2018 that Japan’s signing the Hague Convention was just the judiciary trying to appease White people.  The Convention’s main goal was to empower White men playing around with women from “uncivilized” countries, who would then divorce them in favor of White women, and convert their foreign playthings into de facto babysitters of their offspring.  Therefore the Convention exists to ensure White cads still enjoy access to their bastard children!

But let’s return to reality and get to the good news occasioning this column.  First, full disclosure:  I too have been through a divorce in Japan and lost all contact with my children.  So have many of my friends and colleagues, Japanese and foreign.  I have argued before that nobody, Japanese or foreign, should get married under these conditions and have children, as it’s just too risky should the relationship sour.  I stand by that argument even today.  

But finally this May the Japanese Diet passed a law establishing joint custody.  Starting in 2026 and working retroactively, this law means that both parents will now, at least on paper, legally have a say in a child’s upbringing after divorce.  Unless both parents agree to sole custody, joint is presumed under Family Court proceedings.

Naturally, there will be caveats for accusations of domestic violence or child abuse.  But these have to be recognized by a court case-by-case as legitimate concerns.  It is the first change to Japan’s laws concerning parental authority in 77 years, and it will be revisited in five years to assess how well it’s working.

Not surprisingly, the response has been muted from my experienced colleagues.  Some, inured to decades of Japan’s bad-faith negotiations and policing, doubt the law will ever be properly enforced.  Signing the Convention didn’t work, so why should this?  After all, what Japanese court would ever willfully give priority to a foreigner over a Japanese in a dispute?  Or by now the law is too little, too late, as their children are all grown up and the damage is done for a lifetime.  An outcome that makes up for all the past cruelty and denial is simply impossible.  

Nevertheless, my take is that this new law is still good news.  It’s better to have it than not.  It can be pointed to as the law of the land, as opposed to a malleable norm that can be much more easily bent away from any LBP in any convoluted “he-said, she-said” dispute.

In principle, giving power to both parents over the well-being of a child is better than giving all power to one vindictive spouse.  It will at least allow the possibility of a child hearing both sides of a story, which is a valuable skill set for anyone in their formative years.  Moreover it will bring Japan back within international practices.  

It’s been pretty much determined by child psychologists that, on average, children need both parents in their life.  It’s about time the law in Japan reflected that.  The Japanese government has finally taken that step in the right direction.  Now let’s wait and see if it gets enforced in good faith.
ENDS

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities col 55: “From Dancing Monkey to Symbol of Hope”: Interview with Ibaraki Prefectural Assemblyman and naturalized Canadian-Japanese Jon Heese (May 2, 2024)

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

Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest SNA column, where Jon Heese and I have yet another candid chat (previous ones here, here, and here) about politics in Japan — he as a politician, me as a columnist with a PoliSci background and a more adversarial relationship to power. Enjoy. I did. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

Visible Minorities: From Dancing Monkey to Symbol of Hope
Shingetsu News Agency, May 02, 2024, by Debito Arudou
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/05/02/visible-minorities-from-dancing-monkey-to-symbol-of-hope/

BIOJon Heese is becoming an old hand in Japanese politics, having served 13 years at various levels of government. He is presently one of five councilors representing Tsukuba (60 km NE of Tokyo) in the Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly—similar to a state or provincial legislature. After winning four terms at the city level, Mr. Heese leveled up in December, 2022. He is the first foreign-born politician to ever serve at the regional level.  He sat down for an interview with Debito Arudou for his Visible Minorities column in April 2024.

SNA:  Hi Jon.  Thanks for agreeing to yet another interview with me. 

Heese:  It’s the least I can do for my favorite rabble rouser.

SNA:  Let me open with an argument:  I make the case in one of my recent columns (https://www.debito.org/?p=17392) that we don’t see enough former Non-Japanese running for office because the Japanese government doesn’t want them to.  With no immigration policy, the GOJ doesn’t just encourage NJ to become voters and citizens, they make it hard to graduate up to Permanent Residency and citizenship.  Would you agree with that assessment?

Heese:  No immigration policy? Do you mean “no policy to import labor willy-nilly à la every western country?” The question is already loaded. As for policy to prevent naturalization, thereby enfranchisement, I do not see any active policies intending to keep NJ from getting citizenship. Overall I see their immigration policies as an attempt to ensure that only contributing foreigners are allowed to stay beyond the 90 day tourist visa by obtaining a longer visa. Many countries try to keep out deadbeats. Japan is no different. By deadbeats, I mean people who are only coming to take advantage of our rather generous social services.

SNA:  Hang on.  Point of order.  We’re still falling back on those boilerplate arguments we see in the chauvinistic media that some foreigners are freeloaders.  Not so.  Every person in Japan one way or another pays some form of tax, and we’ve had study after study showing that migrants and immigrants on balance contribute more to every society than they take out.  So let’s not resort to reflexive foreigner bashing “à la every Western Country”.  Now back to your point about naturalization.

Heese: Immigrants are by their nature successful. The poorest and sickest cannot afford the cost of the trip, whether to pay for flights, boats, or other forms of transportation. Migrants demonstrate their motivation just by reaching our borders. Unsurprisingly they work hard to continue in their successful ways or leave for greener pastures. My “à la every Western Country” comment is a reference to how much stricter Japan is to whom they give visas.

SNA:  And that’s kinda the point I’m making in my opening argument. 

Heese:  To continue, it’s been my observation that the highest bar for naturalization is Japan’s demand that new citizens give up their previous citizenship. Though I disagree with the government’s ban on dual citizenship, I believe the government, as representatives of the people, have the right to make the rules. Are their rules shortsighted? In my opinion, yes. Will they change those rules at some point? I believe they will. However, given that it’s actually easier to get citizenship than permanent residency, it’s not the government keeping people from voting, it’s the foreigners themselves that are keeping themselves from voting.

SNA:  Okay, spoken like a true Japanese politician.  Blame the foreigner for the rules that are set by the politicians and bureaucrats. 

Heese:  Would you have the foreigners setting their own rules…?

SNA:  Yes.  I think they should have some input into the process.  They know better what’s best for them.  Especially if they’ve leveled-up out of being foreign.  To circle back to my opening point, the government is trying not to let them level up.

Heese:  It is my understanding that only a few countries out there that allow non-citizens to vote. And those countries that do permit participation limit foreigners to local elections. I understand Japan’s logic but disagree with their fears of potential consequences.

SNA:  Granted, I also make the case that NJ have to take it upon themselves to stop being “guests” and enfranchise themselves.  You’ve advanced a similar argument (even to me when I considered running for office), only much more softly.  Have you encountered much “guestism”

Heese:  I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “guestism,” but I will assume you mean foreigners who see themselves as guests in spite of their very heavy investments in land and life in Japan.

SNA:  Yes, basically.  What of it then?

Heese:  I see guestism all the time. I have also seen quite an uptick in people taking citizenship. Back when you and I naturalized we were still outliers. That is no longer the case. I estimate that the experiences of those who have become Japanese has influenced the thinking of lifers. When I arrived in Japan in ‘91 it was years before I ever met a naturalized person. You may be the first one I ever talked to. Former Upper House Diet Member Tsurunen Marutei would likely have been the first I ever heard of. You can’t be what you can’t see. As more of us appeared, and, with the ability to share our experiences via social media, that we never had any issues getting through immigration, never felt pushback from our surrounding communities, indeed, life was really no different from pre to post naturalization, others took the plunge.

SNA:  Yes, but that was then and this is now.  I say there is a lot more pushback now.  It’s harder to get Permanent Residency because you need a 3-year visa to get it, and there are plenty of incentives—and examples—of people being stuck on perpetual one-year visas.  Then COVID really flipped the script, where even those who had graduated up to Permanent Residents suddenly realized that they were no better than any short-term visa holder.  They were, in the end, just garden-variety foreigners who couldn’t come back if they left.

Heese:  I would argue it’s much easier than when I first came in ’91 to get PR. My first experiences with PR lifers, they needed to have worked 10 (continuous) years or be married to a local to get their PR in 5 years. These days they are offering the same to desired workers after 3 years. Other workers only need 5 years. No Japanese family necessary. I would also point out it’s now easier to get citizenship. Back in our day we needed to have a Japanese spouse to get citizenship. No longer.

SNA:  Just a quick interruption, sorry.  That last bit is not actually true.  I know of a number of single people who managed to naturalize despite being dedicated bachelors or unsavory characters.  Delfo Zorzi or Nicola Zappetti, for example.  And again, back to PR:  Yes, the years are less on paper, but reaching the 3-year visa threshold is harder.  I will agree with you, however, that naturalization is easier than PR nowadays.  As long as you are willing to burn bridges with your country of origin, of course, and that’s no small thing.

Heese:  I was told specifically back then I needed to be married. However, the Japanese bureaucracy does, on occasion, make exceptions. When I make the case these days to lifers, I point to what happened during the COVID pandemic. When the first travel bans were enacted there were no restrictions on the Japanese themselves. Japanese all had the right to come back. Yes, it was shameful, but the mewlings of you and I were not going to influence the Immigration officials.

SNA:  Right.  But again, the rules are not set by the foreigners, so I think mewling is warranted here.  It was a border control policy grounded in racism, not immunological science.

Heese:  No counterargument on my part. As the memory of the pandemic fades I will fall back to my initial argument of, “You have too much invested here for you to have no right to return.” In principle I ask lifers if they honestly believe they’re going back to their “homeland.” If not, then why are they holding on to some privilege they’ll likely never use? In addition, even if they give up their previous citizenship, it’s been my understanding that reacquiring their previous citizenship is pretty easy and straightforward.

SNA:  Really?  Maybe in Canada, but I doubt other countries are so forgiving.  I’ve found that United States officials even view giving up US citizenship as an act of betrayal.

Heese:  I think Canada would be more a world model than the US. Much of Canadian immigration policy would be influenced by the British Commonwealth. Last I saw there were more than 50 countries in the Commonwealth. In any case, I ask what is really being risked by taking citizenship? Importantly, why are they risking their working life’s investment for a “maybe someday” idea?

SNA:  Okay, so to summarize, it’s clear that you’re very much on the side of the philosophy of “shit or get off the pot” when it comes to living in Japan as a Japanese citizen, even finding naturalization preferable to just taking out PR.  Again, COVID made that choice much clearer.  So how hard have you pushed people to naturalize and get elected?  What arguments have you made to them to do so?

Heese:  I would generally recommend PR before naturalization for people from developed countries. Immigrants from less developed societies likely have nothing to go back to so giving up their citizenship is not an issue.

Regarding my efforts to get others to run, there is one poor woman I’ve been hounding to run for city council for a decade already. By now it’s just a personal joke between us. She’ll never run but it wouldn’t surprise me if she naturalizes. I don’t understand why she hasn’t already. Different strokes, I guess.

SNA:  Definitely.  I too came this close to running for Sapporo City Council back in the day.

Heese:  Yes you did. And your decision gave me a lot to ponder on. What I have come to realize is people run for their own reasons. The candidates best suited to run don’t need a dumbass like me to push them. At best I can show them the ropes. Towards that end I’ve written a few blog posts, one with instructions on how to run an election, and another outlining what I actually did as a city councilor. I think I shared those sites already. If not, I’ll pass them along.

There is a link to the second post in the first.

Heese:  This year I’ve started a new project to log all my work activities at the prefecture, including travel times. You may have seen some of them on LinkedIn. As well as activities I try to liven my posts up with personal observations regarding the political system. People think politicians are the government. How naïve! I’m doing my best to show how much work and what the work involves. My job is not at all what people think it is.

SNA:  Well, spill the tea, Marie.  What exactly is your job?  Sell it to us, since you even hound people to run.

Heese:  Rather than just explaining my job, it will be useful to explain government. Understand that even after 15 years my views are still a work in progress.

SNA:  As they should be.  Politics is complicated.  Any official who thinks they have all the answers is self-delusional.  Please go on.

Heese:  The government is actually a symbiosis of elected and unelected officials. I’ll start with the unelected officials, commonly known as civil servants. Their role is to maintain the machine as well as come up with solutions to problems society encounters on our common journey. Maintenance looks automatic but small adjustments still need to be made.

SNA:  So you clearly fall into the camp of government exists in order to solve problems.  For the record, I agree, but remember I came of age during Reagan and Friedman’s “small government” era, where “government is not the solution to the problem; government IS the problem.”  And I’ve spent a lifetime realizing that good public policy is possible.  Japan convinced me of that.  Pity Japan, for its part, is too timid sometimes to solve problems because people fear taking responsibility for making mistakes or causing unintended consequences.  Instead they should better prepare the public in advance for what the potentially positive or negative consequences of a policy might be.  [Sighs]  Yeah, maybe I should have run for office after all…

Heese: Ha! I believe you should have. Serving would have been an eye-opening experience for you. As for public problems, a considerable amount of effort is made creating, distributing, and analyzing questionnaires. Walk-ins also make requests at the various service counters, keeping the civil service well informed of the needs and wants of the people. It is from these questionnaires that new policy is born.

SNA:  So you see policymaking in Japan as more bottom-up rather than top-down.  I think most observers of Japan might think the opposite.

Heese:  Yes, like everywhere the media poorly portrays how the sausage is really made. Generally the populace believe that civil servants are managed by the elected officials, thus the power lies with the politicians. I believe it’s the other way around. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to watch the BBC programs, “Yes, Minister,” and “Yes, Prime Minister,” their depiction of how government actually works is much closer to the truth than the media leads us to believe. If you haven’t watched it, it is MUST WATCH TV for anyone who wants to understand government. In my opinion it is the groups of unassuming civil servants who wield the greatest amount of collective power. Just as the CEO is the one who gets all the credit, it is more than likely the secretary that runs the ship.

SNA:  Then policymaking in Japan actually is top-down, yes?  Then why so many questionnaires?  Are we actually seeing an example of successful Marxist “Democratic Centralism,” where input is collected from below and channeled upwards, but once the decision is made from the top, people below must follow it since they have given their input?  Okay, sorry, I’ll stuff my PoliSci textbook back in my mouth and let you continue.

Heese:  As I said, it’s a symbiosis. My role, as elected representative of the people, is to act as the immune system. My duties in council are generally to shoot down any brick balloons some aspiring group of civil servants might try to float past the house. That bills seldom get shot down is due to a deep understanding by the civil service of what the people want.

SNA:  Okay, let me underscore this.  As a politician, you see yourself as actually protecting the people from the bureaucrats?

Heese:  Absolutely!!!!! One only needs to look at failing countries to see how terrible things can get when the bureaucracy or politicians capture the public purse. If the balance is off, look out!

My secondary job is to act as a mouthpiece for the people. I bring ideas and problems to the civil service they may not yet have been exposed to. However, I am also a teacher, in a sense. I find that I spend about 30% of conversations with citizens explaining how the system works. In addition, I listen to people’s issues and try to solve them by pointing them in the right direction, whether that’s toward the entry point of the government service they are looking for, or the company which will be able to handle their situation.

SNA:  I doubt most people see politicians in Japan, or anywhere for that manner, so positively.  Do you think most of your elected compadres have a similar view of themselves being a dedicated public servant?

Heese:  That is a very good question I’ll need to ask. I’m sure the topic will provide some interesting fodder. Ask me again in 6 months and I’ll spill what I learned.

How I personally approach the public relations part of the job is to engage as many people as I can on any given day. I try to be approachable. I can’t possibly know what people’s needs are beyond Maslow’s basics. And I’ll never know if they don’t tell me.

SNA:  Huh.  Well, that’s a bit strange to me.  In my dealings with Japanese politicians in the past, especially when I was trying to get legislation passed to outlaw racial discrimination and get “Japanese Only” signs down, I rarely saw them giving much more than a popcorn fart about listening to the people.  Perhaps it was the complexity of the issue.  Perhaps it was because people who look like me probably can’t vote so who cares?  But for the most part, if there wasn’t an election at hand, I found Japanese politicians at best noncommittal, at worst actively avoiding any chance to listen to folks like you say you do.  Are you an outlier?

Heese:  Of course I’m an outlier. To be blunt, I take the approach of being constantly in election mode. I don’t have an election machine I can just fire up nor can I assume I’ll get reelected simply because I’m an incumbent. I’ve seen too many cases of incumbents getting their walking papers to believe it can’t happen to me. In my case every vote is won at the individual level so I am required to be out and about.

I am, by nature, very curious. I am always happy to listen to what people do. In “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell mentions three kinds of people: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. I do my best to be a bit of all three but I know I am best suited to be a Connector. I don’t know enough about any given topic to be a Maven and my ideas aren’t well developed enough to be a Salesman. Hence, I spend a lot of time just trying to get to know people and introducing them to others who can help them.

SNA:  I plead guilty to being a Maven.

I can’t speak to your experiences with other politicians except to say that NJ needs are seldom a high priority, not because their needs aren’t important, but because there’s unlikely to be traction within the surrounding community. Your concerns regarding “Japanese Only” signage won’t be showing up in questionnaires either.

On the other hand, here in Tsukuba, where foreigners are plentiful and a vital part of the community, such a sign would only last a day or two before the Mayor’s office would come down like a ton of bricks on any business foolish enough to post one. On a few occasions I’ve been informed, for example, of a policy that a local gym, a chain, has implemented requiring members to be able to communicate in Japanese. Their argument is safety in case of an injury. Pure BS. The problem is invariably a new manager from outside Tsukuba thinks they can run their shop like they do in Butthole-shi. Have staff who speak English ya moron! Or train them in basic English. Easy enough in highly educated Tsukuba. I’ve spoken to the mayor about the issue and he was very attentive, requesting I pass on unresolved instances.

So, to summarize my job, I shoot down bad ideas, promote good ones, and introduce people to others with solutions to their problems. To be blunt, I love my job, but I also recognize that not everyone can do it. One needs a tough skin to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous allegations.

SNA:  I’ll say.  Again, I’m not sure I’d have the patience to put up with what I see you putting up with, just from the standpoint of shrugging off your how you’re treated occasionally as an outsider or an anomaly in the halls of power.  But that’s perhaps a topic for a future interview.  That’s really all the time we have for today.  I want to thank you for agreeing to another interview with me, Jon.  I look forward to slinging some arrows at you again next time. 

======================
Heese:  We all have our roles to play. At times I’m the dancing monkey. On other occasions I am the symbol of hope for newbies straight off the boat. I do my best to play my part well. Thanks for keeping me on my toes. I look forward to our next conversation. ENDS

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

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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column talks about how NJ do have the ability to get some political power in Japan.  It will of course mean some work on their part, but that’s inevitable for all minorities anywhere.  But the biggest obstacle, aside from the willful exclusion of NJ from the electorate, is the will to naturalize and run for office.  You can do it, and I believe it’s likely you’ll get in, since the Japanese electorate is really quite hungry for something different to choose from.  But you’ve gotta stop believing that you’re merely a “guest” in Japan in the first place.  Read on to see some examples of elected former NJ and take note.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING BEYOND THE “GUESTISM”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREVENTING RESIDENTS FROM BECOMING VOTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMMIGRANT POWER AND POLITICIANS IN JAPAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My answer was this:

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

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

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

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

mytest

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“EMBEDDED RACISM” EXCERPT ENDS

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

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

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

mytest

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Hi Blog. First this article, then a comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Renunciation/Revocation of Japanese Citizenship and Wajin Privilege

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Memory-holing the “Japanese Only” signs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEACH THE CHILDREN WELL

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

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

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

Consider some bad habits that are the default mode:

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

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

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

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

BEWARE “UNIQUE JAPAN”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“WE JAPANESE”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“YOU FOREIGNERS”

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

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

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

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

SO WHAT DO DO?

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese population falls in all 47 prefectures for first time

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

Japan Times/Kyodo News, July 26, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s start with that history…

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

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

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Visible Minorities: Never Forget Japan’s Racist Covid Policies
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, OCT 24, 2022 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/10/24/visible-minorities-never-forget-japans-racist-covid-policies/

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

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

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

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

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

======================
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Debito’s SNA VM37: “Reforming Japan’s Dickensian Foreign Trainee Program,” Aug 22, 2022, and why I remain skeptical that reforms will actually happen

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Visible Minorities: Reforming Japan’s Dickensian Foreign Trainee Program
August 22, 2022, By Debito Arudou

SNA (Tokyo) — News Item: video footage surfaced in 2020 of a Vietnamese “trainee” being physically abused by Japanese co-workers at a construction company in Okayama Prefecture, resulting in injuries including broken ribs and a broken tooth. Despite a criminal complaint, the Okayama Prefectural Police Prosecutor’s Office declined to prosecute the four Japanese co-workers involved.

Here is the video footage that started it all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK1HhnvktOc&t=76s

This Vietnamese trainee is not alone. Despite the strict Covid border controls, currently 280,000 foreigners toil as temporary low-wage workers in Japan’s farms and factories nationwide. Given Japan’s often nasty work environments, which generally combine exploitative work ethics with a normalized bullying culture, this means that more than a quarter of a million foreigners are here and in harm’s way under a system of unfettered abuse…

[…]

Fortunately, there are some stirrings that reforms might happen. Even the conservative Yomiuri Shinbun said in an August 20 editorial that reforming the system is “unavoidable.” Moreover, the government announced last month a full-scale review of the program, intending to “bring this long-standing issue to a historical conclusion.”

I am skeptical these reforms will achieve what is promised, which is basically to resolve the ongoing human rights abuses which have always characterized the trainee system. One reason for my doubts is because…
==================================

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/08/22/visible-minorities-reforming-japans-dickensian-foreign-trainee-program/

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets up “foreign media policing website” where anyone can report to J govt any foreign info “incompatible with our country’s standpoint”. Actually, quite within character.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something for the undergraduates taking classes on critical thinking and government censorship to write a midterm essay on:

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put up a website that enables anyone to submit to the government “information about any accounts in overseas [media] relating to our country that is based on misunderstandings of the truth/facts (jijitsu), or is incompatible with our country’s standpoint.”

https://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/p_pd/pds/page22_003885.html

Here are some essay writing prompts.  Discuss:

  1. Why is the Japanese government, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, getting involved in policing foreign media?  Are they the new international media police?
  2. Why is there an assumption that “our country” has a defined “standpoint” that uniformly faces the rest of the world?  And whose “truth” is this?
  3. Where did the line-item budget come from to pay these MOFA bureaucrats to act as the media police?  Don’t they have enough on their plate already managing, y’know, our country’s diplomacy?

Actually, I might be able to answer the third one.  There’s a political dimension to all this.  Check out this tweet from SNA on Dietmember Onoda Kimi:

Yeah, we’ve talked about Onoda Kimi before.  She’s the American-born former dual-national American-Japanese MP who advocates for antiforeigner public policy that would go against her foreign father’s interests.  As I wrote for SNA back in 2020:

You can see how deep the pathology runs in Kimi Onoda, LDP Upper House Diet Member from Okayama. She similarly insinuated on March 30 that government subsidies should be denied Non-Japanese residents. But this is stunningly ironic because she was born in America to an American father. She even held American nationality until 2016 (when she was ratted out and gave it up), meaning she too was a foreigner in Japan.

That’s how deep Japan’s dehumanizing antibodies run — where even a self-hating haafu would effectively deny equal treatment to her own father! What immense psychological scars from childhood bullying have prompted her to deny any ties to her minority origins, and to pander for the approval of majority whim that Non-Japanese Residents belong on a separate and unequal tier in society?

If we ever meet, one question I’d like to ask is, “Who hurt you?”

Anyway, good job, Onoda Kimi.  Mission accomplished.

Actually, what MOFA is doing is very much within the Japanese Government (GOJ)’s character anyway.  The GOJ is very sensitive to how they are perceived abroad, historically stepping in many times to “correct misperceptions” in foreign media.  See herehere, here, here, here, and here, for example.  (And it’s a stark contrast to, for example, the Americans, who ignore outright disinformation even when it affects their own citizens abroad.)

Granted, compared to the US’s negligence (even making outright threats against their US citizens for not ignoring racial discrimination in Japan), I’d rather that a government step in to correct public misperceptions when their citizens abroad stand to get hurt.  But I’m also suspicious of the GOJ’s motives, as evidenced by the links above, as their “standpoint” towards historical and “factual” interpretation is riddled with ahistorical revisionism.

Moreover, asking for the public’s participation like this is redolent of the “Snitch Sites” the Immigration Bureau deployed in 2004, so that anyone could anonymously sicc the GOJ on any foreigner they thought could be an “illegal” — much to the delight of all the Zainichi Korean haters out there.

In sum, this “MOFA foreign media policing site” is yet another politically-motivated government-sponsored website that is encouraging online abuse and feeding the trolls.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him

mytest

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Hi Blog.  After the Abe Assassination, people have been asking me what I think about it.  In short, I think Abe’s historical revisionism is what got him killed.  Opening of my latest SNA column 35:

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

Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History

By Debito Arudou,  Shingetsu News Agency, July 18, 2022

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/07/18/visible-minorities-abes-assassination-and-the-revenge-of-history/

SNA (Tokyo) — The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has occasioned a lot of valuable, eye-opening discussions in the media, but few if any have focused upon how Abe’s death could be seen as a form of karmic payback–-what happens when you ignore the lessons of history in the pursuit of raw political power.

The discussions have instead focused on the veneer of Japan’s “safe” society being blown away by a homemade gun; or about how the world’s democracies have been deprived of a Japanese leader comfortable on the international stage (while egregiously overlooking all the damage he did to Japan’s democracy).

A few intrepid journalists (starting with the SNA) have explored the swamp of Abe’s political connections with the “Moonies” religious cult, and how that probably gave motive to the killer.

To me the most absurd debate has been whether Abe’s death was an “assassination” at all –- the Japanese media have uniformly refused to use the corresponding word ansatsu, portraying it as merely a “shooting event” (jugeki jiken).

These important topics have been covered elsewhere by people with more expertise, so this column will take a different tack. It will discuss the role of national narratives in a society, how dishonest national narratives stunt the maturity of societies, and how a willful ignorance of history due to these national narratives circled back to kill Abe.

First, let’s talk about what national narratives are: stories created by governments, education systems, and media that unify people within a nation-state. For example, Japan sees itself as a pure-blooded monoethnic society that can be mobilized under shared collective goals to accomplish political and economic miracles. On the other hand, the United States sees itself as a “melting pot” of immigrants and cultures whose harnessed diversity has made it the richest, most powerful nation in the world. And so on.

Accurate or not, all societies create national narratives as a matter of necessity. They tell us what we as a group believe and share as collective history. Without them, policymakers would have great difficulty getting disparate people to obey social norms and laws, or accept their status as a member of society. When people believe that they share a history, starting with national education from childhood, political “legitimacy” can be entrenched. You really know it has worked when someone “loves” their country so deeply that they’ll die for it.

But there’s a problem endemic to creating a shared history–you have to decide who’s a member of society and who’s not. Narratives that unify also must exclude. You can’t have an “in-group” without the existence of an “out-group” to contrast yourself with. You can’t have “citizens” without also having “foreigners.”

Sooner or later even the most well-intentioned people make mistakes that turn people against each other, privileging some people at the cost of others, disenfranchising and even killing in the name of national integrity.

So from that comes two types of history: a “good” one that is celebrated, and a “bad” one that people generally don’t want to talk about.

Consider a few examples of the latter:

When the European powers of the world were colonizing other lands, they soon discovered they couldn’t extract treasure without exterminating local peoples. Consider Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean.

Or as the United States grew and developed, “Manifest Destiny” wielded an unspeakable impact on Native Americans–and that’s before we mention the horrors of chattel slavery.

Japan too didn’t secure its borders without committing cultural genocide against the Ainu and Ryukyuans. There was also that brief episode in the last century when it decided to “liberate” Asians abroad under the auspices of a racist Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The point is that every country has a dark side, and any honest historical accounting would allow for that.

Unfortunately, most countries would rather see themselves as the “good guys” in their own narrative, and either downplay or ignore the atrocities committed in the name of the nation.

That’s a bad idea for a number of reasons: not only because it produces poor public policy that leaves past injustices and grievances unresolved, but also because it leaves people blind to the more genuine lessons of history.

For example, the American tendency to see the US Civil War as merely a good-spirited contest between North and South economic and cultural needs overlooks the fact that owning people as property was the central cause of the war. And yet, narratives are still circulating in the South that downplay slavery and its impact.

Why do you think there’s so much backlash these days towards Critical Race Theory, which highlights the legacy of unequal racialized treatment still embedded within current legal systems and narratives? It is because many people would rather just pretend these issues are all settled.

Similarly, why do you think there’s so much backlash in Japan to teaching about atrocities like the Unit 731 biological warfare, the Nanjing Massacre, the brutal colonization of Korea and China, or the government-sponsored sexual slavery of the Comfort Women? It is because some would prefer to pretend that it never happened.

This is where Abe comes in–he was deeply committed to historical revisionism, asserting that Japan was a victim (not an aggressor) in the Pacific War, no more guilty of wrongdoing than any other great power. He also wanted to remove many of the “Western” elements (such as civil rights and individual liberties) that had been enshrined in Japan’s “Peace Constitution” to prevent a recurrence of Japan’s past militarism.

For people like Abe, a national narrative depicting Japan as the “bad guys” would force Japanese to feel shame about their country and to “love” it less. That’s the rubric behind his enforced patriotism and revised compulsory education curriculums.

It was an immature approach which forestalls ever coming to terms with and learning from the past.

Some other countries are more mature about it. Germany, for example, has accepted that its inexcusable historical deeds are just that–inexcusable–and contemporary Germans are taught as such.

There’s no denying that Nazi Germany was one of the worst political systems that ever existed. German schoolchildren are rightly taught to “Beware the Beginnings” (Wehret den Anfängen); that is, to be vigilant against something similar ever happening again.

South Africa has done something similar with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canada is finally coming to grips with its genocidal Indian Residential School System. And so on. Some societies acknowledge a portion of their dark past and try to move forward on a healthier basis.

On the other hand, societies with dishonest historical narratives wind up stuck in the past, continuously refighting and relitigating old battles. Remember what George Santayana said about people not learning from history? They’re doomed to repeat it.

Was American mob violence against the US Capitol on January 6 something entirely new? In fact, this sort of thing happened in city and state legislatures many times in the past. Have you ever heard of the Meridian Race Riot of 1871, the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874, the South Carolina Race Riots of 1876, and the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898? Probably not, and that’s the point. If you don’t know about them, it’s like they never happened.

These and many other incidents evicted anti-slavery politicians from elected offices in the South, established Jim Crow laws for nearly a century, and created the longstanding ahistorical narratives that pervade some elements of Trumpist politics to this day.

In other words, the Capitol insurrection was in fact a repeat from a historical blueprint..

Likewise, the Abe assassination was, in the longer view of history, not unique. Mark Schreiber recently offered a “guided historical tour” in the Asia Times on the long list of political killings in Tokyo alone, calling it “practically routine” in times that are not so distant from our own.

But such history was so suppressed in favor of “safe Japan” narratives that Abe himself scoffed at the need for additional security around public political events. During a 2015 Diet floor session, Abe officiously dismissed a question from MP Kiyomi Tsujimoto about the possibility of domestic terrorism, sniping that it was an attempt to “denigrate Japan.”

That was one of the historical blind spots that got Abe killed.

Even now the narrative of “safe Japan” is reasserting itself. The Japanese media still won’t accurately portray Abe’s killing as an “assassination.” Yet, as the Japan Times noted, similar political killings are freely portrayed as ansatsu–as long as they happen overseas.

Why? Apparently because, in Japan, assassinations are somehow “historically unexpected.”

Even the excuse that Abe’s killing was not “political” is inaccurate. This was not a random murder. As reported in various media, the killer wanted to retaliate because his family had been financially crippled by the Moonies, and specifically targeted Abe for his connections to them. That sounds political to me. Yet the Japanese media initially tried to suppress Abe’s Moonie connection until SNA and social media commentators broke the story.

Societies that stunt growth with “love-of-country-at-all-costs” narratives do themselves an enormous disservice, and not just because it leads to things like politics through violence.

Japan is still stuck in other hackneyed feedback loops: that it has always been a monoethnic society without actual minorities (it has ethnically cleansed itself numerous times); that it never actually lost the Pacific War (using the term shusen–war’s end–instead of haisen, war defeat) in historical accounts; and that Japan is not responsible for past militarism, much to the aggravation of nearby countries. These are counterproductive to Japan’s present and future.

Ahistoricity also keeps Japan from facing one more essential fact it has known for decades–that it is an aging, stagnating society, facing senescence and insolvency within a generation or two unless it allows immigration. To move forward, it needs to adopt more inclusive narratives.

That means coming to terms with, and teaching, the dark side of its history. The senseless death of Abe, who was the most prominent proponent of head-in-the-sand nationalism in postwar Japan, is a good opportunity for a reevaluation.

Otherwise history will continue to exact its revenge.

ENDS
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Tokyo Musashino City fails to get local referenda voting rights for its NJ Residents (Dec 2021). Absorb the arguments of the national-level xenophobic campaign against it.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Sorry to be getting to this issue so late, but here’s yet another example of a local government, a suburb of Tokyo called Musashino, trying to do what’s right for ALL of its residents (including those without Japanese citizenship) by getting their voice heard by voting in local referenda.

To stress:  These are votes on local, repeat, local referenda (they’re not actually *electing representatives*) — and the results are not even legally binding.  Moreover, according to the Takao source below, 73% of the public supported the move (that is, before the xenophobes and alarmists stepped in on a national level to bully and scare the public).

Witness the typical alarmism behind sharing any political power in Japan.  The tactic is simple:  portray the granting of any voice in governance to non-citizens as a security issue.  The assumption then becomes that enfranchised foreigners will inevitably use their power to hurt Japanese citizens.

(See other examples on Debito.org of local governments trying to help their foreign residents — since the national government refuses to — and their successes and failures here and here.)  

Substantiating articles follow.  Trace the arguments pro and con within and see what I mean.  The article from the right-wing rag Japan Forward is of particular notice, reprinting the right-wing Sankei Shinbun’s blatant xenophobic editorial policies; as always it gives us a distillation of intellectualized racism.  An academic article as counterweight to the Sankei follows that.  A quote of note:

Takao:  “This backlash [to the Musashino policy proposal] highlights the LDP’s intention to allow more foreign workers to stay in Japan — to address labour shortages — while also suppressing their rights to maintain the image of a ‘homogeneous’ nation. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has indicated that Japan will need to quadruple the number of foreign workers to over 6 million by 2040 to sustain economic growth.

“But the civic and political participation of foreign residents in Japan is necessary for the sake of smooth social integration. Despite conservative protests, it is local authorities who are forced to step up, fill the vacuum and cope with the increasing pressure of foreign workers’ needs, which are not well addressed by the national government. Prospects for the further protection of foreign residents’ rights in Japan will hinge on effective policy coordination and leadership at the local level.”

For the record.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Musashino’s foreign vote plan squeaks through assembly panel
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, December 14, 2021
https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14501973

A Musashino city assembly committee on Dec. 13 narrowly approved a proposal to allow short-term foreign residents to vote in local referendums, an issue that has divided this western Tokyo suburb.

The six members of the general affairs committee were evenly split on the plan. The committee chair then cast a ‘yes’ vote to break the tie.

The proposal will be sent to the city assembly’s floor for a vote on Dec. 21.

If approved by the assembly, Musashino will become the third municipality to allow foreign residents listed in a city’s registration system for three straight months to vote in local referendums, following Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture and Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture.

The 108-seat public gallery at the assembly chamber was nearly full by the time discussions started just after 10:30 a.m. The talks continued until 8:30 p.m., with a rest break included.

Under the proposal, residents, including foreign nationals, who are at least 18 years old and have been listed in the city’s basic resident registration system for three straight months can vote in local referendums.

The main issue of dispute at the committee was the three-month requirement for foreign residents.

Two committee members belonging to a Liberal Democratic Party group of the city assembly strongly opposed the proposal.

“From a commonsense perspective, it is nonsense to treat people who have lived in Japan for a long time and foreigners who have only stayed in Japan for three months at the same level,” said one of the opposing members, Taro Kikuchi.

Kikuchi also pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the opportunities for residents to hear the city’s explanation of the issue.

The proposal “is controversial and has divided the city in half,” he said.

Hidenori Dojo, another opponent, warned that the proposal could give short-term foreign residents a say on national security issues or energy policies in a public referendum.

The city’s public referendum ordinance proposal “is in a broad sense an enfranchisement,” Dojo said.

He explained that his stance is not about “excluding and discriminating against foreigners” but he believes “a distinction is necessary.”

A representative of the city government countered Dojo’s argument.

“It is not appropriate to prohibit a resident’s will to express a certain opinion on a matter even if the city does not have jurisdiction over that matter,” the representative said.

Shori Ochiai, the third opponent of the proposal who belongs to junior coalition partner Komeito, said various opinions were expressed over the issue of granting voting rights to foreigners when the basic autonomy ordinance was established to promote decentralization.

Ochiai said those discussions went nowhere.

He also questioned the timing of Musashino city’s proposal.

He noted that the city started designing institutional arrangements for public referendums after the basic autonomy ordinance took effect in 2020.

“Residents have since struggled in their daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, with all this hubbub, many of them are wondering for the first time, ‘What is going on?’”

A city representative acknowledged the need to pass more information about the ordinance to residents.

The three committee members who voted in favor of the proposal included a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and a member of the Japanese Communist Party.

They spent much of their time asking the city questions about how it can ease concerns about possible ramifications from granting voting rights to foreign nationals in referendums.

Taro Yabuhara, the CDP member, asked about the processes that Zushi and Toyonaka went through to establish systems that allowed voting by foreign nationals listed in the basic resident registration system for at least three months.

A Musashino representative said both cities did not face exceptional opposition to their plans from residents or assembly members, and the municipalities also did not see a sudden increase in foreign resident numbers.

Some xenophobic groups have argued that Musashino’s ordinance would result in an influx of special-interest foreign nationals seeking a say in Japanese policies.

But a Musashino official said that such an attempt would be unsuccessful “in a city with a high population density.”

Natsuki Sakurai, an independent politician on the committee, said of such criticism: “Residents of foreign nationalities are shared members of the community. I feel uncomfortable with discussions on whether they are suitable for acceptance in this community or not.”

Sakurai also asked Musashino officials if there are any administrative services that are limited to people with Japanese nationality, a requirement for voting in mayoral and city assembly elections.

“There is no distinction by nationality in terms of services,” a city representative said.

Shigeki Hashimoto, the JCP member, said statements made by city assembly members who oppose the proposal as well as certain media “have misled citizens” by saying that the right to vote in public referendums “is practically a right to vote in local elections.”

A city official agreed with Hashimoto, saying, “Public referendums are close to petitions, defined under Article 16 of the Constitution, and this is different from local election voting rights.”

Ultimately, Tatsuya Fukazawa, a CDP member who chairs the committee, voted for the proposal, making it a 4-to-3 win for the city.

The committee also rejected a petition with 5,277 signatures asking that the proposal be scrapped or tabled for further discussions.

Munenori Kaneko, who heads a group that organized the petition, said about 70 percent of the signatories live in Musashino.

The group has argued that granting foreign residents the right to vote could result in the adoption of opinions that are different from those of the electoral constituencies.

“It can lead to a decline in the functions of the city assembly, whose members are elected by residents with Japanese nationality,” the group said.

(This article was written by Keiichiro Inoue and Atsushi Takahashi.) ENDS

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

Tokyo’s Musashino rejects proposal to let foreign residents vote
Kyodo News/Japan Times, Dec 21, 2021
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/12/21/national/politics-diplomacy/tokyo-musashino-rejects-foreign-residents-vote/

The municipal assembly of Musashino in Tokyo on Tuesday rejected a proposed ordinance that would have allowed foreign residents to vote in local referendums.

When first submitted, the proposal divided opinions in the assembly of the suburban city with a population of nearly 150,000. It also drew flak online, with critics saying it could be a step toward granting foreign residents the right to vote in national elections.

The city, which has the popular shopping and residential district of Kichijoji, failed to join two cities that have granted voting rights to foreign nationals in referendums without special conditions — Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture and Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture.

The proposal was voted down by 14 to 11.

Following the assembly vote on Tuesday, Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita said spreading information about the proposal to residents in the city was insufficient, adding that she will listen to citizens’ voices and consider submitting a revised proposal in the future.

The city assembly’s general affairs committee gave the green light to the controversial proposal last week.

Matsushita submitted the proposal to the assembly in November for holding referendums that would have allowed foreign nationals age 18 or above to vote if they have lived in the city for at least three months — the same conditions that would apply to Japanese residents.

“I am aiming to create a city that accepts diversity,” Matsushita said during the committee’s deliberations last week. “Those who have just come to Japan are also part of the community.”

Assembly members with ties to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan supported the proposal, while members associated with the Liberal Democratic Party opposed it, with one arguing the plan had been hastily decided.

“Explanations to citizens have been insufficient,” the LDP assembly member said.

Other than the cities of Zushi and Toyonaka, about 40 municipalities in Japan allow foreign nationals to vote in referendums, but with some conditions applied such as having the status of permanent residency. ENDS

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

Musashino assembly rejects proposal to let foreigners vote
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, December 21, 2021
https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14507138

The Musashino municipal assembly in western Tokyo on Dec. 21 rejected the city’s proposal to allow foreign nationals, including short-term residents, to vote in local referendums.

Fourteen assembly members voted against the proposal while 11 were in favor.

The issue has divided the city.

Proponents said the plan would lead to a more diverse society and gives a voice to more people living in the city.

But critics argued that the required period of stay in the city was far too short for the right to vote. They also said information about the proposal had not been effectively distributed to the public.

The proposal said those eligible to vote in public referendums must be 18 years old or older and listed in the city’s basic resident register network system for at least three straight months.

The plan included foreign students and technical trainees.

“I have seriously taken the result of the vote to heart,” Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita said at a news conference after her proposal was rejected.

“I have listened to various opinions from the assembly and residents,” she said. “But I have noted that (such an effort) is not enough, and the issue needs more publicity before we can implement a public referendum system.”

Matsushita also addressed criticism of the three-month-stay requirement and indicated that she will submit another proposal after a review.

“There are voices that say certain conditions are needed, such as the length of stay or a permanent resident status,” she said. “I want to think about that together from now on and find a better way.”

In an earlier vote on Dec. 13, the city assembly’s six-member general affairs committee was evenly split on the proposal. The committee chair tipped the scale by voting “yes,” sending the proposal to a full vote from the assembly.

After the city announced the proposal in November, Diet members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and others voiced opposition. Some argued that such a plan “will grant quasi-voting rights to foreigners without any careful consideration.”

Xenophobic groups have also rallied in the city’s downtown area and around city hall, using a propaganda vehicle to blare out their opposition.

Supporters of the proposal said of such rallies, “Coercive promotions and extortion-like behavior have been prevalent.”

(This article was written by Keiichiro Inoue and Atsushi Takahashi.) ENDS

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

EDITORIAL | Musashino City Council Did the Right Thing in Rejecting Foreigner Voting

Under the now-rejected ordinance, non-Japanese living in the city for only three months could have voted, raising fears of foreign influence on local decisions impacting national security.

December 28, 2021 By Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun
https://japan-forward.com/editorial-musashino-city-council-did-the-right-thing-in-rejecting-foreigner-voting/

A draft ordinance that would have allowed voting on local referendums without distinguishing between foreign residents and Japanese nationals was voted down in a plenary session of the Musashino City Council in western Tokyo on December 21, 2021.

The city council has shown good judgment, and we applaud the decision. If the proposed ordinance had been approved, its ripple effect could have spread to other municipalities.

Local referendums have the potential for exerting influence over issues affecting the national interest, such as national security and energy policy. In light of the gravity of the matter, it is only natural that the city council has rejected the draft ordinance. The city government of Musashino, which proposed the ordinance, must take the outcome to heart.

The ordinance would have granted foreign residents, such as students and technical intern trainees, the right to vote in referendums if they have lived in the city for three months or more, and are at least 18 years old. The council’s general affairs committee passed the city government-sponsored ordinance on December 13. Pros and cons of the draft were debated before the proposed ordinance was brought to a vote on December 21, with arguments divided on points such as whether it would “boost diversity” in Musashino, and the “need for certain standards” before voting. The outcome was that the proposed ordinance was rejected by a majority vote.

After the vote, Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita stated, “There was a view that the city government had done an inadequate job of informing citizens about the ordinance,” suggesting that she might push for its consideration again. The mayor, however, should abandon any such effort.

Although the mayor insisted that referendums voted on by residents would not be legally binding, the bill explicitly said, “Both the city council and the mayor should respect the result.” If the mayor and council look to the vote for guidance, fears that the referendum could impact the political decision making process would be realized, and non-Japanese would have acquired suffrage.

Fears arose of the city administration and council being swayed by the results of such referendums, impacting political decision making and ending in the foreigners acquiring voting rights.

Seventy-eight municipalities across the country have adopted ordinances on holding local referendums. Of those, 43 have granted voting rights to foreign residents. Unlike Musashino City, however, most have clear stipulations on who can participate in voting, such as limiting eligibility only to non-citizens with permanent resident status.

In its 1995 ruling, the Supreme Court declared that enfranchisement of foreign residents was not permitted under the Constitution. But at the same time the court acknowledged that voting at a local level should be allowed by “those having particularly close relationships with local entities.” The court also set limitations, such as permanent foreign residents of the city.

The Supreme Court decision did not pave the way for voting by foreign nationals, such as students and technical intern trainees who have lived in a city for only three months.

Some pointed out that there have been no particular problems with similar ordinances to the one proposed in Musashino, such as a 2006 ordinance in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture. In another case, however, a 1998 referendum in Okinawa Prefecture on the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement shook national security politics.

Moreover, there can be no guarantee that these ordinances will be non-problematic in the future simply because there have been no major problems so far.

Musashino City should instead place top priority on improving its own efforts to meet the diverse needs of its foreign residents. It could start, for instance, by increasing the number of services which offer access to interpreters. ENDS

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

Civic rights for foreign residents sparks backlash in Japan
East Asia Forum, 12 February 2022
By Yasuo Takao, Curtin University
https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2022/02/12/civic-rights-for-foreign-residents-sparks-backlash-in-japan/

The number of foreign residents living in Japan has dramatically increased in the past decade, marking a change for a population traditionally perceived as ‘homogenous’. One local municipality’s debate on civic participation for its foreign residents recently sparked a nation-wide backlash from conservatives and nationalists.

The inflow of foreign residents into Japan increased from 287,100 in 2010 to 592,000 in 2019 — the fourth largest inflow in the OECD. As of October 2021, there were 2.8 million residents of foreign nationality registered in the country.

The debate on how to integrate these new residents into Japanese society is ongoing. By the end of 2021, 42 of Japan’s 1718 municipalities (excluding Tokyo’s Special Wards) had passed public ordinances establishing permanent local referendum systems and granted foreign residents voting rights in them. Zushi in Kanagawa prefecture and Toyonaka in Osaka prefecture even permitted foreign residents to vote without any special ‘period of stay’ conditions.

But in December 2021, the city assembly of Musashino in suburban Tokyo voted against (14 to 11) an ordinance that would have granted foreign residents such voting rights. Progressive Mayor Reiko Matsushita had proposed establishing a permanent local referendum system that would include foreign residents aged 18 or older who had been on the residential register for at least three months. While the referendum results would not be legally binding, the ordinance would require the mayor and the assembly to ‘respect’ them.

In March 2021, Musashino conducted a survey which found 73.2 per cent of respondents agreed that foreign residents should be able to vote in local referendums. Prior to the vote, the city was divided — a backlash from conservative and nationalist politicians and newspapers resulted in street protests against the proposal, while many grassroots community groups were supportive. Voting rights for foreigners had not been an issue in the national lower house election in October 2021, yet Musashino’s proposal gained the attention of the conservative mass media and soon became an issue of national import.

So, how did this whole controversy come about? The issue of non-citizen voting has its roots in the broader policy of local autonomy for Japan’s municipalities.

Ongoing decentralisation in favour of local councils was a key part of public sector reforms in the 1990s, and the Omnibus Law for Local Devolution came into force in 2000. This saw the first local autonomy ordinance (jichi kihon jorei) established in Niseko in 2001, and by 2012 there were 284 such laws — which are known as the ‘constitutions of municipalities’.

The dynamic changed in 2012 when national elections returned the old guard Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power. In 2014 the LDP directed its local branches to ‘respond carefully’ to any initiatives for the enactment of basic local autonomy ordinances. In particular, the LDP Policy Affairs Research Council warned some discretionary power of local authorities went ‘too far’ beyond Japan’s constitutional framework. Consequently, the number of new ordinances dropped from 25 in 2014 to one in 2020.

After a basic local autonomy ordinance came into force, municipalities — including Musashino — regularly started making institutional arrangements for inclusive public referendums. Most proposals for the participation of foreign residents in local referendums were based on these laws.

While some local ordinances followed national guidelines released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, local authorities also drafted many on their own. The LDP tried to break this momentum by arguing ‘jichi kihon jorei represents a denial of the nation’.

In this political climate, Musashino’s proposal was singled out for attack by conservative groups. A group of LDP nationalist politicians, led by Seiichiro Murakami and Shigeharu Aoyama, warned that foreign residents’ rights to vote in referendums could undermine Japan’s national security as the agenda items for referendums are virtually unlimited. In opposing the city’s proposal, Murakami and Aoyama argued it ‘would lead to easily granting foreign nationals rights equivalent to suffrage’. Subsequently, 14 Musashino council members heeded these conservative attacks and voted against the proposal.

This backlash highlights the LDP’s intention to allow more foreign workers to stay in Japan — to address labour shortages — while also suppressing their rights to maintain the image of a ‘homogeneous’ nation. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has indicated that Japan will need to quadruple the number of foreign workers to over 6 million by 2040 to sustain economic growth.

But the civic and political participation of foreign residents in Japan is necessary for the sake of smooth social integration. Despite conservative protests, it is local authorities who are forced to step up, fill the vacuum and cope with the increasing pressure of foreign workers’ needs, which are not well addressed by the national government. Prospects for the further protection of foreign residents’ rights in Japan will hinge on effective policy coordination and leadership at the local level.

Yasuo Takao is Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University, Perth. ENDS

More articles and opinion on the subject at https://www.google.com/search?q=musashino+foreigners+voting

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Visible Minorities: Torture and Murder in Japan Detention Centers
Shingetsu News Agency, June 20, 2022, by Debito Arudou

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/06/20/visible-minorities-torture-and-murder-in-japan-detention-centers/

SNA (Tokyo) — News Headline: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman.”

In August 2020, a Sri Lanka national named Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali was arrested for overstaying her visa, and detained in a Nagoya Immigration Detention Center. She had arrived in Japan in 2017, but her student visa was cancelled in 2019 because she couldn’t afford tuition fees. While in detention, she opted not to return to Sri Lanka, reportedly due to reduced flights during Covid and an abusive boyfriend back home.

During her seven months in custody, however, Sandamali’s health steadily declined due to a stress-induced stomach condition. According to the Straits Times, Sandamali “was vomiting blood in her final days, and was so weak that she had no control of her arms and legs. The immigration authorities allegedly turned a blind eye to medical expert advice to put her on an intravenous drip or to grant her provisional release to ease her stress. A report by public broadcaster NHK suggested that officials tend to suspect malingering for minor illnesses in their reluctance to grant provisional release.”

That’s a questionable decision, since she had lost 20 kilograms from her small frame over seven months—hard to dismiss as mere “malingering” or “minor illness.” And her decline was not sudden: According to the Asahi Shinbun, she had notified her jailers from mid-January about nausea and lack of appetite. Nineteen days before her death, a urine test indicated she was in a state of starvation. The New York Times noted that in her final days she could ingest little more than water, sugar, or morsels of bread, and could barely make a fist or speak. Yet she was again refused provisional release for hospital treatment.

On March 6, 2021, Sandamali died in her cell, aged 33. An August 2021 postmortem probe by Japan’s Immigration Services Agency ruled that Sandamali had been “mistreated” by the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau, formally reprimanding the bureau’s director and three other supervisors for not reporting her requests for examination and treatment to an outside doctor.

But overlooked was cruelty of her captors. According to Nikkei Asia, “one immigration officer allegedly mocked Wishma when she was unable to swallow her drink,” and the Mainichi Shinbun reported that other Immigration officers misled a doctor about her condition two days before her death, dismissing her illness as merely “psychosomatic.”

By the time Sandamali’s family received her body, “her skin was wrinkled like an old person, and it was stuck firmly to her bones.” In November 2021, Sandamali’s family lodged a criminal complaint against officials at the Nagoya facility, accusing them of murder through willful negligence.

Unfortunately, as noted above, last week the Nagoya District Public Prosecutor’s Office dropped the Sandamali case, citing an inability to establish criminal liability or even a cause of death, blaming it on “multiple factors.”

Multiple factors indeed. Sandamali’s case is not unprecedented. According to CNN, since 1997 at least 27 foreign detainees have died in Japan’s Immigration detention centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks,” because they detain foreigners only).

The main factor here is the cruel and unusual punishment by public officers, expressly forbidden under Article 36 of the Constitution.

Yet nobody has ever been held criminally liable for foreigner deaths in detention. That’s what makes Japan’s Gaijin Tanks so cruel and unusual.

Let’s consider a few more cases, then talk about the system that killed them…

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/06/20/visible-minorities-torture-and-murder-in-japan-detention-centers/

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My SNA Visible Minorities 31: “Shintaro Ishihara: Good Riddance to an Evil Man”, an honest obituary. Feb 20, 2022

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Visible Minorities 31: Shintaro Ishihara: Good Riddance to an Evil Man
Shingetsu News Agency, February 21, 2022
By Debito Arudou 

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/02/21/visible-minorities-good-riddance-to-an-evil-man/

Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who died February 1, was an evil man. Any honest obituary would admit as such. Unfortunately, the media’s retrospectives have tended to eulogize him, using weasel words so as to not speak ill of the dead.

But that’s the wrong reflex. Evil should never be whitewashed, especially when it comes to a person as evil as Ishihara, and by doing so they are complicit in historical revisionism. I will try to rectify that with this column by recounting Ishihara’s actual record.

COMPARISON AND CONTEXT

I do not use the term “evil” lightly.  Consider other people in Japan who, when granted power, did wrong:

Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, a rehabilitated war criminal, stunted Japan’s development into a mature sovereign country by perpetually subordinating Japan’s geopolitical interests to the American military under the US-Japan Security Treaty.  

Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who abetted the “Comfort Women” system of wartime sexual slavery, spent his life not only denying its existence, but also reconstituting Japan’s ruthless revisionist far-right.  

And Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, did all he could to restore prewar elitism to the postwar governing system, by destroying any “Western” ideals of individuality, human rights, and pacifism; and (unsuccessfully) trying to “revise” Japan’s postwar Constitution.  

But all of these horrible little men still pale in comparison to a man as irredeemably evil as Shintaro Ishihara.

WHITEWASHING THE RECORD THROUGH WEASEL WORDS

Most obits have used weasel words to describe Ishihara’s life:  “Controversial,“ “brash,” “charismatic,” “unapologetic,” “chauvinistic,” “contentious,” a “firebrand (or fiery) nationalist,” “staunch right-winger,” “outspoken conservative,” even “gaffe-prone,” woefully understating his misdeeds.  

Some went even further, looking for some good in him:  His establishment of the Shinginko Tokyo bank using public monies (which failed, becoming a windfall for the yakuza), involvement with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (and we’ve written here what a nationalist mess that became), restrictions on diesel cars in Tokyo (yes, less air pollution is good, but rarely were his policies green), and an “outspokenness” towards anything he didn’t like (that’s not a virtue; just a guilty pleasure to watch).  

One of the harsher ones, after calling him a “rightist, elitist, racist, misogynist, patriarchal pig,” still fell for his “unmistakable, evocative allure,” and concluded that “Tokyo has lost something” with his death.

What we lost was a legitimizer of hatred.  

Revealingly, one of Ishihara’s elitist co-conspirators described him as “a politician who challenged what became the norms in the postwar era… He was not afraid of criticisms and insisted on what he had to say” (Shinzo Abe).  Translation:  Ishihara’s extreme stances and policies helped our right-wing policy aims seem less extreme.

INSTEAD, MEMORIALIZE ISHIHARA’S HATEFUL DEEDS

So let’s recount Ishihara’s actual record, starting with his peerless sense of entitlement.  

Born into wealth, he got lucky getting a prestigious book award at an early age which catapulted him into celebrity status.  This enabled him to hobnob with elites and attain elected national office for several decades.  After all, electorates in any society are suckers for celebrities.

He eventually found himself in a position of real power, elected multiple times to the governorship of the world’s largest and richest city.  And he used that bully pulpit to further aims explicitly motivated by hate, admitting in 2014, “Until I die, I want to say what I want to say and do what I want to do, and I want to die hated by people.”

Accordingly, Ishihara infused hate and spite into just about any public policy he sponsored.  Remember how mere weeks into his first term as Tokyo Governor he called for the Japanese military to actively round up foreigners (using the racist epithet “Sankokujin”) in the event of a natural disaster?  How were they to do that?  Unclear — probably just arrest anyone who “looks foreign.”  Why?  Because in his words, foreigners are “heinous” and will of course riot and run amok when given the opportunity.  

That claim was put to the test during the Tohoku Tsunami, and surprise, no foreigner riots.  Any retractions from Ishihara?  Of course not.  Men of no conscience or sense of consequence for their actions never apologize unless they’re forced to.

For Ishihara was a man who unapologetically said that he loathed Koreans and Chinese, and went out of his way not only to justify Japan’s occupation of its Asian neighbors, but also deny its colonial and wartime atrocities.  (All while calling the US atomic bombing of Japan racist.)  Ishihara even claimed, in his regular Sankei Shinbun columns, that Chinese were innately criminal due to their “ethnic DNA.” 

A hateful man who poured his hate into concrete policies, Ishihara installed Japan’s first neighborhood surveillance cameras specifically in areas of Tokyo he claimed were “hotbeds of foreign crime,” and went on TV at regular intervals to propagandize that Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Roppongi at night were no longer Japan.

He also said that Japanese politicians who support more civil and human rights for foreign residents must have “foreign ancestors” themselves, and abetted political witch hunts and loyalty tests to root out politicians with international connections.

Essentially, Ishihara was trying to ethnically cleanse Japan, undoing the “internationalization” phase of the 1980s and 1990s of openness and tolerance. 

In its place, he sponsored overt racism and normalized xenophobia.  He fueled Japan’s reflexive self-victimization by scapegoating foreigners, accusing them of crime, terrorism, subversive activities, and a general undermining of all things “Japanese.”  

And it worked. To this day, entire political parties, candidates, and hate groups publicly rally for the expulsion of foreigners and the extermination of Koreans. That’s why current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida can’t easily lift the world’s longest, most draconian and unscientific Covid border policies–because polls say 57% of the fearful Japanese public want them kept.

In his spare time, Ishihara also found ways to hate anyone who wasn’t like him, even blaming his own citizens for their woes.  Such as the time he said the 2011 Tohoku Disasters were “divine punishment for Japanese people’s egoism.”  

Ever the misogynist in his novels and policy statements (one obit called him “the King of Toxic Masculinity”), he called women who survived past menopause “a waste” and “a disease of civilization” (as opposed to men, however senile, who can still “propagate the species until their 80s and 90s”), said that a woman euthanized for having ALS suffered from a “karmic disease due to the sins of a past life,” and averred that gays and lesbians are “genetically subnormal.”  There’s plenty more, but I’ll stop there.

STOP EULOGIZING A HITLER PROTOTYPE

That’s why I find it so jarring that obituarists minced their words.  Stop it, because you are complicit in historical revisionism.  

To find any redeeming qualities in a man like Ishihara is like noting that Hitler liked dogs, built Germany’s autobahns, or created Volkswagen.  But that shouldn’t be the focus of any honest historical accounting of a balance sheet of evil.

And yes, I made a comparison to Hitler.  That’s not Godwin’s Law.  Think about it:  If Ishihara had been given the powers Hitler had, do you think he would have done much different?  

Other people of Ishihara’s ilk (such as Prime Minister Taro Aso) have expressed admiration for Hitler, saying he had the “right motives,” because that enables politicians to achieve results.  Shucks, if only Japanese politicians’ power wasn’t so diluted by Japanese bureaucracy, and the Japanese military freed to project more power wherever it wanted, what could we accomplish?

Well, that was precisely what Ishihara was trying to do whenever he had power.

Remember when Governor Ishihara tried to leverage public and private monies (eventually forcing the national government’s hand to do so) to buy up the Senkakus, some disputed rocks in the East China Sea?  That was, in his words, his attempt to “start a war with China and win.”  To this day, major world media that should know better blithely portray this conflict as merely a “feud,” a “row,” and a “spat.”  

Given that Ishihara was also calling for Japan to develop nuclear weapons, that means, if Ishihara had achieved his results, he would have mass-murdered the people he hated.  

Thus comparisons with Hitler are not hyperbole.  They’re history.  

DEATH BY “KARMIC DISEASE” IS NOT ENOUGH

Ishihara died at age 89 of recurring pancreatic cancer.  I’m told it’s a painful way to go.  Good.  But no amount of pain he would ever feel would make up for the suffering he caused out of purely personal animus and spite.  He was a cruel man who spent his life persecuting people not only because they crossed him, but also simply because they were born a certain way.

So this is my obit:  Shintaro Ishihara was a monster and now he is dead.  May he rot in hell.

ENDS
======================
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Ruminations on Ishihara Shintaro’s death: Good riddance to an evil man.

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Hi Blog. It was with some measured amount of joy that I saw that a quintessentially awful man, Former Tokyo Governor and Political-Resident Racist Ishihara Shintaro, recently died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 89.

Predictably, the eulogies and hagiographies have minced their words about what an awful man this was, watering down their modifiers to call him a “brash” “hawk” “firebrand”, a ‘fiery nationalist” with “controversial views” etc.  (Check out the utter gloss job the NY Times Obits did here.)  Even after some admit that he deliberately used his political power to try to start a war with China over some island scraps, and to publicly denigrate and persecute people not only because they crossed him, but also because they were born a certain way. Simply saying he was not a force for good is to have a fundamental misconception of what evil is.

Debito.org has commented on Ishihara’s evil activities umpteen times (most famously here), so I see no need to dwell further. I think Kaori Shoji writes an excellent obit in the Japan Subculture Research Center (aptly titled “A Farewell To Japan’s King of Toxic Masculinity: Shintaro Ishihara“) where she sums up:

The man was a rightist, elitist, racist, misogynist, patriarchal pig. I hope I didn’t leave out anything.

But even she winds up succumbing to a begrudging admiration for a person in power who was granted even more power and wielded it. That’s a pity.  Yes, Ishihara had power — the power of yet another racist toxic masculinist born into rich privilege who did everything he could to make sure that privilege is perpetuated for his ilk. And his ilk have caused (and then denied) things like genocides, and should never be allowed to come near power and public service. Alas, an early showing with a prestigious literary award catapulted Ishihara into fame, and people are suckers for celebrities.

Returning to my opening, I say “measured amount of joy” because my joy was restrained by the fact that a recurrence of pancreatic cancer took Ishihara. I hope it hurt real bad in your final days, Ishihara. But no amount of pain you would ever experience would be enough payback for all the pain and suffering you caused other people.

Rot in hell, you monster. Arudou Debito, Ph.D.

======================
PS. Other Debito.org Readers have already commented on Ishihara’s demise in a separate blog post here.

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 30: “US Military Should Combat Japan’s Xenophobia”, i.e., counteract apparent Japanese media disinformation about their bases’ Covid policies (Jan 24, 2022)

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Visible Minorities Column 30: US Military Should Combat Japan’s Xenophobia
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, JAN 24, 2022 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/01/24/visible-minorities-us-military-should-combat-japans-xenophobia/

SNA (Tokyo) — Shingetsu News Agency has reported for two years on how the Japanese government and media have gone out of their way to blame foreigners for the domestic spread of Covid. Each time we’ve gone out of our way to point out that Covid was usually brought in by Japanese citizens disobeying lenient quarantines.

The government’s exclusionary border policies, treating people without Japanese passports as somehow more contagious, is routinely supported neither by logic nor science.

The latest mutation of this narrative has been the blame targeted at US military bases in Japan for community spread.

For example, Japan Times reported on January 8, stitching together wire reports from Jiji Press and Kyodo News, that “US military personnel are believed to have triggered a coronavirus resurgence in [Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima]. Many people in the three prefectures live in close proximity to American bases. Infection prevention measures taken by the US forces, which some have criticized as being too lax, are thought to be behind that explosion of cases.” […]. But this is contradicted by what the US Forces Japan say are their actual policies, claiming 92-98% vaccination rates and limitations on movement.

So is the blame game grounded in facts and science? Or are these reactions to people trying to find another foreign scapegoat for the latest Covid spike? We don’t know because US Forces Japan aren’t making their practices sufficiently loud and clear. As usual.

The upshot: How US Forces Japan are yet again ignoring being used for domestic political capital is irresponsible. USFJ has the duty to recognize that what they do affects Visible Minorities in Japan, whether it be inspiring “Japanese Only” bigots to slam shop doors in their faces, or giving more ammunition to reactionaries who seek to seal off Japan’s borders.

Full article at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/01/24/visible-minorities-us-military-should-combat-japans-xenophobia/

Page with more sources at https://www.debito.org/?p=16964.

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My annual “Human Rights Top Ten for 2021” countdown now at Shingetsu News Agency, VM 29 Dec 27, 2021

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Hello and Happy Holidays to all Debito.org Readers! Here’s my annual Top Ten, this year moved to the Shingetsu News Agency because The Japan Times isn’t in the market for articles like these anymore. Excerpt:

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Visible Minorities: Human Rights Top Ten for 2021
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, DEC 27, 2021 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN

SNA (Tokyo) — Since 2008, I have always devoted my end-year columns to counting down the Top Ten human rights issues as they pertain to Non-Japanese residents of Japan. This year I’m moving this feature to the Shingetsu News Agency. Let’s get started:

10) Debito.org Turns 25 Years Old…
9) Tourism to Japan Drops 99% Since 2019…
8 ) Vincent Fichot Hunger Strike against Japan Child Abduction…
7) Tokyo Musashino City Approves, Then Defeats, Inclusive Voting Proposal…

Full countdown with write-ups at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/12/27/visible-minorities-human-rights-top-ten-for-2021/

Enjoy!  More to come in 2022!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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Debito’s SECOND EDITION of “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, 2022), fully revised and updated, now on sale

mytest

Hi Blog. The new SECOND EDITION of “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books, 2022), completely revised and updated with 100 extra pages of new material, is now on sale.

Information site outlining what’s new, with excerpts and reviews, and how to get your copy at a discount at

https://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html

(Or you can download a flyer, take it to your library, have them order the book, and then borrow it for free at EmbeddedRacism2ndEdFlyer)

Read a sample of the book on Amazon here.

Front Cover:

Full cover with reviews:

Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

My SNA Visible Minorities 25: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postmortem, where I argue the Games failed its goals of “Diversity and Inclusion” predictably and by design

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
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Visible Minorities: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postmortem
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, AUG 16, 2021 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN (excerpt)
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/08/16/visible-minorities-tokyo-2020-olympics-postmortem/

SNA (Tokyo) — The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are now past. This is a postmortem.

Last month’s column talked about the “evil” of the Japanese government and International Olympic Committee (IOC) in forcing an unpopular Olympics upon Japan’s residents, all the while as Tokyo’s cases spiked during a global pandemic. But I also argued how host Japan in particular is trained by national narratives to see “outsiders” (including residents who don’t “look Japanese”—our Visible Minorities) specifically as terrorists, hooligans, criminals, and vectors of disease.

These fault lines have predictably exacerbated the endemic social disease of racial discrimination. International events just give people more excuses to create “Japanese Only” signs and rules.

That’s not to say that I boycotted the Olympics. In fact, given my background, I should be a superfan. […] But thanks to my background in political science, I’m trained to view nationalism with a critical eye: How governments convince people to live, fight, and even sacrifice their lives for their country. The Olympics are rooted precisely in these attitudes, and forever filter athleticism through the lens of national representation and superiority.

So despite all their promises to showcase “Diversity and Inclusion,” the Tokyo 2020 Olympics shirked that opportunity — predictably and by design…

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Rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/08/16/visible-minorities-tokyo-2020-olympics-postmortem/. Go read it before it goes behind paywall. Or better yet, support independent progressive journalism and subscribe to SNA for as little as a dollar a week!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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Lloyd Parry in Times London: “Cancel Tokyo 2020 Olympics”. Yet even this respected reporter sloppily implies Japan’s Covid numbers are contingent on foreigners

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Hi Blog.  Richard Lloyd Parry, a very respected journalist and author, has come out with a sensibly-argued Op-Ed in The Times London in favor of cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (which, for the record, Debito.org was never in favor of Japan getting in the first place).  Full text below.

But even then he words things carelessly when he writes:

“[…] Japan […] compared to the pandemic mess in the rest of the rich world [has] been doing well. With twice the population of Britain, Japan has registered about a tenth the number of coronavirus cases and one twentieth the deaths. This has nothing to do with vaccination, which has hardly begun in Japan — only a few tens of thousands of health workers have been jabbed — but rather good hygiene and an almost complete ban on foreign visitors. Now the government threatens to sacrifice these gains for the sake of money and prestige.”

COMMENT:  Portraying Japan’s apparent success at lower case numbers as due to an almost complete ban on “foreign visitors” is neither helpful nor accurate.

As Mr. Lloyd Parry surely must have known (since the ban affected him too as a Japan resident), this ban included foreign residents, not just visitors.  Not to mention that the British Covid variant was verifiably brought into Japan by Japanese.

Implicitly framing Covid as a “foreign virus” brought in by “foreign visitors” makes Japan seem to be a hermetically-sealed environment until the foreigners came in; and now “the government threatens to sacrifice these gains” from its apparent isolationism.  This rhetoric isn’t that far removed from calling Covid the “Chinese Virus” or the “Kung Flu“.  And we’ve seen the dreadful results of that kind of carelessness. (Including Japan.)

A moment’s reflection (which probably would have happened if Lloyd Parry were talking about minorities in Britain, especially at the editorial stage) would have brought about the realization that these are people we’re talking about, and how issues are couched in the media affects them, particularly if they’re Japan’s disenfranchised minorities.

If it were my article, I would have said “Japan strongly limited international travel“, which doesn’t zero in on foreigners in specific.

I’ll let others comment on the possible comparative issues of “good hygiene” (implying the rest of the rich world has bad hygiene?), and other factors that might lead to Japan undercounting actual virus cases (such as a lack of reliable contact tracing, and not testing the asymptomatic for Covid).

But in my view, keeping the Covid case numbers low was a matter of politics, not science:  to keep the Olympics on track.  Now even despite all that, Lloyd Parry makes a convincing argument for canceling the Games.  Fine.  But let’s be more careful how we point fingers, shall we?  We’ve seen enough of how foreign correspondents succumb to Japan-style racialized narratives just as soon as they talk about “foreigners” and Japan.  (Japan Times column on this implicit racism also here and here.)  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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It’s time to cancel this year’s Olympic Games
The risk to the world, not just Japan, of a super-spreading event in Tokyo this summer is too great
Richard Lloyd Parry
Wednesday March 03 2021, 12.01am GMT, The Times London, courtesy of RW
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/its-time-to-cancel-the-2021-olympic-games-3pb6sq9w9

All but the most fanatical music lovers would accept that, this summer at least, Glastonbury had to go. For the second year in a row the 50-year-old festival has been cancelled because of the pandemic. The disappointment is hard to overestimate: for plenty of people, Glastonbury should have been a moment of release after months of demoralising lockdown. But, as Sir Paul McCartney observed, “a hundred thousand people closely packed together with flags and no masks. Talk about super-spreader.”

Similar feelings of frustration, sadness and resignation are being experienced over cultural and sporting experiences around the world, from closed theatres and cinemas to empty football stadiums to the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s not that anyone personally objects to gardening enthusiasts but as a matter of common sense, and for the good of all of us, this is not the time for 157,000 of them to converge.

Consider then another international event, the grandaddy of them all. It will bring together more than 15,000 young participants from more than 200 countries plus several times that number of judges, sponsors, journalists and hangers-on. More than 11 million tickets are to be sold; tourists are supposed to pour in from across the globe.

If far smaller and shorter festivals are to be sacrificed in the interests of global public health, it seems obvious that such a massive event, spread over four weeks in the biggest city in the world, should also be cancelled. And yet officially, at least, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, postponed since last summer, are going ahead.

As Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, said the other week, “I am determined to achieve the games as a proof of human victory against the pandemic, a symbol of global solidarity and to give hope and courage around the world.”

The Olympic custodians like to talk about courage, humanity and other abstract virtues; in reality, they have more hard-headed reasons for pressing ahead regardless. The vast sums of money already spent on the games are only the most obvious, inextricably tangled up with other investments of prestige and power that make the prospect of cancelling them heart-sickening to a lot of very powerful and determined people.

Tokyo’s will be the most expensive Olympic Games ever mounted — even Japan’s government auditors put the cost at £18 billion or more, and the cost of postponement from last year has added £2 billion to that. No one seems to know, or is willing to say, how much has already been spent. But to call it off now would directly hurt some of the world’s biggest companies, including Coca-Cola, Visa and General Electric, and lead to years of legal arguments about who owes what to whom.

It would represent a withering humiliation for the Japanese government. It would be crushing to the young athletes who have spent years training for the world’s most prestigious sporting event. Money, power and glamour say that the Olympics have to go ahead whatever happens; they are the runaway train that cannot be stopped. The question of public health has been officially ruled out as a consideration. As Yoshiro Mori, the former Tokyo Olympic boss, said, “no matter what situation with the coronavirus, we will hold the games.”

This matters to people in Japan because, compared to the pandemic mess in the rest of the rich world, they have been doing well. With twice the population of Britain, Japan has registered about a tenth the number of coronavirus cases and one twentieth the deaths. This has nothing to do with vaccination, which has hardly begun in Japan — only a few tens of thousands of health workers have been jabbed — but rather good hygiene and an almost complete ban on foreign visitors. Now the government threatens to sacrifice these gains for the sake of money and prestige.

The Japanese authorities and the International Olympic Committee insist that they will do everything possible to Covid-proof the games. Details are far from clear. (More may emerge from a high-level meeting this week, but they are likely to include repeated testing of athletes who will essentially be locked down in their Olympic “village”.) Spectators, it seems, will be allowed, although it is not clear whether these will include foreign visitors.

The effect of all this will be to take the fun out of the Olympics without eliminating the risk that they will serve as a super-spreader event. It might work out, and if any country can pull off such a feat of regulation and enforcement it is Japan. But nobody can be sure. Pandemic trends may improve dramatically between now and July or there may be new surges in emerging variants of the virus that will make the Olympics a crucible of infection that will set the world back weeks or months.

There is one factor that should be decisive in all this: the views of ordinary Japanese people. About this there is no room for argument. Poll after poll has consistently shown that a majority of not only individual Japanese but even businesses oppose the holding of the games this summer.

This is not an expression of sour anti-Olympic sentiment but the reluctant acknowledgment of a grim truth. Whatever precautions the authorities take, people will sicken if the Tokyo Olympics go ahead. Some of them will die. That is not a price that anyone should be asked to pay.
ENDS

======================
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SNA VM 19: “Yoshiro Mori’s Overdue Comeuppance”, Feb 15, 2021, on how the former Japan Olympics Chair melded misogyny with racism — for decades!

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Hi Blog. My latest Shingetsu News Agency column recounts former Prime Minister and professional bigot Mori Yoshiro’s tenure as Japan representative, and the mystery behind Japan’s consistent waste of talent in favor of hopelessly incompetent and elitist old men. Enjoy. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities 19: Yoshiro Mori’s Overdue Comeuppance
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, February 15, 2021
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/02/15/visible-minorities-yoshiro-moris-overdue-comeuppance/

SNA (Tokyo) — When I started writing this month’s column, Yoshiro Mori, an 83-year-old fossil of Japanese politics, was still president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organising Committee, where he had come under fire for comments claiming that women in leadership positions “talk too much,” cluttering meetings with competitive chatter. He has since resigned, but in the wake has come much media commentary about Japan’s sexism and women’s disenfranchisement.

Photos appeared showing meetings of top-level Japan business organizations (such as Keidanren) that look like old-boy clubs. Pundits noted that Japan has slipped in the World Economic Forum’s gender-empowerment index to 121st place out of 153 countries measured (the lowest amongst the developed countries, behind China, Zimbabwe, Brunei, and Myanmar). And my favorite: Japan idiotically sending a man (Kono Taro) to the world’s first meeting of women foreign ministers in 2018.

All this has occurred despite former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much-touted policy of unlocking the women workforce as the “greatest potential for the growth of the Japanese economy.” He would create “a society in which women can shine.” Mori’s sexist comments make clear that hasn’t happened.

So let’s focus on what Mori himself represented: the worst of Japan’s politics, melding misogyny with racism…
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Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/02/15/visible-minorities-yoshiro-moris-overdue-comeuppance/

======================
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Reuters and ABC News: Tokyo 2020 chief Mori makes sexist remarks at Olympics meeting. It’s been within character for decades now, so retire him.

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Hi Blog. President of the 2020 Japan Olympics Committee (JOC), former abysmally unpopular PM, and professional geriatric grouch Mori Yoshiro has put his foot in it again. He’s gone off on the women allegedly cluttering his committees (he even got the number of them wrong), after there was a suggestion from somewhere that the gender imbalance on the committee be addressed. Articles follow, then comments:

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Tokyo 2020 chief Mori makes sexist remarks at Games meeting – newspaper
Reuters, Wed, February 3, 2021, courtesy of MG

https://sports.yahoo.com/tokyo-2020-chief-mori-makes-144553091.html

TOKYO (Reuters) – The president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee told a meeting on Wednesday that female directors talked too much, which was “annoying”, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister, made the comments, some of which were greeted with laughter, at a meeting with members of the Japanese Olympic Committee, the Asahi reported.

Tokyo 2020 could not be immediately reached for comment.

“If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” Mori said, according to the report from the Asahi, one of Japan’s leading daily papers. “We have about seven women at the organising committee but everyone understands their place.”

The JOC board has 25 members, of whom five are women.

According to the committee’s governance code, established in 2019, it should be aiming to make sure that 40% seats on the board are filled by women.

The 83-year-old Tokyo 2020 chief was already facing criticism for comments he has made about the Games, amid growing public opposition in Japan to holding the postponed event this summer while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging.

On Tuesday, Mori had told a meeting with Japan’s Sports Research Commission that “we will hold the Olympics, regardless of how the coronavirus (situation) looks”.

In response to those comments, Japanese comedian Atsushi Tamura, who was set to be an Olympic torchbearer, said he would decline to run in the torch relay due to begin March 25.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant and Mari Saito; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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ABC News adds (excerpt):

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Tokyo Olympics chief apologizes for sexist comments that women talk too much in meetings
“I deeply regret it,” he told reporters Thursday.
By Anthony Trotter and Morgan Winsor
ABC News (USA), February 4, 2021, Courtesy of the Author
https://abcnews.go.com/International/tokyo-olympics-chief-apologizes-sexist-comments-women-talk/story?id=75677674

Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister of Japan, made the remarks during an executive meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee that was held online Wednesday. When giving his “private opinion” about the committee’s goal of increasing the number of female board directors from 20% to more than 40%, Mori expressed concern about how that would affect the length of meetings, according to a report by The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest daily newspapers. […]

“A meeting of an executive board that includes many women would take time,” Mori was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “Women are competitive. When someone raises his or her hand and speaks, they probably think they should speak too. That is why they all end up making comments.” […]

Speaking at a hastily-prepared press conference on Thursday, Mori confirmed he made the comments and offered an apology.

“It was an inappropriate remark that went against the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics,” he said. “I deeply regret it and would like to sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have offended.”

When asked about the calls for his resignation, Mori told reporters: “I’m not considering resigning.” […]
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Rest of the article with more contextualizing information than the Reuters’ piece at
https://abcnews.go.com/International/tokyo-olympics-chief-apologizes-sexist-comments-women-talk/story?id=75677674

COMMENT from Submitter MG: “Just wanted to send another bit of good Debito fodder from our ol’ buddy Mori Yoshiro. Just another reminder of what a terrible choice it was to hire this jerk to head an Olympics that really should just never have been handed to Japan in the first place when there was still a ruined Tohoku that needed rebuilding. Were it not for the long-term economic consequences that will follow my beloved adopted home country due to folly of these Games, I would surely enjoy the schadenfreude of a group of elites getting egg all over their face.”

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Let me explain why this is a Debito.org Issue. First, Debito.org came out against Japan holding the Olympics because a) international events bring out the worst in Japan’s media and policing tendencies, and b) Japan played dirty pool to get them (including racist comments about fellow contender Istanbul being unsuitable as a venue because it is “Islamic”).  Because beating out other candidate countries, and getting reaffirmation that Japan still matters on the world stage, is what Japan’s leaders care about, not sports.  Heck, Japan can’t even play fair when there are “foreign competitors” within its DOMESTIC sports (see here, here, and here).

But then we get to Mori. We’ve covered him quite a bit on Debito.org for his racist comments (for example, about Japanese Olympians Chris and Cathy Reed, where he attributed their inability to medal because they were “naturalized”, not Real Japanese). Then we get to his bigoted statements about how Japan (aka the “Kokutai”) is the “Land of the Gods” (Kami no Kuni), a sentiment that belongs in the rhetoric of Prewar Japan leaders destined for defeat.

I called this entitled old man “a mould for gorilla cookies” long ago because even then I saw him as a waste of space.  He’s the type of Japan elite dinosaur zombie politician (in the same vein as equally useless Former PM Aso Taro) who feels like he can say whatever pops into his “shark brain” and not be held accountable for it.  Because he never really has.  Despite being a lousy leader, he just keeps on getting jobs leading things — in his case, high-profile sports committees (such as the Rugby World Cup in 2019) that turn into international embarrassments.  As it has again today.

To Japan, tolerating Mori Yoshiro is like tolerating gaffes from the UK’s Prince Philip.  But Mori is not royalty, endured only because his position is essential upholding an apparently sacrosanct system.  He should be retired from public service immediately even if he refuses to resign.  It’s obviously long overdue.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities column 18: “Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner” (Jan 18, 2021), on how Covid countermeasures disproportionately target Non-Japanese against all science or logic

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column’s point is this: Even after political leadership has finally shed Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government has found new ways to discriminate against foreign residents of Japan. This is no accident, as NJ were in no way protected, considered, or involved in this policymaking that profoundly affects them.  Soon, any foreign resident of Japan may be under threat of immediate deportation. Excerpt follows, full article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/01/18/visible-minorities-latest-visa-rules-could-purge-any-foreigner/  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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“Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner”

Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column 18, January 18, 2021

[…] New year, new salvo of foreigner bashing: Last week, the Suga administration unveiled re-entry rules that permit non-Japanese residents to re-enter the same as Japanese, as long as they completed the same paperwork and fourteen-day quarantine.

Good, but here’s the wrinkle: If you are found in violation of any quarantine regulations, you don’t just get in trouble like Japanese by, err, having your name made public. You may lose your visa status and get deported from the country. You read that right.

This policy was in reaction to the discovery of the United Kingdom mutation of Covid within Japan this month. But like most policy created in times of shock, it has hasty assumptions: that a foreign variant meant that foreigners were somehow responsible. In fact, the Patient Zeroes who came back from England and went out partying instead of quarantining were Japanese.

This new policy is ironic. In addition to the past year of Japanese media blaming foreigners for creating “foreign clusters,” it also ignores the lazy government response to Covid. Nobody at the national level wanted to take the responsibility for declaring a blanket state of emergency. But since infections have now reached record numbers, here comes the crackdown—and once again foreigners are being disproportionately targeted.

Granted, the government is now threatening to mete out jail time and fines for Japanese who don’t cooperate with measures to reduce Covid’s spread. This has occasioned the perfunctory hand-wringing about the effectiveness of punishment in curbing infections and “infringing too much on personal freedoms” for Japanese. I see that as part of the healthy give-and-take of political debate, to make sure things don’t go too far. But where is the parallel debate about the “freedoms” of non-Japanese residents who are receiving unequal treatment under the law?

A Japanese getting a fine or a spell in the clink is one thing, but it’s incomparable to a foreigner losing their legal status gleaned after years or decades of residency, followed by deportation and permanent separation from their lives, livelihoods, and families in Japan.

We know that one of the reasons Covid became a pandemic is because of asymptomatic transmission. So what if a person who doesn’t know they’re sick and hasn’t left the country gets linked to a cluster by contact tracing? If that somebody happens to be a foreigner, his or her life in Japan may well be over…

Read the rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/01/18/visible-minorities-latest-visa-rules-could-purge-any-foreigner/
======================
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Japan Times: J Govt’s pandemic border policy highlights their taking advantage of insecure legal status of foreign residents

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Hi Blog. In more remarkable reporting, Magdalena Osumi brings out the background thought processes behind Japan’s Covid measures that have constantly targeted foreigners in particular as vectors of infection. I will be talking more about this in my next SNA column out tomorrow, but before that, let’s get some insights into the mindsets of our government, which takes full advantage of the fact that foreigners in Japan have no guaranteed legal, civil, or even human rights under the Constitution in Japan because they don’t have citizenship. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Tokyo’s pandemic border policy highlights insecure status of foreign residents
By Magdalena Osumi, The Japan Times, Dec 30, 2020
Courtesy https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/30/national/japan-pandemic-foreign-residents/

Excerpt:
[…] Inequity between the treatment of Japanese and non-Japanese residents, including those with established residency status and decadeslong careers here, brought back to the surface long-standing frustrations over apparent struggles with multiculturalism in the nation, stirring debate on the status of foreign residents here and the extent of Japan’s preparedness for an influx of foreign workers that had been anticipated before the pandemic struck.

As questions linger over the government’s intentions behind the controversial rules, records and reports from behind the scenes of Japan’s fight against the pandemic have begun to emerge.

They highlight the limits of the nation’s immigration strategy, with decisions apparently made ad hoc amid chaos, and reveal the insecure status of foreign nationals in Japan and underlying discriminatory attitudes within society toward immigrants and expatriates.[…]

Japan’s handling of border control in the first months of the year was more chaotic.

That changed on April 3 when Japan introduced a draconian border control policy, banning entry by nearly all foreign residents from 73 countries and regions affected by the spread of the virus.

What prompted some of the most intense criticism of the policy was its failure to distinguish between short-term visitors and long-term residents — a decision that made it the only member of the Group of Seven that refused to allow residents with foreign passports to return to their homes in Japan from overseas.

What turned out to be the decisive factor in Japan’s implementation of the strict entry ban — and its reluctance to ease the restrictions — was a lack of preparedness to control entry procedures, together with poor testing capacity at airports. […]

Reports from government meetings do not show any sign of vigorous debate on the consequences of imposing strict restrictions on non-Japanese residents with legal residency status in the nation, despite concerns about international ties and a long-term impact on Japan’s economic interest. […]

On top of that, the government faced a challenge in implementing further restrictions on Japanese citizens, who are protected by a constitutional right to enter Japan. Foreign nationals, meanwhile, do not have such protection under the Constitution. […]

Throughout the year, health care experts on the government’s coronavirus task force expressed concern that they were unable to gain a comprehensive view of the attitudes held by foreign nationals toward the pandemic.

Officials were worried that language barriers, for example, may hamper access to information on basic anti-infection measures, such as avoiding the so-called Three C’s of closed spaces, crowds and close-contact settings.

But that their remarks suggesting inability among foreign nationals to adhere to health protocols were made alongside words of encouragement regarding the promotion of domestic tourism instilled a false perception that the pandemic in Japan was under control, in contrast to the situation abroad, while contributing to a narrative that foreign nationals may have posed a threat…

Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/30/national/japan-pandemic-foreign-residents/
======================
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My latest SNA VM column 16: “US Elections Repudiate Trump’s Japan-Style Ethnostate”, suggesting that the US might be taking real steps towards a post-racial society, Nov. 16, 2020

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Visible Minorities 16: US Elections Repudiate Trump’s Japan-Style Ethnostate
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, November 16, 2020

SNA (Tokyo) — The US elections captured the world’s attention. No wonder. Given America’s hegemony as an economic, political, cultural, and military power, the results underpin the future of geopolitics and world order.

But here’s another angle: This election offers the world some insights into how countries painfully evolve into multiethnic, post-racial societies. It even demonstrated how enfranchised people would rather destroy their governing system than relinquish power.

Fortunately, they didn’t win. Let’s recount some important facts.

The contest between incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was indeed, as depicted in campaign slogans, a battle for the “soul of America.”

At stake was whether Trump’s nepotistic, corrupt administration—one that shamelessly used whatever means they could to perpetuate their power, punish political enemies, and undermine democracy both domestic and worldwide—would get four more years; or whether America’s place as a world leader, for better or worse, would be restored to less capricious leadership, with policymaking sane enough to keep its own citizens alive in a self-inflicted pandemic.

Clearly American voters chose the latter course; Biden won. He got five million more votes in an election where more people voted for a president than ever before, with voting rates on track to be among the highest in modern US history. […]

[There are of course some caveats, and] given the current status of Trump refusing to concede the election, and his lackeys interfering with a transition to the presumptive winner, it’s clear that no matter who wins, Republicans feel they are the only ones entitled to run the country. They view cheating, sabotage, soliciting foreign interference, and spreading unscientific conspiracy theories as fair play. The United States’ 233-year experiment in democracy be damned; 73 million voters in this election agreed with Trump’s authoritarianism. The intractable polarization of American politics is complete.

Still, the fact remains that this election was a repudiation of Trump, and, in retrospect, it’s a textbook example of democracy in action. […]

Ultimately, the history books will remember this about the past four years: Trump was the worst president in American history—the only one who was impeached, served only one term, and lost the popular vote. Twice.

Well, good for the United States. But there are also lessons here for Japan, particularly its minorities: how countries make slow and painful transitions to a post-racial society…

Read the rest on SNA at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/11/16/visible-minorities-us-elections-repudiate-trumps-japan-style-ethnostate/

======================
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My latest SNA VM column 14: “Visible Minorities: Weaponizing the Japanese Language”, on how Foreign Minister Motegi’s discriminatory treatment of Japan Times reporter Magdalena Osumi is part of a bigger phenomenon, Sept 21, 2020

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Hi Blog. My latest Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities column 14 discusses how Japan weaponizes its language to require “perfect Japanese” from non-native speakers only, and when they can’t speak it perfectly, they get discriminated against. Consider this:

===================================
Visible Minorities: Weaponizing the Japanese Language
Shingetsu News Agency, SEP 21, 2020 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN

http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/09/21/visible-minorities-weaponizing-the-japanese-language/

On August 28, Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s foreign minister, was giving an official press conference to reporters in Japanese. A foreign reporter for Japan Times, Magdalena Osumi, asked some questions in Japanese. When Osumi followed up on a point he left unclear, Motegi responded to her in English.

Osumi then retorted in Japanese, “You needn’t treat me like I’m stupid. If we’re talking in Japanese, please answer in Japanese.” Damn right.

How many times has this happened to you? You ask a question in Japanese of a shop keep, clerk, passerby, or somebody on the other end of a telephone, and they flake out because you got some words in the wrong order, had an accent, or just have a foreign face? Many automatically assume that because you’re foreign-looking or -sounding, you must be able to speak English. So they reply in English.

Or how many times, as a budding Japanese language learner, were you told that what you just said “is not Japanese,” not “it’s not correct Japanese”? Just a flat-out denial, as if your attempt is in some alien tongue, like Klingon.

This phenomenon, where it’s either “perfect Japanese” or you get linguistically gaijinized, is odd. It’s also based upon a myth…
===================================

Read the rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/09/21/visible-minorities-weaponizing-the-japanese-language/

The video of that Motegi press conference is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdlt9n5FDUU (watch from around minute 2 onwards)

Other sources within the SNA article:

Japan Times: In case you missed it: Trump’s awkward response to a Japanese reporter:
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/08/world/politics-diplomacy-world/in-case-you-missed-it-trumps-awkward-response-to-a-japanese-reporter/ 

Mainichi: Minister under fire for questioning foreign journalist’s Japanese at press conf.
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200902/p2a/00m/0na/009000c

======================
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SNA Visible Minorities Column 11: Advice to Activists in Japan in general (in the wake of the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Japan Movement), June 22, 2020.

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Visible Minorities: Advice to Activists in Japan
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities Column 11, June 22, 2020
By Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/06/22/visible-minorities-advice-to-activists-in-japan/.

SNA (Tokyo) — Sparked by the George Floyd murder by police in America last month, street protests against official violence towards minorities and disenfranchised peoples have sprung up worldwide.

Japan has been no exception. Within recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a wider range of people are finally decrying, for example, the Japanese police’s racial profiling and violence towards visible minorities.

I’ve talked about these and other issues for years, devoting significant space both on Debito.org and in my book Embedded Racism: Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination. That said, it should be noted that my position in Japan as a white male with naturalized Japanese citizenship has provided me significant privilege; in all humility I am not in the best position to offer advice to people who have the right (nay, obligation) to create their own identities, narratives, and agendas as they see best.

Nevertheless, this column would like to point out some of the pitfalls that activists may face in Japanese society, based upon my experience fighting against racial discrimination here for nearly thirty years. Please read them in the helpful spirit they are intended:

1) Remember that, in Japan, activists are seen as extremists

Japan has a long history of activism and protest. However, the historical narrative generally portrays activists (katsudouka) as radical, destructive elements (kagekiha), most famously the Japanese Red Army; the Revolutionary Communist League, National Committee (Chukakuha); the Japan Revolutionary Communist League, Revolutionary Marxist Faction (Kakumaruha); or even just labor unions like the Japan Teachers’ Union (Nikkyoso). If you’re out there protesting, you’re automatically seen by many Japanese as angry, unapproachable, and unable to be reasoned with.

Furthermore, public demonstrations are treated with undue alarm. They’re not, for example, normalized as a phase college kids go through and grow out of. In fact, youth might become unemployable if they carry on beyond college. That’s why high-profile student group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) disbanded as soon as their leaders approached the job market.

Additionally, the government has a long history of suppressing voices from the left more than the racket from rightwing conservatives and reactionaries, as seen in their regular rounds of unfettered sound trucks. It’s not an even playing field for human-rights advocates. That’s why there arguably isn’t a successful example of leftist protests ever decisively changing the course of government in Japan. (Contrast that with, say, the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960s, so romanticized in Western media, which even undermined presidents overseas.)

The result is that the average person in Japan, especially your employer, will need to be convinced that what you’re doing is at all necessary, not to mention has a snowball’s chance of succeeding. Be prepared to do that.

2) Keep the debate focused on how discrimination affects everyone in Japan

One problem with protests for equal rights for “foreigners” is an assumption that the problem must be exogenous. It runs deeper than the sentiments of a) “foreigners are only ‘guests’ here, so they shouldn’t be rude to their ‘hosts’ by protesting,” or b) “if only you weren’t here disrupting our homogeneous society, your problem would just go away.” It’s again a problem with narrative.

Discrimination, particularly “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu), is generally taught in Japanese schools as something other countries do towards people with different skin color, notably US Segregation and South African Apartheid. Thanks to the daily mantras about our alleged monocultural, monoethnic “island society” closed off from the world for a zillion years, Japan generally doesn’t see how “race” could be a factor here. The logic is that homogeneous Japan has no races, therefore no “race relations” problems like other countries. The Japanese government has made precisely this argument to the United Nations.

That’s one reason why Japanese media reflexively deflects the issue into terms like “foreigner discrimination” (gaikokujin sabetsu), “ethnic discrimination” (minzoku sabetsu), or merely “cultural differences” (ibunka no chigai). All of these concepts miss the point that racial discrimination is in fact a longstanding domestic issue.

So refocus the issue back on the process of racialization. Reiterate at every opportunity that this is “racial discrimination,” and stress how, thanks to generations of naturalization and international marriage, there are plenty of Japanese citizens with diverse roots. Thus discrimination against “foreigners” also affects hundreds of thousands of Japanese people.

After all, Japanese society gloms onto “racial discrimination” against Japanese citizens abroad with a surprising amount of passion. So point out that it’s happening here too. And you’ll have to do it again and again, because you will have to convince a surprising number of people who refuse to believe that racism even exists in Japan.

3) Be wary of being fetishized

Remember that a certain degree of social resonance you may be feeling in your crowd is likely not the feeling of acceptance you might want; it is not equal footing with Japanese citizens. People often join in since protesting is “cool” because “foreigners are cool” or “pitiable” (kawaisou).

There is plenty of scholarly research (read Marvin D. Sterling’s Babylon East, for example) on how Japanese adopt “foreign cultures” only on a topical level, meaning without much interest in the actual mindset or experience of being a visible minority in Japan.

Collaborate with whoever shows up, of course. Just don’t get your hopes up too far. Some people who seem like supporters might only be fair-weather groupies. So don’t rely on them too much when it comes time for them to commit their names or faces in public.

4) Be ready for the long haul

Success, of course, requires not only widespread support in Japan, but also assistance from fellow Japanese human-rights activists. They are very practiced and determined, having done this sort of thing for decades. But remember: Activist groups in Japan are very cliquey. Often the barriers for entry and being accepted as “one of us” are pretty high.

Even though, at first, being seen as “pitiable” works in your favor, remember that the default attitude towards people seen as “foreigners” is “someone here only for the short-term.”

What I mean is “foreigners” are often treated like exotic birds, as something to study because you alighted on their balcony and have interesting plumage to look at. So they give you their attention for as long as you’re around. But once it seems you’ve flitted off, you’re quickly forgotten as merely a phase or a pastime. Then things reset back to the ingrained narratives of Japan as homogeneous and foreigners as temporary.

The only way you can defy that is by showing how deeply you’ve committed yourself to this issue for as long as possible, as people in those activist groups have. They’ve made this rallying cause a life mission, and they’ll expect you to as well. Otherwise, you’re just a fickle foreign hobbyist and doors slam.

Moreover, be careful of the “get in line” attitude that one (rightly) receives from other minorities in Japan (such as the Zainichi Koreans). They have been here much longer, fought much harder, and sacrificed more simply to exist in Japan. Avoid the one-upmanships over “who’s the bigger victim here?”

Instead, focus on what you all have in common: perpetual disenfranchisement, and how you have to work together to overcome that to make Japan a better place for everyone. Remember that power surrenders nothing without a fight, so dissolving into disagreeing leftist factions is precisely what the powerful want. The status quo wins by default that way.

5) Control your own narrative

Finally, don’t rely on people who aren’t in your position to understand or promote your narrative. Do it yourselves. Organize your own press conferences. Make sure that everything you release to the public and media is also in Japanese, and have some prominent public spokespeople who are minorities. It’s your voice. Don’t let even the best-intentioned interpreters and interlocutors inadvertently dilute it.

For example, last month, the people of diverse roots who spoke out fluently against the Shibuya police roughing up a Kurdish person were excellent examples of how to do it right. They were very effective in getting the message out both to print and broadcast media. More of that, please.

There you go: five pitfalls I might suggest you avoid. I hope you find them useful, even if I have a very limited understanding of what you’re going through. In any case, it’s your time and your social movement. I wish you success, and thanks for reading.  ENDS

For breaking news, follow on Twitter @ShingetsuNews

======================
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Debito interviewed by Shingetsu News Agency’s “Speakeasy” forum: “Japan’s Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus”, Apr 27, 2020

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

Hi Blog.  In lieu of a longer blog entry, here’s an interview I had with the Shingetsu News Agency, in one of their “Speakeasys” (25 minutes):

I’m making the case that the GOJ could be doing a much worse job taking care of their NJ Residents, but that’s because people have been vigilant about potential human rights abuses. It could very easily revert to racist and exclusionary habits if systems get overloaded or panic hits. Also, I argue that it’s also incumbent upon NJ Residents themselves to step out of their “Guestism” mentalities and claim their due as taxpayers and residents.

(If you haven’t become a supporter of this important (and solitary) venue for independent journalism in Japan, please do. $2 a month gets you access to all articles, including my “Visible Minorities” columns. It’s a worthy venture.)  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Debito’s SNA column: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, VM9, April 20, 2020 (archived full text)

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Hi Blog. My regular monthly Visible Minorities column is out at the Shingetsu News Agency, where I talk about how Japan is reverting to exclusionary type (egged on by an unaccountable ruling elite) when dealing with minorities in pandemic times. People in Japan are generally “live and let live” and “keep calm and carry on” when it comes to treating each other. It’s Japan’s incompetent leaders (notably a self-hating haafu American-Japanese politician named Onoda Kimi) who normalize discrimination in the name of shifting blame, I’m arguing. Here’s the column’s full text, archived for the record:

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

Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese
By Debito Arudou
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column, April 20, 2020

http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/04/20/visible-minorities-pandemic-releases-antibodies-toward-non-japanese/

SNA (Tokyo) — Pandemics can bring out the best in people. Newton came up with theories on calculus, optics, and gravity while in quarantine. Shakespeare wrote some of his best plays, and Edvard Munch created iconic paintings in isolation. Even today, we’re seeing heroes in the health care industry, volunteers sewing and distributing basic personal protective equipment, neighbors checking up on each other, and leaders stepping up their organizational skills. When the daily normal becomes a struggle between life and death, we see what people are really made of.

In Japan, we’re seeing much of the “keep calm and carry on” mettle found in a society girded for frequent natural disasters. But that grit hasn’t trickled upward to Japan’s political elite, which has ruled largely without accountability for generations, and at times like these appears particularly out of touch.

More concerned about the economics of cancelling the Tokyo Olympics than about the safety of the general public, Japan’s policymakers haven’t conducted adequate Covid-19 testing, exercised timely or sufficient social distancing, or even tallied accurate infection statistics.

As happened in prior outbreaks, such as SARS and AIDS, leaders have deflected blame onto foreigners. First China, then outsiders in general, starting with the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship (which, despite a third of its passengers being Japanese citizens, was even excluded from Japan’s coronavirus patient tallies).

But treating outsiders like contagion has consequences: Society develops antibodies, and Japan’s already-normalized discrimination intensifies.

Consider the case of Mio Sugita, a Liberal Democratic Party Lower House Diet Member from Tottori, who tweeted on April 4 that taxpaying Non-Japanese Residents should not receive the same financial support from the Japanese government as citizens. Supporting them should be the responsibility of their respective foreign countries. To her, being a registered resident and taxpayer is not enough to qualify.

Never mind that Japanese living abroad as residents and taxpayers aren’t being similarly treated. And never mind that this violates, for example, the principles behind totalization agreements, ensuring that Japanese and other nationalities can still receive a retirement pension despite straddling countries and tax homes during their working lives.

Of course, Sugita is famous for her stupid comments, including anti-LGBT statements in 2018 against government policies for “unproductive” same-sex couples because they don’t bear children. But the fact that a person like Sugita can be elected and remain in office is indicative of Japan’s pathological attitude towards minorities.

You can see how deep the pathology runs in Kimi Onoda, LDP Upper House Diet Member from Okayama. She similarly insinuated on March 30 that government subsidies should be denied Non-Japanese residents. But this is stunningly ironic because she was born in America to an American father. She even held American nationality until 2016 (when she was ratted out and gave it up), meaning she too was a foreigner in Japan.

That’s how deep Japan’s dehumanizing antibodies run — where even a self-hating haafu would effectively deny equal treatment to her own father! What immense psychological scars from childhood bullying have prompted her to deny any ties to her minority origins, and to pander for the approval of majority whim that Non-Japanese Residents belong on a separate and unequal tier in society?

Now, while sophists like Onoda might point out that there are issues of legal registration that complicate things, it’s not complicated at all. Simply put, Japan’s default mode is exclusion and minority discrimination.

It took 60 years of activist pressure before Japan allowed foreigners to be officially counted as Japan residents and family members (and to this day, foreigners are not included as spouses on family registries). The media still routinely excludes foreigners from national population tallies — as if only REAL Japanese count. And it trickles down into daily practice: Landlords, realtors, and shopkeepers at whim can refuse service to anyone who appears “foreign” with no real blowback. That’s in the best of times.

But these aren’t the best of times. In pandemic conditions, having politicians carelessly say that foreigners don’t deserve equal treatment justifies all sort of dehumanization.

For example, Japan’s inhumane official policy is that Non-Japanese, including Permanent Residents, who leave the country (even if they have to attend a funeral) won’t be let back in. Period. What’s next? Hospitals refusing entry to foreigners (which happens anyway)? Triage by nationality? Reserving ventilators for Japanese only? It all logically follows.

Pandemics can bring out the best in people. But they generally force people to decide who deserves to live. And in Japan, it’s ever clearer that, to many people in power, Non-Japanese don’t count as fellow human beings.

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

======================
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COVID-inspired racism as NJ Residents are separated and “othered” from fellow Japan taxpayers by Dietmembers and bureaucrats

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Hi Blog. We are witnessing the logical extension of generations of Wajin not seeing “foreigners” as part of Japan, i.e., where minorities are apparently nonexistent in Japan’s postwar-created “monocultural, monoethnic homogeneous society” narrative. It thus follows that Non-Japanese regardless of residency status in Japan are perpetually classified and treated as “guests“, subject to the whims of the Wajin majority to grant them any human rights, legal status, or access to public services.  Book “Embedded Racism” has taken up this issue in great detail.

Now in this time of pandemic crisis, we’re seeing people revert to type and say that “foreigners don’t deserve the same government support as Japanese”, even though NJ Residents are paying taxes and living in Japan like any other people. The most recent manifestation has been self-hating Upper House Dietmember Onoda Kimi, an American-Japanese (father is American) representing Okayama (this place seems to spawn racists).  She argues on Twitter that NJ Residents should not be granted the same access to proposed government cash subsidies for taxpayers in financial hardship.

As sent from a Debito.org Reader.  More information at the Change.org petition link:

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

小野田紀美【自民党 参議院議員(岡山県選挙区)】
⁦‪@onoda_kimi‬⁩
⁦‪@YoshiakiSabaiDi‬⁩ マインナンバーは住民票を持つ外国人も持ってますので、マイナンバー保持=給付は問題が生じます。
30/03/20, 22:36
Hello Debito,
I’m a NJ residing here in Japan from 12 years. I think you might find this interesting. Just go to her Twitter account to see the whole discussion. There’s also a petition going on asking this idiot to step down: https://www.change.org/p/自由民主党-差別議員-小野田紀美-自由民主党-氏の議員辞職を求めます?recruiter=842277911
///////////////////////////////////////////////////
On top of that there’s Lower House Dietmember Sugita Mio, hailing from Tottori, who is also tweeting sophistic arguments that financial support for Non-Japanese citizens in Japan is the responsibility of their respective countries, not the GOJ, completely overlooking their legally-obligated tax contributions to the Japanese government’s coffers:

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

Sugita is the same bigot who argued “there is no justification for efforts by the state and municipalities to invest taxpayers’ money into policies supporting same-sex couples because “these men and women don’t bear children — in other words, they are ‘unproductive.’” (Japan Times), so it’s entirely within character for her to shut out another set of minorities in Japanese society.

But it’s not just Japan’s pandering political elite.  Differentiating, “othering”, and subordinating NJ from Wajin is part of the normalized Embedded Racism within Japan’s bureaucracy and law enforcement as well:

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

Hi Debito,
Apparently, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare makes a clear distinction between Japanese and foreigner when it comes to coronavirus infection.
In this page we can see that they clearly specify that 1,099 of the 1,494 infected are Japanese.
The relevant text is here:
・患者1,494例(国内事例1,466例、チャーター便帰国者事例11例、空港検疫17例)
・無症状病原体保有者233
(国内事例195例、チャーター便帰国者事例4例、空港検疫34例)
・陽性確定例226例(国内事例226例)
・日本国籍の者1,099名(これ以外に国籍確認中の者がいる)

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

Hi Debito,

Japan’s proclivity for arbitrary detention continues — here we have a PR who was detained for 19 hours while looking foreign during a pandemic:

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

Iranian permanent resident held for 19 hours at Japan airport amid virus fears

(Mainichi Japan)

<https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200330/p2a/00m/0fe/016000c>

“According to the man, he was tested for infection with the novel coronavirus before then having his residency permits inspected by the Immigration Services Agency of Japan’s Narita Airport District Immigration Office. He was forced to spend 19 hours overnight under its jurisdiction without being offered food or water, and when the ordeal was over the authorities sought a total of 60,000 yen in fees for use of the room he was detained in and other costs.”

成 田入管で19時間留め置き 日本に20年暮らすイラン人の怒り <https://mainichi.jp/articles/20200329/k00/00m/040/079000c>

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

Regards, -JK

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So there’s some more Debito.org grist.  To be sure, this sort of stuff is happening worldwide.  But Debito.org’s mission is to catalog Japan’s hand in it, so there you go.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

======================
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APJ-Japan Focus’s Jeff Kingston on PM Abe and postponement of 2020 Tokyo Olympics; plus the inhumanity of the Japanese Govt

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Hi Blog.  I hope all Debito.org Readers and their loved ones are safe and well during this time of pandemic.

It’s time to talk about the politics of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and how Prime Minister Abe has put Japan at risk for the sake of a sports meet.

Dr. Jeff Kingston of Temple University Japan has posted a salient article today about the politicking between Abe’s minions and and the International Olympic Committee, and how Abe may exploit any crisis he exacerbated for his own political benefit.  It’s very much worth a read:

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

Kingston Abstract: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been widely criticized for ineptitude in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Keen to host the Olympics in 2020, he put public health at risk. Strong international criticism finally forced the IOC and Abe to accept the inevitable and defer the Olympics until 2021. Now both parties are now trying to claim credit for making this decision. The Japanese policy of limiting testing kept policymakers and citizens in the dark and handicapped responses to the outbreak. As the number of infections surges, the government is playing catch up. The combination of an accelerating COVID-19 outbreak in Japan and imminent global economic recession will hit Japan hard and could lead to Abe’s ouster. For now, there are growing concerns that he may exploit this crisis to advance his political agenda of constitutional revision.

Read the whole article at:

https://apjjf.org/2020/7/Kingston.html

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

COMMENT:  It bears articulating here that Japan (despite a number of premature “rosy” reports bordering on the typical “Japan is unique, special, and immune to world trends“) is now probably going to see its infected cases ramp up and people die.  For much the same reason that Trump initially called the pandemic a “hoax” (buying some time for him and his buddies to sell off their stock before the market crashed), Abe forewent systemic and widespread infection testing to make sure case numbers stayed low (even excluding the infected Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers, who were largely Japanese, from the national tally).  All because the people who have money would rather risk the lives of the elderly and immunocompromised (as happened in the 1980s with Japan’s Health Ministry and HIV-tainted blood) than let any economic impacts of postponing an Olympics reduce their political power or their already-stuffed wallets.

If the rich and powerful are so concerned about the economic well-being of the people who actually man and power national economies, they should re-seed much of their money back into subsidizing the incomes of people who can’t work during lockdown (while governments should pass national policies to temporarily suspend rents, mortgages, and rents on commercial properties).  So that people can all get through this crisis faster by hunkering down in place.  Not make things worse by being forced to work, contaminating each other in clusters, getting sick all at once and dying of insufficient care after overloading hospitals.  Tycoons could also drop a few hundred million on scientific research facilities and production of various PPEs to keep our health-care professions functional on the front lines.  (I’m sure they can get along just fine with their remaining few hundred millions.)

The short-sightedness and greed of people richer than God who won’t subsidize consumers and taxpayers (who have long subsidized THEIR lives) is astonishing.  Especially since a dead consumer/taxpayer and their remaining resentful kith and kin is of no use to them either.  This should be pointed out at every opportunity.

Instead (and this where the Debito.org subject matter comes in), we have Japanese media trying to blame foreigners again.  We’ve already seen the regular knee-jerk reaction (seen in health scares ere: e.g., “NJ have AIDS” (1986), “NJ have SARS” (2003)) of treating it as a “Chinese virus” (singling out Yokohama’s Chinatown).  Or even just portraying it as a general “foreign virus” and shutting out all “foreign” customers (including NJ residents who haven’t been abroad, but not Wajin who have).  But since we can’t blame foreign tourists anymore (world tourism has screeched to a halt), we’re now seeing regular media portraying it as a “returnee” virus (where Japanese returning from infected gaikoku are stigmatized).

Anything but blame the government for their political decision not embarrass or disrupt by testing widely and bringing on the lockdown. People will die for this.  Again, all for the sake of a sports meet.  Read Kingston above for more.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

======================
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Debito’s SNA Visible Minorities column 8: “No Free Pass for Japan’s Shirking Responsibility”, Mar 16, 2020 (full text archived)

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Hi Blog. I know everyone’s talking about the Coronavirus (and I do here too, for a bit). But my latest column backs the lens up to see this all in a larger context of Japan’s perpetual bad habits, and how they get a “free pass” even when those habits have adverse effects on the rest of the world. Especially when Japan is being held up as a model by many as a system that helps the powerful evade responsibility and transfer blame. Have a read.

One more note: Nowhere else in Japan but an independent news press like the Shingetsu News Agency would publish an article like this. This article will be behind a paywall in a few days, so please chip in $5 a month (I pay more) at the venue for access.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: No Free Pass for Shirking Responsibility
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, VISIBLE MINORITIES COLUMN 8
MARCH 16, 2020 by DEBITO ARUDOU
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/03/16/visible-minorities-no-free-pass-for-shirking-responsibility/

SNA (Tokyo) — There’s an oft-used expression in Japanese: sekinin tenka. Best translated as “passing the buck,” it’s a reflex of dodging blame for one’s own actions by transferring responsibility to others. For too long, Japan has done so on the world stage with impunity—even when it affects the world adversely.

Let’s start with, since it’s timely, the 3.11 Fukushima nuclear meltdown that took place nine years ago this month. While the earthquake and tsunami are not Japan’s fault, situating a nuclear power plant so perilously close to the coastline is; as is the perpetually-botched response of containment and leakage (even the willful dumping) of irradiated water into the Pacific Ocean.

Contrast that with the attention and criticism (and even a TV series) Russia got for Chernobyl, where the situation has finally been contained in a sarcophagus. In Japan, officials instead blamed world standards of safe radiation levels for being alarmist (adjusting them upwards for domestic political purposes) and declared Fukushima produce safe for consumption.

Even more timely is how sekinin tenka influenced Japan’s COVID-19 response.  I mentioned last column the cruise ship Diamond Princess, still docked at Yokohama harbor, where thousands of passengers are quarantined in what became a fast-breeder petri dish for Coronavirus.  Official dithering and silo-ing resulted in unsafe containment conditions (and the silencing of a medical-specialist whistleblower), exacerbating an international incident.  It got so out of control that respective governments had to swoop in and extract their citizens.  So far, seven passengers have died from these bureaucratic games.

But still responsibility has been evaded.  To this day, the Japan is the only country to exclude cruise ship passengers (many if not mostly Japanese citizens) from its national patient tallies.  It’s been inspiration to some:  Trump tried to get away with the same thing when another cruise ship recently docked in Oakland, California, when he decried, “I like the numbers being where they are.  I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”

In Japan, sekinin tenka is normalized enough to be a reflex, and it has a long history.

Consider Japan’s attitude towards its colonialism.  Despite two generations occupying and exploiting other Asian countries, it eschews any special ties that other colonists, such as Great Britain and the Commonwealth, have.  In fact, Japan so disavows any responsibility for its past that it classifies former Japanese citizens of empire (the Zainichi, whose ancestors worked, fought, and died for Japan) as “foreigners” even though their descendants have been born in raised in Japan for generations.

This is legitimized by Japan’s academia and intelligentsia.  Japan is the only modern former imperial power that has essentially evaded the self-reflections of postcolonialism, never truly coming to terms with its role as occupier and aggressor in two world wars.  Instead you get Japan’s narrative of self-exoneration and victimhood—so strong that some quarters even blame America for allegedly forcing Japan to attack Pearl Harbor.  This unchecked historical revisionism and denialism perpetually angers Japan’s neighbors and remains a destabilizing narrative in the region.

Finally, sekinin tenka approaches the absurd when you look at Japan’s race relations.  To this day, educators and opinion leaders (including even many overseas academics) see Japan’s racism as something exogenous, adopted from “Western concepts of race”.  Their argument runs that Japan was just mimicking other Western Imperialists, meaning the onus is somehow on Westerners for inspiring Japan.  Even today, Japan’s clearest examples of racism are excused with the logic that Japan’s discrimination can’t be “racial in the Western sense” because Japan apparently has no other races. 

But this is no accident.  Japan’s education system still teaches the concept of racial discrimination as something that only happens elsewhere, such as in the American South under Jim Crow or South Africa under Apartheid.  Result:  A society that won’t see and can’t address its own racism, and furthermore gets defensive when pointed out.

However, some might say, so what?  Who cares what Japan does as China becomes Asia’s leader?  But that overlooks how Japan’s bad habits continue to affect the world. 

How about Japan’s head start on global warming, after decades of unsustainable deforestation of other parts of Asia (such as Indonesia and The Philippines) for the sake of the continued practice of cosmetic overwrapping of products and disposable chopsticks?

How about Japan’s overmedication practices that spawned antibiotic-resistant superbugs that plague hospitals worldwide? 

How about Japan’s sponsorship of overseas university Japan Studies departments (now mimicked by China’s Confucius Institutes) as a means to blunt critical analysis of Japan?

How about Japan’s creation of unfettered anonymous internet forums (such as 2-channel) that have inspired online troll factories and bullying worldwide, to the point where they now polarize societies and influence elections?

And most importantly, how about Japan being used as a template for creating viable “ethnostates” worldwide, inspiring radical conservatives and xenophobes (most famously Steve Bannon and Trump)?  Japan has demonstrated how to keep a country racially “pure” by curbing immigration and blaming foreigners for multiple social ills (while happily importing foreigners as cheap disposable labor with few civil or political rights).

In fact, what’s been happening in the United States for the past three years has been happening in Japan for decades.  Japan’s ruling-elite kakistocracy has led the current “populism” wave undermining liberal democracies worldwide.

Ironic is that whenever China or Russia do the things that Japan does, they are quickly vilified as untrustworthy and antithetical to the values of liberal societies.  And rightly so.

But even a generation after the end of the Cold War, Japan is still getting a “free pass” under the legacy of anticommunism, what with Japan being the unshakable Asian ally of the “free world”.  Even President Obama’s “Pivot to East Asia” strategy chose to overlook Shinzo Abe’s revisionism and willful remilitarization of Japan.

Again, some might say, it really doesn’t matter.  Karma’s a bitch.  Senescent Japan will get theirs as students worldwide study China instead, and Japanese Studies fades into the sweetmeat pursuits of observing a soft-power superpower.

That would be a mistake.  Japan’s free pass on its bad habits is still hurting the world.

It is incumbent on people who still know a lot about Japan, such as our generation of scholars from the 1980s-1990s who studied Japan as an economic powerhouse (not an anime factory), to keep pointing out the bad habits.  How Japan is poisoning not only the oceans but also international relations in Asia.  How it is offering succor to xenophobes and megaphoning their intolerance.  And how it is fostering political systems where unaccountability is normal and shifting responsibility to others is a viable practice.

Allowing Japan to show the world how things are done will in fact help undermine liberal societies and democracies.  Let’s keep an eye on that.  Call out the sekinin tenka.

ENDS

 

======================
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My Japan Times JBC column 117: The annual Top Ten for 2019 of human rights issues as they affected NJ residents in Japan, Jan 6, 2020

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Hi Blog and Happy New Year. Here’s my Annual Top Ten for The Japan Times.  Thanks for putting this column in the Japan Times Top Five for several days running!

Let’s start with some Bubbling Unders/Notable Obits with didn’t make the cut for space concerns, and excerpt the rest. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
‘Low IQ’ kids, parental rights and problematic terminology dogged Japan’s international community in 2019
BY DEBITO ARUDOU, Column 117 for the Japan Times Community Page, January 6, 2020
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2020/01/06/issues/japan-international-community-2019/

For over a decade, Just Be Cause has recapped the previous year’s biggest human rights and human rights-related issues that have affected the non-Japanese community in Japan.

With the start of a new decade upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to mix a little of what was going on in 2019 and connect it to the broader topics that came up during the 2010s. Some are victories, some are losses — some are dangerous losses — but all of the entries below (in ascending order) are at the very least highly relevant to all of us.

Bubbling under:
The Ainu Recognition Law passes last February, meaning Japan is officially multiethnic.
Donald Keene, scholar who opened Japanese literature to the world but senselessly portrayed fellow NJ residents as criminals and cowards, dies aged 96.
Sadako Ogata, UN superstar for refugees who did surprisingly little for refugees in Japan, dies aged 92.
Yasuhiro Nakasone, assertive former Prime Minister with a history of claiming Japan’s superior intelligence due to a lack of ethnic minorities, and of operating wartime “comfort women” stations, dies aged 101.
Shinzo Abe becomes Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

10) Otaru onsen, 20 years on

In September 1999, several international couples (including myself) tried to take a public bath at an onsen (hot-spring bath) in Otaru, Hokkaido, but were met with a “Japanese Only” sign rather than friendly customer service. The people who looked insufficiently “Japanese” (including myself and one of my daughters) were refused entry, while those who did (including a Chinese foreign resident) were allowed in.

The same onsen refused me entry again even after I became a Japanese citizen, and a group of us took them to court. The case, which went all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court, found the onsen guilty of “discriminating too much,” while the city of Otaru — which was also sued for not enforcing the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination that Japan had ratified in 1996 — was found not liable.

Twenty years later, “Japanese Only” signs are still posted in places and Japan is still not living up to its international treaty commitments, with no national law protecting non-Japanese communities from racial discrimination.

9) Diversity in sports…

See if your favorite issue made the Top Ten (yes, Ghosn did, again).  Read the rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2020/01/06/issues/japan-international-community-2019/

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

======================
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Japan Times JBC 116: “‘Love it or leave it’ is not a real choice” (on how Trump’s alienation of critics of color is standard procedure in Japan), July 24, 2019

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Hi Blog. My latest Japan Times column, talking about how Trump’s recent use of a racist trope, denying people of color the right to belong in a society simply because they disagree with the dominant majority’s ideology, is taking a page from Japanese society’s standard tactics of forcing NJ and Visible Minorities to “love Japan or go home”. Excerpt follows below. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg
‘Love it or leave it’ is not a real choice
BY DEBITO ARUDOU, THE JAPAN TIMES, JUL 24, 2019

Roiling American politics last week was a retort by President Donald Trump toward congresswomen of color critical of his policies.

First he questioned their standing (as lawmakers) to tell Americans how to run the government. Then he said they should “go back” to the places they came from and fix them first.

For good measure, he later tweeted, “If you are not happy here, you can leave!

The backlash was forceful. CNN, NPR, The New York Times, Washington Post and other media called it “racist.” Others called it “un-American,” pointing out that telling people to go back to other countries might violate federal antidiscrimination laws.

The Atlantic was even apocalyptic, arguing that “what Americans do now (in response) will define us forever” as the world’s last great bastion of multiracial democracy.

Why is this an issue for this column? Because it’s hard to imagine a similar backlash happening in Japan, even though this kind of alienation happens here often. [In fact, in Japan it’s old hat…]

Rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2019/07/24/issues/love-leave-not-real-choice/

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

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Kyodo: Japan celebrates its South American Japanese diaspora. Praising them for doing what it complains NJ immigrants to Japan do. (Like take Nippon Foundation money to sterilize Peruvian indigenous peoples?)

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Hi Blog. Check out this article that appeared recently in The Japan Times, courtesy of the wire services:

///////////////////////////////////////
Princess Mako meets with Peruvian president, expresses gratitude for acceptance of Japanese immigrants
KYODO, JIJI JUL 12, 2019 (excerpt), courtesy of Andrew in Saitama
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/07/12/national/princess-mako-meets-peruvian-president-expresses-gratitude-acceptance-japanese-immigrants/

LIMA – Princess Mako paid a visit to Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Thursday in Lima during her trip to mark the 120th anniversary of the start of Japanese immigration to the South American country.

“I feel Japanese Peruvians are treated very well in Peru. I’m grateful that Peru accepted Japanese immigrants,” the 27-year-old princess, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino, said during the meeting at the president’s office.

Vizcarra said he is glad that Japanese Peruvians are actively involved in various fields.

The president also showed his gratitude to Japan’s contribution to Peru in the areas of technological and economic cooperation and archaeology. […]

She later met at a hotel in Lima with representatives of Japanese people living in Peru and Japanese volunteers dispatched by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, thanking them for their efforts in the country. […] On Wednesday, she attended a ceremony marking the immigration anniversary and met with Peruvians of Japanese descent. She is scheduled to travel to Bolivia on Monday to mark the 120th anniversary of the start of Japanese immigration to that country, and return home on July 22.
/////////////////////////////////////////

Full article at
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/07/12/national/princess-mako-meets-peruvian-president-expresses-gratitude-acceptance-japanese-immigrants/

As Debito.org Reader Andrew in Saitama recently commented:

“Team Japan celebrates its emigrants for their contributions (i.e. being Japanese) – essentially praising them for doing what it complains its immigrants do.”

But Reader JDG went even further:

“Notice they don’t talk about LDP members funding Peruvian government forced sterilization of ethnic minorities. That’s some Japanese contribution to Peruvian society!”

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

Mass sterilisation scandal shocks Peru
BBC News, Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, courtesy of JDG
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2148793.stm

More than 200,000 people in rural Peru were pressured into being sterilised by the government of former President Alberto Fujimori, an official report has revealed.

The Health Minister, Fernando Carbone, said the government gave misleading information, offered food incentives and threatened to fine men and women if they had more children.

Poor indigenous people in rural areas were the main targets of the compulsive family planning programme until 2000, when Mr Fujimori left for Japan amid mounting corruption allegations against him.

Mr Carbone said there was evidence that Mr Fujimori and a number of high-ranking ministers could be held responsible for “incorrect procedures” and “human rights violations”.

He called for a deeper investigation and promised that action would be taken against those found responsible for the forced sterilisations.

‘Deceitful’ campaign

Figures show that between 1996 and 2000, surgeons carried out 215,227 sterilising operations on women and 16,547 male vasectomies.

This compared to 80,385 sterilisations and 2,795 vasectomies over the previous three years.

The result has been a demographical drop in certain areas, leaving an older population and the economic disadvantages which will result from fewer people able to earn a living.

The report, by the commission investigating “voluntary contraceptive surgery” activities, concluded that there had been numerous programmes during the Fujimori regime which threatened poor women in Peru.

The operations were promoted in a “deceitful” publicity campaign of leaflets, posters and radio advertisements promising “happiness and well-being,” the report said.

Investigations found that there was inadequate evaluation before surgery and little after-care.

The procedures were also found to have been negligent, with less than half being carried out with a proper anaesthetist.

The commission’s report said the inadequate family planning policy had a psychological and moral impact and harmed the dignity and physical integrity of men as well as women.

Threats

Five hundred and seven people, from rural areas such as Cuzco and Ancash, gave testimonies to the commission.

Only 10% of these admitted having voluntarily agreed to the sterilisation procedure after promises of economic and health incentives such as food, operations and medicines.

Others said that if they refused they were told they would have to pay a fine and would not be able to seek medical help for their children.

The report added that most of the women interviewed said they were scared of talking because of threats made against anyone who spoke out.

The programme was found to have been designed, encouraged and monitored at the highest levels in Fujimori’s government, including the president’s office.

The number of operations, and pressure from government, started to fall after increasing concerns from human rights organisations within Peru and the international community.

ENDS

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

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Now, before anyone writes in and says, “You’re being racist.  Alberto Fujimori didn’t do this BECAUSE he is Japanese.  He just happened to be of Japanese descent.” (And self-claimed citizenship.) While doing monstrous things.

However, remember that Fujimori WAS being funded by the right-wing Nippon Foundation (founded by war criminal Sasakawa Ryouichi), especially when it was being headed by self-proclaimed South African Apartheid supporter (and apparently personal friend of Fujimori’s) Sono Ayako.

Meaning Fujimori, with the help of Japanese eugenicists, was cleansing Peru’s countryside of Peruvian indigenous peoples without proper medical procedure or oversight.

We’ve covered Sono Ayako’s ideological hijinks and Alberto Fujimori’s international criminal activity (which is why he is in prison now) on Debito.org before.  What’s missing from this celebration of Japanese history in South America, as JDG notes, is Japan’s hand in modern human rights atrocities overseas.  Thanks to Debito.org Readers for keeping this information alive.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

============================
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SCMP: Japan needs thousands of foreign workers to decommission Fukushima nuclear site. High irony alert: First blame NJ, then have them clean up your deadly messes.

mytest

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Hi Blog. In the wake of renewed interest in nuclear disasters thanks to HBO’s miniseries “Chernobyl” (which I watched from more of a political science perspective than a popcorn disaster movie), I harked back to the Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown of 2011.

There was a similar outcome, in that the fiasco demonstrated the shortcomings of a system built upon institutional lying.  However, the main difference was that Fukushima helped bring down the government (the DPJ), but, unlike the Soviet system, not the architects of this corrupt system in the first place (the LDP), who remain in power stronger than ever.

But as far as Debito.org is concerned, the other big difference is that the Soviets didn’t import foreigners to do their cleanup. Unlike Japan, as Debito.org has pointed out for many years now — to the point where TEPCO not only tricked Japan’s poor or homeless into doing this dirty work, but also NJ asylum seekers!

The news is that the trickery has now become above-board.  TEPCO is taking advantage of a new visa regime (see item #1), designed to fill Japan’s construction sites and convenience stores, giving NJ laborers jobs that put them in harm’s way (after Japan ironically blamed foreigners for the fallout after 3/11 in the first place; see also here.)

Read on. Kudos to the SCMP for reporting on an angle the overseas media has largely ignored.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

(PS.  Enjoy this Gaijin-handling propaganda video I found, with the obfuscating language of officialdom directly translated from the Japanese.  There’s even a scene clearly designed for foreign consumption of NJ being fed Fukushima fish!)

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

Japan needs thousands of foreign workers to decommission Fukushima plant, prompting backlash from anti-nuke campaigners and rights activists
Activists are not convinced working at the site is safe for anyone and they fear foreign workers will feel ‘pressured’ to ignore risks if jobs are at risk
Towns and villages around the plant are still out of bounds because radiation levels are dangerously high
Julian Ryall, South China Morning Post, 26 Apr, 2019
https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/3007772/japan-needs-thousands-foreign-workers-decommission-fukushima

Anti-nuclear campaigners have teamed up with human rights activists in Japan to condemn plans by the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to hire foreign workers to help decommission the facility.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has announced it will take advantage of the government’s new working visa scheme, which was introduced on April 1 and permits thousands of foreign workers to come to Japan to meet soaring demand for labourers. The company has informed subcontractors overseas nationals will be eligible to work cleaning up the site and providing food services.

About 4,000 people work at the plant each day as experts attempt to decommission three reactors that melted down in the aftermath of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the huge tsunami it triggered. Towns and villages around the plant are still out of bounds because radiation levels are dangerously high.

TEPCO has stated foreign workers employed at the site must have Japanese language skills sufficient for them to understand instructions and the risks they face. Workers will also be required to carry dosimeters to monitor their exposure to radiation.

Activists are far from convinced working at the site is safe for anyone and they fear foreign workers will feel “pressured” to ignore the risks if their jobs are at risk.

“We are strongly opposed to the plan because we have already seen that workers at the plant are being exposed to high levels of radiation and there have been numerous breaches of labour standards regulations,” said Hajime Matsukubo, secretary general of the Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre. “Conditions for foreign workers at many companies across Japan are already bad but it will almost certainly be worse if they are required to work decontaminating a nuclear accident site.”

Companies are desperately short of labourers, in part because of the construction work connected to Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic Games, while TEPCO is further hampered because any worker who has been exposed to 50 millisieverts of radiation in a single year or 100 millisieverts over five years is not permitted to remain at the plant. Those limits mean the company must find labourers from a shrinking pool.

In February, the Tokyo branch of Human Rights Now submitted a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva demanding action be taken to help and protect people with homes near the plant and workers at the site.

“It has been reported that vulnerable people have been illegally deceived by decontamination contractors into conducting decontamination work without their informed consent, threatening their lives, including asylum seekers under false promises and homeless people working below minimum wage,” the statement said. “Much clean-up depends on inexperienced subcontractors with little scrutiny as the government rushes decontamination for the Olympic Games.”

Cade Moseley, an official of the organisation, said there are “very clear, very definite concerns”.

“There is evidence that foreign workers in Japan have already felt under pressure to do work that is unsafe and where they do not fully understand the risks involved simply because they are worried they will lose their working visas if they refuse,” he said.

In an editorial published on Wednesday, the Mainichi newspaper also raised concerns about the use of semi-skilled foreign labourers at the site.

“There is a real risk of radiation exposure at the Daiichi plant and the terminology used on-site is highly technical, making for a difficult environment,” the paper said. “TEPCO and its partners must not treat the new foreign worker system as an employee pool that they can simply dip into.”

The paper pointed out that it may be difficult to accurately determine foreign employees’ radiation levels if they have been working in the nuclear industry before coming to Japan, while they may also confront problems in the event of an accident and they need to apply for workers’ accident compensation. TEPCO has played down the concerns.

“About 4,000 Japanese workers are already working on the decommissioning and clean-up work at Fukushima Dai-ichi,” the company said. “The amendment to the regulations on workers from overseas is a measure that creates more employment opportunities, including for foreign nationals with specific skills.

“In March, TEPCO explained the new regulations to its contractor companies involved in the clean-up work at Fukushima Dai-ichi and we have also confirmed that those companies will be in compliance with the regulations covering the safety of workers.”
ENDS

=============================
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Yomiuri: GOJ now requiring hospitals (unlawfully) demand Gaijin Cards from NJ as a precondition for medical treatment

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Related to recent discussions about public refusals of service for either not complying with (unlawful) demands for NJ ID, or denial of service anyway when people in charge arbitrarily decide a visa’s length is not long enough, mentioned below is a move by the GOJ to require hospitals demand Gaijin Cards etc. (as opposed to just requiring medical insurance cards (hokenshou), like they would from any Japanese patient) as a precondition for providing treatment to sick NJ.

Granted, the Yomiuri article below notes that for Japanese patients, the government is “considering” requiring a Japanese Driver License etc. as well, because the hokenshou is not a photo ID.  But once again, NJ are clearly less “trustworthy” than the average Japanese patient, so NJ will have more (again, unlawful) rigmarole first.

But there’s a deeper pattern in this policy creep.  Recall the “Gaijin as Guinea Pig” syndrome we’ve discussed on Debito.org for well over a decade now:  Public policies to further infringe upon civil liberties are first tested out on the Gaijin — because foreign residents even Constitutionally have much fewer civil liberties — and then those policies are foisted on the general public once the precedent is set.   So once again, the GOJ is taking advantage of the weakened position of NJ to assume more government control over society.

NB:  There’s also a meaner attitude at work:  Note in the last paragraph of the article below the echoes of 1980‘s “foreigners have AIDS” paranoia creeping into LDP policy justifications once again.  I say “mean” because the point would have been made by just stopping at “the person fraudulently used somebody else’s insurance”.  And I’m sure presenting a Gaijin Card would have fixed the AIDS issue!  (Not to mention that the GOJ apparently WANTS people to get AIDS screening, especially if they’re visibly foreign!)  Such ill-considered policymaking signals!

Meanwhile, don’t expect equal treatment as a patient if you get sick while foreign.  It’s official policy.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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

病院で「なりすまし防止」外国人に身分証要求へ
2018/11/18(日)  読売新聞, Courtesy of SendaiBen and MJ
https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20181118-00050002-yom-pol

(写真:読売新聞)

政府は外国人が日本の医療機関で受診する際、在留カードなど顔写真付き身分証の提示を求める方針を固めた。来年4月開始を目指す外国人労働者の受け入れ拡大で、健康保険証を悪用した「なりすまし受診」が懸念されるためだ。外国人差別につながらないよう、日本人にも運転免許証などの提示を求める方向だ。

来年度にも運用を始める。厚生労働省が在留外国人への周知徹底を図るとともに、身分証の提示要請を各医療機関に促す。

国民皆保険制度を採用する日本では、在留外国人も何らかの公的医療保険に原則として加入することが求められる。保険証を提示すれば、日本人か外国人かを問わず、原則3割の自己負担で受診できる。ただ、保険証には顔写真がついていない。「別人かもしれないと思っても『本人だ』と主張されると、病院側は反論が難しい」(厚労省幹部)という。

自民党の「在留外国人に係る医療ワーキンググループ」が医療関係者や自治体から行ったヒアリングでは、なりすまし受診の実例が報告された。神戸市では不法滞在のベトナム人女性が2014年、日本在住の妹の保険証を悪用してエイズウイルス(HIV)の治療を受けていた。他人の保険証で医療費の自己負担軽減を受けることは、違法行為に当たる可能性がある。

ends

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

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Record 2.73 million NJ residents in Japan in 2018; media also shoehorns in mention of NJ crime, without mention of NJ contributions

mytest

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Hi Blog.  After a dip a few years ago, the population of NJ continues to rise, now reaching a new record, according to the Mainichi and the Yomiuri below.

This will probably continue, since, as I have noted in previous writings (see #1 here too), the Japanese Government is actively seeking to bring in NJ to fill perpetual labor shortages.  But as noted, it won’t be treated as an “immigration policy”, meaning these people won’t be officially encouraged to stay.  Nor will they be treated with the respect they deserve (as usual) for their valuable contributions to society.  As submitter JK notes, “Of course these reports aren’t complete without the obligatory linkage between ‘foreign’ and ‘crime’ (i.e. illegal overstayers).”  (The Yomiuri, true to form, puts that information in the very second sentence!)

When will the GOJ decide to give us some stats on how much NJ, as workers, contribute to the bottom line by keeping companies staffed and in business?  Or by paying taxes?  Other countries manage to come up with these kinds of figures, so why can’t Japan?  Well, because that would encourage regular folk to have justifications for seeing NJ as human beings, and wanting them to stay for reasons beyond facile curiosity/exploitation.  Can’t have that, can we.  Debito Arudou PhD.

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

Record 2.73 mil. foreign residents living in Japan in 2018
March 22, 2019 (Mainichi Japan), Courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190322/p2g/00m/0dm/087000c

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A record 2,731,093 foreigners were registered living in Japan at the end of 2018, up 6.6 percent from a year earlier, bolstered by a rising number of students and technical trainees, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

The government is expecting a further rise in foreign residents under a new visa system to be implemented next month with the aim of attracting more foreign workers amid a severe shortage of labor in the country.

Among registered residents, technical trainees numbered 328,360 or a jump by 19.7 percent from a year before, and foreign students stood at 337,000, up by 8.2 percent.

Based on nationality, Chinese made up the largest group with 764,720, followed by South Koreans at 449,634. Vietnam, which sends the most technical trainees to Japan, ranked third with 330,835 residents, up 26.1 percent.

The number of foreigners illegally staying in the country rose by 11.5 percent to 74,167 as of Jan. 1, the ministry said.

Of those, the largest group was South Koreans with 12,766, down 0.9 percent from a year earlier.

Vietnamese came second at 11,131, a 64.7 percent jump, followed by Chinese at 10,119.

Those with permanent residency constituted the largest group among registered residents at 771,568, up by 3 percent, although the number of registered Koreans with special permanent status decreased by 2.5 percent to 321,416.
ENDS

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

Foreign residents increase to record 2.73 mil.
March 23, 2019 Jiji Press/Yomiuri Shinbun, Courtesy of JK
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0005624612

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The number of foreign nationals living in Japan as of the end of 2018 grew 6.6 percent from the year before to a record 2,731,093, rising for the sixth consecutive year, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

The number of illegal residents as of Jan. 1 this year jumped 11.5 percent to 74,167, up for the fifth straight year, the ministry said.

The increases in both categories chiefly reflected a rise in the number of people coming from Vietnam as technical trainees.

The number of foreign residents is projected to grow further as the government is slated to create new types of resident status next month in order to accept more workers from abroad.

By nationality, Chinese made up the largest group, at 764,720, or nearly 30 percent of the total number of legal foreign residents, including medium- to long-term stayers as well as specially permitted permanent residents.

South Koreans were the second most at 449,634, followed by Vietnamese (330,835), Filipinos (271,289) and Brazilians (201,865).

Vietnamese were the sole foreign nationality that marked double-digit growth, climbing 26.1 percent.

South Koreans topped the list of illegal foreign residents, though their number fell 0.9 percent to 12,766.

Vietnamese followed, surging 64.7 percent to 11,131. They include trainees who fled companies they were working for after finding it difficult to repay debts taken on to pay fees to malicious trainee-dispatch organizations at home, the ministry said.
ENDS

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

PS:  JK also sends further word about where many of these dreaded “foreign overstayers” might be coming from, and it’s not from the original work visa-ed imported labor force:

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

JK:  …apparently 東京福祉大学 (Tokyo University of Social Welfare) is practically hemorrhaging foreign overstayers:
Gov’t investigates 700 foreign students AWOL from Tokyo college <http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190318/p2g/00m/0dm/050000c>
Univ. campus inspected after 1,400 foreign students go AWOL <http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190326/p2g/00m/0dm/058000c>

PPS:  Here’s another reason why NJ workers go AWOV:

Probe reveals 759 cases of suspected abuse and 171 deaths of foreign trainees in Japan
BY MAGDALENA OSUMI, STAFF WRITER, THE JAPAN TIMES. MAR 29, 2019

A recent probe into Japanese firms using the state-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program to deal with acute labor shortages has revealed 759 cases of suspected abuse, including unpaid wages, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

The findings confirm growing concerns about the link between the interns’ working conditions and their disappearances from work. Last year, the number of missing foreign trainees rose to 9,052, compared with 7,089 the previous year. As of December, 328,360 foreign people were registered as technical interns.

The results of the probe showed that 231 interns weren’t paid overtime wages and another 58 were being paid below the legal minimum. One intern was paid only ¥60,000 per month during a 7-month stint and received an hourly payment of ¥700 for an average of 60 hours of overtime per month.

The ministry also found that 171 interns died while in the program between 2012 and 2017, the officials said. There were some 150,000 foreign trainees in 2012 and about 270,000 in 2017…

Rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/03/29/national/probe-reveals-759-cases-suspected-abuse-foreign-trainees-japan-171-deaths/
=========================
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Debito’s first article in Shingetsu News Agency: “The Japan Times Becomes Servant to the Elite” (Feb 2, 2019) (FULL TEXT)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  A couple of days ago I commented on an article in the Japan Times by a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs diplomat and TV pundit Miyake Kunihiko (or “Kuni”, for gaijin ingratiation) who has a weekly JT space for his musings.  A pedigreed elite trained in international “Gaijin Handling”, Miyake clumsily talks about Japan’s race relations and multiethnic future by critiquing tennis champ Osaka Naomi’s “Japaneseness”.

My JT comment helped draw readers to the article, and I’ve just written my first feature piece for the Shingetsu News Agency (the only independent English-language media left in Japan not toeing a Japanese government line) about what Miyake’s article indicates in terms of the decline in the JT’s analytical abilities, as it swings rightward to knuckle under to revisionist pressure on Japanese media and curry favor with Japan’s elites.  It also cites other research from Reuters and the Asia-Pacific Journal (Japan Focus).  Full text follows for the record.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

The Japan Times Becomes Servant to the Elite
By Debito Arudou

Shingetsu News Agency, February 2, 2019

Courtesy http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2019/02/02/the-japan-times-becomes-servant-to-the-elite/ (full text reproduced with permission)

SNA (Honolulu) — On January 28, the Japan Times published an opinion piece titled, “How Japanese is Naomi Osaka?” Author Kunihiko Miyake “felt something odd” about how the multiethnic tennis champ could ever “represent Japan.” Miyake’s article is indicative of how the quality of analysis has slipped under the Japan Times’ new ownership, and suggests how the purposes of the organization have changed…

To start with Miyake and his most recent article, he questions just how “Japanese” Naomi Osaka is: “Yes, she is [the first Japanese to be ranked World No. 1 in tennis]. But not quite so, is she?” He goes on to pick over her Haitian-American-Japanese background, noting that she “calls America home” and plays for Japan because of “more financial support.”

His insinuation is that foreigners such as Osaka are motivated to come to Japan for the money, not because they actually like the place and want to contribute.

Miyake’s column then veers off topic to snipe at “stereotypical comments on Osaka’s victory” made by “expat pundits living in Japan” who “criticize xenophobia and discrimination in Japanese society.” He is suffused with righteous indignation after his own not-entirely-logical detour.

He concludes that discrimination and xenophobia are “quite common everywhere.” He asks: What about discrimination in the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States? The “whataboutism” is indeed strong in this one, as well as the “foreigners can’t criticize Japan” sentiment.

Miyake then declares that “Japan is learning lessons as well,” noting how it is becoming a multiracial and multicultural society—to the point where sometimes “Japanese nationals are minorities.” But he still can’t help adding that tinge of fear of being outnumbered.

Miyake’s heart does seem to be in the right place when he opines that foreigners and biracial Japanese “are not rare anymore” and that Japan will have to learn “how to get along well with foreign newcomers.” But again, he’s implying, even after generations of international marriages and children born here, that Japan’s multiculturality and multiethnicity is a recent development.

The only thing that is new is the fact that one of Japan’s multiethnic citizens has become a world champion. So now it matters.

Miyake returns to Naomi Osaka to graciously pronounce her as “very Japanese,” citing her behavior, such as having the “Japanese characteristics” of “modesty, politeness, honesty, and humility.” (Never mind that her opponent in the champion match, Petra Kvitova, was similarly polite and gracious in defeat. Does it logically follow that Kvitova and anyone else who is polite must be Japanese as well?)

Miyake makes a good point towards the end, where he rightly asserts that, “It’s time for Japan to allow dual citizenship.”

His reasoning, however, is askew. It’s not because dual passports would save Naomi Osaka (and thousands of other multiethnic Japanese children) the emotional pain of sacrificing part of their identity to fit into an artificial binary, but rather because “Japan will lose one of their greatest tennis players.” In other words, it’s for the good of the nation, the kokutai, through which Japanese can feel communal superiority.

The Broader Picture of Japan Times Changes

This half-baked column is indicative of something much larger—a decline in analytical prowess due to the editorial changes at the Japan Times in recent years.

The Japan Times came under new ownership in June 2017 by the media group News2u Holdings, a PR company. In an unexpected editorial shift, last November the Japan Times announced that it would henceforth be rewording the “potentially misleading” (and internationally-recognized) terms “Comfort Women”—which is already a direct translation of the official euphemism of ianfu—as “women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will, to provide sex to Japanese soldiers.” Likewise, the term “forced laborers” would now be rendered merely as “wartime laborers,” following the new government policy.

Aside from journalistic concerns about cramming a wordy term into concise articles, it wasn’t hard for media observers to understand this as a response to government pressure, already manifest in Japanese media and world history textbooks, to portray Japan’s past in a more exculpatory light.

Reuters has since reported that the executive editor of the Japan Times, Hiroyasu Mizuno, was recorded at a meeting with staff as saying, “I want to get rid of criticism that Japan Times is anti-Japanese.” Another executive added that this would increase advertising revenues from Japanese companies and institutions.

Reuters added that the Japan Times “had already increased government ad sales and scored an exclusive interview with [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe after dropping a column by Jeff Kingston, director of Asia studies at Temple University Japan, who had been writing weekly on what he saw as the Abe administration’s historical revisionism.”

Symbolizing this shift, Shingetsu News Agency last December drew attention to a photo of News2u Publisher and Chair Minako Kambara Suematsu literally cozying up to Prime Minister Abe at a public event.

Reuters concluded by pointing out a remarkable coincidence: Late last year, the ultraconservative think tank Japan Institute for National Fundamentals zeroed in on the Japan Times, demanding they refer to plaintiffs in a controversial Korean court ruling on the Comfort Women as “wartime Korean workers,” thereby leaving out the nuance of forced labor or sexual slavery. Two weeks later, the Japan Times changed its wording.

The academic venue Asia-Pacific Journal (Japan Focus) has also published a detailed article by David McNeill and Justin McCurry depicting internal tensions within the Japan Times, with petitions for change, staff being yanked from their beat, editorial refusals to cover certain news stories, and connections to far-right groups decrying the “poor quality of Japan’s English-language media, the gateway through which foreign nationals access information about the country.”

Fear and Favor

In sum, the Japan Times is clearly bowing to the years of pressure from the Abe administration, the longest-lasting and furthest-right political administration in Japan’s postwar era. As a media outlet, the Japan Times has long been seen as means of “communicating Japan to the world” (i.e. not a forum for discussion about Japan’s domestic problems), and those in charge want that message to be favorable.

I myself have been a contributing writer for the Japan Times since 2002, writing as the “Just Be Cause” column since 2008. My specialty is human rights issues towards non-Japanese residents. In other words, I cover domestic problems.

Since 2017 and the arrival of the new team, I have felt a palpable editorial chill come over my submissions, and my column went from a monthly to a “pitch-an-idea-for-us-to-approve” status. Now I’m lucky if I get an article published every few months.

In fairness, the Japan Times did recently publish my annual top ten list of human rights issues, where I put the Japan Times editorial issues as the #3 concern of 2018, but clearly my writing used to be published at this newspaper in a much more hard-hitting fashion.

For example, my column of July 6, 2015, noted how the Fujisankei Communications Group acquisition of news outlet Japan Today had shifted the English-language media landscape rightward politically, with articles becoming more assiduous in pointing out non-Japanese misbehavior, yet muted in its criticism of Japan.

This was after the English-language arms of Japan’s major newspapers, including the Daily Yomiuri (eventually relaunched as The Japan News), the Daily Mainichi, and the Asahi Evening News, had relegated their foreign staff away from investigative journalism into mere translation duties.

The chair of NHK, Katsuto Momii, even went so far as to state publicly in 2016 that his network would not report on contentious subjects until the government has “an official stance” on them—meaning that NHK is willfully acting as a government mouthpiece.

Back then, I had concluded that the Japan Times is “the only sustainable venue left” with investigative non-Japanese and independently-thinking Japanese writers who are “bravely critiquing current government policy without fretting about patriotism or positively promoting Japan’s image abroad.” I’m not confident anymore that this remains the case.

So how does one become a regular Japan Times columnist nowadays? Let’s check back in with Kunihiko Miyake.

Since April 16, 2018, Miyake’s musings have been appearing weekly. No doubt his solid pedigree got his foot in the door. A prominent television pundit, Miyake’s tagline indicates he is “President of the Foreign Policy Institute and Researcher at the Canon Institute for Global Studies.” He is also a former diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a Tokyo University Law graduate.

This fulfills the Japan Times’ apparent need at the current juncture to cozy up to Japan’s elites.

The downside is that Miyake’s column is evidence of the blindness of Japan’s brahmins. He is essentially a person trained in international “gaijin handling” trying to make insightful comments on Japan’s current race relations and multiethnic future. Bring back Jeff Kingston!

The Japan Times is clearly trading quality journalistic insight for elite access, privilege, and funding. By hewing to a government-approved line, its quality as a news and analytical source will therefore continue to decline.

ENDS

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

As Michael Penn at SNA notes, “I’m pleased to note that Debito Arudou has contributed his first article to the Shingetsu News Agency. Aside from being a strong article, it’s another step toward getting a wider range of writers taking advantage of our progressive news media platform.”  Other writers and investigators, please feel free to pitch something to SNA as well.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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

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Hi Blog.  Now that the clicks have died down on my latest Japan Times JBC column of January 28, 2019 (thanks for putting it in the Top Ten trending articles once again), what follows is the first final draft I submitted to the Japan Times for editing on December 29, 2018.  I blog this version because a lot of information is lost (inevitably) as we cut the word count from 2800 to 1600 words. (I generally put everything in the first final draft, then cut it down to fit the page; that way we don’t overlook anything and have to backtrack.)

People have been asking what got cut (and yes, the original version mentions Michael Woodford and Jeff Kingston), so the piece below is quite a bit different from what appeared in the Japan Times here (meaning it shouldn’t draw away any readers from the JT version; in fact, it will probably spur more views from readers wanting to compare). Also, having links to sources matter, so here it all is, including my regular acerbic tone.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

A TOP TEN FOR 2018
By Debito Arudou, Japan Times Just Be Cause Column 114
To be published January 3, 2019
DRAFT SIX: VERSION WITH LINKS TO SOURCES INCLUDED

Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. Ranked in ascending order, these issues are bellwethers for how NJ in Japan may be treated in 2019 and beyond:

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

10) Fourth-Generation Japanese Brazilians snub new visa program

Last March, the Justice Ministry announced a new diaspora visa regime to attract back children of Brazilian-Japanese who had previously worked in Japan. The latter had been brought in from 1990 under a former preferential “Returnee Visa” regime, which essentially granted a form of permanent residency to NJ with Japanese bloodlines.

The Returnee program was so successful that by 2007, Brazilians had swelled to more than 300,000 residents, the third-largest NJ minority in Japan. Unfortunately, there was a big economic downturn in 2008. As Returnees lost their jobs, the government declined to assist them, even bribing them to “go home” (JBC Apr 7, 2009) and forfeit their visa, unemployment insurance, pensions, and other investments in Japan over a generation. They left in droves.

Fast forward ten years, and an unabashed government (facing a labor shortage exacerbated by the 2020 Olympics) now offers this reboot: Fourth-gen Nikkei, with sufficient Japanese language abilities, plus a secure job offer and family support already in Japan, can stay up to five years.

They expected a quota of 4000 workers would soon be filled. Except for one problem: This time they stayed away in droves. By the end of October, three months into the program, the Nikkei Shimbun reported there were exactly zero applicants.

So much for bloodlines. The word is out and the jig is up.

Sources: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/03/30/national/preferential-visa-system-extended-foreign-fourth-generation-japanese/
Nikkei: https://www.debito.org/?p=15191
JBC Apr 7 2009 https://www.debito.org/?p=2930

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

9) Naomi Osaka’s victory at US Open Tennis.

Speaking of bloodlines, JBC wrote about American-Haitian-Japanese Naomi Osaka’s win last year (“Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing for Japan can seriously shorten your career,” Sep. 19) as a cautionary tale for anyone representing this country as an international athlete. However, as far as the Top Ten goes, her victory matters because it inspires discussion on a fundamental question: “What is a Japanese?”

Japanese society relentlessly polices a narrative of purity of identity. That means that some Japanese citizens, despite spending their lives in Japan, often get shunted to the “half” category if they don’t “look Japanese,” or relegated to “returnee children” status because their dispositions don’t “fit in” with the putative norm due to living overseas. Uniformity is a virtue and a requirement for equal treatment here. The “nail sticking up” and all that, you know.

Yet what happens to Japanese citizens who spend most of their life overseas, even take foreign citizenships, and publicly grumble about how they wouldn’t have been successful if they’d remained in Japan (as some Nobel laureates with Japanese roots have)? They’d get hammered down, right?

Not if they win big internationally. Suddenly, they’re “Japanese” with few or any asterisks. It’s a common phenomenon in racialized societies: “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.”

Naomi Osaka won big. May she continue to do so. But let’s see if she can follow in the footsteps of other diverse Japanese chosen to represent Japan, such as former Miss Japan beauty queens Ariana Miyamoto and Priyanka Yoshikawa (who as “halfs” also spoke out against racial discrimination in Japan; alas, their impact was minimized because they didn’t win big internationally).

In any case, the more successful diverse Japanese who can highlight the fallacies of Japan’s pure-blood narrative, the better.

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=15160
https://www.debito.org/?p=15156
https://www.debito.org/?p=15145

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

8) Zainichi Korean wins hate speech lawsuit on grounds of “racial discrimination”.

The wheels of justice turn slowly in Japan, but sometimes in the right direction. Ms. Lee Sin Hae, a “Zainichi Special Permanent Resident” generational foreigner, was frequently defamed in public hate rallies by Zaitokukai, an anti-Korean hate group. She sued them in 2014 for hate speech, racial discrimination, and gender discrimination. She won in the District Court in 2016, the High Court in 2017, and shortly afterwards in the Supreme Court when they declined to review the case.

Ms. Lee’s case stands as yet another example of how Japan’s new hate speech laws have legally-actionable consequences. Others similarly defamed can now cite Lee’s precedent and (mildly) punish offenders. It’s also another case of discrimination against Japan’s minorities being classified as “racial,” not “ethnic” etc.

This matters because Japan is the only major developed country without a national law criminalizing racial discrimination. And it has officially argued to the United Nations that racism doesn’t happen enough here to justify having one. Lee’s case defies that lie.

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=14973 “Officially argued”: https://www.debito.org/japanvsun.html (For context, do a word search for the following paragraph: “We do not recognize that the present situation of Japan is one in which discriminative acts cannot be effectively restrained by the existing legal system and in which explicit racial discriminative acts, which cannot be restrained by measures other than legislation, are conducted. Therefore, penalization of these acts is not considered necessary.”)

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

7) Setagaya-ku passes Anti-Discrimination Ordinance specifically against racial discrimination etc.

On that note, movements at the local level against racial discrimination are afoot. Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, one of Japan’s first municipalities to recognize same-sex marriages, passed an ordinance last March that will protect (after a fashion) racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities from discrimination and hate speech.

I say “after a fashion” because it, as usual, has no punishments for offenders. The best it can do is investigate claims from aggrieved residents, inform the mayor, and offer official evidence for future lawsuits.

But it’s a positive step because 1) we’ve had city governments (such as Tsukuba in 2010, home of a major international university) go in exactly the opposite direction, passing alarmist resolutions against suffrage for NJ permanent residents; and 2) we had a prefectural government (Tottori) pass an anti-discrimination ordinance in 2005, only to have it unpass it mere weeks later due to bigoted backlash.

That didn’t happen this time in Setagaya-ku. The ordinance stands. Baby steps in the right direction.

Sources: http://www.kanaloco.jp/article/314740
http://www.city.setagaya.lg.jp/static/oshirase20170920/pdf/p02.pdf
http://www.city.setagaya.lg.jp/kurashi/101/167/321/d00158583_d/fil/tekisuto2.txt
https://www.debito.org/?p=14902
Tottori: https://www.debito.org/japantimes050206.html
Tsukuba: https://www.debito.org/?p=8459

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

6) Immigration Bureau to be upgraded into Immigration Agency.

Last August, the government said that to deal with the record influx of foreign tourists and workers (more below), more manpower would be needed to administrate them. So as of April this year, the Nyukyoku Kanri Kyoku (“Country-Entrant Management Bureau”) is scheduled to become the Nyukoku Zairyu Kanri Cho (“Country-Entering Residency Management Agency”), with an extra 500 staff and an expanded budget.

Critics may (rightly) deride this move as merely a measure to tighten control over NJ, as the “Immigration Bureau” was a mistranslation in the first place. Japan has no official “immigration” policy to help newcomers become permanent residents or citizens, and the Bureau’s main role, as an extension of Japan’s law enforcement, has been to police NJ, not assist them. (After all, according to the Justice Ministry, 125 NJ workers have died under work-related conditions since 2010; where was the Bureau to prevent this?)

However, the fact remains that if Japan will ever get serious about its looming demographic disaster (where an aging society with record-low birthrates is shrinking its taxpaying workforce to the point of insolvency), it has to deal with the issue of importing workers to fill perpetual labor shortages. It has to come up with an immigration policy to make foreigners into permanent residents and citizens.

The only way that will happen is if the government establishes an organization to do so. An upgrade from a Bureau to an Agency is one step away from becoming an actual Ministry, separate from the mere policing mandate of the Justice Ministry.

Sources: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/08/28/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-set-immigration-agency-cope-influx-blue-collar-ranks-abroad-new-status/
https://www.debito.org/?p=15129
Agency name change: https://www.sankei.com/politics/news/180828/plt1808280006-n1.html
125 NJ workers died: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/12/13/national/justice-ministry-reveals-174-foreign-technical-interns-japan-died-2010-2017/

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

5) Govt. to further centralize surveillance system of NJ.

Now, to acknowledge the naysayers, last year the government gave more power to the Justice Ministry to track NJ, in an effort to stop “visa overstayers” and keep an eye on tourists and temporary workers. This is on top of the other measures this decade, including the remotely-readable RFID-chipped Gaijin Card in 2012, proposing using NJ fingerprinting as currency in 2016 (in order to “enable the government to analyze the spending habits and patterns of foreign tourists;” yeah, sure), and facial recognition devices specifically targeting “foreigners” at the border from 2014.

This is the negative side of inviting NJ to visit as tourists or stay awhile as workers: Japan’s police forces get antsy about a perceived lack of control, and get increased budgets to curtail civil liberties.

Sources: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/18/national/counter-illegal-overstayers-government-plans-system-centrally-manage-information-foreign-residents/
RFID: https://www.debito.org/?p=10750
Fingerprinting: https://www.debito.org/?p=13926
Facial recognition: https://www.debito.org/?p=12306 and https://www.debito.org/?p=14539

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

On the positive side, however:

4) Tourism to Japan reaches record 30 million in 2018.

Admittedly, when the government launched its “Visit Japan” campaign in 2010, and cheerily projected a huge expansion of NJ tourism from single-digit millions to double- a decade ago, JBC was skeptical. Government surveys in 2008 indicated that 70% of hotels that had never had NJ guests didn’t want them anyway. And of the 400+ “Japanese Only” places I surveyed for my doctoral fieldwork, the vast majority were hotels—some even encouraged by government organs to refuse NJ entry (JBC, “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Jul 6, 2010)!

Times change, and now NJ tourism (mostly from Asia, chiefly China, South Korea, and Taiwan) has become a major economic driver. Local and national business sectors once pessimistic about the future are flush with cash. And by the 2020 Olympics, the tourist influx is projected to skyrocket to 40 million.

Naturally, this much flux has occasioned grumbling and ill-considered quick-fixes. We’ve had media gripes about Chinese spending and littering habits, a “Chinese Only” hotel in Sapporo, separate “foreigner” taxi stands at JR Kyoto Station (enforced by busybodies disregarding NJ language abilities), and even a “Japanese Only” tourist information booth in JR Beppu Station.

The worst fallout, however, is the new “Minpaku Law” passed last June. It adds bureaucratic layers to Airbnb home-sharing, and shores up the already stretched-thin hotel industry’s power over accommodation alternatives.

The government also resorted to coded xenophobia to promote the law. Citing “security” and “noise concerns,” Tokyo’s Chuo Ward indicated that letting “strangers” into apartments could be “unsafe.” Shibuya Ward only permitted Minpaku during school holidays, so “children won’t meet strangers” on the way to school. Not to be outdone, NHK Radio implied that ISIS terrorists might use home lodging as a base for terrorist attacks.

It’s one thing to be ungrateful for all the tourist money. It’s quite another to treat visitors as a threat after inviting them over. If not handled properly, the influx from the 2020 Olympics has the potential to empower Japan’s knee-jerk xenophobes even further.

Sources: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/12/18/national/japan-marks-new-record-foreign-visitors-top-30-million-2018/
2008 hotel survey: https://www.debito.org/?p=12306
“Visit Japan” and “new economic driver” stats: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/25/reference/tourism-emerges-new-economic-driver-japan/
Exclusionary hotels encouraged by govt. organs: https://www.debito.org/?p=1941 and JBC https://www.debito.org/?p=7145
Tourism Stats: https://www.tourism.jp/en/tourism-database/stats/inbound/#annual
Grumbling about tourist manners: https://www.debito.org/?s=Chinese+tourist and https://www.debito.org/?p=2301
Chinese Only hotel: https://www.debito.org/?p=6864
Beppu: https://www.debito.org/?p=14954
Minpaku xenophobia and ISIS: https://www.debito.org/?p=15051

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

3) Japan Times changes wording on controversial historical terms and topics.

Previously, JBC (July 6, 2015) noted how the Fuji-Sankei acquisition of news outlet Japan Today had shifted the English-language media landscape rightward politically, with articles becoming more assiduous in pointing out NJ misbehavior, yet muted in their criticism of Japan.

This was after the English-language arms of Japan’s major newspapers, including the Daily Yomiuri (now The Japan News), the Daily Mainichi, and the Asahi Evening News, had relegated their foreign staff away from investigative journalism into mere translation duties. Not to mention the chair of NHK, Katsuto Momii, stated publicly in 2016 that his TV network would not report on contentious subjects until the government has “an official stance” (effectively making NHK a government mouthpiece).

These “contentious subjects” included portrayals of historical events, like NJ forced into labor for wartime Japanese companies, and “Comfort Women” forced sexual services under Japanese military occupation.

Back then, JBC concluded that the JT is “the only sustainable venue left with investigative NJ journalists, NJ editors and independently-thinking Japanese writers, bravely critiquing current government policy without fretting about patriotism or positively promoting Japan’s image abroad.”

But last November, the JT, under new ownership since 2017, came out with a new editorial stance.

Stating that “Comfort Women” (already a direct translation of the official euphemism of ianfu) was potentially misleading, because their experiences “in different areas throughout the course of the war varied widely,” the JT would henceforth “refer to ‘comfort women’ as ‘women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will, to provide sex to Japanese soldiers’”. Likewise with the term “forced laborers,” which would now be rendered as “wartime laborers” because of varying recruiting patterns.

Aside from journalistic concerns about rendering these wordy terms in concise articles, it wasn’t hard for media pundits to portray this as a response to government pressure, already seen on Japanese media and overseas world history textbooks, to portray Japan’s past in a more exculpatory light. And with at least one government-critical columnist (Jeff Kingston) no longer writing for us, JBC now wonders if the JT remains the last one standing.

Sources: Govt. pressure on Japanese media: https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/27/the-silencing-of-japans-free-press-shinzo-abe-media/ and plenty more.
Govt. pressure on overseas history textbooks: https://www.debito.org/?s=history+textbook

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

2) Carlos Ghosn’s arrest.

The former CEO of Nissan and Mitsubishi motors (but remaining as CEO at Renault), Ghosn was arrested last November and indicted in December for inter alia allegedly underreporting his income for tax purposes. As of this writing, he remains in police custody for the 23-day cycles of interrogations and re-arrests, until he confesses to a crime.

This event has been well-reported elsewhere, so let’s focus on the JBC issues: Ghosn’s arrest shows how far you can fall if you’re foreign. Especially if you’re foreign.

One red flag was that the only two people arrested in this fiasco have been foreign: Ghosn and his associate, Greg Kelly. Kelly is now out on bail due to health concerns. But where are the others doing similar malfeasances? According to Reuters, Kobe Steel underreported income in 2008, 2011, and 2013, and committed data fraud for “nearly five decades.” Same with Toray and Ube Industries, Olympus, Takata, Mitsubishi Materials, Nissan, and Subaru.

Who’s been arrested? Nobody but those two foreigners.

And Japan’s judicial system has a separate track for NJ suspects, including harsher jurisprudence for NJs accused of crimes, lax jurisprudence for NJ victims of crimes, uneven language translation services, general denial of bail for NJ, an extra incarceration system for subsequent visa violations while in jail, and incarceration rates for NJs four times that for citizens. (See my book Embedded Racism, Ch. 6.)

Most indicative of separate and unequal treatment is that some of the accusations, which fall under a statute of limitations of seven years under the Companies Act, are still applicable. Prosecutors have argued that statutes do not apply to Ghosn because he spent time overseas. Apparently even the passage of time is different for foreigners, because the clock stops if they ever leave Japan!

It’s JBC’s view that this is a boardroom coup. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Ghosn was planning to oust a rival, Hiroto Saikawa, who has since taken Ghosn’s place as CEO. A similar thing happened to at Olympus in 2011, when CEO Michael Woodford broke ranks and came clean on boardroom grift. He was fired for not understanding “Japanese culture,” since that’s the easiest thing to pin on any foreigner.

But in Woodford’s case, he was fired, not arrested and subjected to Japan’s peculiar system of “hostage justice” police detention, where detainees are denied access to basic amenities (including sleep or lawyers) for weeks at a time, and interrogated until they crack and confess, with more than 99.9% conviction rates.

The good news is that finally overseas media is waking up to what Japan’s Federation of Bar Associations and the UN Committee Against Torture have respectively called “a breeding ground for false charges” and “tantamount to torture.” Funny thing is, if this had happened in China, we’d have had howls much sooner about the gross violations of Ghosn’s human rights.

Sources: Kelly health concerns: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/12/26/business/corporate-business/greg-kelly-close-aide-carlos-ghosn-denies-allegations-release-bail/
Kobe Steel Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kobe-steel-scandal-ceo/kobe-steel-admits-data-fraud-went-on-nearly-five-decades-ceo-to-quit-idUSKBN1GH2SM
Ghosn planned to replace CEO Saikawa https://www.wsj.com/articles/carlos-ghosn-planned-to-replace-nissan-ceo-before-his-arrest-1544348502
Olympus and Takata other issues https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-06/carlos-ghosn-s-arrest-and-the-backlash-to-japan-nissan
Statute of limitations does not apply. “Japan’s Companies Act has a statute of limitations of seven years. Prosecutors argue this does not apply due to the amount of time Ghosn has spent outside the country.”
https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Nissan-s-Ghosn-crisis/Ghosn-rearrested-for-alleged-aggravated-breach-of-trust
Woodford Olympus: https://www.debito.org/?p=9576
World waking up: https://www.standard.co.uk/business/jim-armitage-carlos-ghosn-treatment-shines-harsh-light-on-justice-in-japan-a3998291.html
JFBA: https://www.nichibenren.or.jp/library/en/document/data/daiyo_kangoku.pdf
Tantamount to torture: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=2ahUKEwjW_7Pcp8XfAhV1GDQIHcSIDTEQFjAAegQICRAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdocstore.ohchr.org%2FSelfServices%2FFilesHandler.ashx%3Fenc%3D6QkG1d%252FPPRiCAqhKb7yhsmoIqL9rS46HZROnmdQS5bNEx%252FmMJfuTuMXK%252BwvAEjf9L%252FVjLz4qKQaJzXzwO5L9HgK1Q6dtH8fP8MDfu52LvR5McDW%252FSsgyo8lMOU8RgptX&usg=AOvVaw22H5dQMWcKYHizy8NNIuqY
Other irregularities noted in the JT by Glen Fukushima: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/12/20/commentary/japan-commentary/seven-questions-ghosn-nissan/

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

1) New immigration visa regime to expand nonskilled labor in Japan.

The event with the largest potential for impact on NJ residents in Japan would have to be the government’s passing of a new visa regime to officially allow unskilled workers (a departure from decades of policy) to make up for labor shortfalls in targeted industries, including nursing, food service, construction and maintenance, agriculture, and hotels.

It would allow people to stay for longer (up to five years), and even beyond that, if they qualify with secure job offers and language abilities, to the point of permanent residency. In theory, at least.

Disclaimers have been typical: Officials have denied that this is an “immigration policy,” sluicing off concerns that Japan will be overrun and undermined by hordes of NJ.

But this new visa regime matters because the government is clearly taking the inevitable measures to shore up its labor force against the abovementioned demographic crisis. To the tune of about 345,000 new workers. It’s an official step towards what we are seeing already in certain industries (like convenience stores in big cities), where NJ workers are no longer unusual.

Yes, the government may at any time decide to do a housecleaning by revoking these visas whenever NJ might reach a critical mass (as happened many times in the past). And it also has insufficiently addressed longstanding and widespread labor abuses in its Technical Trainee and Interns market. But the fact remains that bringing in proportionally more NJ, as the Japanese population shrinks, will make them less anomalous.

One way that minorities make themselves less threatening to a society is by normalizing themselves. Making people see NJ as co-workers, indispensable helpers, neighbors, maybe even friends. The cynical side of JBC thinks this is unlikely to happen. But it’s not going to happen without numbers, and that’s what this new visa regime is encouraging.

As evidence of change, the rigorous Pew Research Center last year surveyed several countries between about their attitudes towards international migration. One question, “In your opinion, should we allow more immigrants to move to our country, fewer immigrants, or about the same as we do now?” had positive responses from Japan that were the highest of any country surveyed—81% saying “more” or “the same.”

I was incredulous, especially since the word “immigration” (imin) has been a taboo term in Japan’s policy circles (JBC Nov 3, 2009). So I contacted Pew directly to ask how the question was rendered in Japanese. Sure enough, the question included “imin no suu” (immigration numbers).

This is something I had never seen before. And as such, changing policies as well as changing attitudes may result in sea changes towards NJ residents within our lifetimes.

Sources: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/02/national/major-policy-shift-japan-oks-bill-let-foreign-manual-workers-stay-permanently/
345,000: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/14/national/politics-diplomacy/345000-foreign-workers-predicted-come-japan-new-visas-government/
Pew: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/10/many-worldwide-oppose-more-migration-both-into-and-out-of-their-countries/#more-309372 and https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-am-aca76f69-2982-4b0e-a36c-512c21841dc2.html?chunk=4&utm_term=emshare#story4
JBC Nov 3: https://www.debito.org/?p=4944
See also forwarded email from Pew below.

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

Bubbling under: Registered Foreign Residents reach new postwar record of 2.5 million. Alarmist government probe into “foreigner fraud” of Japan’s Health Insurance system reveals no wrongdoing (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/09/12/national/probe-abuse-health-insurance-foreigners-japan-stirs-claims-prejudice/). Fake rumors about NJ criminal behavior during Osaka quake officially dispelled by government (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/19/national/different-disaster-story-osaka-quake-prompts-online-hate-speech-targeting-foreigners/).
Former British Ambassador and Japan Times columnist Sir Hugh Cortazzi dies.
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/08/23/commentary/japan-commentary/bidding-sir-hugh-cortazzi-farewell/

ENDS

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

Source on Pew Question in original Japanese. Forwarding email exchange from Pew Research Center itself:

Begin forwarded message:

From: Pew Research Center <info@pewresearch.org>
Subject: RE: Question about your recent Global Attitudes survey
Date: December 11, 2018
To: ” Debito A”

Hi Debito,

Thank you for reaching out. The original Japanese text is below:

Q52 In your opinion, should we allow more immigrants to move to our country, fewer immigrants, or about the same as we do now? Q52 日本に受け入れる移民の数を増やすべき、移民の数を減らすべき、または現状を維持すべき、のどれだと思われますか?

1 More 1.増やすべき
2 Fewer 2.減らすべき
3 About the same 3.現状を維持すべき
4 No immigrants at all (DO NOT READ) 4. 移民はまったくいない(読み上げない)
8 Don’t know (DO NOT READ) 8.わからない(読み上げない)
9 Refused (DO NOT READ) 9. 回答拒否(読み上げない)

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Best, [HT], Pew Research Center

ENDS

=================================
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Surprising survey results from Pew Research Center: Japan supportive of “immigration”

mytest

Hello Blog. Some weeks ago Debito.org Reader FB sent along a link to an article which noted: “Spain and Japan were among the most open to the idea of increased immigration, with 28% and 23% of their respective populations supporting more immigration. Japan, known for its isolationist policies and historically low immigration numbers, is facing a dire economic threat — its population is getting older” (bold emphasis added). It cited a recent worldwide Pew Research Global Attitudes Survey of 27 countries on international migration of labor etc., which can be found as a pdf here and a report here.

I was incredulous. I’ve written before how Japan’s policymakers, even its demographic scientists, view the word “immigration” (imin) as a taboo term and topic of discussion. So I wondered if there had been some finagling of the question’s translation, as in, using the term gaikokujin (foreigner) instead of imin–because imin itself would be clumsy in construction as a disembodied term unlinked to people (i.e., there is as yet no popularized word iminsha for immigrant). Likewise, there is no official “immigration policy” (imin seisaku) in Japan either to convert newcomers into permanent residents and citizens.

So I wrote to Pew directly:

From: “Debito Arudou”
Subject: Question about your recent Global Attitudes survey
Date: December 11, 2018
To: info@pewresearch.org


To Whom It May Concern,
I [have] a question about your recently-released Global Attitudes survey.
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/10/many-worldwide-oppose-more-migration-both-into-and-out-of-their-countries/#more-309372
Regarding the Japanese response to Q52:

Q52. In your opinion, should we allow more immigrants to move to our country, fewer immigrants, or about the same as we do now? 

 

Could you please send me the text of this question as rendered in the original Japanese? I can read Japanese text.
Thank you very much. Sincerely, Debito Arudou

I received the following answer:

From: Pew Research Center <info@pewresearch.org>
Subject: RE: Question about your recent Global Attitudes survey
Date: December 11, 2018
To: “Debito Arudou”

Hi Debito,  Thank you for reaching out. The original Japanese text is below: 

[emphases added in boldface, highlighting imin no kazu, or immigration numbers]
Q52 In your opinion, should we allow more immigrants to move to our country, fewer immigrants, or about the same as we do now? Q52 日本に受け入れる移民の数を増やすべき、移民の数を減らすべき、または現状を維持すべき、のどれだと思われますか?
1 More 1.増やすべき
2 Fewer 2.減らすべき
3 About the same 3.現状を維持すべき
4 No immigrants at all (DO NOT READ) 4. 移民はまったくいない(読み上げない)
8 Don’t know (DO NOT READ) 8.わからない(読み上げない)
9 Refused (DO NOT READ) 9. 回答拒否(読み上げない)

Please let us know if you have any questions. 

 Best, [HT], Pew Research Center   

COMMENT:

Well, if that’s the exact text Pew read over the phone to the Japanese respondents, I can’t doubt it. But I’ve never seen the word imin used in this context in Japan, moreover asked of more than a thousand respondents, as per the methodology of the Global Attitudes Survey:

Courtesy: http://www.pewresearch.org/methodology/international-survey-research/international-methodology/

More surprising were the responses from the Japanese surveyed:

Courtesy http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/10/many-worldwide-oppose-more-migration-both-into-and-out-of-their-countries/#more-309372

Just gawk at those numbers. Japan has the lowest “Few Immigrants/None” and the highest “About the same number of Immigrants/More” combined of all the countries surveyed!

Again, the diehard skeptic in me wants to poke holes in this survey, especially given the constant duplicity of the MOJ and the GOJ towards NJ in general, especially when it comes to surveying the general public. But this is Pew, and they are among the most rigorous of international surveyors we’ve got. Given that they used the term “immigration numbers” (not just the “temporary-foreign-labor-on-revolving-door-visas” connotation that a mere term like gaikokujin would have allowed), this is on the surface quite promising.

Next stage, an actual Immigration Ministry (Imin Shou), which I believe may also someday be in the cards. The Immigration Bureau is being upgraded to an actual Agency (Cho), one step below a Ministry, come April.

Thoughts? Dr. Debito Arudou

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. Debito Arudou (click on icon): Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free “LIKE” US on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/debitoorg https://www.facebook.com/embeddedrcsmJapan http://www.facebook.com/handbookimmigrants https://www.facebook.com/JapaneseOnlyTheBook https://www.facebook.com/BookInAppropriate If you like what you read and discuss on Debito.org, please consider helping us stop hackers and defray maintenance costs with a little donation via my webhoster: Donate towards my web hosting bill! All donations go towards website costs only. Thanks for your support! Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  Please consider donating a little something.  More details here. Or even click on an ad below.

Japan Times officially sanitizes WWII “comfort women” and “forced laborers”. Pressure on my JT Just Be Cause column too.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. Debito Arudou (click on icon):
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Hi Blog.  The Japan Times, under new ownership since 2017, has just released information about their new wording policy, in line with tendencies in other right-leaning Japanese media towards revising Japan’s contentious history through revisionist terminology.  Make sure you read down to my comment for a little plot thickening:

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

Courtesy of Shingetsu News Agency, Dec 1, 2018:


(Photo courtesy DM, from The Japan Times physical copy pg 2, Nov. 30, 2018.)

‘Comfort women’: anger as Japan paper alters description of WWII terms
Change prompts concern that country’s media is trying to rewrite wartime history under rightwing pressure
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
The Guardian, Fri 30 Nov 2018 (excerpt), courtesy of the author
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/30/japanese-paper-sparks-anger-as-it-ditches-ww2-forced-labour-term

Japan’s oldest English-language newspaper has sparked anger among staff and readers after revising its description of wartime sex slaves and forced labourers from the Korean peninsula.

In a decision that critics said aligned it with the conservative agenda of the prime minister, Shinzō Abe, the Japan Times said it had used terms “that could have been potentially misleading” when reporting on the contentious subjects.

It was the latest media row about how to define notorious parts of the country’s wartime record.

The Japan Times, which marked its 120th anniversary last year, said in an editor’s note in Friday’s edition that it would ditch the commonly used term “forced labour” to describe Koreans who were made to work in Japanese mines and factories during its 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

South Korea says there were nearly 150,000 victims of wartime forced labour, 5,000 of whom are alive.

The Japan Times said: “The term ‘forced labour’ has been used to refer to labourers who were recruited before and during world war two to work for Japanese companies. However, because the conditions they worked under or how these workers were recruited varied, we will henceforth refer to them as ‘wartime labourers.’”

The explanation appeared at the foot of an article about the South Korean supreme court’s decision this week to order Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate 10 former forced labourers. The ruling, and a similar decision last month, have soured ties between Tokyo and Seoul, with Japan’s foreign minister, Tarō Kōno, calling them “totally unacceptable”.

The Japan Times, whose motto is ‘all the news without fear or favour,’ said it would also alter its description of the comfort women – a euphemism for tens of thousands of girls and women, mainly from the Korean peninsula, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the war.

The newspaper noted that it had previously described the victims as “women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during world war two”.

But it added: “Because the experiences of comfort women in different areas throughout the course of the war varied widely, from today, we will refer to ‘comfort women’ as ‘women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will, to provide sex to Japanese soldiers’.”

Reporters and editors at the paper’s Tokyo headquarters greeted the decision with a mixture of anger and consternation. “People are pretty angry about the change and the fact that we were not consulted,” a Japan Times employee told the Guardian.

The revision has added to concern that sections of the media are bowing to pressure from rightwing politicians and activists to rewrite Japan’s wartime history and portray its actions on the Asian mainland in a more favourable light.

Rest of the article at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/30/japanese-paper-sparks-anger-as-it-ditches-ww2-forced-labour-term

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

COMMENT:  Now for that plot thickening:  I have been writing for the Japan Times Community Page since 2002, and under their Just Be Cause column since 2008.  I felt little editorial interference in my writing until 2017, when I found my opinions facing increased demands for substantiation (which I could provide, of course — sometimes by pointing at old JT columns that had passed editorial muster before).  But there was a decided editorial chill in the air.

Now with my ninth annual Top Ten Japan Human Rights Issues of the year as they affected NJ residents of Japan approaching, my new editor has told me to revamp my column format so that it’s not a Top Ten anymore.  Quote from a recent email dated Nov. 24, 2018:

“I wonder if it might read better to take it out of the Top 10 format and write in detail on certain cases. I would like to see something along the lines of: What did Japan do right this year, What has the potential to move forward next year, and Which area is cause for concern.” 

That’s quite a different tack.  And it seems symptomatic of a “let’s focus on the good stuff”, then add more likely “future good stuff”, and maybe mention the, er, “causes for concern” as an afterthought.

I think I’ll write up a Top Ten as usual and submit it to see what happens.  These aren’t the “good news” pages anyway, as writing about human rights is generally a dismal science (because human rights issues tend to focus on what people are doing wrong to each other, rather than what they should have been doing right in the first place).  Moreover this is not something we newspaper columnists have to be diplomatic about (i.e., those “causes for concern”) — that’s something United Nations Special Rapporteurs do when cajoling governments to be nice to people (yet even they can be pretty harsh in their criticism at times, and rightly so).

Anyway, it’s sad that the JT, the last bastion of independent mainstream journalism in English in Japan, has knuckled under — the death of honest-history-based journalism due to PM Abe’s revisionist government pressure.  I wonder what JT’s partner, the New York Times, would think of this development.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

mytest

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

Another interesting part of this article is the bit about how many Indentured “Trainee” NJ workers had “gone missing” from their generally harsh modern-slavery working conditions (4,279) so far this year, and how it might even exceed last year’s record total of 7,089.  Anyway, with the news below, the GOJ looks set to invite in even more people, in even more work sectors, and with the regular “revolving-door” work status (i.e., not make immigrants out of them).

Some people have gotten wise to this practice and are staying away from Japan, but I bet many won’t.  Unless we let them know in venues like Debito.org.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

Japan’s Cabinet approves bill to introduce new visa categories for foreign workers, to address shrinking workforce
BY SAKURA MURAKAMI AND TOMOHIRO OSAKI STAFF WRITERS
The Japan Times, Nov 2, 2018, courtesy of JDG (excerpt)
Courtesy https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/02/national/major-policy-shift-japan-oks-bill-let-foreign-manual-workers-stay-permanently/

The Cabinet approved a bill Friday that would overhaul the nation’s immigration control law by introducing new visa categories for foreign workers, in an attempt to address the graying population and shrinking workforce.

“Creating a new residence status to accept foreign workers is of utmost importance as the nation’s population declines and businesses suffer from lack of personnel,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference on the day.

Although details remain hazy, the new bill marks a departure from previous policy in allowing foreign individuals to work in blue-collar industries for a potentially indefinite amount of time if certain conditions, such as holding a valid employment contract, are met.

Yet amid concerns over whether the nation has the infrastructure and environment to accommodate an inflow of foreign workers, the government has categorically denied that the overhaul will open the doors to immigrants.

“We are not adopting a policy on people who will settle permanently in the country, or so-called immigrants,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee on Thursday. “The new system we are creating is based on the premise that the workers will work in sectors suffering labor shortages, for a limited time, in certain cases without bringing their families.”…

The overhaul, which would come into effect in April if passed during the current extraordinary Diet session, would create two new residence status types for foreign individuals working in sectors suffering labor shortages.

The first category would be renewable for up to five years and would require applicants to have a certain level of skill and experience in their fields. As a general rule, workers in this category would not be allowed to bring family members into the country.

The second category would be renewable indefinitely for workers with valid employment contracts. This category would require a higher level of skills than the first category and would allow workers to bring along spouses and children.

Regardless of the category, the foreign workers would be required to work in designated sectors that face labor shortages. Some 14 sectors are being considered for designation in the first category, whereas five are being considered for the second, media reports have said. Those sectors include the construction, agriculture and hotel industries.

Opposition lawmakers have slammed the apparent haste with which the government is trying to pass the amendment, proposing that it prioritize rectifying the current Technical Intern Training Program — which is rife with allegations of human rights violations and abuse — before further expanding avenues for foreign labor.

Speaking to the same Lower House Budget Committee on Thursday, Justice Minister Yamashita revealed that a total 4,279 trainees under the program had gone missing in the January-July period this year.

“This is an extraordinary figure,” said lawmaker Akira Nagatsuma of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, adding that the pace suggests the number of missing interns in 2018 could exceed last year’s record — 7,089 — by year-end.

Nagatsuma also said that the whereabouts of many of these trainees who disappeared from work remain unknown, with Justice Ministry data showing that there were 6,914 such individuals staying somewhere in the country, under the radar, as of January this year. “I believe that this year will also see a substantial number of missing trainees in total, but I don’t think we should blame the foreign nationals who ran away in all of these cases. I’m sure there are lots of cases where the trainees felt they had to get away, or even thought they might die if they stayed,” Nagatsuma said, citing examples of trainees being harassed or bullied, cooped up in a cramped apartment and consigned to menial jobs that require no technical skills.

“I think it’s very irresponsible of the government to try to open more doors for foreign workers while turning a blind eye to these existing problems under the trainee program,” he said.

Opposition lawmakers also say the government’s claim that it will set rigid, high-bar criteria for transition from the first visa type to the second — lest the system be misconstrued as Japan shifting toward accepting immigrants — might not sit well with the nation’s business community.

In a hearing with multiple ministries earlier this week, Kazunori Yamanoi, a lawmaker for the opposition Democratic Party For the People (DPFP), raised a hypothetical, but highly likely, situation in which trainees recruited under the existing internship program switch to the new visa framework after up to five years of their apprenticeships.

Under this scenario, these foreign workers will have stayed in Japan for a total 10 years by the time their visa expires after another five years. “By then, those foreign workers with 10 years of experience in Japan will have developed such seasoned skills that they may even hold critical positions in their companies … and I would imagine company employers wanting them to transition to the second-category visa so they can stay on,” Yamanoi said.

A Justice Ministry official, when contacted by The Japan Times, said it is “theoretically possible” that these workers with 10 years of experience in Japan would qualify for permanent residency, but how the reality will play out is still uncertain…

Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/02/national/major-policy-shift-japan-oks-bill-let-foreign-manual-workers-stay-permanently/

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

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Nikkei Asian Review: “In rural Japan, immigrants spark a rebirth”. An optimistic antidote to the regular media Gaijin Bashing

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  As an antidote to the program talked about last blog entry, where hunting NJ for public amusement and sport became yet another TV show, here’s a relatively rare article showing the good that NJ do for Japanese society:  revitalizing communities that are dying, as they age and endure an exodus of their young to more prosperous cities.  The article is a bit too optimistic to be realistic (given that all this progress could be undone with a simple mass cancellation of visas and government repatriation bribes; the former has happened multiple times in Japan’s history), but I’d rather have the article than not.  Have a look and tell us what you think.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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In rural Japan, immigrants spark a rebirth
Newcomers fill the labor and tax void as young Japanese bolt to Tokyo
YUSUKE SAKURAI, Nikkei staff writer
March 21, 2018
https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/In-rural-Japan-immigrants-spark-a-rebirth

PHOTO CAPTION:  Nearly half the students at Keiwa Elementary School in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, have at least one parent from another country.

(Courtesy of this Nikkei article)

TOKYO — In roughly three decades, the number of foreign residents in Japan has grown to 2.47 million, from just 980,000 in 1989. So while this period will go down in history as the time the country’s population went into decline, it has also brought an unprecedented influx of newcomers from abroad.

Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian: The students at Keiwa Elementary School in the southwestern prefecture of Mie speak nine different languages at home. But at school they use Japanese.

“This is how you draw an equilateral pentagon,” one non-Japanese sixth-grader said nonchalantly in February. “Can you pass me a protractor?” asked another. Their fluent Japanese had no detectable accent.

Nearly half the school’s 250 students belong to at least one non-Japanese parent, making the school a microcosm of rural Japan’s new diversity.

The subject of Japanese demographics calls to mind an aging society, a falling birthrate, population decline and rural decay. And yet, under the radar, the increase in immigration has been changing pockets of the country, energizing smaller municipalities that were desperate for labor and tax revenue.

There was a time when Keiwa Elementary’s student body had dwindled to just one-seventh of its peak. But thanks partly to a rise in the number of foreign residents working in the nearby Chukyo industrial area, its classrooms are buzzing again.

Kevin Sahayan, a student from the Philippines, said he started learning Japanese when he enrolled in third grade, upon his arrival in the country. “Now that I have learned Japanese, I have more friends and I have fun playing soccer after school,” the 12-year-old said.

“Guess which nationality I am!” children asked as, one after another, they pulled the sleeve of this puzzled reporter.

“You probably won’t get it so I will tell you. I’m half-Filipina and half-Japanese. That girl over there is Japanese, and that one there …,” explained student Ai Maruyama. Asked whether she feels “different” in the environment, she said, “No, not at all.”

In Mie, overall, the number of non-Japanese newcomers more than offset that of residents who moved to Tokyo last year — 5,999 versus 5,907.

This is no small point, considering that the government is struggling to stop the hollowing out of regional industry. Nationwide, around 120,000 people relocated to the Tokyo area in 2017, mainly for education or work, according to the internal affairs ministry. It was the fourth straight year in which the figure topped 100,000, even though the government aims to reduce it to zero by 2020.

But in Gifu and Shiga prefectures, which are adjacent to Mie, increases in residents from abroad made up for 80% of departures in 2017.

In Gifu, local housing company Sunshow Industry has been helping non-Japanese residents purchase homes for five years. Its office in the city of Kani has a sign at the entrance in Portuguese, inviting passers-by to come in for a consultation. Twenty-percent of its customers are foreign nationals.

One Sunday in February, a Brazilian man came in, looking for a house that would be big enough for his family. “I have kids aged 20 and 18, so I want a house where we can have lots of breathing space,” said the 43-year-old crane operator, who has lived in Japan for about two decades.

Sunshow started catering to international residents, mainly from Latin America, as more and more came to work at a Sony subsidiary’s plant in the city of Minokamo. Unlike the kids at Keiwa Elementary, though, adults are not always so quick to overlook differences.

Five years ago, if a Latin American tried to settle in their neighborhood, there would be many residents who would protest it,” said Toshiyuki Shiraki, who finds land for Sunshow. In some cases, the hostility persisted even after international workers moved in. A major point of contention was seemingly minor: some newcomers’ failure to separate their trash in accordance with the rules.

But Shiraki said the tensions appear to have largely subsided, after a greater effort was made to explain the local ways. Now, Japanese residents seem less averse to sharing their neighborhoods.

Even now, foreign residents make up only about 2% of Japan’s population of 127 million, but in certain places the ratio is quite a bit higher. It exceeds 5% in 31 municipalities; the town of Oizumi, in Gunma Prefecture, had the highest share of 17% as of January.

Three municipalities, including Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and the northern village of Shimukappu in Hokkaido, had ratios over 10%.

Other communities have taken notice of how foreign residents offer vital manpower for companies and more tax revenue for local governments. Some are actively courting immigrants.

The Hokkaido town of Higashikawa set up a Japanese language school to encourage young foreign residents to come, particularly those from other parts of Asia, like Taiwan. This is the first school of its kind run by a Japanese municipality.

The city of Mimasaka, in the western prefecture of Okayama, plans to open a sister school of Vietnam’s University of Danang.

Foreign nationals tend to gravitate to places where their children are likely to receive better education. Mie — home to Keiwa Elementary — is a testament to this. The prefecture is gaining a reputation for supporting students born to non-Japanese parents. “Mieko san no Nihongo,” a textbook for teaching classroom Japanese developed by the Mie International Exchange Foundation, has proved useful in this regard and is now used in elementary and junior high schools nationwide.

According to the Ministry of Education, the number of students requiring additional instruction in the Japanese language at public elementary and junior high schools topped 30,000 for the first time in the year ended March 2017.

The central government, too, is looking to bring more foreign workers into the country. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month said his government will design a reform plan for this purpose by the summer. Yet Abe is not exactly jumping in with both feet — the policy will not encourage permanent settlement, with a cap to be placed on the maximum stay and restrictions on bringing family members along.

Even so, Japan is far more diverse than it was in 1950, when there were only 600,000 residents from overseas. From large cities to tiny villages, Japanese grow ever more accustomed to mingling with their fellow global citizens. And the newcomers are breathing life into communities that looked destined to fade.
ENDS

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