“Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass”, my Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” Col 2, Sept 17, 2019

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s an excerpt my latest for the Shingetsu News Agency. Enjoy. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

Visible Minorities Column 2: Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass
Shingetsu News Agency, SEP 17, 2019 by DEBITO ARUDOU
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2019/09/17/visible-minorities-educating-the-non-japanese-underclass/

SNA (Tokyo) — In a shocking series of exposés at the beginning of this month, the Mainichi Shinbun reported that minority children of workers in Japanese schools were being segregated from their Japanese peers, put in classes for the mentally disabled, and systematically denied an education.

For years now, according to Ministry of Education surveys, schools have subjected their non-native foreign minority students to IQ tests. The results were striking: Non-Japanese children were found to have “developmental disorders” at more than double the rate of the general Japanese student population.

Striking, but not all that surprising—since these tests assessed IQ via culturally-grounded questions, on things like Japanese shogunates and tanabata festivals. They also considered a lack of Japanese language skills an “intellectual” disability.

Let that sink in. Try claiming that your Japanese students are dim because they aren’t proficient in English, and then watch how long you remain an educator.

But here’s where the bad science turns evil…

Read the rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2019/09/17/visible-minorities-educating-the-non-japanese-underclass/

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Mainichi: “‘Prison camps for Brazilians’: Foreign kids in Japan being ushered into special education.” Perpetuates the Japan-“educated” NJ underclass

mytest

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Hi Blog. What follows are two articles that should make you shudder, especially if you have children in Japan’s education system. Here we have kids being treated by Japanese schools as low-IQ “disabled” students just for not being proficient in Japanese language or culture! (Imagine what would happen if ESL teachers in Japan tried to make the case in public that many Japanese are mentally-deficient because they can’t learn English proficiently!)

To make things even more abhorrent, according to a Mainichi headline below, they’re putting these NJ children to work in “prison camps” instead of educating them. This is not only violates the spirit of Japan’s Basic Education Law (or Kyouiku Kihon Hou — which, note, ONLY guarantees a compulsory education to kokumin, or citizens), but also violates once again Japan’s child labor laws. And it creates and perpetuates the underclass of NJ children “educated” in Japan.

There is so much wrong going on here, and I’m glad the Mainichi exposed it. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

PS:  How about this latest permutation of the NJ “Blame Game” from a school vice principal cited below? “When foreigners increase in number, the learning progress of Japanese students is delayed. As far as is possible, (foreign students) should go to classes to be taught one on one.”  So now the presence of foreign classmates hinder Japanese students from getting an education?  Do these “educators” actually have modern training in how education happens?

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‘Prison camps for Brazilians’: Foreign kids in Japan being ushered into special education
September 4, 2019 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of Baud
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190903/p2a/00m/0fe/020000c?

PHOTO CAPTION: A Peruvian boy, 17, collects data from a questionnaire as part of his work training in Nagoya. He is currently enrolled in a high-school-level special education class, and is looking for employment. (Mainichi/Haruna Okuyama) (Image partially modified)

Many foreign children in Japan are being placed in special education against their wishes amid a lack of consensus building with schools and doctors as they have trouble understanding Japanese.

【Related】High ratio of foreign students put in special education after sitting IQ tests in Japanese

【Related】Survey reveals barriers to foreign-born students trying to enter Japan high schools

The finding comes in spite of a notice issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2013 regarding where children with disabilities should study, which states that “the opinions of the child and their parents must be respected as far as is possible.”

In one case, a 14-year-old Brazilian girl who was born in Japan and is now in her second year of junior high school was placed in a special education class for her first four years of elementary school, without her or her mother being given a sufficient explanation.

The girl’s mother came to Japan about 15 years ago, and soon afterward she began working at a car parts factory for about 11 hours a day. She didn’t have enough time to check on her daughter’s schoolwork, so she asked a home tutor to do so. One day, when the girl was in her fourth year of elementary school, it emerged that she couldn’t do multiplication. When the girl was asked, “Don’t you learn that in school?” she replied, “We dig for potatoes at school.”

The school maintained that it was matching education to the level of the children, and argued, “We received a signature when she was enrolled.” Thinking back, the girl’s mother remembered signing a document saying that her daughter would enter a class in which difficult topics would be taught to the students individually. There was no IQ test or other screening method carried out in advance, and the girl’s mother thought that she would be the same as other students, with the school teaching her the subjects she wasn’t good at.

PHOTO CAPTION: This image taken in Nagoya shows memos a doctor presented to the mother of a 6-year-old boy who had taken an IQ test to judge whether he should enter a special education class. (Mainichi/Haruna Okuyama)

When it came to study, however, the girl was taught hardly anything. Later, when she moved schools and took an IQ test in the sixth grade, she was judged to have the intellectual ability of about a 6- or 7-year old. In junior high school, she has remained in a special education class.

A Brazilian woman in her 20s who has already graduated described these special education classes as “prison camps for Brazilians,” as she has seen many friends from her country as well as children being urged to join such classes.

One 8-year-old Brazilian boy now in his third year of elementary school was advised to enter a special education class in the summer of 2017 when he was in his first year of school on the grounds that he stood up and walked about during class. During an IQ test, he was found to have an IQ commensurate with his age, but was judged to have a slightly lower level of Japanese language ability. His mother stressed that he should attend a Japanese language class at school, but his teacher stood firm, saying it was an “intellectual issue.”

The discussions continued, and the boy entered his second year of elementary school. He got a new teacher, and stopped walking around in class. The talk of him going into special education subsequently ceased. The boy’s mother feels that his first teacher was trying to get her son put in special education due to an inability to instruct him.

When approached by the Mainichi Shimbun, the school’s vice principal responded, “We decide whether or not a student goes into special education based on objective data such as hospital tests, and obtain parental consent.” But the vice principal divulged, “When foreigners increase in number, the learning progress of Japanese students is delayed. As far as is possible, (foreign students) should go to classes to be taught one on one.”

Even when it is recognized that a child has an intellectual disability, there are cases in which they are not given sufficient explanations about IQ tests.

One 17-year-old Peruvian national now living in Nagoya was given an IQ test when he entered elementary school, and was diagnosed as having a slight intellectual disability. An IQ test he took in Peru had produced the same result, so his mother did not object to him being enrolled in a special education class. But the Japanese doctor who saw him went no further than providing a verbal opinion. In Peru, his mother had received a diagnosis of 2 to 3 A4-sized pages, and so she asked for more, saying, “I want documentation explaining the diagnosis.”

Upon completion of the diagnosis, she saw the “paperwork” via a nurse, and was lost for words. It consisted merely of two leafs of memo paper, containing basic phrases written in the simple hiragana script: “Intelligence test, about 4 years old.” “Special education, slight delay.”

(Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama, City News Department)
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外国からきた子どもたち 小4、掛け算も教わらず 支援学級「ブラジル人収容所」
毎日新聞2019年9月3日 東京朝刊

職業訓練の一環として、アンケートの集計作業をするペルー国籍の少年(17)。現在は特別支援学校の高等部に在籍し、就職を目指す=名古屋市で、奥山はるな撮影(画像の一部を加工しています)

障害のある子どもの就学先について、文部科学省は2013年の通知で「本人と保護者の意見を可能な限り尊重しなければならない」と明記した。一方で、日本語が十分に理解できないため学校や医師と合意形成できず、希望しないまま特別支援学級に在籍する外国人の子どもは後を絶たない。

日本で生まれ、岐阜県の小学校に通ったブラジル人の中学2年の少女(14)は本人や母親に説明もなく、入学時から小学4年まで特別支援学級に在籍することになった。

母親は約15年前の来日直後から1日約11時間、自動車部品工場で働く。日ごろ勉強を見てあげる余裕がな…

Rest behind paywall at https://mainichi.jp/articles/20190903/ddm/012/040/130000c?

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RELATED:

High ratio of foreign students put in special education after sitting IQ tests in Japanese
September 3, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
Courtesy https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190902/p2a/00m/0na/016000c

PHOTO CAPTION: Takeshi Kayo, 15, who struggled to understand Japanese and was diagnosed as having a developmental disorder, studies for high school entrance exams at a cram school in the suburban city of Fussa in Tokyo in June 2019. (Mainichi/Haruna Okuyama)

TOKYO — Some foreign children in special education in Japan may have been mistakenly diagnosed as having intellectual or other disabilities due to low scores on their IQ tests because they couldn’t understand Japanese, experts have pointed out.

【Related】Foreign kids in Japan relying on volunteers for language support
【Related】10,400 foreign kids lack Japanese language education amid instructor shortfall

Among public elementary and junior high school students in 25 Japanese cities and towns that have a large population of foreign nationals, more than twice the percentage of all students enrolled in special education classes are foreign children, a freedom of information request filed with the education ministry and other sources revealed.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in February 2017 showed that 25 cities and towns that are part of a colloquium of municipalities where many foreign nationals reside called “Gaikokujin Shuju Toshi Kaigi,” 5.37% of foreign children at public elementary and junior high schools were found to be in special education classes, compared to 2.54% of all students at those schools. The results were compiled of foreign children who were in special education classes as of May 2016. The education ministry had not publicly released the survey results or even revealed that it had conducted the survey, saying “it was an internal survey of just some municipalities.”

The situation in May 2019 had also been surveyed in Ota, Gunma Prefecture; Ueda, Nagano Prefecture; Minokamo, Gifu Prefecture; the cities of Yokkaichi and Iga, Mie Prefecture; the cities of Toyohashi and Shinshiro, Aichi Prefecture; and Soja, Okayama Prefecture. The Mainichi Shimbun used the latest data for these eight cities, and calculated the percentage of foreign children in special education classes. The result showed that 5.37% (584 children out of 10,876) of foreign students were enrolled in special education classes, which was over twice the 2.54% (8,725 children out of 343,808) of students who were enrolled in special education classes out of the entire student population in those cities.

In all 25 cities and towns, the ratio of foreign children in special education classes was higher than the ratio of all students in special education classes, with foreign students comprising nearly 20% of special education classes in Soja, Iga, and Shinshiro, at 19.35%, 18.31% and 17.78%, respectively. Foreign students in the 25 cities and towns make up about 15% of those in all of Japan, and it is believed that the trend is similar in the rest of the country.

Whether a student is placed in a special education class depends on several criteria, including IQ tests. Because IQ tests are generally administered in Japanese, it is possible that the IQs of foreign students are not being assessed accurately. An official at the Soja Municipal Government said, “Enrollment in special education classes is the result of evaluating (foreign) students in the same way as Japanese students, but we recognize that the high rate of foreign students (in special education) is something that must be addressed. We’d like to analyze the results (of the survey).”

Yu Abe, the director of Yotsuya Yui Clinic in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, which administers IQ tests in not just Japanese but in Spanish and Portuguese as well, points out that IQ tests have questions similar to those such as “Who founded the Kamakura shogunate?” and “When is the Tanabata festival?” which put the test-taker at a disadvantage if they are not familiar with Japanese culture. Says Abe, “It is difficult to determine if something is due to a disability, a Japanese language proficiency issue or a combination of those things. My hope is that educators expand the possibilities of support for students. For example, if a student has subjects they are good in, such as math or English, they can stay in the standard class, and receive extra assistance in Japanese language and social studies in Japanese language support classes.”

(Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama and Tomoyuki Hori, City News Department)

特別支援学級
外国籍率2倍 IQ検査、日本語力影響か 集住25市町
毎日新聞2019年9月1日 大阪朝刊

外国人が多く住む25市町の公立小中学校に通う外国籍の子どもの5・37%が、知的障害がある子らが学ぶ「特別支援学級」に在籍していたことが、文部科学省への情報公開請求などで判明した。25市町の全児童生徒のうち特別支援学級に在籍しているのは2・54%で、外国籍の子どもの在籍率は2倍超に達していた。専門家は「日本語が理解できないため知能指数(IQ)検査の結果が低く、知的障害などと判断された可能性がある」と指摘している。(27面に「にほんでいきる」)

調査は2017年2月、文科省が外国人住民の多い自治体でつくる「外国人集住都市会議」に参加する25市…

Rest behind paywall at https://mainichi.jp/articles/20190901/ddn/001/040/004000c

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Kyoto JET Programme teacher TS on being made homeless due to xenophobic landlord, and Kyoto Board of Education (who found the apartment) refuses to help

mytest

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Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to Debito.org Reader TS, for a lowdown on how the JET Programme might leave their NJ employees in the lurch in the face of xenophobic landlords. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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From: TS
Subject: Re: Housing contract liabilities as JET program is willing to leave us homeless
Date: August 20, 2019
To: Debito Arudou

Dear Debito,

I have recently learned that as a JET participant via the Kyoto Board of Education that I will lose my housing at the end of August. My landlord, school and board of education will not help me or my wife in recontracting our current place.

My school, Hokuryo, used a flat agency last summer (August 2018) to find adequate housing for my wife and myself. Due to their lack of due diligence and responsible research, we moved in and signed a contract all in Japanese (not explained to us when I first arrived) that the landlord and his wife did not want friends or family visiting my wife and me.

This problem came up in September 2018 when I had a fellow JET from Hyogo visit; I attempted to introduce her (she being African-American) to my landlord, and he promptly crossed his hands and said “no friends”. Next my school gets a call from my landlord, and I’m brought to have a meeting with my principal, English teachers, office staff, and the landlord and landlady. They explained that they don’t want other people (hinting at other foreigners) visiting due to safety issues and concern.

I replied that we trust our guests and also to remind them that nowhere in the contract I signed said this. I also said that if we had known all of this information in advance, we would not have agreed to live in that apartment. In our view, it was the school who decided to offer us this apartment without due diligence and explanation, and in any case I’m not going to say no to, for example, my parents and parents-in-law and force them to go find a hotel if and when they visit. I thought the JET programme was about cultural exchange, anyway.

Following that, over the past year the landlady has come and harassed us about visitors (even though, I repeat, it was nowhere explicitly written in the contract). She also mentioned she was not the one who accepted foreigners to live in the apartment; it was her husband.

Now here it is August 2019, and I am under the impression that my wife and I will have a place to live for the upcoming contract year with JET. However, this time the school delivers a new contract explicitly with stipulations of “no guests in apartment.” You can imagine my anger when I say “you’re forcing me to re-sign for something I didn’t want in the first place.”

So now because we have been given less than a month to find a place that we also hadn’t financially saved up for in terms of moving (it’s more expensive to live elsewhere). But okay, I resigned to signing again for just one more year and accepting their terms of no guests. But a few days ago, I have come to find out that neither my school nor the landlord want to re-sign the contract and thus, the new contract was just for show.

My school has also informed me that they won’t sign as guarantor for any apartment like they will for the other ALT at my school because the circumstances aren’t the same. Is that not discrimination?

I say this because I don’t believe this would have happened had my wife and I been of Caucasian descent.  I am Filipino-American and my wife is a Chinese-Pakistani Canadian Muslim.  The landlords have made it very clear in how they treat other foreigners. 

So now, with only less than 2 weeks before the end of the month, my wife and I cannot live in our current place, nor have the funds to afford to move and live in another… so what are we supposed to do?  How are we supposed to teach and fulfill our contracts but not have anywhere to live?  It is unacceptable the way we have been mistreated by this government program, our board of education and, most specifically, our schools.

I have attempted reaching out to both our prefectural advisor at Kyoto Board of education and a representative from CLAIR but neither can give us a solid answer in moving forward to remedy this situation. How are we to be JET Programme participants and be homeless? Is this my school and Board of Education’s passive-aggressive method of making us break contract? How is this cultural exchange?

Our treatment has solidified how temporary we as even foreign and migrant workers are in the eyes of the Japanese people and government.

Sincerely, TS

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US State Dept. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Japan: Highlights for Debito.org Readers

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Hi Blog.  Every year, the US State Department issues its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”.  As highlighted by the Shingetsu News Agency, the 2018 Report on Japan came out last March.  Now while it’s quite rich for the US to be reporting on other countries (but not, notably, itself) while it has an ongoing human-rights debacle for detained foreign entrants and asylum seekers (and their children) around its southern border, this Report has been cited over the years as authoritative (and it has also included the work of Debito.org and others).

So here are the highlights on issues pertaining to Debito.org.  As you can see, a lot of information is glossed over.  Read the Report on Japan in its entirety here.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Japan

MARCH 13, 2019

Courtesy https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/japan/

Highlights:

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

Prison and Detention Center Conditions:
Prison management regulations stipulate that independent committees inspect prisons and detention centers operated by the Ministry of Justice and detention facilities operated by police. Authorities permitted the committees, which include physicians, lawyers, local municipal officials, and local citizens, to interview detainees without the presence of prison officers.

By law third-party inspection committees also inspected immigration detention facilities, and their recommendations generally received serious consideration.

Domestic and international NGOs and international organizations continued to note that this process failed to meet international prison inspection standards. As evidence, they cited the Justice Ministry’s control of all logistical support for the inspection committees, the use of ministry interpreters during interviews with detainees, and a lack of transparency about the composition of the committees.

[More on what’s been glossed over about detention centers etc. here.]

D. ARBITRARY ARREST OR DETENTION

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. Civil society organizations reported on ethnic profiling and surveillance of foreign Muslims by the police, according to the August report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Public Safety Commission, a cabinet-level entity, oversees the National Police Agency (NPA), and prefectural public safety commissions have responsibility for local police forces. The government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. Some NGOs criticized local public safety commissions for lacking independence from or sufficient authority over police agencies. […]

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations continued to allege that suspects confessed under duress, mainly during unrecorded interrogations, calling for recording entire interrogations for all cases. Prosecutors’ offices and police increasingly recorded entire interrogations for heinous criminal cases, cases involving suspects with intellectual or mental disabilities, and other cases on a trial basis; however, recording was not mandatory, and there was no independent oversight of this practice.

Police inspection offices imposed disciplinary actions against some violators of interrogation guidelines, although the NPA did not release related statistics. […]

[More on what’s been glossed over about police interrogation tactics here.]

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Pretrial Detention
Because judges customarily granted prosecutors’ requests for extensions, pretrial detention, known as daiyou kangoku (substitute prison), usually continued for 23 days. NGOs reported the practice of detaining suspects in daiyou kangoku continued. NGOs and foreign observers continued to report that access to persons other than their attorneys and, in the case of foreign arrestees, consular personnel, was denied to some persons in daiyou kangoku. Nearly all persons detained during the year were held in daiyou kangoku. Beyond daiyou kangoku, extended pretrial detention of foreign detainees was a problem; examples included one person held more than 27 months (as of September) and several held for more than a year without trial. In these cases, prosecutors changed multiple times, trial dates were rescheduled and delayed, and prosecutors continued to request “additional time” to investigate matters that, according to the defendant’s counsel, did not warrant the trial’s further delay or additional preparatory pretrial meetings, which are common for jury system cases. […]

Each charged individual has the right to a trial without undue delay (although foreign observers noted trials may be delayed indefinitely for mentally ill prisoners, and extended pretrial detention of foreign detainees was a problem); to access to defense counsel, including an attorney provided at public expense if indigent; and, to cross-examine witnesses. There is a lay-judge (jury) system for serious criminal cases, and defendants may not be compelled to testify against themselves. Authorities provided free interpretation services to foreign defendants in criminal cases. Foreign defendants in civil cases must pay for interpretation, although a judge may order the plaintiff to pay the charges in accordance with a court’s final decision.

[More on what’s been glossed over about police pretrial detention here.]

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
A. FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PRESS

Freedom of Expression:
According to media and NGO reports, incidents of hate speech against minorities and their defenders, in particular, on the internet, grew. The national law on hate speech applies only to discriminatory speech and behavior directed at those who are not of Japanese heritage and is limited to educating and raising public awareness among the general public against hate speech; it does not carry penalties. Prosecutors have instead used another law on libel to prosecute an extremist group for hate speech, as discussed below. Additionally, on the local-government level, Osaka City and Kyoto Prefecture, where nationalist groups have frequently staged public anti-Korea events near “Korea Town” neighborhoods, as well as Kawasaki City and Tokyo Prefecture, have passed their own ordinances or guidelines to regulate hate speech.

[More on hate speech laws and issues here.]

In April the Kyoto Prefectural Prosecutors’ Office indicted a former Zaitokukai (an ultranationalist organization) senior official, Hitoshi Nishimura, on libel charges for making derogatory online and public statements about the North Korea-affiliated Chosen School in Kyoto. Attorneys for the school’s owner welcomed the prosecutors’ decision to pursue a defamation charge under the Penal Code, which carries a heavier sentence than civil charges levied against other Zaitokukai members following similar incidents in 2009.

[More on the Zaitokukai and their antics here.]

D. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT, INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS, PROTECTION OF REFUGEES, AND STATELESS PERSONS

Access to Asylum:
The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The Ministry of Justice introduced revised screening procedures for refugee applications on January 15 to promote granting refugee status to genuine applicants promptly while also curbing abuse of the application process. As a result, the number of approved applications from January through June, including the approval of two previously denied applications, exceeded the number of approvals granted during all of 2017. In 2017 there were 19,629 applications, 20 of which were approved (0.1 percent). From January through June 2018, the government received 5,586 applications, 22 of which were approved (0.4 percent).

Access to Basic Services:
Refugees continued to face the same discrimination patterns sometimes seen by other foreigners: reduced access to housing, education, and employment. Except for those who met right-to-work conditions, individuals whose refugee applications were pending or on appeal did not have the right to receive social welfare. This status rendered them completely dependent on overcrowded government shelters, illegal employment, or NGO assistance.

[More on issues facing Refugees in Japan here.]

Elections and Political Participation:
Participation of Women and Minorities:
Because some ethnic minority group members are of mixed heritage and did not self-identify, it was difficult to determine their numbers in the Diet, but a number were represented.

[Well, that’s short and under-researched.  Try here, here, and here, for a few more insights.]

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were usually cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies:
The Justice Ministry’s Human Rights Counseling Office had 311 offices across the country. Approximately 14,000 volunteers fielded questions in person, by telephone, or on the internet and provided confidential consultations. Counselling in any of six foreign languages was available in 50 offices. These consultative offices fielded queries, but they do not have authority to investigate human rights violations by individuals or public organizations, provide counsel, or mediate. Municipal governments had human rights offices that dealt with a range of human rights problems.

[That too is under-researched.  These “human rights offices” hardly “deal” with problems effectively at all.]

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

International Child Abductions:
The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

[Seriously, that’s all they say.  Rubbish.]

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities:
Minorities experienced varying degrees of societal discrimination.

Despite legal safeguards against discrimination, foreign permanent residents in the country and nonethnically Japanese citizens, including many who were born, raised, and educated in the country, were subjected to various forms of entrenched societal discrimination, including restricted access to housing, education, health care, and employment opportunities. Foreign nationals as well as “foreign looking” citizens reported they were prohibited entry, sometimes by signs reading “Japanese Only,” to privately owned facilities serving the public, including hotels and restaurants. Although such discrimination was usually open and direct, NGOs complained of government failure to enforce laws prohibiting such restrictions.

Representatives of the ethnic Korean community said hate speech against them in public and on social networking sites continued. Additionally, there was no indication of increased societal acceptance of ethnic Koreans. Although authorities approved most naturalization applications, advocacy groups continued to complain about excessive bureaucratic hurdles that complicated the naturalization process and a lack of transparent criteria for approval. Ethnic Koreans who chose not to naturalize faced difficulties in terms of civil and political rights and regularly encountered discrimination in job promotions as well as access to housing, education, and other benefits.

Senior government officials publicly repudiated the harassment of ethnic groups as inciting discrimination and reaffirmed the protection of individual rights for everyone in the country.

[These reporters owe it to themselves to read book “Embedded Racism“.  It’s not just “societal discrimination” when racialized discrimination is embedded in the very writing of the laws.  Start here at Chapter 4.]

Section 7. Worker Rights

B. PROHIBITION OF FORCED OR COMPULSORY LABOR

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor.

Violations persisted and enforcement was lacking in some segments of the labor market, for example, in sectors where foreign workers were employed; however, in general the government effectively enforced the law. Legal penalties for forced labor varied depending on its form, the victim(s), and the law that prosecutors used to prosecute such offenses. Not all forms of forced or compulsory labor were clearly defined by law, nor did they all carry penalties sufficient to deter violations. For example, the law criminalizes forced labor and prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, but it also allows for fines in lieu of incarceration. NGOs argued that reliance on multiple and overlapping statutes hindered the government’s ability to identify and prosecute trafficking crimes, especially for cases involving forced labor with elements of psychological coercion.

Reports of forced labor continued in the manufacturing, construction, and shipbuilding sectors, largely in small- and medium-size enterprises employing foreign nationals through the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP). This program allows foreign workers to enter the country and work for up to five years in a de facto guest worker program that many observers assessed to be rife with vulnerabilities to trafficking and other labor abuses.

Workers in these jobs experienced restrictions on freedom of movement and communication with persons outside the program, nonpayment of wages, excessive working hours, high debts to brokers in countries of origin, and retention of identity documents. For example, women from Cambodia and China recounted long hours, poor living conditions, restricted freedom of movement, and nonpayment of wages while they were working in a Gifu textile factory. Workers were also sometimes subjected to “forced savings” that they forfeited by leaving early or being forcibly repatriated. For example, some technical interns reportedly paid up to one million yen ($8,900) in their home countries for jobs and were reportedly employed under contracts that mandated forfeiture of those funds to agents in their home country if workers attempted to leave, both of which are illegal under the TITP. In 2017 the government established an oversight body, the Organization for Technical Intern Training (OTIT), which conducted on-site inspections of TITP workplaces. There is concern that the OTIT is understaffed, insufficiently accessible to persons who do not speak Japanese, and ineffective at prosecuting labor abuse cases.

Workers who entered the country illegally or who overstayed their visas were particularly vulnerable. NGOs maintained government oversight was insufficient.

Despite the prevalence of forced labor within the TITP, no case has ever led to a labor trafficking prosecution.

On December 8, the country enacted legislation that creates new categories of working visas to bring in more skilled and blue-collar workers and upgrades the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau to an agency that will oversee companies that accept foreign workers. NGOs expressed concern that the new law does not adequately safeguard against the potential for continued labor abuses, such as those that have been present in the TITP.

[…] Reports of employers forcing pregnant women to leave their jobs continued, although there are no recent data on this problem. In December media reported the case of a Vietnamese technical trainee who was told to have an abortion or quit her job.

[More on the issues involving “Trainees” etc. here.]

E. ACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS OF WORK

The minimum wage ranged from 737 to 958 yen ($6.50 to $8.50) per hour, depending on the prefecture. The poverty line was 1.22 million yen ($10,900) per year. […] Nonregular workers (which include part-time workers, fixed-term contract workers, and dispatch workers) made up approximately 37 percent of the labor force in 2017. […]

Reports of abuses in the TITP were common, including injuries due to unsafe equipment and insufficient training, nonpayment of wages and overtime compensation, excessive and often spurious salary deductions, forced repatriation, and substandard living conditions (also see section 7.b.). In addition, observers alleged that a conflict of interest existed, since the inspectors who oversee the TITP working conditions were employed by two ministries that are members of the interagency group administering the TITP. Some inspectors appeared reluctant to conduct investigations that could cast a negative light on a government program that business owners favored.

There were also reports of informal employment of foreign asylum seekers on provisional release from detention who did not have work permits. Such workers were vulnerable to mistreatment and did not have access to standard labor protections or oversight.

EXCERPT ENDS

========================
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Mainichi: New “open door” visa programs violate basic NJ human rights (now including marriage and children), don’t resolve cruel detention centers, and still curb actual immigration and assimilation

mytest

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Hi Blog.  The Mainichi updates us on how Japan’s oft-toted “wider open door” new visa regimes make sure any actual immigration is held in check, with continuing draconian and deadly treatment for detained NJ.

The Mainichi calls them “haphazard immigration policies”, but that’s inaccurate.  Japan still has no policy in place to encourage newcomers become immigrants (imin, i.e., firmly-established taxpaying residents and citizens).  Au contraire, they’re still part of what Debito.org has called a “revolving-door” visa policy that has been in place for nearly thirty years now (what with the “Trainee” and “Technical Intern” programs that won’t even call NJ laborers “workers” (roudousha) in order to avoid granting them some legal protections), to make sure we take them in young, fresh and cheap, and spit them out when they’re too expensive or past their working prime.

For those who fall afoul of this exploitative system, they face being made an example of within cruel “gaijin tank” detention centers (which don’t fall under minimum standards covering prisons), which in effect send a deterrent message.  It’s similar to what’s happening in the concentration camps now being run by the US Customs and Border Patrol (which, given that 45’s supporters are in thrall to Japan’s putative ethnostate, should not be too surprising).

As an interesting aside, the Mainichi below mentions how Japan even ethnically cleansed itself of Iranians in the 1990s, which can and will happen again.  Now public policy is going one step further — trying to nip any possibility of marriage and children with Japanese.  There are even bans on NJ on certain work visas having international liaisons, marriage, and children!

For all the new “open-door” visas being advertised, it’s clear that NJ are still seen more as work units than human beings.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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

Left in limbo: Japan’s haphazard immigration policies, disrespect for human rights
April 19, 2019 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190419/p2a/00m/0fe/004000c

PHOTO CAPTION: Farhad Ghassemi’s father, Seyfollah Ghassemi, had been detained at Higashi Nihon Immigration Center, also known as Ushiku Detention Center, until his provisional release in October of last year. Pictured here at his home in Kanagawa Prefecture on March 12, 2019, Seyfollah says he is worried that his provisional release could be revoked at any time. (Mainichi/Jun Ida)

Japan is expected to see an influx of at least 340,000 people in the next five years, as a result of the amended Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act that went into effect April 1. But are this country’s people, society and legal system ready for such a sudden shift? Foreign nationals who have already lived in Japan for years and their Japanese supporters cast doubt not only on Japan’s preparedness, but on its willingness.

【Related】Japan opens door wider to foreign workers under new visa system
【Related】Japan born and raised, boy of Iranian-Bolivian descent fights deportation order
【Related】Housing complex with foreign, Japanese residents provide model for a diverse society

Kanagawa resident Farhad Ghassemi, 17, was born in Japan to an Iranian father and a Japanese Bolivian mother. He’s an Iranian national, but the extent of his skills in Farsi and Spanish, his father’s and mother’s mother tongues, respectively, are minimal. He filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court seeking, among other things, the invalidation of a deportation order that was issued when he was 6 years old. On Feb. 28, however, Presiding Judge Chieko Shimizu dismissed all of his requests.

Farhad was sitting in the gallery the moment the ruling was handed down. He cradled his head in his arms and did not move for a while afterward. “I was shocked,” he says. “I can’t help but think they’re just bullying us.”

Farhad’s father, 50-year-old Seyfollah Ghassemi, entered Japan in 1992, seeking work. Here he met Liliana, 50, and the two married. Their son Farhad was born in 2002. In 2009, the year after Seyfollah was arrested for overstaying his visa, the family of three was issued a written deportation order.

Farhad’s status until now has been “provisional release,” meaning he does not have a residence permit but is not in detention, allowing him to receive an education alongside his Japanese peers. The latest ruling has forced Farhad to enter his final year of high school not knowing what will happen to him, under an unauthorized status. He wants to further his education, but does not know how many universities here accept foreign nationals without authorization to live in Japan. Farhad appealed the district court’s ruling to the Tokyo High Court.

Farhad is naturally worried about what lies ahead. “I can’t plan my future,” he said.

This reporter has recently visited the family’s home in Kanagawa Prefecture. By the window was a photo of the family taken at an aquarium before Farhad had started elementary school. “Japan is the only place where all three of us can live together,” Seyfollah said.

Seyfollah is Muslim, while Liliana is Christian. In Iran, even the inter-sect marriage of Sunnis and Shias is highly controversial. Under Iranian law, Liliana would be forced to convert to Islam. Farhad, who does not follow any religion, would also be forced to become Muslim.

The Tokyo District Court acknowledged that there was a “risk of great loss” if Farhad’s request for permission to stay in Japan were not granted, because Farhad’s life was deeply rooted in Japan, both in terms of language and lifestyle. Moreover, the court stated that “the plaintiff could not be held responsible” for the fact that he has been on overstay status since he was 6 years old. And yet, the reasoning that is given for the government’s ultimate decision not to grant Farhad special residence permission is that it is “within the discretion of the government,” and is “legitimate.”

“This is the true face of a country that amended its immigration law to say, ‘Welcome, foreign laborers,'” says journalist Koichi Yasuda, who witnessed the sentencing in the gallery of the courtroom. “For self-serving reasons, the state is trying to kick out people who have actually put down roots in Japan. It’s a complete contradiction.”

Yasuda writes about discrimination against foreign nationals and human rights issues in his latest book, “Danchi to imin” (Danchi apartments and immigrants). He points out that until 1992, the year Seyfollah arrived in Japan, Iran and Japan had a mutual visa waiver agreement in place. “At the time, micro-, small- and mid-sized businesses were highly dependent on Iranian laborers, making their presence crucial. Many people can probably recall the sight of many Iranian workers who, on their days off, would congregate at parks in Tokyo to exchange information,” Yasuda says. “The Japanese government was effectively giving its approval to Iranian labor.”

However, once Japan’s economy tanked, society’s anti-foreign rhetoric spread. It was against this backdrop, Yasuda explains, that the government beefed up its policy of urging Iranians to leave Japan. Meanwhile, the 1990s saw a surge in the number of laborers coming into Japan from Brazil and other countries due to relaxed visa requirements for foreign nationals of Japanese descent.

“(Farhad’s mother) Liliana, who is of Japanese descent, arrived in Japan in 1994. Families like the Ghassemis are precisely the result of Japan’s haphazard immigration policies. And now the children of the couples who met in Japan are being told to leave the country. The phenomenon is symbolic of Japanese society,” Yasuda says.

Once in Japan, Seyfollah experienced discrimination at the workplace when he was an automobile mechanic, and also in his everyday life. But he recalls that ever since he met Liliana, they “helped each other lead their lives in Japan, a country that was unfamiliar to both of us.” Reading the court ruling handed to Farhad, it makes one wonder whether foreign nationals who come to Japan are forbidden from falling in love or getting married depending on their visa status.

“Such bans actually exist in Japan,” Yasuda tells the Mainichi Shimbun.

Through interns with the Technical Intern Training Program whom he has interviewed, Yasuda has learned of cases in which bans on dating and getting married — regardless of the other party’s nationality — are clearly outlined in the interns’ workplace regulations. “It’s like middle school ‘seito techo’ (school rulebooks that most Japanese middle schools distribute to their students), but they’re forcing these rules on foreign nationals in their 20s and 30s,” he says. “One rule even went like this: ‘Conduct that could result in pregnancy is banned.’ Japanese employers think they can include such a rule in their work regulations if they’re targeted toward foreign laborers.”

At the same time that the amended immigration laws went into force in a bid to bring more foreign workers to Japan, the long-term detentions of foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas is a common sight at immigration detention centers across the country. As of the end of July 2018, of the 1,309 detainees nationwide, 54% had been detained for six months or longer. According to attorneys and others who provide assistance to foreign workers in Japan, 13 foreign nationals died by suicide or from illness while in detention between 2007 and 2018. Many detainees complain of appalling health conditions at detention centers, saying they are hardly permitted to see physicians.

A damages lawsuit brought against the central government at the Mito District Court for the 2014 death of a then 43-year-old Cameroonian man while he was detained at Higashi Nihon Immigration Center in the Ibaraki Prefecture city of Ushiku is ongoing. His mother, who resides in Cameroon, filed the suit.

According to the legal complaint that was filed, the man had been confirmed as diabetic after a medical consultation at the immigration center. He began to complain of pain in February 2014, and died at the end of March that year. Security cameras at the center captured him saying in English that he felt like he was dying starting the night before his death, and the footage has been saved as evidence. Even after the man fell from his bed, he was left unattended, and a staff member found him in cardiopulmonary arrest the following morning. He was transported to a hospital where he was confirmed dead.

“Immigration officials have a duty to provide emergency medical care,” says the plaintiff’s attorney, Koichi Kodama. “The government should be accountable for revealing who was watching the footage of the man rolling around on the floor, screaming in pain, and whether anyone went directly to his room to check on his condition.”

There is no way a society that does not respect the human rights of individual foreigners and only sees them as “cheap labor” or “targets of public security measures” can flourish.

Says journalist Yasuda, “There are times when I wonder if Japan should be allowed to bring in foreigners, or has the right to bring in foreigners. At the same time, though, I believe that it’s a good thing for society that people with different roots live together. I think that the media should stop reporting on foreigners as people to be pitied, and not forget that this is a problem with our society.”

(Japanese original by Jun Ida, Integrated Digital News Center, Evening Edition Group)
Japanese version (excerpt)

特集ワイド
外国人労働者は恋愛禁止? 場当たり政策が生む「悲劇」
毎日新聞2019年4月1日 東京夕刊
写真:昨年10月まで東日本入国管理センターに収容され、仮放免中のガセミ・セイフォラさん。「また仮放免を取り消されるのではないかといつも不安です」=神奈川県の自宅で
外国人労働者の受け入れ拡大を目的にした改正入管法が1日、施行された。今後5年間で34万人以上の増加を見込む外国人とともに暮らすための法制度や社会の準備は本当に整っているのか。長く日本で生活しながら差別的な扱いに苦しむ外国人と、支援者からは不安の声が聞こえる。【井田純】

改正入管法施行 消えぬ不安の声
判決が言い渡された瞬間、傍聴席に座っていた神奈川県在住の原告、ガセミ・ファラハッドさん(17)=イラン国籍=は頭を抱えてうつむき、しばらくの間動かなかった。「ショックでした。自分たちをいじめているようにしか思えません」。父はイラン人、母は日系ボリビア人。日本で生まれ育ち、両親の母語はあいさつ程度しか話せない。6歳の時に出された「退去強制令書」の無効確認などを求めて東京地裁に提訴したが、2月28日、清水知恵子裁判長はすべての請求を退ける判決を言い渡した。

この訴訟については途中経過を昨年9月の「特集ワイド」で取り上げたが、改めて経緯を振り返りたい。

Rest available by subscription at http://mainichi.jp/articles/20190401/dde/012/040/015000c

ENDS
=================================
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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!)

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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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SCMP: “Japan: now open to foreign workers, but still just as racist?” Quotes Debito.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As a follow-up to what I wrote for the Japan Times in my end-year column last January (see item #1), here’s the SCMP offering more insights into the issue of Japan’s new visa regimes and the feeling of plus ca change.  My comment about the article is within the article.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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Japan: now open to foreign workers, but still just as racist?

Japan is opening its doors to blue-collar workers from overseas to fill the gaps left by an ageing population
Resident ‘gaijin’ warn that the new recruits – whom the government refuses to call ‘immigrants’ – might not feel so welcome in Japan
By Julian Ryall, South China Morning Post, 11 May, 2019
https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3009800/japan-now-open-foreign-workers-still-just-racist

Japan’s reluctance to allow foreigners to fill the gaps in its labour market has finally crumbled, as the country begins issuing the first of its new visas for blue-collar workers from overseas.

The first exams for applicants are being held in locations across Japan and also in Manila, following the introduction last month of new visa classifications that the government expects will lead to the admittance of more than 345,000 foreigners over the next five years.

Teething problems appear all but inevitable given the nation is famously insular, is not experienced with large-scale immigration and has a deep distrust of change.

Companies struggling to find enough employees as the population ages and fewer young people enter the workforce have broadly welcomed the new immigration rules – though there are still many who insist that the government has made a mistake and that local people’s jobs and social harmony are at risk. Ultra-conservatives, meanwhile, are railing at the potential impact on the racial purity of their island nation.

And there are foreign residents of Japan who fear the new rules may encourage even more overt discrimination against “gaijin”, or foreigners, than already exists. According to government statistics, there are 2.217 million foreign residents of Japan, with Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians making up the largest national contingents.

The new visa has two versions, both requiring a company to sponsor the foreign worker and provide evidence that he or she has passed various tests, including on Japanese language ability.

Fourteen industries – including food services, cleaning, construction, agriculture, fishing, vehicle repair and machine operations – are covered by the first visa, aimed at those with limited work skills. The worker’s stay is limited to five years, with the option of visa renewals, but they are not permitted to bring their family members to Japan.

The second type of visa does permit skilled workers to bring their families to Japan when they meet certain criteria, although this has led to domestic criticism that the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has opened the door to enabling immigrants to settle permanently in Japan, despite the government’s insistence they are only in the country temporarily and are not immigrants.

Industry analysts say the issue needs to be addressed urgently, although they also warn that the 47,550 visas that are expected to be issued in the first year of the new scheme, and the total of 345,000 over the initial five years, will still fall well short of what domestic industries require.

Japan’s open to foreign workers. Just don’t call them immigrants

“Government statistics and industry are both telling us that the labour market is completely empty,” said Martin Schulz, senior economist for the Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo.

“With the boom in the construction sector ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, companies are becoming desperate,” he said. “They are finding it very hard to fulfil their current project requirements and they are refusing to take on new projects.

“But in truth, Japan has no choice but to open up to foreign workers,” Schulz said. “Even with more automation and robots, there are simply not enough people.”

Yet there has been significant resistance among those who fear their jobs will be taken by foreigners who will work longer hours for lower wages, those who say outsiders will cause problems because they will be unable to assimilate into Japanese society or struggle with the language barrier.

The concerns about foreigners settling in Japan cut both ways, however.

Very often, according to French expat Eric Fior, it’s the relatively minor but persistent incidents of discrimination in Japan that get under his skin. Such as the time it snowed heavily one winter and the janitor of the building in Yokohama where he had his office shovelled the snow away from every door in the building. Except his.

Or the time he confirmed with the management of the property that he could have some flower boxes outside his office door, just like the other tenants, and he was given permission to do so. Three days after he positioned the flower boxes, the nearby tap he used to water them was disconnected.

He asked the janitor where it had gone and got a shrug in reply. As the man turned away, Fior could see the tap in his pocket.

“What can you do?” said Fior, 47. “Japan is such a polite country on the surface and everyone smiles and bows, but there are a lot of times when you get the sense that not far below the surface is the wish that us foreigners were just not here.

“But there really is little point in confronting them as nothing will get done and we just end up with the reputation of ‘foreigners who cause problems’,” he shrugged.

Reports of discrimination against the foreign community in Japan are countless and varied – from landlords who refuse to rent to non-Japanese for no apparent reason other than their nationality, commuters who refuse to sit next to a foreigner on a packed train or signs at the entrances to bars or restaurants baldly stating “No foreigners” – but a new study indicates the scale of the problem.

Conducted by the Anti-Racism Information Centre, a group set up by activists and scholars, 167 of the 340 foreign nationals who took part in the study said they had experienced discriminatory treatment at the hands of Japanese.

Replying to the study, a foreign part-time shop employee recalled a Japanese customer who did not like seeing foreigners working as cashiers, refused to be served by them and demanded Japanese staff. Another response to the study noted the case of a Chinese employee of a 24-hour store who was reprimanded after speaking with a Chinese customer in Chinese and ordered to only speak in Japanese.

Others reported being refused rental accommodation or denied access to shops.

Activists point out, however, that the Japanese government’s new regulations that relax visa requirements for workers from abroad mean that there will soon be tens of thousands of additional foreigners living in Japanese communities.

“It’s a net positive that Japan is bringing over more people, since that may help normalise the fact that non-Japanese are contributing to Japanese society,” said Debito Arudou, author of Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination.

“But it is disappointing that Japan still is not doing the groundwork necessary to make these newcomers want to stay and contribute permanently,” he said. “The new visa regime still treats these non-Japanese entrants as ‘revolving-door’ workers, with no clear path to permanent residency or citizenship.

“And – as the surveys seem to indicate – one fundamental flaw in these plans is that non-Japanese are insufficiently protected from the bigotry found in all societies,” Arudou said.

“Japan still has no national law against racial discrimination, remaining the only major industrialised society without one. Even government mechanisms ostensibly charged with redressing discrimination have no enforcement power.”

Tokyo needs to pass the laws that make racial discrimination illegal, empower oversight organisations and create an actual immigration policy instead of a “stop-gap labour shortage visa regime”, he said.

“At the very least, tell the public that non-Japanese workers are workers like everyone else, filling a valuable role, contributing to Japanese society and are residents, taxpayers, neighbours and potential future Japanese citizens,” he added.

Discrimination is arguably felt more by people from other Asian nations than Westerners, while even Japanese women are often described as second-class citizens purely as a result of their gender.

“I first came to Japan in the 1970s to attend university and, being from a third-world country, the Philippines, I encountered a few obstacles when I was looking for apartments,” said Joy Saison, who today has her own business and is a consultant to a French start-up company.

“Despite fulfilling the requirements for a Japanese guarantor and having bank statements, there were many occasions when I was refused,” she said. “Back then, going to an ‘onsen’ or restaurant with ‘gaijin’ friends was a pain, too. If none of us looked Japanese enough, we were refused entry right at the door.”

But Saison has a theory about racism in Japan.

“Japan has always been a homogenous society and so the default mindset here is that anything alien to them gets scrutinised and is not trusted,” she said. “But having a win-win attitude will get you on their good side.”
ENDS

===================
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Kyodo: Half of foreigners in Tokyo experienced discrimination: ARIC survey

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Hi Blog.  At the risk of calling forth “Captain Obvious” or “Obviousman“, here’s a survey saying that half of Tokyo-resident NJs have experienced discrimination; it even made the news.  The survey is not quite on the scale or scope of the previous Ministry of Justice one Debito.org covered (and I wrote two Japan Times columns about here and here) in 2017, since it has a smaller sample size, has a more targeted surveyed group, and is confined to the Tokyo area.  But it’s nevertheless better than the very biased one the GOJ did twelve years ago.

It also deserves a mention on Debito.org as it quantifies the degree and patterns of discriminatory behavior out there.  ARIC, the group doing the survey, is on the right track recording issues of domestic racism and hate speech.  Let’s have more surveys in other places, and get data quantified and triangulated nationwide.  Enough of these, and recorded isolated incidents eventually merge into patterns, and ultimately concretely-measured trends that justify public policy fixes.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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

Half of foreigners in Tokyo experienced discrimination: survey
The Japan Times and Mainichi Shinbun, April 17, 2019, Courtesy of JR
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/04/17/national/social-issues/half-foreign-nationals-tokyo-experience-discrimination-survey-shows/

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Nearly half of the foreigners living in Tokyo have experienced racial discrimination, according to a survey released Tuesday by a civic group.

In the survey conducted by the Anti Racism Information Center, a group organized by scholars, activists and university students, 167 of 340 respondents including students said that they have suffered discriminatory treatment such as being told not to talk in a language other than Japanese.

Some working as retail shop cashiers said customers asked for Japanese cashiers, according to the face-to-face questionnaire survey conducted in February and March in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.

Among them, a Nepalese man who works at a drugstore said one customer told him that he or she does not like to see a foreigner working as a cashier and asked for someone else.

A Chinese respondent who works at a convenience store said that a colleague told the respondent not to speak Chinese when the respondent was asked for directions by a Chinese-speaking customer.

There were also cases where foreigners had apartment rental applications rejected. Some said they were denied entry into stores, but none of the respondents took their case to a public office dealing with such issues.

Ryang Yong Song, a representative of the civic group, told a press conference that foreigners living in Japan tend to “end up letting (their discriminatory experiences) drop.”

“The government should conduct a survey to show what kind of discrimination foreigners face,” Ryang said, calling on schools and employers to deal more proactively with discrimination and establish a mechanism to involve public officials in addressing the problems.

With the country’s new visa system having started this month to bring in more foreign workers to address the deepening labor crunch, there have been criticisms about the government’s ability to offer consultation to foreign residents.

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.

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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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NYT: Hair policing soon to be treated as “racial discrimination” by NYC Commission of Human Rights. Compare with JHS & HS Hair Police in Japan.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Related to our recent posts by Senaiho about the unchecked bullying power of the self-appointed “Hair Police” in Japan’s secondary education system, here’s how a progressive system deals with it, particularly when it comes to hairstyles in the professional world. New York City’s Human Rights Commission will soon be enforcing guidelines dealing with racial discrimination when it comes to how people choose to wear their hair professionally. And these penalties have real teeth: The NYC HRC can levy fines on companies of up to a quarter-mil, plus damages in court afterwards!

This is, of course, absolutely unimaginable in Japan, where their state-sponsored “Bureau of Human Rights” (Jinken Yougobu) is but a Potemkin system (with no ability to levy penalties, and arbitrary guidelines for launching investigations) that only exists to deflect criticism from overseas that Japan isn’t respecting treaty obligations towards human rights. Consequently people of diversity are forced into an absolutist narrative where “looking Japanese” is not only quantifiable as a standard (e.g., hair must be straight and black), but also enforceable under normalized racial profiling by the Japanese police (which has detained people for “looking foreign” while Japanese). This is why “Embedded Racism” remains so unchecked in Japan.

Read on for how NYC HRC is doing it, and consider this as a template. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

New York City to Ban Discrimination Based on Hair
New guidelines out this week give legal recourse to individuals who have been harassed, punished or fired because of the style of their hair.
By Stacey Stowe
The New York Times, Feb. 18, 2019
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/18/style/hair-discrimination-new-york-city.html

PHOTO CAPTION: The New York City’s human rights commission specifically asserts the right of people to have “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

Under new guidelines to be released this week by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the targeting of people based on their hair or hairstyle, at work, school or in public spaces, will now be considered racial discrimination.

The change in law applies to anyone in New York City but is aimed at remedying the disparate treatment of black people; the guidelines specifically mention the right of New Yorkers to maintain their “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

In practice, the guidelines give legal recourse to individuals who have been harassed, threatened, punished, demoted or fired because of the texture or style of their hair. The city commission can levy penalties up to $250,000 on defendants that are found in violation of the guidelines and there is no cap on damages. The commission can also force internal policy changes and rehirings at offending institutions.

The move was prompted in part by investigations after complaints from workers at two Bronx businesses — a medical facility in Morris Park and a nonprofit in Morrisania — as well as workers at an Upper East Side hair salon and a restaurant in the Howard Beach section of Queens. (The new guidelines do not interfere with health and safety reasons for wearing hair up or in a net, as long as the rules apply to everyone.)

The guidelines, obtained by The New York Times before their public release, are believed to be the first of their kind in the country. They are based on the argument that hair is inherent to one’s race (and can be closely associated with “racial, ethnic, or cultural identities”) and is therefore protected under the city’s human rights laws, which outlaw discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, religion and other protected classes.

To date, there is no legal precedent in federal court for the protection of hair. Indeed, last spring the United States Supreme Court refused an NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund request to review a case in which a black woman, Chastity Jones, had her job offer rescinded in 2010 at an Alabama insurance company after she refused to cut off her dreadlocks.

But New York City’s human rights commission is one of the most progressive in the nation; it recognizes many more areas of discrimination than federal law, including in employment, housing, pregnancy and marital status. Its legal enforcement bureau can conduct investigations, and has the ability to subpoena witnesses and prosecute violations.

“There’s nothing keeping us from calling out these policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with black people,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, the commissioner and chairwoman of the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

“They are based on racist standards of appearance,” Ms. Malalis continued, saying that they perpetuate “racist stereotypes that say black hairstyles are unprofessional or improper.”

In New York, it isn’t difficult to find black women and men who can speak about how their hair has affected their lives in both subtle and substantial ways, ranging from veiled comments from co-workers to ultimatums from bosses to look “more professional” or find another job.

For Avery, 39, who works in Manhattan in court administration and declined to provide her last name for fear of reprisal at work, the answer to how often she fields remarks on her hair in a professional setting is “every day.”

Avery said her supervisor, who is white, encourages her to relax her hair, which she was wearing in shoulder-length chestnut-colored braids. “She’s like, ‘You should do your hair,’ when it is already styled, or she says, ‘straight is better,’” Avery said. She added that the only hair color her supervisor approves of is black.

Georbina DaRosa, who is interning to be a social worker, had her hair in box braids as she ate lunch with a colleague at Shake Shack on East 86th Street on a recent weekend afternoon. Ms. DaRosa said her hair sometimes elicited “microaggressions” from her superiors at work.

“Like, people say, ‘I wouldn’t be able to recognize you because you keep changing your hairstyle,’ that’s typical,” said Ms. DaRosa, 24.

Her lunch partner, Pahola Capellan, who is also black and whose ringlets were bobbed just above her shoulders, said, of her own experience: “It’s very different. There’s no discrimination because my hair is more acceptable.”

A 21-year-old black woman who gave her name only as Enie said she quit her job as a cashier at a Manhattan Wendy’s six months ago when a manager asked her to cut off her 14-inch hair extensions. “I quit because you can’t tell me my hair is too long, but the other females who are other races don’t have to cut their hair,” said Enie, who now works at a hospital.

There has long been a professional toll for those with certain hairstyles. Almost 18 percent of United States soldiers in active duty are black, but it is only in recent years that the military has dropped its prohibitions on hairstyles associated with black culture. The Marines approved braid, twist and “lock” (usually spelled loc) hairstyles in 2015, with some caveats, and the Army lifted its ban on dreadlocks in 2017.

And certain black hairstyles are freighted with history. Wearing an Afro in the 1960s, for instance, was often seen as a political statement instead of a purely aesthetic choice, said Noliwe Rooks, an author and professor at Cornell University whose work explores race and gender. Dr. Rooks said that today, black men who shave designs into their hair as a stylistic choice may be perceived as telegraphing gang membership.

“People read our bodies in ways we don’t always intend,” Dr. Rooks said. “As Zora Neale Hurston said, there is the ‘will to adorn,’ but there is often a backlash against it.”

Chaumtoli Huq, an associate professor of labor and employment law at City University of New York School of Law, said that attitudes will change as black politicians, like Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor of Georgia, and Ayanna Pressley, who represents Massachusetts in Congress, rise in prominence.

“As more high-profile black women like Abrams and Pressley opt for natural hairstyles, twists, braids, we may see a positive cultural shift that would impact how courts view these guidelines that seek to prevent discrimination based on hair,” Ms. Huq said.

Hair discrimination affects people of all ages. In the past several years, there have been a number of cases of black students sent home or punished for their hairstyles. In New Jersey, the state civil rights division and its interscholastic athletic association started separate investigations in December when Andrew Johnson, a black high school student, was told to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match.

Last August, an 11-year-old student in Terrytown, La., was sent home from school for wearing braids, as was a 6-year-old boy in Florida who wore dreadlocks. In 2017, Mya and Deana Cook, twin sisters in Massachusetts, were forced to serve detentions because officials said their braids violated their school’s grooming policy.

Similar instances in New York City could fall under the human rights commission’s expansive mandate, as do instances of retailers that sell and display racist iconography.

In December, the commission issued a cease-and-desist order to Prada, the Italian luxury fashion house, after the window of its SoHo store was adorned with charms and key chains featuring blackface imagery.

The fashion company instituted training in the city’s human rights law for employees, executives, and independent contractors. It also immediately pulled the line of goods from its United States stores.
ENDS

=============================
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Debito.org’s stance on the Carlos Ghosn Case, at last: A boardroom coup making “thin legal soup” that might shame Japan’s “hostage justice” judicial system into reform

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has been holding back on commenting on the Carlos Ghosn arrest.  A former president of Nissan and Mitsubishi, Ghosn was a hero in many circles for saving the formerly struggling Japanese automakers and making them world players again.  (Disclosure:  I’ve owned a number of Nissans, and found their quality improved over the years.)  So imagine everyone’s surprise (not the least his) when he’s returning from an overseas meeting last November and suddenly gets arrested at Haneda Airport (along with a fellow NJ associate), and thrown in the clink without trace for the standard 48 hours without charge, then a couple of ten-day periods before re-arrest and repeat.

The reason Debito.org has been holding back is because, well, actually, what happened to Ghosn after arrest is not all that surprising from a jurisprudential perspective.  This could happen to anyone regardless of nationality (excepting the general denial of bail for NJ).  And I personally have to admit feeling just a shade of schadenfreude for a filthy-rich one-percenter getting taken down a peg.

Truth is, I wanted to see if he’d get the standard treatment afforded most perps in Japan — a few weeks, months, or even more than a year of disappearing while being put under constant duress until you sign a confession (aka “hostage justice“).  Plus the standard treatment given NJ under arrest — an additional presumption of a lack of human rights for foreigners.  More on all that in my book Embedded Racism, Ch. 6, “A Chinaman’s Chance in Japanese Court”. I did comment on Ghosn for The Japan Times in my annual year-end round-up Just Be Cause column (published version here, “Director’s Cut” here).

Well, Ghosn has gotten the treatment.  Except for the fact he’s been able to communicate with the media in high-profile interviews.  More on that below.  So here’s Debito.org’s long-awaited comment about the Ghosn Case (from that “Director’s Cut”):

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DEBITO.ORG COMMENTS:  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 Debito.org’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% 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.

(Source on “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
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/)

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Well, the news is now Ghosn’s case has been picked over by the media (the charges are being called “thin soup” below).  And Ghosn’s high-profile status has enabled him to get a high-profile interview with the Nikkei newspaper below (for fifteen minutes, with a five-minute extension).  Few if any other people incarcerated in this system have this much ability to draw attention and make their case to the public.

Moreover, since Ghosn’s Japanese language abilities are probably not at the level of the language in his interview, it’s reasonable to assume  the interview was in English.  In my direct experience in dealing with other incarcerated foreigners, if they talk with anyone they must do it with a guard present, and they must speak in Japanese at all times so the guard can understand what’s being said.  Ghosn’s ability to get around that rule seems to be another trapping of his privilege.

That’s a bit annoying.  But if it eventually shines light on an abuse of the Japanese judicial system in specific (i.e., uneven enforcement of the law), and shames Japan into reforming its “hostage justice” interrogation system in general, then some good may come of it.

In the end, the Ghosn Case, on top of the the Woodford Case, remain excellent reasons why foreigners shouldn’t hope to become executives in Japanese companies.  One boardroom coup later by the nativists, you could be in jail for being CEO while foreign. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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NISSAN’S GHOSN CRISIS
Exclusive interview: Ghosn says ‘plot and treason’ led to arrest
Ex-Nissan chief claims rivals wanted to ‘get rid’ of him
Nikkei Asian Review, Nikkei staff writers, January 30, 2019
https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Nissan-s-Ghosn-crisis/Exclusive-interview-Ghosn-says-plot-and-treason-led-to-arrest

In his first interview since being detained on Nov.19, ousted Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn claimed that certain people had “distorted reality” for the purpose of “getting rid of him.”

TOKYO — Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn told Nikkei in an exclusive interview Wednesday that he had “no doubt” that the charges against him were the result of “plot and treason” by Nissan executives opposed to his plan for deeper integration between Renault and its two Japanese alliance partners.

Speaking on the 10th floor of the Tokyo Detention House, dressed in a black fleece jacket and gray sweatpants, Ghosn acknowledged that “there was a plan to integrate” Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors. The plans had been discussed with Nissan President Hiroto Saikawa in September, he added.

In his first interview since being detained on Nov. 19, Ghosn claimed that he had wanted to include Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko in the talks, but “Saikawa wanted it one-on-one.”

Once the three automakers were more closely integrated, Ghosn wanted to ensure there would be “autonomy under one holding company,” he said, adding that this plan was in line with how he had operated the alliance in past years.

Allies of Ghosn’s have argued that some Nissan executives feared a further concentration of power under his leadership, prompting them to cooperate with Tokyo prosecutors.

Nikkei had been requesting a one-on-one interview with Ghosn since his arrest last year. The approval was granted this week.

Ghosn was allowed by the Tokyo District Court to speak with Nikkei. Media interviews with prominent business leaders in detention are extremely rare in Japan.

“We don’t have much time. Let’s get started,” Ghosn said at the beginning of the interview from behind the acrylic glass partition. As the end of the allotted 15 minutes approached, he asked the officer for “a little more” time, and was granted a five-minute extension.

The Brazilian-born tycoon has dismissed accusations that his 19-year reign at Nissan was a “dictatorship,” saying this was a narrative created by rivals who wanted to remove him. “People translated strong leadership to dictator, to distort reality” for the “purpose of getting rid of me,” he added.

Ghosn has been held without bail for more than 70 days since Tokyo prosecutors arrested him on allegations of financial misconduct.

He was charged with underreporting his salary over several years, and aggravated breach of trust for allegedly transferring to Nissan personal trading losses from foreign exchange contracts.

The breach-of-trust charges center on $14.7 million in payments to a company run by Saudi businessman Khaled al-Juffali.

He denied the accusations and claimed “the executive in charge of the region signed [the approval].”

The payment was made from Ghosn’s “CEO reserve,” a pot of money that he was free to decide how to spend. He said the “CEO reserve is not a black box” and “four officers signed” for the payment to al-Juffali.

Ghosn is also accused of receiving 7.82 million euros ($8.9 million) in improper payments through Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V., a Netherlands-based joint venture between the two Japanese companies. He said the venture was established for “synergy and not for payment,” adding that the claims of improper payments were a “distortion of reality.”

Ghosn said his purchase of luxury properties in Rio de Janeiro and Beirut — which Nissan alleges were paid for improperly through a subsidiary — were approved by the legal department. Pointing to a former loyalist and long-time executive in the legal department, Ghosn said: “Hari Nada has done all this.”

He justified the houses on the grounds that he “needed a safe place where [he] can work and receive people in both Brazil and Lebanon.”

“[Have I] done [something] inappropriate? I am not a lawyer, I don’t know the interpretation of [such] facts,” Ghosn said, showing his frustration over Nissan’s internal investigation.

“These are known by everybody, why didn’t they tell me?”

Ghosn, whose second bail request was rejected Jan. 22, insisted that he was not a flight risk and he would not destroy evidence.

“I won’t flee, I will defend [myself],” he added. “All the evidence is with Nissan, and Nissan forbids all employees to talk to me.”

When asked about life in the detention center, Ghosn said “there is up and down.” As for his health, he simply said he was “doing fine.”

After his arrest, Ghosn appeared to have envisioned attending a Renault board meeting in Paris, explaining his position, and holding a news conference. But his prolonged detention in a Tokyo jail frustrated those plans.

Nissan dismissed Ghosn from his position as chairman in November. An extraordinary general meeting of shareholders scheduled in mid-April is expected to remove Ghosn as a director.

Ghosn resigned as chairman and CEO of Renault, and former Michelin chief Jean-Dominique Senard was appointed as the chairman.

The three members of the alliance are expected to revisit how it is operated in the absence of Ghosn’s leadership. “I cannot speculate about the future of the alliance,” Ghosn said.

The French government, Renault’s largest shareholder, has previously requested Ghosn make the relationship between the two automakers “irreversible.”

Following Ghosn’s arrest, France also informed Tokyo of an intention to press ahead with integration. Saikawa, in contrast, has insisted there is “no need for now to discuss [it].”

Interviewed by Nikkei commentator Atsushi Nakayama and Nikkei staff writers Akito Tanaka and Yosuke Kurabe.

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OPINION
Ghosn charges are thin soup — case for ex-Nissan boss
Prosecutors fail to make a strong case against car maker’s former chief
By Stephen Givens, Nikkei Asian Review, January 29, 2019
https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Ghosn-charges-are-thin-soup-case-for-ex-Nissan-boss

Two months after his arrest at Haneda Airport and confinement at Kosuge detention center, we now have a good picture of the criminal case against Carlos Ghosn-and it looks like pretty thin soup.

As reported in the media, the evidence shows not criminal malfeasance, but at most lapses in judgment and corporate protocol that ultimately did not result in any actual harm to Nissan Motor or its shareholders or personal enrichment of Ghosn.

The criminal case turns on a series of technical and subjective judgments about whether the words of the relevant statutes and regulations apply to the transactions in question.

By any objective measure, the misconduct alleged was less serious than the corporate misfeasance that is routinely overlooked in Japan or handled by noncriminal administrative wrist-slapping.

The first, and for many weeks the only, criminal charge brought against Ghosn was that Nissan’s periodic securities filings disclosed just the currently payable portion of his compensation. They failed to report the portion deferred until after his retirement.

Ghosn’s motive for not wanting to report his full compensation currently-that it was embarrassingly large in relation to that of other Japanese CEOs and Ghosn’s Nissan colleagues — does not constitute serious criminal intent.

Further, the evidence indicates that Ghosn tried in good faith to structure the deferred compensation in a way that would permit him legally not to report it currently under the rules, which require current reporting of director-level compensation only to the extent the right to receive it has become “clear.”

Though the documentation has not been made public, it appears that it was structured as some kind of post-retirement consulting arrangement that would, at a minimum, require Ghosn to provide Nissan with services after retirement to collect the compensation.

It is hard to imagine that Nissan would have failed to report Ghosn’s deferred compensation over many years without professional legal advice that it did not need to be currently reported because Ghosn’s right to receive it was conditional.

It is equally hard to understand why Nissan’s Japanese management, having condoned the deferred compensation arrangement and its nonreporting for years, is now using it as the lead card in the criminal case.

Beyond this, criminal liability under the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act for false disclosure is explicitly predicated on the requirement that it be “material”- that is, it would have a significant impact on an investor’s decision to sell or buy Nissan shares.

For investors, the amount of Ghosn’s unreported deferred compensation, about $10 million per year, is clearly very small compared to Nissan’s $90 billion in annual revenues.

Meanwhile, Japan’s weak securities disclosure standards permit Nissan not to reveal information that would be much more relevant to investors, such as the terms of the “alliance” contracts between Renault, Nissan’s major shareholder, and Nissan.

It does not inspire confidence in Japan’s justice system that Ghosn’s guilt or innocence on the this charge will hinge on semantic distinctions over the meanings of “clear” and “material.”

The second criminal charge against Ghosn is for two, related claims of “aggravated breach of trust” under the Companies Act. This vaguely-worded statute imposes criminal liability on directors of a company who for personal gain “commit an act in breach of such person’s duties and causes financial damages” to the company. Typically this statute is applied to cases of embezzlement-executives taking company assets.

The first prong of the breach of trust charge has been loosely characterized in the press as “the shifting of Ghosn’s personal foreign exchange losses to Nissan” but details of the transactions disclosed by Ghosn’s lawyers show it to be less pernicious than advertised.

Ghosn entered into a foreign exchange hedging transaction with Shinsei Bank to protect his yen-denominated Nissan compensation against the risk of depreciation. Like many others he failed to anticipate the financial crisis of 2008, which sent the yen soaring and reduced the value of the Nissan securities he had offered Shinsei Bank as collateral.

Shinsei Bank asked Ghosn for additional security. Ghosn considered offering the value of his uncashed Nissan retirement allowance-but doing so would have required him actually to leave Nissan at a time he was a vital part of the management. Instead, he asked Nissan to guarantee his downside risk on the hedge, but pledged to fully cover the liability.

Critically, Ghosn’s request for help with his unexpected difficulty received formal approval by the Nissan board. Admittedly the Securities Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC), deemed the transaction improper a few months later and ordered Nissan to get rid of the hedging contract.

So, Nissan carried a contingent liability — fully guaranteed by Ghosn — as an accommodation to its CEO for approximately four months. Nissan suffered no actual loss and was never at risk because it was fully covered by Ghosn’s retirement allowance. The transaction was not concealed; it was approved by the Nissan board and reported to the SESC, which saw no reason to request a criminal probe a decade ago.

So, you may ask, where is the crime? According to news reports, it turns out the prosecutors are not satisfied with the drafting of the board resolution. They are quibbling that the board resolution did not mention Ghosn by name and only referred generically to “foreign board members” as beneficiaries of the transaction. Moreover, the prosecutors are claiming the resolution was not specific on how Nissan was to be protected with 100% certainty against possible loss. Ghosn’s criminal liability turns almost entirely on the wording of a board resolution that Ghosn himself surely did not draft.

The second prong of the breach of trust charge relates to the subsequent transfer, in compliance with the SESC’s order, of the Shinsei Bank contract from Nissan to companies controlled by Saudi national Khaled Juffali. Nissan affiliates in the Middle East paid Juffali’s companies $14.7 million over four years for variety of “support activities” in the region. The prosecutors claim that Nissan’s money was paid for Juffali’s guarantee of Ghosn’s personal contingent liability.

It seems unrealistic, however, that anyone would pay $14.7 million of Nissan money for a guarantee of a contingent liability worth at most $16.7 million-a huge overpayment.

This strongly suggests that Juffali’s companies were being paid for doing more than simply backing Ghosn’s Shinsei liability. The more commercially-likely scenario is more innocuous, one in which Ghosn asked a friendly business counterparty to assume an essentially riskless contingent liability as a favor in the context of a long-term business relationship. This represents the kind of mutual exchange between companies with long-term relationships practiced daily by the Japanese corporate establishment.

No question, a more scrupulous and careful executive would have avoided pushing the gray boundaries of the law. But nothing we know that Ghosn allegedly did smells like a serious crime deserving prison. That he remains in confinement while the prosecutors argue semantics to deprive him of his freedom places Japan’s criminal justice system in an awkward light.

Stephen Givens is a corporate lawyer based in Tokyo.

ENDS

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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

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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: http://www.debito.org/?p=15191
JBC Apr 7 2009 http://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: http://www.debito.org/?p=15160
http://www.debito.org/?p=15156
http://www.debito.org/?p=15145

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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: http://www.debito.org/?p=14973 “Officially argued”: http://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.”)

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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
http://www.debito.org/?p=14902
Tottori: http://www.debito.org/japantimes050206.html
Tsukuba: http://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/
http://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: http://www.debito.org/?p=10750
Fingerprinting: http://www.debito.org/?p=13926
Facial recognition: http://www.debito.org/?p=12306 and http://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: http://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: http://www.debito.org/?p=1941 and JBC http://www.debito.org/?p=7145
Tourism Stats: https://www.tourism.jp/en/tourism-database/stats/inbound/#annual
Grumbling about tourist manners: http://www.debito.org/?s=Chinese+tourist and http://www.debito.org/?p=2301
Chinese Only hotel: http://www.debito.org/?p=6864
Beppu: http://www.debito.org/?p=14954
Minpaku xenophobia and ISIS: http://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: http://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: http://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: http://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.

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: Japanese-Brazilians snub Tokyo’s diaspora residency program, attracting exactly ZERO applications after starting 3 months ago

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s the latest installment of what I like to call “the jig is up” phenomenon affecting Japan’s public policy, specifically the one that is trying to maintain Japan’s exploitative “revolving-door” NJ labor market.

The Nihon Keizai Shinbun has given us an inadvertently amusing article about how the government’s latest policy U-turn towards the Nikkei Brazilian Community (whom they officially bribed to leave Japan a decade ago), and how this wheeze simply isn’t working.  ZERO applicants applied for a special labor program in three months.  Even though the NJ resident population is at an all-time postwar high, some people have learned their lesson:  don’t come to Japan just to be exploited and then summarily sent home.  More comment from Debito.org Reader and Submitter Gulf below the article.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

Japanese-Brazilians snub Tokyo’s diaspora residency program
Effort to bring over young workers attracts zero applications in 3 months
By NAOYUKI TOYAMA, Nikkei staff writer
October 25, 2018, Courtesy of Gulf
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Japanese-Brazilians-snub-Tokyo-s-diaspora-residency-program

SAO PAULO — Japan’s new residency program for fourth-generation Japanese descendants living overseas did not attract a single Japanese-Brazilian applicant in its first three months.

The program, launched in July, allows descendants ranging in age from 18 to 30 to stay in Japan for up to five years and perform specific types of work. The goal is to ease Japan’s labor shortage, and the Justice Ministry initially expected to accept 4,000 people a year. But the Japanese Embassy and consulates in Brazil had not received any applications as of the end of September.

The South American country is home to the largest ethnic Japanese community abroad.

Potential applicants may be put off by the limited period of stay, as well as restrictions on bringing family members along and required certification of Japanese fluency.

The limitations contrast with the rights granted to second- and third-generation Japanese-Brazilians, who are free to live and work in Japan with residency status granted under a 1990 immigration law revision.

Japanese-Brazilian communities are dotted around Japan. Many residents work in the manufacturing sector. But their numbers are in decline: After surging from 170,000 in 1991 to a peak of 310,000 in 2007, the population dropped to 190,000 at the end of 2017 due to a sluggish economy and other domestic factors.

Despite the need for new sources of labor, Japan’s government has insisted participants in the program would not be considered immigrants. An organization representing Japanese descendants in Brazil blasted Japan for “treating Japanese-Brazilians, who are their compatriots, as unskilled workers for a limited period.”
ENDS

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COMMENT FROM SUBMITTER GULF: I shouldn’t laugh, but in a way it’s a relief that there aren’t any takers. I have relatives in Brazil and I lived there when I was 5 and 6 years old. It’s actually the reason I came to know Japanese culture and decided to study the language.

To be fair I doubt there are many 4th generation Nikkeis that speak Japanese, if any. But of course the poor conditions on offer certainly aren’t an incentive to learn their ancestral language.

Thank you as always for your efforts and for keeping up the site as a 20+ year old archive on human rights in Japan. –Sincerely, GULF.

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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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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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JT/Kyodo: Immigration Bureau to be upgraded to Immigration Agency April 2019. Baby steps towards Immigration Ministry with actual immigration policy?

mytest

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Hi Blog. The GOJ is starting to take NJ influx more seriously now, with a ministerial upgrade (from Bureau to Agency). When it becomes a full-fledged Ministry that explicitly says “Immigration” in it (as in, Imin-Shou), not a “Bureau/Agency for Processing National Influx” (which is what the Nyuukoku Kanri Kyoku literally is), with an actual Immigration Policy, then Debito.org will be a bit more cheery.  That raises hope that the GOJ will someday actually want NJ to stay and become productive members of society and citizens, not revolving-door visa recipients.  But baby steps for now. What say Debito.org Readers about this? Dr. Debito Arudou

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Japan will overhaul Immigration Bureau to create agency for expected surge of blue-collar workers under new status
BY SAKURA MURAKAMI. THE JAPAN TIMES/KYODO, AUG 28, 2018
Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/08/28/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-set-immigration-agency-cope-influx-blue-collar-ranks-abroad-new-status/

The Justice Ministry will upgrade its Immigration Bureau to an agency from April to deal with an anticipated influx of foreign workers, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

With the government seeking to accept more foreign workers from April and introducing a new status of residence amid a serious labor crunch across industries, the Justice Ministry will be conducting “a fundamental revision of the Immigration Bureau” and is currently finalizing the establishment of a new agency that will oversee immigration, Kamikawa said. […]

Media has reported that the upgrade of the bureau will see an increase of over 500 ministry staff and immigration officers, with the latter expected to help the country boost checks for inbound tourists ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Reports have also said that the ministry will be requesting about ¥3 billion within their fiscal 2019 budget for outlays related to the overhaul. […]

The upgrade of the Immigration Bureau comes as Japan, facing a declining population and shrinking workforce, plans to open the door to blue-collar laborers from abroad, in addition to the currently accepted highly skilled foreigners, by introducing a new resident status.

The new system will allow foreign nationals who are proficient speakers of Japanese to work in agriculture, construction, hospitality, nursing and shipbuilding, and may be expanded to other sectors.

The government has so far confirmed that foreign workers will not be able to bring family members under the new residency status, and that their stay will be limited to five years.

According to figures provided by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of registered foreign workers in the nation hit a record high of 1.28 million in October 2017 — a twofold increase from the 486,398 foreign nationals seen in 2008.

On the other hand, the number of people in Japan aged between 15 to 64 who are capable of working decreased from 86.99 million in 1997 to 76.65 million in 2016, according to data submitted to the Council of Economic Fiscal Policy in February.

Information from Kyodo News added. Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/08/28/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-set-immigration-agency-cope-influx-blue-collar-ranks-abroad-new-status/

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GOJ sets targets for importing even more NJ temp labor, Kyodo editorializes on how badly Japan needs NJ

mytest

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Hi Blog. It’s funny. Debito.org has been charting for decades just how much Japan reflexively distrusts NJ, and wants them in and out of here as soon as possible without settling down (hence no official immigration policy). Yet, in case you wonder why this is still an issue, here’s yet another article demonstrating why Japan NEEDS NJ labor, and intends to import even more (and as ever, temporarily):

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Government sets target for 10,000 Vietnamese caregivers, needs additional 550,000 by 2025
KYODO/Japan Times JUL 25, 2018
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/07/25/national/government-sets-target-10000-vietnamese-caregivers-needs-additional-550000-2025/

The government has set a target of accepting 10,000 Vietnamese caregivers by the summer of 2020 to address a chronic labor shortage in the nursing sector, an official said Wednesday.

Japan first aims to receive 3,000 Vietnamese carers within one year through an existing training program for foreigners, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Due to the country’s rapidly graying population, the labor ministry estimates a need for an additional 550,000 caregivers in fiscal 2025 compared to the fiscal 2016 total… Japan is also considering inviting caregivers from other countries, including Indonesia and Cambodia, the official said.

As of March last year, there were roughly 1.9 million carers in Japan. The labor ministry estimates Japan will need about 2.45 million care workers in fiscal 2025, at which point the people belonging to the baby boomer generation born in the late 1940s will all be 75 years or older, meaning the need for nursing care service will almost certainly increase…

In a related development, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that Japan aims to accept more foreign workers from April next year by creating a new residency status. To fill labor shortages not just in nursing care but also in other sectors including agriculture and manufacturing, the government has suggested it may begin admitting hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers from abroad.

Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/07/25/national/government-sets-target-10000-vietnamese-caregivers-needs-additional-550000-2025/

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COMMENT: Oddly enough (or rather, not so oddly), Japan’s corporate sector is again asking for more cheap labor without taking into account that they are importing people, not raw materials. And of course, as argued below in the second Kyodo JT article on the same day, there is at best mumbled support for actual immigration.

This isn’t a sustainable long-term strategy, and everybody knows it. But they go through the kabuki for as long as possible. I daresay someday soon somebody will advocate Middle-Eastern-Oil-Countries’ style labor importation (where foreigners do all the work, and wind up outnumbering the leisured citizen class), since we’ve already had one major Japanese pundit crazily arguing for instituting South-African-style Apartheid in Japan. Except for one problem with ever considering an oil-economy model: Japan is not an oil economy. And again, Japan’s other silly policy balloon — robotizing society — doesn’t work either because robots don’t pay taxes.

In sum, Debito.org advocates that Japan consider a real immigration policy to make NJ migrants into permanent residents and citizens. It’s the only way, as myself and the UN (not to mention the Japanese Government itself!) have argued for decades, to avert Japan’s otherwise unavoidable demographic crisis. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Japan faces challenges as it moves to accept more foreign workers
KYODO/Japan Times JUL 25, 2018
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/07/25/national/japan-faces-challenges-moves-accept-foreign-workers/

Japan’s move toward opening its doors to more foreign workers is widely seen as a must to better cope with an expected shrinkage in the working population.

Potentially broadening the scope of non-Japanese workers accepted into a country that for years has kept a firm grip on immigration would also mark a major policy change.

But the challenges facing an aging Japan are manifold as observers call for a clear-cut rather than makeshift approach, and stress the need to create a society easier for foreign nationals to live and work in.

“It’s a natural turn of events” to accept more foreign workers, said Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives.

“Given the situation Japan is in and its future, we’ve already entered a phase in which we need to seek help not just from highly skilled workers,” Kobayashi said at a news conference Tuesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed Cabinet ministers the same day to make preparations to accept more foreign workers by offering a new residential status starting next April.

The plan being considered would set a five-year limit on residence under the new status.

That may help conservatives, a major support base for Abe, but observers say the country needs to have a serious immigration debate for its future.

The country had a record 1.28 million foreign workers as of October last year. Chinese workers made up the largest portion, at nearly 30 percent, ahead of workers from Vietnam, the Philippines and Brazil, according to government data.

Currently, there are limited paths offered to work legally. Foreign nationals are given residential status to work in fields such as education, business management, law and health care.

Those coming under a 1993 program designed to impart technical skills can also work in the country but critics see it as encouraging simple and cheap labor.

The government “should have created a system to accept foreign workers seriously in the first place. In this sense, (the envisaged introduction of a new residential status) is a step forward,” said Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer well-versed in foreign labor issues.

But he also raises questions about the plan to, in principle, impose a five-year cap on stays and to bar foreign workers from bringing in family members.

“It’s unacceptable from a humanitarian perspective (for foreign workers) to live far from their family members for five years,” Ibusuki said.

The potential policy change may be long overdue.

No time can be spared amid increased tightness in the labor market. In 2017, job availability rose to its highest in 44 years, with 150 jobs available for every 100 job seekers.

Still, one senior labor ministry official expressed concern about the practice of paying unfairly low wages to foreign workers.

“Not only would it not benefit the foreign workers themselves, but it could also take jobs away from Japanese workers,” the official said.

For companies, particularly small- and mid-sized companies being forced to hunt for workers, the prospect of paving the way for more foreign labor is a positive development.

Takashi Yamauchi, who heads the Japan Federation of Construction Contractors, hailed the government move as “timely” as the construction sector is expected to see increased demand in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The number of foreign workers has already been rising in recent years and the uptrend will likely continue if the government’s new plan goes through.

At convenience store operator FamilyMart Co., for instance, non-Japanese workers account for some 5 percent of its roughly 200,000 workers.

But sectoral gaps have yet to be bridged. Sectors such as nursing care that are in desperate need of labor have faced difficulty in securing workers.

With the rapid aging of the population appearing to pick up pace, the government has increased the number of options for foreign nationals to land nursing care jobs.

Labor shortages could also sap economic growth over the longer term — bad news for Abe, who has been trying to revive the world’s third-largest economy with his “Abenomics” policy mix.

The government aims to realize a society in which both Japanese and non-Japanese people can coexist and plans to draw up measures to help foreign nationals learn Japanese and find housing.

As of April this year, 46 percent of local governments had crafted guidelines or plans designed for foreign nationals, with action depending on the percentage of non-Japanese residents.

Meanwhile, proposals have been floated to reorganize the Immigration Bureau and create a Justice Ministry-affiliated agency to handle low-skilled foreign nationals.

“It should go beyond simply enforcing immigration controls. I hope it will play a role in assisting foreign workers living in Japan in a comprehensive manner,” said Toshihiro Menju, a senior official at the Japan Center for International Exchange.
ENDS

============================
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My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 112: “What about we stop it with the ‘whataboutism’?” (July 16, 2018)

mytest

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JAPAN TIMES JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 112
justbecauseicon.jpg

THE JAPAN TIMES JUL 15, 2018
ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
What about we stop it with the ‘whataboutism’?
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/07/15/issues/what-about-we-stop-it-with-the-whataboutism/

These are troubling times for human rights activists.

For 27 years I’ve been writing about civil, political and human rights for non-Japanese (NJ) and other minorities in Japan. And I’ve never been more confused.

Not least because the United States, the putative paragon of human rights, has been flouting them.

Remember, this is a country so cocksure about its own record that its State Department offers annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” for each United Nations member.

Yet President Donald Trump has been undermining international norms of law, justice and society — and with the glee of a super-villain.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, recently we’ve seen U.S. leadership abrogate numerous treaties, erode well-established security and trade regimes (such as NATO and the G7), cozy up to the world’s most authoritarian regimes and mimic their tactics, invoke the language of white nationalism to dehumanize minorities, and foment a culture of fear, loathing and vindictive reprisal towards anyone not in their ideological camp.

Speaking of camps, who would have ever imagined that the U.S. would put foreign children in cages? Create “tender-age” internment centers for toddlers separated from their families at the border? Force 3-year-olds to represent themselves in American immigration courts?

Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for undocumented migration and asylum seekers is so cruel that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced it as “unconscionable” and “illegal” under international law.

Hours later, the U.S. petulantly withdrew from the Human Rights Council, of which it had been a charter member since 1947.

In Just Be Cause’s view, the worst thing about these rapid-fire shocks to the system is not the confusion but the distraction. Presidential historian Jon Meacham, author of “The Soul of America,” pointed out how Trump “owns our mind space” in what he calls “the world’s longest hostage siege.” We are prisoners of a self-promoting celebrity so adept at managing news cycles that he sucks the oxygen from other issues.

So this is where we arrive at the big question of this column: How can JBC focus on human rights in Japan given the distractions in America?…

Read the rest of the column at:
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/07/15/issues/what-about-we-stop-it-with-the-whataboutism/

================================
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Japan Times: Preferential visa system extended to foreign 4th-generation Japanese [sic]: Allowing even NJ minors to build Olympic facilities!

mytest

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Hi Blog. Leaving aside the unproblematized JT headline below about “foreign Japanese”, we have the five-year work visa we talked about last blog entry (the one that exploits “Trainees”, sometimes to the point of death) now being offered to “fourth-generation Japanese”. (Y’know, the “foreign” ones; yonsei is the word in the vernacular, and we’d better develop similar linguistic flexibility in English too for accuracy’s sake).

As noted in the article below, these are the children of the Nikkei South Americans who got sweetheart “Returnee Visas” due to racialized blood conceits (being Wajin, i.e., with Japanese roots) back in the day.  However, Wajin status only counted as long as the economy was good. As soon as it wasn’t, they were bribed to return “home” no matter how many years or decades they’d contributed, and forfeit their pension contributions. While this is nice on the surface for reuniting Nikkei families (now that Japan has been courting the Nikkei to come back for renewed exploitation and disrespect), now they want these children, many of whom grew up as an illiterate underclass in Japan with no right (as foreigners) to compulsory education in Japan, to come back and work again starting July 1. Even work as minors!

The article below rightly gets at the caveats and policy subterfuge (such as merely using these kids as temporary Tokyo Olympics construction fodder), so read the whole thing at the Japan Times website. But the big picture is this:

The GOJ will simply never learn that having a racialized labor policy (where Japanese bloodlines were theoretically a way to bring in low-impact “foreigners”, while Non-Wajin were expendable no matter what — in theory; turns out all foreigners are expendable) simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t keep a labor market young and vibrant, and in fact winds up exacerbating ethnic tensions because migrants who assimilate are not rewarded with immigrant status, with equal residency or civil/human rights. If there’s no incentive to learn about Japan well enough to “become Japanese”, then NJ will either leave exasperated (or rather, be booted out due to expired visas), and Japan demographically will simply continue to age. And as my book “Embedded Racism” concludes, that means, quite simply, Japan’s ultimate downfall as a society as we know it. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Preferential visa system to be extended to foreign fourth-generation Japanese [sic]
BY MIZUHO AOKI, STAFF WRITER
THE JAPAN TIMES, MAR 30, 2018
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/03/30/national/preferential-visa-system-extended-foreign-fourth-generation-japanese/

Foreign fourth-generation descendants of Japanese will be able to work in Japan for up to five years under a preferential visa program to be introduced this summer, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

The new program applies to ethnic Japanese between 18 and 30 who have basic Japanese skills equivalent to the N4 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Applicants will also be required to have support from residents they know in Japan, such as family members or employers, who can get in touch with them at least once a month.

Among those planning to apply are people who spent their childhoods in Japan with their parents before losing their jobs during the 2008 global financial crisis. Some of their parents later returned to Japan, but their grown-up fourth-generation offspring could not because the visa system only grants preferential full-time working rights and semi-permanent status to second- and third-generation descendants.

“The door has been closed for fourth-generation people. So there are definitely people who really need the new program,” said Angelo Ishi, a third-generation Japanese-Brazilian professor in the sociology department of Musashi University.

At present, fourth-generation ethnic Japanese are required to meet certain conditions to get a visa, such as being single minors who live with their parents, but can’t work full-time.

Under the new system, minors will be able to work. The new program begins on July 1, and the Justice Ministry expects around 4,000 descendants of Japanese emigrants from such places as Brazil and Peru to enter Japan each year. But the ministry said the new system is not aimed at alleviating the national labor shortage, but at nurturing people who can “bridge Japan and the Japanese-descendant communities abroad”.

Critics are skeptical. They say the new immigrants could be used as cheap labor at factories or construction sites in dire need of labor, especially ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I believe one of the reasons behind the change has to do with the Olympics,” said Kiyoto Tanno, a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University who is an expert on foreign labor issues. “But such demand could disappear. That’s why, I guess, the ministry placed a cap on the number of years.”

Read the rest of the article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/03/30/national/preferential-visa-system-extended-foreign-fourth-generation-japanese/

=======================
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JT and Nikkei: Japan to offer longer stays for “Trainees”, but with contract lengths that void qualifying for Permanent Residency

mytest

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Hi Blog. As is within character since the early 1990s, Japan wants NJ workers to make up for labor shortages in Japan’s workforce, but remains unwilling to allow NJ migrant workers to become immigrants: to access the benefits of their labors and years of investment in Japan’s economy and society by allowing them to live in Japan.

No, once again, Japan would rather leach off the best years of NJs’ productive lives and then send them home. Except now GOJ policy explicitly wants them to stick around and be exploited ever longer (without their families, and with a built-in contract cut-off before they can qualify for Permanent Residency), again under the guise of the deadlyTraineeslave-wage labor program. Witness the JT article below. Dr. Debito Arudou

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

Japan looks to offer longer stays for technical interns, with caveats it hopes will limit immigration debate
The Japan Times, April 12, 2018 (excerpt). Courtesy of lots of people.
Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/04/12/national/sidestepping-wider-immigration-debate-japan-eyes-longer-stays-technical-interns/

Japan is weighing the creation of a new status of residence that would allow technical interns from abroad to stay longer in the country, as part of efforts to tackle severe labor shortages, sources said Wednesday.

But interns’ families would not be allowed to enter Japan — a provision meant to prevent the creation of the new status from leading to discussions on the sensitive issue of immigration, the sources said.

The status would allow those who have completed a five-year technical intern training program and meet certain requirements to stay and work for up to five additional years, the sources said. […]

With the technical intern training program intended to transfer skills abroad, interns currently must return to their home countries after a five-year stay. The new residency status would allow interns to stay in Japan to work for a maximum of five more years. The government plans to set requirements to obtain the status, including industry-specific ones, the sources said.

But according to a Nikkei business daily report [see below], trainees will still have to return to their home after their programs end, and then apply for the new residence status that would allow them to work again in Japan for a further five years.

This is apparently aimed at keeping trainees and interns from gaining eligibility to apply for permanent residency, for which one of the prerequisites is to be living in Japan for 10 years or more.

Those who have already completed the trainee program and returned to their home countries can also apply for the new status of residence, the report said.

The report also said that trainees with the new work permit would be able to gain highly-skilled professional status if they pass an examination, which would enable them to bring their families to Japan and to renew their visas.

The new work permit would be given to those working in nursing, agriculture and construction — sectors where labor shortages are most severely felt, the sources said.

Labor shortages are already severe, especially in the service sector. In 2017, there were 150 job openings for every 100 workers — the largest gap in over four decades.

The number of foreign workers has been on the rise in recent years, hitting an all-time high of approximately 1.28 million as of last October. Of that total, the number of technical interns stood at around 250,000, according to government data.

The technical intern program, which was formally created in 1990 for the purpose of transferring skills in the industrial, agricultural and fisheries sectors to developing economies, has become an essential part of Japan’s labor force amid the nation’s demographic woes.

Abe has officially declared that his administration will never adopt “an immigration policy” to make up for the continuing acute labor shortage, despite a rapidly thinning workforce.

The program was designed to support foreign nationals in their acquisition of technical skills, but has been criticized as a cover to exploit cheap labor from abroad. Many cases have been reported of trainees being subjected to illegally long work hours and physical abuse from employers.

In March, it was revealed that a Vietnamese man who came to Japan under the program was allegedly forced to take part in decontamination work in areas hit by the 2011 nuclear disaster. The Justice Ministry has begun investigating the case.

To eliminate violations by companies employing vocational trainees, a new law came into effect in November obliging employers to secure accreditation for their training programs. Under the law, employers found to have physically abused the trainees are subject to imprisonment of up to 10 years or a fine of up to ¥3 million. Other moves, such as denying compensation claims or confiscating passports, are regarded as violation of the Labor Standards Law and are also subject to punishment.

ENDS

外国人、技能実習後も5年就労可能に 本格拡大にカジ
日本経済新聞 2018/4/11, courtesy of JM
https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXMZO29256530R10C18A4SHA000/

政府は2019年4月にも外国人労働者向けに新たな在留資格をつくる。最長5年間の技能実習を修了した外国人に、さらに最長で5年間、就労できる資格を与える。試験に合格すれば、家族を招いたり、より長く国内で働いたりできる資格に移行できる。5年間が過ぎれば帰国してしまう人材を就労資格で残し、人手不足に対処する。外国人労働の本格拡大にカジを切る。

政府は単純労働者の受け入れを原則、認めていない。一方で働きながら技能を身につける技能実習の範囲拡大や期間延長で事実上、単純労働者の受け皿をつくってきた。幅広く就労の在留資格を与える制度の導入は大きな政策の転換点になる。

政府は今秋の臨時国会にも入国管理法改正案を提出し、来年4月にも新制度を始める方針だ。

新設する資格は「特定技能(仮称)」。17年10月末で25万人いる技能実習生に、さらに最長5年間、就労の道を開く。技能実習は農業や介護などが対象。新設する資格とあわせれば、通算で最長10年間、国内で働き続けることができる。

新資格で就労すれば技能実習より待遇がよくなるため、技能実習から移行を希望する外国人は多いとみられる。政府は少なくとも年間数万人は外国人労働者が増えるとみている。農業、介護、建設など人手不足の業界を対象にする。

そもそも技能実習は学んだ技術を母国に伝えることが前提。経験を積んだ人材も実習後に国外に退去しなければならない。長く働きたい外国人や、実習で経験を積んだ外国人を育てた国内の雇用主からは、改善を求める声があった。

技能実習制度とその本来の目的は維持するため、新資格は一定期間、母国に帰って再来日した後に与える。外国人の永住権取得の要件の一つに「引き続き10年以上の在留」がある。いったん帰国してもらうため、技能実習と新資格で通算10年を過ごしても、直ちに永住権取得の要件にはあたらないようになる。

外国人労働者をさらに増やすため、実習修了者と同程度の技能を持つ人にも新資格を付与する方針だ。既に実習を終えて帰国した人も対象になる見通しで、経験豊かな労働者を確保できる。

新資格の保有者は、より専門性が高い在留資格に変更できるようにする。専門技能を問う試験に合格すれば、海外の家族の受け入れや、在留期間の更新ができる既存の資格に切り替えられる。

国内では25年度に介護職員が約38万人不足する見込み。農業人口はこの10年で約4割減り、人手不足が深刻だ。技能実習生の多くが新資格に移行すれば、長期間、国内労働力に定着させることができる。アジア各国の賃金上昇で外国人労働力の獲得は難しくなっているが、人材獲得競争にもプラスに働くと見ている。

日本の労働力人口は約6600万人。17年10月末時点の外国人労働者数は技能実習生の増加などがけん引し、127万人と過去最高を更新した。労働力の50人に1人は外国人が担う状況だが、政府はさらに増やす方針だ。

ends

==========================
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My Japan Times column JBC 111: “White Supremacists and Japan: A Love Story” (March 8, 2018)

mytest

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Hi Blog. This month sees a Japan Times column that I’m particularly proud of, as it ties a lot of things together. My research question was, “Why do people react so viscerally whenever somebody criticizes Japan?” And I think I found the answer: Japan attracts and nurtures White Supremacists.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

==========================================
WHITE SUPREMACISTS AND JAPAN: A LOVE STORY
JBC 111 for the Japan Times Community page
By Debito Arudou, Thursday, March 8, 2018

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

The Washington Post reported something interesting on Feb. 14: A farm put up a sign saying “Resist White Supremacy.” And it incurred a surprising amount of online backlash.

Calls for boycotts. Accusations and recriminations. One-star Facebook reviews that had nothing to do with their products.

The article pondered: Who, other than a White Supremacist, would object to a message rejecting white supremacy?

But if you’ve ever protested racism in Japan, or read comments sections in Japanese media, you’ll know these reactions have been old hat for nearly two decades.

In fact, this column will argue that online intolerance and attack have been Japan exports…

Read the rest in the JT at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/03/07/issues/white-supremacists-japan-love-story/
==========================================

This will be the anchor site for discussion about the article on Debito.org. Thanks for reading, everyone. Dr. Debito Arudou

PS:  If trolls show up here, as they probably will, as per Commenting Guidelines, Debito.org reserves the right to make public their IP addresses.

============
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Kyodo: Official stats on NJ “Trainee” work deaths & accidents; 2x higher than J worker deaths, and likely understated

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Finally, a quarter-century into the horrible government-sponsored NJ “Trainee” program, the GOJ is now releasing actual hard statistics about the people it is killing.  And you can see why it took so long — the numbers are shameful enough to warrant a cover-up:  Between 2014 and 2017, 22 NJ died (almost all due to workplace accidents, but at least one was probably being worked to death).  This is more than twice the on-job fatality rate for J workers.  There were also 475 cases of serious accidents to NJ “Trainees”, and, as activists point out below, this figure is probably understated.

A contrarian might argue that NJ are just accident-prone.  But as the article describes below, working conditions are simply awful, not to mention generally illegal.  And as as Debito.org has pointed out repeatedly over the decades, “the program is rife with abuse: exploitation under sweatshop conditions, restrictions on movement, unsafe workplaces, uncompensated work and work-site injuries, bullying and violence, physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment, death from overwork and suicideeven slavery and murder.

“Things have not improved in recent years. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies that accepted trainees in 2015 violated laws, and in 2016 a record 4,004 employers engaged in illegal activities. The program is so rotten that even the United Nations demanded Japan scrap it.” (From Japan Times, Jan. 3, 2018, Item 4)

Anyway, let’s celebrate that we have some official statistics at last, for without them, it’s easy to see why this program can keep going for a quarter-century with little political traction to improve it.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

Foreign trainee fatality data highlight safety and exploitation issues in Japan
KYODO NEWS/JAPAN TIMES JAN 15, 2018
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/14/national/social-issues/foreign-trainee-fatality-data-highlight-safety-exploitation-issues-japan/

Work-related incidents killed 22 foreign trainees over a three-year period from fiscal 2014, according to government data, illustrating the risk that laborers brought to Japan will face dangerous or exploitative conditions.

While most of the 22 deaths are believed to have been caused by accidents, one was the result of karōshi (death by overwork), the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry’s figures are the first government statistics to be released on work-related deaths among foreign trainees in Japan.

During the three-year period, there were on average 475 cases of work-related accidents per year that were subject to compensation via industrial accident insurance and which required four or more days of leave for such workers, the data showed.

The ratio of work-related deaths for foreign trainees was significantly higher than the ratio for all workers.

The government introduced the oft-criticized training program for foreign workers in 1993 with the apparent aim of transferring Japanese know-how to developing countries. But the program, applicable to agriculture and manufacturing among other sectors, has drawn criticism at home and abroad as a cover for importing cheap labor.

Cases of illegally long working hours, unpaid wages, violence and other harsh conditions have also been reported.

According to the Justice Ministry, foreign trainees are on the rise, with 167,641 logged in 2014, 192,655 in 2015 and 228,589 in 2016. Given the 22 deaths over the three-year period, the ratio of work-related deaths works out to roughly 3.7 deaths per 100,000 trainees.

For the nation as a whole, labor ministry data show that the tally for work-related deaths in all industries came to 2,957, or 1.7 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Akira Hatate, director of the Japan Civil Liberties Union and an expert on the trainee system, points out that there could be more cases involving foreign trainees due to the government’s lax reporting standards.

He said work-related accidents are more frequent among non-Japanese because they are “unfamiliar with Japanese workplaces (and) as they are usually working for small and midsize companies that give little consideration to safety and health in the workplace. Trainees (also) cannot communicate fluently in Japanese.”

“There are also cases where trainees, who cannot work due to an injury, are forced to return home. Concealment of work-related accidents is rampant,” Hatate said.

In one case of misconduct, a Vietnamese man who was injured on the job said his employer pocketed his insurance payments. The 23-year-old man came to Japan in July 2015 to work at a construction firm in Tokyo. With no prior experience in carpentry, he worked at residential construction sites and his monthly take-home pay was around ¥120,000.

The trainee said he was injured in May 2016 when his thumb was accidentally nailed by a machine. He was hospitalized for five days and after being discharged rested for only one day. The next day he resumed work with his thumb in a bandage. A year later he injured his palm during unloading work.

Even while he was working, his company filed for workers’ compensation, saying the man took a long-term absence and cited a medical certificate stating he required three months to recover.

Roughly ¥900,000 was transferred to the man’s bank account, but the employer told him the money was not his and demanded that he hand it over. The Vietnamese trainee said he was robbed of ¥220,000 in total.

Due to his lack of experience in the field and poor Japanese skills, the man often made mistakes. The president would yell at him to return to his country, and at one point, forced him to kneel and bow in dogeza fashion, an extreme way of apologizing by bowing deeply until the forehead touches the floor.

The man said he endured the mistreatment because he was about ¥1.4 million in debt to various entities, including the agency in Vietnam that got him into the program. He returned to Vietnam last month.

“I wanted to continue working, but I cannot do that under that president,” the man said. Until the end, the president offered no apology, he said.

Shiro Sasaki, secretary-general of the Zentoitsu Workers Union and well-versed on trainee issues, said, “Foreign nationals do not know about the workers’ compensation system, and there are many firms which think that things could just be settled by having the trainees return to their homeland.”

According to Sasaki, the way these firms treat their foreign trainees would never be acceptable to Japanese workers.

The latest data came to light as the government moves to expand the scope of the system amid a nationwide labor shortage and political resistance to boosting immigration.

Under a new law that took effect in November, nursing care was added to the list of fields in which foreign trainees can work. The change was made as firms struggle to overcome an acute shortage of care workers in an industry that is becoming all the more important amid the rapid graying of the population.
ENDS
=======================

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JT: “Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1.28 million with labor crunch”; more grist for the grinder

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It’s that time of year again, when the GOJ releases the annual stats for NJ residents (i.e., 2.3 million); in this case, as per the article below, the annual stats for NJ laborers, since not all NJ can work).  So let’s get to them:

Kyodo reports that there are more NJ laborers in Japan (1.28 million) than ever in Japan’s modern measured history, and this is largely due to the temporary NJ “Trainees” being brought in under Japan’s “no unskilled labor” unskilled-labor visa policy.

The big news is that Chinese and now Vietnamese are the two biggest foreign worker nationalities in Japan (I assume the 338,950 Zainichi Korean Special Permanent Residents were not counted as “foreign workers” here), followed by Filipinos and Brazilians (yes, they’re coming again) and Nepalese.

So all the official transgressions against NJ laborers a decade ago are forgotten, and ever more victims of Japan’s revolving-door visa market are arriving to be exploited and sent home.  Seems NJ never learn, but this new crop will find out soon enough.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

Japan sees foreign workers climb to record 1.28 million as labor crunch continues
JAPAN TIMES/KYODO NEWS, JAN 27, 2018
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/27/national/japan-sees-foreign-workers-climb-record-1-28-million-labor-crunch-continues/

The population of foreign workers set a record of about 1.28 million in late October as rapidly graying Japan continued to rely on foreign trainees and students to make up for its labor shortage, the labor ministry said Friday.

The total of 1,278,670 is 18 percent higher than last year and the highest since comparable data became available in 2008, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Chinese led the way with 372,263 workers, up 8 percent on year, followed by the Vietnamese, whose numbers soared 40 percent to 240,259, accounting for 35 percent of the increase.

Filipinos came in third at 146,798, up 15.1 percent, followed by Brazilians at 117,299, up 10.0 percent, and Nepalese at 69,111, up 31.0 percent.

By residential status, permanent residents and spouses of Japanese climbed 11 percent to reach 459,132, while students with part-time jobs rose 24 percent to 259,604 from a year ago. The number of technical interns meanwhile grew 22 percent to 257,788.

Due to the tight labor market, Japan’s recovering economy and shrinking population, many of the technical interns and students are being hired to perform unskilled labor for low wages to fill serious manpower shortages.

While the government has opened its doors to professionals specializing in information technology and other specific fields, it does not officially welcome unskilled laborers to avoid public debates on immigration, which has long been a sensitive issue.

Foreign specialists comprise a small portion of the incoming workers, and many are hired by small firms with fewer than 30 employees, according to the ministry.

In the manufacturing industry, 40 percent of them were trainees brought in under the state-sponsored technical intern training program. In the service sector, which includes the hotel and restaurant industries, 60 percent were students.

As many foreigners seeking to gain skills or education are treated as laborers, the situation has raised concerns about corporate exploitation and the abuse of student visas for working purposes.

Japan relies heavily on foreign labor, and experts and scholars have been urging more public debate on immigration policy as Japan’s society continues to gray and shrink.

ENDS

============================
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JT: “Coming of age: 1 in 8 new adults in Tokyo are not Japanese”; underanalyzed stats posing as media peg

mytest

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Hi Blog. And while I’m on the subject of questionable social science in journalism, let’s have a gander at this hopeful article in the JT, talking about how “1 in 8 new adults in Tokyo are not Japanese”.

Now that Japan’s Juuminhyou registry system no longer requires citizenship for actual Japan residency, foreign residents can actually be counted like real people (albeit not as the general Japanese demographic population, alas). That has enabled this article to offer a bit of statistical sleight-of-hand, as in saying that Japan is internationalizing because lots of emerging-adult non-citizens came of age in 2017, i.e., 13% of Tokyo’s population.

That’s fine, and a positive development as far as Debito.org is concerned. But not something all that headline-grabbing as a bellwether. After all, the article barely mentions the NJs’ visa status. Are these Permanent Residents who can stay here forever, and make a difference without fearing the loss of their visa? Or are they on something shorter and thus sweepable (or bribable) with the thud of a bureaucratic stamp of “nonrenewal”? (The article mentions the uptick in student and “trainee” visas; precisely my point.  This is not immigration; it’s a reflection of stopgap labor movement.)

And the true measure of internationalization — international Japanese citizens (i.e., Japanese children of international roots) — are not counted at all, once again showing the “embedded racism” of the process (by deliberately reducing Japan’s level of “foreignness” to more comfortable levels by only counting “pure” foreigners in isolation). Then what is a more newsworthy stat?  How about the record numbers each year of NJ residents with Permanent Residency?  That never seem to make much news blip. No wonder. That would actually mean something IS changing.

Instead, we get soft stats in soft newspaper articles like these. Again, fine, but we Old Japan Hands are getting rather sick of hearing prematurely how “Japan is changing” in the media, and getting our hopes up unnecessarily. Let’s have our journalists use some critical thinking and focus on more meaningful trends (such as the stat cited at the very bottom about Tokyo’s overall numbers of NJ residents; albeit again without accounting for visa status). Dr. Debito Arudou

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

Coming of age: 1 in 8 new adults in Tokyo are not Japanese, ward figures show
BY REIJI YOSHIDA, STAFF WRITER
THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 10, 2018 (excerpt)
Courtesy https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/10/national/coming-age-1-8-new-adults-tokyo-not-japanese-ward-figures-show/

Monday was Coming-of-Age Day, when thousands of new Japanese adults celebrated turning 20 while wearing traditional kimono in commemoration ceremonies.


(Photo courtesy of Reuters and the JT)

But it was not only Japanese citizens who observed the personal milestone in the country. In fact, this year more than 1 in every 8 new adults in Tokyo’s 23 wards are not Japanese citizens, figures compiled by The Japan Times show.

According to data provided by the 23 ward offices, 10,959 new non-Japanese adults live in central Tokyo, or 13 percent of the 83,764 new adults living in the city.

[…]

New adults are defined as those who turned 20 or will turn 20 between April 2, 2017 and April 1 of this year. Those with dual citizenship of Japan and another country are counted as Japanese citizens. In Japan, those with dual citizenship are obliged by law to choose one of the two nationalities by the age of 22.

The ratios look particularly high given that foreign residents accounted for only 4.4 percent of the 9.3 million people living in Tokyo’s 23 wards as of January 2017.

[…]

Experts attributed Tokyo’s recent surge in the number of young non-Japanese to a flood of foreign residents coming with student and training visas.

Japan is suffering from a labor shortage in part because its working population is shrinking due to a low birth rate. This has helped attract a vast number of young foreign workers, in particular to the capital, said Toshihiro Menju, managing director at the Japan Center for International Exchange in Tokyo.

“This trend will continue over the long run. So Japan should not deal with it through ad hoc measures,” he said.

Japan has officially banned the immigration of unskilled foreign laborers, but it has allowed numerous foreign workers to come and work with student and so-called technical trainee visas, Menju said.

According to the metropolitan government, those who live in the city with student visas nearly doubled from 58,764 in 2012 to 104,889 last year.

[…]

Meanwhile, Nobuharu Hikiba, an official with the metropolitan government in charge of policies for foreign residents, also noted that the total number of foreign residents has continued its increase in Tokyo recently and that more foreign residents are staying for longer periods in the capital.

According to the Justice Ministry, the number of foreign residents in Tokyo’s 23 wards surged 25.5 percent from 2013 to hit 410,650 in 2017.

ENDS

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

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A Top Ten for 2017: Debito’s Japan Times JBC 110: “In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination”

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Hi Blog. As is tradition, here is JBC’s annual countdown of the top 10 human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan over the past year, as published in The Japan Times.

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination [NB: I didn’t write the headline.]
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 3, 2018

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/01/03/issues/2017-japan-woke-issue-discrimination/

(Version with links to sources.)

In ascending order:

10) As Japan’s population falls, NJ residents hit record

Figures released in 2017 indicated that Japan’s society is not just continuing to age and depopulate, but that the trends are accelerating. Annual births fell under 1 million — a record low — while deaths reached a record high. The segment of the population aged 65 or older also accounted for a record 27 percent of the total.

In contrast, after four years (2010-2013) of net outflow, the NJ resident influx set new records. A registered 2.38 million now make up 1.86 percent of Japan’s total population, somewhat offsetting the overall decline.

Alas, that didn’t matter. Japanese media as usual tended to report “Japan’s population” not in terms of people living in Japan, but rather Nihonjin (Japanese citizens), indicating once again that NJ residents simply don’t count.

9) ‘Hair police’ issue attracts attention with lawsuit

Japan’s secondary schools have a degree of uniformity that stifles diversity. And this trend reached its logical conclusion with the news that one school was forcing children with natural hair color that’s anything but black to dye and straighten their locks.

We talked about dyeing a decade ago (“Schools single out foreign roots,” July 17, 2007), noting its adverse effects on children’s physical and mental health. Yet the Asahi Shimbun reported in May that 57 percent of surveyed Tokyo metropolitan high schools still require “proof of real hair color.” In Osaka, it’s more like 80 percent.

Last October a student filed suit against Osaka Prefecture for mental anguish. Kaifukan High School in the city of Habikino had forced her to dye her naturally brown hair every four days, regardless of the rashes and scalp irritation. When even that proved insufficiently black, she was barred from a school festival and deleted from the school register.

The tone-deaf school justified this by saying, “Even a blond-haired foreign exchange student dyed her hair black.” This lawsuit’s outcome will signal whether Japan’s increasingly diverse student population can ever escape this kind of institutionalized harassment. But at least one student is standing up for herself.

8) Five-year limit on contract employment backfires

As reported in the JT by Hifumi Okunuki (“‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs,” Nov. 27, 2016), Japan’s Labor Contract Law was revised in 2013 to increase worker job security. To put an end to perennial full-time contracted employment, anyone working more than five years on serial fixed-term contracts will now be able to switch to normalized full-time noncontracted (seishain) status if they wish.

However, the law was not retroactive and the clock started ticking on April 1, 2013, so as the five-year deadline approaches this coming April, employers are now terminating contracts en masse: Last April, Tohoku University told 3,200 employees their current contracts would be their last.

But contract law has a special impact on NJ workers, as many endure perpetual contracted status (especially educators in Japan’s university system). The five-year rule has now normalized the practice of periodically “vacationing” and “rehiring” NJ to avoid continuous contracts, while encouraging major companies to finagle NJ employees’ working conditions by offering them “special temp status” (for example, explicitly capping contracts at less than five years).

Hence the bamboo ceiling remains alive and well, except it’s been expanded from just filtering out foreign nationals to affecting anyone.

7) Hate-speech law has concrete effects

Despite concerns about potential infringement of freedom of speech, a hate speech law was enacted in 2016 to, among other things, specifically protect foreign nationals from public defamation. It worked: Kyodo reported last year that xenophobic rallies, once averaging about one a day somewhere in Japan, were down by nearly half. Racialized invective has been softened, and official permission for hate groups to use public venues denied.

Of course, this hate speech law is not legislation with criminal penalties against, for example, racial discrimination. And it still assumes that noncitizens (rather than, for example, members of “visible minorities” who happen to be citizens) need special protection, incurring accusations of favoritism and “reverse discrimination.”

Nevertheless, according to the Mainichi, haters have been chastened. A report quotes one hate rally attendee as saying that before the law change, “I felt like anything I said was protected by the shield of ‘freedom of speech’… I felt safe because I knew the police officers would protect us. It felt like we had the upper hand.”

Not so much anymore.

6) Pension system qualification lowered to 10 years

Last year saw an important amendment to Japan’s state pension (nenkin) rules. Until last August, you had to invest a minimum of 300 months, or 25 years, in the various schemes to qualify for payouts after reaching retirement age.

Japan thus turned workers into “pension prisoners” — if you ever took your career elsewhere, you would get at most a small lump-sum payout from Japan, and possibly zero from your new country of residence for not paying in enough. (It was especially punitive toward Japan’s South American workers, who forfeited pensions when bribed by the government to “return home” during 2009’s economic downturn.)

Although things have improved under bilateral totalization agreements (where pension payments in designated countries get counted toward Japan’s 25-year minimum), this year Japan lowered the bar to the more reasonable 10 years. (More on this at www.debito.org/?p=14704.)

Of course, this does not resolve the fact that Japan will have the highest proportion of pensioners anywhere on Earth. Payouts and minimum retirement ages will be revised accordingly to make the pension worth little. But still, it will not be zero, and payments can be claimed anywhere in the world when you’re ready.

5) Renho resigns, Democratic Party withers

In 2016, in an unprecedented move, a member of an ethnic minority became the leader of a major Japanese political party. Alas, that party was the Democratic Party (formerly the Democratic Party of Japan), which in 2017 crumbled into nothing.

Renho, a Taiwanese-Japanese who served in Cabinets under two DPJ prime ministers, was a popular reformer. (She was re-elected in 2010 with a record number of votes for her district.) However, last year her integrity was questioned when it emerged that she had technically retained dual citizenship by not formally renouncing her Taiwanese nationality. That was rectified in July, but weeks later Renho resigned, ostensibly to “take responsibility” for a poor DP showing in the Tokyo prefectural election. From there, the DP downward-spiraled into virtual oblivion.

Many Japanese politicians have been tainted by scandal merely for associating with foreign types (for example, former DPJ Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara in 2011). Renho, alas, could not escape the stigma of her own putative “foreignness” — a huge setback for Japan’s politically invested ethnic minorities.

4) ‘Trainee’ program expanded, with ‘reforms’

Since 1993, to offset a labor shortage in Japan’s rusting small-firm industries, the government has been providing unskilled labor under an ostensible training program for foreign workers.

However, because “trainees” were not legally “workers” protected by labor laws, the program was rife with abuse: exploitation under sweatshop conditions, restrictions on movement, unsafe workplaces, uncompensated work and work-site injuries, bullying and violence, physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment, death from overwork and suicideeven slavery and murder.

Things have not improved in recent years. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies that accepted trainees in 2015 violated laws, and in 2016 a record 4,004 employers engaged in illegal activities. The program is so rotten that even the United Nations demanded Japan scrap it.

So guess what: In 2014, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe announced it would be expanded. Once restricted to the construction, manufacturing, agricultural and fishery industries, as of November it also includes nursing and caregiving. New opportunities were also proposed in “special economic zones” (so that foreign college graduates with Japanese language skills can pull weeds and till farmland — seriously). Furthermore, visas will be longer-term (up to five years).

To counter the abuses, the government also launched an official watchdog agency in November to do on-site inspections, offer counseling services to workers and penalize miscreant employers. But labor rights groups remain skeptical. The program’s fundamental incentives remain unchanged — not to actually “train” foreign laborers (or even provide Japanese language instruction), but rather to exploit them as cheap unskilled labor.

So expect more of the same. Except that now the program will ingest even more foreign workers for longer. After all, uncompetitive factories will continue to use cheap labor to avoid bankruptcy, construction will expand due to the Olympics, and more elderly Japanese will require caregivers.

3) North Korean missile tests and the fallout

Last year North Korea, the perpetual destabilizer of East Asia, commanded even more worldwide attention than usual (even popularizing the obscure word “dotard” among native English speakers). Flexing its muscles as a probable nuclear power, it test-fired missiles over Japan. The Japanese government responded by calling 2017 “the most severe security environment since the end of World War II” and warned regions of launches via the J-Alert system, while local authorities ran duck-and-cover-style nuclear attack drills.

This is but the most recent episode in a long history of Japan-North Korea reactionary antagonism. However, Japan is particularly wary of the possibility of infiltration. Members of the North Korean diaspora live in Japan (attending ethnic schools with photos of the Kim dynasty on their walls), with established networks for smuggling, money laundering and kidnapping of Japanese.

Essentially, North Korea’s international recklessness and habitual stupidity empower Japan’s warmongers and xenophobes to reinforce Japan’s bunker mentalities. They’ve successfully created domestic policies (such as the new “anti-conspiracy law”) that curtail civil, political and human rights for foreign and Japanese nationals alike — all legitimized based on the fear of North Koreans gaining even an iota of power in Japan.

Thus, North Korea’s antics ruin Japan’s liberal society for everyone. And last year Kim Jong Un upped the ante.

2) Abe glides to fifth electoral victory

In October, PM Abe won his fifth straight election (Lower House 2012, Upper House 2013, Lower House 2014, Upper House 2016, and this time Lower House 2017). No Japanese leader has ever enjoyed such a winning streak. But why?

Abe’s success is partly down to an aging society being predictably more conservative. No political party in the democratic world has held on to power as long as Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. Voting LDP, particularly in rural Japan, where votes count more than urban ones do, is often generational habit.

It’s also partly due to an opposition in disarray: After the DP stumbled and fell, the newly formed Kibo no To (Party of Hope) (whose policies weren’t all that different from the LDP’s) soured under the leadership of mercurial Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike — who resigned as party head, effectively abandoning her baby, in November.

And, to give due credit, it’s partly because Abe offers reassuring policies that, as usual for the LDP, sloganize stability and preservation of the status quo over concrete results or necessary reforms.

As far as Japan’s NJ residents are concerned, this election offered no good news. No party offered any policy improvements whatsoever for Japan’s international residents. (As noted above, how could they, what with North Korea’s missiles flying overhead?)

But xenophobia in fact had political traction: A prerequisite for DP politicians to defect to Kibo no To was a pledge to oppose suffrage rights for NJ permanent residents — for fear, they openly argued, that NJ would swarm into a voting bloc and take control over regions of Japan!

In sum, 2017’s election was not a rout of the opposition as has been seen before; the ruling coalition even lost a few seats. Moreover, the biggest victors, a new Constitutional Democratic Party streamlined of wishy-washy former DP members, offered a clear voice to the strong opposition among Japanese to changing the Constitution.

That said, JBC believes those changes will probably happen anyway, because despite this year’s scandals (e.g., the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen school debacles), five wins at the ballot box have made it clear that voters are just fine with Abe in power, whatever he does.

1) Government human rights survey of foreign residents

In March, the Justice Ministry released the results of a nationwide survey of NJ about the discrimination they face. It offered valuable insights: Nearly 40 percent of respondents looking for a place to live in the past five years had been refused for being foreign (and this did not include multiple rejections); more than a quarter gave up on a place after seeing a “no foreigners” clause.

Twenty-five percent of respondents looking for work said they had been rejected for being foreign, and nearly a fifth said they had received a lower salary for the same reason. Nearly 30 percent said they were targeted by race-based insults. More than 37 percent said they supported a law against “foreigner discrimination” (sic).

There’s lots more (see “Time to act on insights on landmark survey,” JBC, April 26), and even with all the caveats (e.g., excluding Japan’s visible-minority citizens, who tend to be treated as foreigners, and offering no questions about discrimination by officialdom, such as police street ID checks or the manufacturing of fictitious foreign crime waves), it’s an unimpeachable set of official stats that may, despite the xenophobic political climate, result in future antidiscrimination policies.

Bubbling under:

Osaka cuts sister-city ties with San Francisco as “comfort women” wartime sex slavery issue heats up.

Turkish resident Ibrahim Yener wins discrimination lawsuit against Osaka car agency — without using a lawyer.

In an international child custody dispute, Japan’s Supreme Court OKs defying a Hague Convention return order from a U.S. court, enabling future child abductions to Japan regardless of the treaty.

Record numbers of foreign tourists come to Japan and spend.

More NJ deaths in official custody, including those incarcerated at immigration detention centers and a New Zealander who died while strapped to a bed at a psychiatric hospital.

Charles Jenkins, U.S. Army deserter to North Korea and husband of a Japanese woman abducted to the same country, dies in Niigata Prefecture at age 77.

ENDS

=======================================
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Quoted in South China Morning Post article: “Why is racism so big in Japan?”

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. Here’s an article in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on racism in Japan.  And while I’m not entirely satisfied with how some of my quotes came out, it’s still an article that tries to get to the heart of a complex issue within 800 words.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

WHY IS RACISM SO BIG IN JAPAN?
It’s not just some Japanese shops that try to bar foreigners – schools and landlords can be equally unwelcoming. So maybe it’s not surprising a government adviser has called for apartheid, South Africa style

BY JULIAN RYALL, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, 9 DEC 2017
http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2123539/no-chinese-why-anti-china-racism-so-big-japan

The hand-written sign in the entrance of a cosmetics shop in Japan might have been shocking to many Chinese, but to some observers its message was all too familiar.

The sign, which said Chinese people were not allowed to enter, caused outrage when images of it were posted on Chinese websites last month.

Within 24 hours, the store’s owner Pola Inc ordered the sign to be removed and vowed to suspend operations at the outlet. Pola acknowledged the notice had caused “unpleasant feelings and inconvenience to many people” and said it would deal with the situation “gravely”.

In contrast with the anger in China, the incident attracted little coverage in Japan and received only brief mention in the few media outlets that covered it at all.

That seeming lack of interest doesn’t surprise Debito Arudou, a human-rights activist who was born David Schofill in California and became a naturalised Japanese citizen in 2000. Discrimination is a sad fact of life in Japan, according to Arudou, and if anything, it is becoming more frequent – and more blatant.

“Back in the 1980s, there was a lot of talk about how Japan was going to internationalise and that diversity was positive, but that has largely fizzled out,” Arudou, 52, says.

For Arudou, the most significant nail in the coffin of internationalisation was hammered in by Shintaro Ishihara, soon after he was elected governor of Tokyo in 1999. In a speech to members of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces on April 9, 2000, Ishihara said “atrocious crimes” had been repeatedly committed by illegal residents that he referred to as sangokujin, a derogatory term that literally means third-country nationals. Ishihara said if a natural disaster struck Tokyo, foreigners would cause civil disorder.

Despite an outcry, Ishihara brushed off demands to apologise. He even won re-election three times before stepping down in October 2012.

“There were problems before then, but I would have to say that speech made Japanese people look at foreigners as a threat to Japanese society, and I do not think that has gone away,” Arudou says.

And there are plenty of other examples of people in positions of responsibility expressing similar attitudes.

Ayako Sono, an author who has advised the government on education, wrote an opinion piece for the conservative newspaper Sankei Shimbun in 2015 in which she said that while Japan needed immigrants to solve its labour shortage, foreigners should be kept apart from Japanese people.

The best solution, she suggested, was the apartheid system employed by South Africa between 1948 and 1994. “It is next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them,” wrote Sono, 83. “Ever since I learned of the situation in South Africa some 20 or 30 years ago, I have been convinced that it is best for the races to live apart from each other, as was the case for whites, Asians and blacks in that country.”

Similarly, Tomomi Inada was revealed to have accepted donations from Zaitokukai, an anti-Korean group designated by police as a hate-speech organisation before she was appointed defence minister in 2016. She was also pictured meeting Kazunari Yamada, the leader of the National Socialist Japanese Labour Party and a fan of Adolf Hitler.

For many foreign nationals living in Japan, life has become significantly more difficult under a succession of Liberal Democratic Party governments, according to Arudou.

There are countless reports of Japanese property owners refusing to lease their flats to foreigners and, because there is no law that explicitly forbids discrimination based on nationality or race, there is little to stop them. Similarly, foreigners who approach government-run agencies for jobs are often refused based on their nationality or because they “look foreign”, according to Arudou, who in 2015 published book Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination.

Arguably the worst demonstration of Japan’s attitudes towards outsiders is visible in education. Schools are permitted to refuse foreign children if they lack the ability to teach them or that doing so would be too difficult for teachers. “This means there is an undereducated underclass of around 20,000 non-citizen children who cannot even read because they have not had the opportunity to learn,” Arudou says. [Source:  Embedded Racism, p. 130]

As many as 40 per cent of those children are second- or third-generation Japanese whose ancestors had been living in Brazil but were encouraged to apply for jobs with companies looking for relatively cheap labour. Having moved to Japan, however, their children miss out on an education.

“For Japanese people, racial discrimination is an inconvenient truth and most Japanese do not want to believe it exists in their society because they have been told there is only one race in Japan,” Arudou says.

And when the domestic media plays up violent incidents involving immigrants in France, Germany and Britain, it comes as no surprise that Japanese resist the idea of permitting foreigners to settle permanently in Japan, even when they are refugees seeking sanctuary from violence in their homelands.

“It is well known that Japan accepts a minuscule number of refugees each year and yes, the media here and the public at large look at the problems that have occurred in Europe and say those problems could never happen here because there are no immigrants,” Arudou says. “They say this is a mono-culture where everyone understands each other. And while that is nationalist claptrap that completely ignores any crimes committed by Japanese, it is how they think. It’s the narrative they tell themselves to reassure each other. But it’s not an honest narrative.”

And while the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympic Games the following year are being promoted as demonstrations of Japan as a nation open to outsiders, the changes may be only skin deep.

“I see these as ways of attracting more tourists and, therefore, more money,” he says.

“The people who come will be tourists and they will be shown great hospitality, but when it is over, Japan will wave them goodbye with a sigh of relief.” ■ ENDS

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Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage

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. Earlier this year the GOJ released a nationwide survey of discrimination toward NJ in Japan (details on Debito.org here and here). Debito.org predicted that the results of this could be (and would be) something the media would cite, now that they had tangible statistics.   (Even though, as reported previously on Debito.org, in the Nikkei Asian Review’s case, they would periodically still try to explain them away. But it would still be cited nonetheless.)  Here’s the latest example, again from the Nikkei Asian Review, with the shocking statistic, “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants”.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

As Japan looks for river of foreign talent, landlords erect a dam
Discrimination could hinder companies hiring more from overseas
Nikkei Asian Review, August 23, 2017
By TSUBASA SURUGA, Nikkei staff writer
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/As-Japan-looks-for-river-of-foreign-talent-landlords-erect-a-dam

TOKYOSamith Hilmy, a 26-year-old student from Sri Lanka, was waiting anxiously at a real estate office in Tokyo as an agent went through the procedure of ringing the Japanese landlord of an apartment the student was interested in renting.

Following a brief exchange, which lasted no more than 10 seconds, Hilmy said, the agent hung up the phone and uttered the same three-word phrase he had heard from a dozen or so agents over a month of home hunting: “Sorry, no foreigners.”

When Hilmy first arrived in Japan in April, his Japanese language school set him up in an apartment for six months in Shin-Okubo, a district in the capital’s Shinjuku Ward. But he has to leave the place soon, and time is short.

He said he has also encountered some real estate agents that demanded four to five months’ worth of rent up front — some want a year’s worth — as “insurance” in case he leaves the apartment or the country without notice.

“I felt,” he said, “like I was being treated like a criminal.”

Hilmy’s odyssey is not unlike the reality faced by many foreigners living in Japan. This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face.

According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.

The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam.

As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

They have to endure the humiliating phone call that often ends with a “sorry, no foreigners” because some landlords worry about tenants from other countries flying the coop, so to speak.

A few years ago, a 63-year-old landlord from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district who asked not to be named rented an apartment to a male Chinese student. After six months or so, he said, neighbors began reporting that two other men had moved into the same flat, “often making a racket late at night.”

When the neighbors confronted the student, the tenant pretended not to understand Japanese. “It made me more hesitant [to rent to foreigners],” the landlord said. “I just don’t want any more trouble.”

Hiroyuki Goto, CEO of Global Trust Networks, a Tokyo-based guarantor service provider for foreign tenants, said not many landlords have actually had these kinds of experiences but the stories “have spread across the country, causing fear among landlords.”

Other reasons include landlords who assume foreign tenants would trouble neighbors — from Brazilians throwing large home parties and firing up the barbecue to American college students who like partying into the night in their apartments.

Goto said even if prospective tenants are skilled workers with stable jobs at big-name Japanese companies, many housing units remain out of reach.

Total OA Systems — a Tokyo-based IT consultancy with 200 or so employees, including those in China and the Philippines — plans to expand the number of its foreign engineers working in Japan. It currently has only a handful.

The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo.

Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”

Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent.

This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”

Some companies are taking the matter into their own hands. YKK recently opened a small serviced apartment complex for its foreign-born employees in Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture, central Japan. Its flagship plant is a 10-minute drive away.

The world’s leading zipper maker is getting ready to expand into the low-end segments in China and other parts of Asia. To get a head start, it is training more foreign employees who could go on to become managers at these plants and elsewhere. These trainees work stints of up to three years in Kurobe.

The 10 apartments are close to full with engineers from Indonesia and other countries, and YKK is already considering whether it needs more housing for the more than 30 overseas engineers it plans to welcome every year.

YKK’s foreign employees used to live in other company dormitories or in private housing rented by the company. YKK said it has not experienced landlords rejecting its foreign-born employees but feels its serviced apartments help these workers avoid cultural quibbles with would-be neighbors.

More serviced apartment units would “allow [the foreign employees] to concentrate on their training from the day after they arrive to Japan,” a representative said.

Japan has no law prohibiting landlords from refusing applicants based on ethnicity or nationality.

“Judicially, the only way to resolve such a rejection is through civil lawsuits, which is an extremely high hurdle for foreigners,” said Yumi Itakura, an attorney with the Tokyo Public Law Office, citing costly trial fees and a lack of law firms with enough capacity to help non-Japanese clients.

But there have been efforts by industry players to tackle the issue. The Japan Property Management Association, a group of over 1,300 companies handling some 5 million properties, in 2003 created guidelines that include advice for landlords and real estate agencies in dealing with prospective foreign tenants.

“In some countries, a rental contract doesn’t require a guarantor [which is common in Japan],” one piece of advice says. “Housing rules differ by country and region, therefore you should carefully explain the values and customs that are behind Japan’s housing rules.”

For foreign tenants, the association created an “Apartment Search Guidebook,” which describes the country’s common housing rules in six languages. An example: “Living with people other than those stated in the rental agreement or sub-leasing the property are violations of the rental agreement.”

At the local government level, Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward is a forerunner in trying to tackle housing rental rejections. In 1991, the ward specifically stated in an ordinance that it will “strive to resolve [tenant] discrimination” based on nationality.

The issue is particularly important for Shinjuku, which has the highest proportion of foreign residents in Tokyo. As of Aug. 1, of 341,979 residents, 42,613 were not Japanese, more than 12% of the total. People from 130 or so countries live in the ward.

The ward office provides a weekly consultation session on real estate transactions for foreign residents who are having trouble finding a place to stay. In addition, it has set up a mechanism that offers help to residents in Chinese, Korean, English, Thai, Nepalese and Burmese.

Shinjuku periodically holds liaisons with property agents for better collaboration and smoother information exchanges, according to Shinjuku’s housing division. The effort is, in part, to support the elderly, disabled and foreigners, “who tend to be the most vulnerable when it comes to securing housing,” said Osamu Kaneko, the division’s manager.

According to a survey that Shinjuku conducted in 2015, separate from the justice ministry’s study, of 1,275 foreign residents, 42.3% said they had experienced discrimination in Japan. Of those, 51.9% felt discriminated against when looking for housing.

The justice ministry study underscores just how widespread discrimination is in Japan’s housing market. But the problem could be about to swell. At least the number of foreign residents in the country is trending up. At the end of 2016, it reached an all-time high, 2.38 million, 77% more than 20 years earlier.

Experts say access to housing in Japan is becoming ever more important as the third largest economy takes steps — though small ones — to open its door to more foreigners.

Chizuko Kawamura, a professor emeritus at Tokyo’s Daito Bunka University and an immigration policy expert, has proposed that the government set up a specialized body on multicultural initiatives that would make way for foreign resident support systems — from housing, education, medical access and fair employment.

This is “not limited to housing,” Kawamura said. “If our government cannot address the social needs of [foreigners] already living in Japan, we won’t be able to support those coming into the country in the future.”
ENDS
============================

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Asahi: Japan treats 1 million foreign workers as ‘non-existent’, and shouldn’t. Another recycled hopeful article.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In the wake of my previous blog entry about a new exploitative visa system for the next generation of Nikkei workers, here’s a hand-wringing article from the Asahi about how people don’t (but really should) accept NJ as part of Japanese society.

It seems like these articles are cyclical — I remember them from a good ten years ago (for example here and here and here and here).  But papers gotta sell, even if magazines anywhere gotta hawk the same weight-loss and exercise regimens to the reading public.  Fortunately, the Asahi draws the same conclusions I would. Alas, next serious economic downturn, all this will be out of the window and foreigners will be unaccepted again.

Maybe I’m getting too old to hope for much change anymore.  Where’s the tipping point?  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

Japan treats 1 million foreign workers as ‘non-existent’
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
July 27, 2017 
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707270006.html
PHOTO:  A foreign student from Vietnam, right, is taught how to deal with customers at a convenience store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. Foreigners are often seen at convenience stores in urban areas of Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Foreign workers in Japan are increasingly being seen as a valuable resource amid Japan’s declining birthrate and growing elderly population.

However, recent headlines in the media express concern about the influx of immigrants.

“Should we accept immigrants?” one publication asked.

Another worried that, “What will happen if foreigners become our bosses?”

The reality is that the number of foreign workers now totals more than 1 million. Japanese are increasingly coming in contact with foreigners in their daily lives, so they are no longer an “invisible presence.”

ACCEPTANCE IS UNAVOIDABLE

The Justice Ministry announced in January that foreigners working in Japan totaled 1,083,769 as of the end of October 2016.

Economic magazines such as Nikkei Business or Weekly Toyo Keizai have published articles related to immigration and foreign workers.

One contentious point among those articles is the existence of foreign workers working under a status akin to “unskilled labor,” which is not permitted, in principle, in Japan.

The Justice Ministry says that there are no rules and definitions concerning immigration in domestic law. So, Japan accepts immigrants under the title of “technical intern trainees,” who are expected to disseminate technology upon their return home, or “foreign students,” instead of accepting them as unskilled workers.

An article in the June edition of the monthly business magazine Wedge was titled, “Before we realized it, Japan has become a nation of immigrants.”

The article analyzed the situation where foreign students are employed in physical labor, working on farms and in factories and in the service industry, such as at hotels as cleaning staff, while introducing local communities that accepted immigrants as a measure to halt declining populations.

“When we are in Tokyo, it is hard for us to notice, but a work force shortage in local areas is so serious that those areas have no choice but to accept immigrants,” said Shinya Shiokawa, editor in chief of Wedge. “No one can be apathetic to them.”

While accepting immigrants has been discussed, foreign workers are more likely to be employed at restaurants or convenience stores in urban areas.

“Foreigners or people who have roots in overseas countries are talked of as if they do not exist, although they are already present in Japan’s society,” said Hiroshi Komai, professor emeritus of Hitotsubashi University, specializing in international sociology.

Until the 1950s, Japan was a nation that was dispatching immigrants to South America and other countries. In the 1980s amid a rising yen and the nation’s economic bubble, Japan was attracting an influx of foreigners.

In 2006, the internal affairs ministry drafted a plan to facilitate diversity in local communities.

While the central government banned immigrants from employment in low-skilled jobs, it allowed them to work under the name of trainees or on-the-job training. Komai said that local governments and nonprofit organizations have taken the lead in accepting immigrants and encouraging multiculturism in society.

“The central government has consistently treated immigrant workers as ‘they are present but non-existent,’ but the measure has already met limitations,” Komai said.

LITTLE FOREIGN PRESENCE IN LITERATURE

In the literature world, immigrants figure prominently in many stories in other countries. In Japan, however, the presence of immigrants in literature is not as common.

In Japan, there are many books on ethnic Koreans who were born and grew up in the country. One is “Geni’s Puzzle,” written in 2016 by Che Sil, a third-generation Korean, who was awarded the prestigious Oda Sakunosuke Prize. On the other hand, novels themed on “immigrants who come to Japan” are extremely rare.

“There are many overseas mystery novels that deal with immigration issues,” said Fuyuki Ikegami, a literary critic. “But in Japan, perhaps because Japan hasn’t accepted immigrants politically and socially, the theme can’t be as easily utilized and matured in a story.”

However, there are signs of change. Novels such as “i,” written by Kanako Nishi in 2016, and Yuzaburo Otokawa’s “R.S. Villasenor,” in 2017, describe immigrants coming from other countries.

The latter is the story of the daughter of a man from the Philippines who brings traditional Filipino craftwork to the traditional Japanese art of dyeing.

“While describing cultural integration, it tactfully addresses the immigration issue as a theme in a natural way,” Ikegami said.

Hiroshi Tanaka, a professor emeritus of Hitotsubashi University who specializes in Japan-Asia relations, said the existence of a “nationality dogma” in Japanese society is a barrier.

“Japanese people have a strong sense that Japanese society exists for people who have Japanese citizenship,” he said. “The length of residing in Japan doesn’t matter, and people other than Japanese can’t be admitted as a member of society.”

Tanaka said that the most important thing now is to operate on a standpoint of “for whom society exists.”

“Society exists particularly for people living there. If residing there, people should be treated the same whether they come from other countries or they don’t have roots in Japan. But that sense is still weak in Japan, and we have to change that,” he said.
ENDS

===================================
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Yomiuri: 4th generation Nikkei to get new visa status. Come back, all is forgiven! Just don’t read the fine print.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Guess what. Ten years after bribing and booting out its Nikkei “Returnee” workers from South America (who had been given sweetheart visas of de facto Permanent Residency, higher-paying jobs than the “Trainee” slaves from places like China (but still lower than real Japanese, natch)), and four years after lifting a ban on their return, the government has officially decided to introduce a new residency status to exploit the next (4th) generation of Nikkei. As long as they a) speak Japanese, b) are young enough to devote their best working years here, c) come alone, and d) only stay three years. Those are some tweaks that makes things less advantageous for the foreigner, so I guess the previous racist policy favoring Wajin foreigners has been improved (as far as the government is concerned) to keep them disposable, and less likely to need a bribe to go home when the next economic downturn happens. That’s how the Japanese government learns from its mistakes — by making the visa status more exclusionary and exploitative.

As Submitter JK says, “This smells to me like a scheme to recruit more laborers.” Nice how the Yomiuri, as usual, decides to conveniently forget that historical context in its article. Dr. Debito Arudou

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

4th generation to get new status
July 31, 2017, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Courtesy of JK
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003851875

The Justice Ministry plans to introduce a new residency status for fourth-generation Japanese descendants living abroad that will enable them to work in Japan under certain conditions, such as acquiring a set level of Japanese language skills.

About 1,000 people will be accepted each year in the early stages, sources said. The ministry will solicit comments from the public soon, and then decide when to roll out the program.

The aim of the new system is to help fourth-generation Japanese descendants deepen their interest in and knowledge about Japan, and nurture people who would be a bridge between Japan and the communities of Japanese descendants abroad in the future.

Those who are accepted will be aged 18 to 30 and given “designated activities” status, which will allow them to work during their stay in Japan, according to the ministry’s plan.

Participants will be required to have Japanese skills equivalent to the N4 level of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test — able to conduct basic everyday conversations — at the time of their arrival. When they renew their residency status, they will be required to have skills equivalent to the N3 level — understanding complex sentences. They will not be allowed to bring family members.

The residency status will need to be renewed each year, with the maximum stay set at three years. It will be possible to stay longer if they are allowed to change their residency status due to marriage, employment or other reasons.

The ministry envisages accepting fourth-generation Japanese descendants from countries — such as Brazil, Peru and the United States — where a number of ethnic Japanese communities were formed and took root as a result of Japanese migration before and after World War II. A ceiling for the number of accepted applicants will be set for each country or region, sources said.

Under the current system, second- and third-generation Japanese descendants can obtain a status such as “long-term resident” and are eligible for long-term stays and employment. However, there has been no preferential treatment for fourth-generation descendants except for underage biological children — who are unmarried and dependent — of the third-generation parents who are long-term residents.

ENDS

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

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Japan Times JBC column 107: “Time to act on insights from landmark survey of Japan’s foreign residents” Apr 26, 2017

mytest

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Hi Blog. My next Japan Times Just Be Cause column has just come out. Here’s the opening:

===================================
TIME TO ACT ON INSIGHTS FROM LANDMARK SURVEY OF JAPAN’S FOREIGN RESIDENTS

The Japan Times, JUST BE CAUSE Column 107, Thursday April 27, 2017, by Debito Arudou

As promised, in March the Justice Ministry released the results of a survey on Japan’s foreign residents (gaikokujin juumin chousa), conducted last year (see “Government, Survey Thyself,” JBC Mar. 5). Compiled by the “Center for Human Rights Education and Training” public-interest foundation (www.jinken.or.jp), it surveyed the types and degrees of discrimination that foreigners face here. (The report in Japanese is at http://www.moj.go.jp/content/001221782.pdf.)

And as promised, here’s JBC’s synopsis of those results:

The report opens with a statement of purpose, talking about the pressures to “live together” (kyousei) with foreigners due to internationalization and globalization, not to mention the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Record numbers of foreigners are crossing Japan’s borders, bringing with them different languages and customs, and “so-called” hate speech demos are also causing “numerous human rights problems.” So to lay the groundwork for human rights protections for foreigners, this survey would grasp the issues directly facing foreigners “staying” (zairyuu) in Japan…
===================================

Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/04/26/issues/time-act-insights-landmark-survey-japans-foreign-residents/.

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

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Cautionary tale: Bern on how no protections against harassment in Japan’s universities targets NJ regardless of Japan savviness and skill level

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s a crie du coeur from an academic I respect mightily named Bern. He has spent umpteen years in Japan’s higher education, both at the faculty and the Dean level (there have been very few NJ Deans ever in Japan’s universities), and has complete fluency in reading, writing, and spoken Japanese. Yet even after all his work acculturating and developing the same (if not greater) job skills as native speakers, he could not avoid institutional harassment. As he says below, “until harassment and discrimination laws are clarified and given real teeth” in Japan, all NJ faculty and staff are at risk.

And I speak from personal experience that this can happen to anyone. For NJ educators’ mental and vocational integrity, due consideration should be taken before ever considering a career in Japanese academia. Someday I’ll give an opinion piece about why Japan’s positions for NJ academics are, quite simply, a hoax, and why Japanese educational institutions should be avoided, full stop. But not yet. Meanwhile, here’s Bern:

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

Date: April 9, 2017
To: debito@debito.org
From: Bern

While this post for your blog describes an attempt by one university to isolate and harass (including a false claim of harassment that failed in epic fashion) a foreign faculty member, it is also meant to be a reminder. As a foreigner in Japan, things can go wrong even with the Japanese language fluency, the cultural and legal knowledge, the degrees and publications, the connections, etc., etc. that we are always told we should get in order to be “safe.” In other words, and until harassment and discrimination laws are clarified and given real teeth, we are all at risk.

As stated above, I have over 26 years of experience as a university teacher and administrator, including positions at public, national and private universities in Japan and in the USA. I have also been successful in these positions. Among other things, I was the first non-Japanese in Iwate National University’s 120-year history to be made department head (英米パート主任), and then the first non-Japanese there to be made the head of a division (欧米言語文化コース代表). Previous to that, I was dean (学部長) at Miyazaki International College, at the time the youngest dean in Japan and one of just seven non-Japanese deans in the country. Finally, I’ve been a union member, including serving as officer, for twenty years, during which time I have helped well over fifty people with labor concerns.

I have just finished two years in the most bizarre employment situation I personally have ever encountered. Some background: I worked at Iwate National University until March, 2015. It was an exciting and sometimes challenging, position, with mostly great colleagues. However, the work demands were very high, and with the ongoing hiring freeze, coupled with multiple MEXT-mandated pay cuts and constant MEXT pressure to make wholesale curriculum changes to “fix” nonexistent problems, things did not look to get any easier in the years to come.

So when, in the late summer of 2014, Iwate Prefectural University (IPU) contacted me about possibly moving over to join them, I was very excited. The position was to be for equivalent pay but with far less administrative responsibilities, as well as teaching duties more in line with my research and education. Serious discussions started that August. I was to be replacing a good friend of mine, Christine, who was taking early retirement. I would be working with Ogawa, who I considered a friend, and who I ironically had helped to get her current position. I would also be working with Kumamoto, who I got to know when she suddenly had to take leave for a semester and I was asked to teach her 西洋文化研究法 class instead. (This is a course on academic writing and research methods in Japanese. In other words, and on just three weeks of notice, I had to prepare and then teach a class on Japanese academic writing and research methods in Japanese to twenty Japanese university students.) Moreover, I thought I knew Ishibashi, the current 学科長 (Dept. Head). I also knew the one other foreign faculty member–as he wishes for anonymity let’s call him “A”–who I felt was a good guy. I have an email account full of correspondence about how everyone at IPU was looking forward to working with me, and how we would work together to make IPU a better place.

And so I made the change over, unfortunately without getting everything formally in writing first. To say that actual conditions were different from the verbal offer actually understates what awaited me at Iwate Prefectural University.

I arrived at a department where nearly half of my new colleagues (five out of eleven) had in recent years filed 鬱病診断書 (official diagnoses of severe depression) and rarely or never came to work, a department where three people (again out of just eleven) had had formal harassment claims made against them in the past four years. However, more on that last bit later.

My first inkling of trouble came when “A” suddenly resigned his tenured position at IPU to take a nontenured position (for less money) elsewhere. He submitted this resignation at the end of February, about one month before I was to start at IPU. I was disappointed, so I asked him about his decision…and he responded only with “You’ll know yourself soon.” I asked Christine and Ogawa about this. Christine responded cheerfully with assurances that, while disagreements happened, most people got along fine. (In her defense, Christine had no Japanese language ability and so apparently was blissfully unaware of the seriousness of many of the ongoing issues. She also wrote written statements in support of me later.) Ogawa never responded, which was a huge red flag, but at that point I had already resigned…so had no choice but to move on.

March 27, 2015 was my moving day. While carrying boxes upstairs, I was seen by Ogawa, who reminded me that we’d agreed to meet that day to discuss the English curriculum. I dutifully stopped unloading boxes and went to her office–to be honest, I was excited about discussing curriculum reform with my colleague and friend. However, there was to be no discussion. Instead, Ogawa informed me that I was to use a collection of grammar exercises and other explanatory materials “she” (they were actually taken from multiple junior and senior high school textbooks) had produced to supplement my 英会話 (English conversation) activities. I was a bit stunned, as I wasn’t hired to teach English conversation, didn’t have any English conversation classes to teach, and had already ordered textbooks for my other classes (back in February!). I attempted to explain this, saying that we should discuss materials and methodology at length over the semester and try to make a joint decision by the summer…and she exploded. She told me that she thought I’d be more “cooperative,” and asked me again and again if I knew my “place.” Despite repeated efforts–often in writing–on my part, we would not discuss English curriculum reform (or anything else) again during my two years at that campus.

My “place,” by the way, was professor (教授). Ogawa was a lecturer (講師), as was Kumamoto. That said, and this was confirmed by Mr. Chiba at the Labor Board (労働局), the unwritten policy at my new department was that rank didn’t matter, nor was there shared faculty governance in the usual sense seen at most national or public universities in Japan. Nothing was discussed or decided openly; we would have 学科会議 (department meetings), which I would attend religiously, only to be told that everything had already been decided. At these meetings, for instance, I first learned I would be denied the opportunity to work with the overseas exchange programs and even denied the opportunity to meet people arriving from overseas. E.g., regarding the latter, Kumamoto, after handing me a Japanese document–a letter of appreciation to Ohio University–and giving me five minutes (she actually stood next to me checking her watch) to translate it, then told me that I would not be allowed to meet the visiting faculty and students from OU that year. “Maybe next year,” I was told. Similarly, when I volunteered (begged) again and again to be informed of and allowed to participate in faculty-student events, including the Fourth of July Party, the Halloween Party, etc., etc., I was refused.

While I’ve heard again and again about this happening to many other foreigners, while I’ve personally advised foreign faculty who’ve been treated in this fashion, this is the first time such a thing had ever happened to me. I was systemically denied input into decision-making about school activities, English program reform, etc., etc. Instead, I was given the work nobody wanted to do. For example, I was made the first non-Japanese member of the 入試 committee, a committee so challenging new Japanese committee members are assigned a 先輩 (veteran colleague) to assist them with the multitude of responsibilities. I, however, was provided no veteran colleague. Instead, I was simply handed a large bag with the over 1,700 pages of things I “needed to know” about my new responsibilities, and then sent out alone to do, among other things, eleven high school visits in my first four months. (My Japanese colleagues went out in groups, to an average of just five schools.)

Still, I soldiered on, trying to prove myself to my new colleagues. In addition to the eleven high school campus visits, I did three 公開講座 (special lectures) on three different Saturdays (my Japanese colleagues averaged one), completed the onerous data-collection/number-crunching tasks (compiling from Japanese language surveys submitted by incoming freshman, etc.), etc., etc. And then, when I asked one day about the differences between the promised and actual work conditions, when I more strongly requested inclusion into the events and decision-making process, two of my colleagues (Kumamoto and Ogawa) did something I still find stunning:

They called a number of my students in and asked them to file a false harassment complaint against me.

How do I know they did this? Because my students–bless them–balked at doing this, and because these students then told me about what happened in writing. And not just this, Ogawa, in her complete stupidity, told two faculty members at other universities that she and Kumamoto would be doing this to me. Those faculty members (both friends) then informed me…again in writing.

To say I was blindsided, that I felt betrayed and humiliated and scared, is an understatement. Shocked, I reached out privately to Ogawa (my friend!) and asked for an explanation. She never responded. I then documented the harassment and asked Ishibashi to intervene, to mediate a discussion; he refused. Instead, on March 9, 2016, apparently after consultation with Ogawa and Kumamoto, Ishibashi stripped me of all duties beyond teaching.

I filed a complaint with the Labor Board (労働局), which reviewed the evidence, decided that I had a case, and intervened multiple times on my behalf. The national and regional unions intervened as well. It was in consultation with the latter that I first learned how often false harassment complaints are used to intimidate/bully at universities in Japan. I then found out that the same thing had happened not just to me, but to the three other faculty members at my university who had been accused of harassment.

The way it works is this: The 窓口 (ombudsman) for harassment complaints (in my case Kumamoto) calls in your students either singularly or in groups, talks about unstated and vague concerns or rumors she’s “heard” about you, tells the students she’s become aware from “other students” that you have been saying or doing inappropriate things in or outside of class, and then pressures your students to file a formal harassment complaint. Note that there does not have to be cause–e.g., no student had ever complained about me, and my student evaluations for that semester averaged a perfect score. More troubling, the specific contents of these complaints are kept confidential, making it very difficult to fight.

Again, I was lucky. My students protected me, and they did so in writing. Four faculty members submitted written statements in my support. I also taped conversations with Ishibashi, with Kumamoto and with Ogawa. Finally, after 26 years, I have an extensive support network inside and outside Japan. I wish all of you reading this similar luck.

That said, even with all my evidence, backing and connections, the best I could achieve was an “armed truce” where I was excluded and isolated but not harmed further. Note that at no time did I request the punishment of anyone–all I wanted was the harassment to stop and to be allowed to do the work they’d hired me to do. IPU refused to investigate–no student witnesses were ever contacted, nor did they speak to the multiple faculty members who’d submitted written statements in my support. They further refused to allow me to work–basically, I was getting paid to sit in my office to do nothing.

While some (including a number of my friends) teased me that this was an ideal position to be in, I wanted to be allowed to do my job. The Labor Board and the union recommended continuing to fight. However, fighting it out in court would have taken years, with the possible payout limited by Japanese law to 3,000,000 yen–or just $30,000 US–with about one third of that going to my attorney. (This, by the way, is what I mean by these laws not having teeth.)

I went out instead and found a tenured position at a university elsewhere. I am currently outside of Japan. The funniest thing is that, in my last conversation with him, Ishibashi assured me that I would never be able to find work again, that he “would see to it.” Maybe I should send him a postcard, signing it “Andy Dufresne”?

Be careful out there. Best, Bern
ENDS
=============================

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Reuters: Japan’s foreign asylum seekers tricked into Fukushima radiation clean-up

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s a scoop involving several layers of odious. It’s not just a matter of Japan’s poor or homeless (or other foreigners) being exploited for dangerous and life-threatening jobs cleaning up the radioactive mess in Fukushima.  Now Japan’s government is quite possibly complicit in tricking foreign ASYLUM SEEKERS into doing the dirty work for the sake of being granted extensions to their visa (which in the end turned out to be “a false promise”). All this under conditions where, according to the Reuters article below, “more than half of the 1,020 companies involved in decontamination violated labor and safety laws”. Further, as submitter JDG notes, “Asylum seekers in Japan tricked into doing nuclear decontamination work in Fukushima because when they get over-dosed on radiation and contaminated, the J-gov can always reject their asylum applications and deport them after all, right?”

As Debito.org has noted before, there is a metaphorical radioactivity to Fukushima that overwhelms law and order and corrodes all sense, bringing out the corrupt criminal underbelly of Japan’s bureaucratic and political worlds. Fukushima’s running-sore of an issue has undermined all integrity at the eventual expense of lives, particularly those of the most powerless in society. Six years after the event, the whitewashing of the issue continues. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Bangladeshi asylum seekers tricked into radiation clean-up: media
Reuters India, March 8, 2017, courtesy of JDG
By Minami Funakoshi and Thomas Wilson | TOKYO
http://in.reuters.com/article/us-japan-fukushima-asylumseeker-idINKBN16F0YN

FILE PHOTO – Big black plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation are dumped at a seaside, devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

Two Bangladeshi asylum seekers in Japan cleared up radioactive contamination from one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters on the false promise doing so would win them permission to stay in the country longer, media reported on Wednesday.

The Fukushima nuclear plant suffered multiple meltdowns after being hit by a tsunami triggered by a big earthquake on March 11, 2011. Companies decontaminating areas around the plant, which usually involves removing radioactive top soil, have struggled to find workers willing to do the job.

The two men, who arrived in Japan in 2013 saying they were escaping political persecution, said they were told by brokers and construction companies that their visas would be extended if they did decontamination work, the Chunichi newspaper reported.

“We believed the visa story because they said it’s a job Japanese people don’t want to do,” Chunichi quoted one of the men, Monir Hossain, as saying.

Reuters was not able to reach the two men.

The men did the decontamination work in Iitate village, about 50 km (30 miles) south of the plant, from January to March 2015, Chunichi said.

Japan maintains tight controls on the entry of foreign workers but asylum seekers are allowed to work while their applications are reviewed. Many have permits allowing them to stay and work that have to be renewed every six months.

Mitsushi Uragami, a justice ministry official who oversees refugee recognition, said there were no residence permits on offer for people doing decontamination.

“The length of asylum seekers’ residence permits and them doing decontamination work are unrelated. If anyone is giving inaccurate explanations about this, it’s problematic,” Uragami told Reuters.

The department was investigating the case, he said.

Takuya Nomoto, an environment ministry official overseeing decontamination, said the Chunichi report did not give the names of the companies or labor brokers involved, and as such the ministry was not able to confirm it.

The Fukushima Labour Bureau said this month more than half of the 1,020 companies involved in decontamination violated labor and safety laws last year.

Reuters revealed in 2013 that homeless men were put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima for less than the minimum wage.

Reuters also found the clean-up depended on a little scrutinized network of subcontractors – many of them inexperienced with nuclear work and some with ties to organized crime.

(Reporting by Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Robert Birsel)
ENDS

=======================
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Japan Times JBC 106: “Government, survey thyself”, on unprecedented nationwide poll of NJ on discrimination, with one big blind spot (March 5, 2017)

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Government of Japan, survey thyself
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
JBC 106, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES, MAR 5, 2017

Something landmark happened late last year. Japan’s government undertook a nationwide survey of discrimination toward Japan’s long-term non-Japanese (NJ) residents.

The Foreign Residents Survey (FRS), drawn up in 13 languages, was randomly mailed last November to 18,500 NJ residents. It was widely dispersed — to about 500 names per local government.

Good. We need hard data about the breadth and depth of discrimination to deal with it. However, previous government surveys analyzed in this column (e.g., “Human rights survey stinks,” Zeit Gist, Oct. 23, 2007) had serious methodological problems. And afterwards, thanks to attention in The Japan Times, they were amended (Source: Embedded Racism p 243 fn 140). Many thanks.

So how is the survey this time? Much better. But it still needs work due to an enormous blind spot…

Read the rest at The Japan times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/03/05/issues/government-japan-survey-thyself/

Version with links to sources up shortly.
=========================

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Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.

mytest

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Hi Blog. I’ve said plenty about this issue in my previous post. Here’s more information and gloss from Kyodo, which once again erroneously conflates “Trainees” with “workers”. Perhaps a new word is necessary to distinguish them. Oh, but they already have one:  how about “foreign trainees and workers”? Because they are simply not the same.

And what woe looms for these bright-eyed young workers who “want to stay on in Japan”. Not likely, at this writing. Especially since even the labor unions (as noted below) aren’t going to defend them. And I saw essentially the same bent to articles on foreign workers (for real, before the grey zone of “Trainees”) during Japan’s “kokusaika” period in the late 1980s (when I first arrived). Look how that turned out. Dr. Debito Arudou

///////////////////////////////////////////////
Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES FEB 7, 2017
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/07/national/trainee-program-small-firms-drive-rise-japans-foreign-worker-numbers/

The official number of foreign workers in Japan has surpassed 1 million for the first time, thanks in part to aggressive employment by regional companies and small businesses to cope with the labor shortage.

While these firms, though few and far between, are breaking new ground with their hiring, it remains unclear how the government wants to go about allowing in more foreign workers as it works out a new policy.

Juroku Bank, Ltd., based in Gifu Prefecture, last April hired two Chinese who had been studying at a university in Nagoya.

It was the first time for the company to hire foreign bank clerks, and came as part of a new personnel strategy to deal with the growing number of visitors to Japan.

Zhang Yijun, 26, has been assigned to handling remittances and other duties related to foreign exchange matters at one of the regional bank’s Nagoya branches. Zhang can get by in everyday Japanese-language conversations but is still learning from co-workers about banking and handling customers.

Zhong Shouzhen, 29, meanwhile handles foreign exchange matters at the bank’s head office in the city of Gifu. She struggles with polite Japanese expressions but hopes to get involved in business mergers and acquisitions in the future.

“I want to be an intermediary for Chinese and Japanese companies,” Zhong said.

A manager in the bank’s personnel section said: “The two of them had the power to carve out a life in Japan from scratch, and we have expectations that they will prosper in various ways.”

Tran Hong Kien, 28, from Vietnam, has been working for Yoshimoto Factory, a metal-processing firm in Ome, western Tokyo, since last March. He studied mechanical engineering at a top university in Vietnam.

“I was impressed by the high technical competence in Japan,” said Kien, who is tasked with running a lathe under instructions from senior workers at the company, which employs 25. “If possible, I would like to remain living in Japan.”

“It is difficult for a company of our size to employ Japanese students in science and technology, and recently it has been especially tough,” said the company’s president, Makoto Yoshimoto, adding that it’s hard to compete against larger companies for the most talented graduates from Japanese universities.

Yoshimoto noticed many diligent and outstanding students when the company started conducting business in Vietnam several years ago. Twenty applicants responded to the company’s job listings, but only two, including Kien, were hired.

Many foreign workers have also been working at small businesses but for low wages, brought to Japan under the government’s skills acquisition program that critics say is a cover for hiring cheap labor. These workers often return home just when they get used to their jobs, which are usually based on three-year contracts.

Yoshimoto said: “For the two Vietnamese this is regular employment with the same salary as for Japanese. I won’t mind if they work here until they retire.”

According to a survey by employment information company Disco that covered 630 firms nationwide, 38.1 percent employed or planned to employ foreign students in fiscal 2016, while more than half — 59.8 percent — expect to hire such workers in fiscal 2017.

The percentage of foreign workers who were recruited after graduating from overseas universities is expected to rise from 18.9 percent in fiscal 2016 to 32 percent in fiscal 2017. Disco said small and medium-size domestic companies that are little known to students are starting to recruit college graduates from abroad.

There were 1.08 million foreign workers on the official books at the end of October, up 19.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a survey by the labor ministry.

This was the first time the 1 million milestone was passed since 2008, when the ministry first started collecting statistics based on hiring reports by businesses.

The government has been promoting employment of foreign nationals with advanced skills and knowledge, but in reality, trainees under the skills acquisition program have been fueling the growth.

The latest ministry data show that program trainees grew by 25.4 percent to 211,108, outstripping specialized professionals, who increased 20.1 percent to 200,994. The number of students working as part-timers jumped by a robust 25 percent to 209,657.

The government, faced with a declining and graying population, is exploring the ramifications of accepting more foreign workers.

A debate is underway among lawmakers and bureaucrats over whether to expand the scope of businesses that can hire foreign nationals as regular workers to cover glaring shortfalls in the agricultural and construction industries, not just highly skilled professions.

But many in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition have expressed concern that throwing the doors open further for foreign workers would lift the lid on a Pandora’s box of immigration troubles.

Even labor unions, despite a desire to defend the rights of foreign workers, are wary of their influence on domestic employment and are against their easy acceptance into the workforce.
ENDS
/////////////////////////////////////////////

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Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”

mytest

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Hi Blog. The resurgence of Japan’s import labor regime has resumed in earnest, reaching a record at least in the Postwar Era. (Remember that during WWII, Japan’s internal colonial population, as in workers imported from its colonies, was very high; people from the Korean peninsula alone in 1945 were more than two million.)  Now as of 2016, the NJ worker total has hit 1 million, according to Reuters below.

There is some fine print this article should have noted. This “record one million” is of workers, not registered residents alone (which is in fact more than twice the number, at 2.23 million as of 2015), since they have dependents (i.e., spouses with non-work visas and children). But within this one million are people who are not technically “workers” (roudousha), but “Trainees” (kenkyuusei or jisshuusei), who aren’t officially protected by Japan labor laws and are exposed to all manner of abuses, including slavery.

So calling them all “workers” is misleading both in terms of terminology and legal status. Especially since, as the article does rightly note, they are making up 20% of the total, or around 200,000 unprotected NJ laborers.  Now that their numbers have shot up by 25% over one year alone, we can expect that 70% of all their employers will likely expose them to labor abuses.

These are not happy statistics, and for the article to lack this degree of nuance (especially since Reuters itself has done marvelous exposes in the past, even calling “Trainee” employers “sweatshops in disguise”) is at this point an institutional memory problem.

Another problem is the article implying that there is any actual attempt to, quote, “open gates to immigrants”.  Immigration (imin) has never been part of Japan’s policy calculations (and I challenge the journalists researching this article to find that exact word in any of the cited policy directives; their citing a construction company manager, in the unlikely event that he actually used the word imin, is still indicative of nothing) — only temporary stopgap laborers who will give their best working lives and then be sent home at the first economic downturn.  As has happened before, most cruelly.

As much as the article might be trying to attract eyeballs by putting a superlative “record number of” in the headline (and once again sneaking in an angle of hope of actual “immigration” happening), the only change that has happened here is that more NJ are being processed by an exploitative system — one that has by design remained relatively unchanged for nearly three decades, and moreover has been expanded to exploit even more.  So many misdirected angles here.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito.

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

NATIONAL
Foreign workers in Japan hit the 1 million mark for the first time last autumn: ministry
REUTERS/Japan Times JAN 27, 2017
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/27/national/foreign-workers-japan-hit-1-million-mark-first-time-last-autumn-ministry/

The number of foreign workers in Japan surpassed 1 million for the first time last year, as the labor-strapped country struggles to find enough Japanese workers.

Slightly over a million foreigners from countries such as China and Vietnam were working here as of October, labor ministry data showed Friday.

That was up nearly 20 percent from the previous year and a new record for the fourth straight year.

The figures suggest Japan is increasingly turning to overseas workers to plug its labor shortages despite its reluctance to accept them.

The country is facing its worst labor crunch since 1991 amid a shrinking and aging population, which has prompted calls from the International Monetary Fund for it to accept more overseas workers to boost economic growth.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the country should put more Japanese women and the elderly to work first before accepting immigrants, but policymakers are exploring ways to bring in more foreign workers without calling it “immigration.”

In December, the government expanded the scope of a system for accepting trainee workers from developing countries, while also creating a new visa status for nurses and domestic helpers.

It also aims to court highly skilled workers from overseas, such as academic researchers, by easing the path to permanent residency.

The labor shortage is especially severe in the construction sector, where demand has spiked ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and for rebuilding following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Over 41,000 laborers from abroad powered the construction industry as of last October, up from around 29,000 the previous year.

In November, there were over eight times as many job offers for putting together steel construction frames as there were workers, separate government data showed.

“We have on-site managers through our company, but the people who actually do the work, that’s where we lack skilled labor,” said a manager at a major construction company. “That’s where we have to find the people, and why we are trying to open gates to immigrants.”

Workers from China made up over 30 percent of the foreign labor force, rising 6.9 percent from the previous year.

Vietnamese workers were in second place, accounting for around 16 percent of the total foreign workers but up over 50 percent compared to the previous year.

A Reuters investigation last year showed how asylum seekers, some of whom are banned from working, are working on public works projects amid a shortage of Japanese construction workers.

The trainee system, whose aim is to train foreign workers so they can bring skills back to their home country, is often used by labor-strapped companies to secure workers. The program has been long dogged by cases of labor abuse including illegal overtime and unpaid wages, prompting criticism from Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department.

Nearly 20 percent of foreign workers were trainees as of last October, labor ministry data showed, rising by over 25 percent from the previous year.
ENDS

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

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Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”

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Book Review in Pacific Affairs Journal
http://www.pacificaffairs.ubc.ca/book-reviews/book-reviews-2/forthcoming-book-reviews/ (page down)

EMBEDDED RACISM: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination. By Debito Arudou. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015. xxvi, 349 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$110.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-1390-6.

Arudou’s book is a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan. It comes on the heels of both the Japanese government’s 2014 official claim that an anti-racial discrimination law is not necessary (third combined report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD]), and recent developments in Japan that have politicized the issues of dual nationality and hate speech, and even the Miss Universe Japan pageant.

Arudou draws on a quarter-century of research involving personal interviews, action research, and cataloguing, to highlight micro-level observations that illuminate the broader macro-level structural workings of the racialized dimensions of what it means to be “Japanese” in Japan. The contribution of this book is not only in its richness of information, but also in Arudou’s focus on a paradoxical blind spot in both the quotidian status quo understandings of and academic discourses on racialized social dynamics in Japan: the invisibility of visible minorities. Borrowing from Critical Race Theory (CRT), and applying its analytical paradigms present in Whiteness Studies to the case of Japan, Arudou argues that “the same dynamics can be seen in the Japanese example, by substituting ‘White’ with ‘Japanese’” (322-323). He introduces the concept of embedded racism to describe the deeply internalized understandings of “Japaneseness” that structurally permeate the psyche and sociolegal elements of Japanese society, resulting in systemic discriminatory treatments of individuals based on visible differences.

Instead of defining the Self/Other binary in oft-conceptualized terms of citizenship, he uses an original Wajin/non-Wajin heuristic. By original Wajin, he refers to visually identifiable “Japanese” who are members of Japan’s dominant and privileged majority, and for non-Wajin he refers to both invisible (e.g., ethnic minorities who can pass as “Japanese”) and visible (Gaijin, foreigners and naturalized Japanese citizens who do not “look Japanese”) minorities who are not members of Japan’s dominant and privileged majority. He uses this heuristic to parse out the nuanced sociolegal-structural logics that differentiate between not only citizens and non-citizens, but also non-citizens who can phenotypically pass as “Japanese” and citizens who cannot, in which the former is often given preferential sociolegal treatment, and the latter is often subject to overt racial discrimination.

More specifically, the book opens with a theoretical primer on race and the universal processes of racialization and nation-state formation. The author then critiques how studies on Japan often suffer from flawed conceptualizations of foreignness, viewing it as a function of either ethnic differences within the Asian-phenotype community or legal membership status, thereby overlooking overt discrimination against visible minorities that are racial in nature.

The first chapter contextualizes racial discrimination in Japan and explicates Arudou’s usage of the concept of visible minority and his theory of embedded racism in the context of Japan. The second chapter then addresses the historical roots of extant racialized understandings of “Japaneseness” by tracing national self-image narratives that Arudou argues undergird the dynamics of present-day treatments of foreigners in Japan. The next chapter surveys approximately 470 cases of establishments that have engaged in racialized refusals of entry and services and three civil court lawsuits, to demonstrate that “Japaneseness” is determined by racialized paradigms such as physical appearances (37–38).

In chapter 4, Arudou explains how Japanese nationality laws, family and resident registries, and policing regulations/practices constitute the legal underpinnings of the racialized “Japanese” identity, and asserts that Japan’s legal definition of a “Japanese citizen” is closely intertwined with “Japanese bloodlines” (11). The following chapter shifts the focus to how “Japaneseness” is enforced through exclusionary education laws, visa (residence status) regimes, and racial profiling in security policing. This chapter is supplemented with chapter 6, which highlights differential judicial treatments of those who are seen as “Japanese,” and those who are not. Chapter 7 details how media representations of “foreigners” and “Japanese” as well as the criminalization of “foreigners” popularize the racialized narratives of “Japaneseness” established by the processes discussed in chapters 4 to 6.

Chapter 8 shifts gears as Arudou turns his attention to domestic civil society and international criticisms of Japan’s embedded racism, and discusses the government’s passive reactions. Arudou traces the correspondence between the government and the (CERD) before and during its first two CERD report reviews in 2001 and 2010 (but not the most recent CERD review in 2014). Chapter 9 then takes two binaries that can be used to understand how sociolegal distinctions of “Japaneseness” are often made—by nationality (citizen/non-citizen) and by visual identification (Wajin/Gaijin)—and superimposes them to form a heuristic matrix of eleven categories of “Japanese” and “foreigner.” The author thus drives his point across that social privilege and power in Japan are drawn along lines that straddle conceptual understandings of and assumptions about both legal and phenotypical memberships. The book concludes with a final chapter on the implications of embedded racism for Japan’s future as an ageing society, and argues that Japan’s demographic predicament could be mitigated if Japan can begin eliminating its racism to create a more inclusive society for all.

The book does not touch on the voices and local/community advocacy initiatives among and on behalf of visible minorities, and stops short of systematically testing how the proposed heuristic matrix and its combinations of characteristics empirically lead to differential treatment. However, it does cover a lot of ground, and would be of interest to a wide audience, from the casual reader interested in learning about the racial dynamics in Japan, to researchers with area studies interests in Japan and/or substantive field interests in international migration, ethnic and race studies, citizenship and human rights, and advocacy politics at both the domestic and international levels. Arudou argues that Japan’s passive stance to addressing racial discrimination is “the canary in the coal mine” regarding its openness to “outsiders” (xxiii), and by starting this conversation, he addresses “the elephant in the room” that needs to be reckoned with for Japan to navigate its way through its impending demographic challenges.

— Ralph Ittonen Hosoki, University of California, Irvine, USA

Ends


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Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Print version at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/

Version with links to sources follows

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

No. 10)  Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years

We’ve named and shamed this before (“Downloadable Discrimination,” Zeit Gist, March 30, 2004). From Feb. 16, 2004, Japan’s Immigration Bureau had websites where anyone could anonymously rat on foreigners for any reason whatsoever — including (as a preset option) the xenophobic “repugnance and anxiety” (ken-o fuan). This occasioned calls for abolition from rights groups, including Amnesty International, and government leaders. As the Japan Federation of Bar Associations pointed out in 2005, “The program has ordinary citizens essentially spying on people suspected of being illegal aliens, which serves only to advance prejudice and discrimination toward foreigners.”

Yet Japan’s police “see no evil” when it suits them. According to the Asahi in 2015, the sites were being inundated with hate emails “slandering” Japan’s Zainichi generational Korean community. Immigration suddenly realized that false leads from trolls were a waste of time. Yep, we told you so more than a decade ago. Glad it sunk in.

9 Priyanka Yoshikawa wins Miss World Japan

This year showed us that 2015 was not a fluke. In 2015, multiethnic American-Japanese Ariana Miyamoto won the Miss Universe Japan competition as Japan’s first biracial national beauty queen. In 2016, Indian-Japanese Priyanka Yoshikawa was elected to represent Japan despite protests about whether she is a “real” Japanese. Although these events are cheer-worthy because they demonstrate that “Japaneseness” is not purely a matter of looks, they’re more important because the women’s stories of being “different” have highlighted their struggles for acceptance. When the domestic media bothers to report them, that is.

The discussion has mostly been a shallow one about “looks.” Sadly, this is par for the course. As I said to ABC NewsRadio Australia, “Why do we keep doing these 19th-century rituals? Demeaning women by putting them on a stage, making them do debasing things, and then saying, ‘This is a standard of beauty that is or is not Japanese?’ How about we just call it what it is: incitement to superficial judgment of people not as individuals but by physical appearance?” Progress made, yes, but the real progress will be when beauty pageants stop entirely.

8 Japan’s multiethnic citizens score at 2016 Olympics

Similarly, Japan’s athletes have long been scrutinized for their “foreignness.” If they are “half” or even naturalized, their “foreignness” becomes a factor no matter what.

If they do badly, “It’s the foreigners’ fault.” As seen when Japan’s men’s rugby team lost in 2011 and the nation’s rugby union criticized coach John Kirwan for using “too many foreign players” (including naturalized former NJ). The team was then ethnically cleansed. When multiethnic Japanese figure skaters Chris and Cathy Reed underperformed in 2014, Tokyo 2020 Olympics Chair Yoshiro Mori essentially labeled them leftovers, bashing them (mistakenly) as “naturalized citizens” who couldn’t make the U.S. Team.

But if they do well, they get celebrated. Remember October 2015, when Brave Blossoms, the men’s rugby team, scored an upset over South Africa, and their players’ enhanced physical strength was attributed to their multiethnicity? Suddenly the fact that many players didn’t “look Japanese” (11 were even born outside Japan) was no problem.

Same when Japanese athletes did well in Rio last year. Prominent performances by multiethnic Japanese, including Mashu Baker (Gold in Judo); members of Japan’s Rugby Sevens (the men’s team came in fourth); other members of Japan’s soccer, basketball and athletics teams; and most prominently, runner Asuka Cambridge (who missed out on Gold only to Usain Bolt) made it clear that hybrid Japanese help Japan in sports. If only people would stop putting up the extra hurdle of attributing success or failure to race.

7 Renho Murata takes helm of the Democratic Party

After years of tired leftist politics with stale or uninspiring leaders, last September the main opposition Democratic Party made young and dynamic Taiwanese-Japanese politician Renho Murata its leader. It was the first time a multiethnic Japanese has ever helmed a major party, and immediately there were full-throated doubts about her loyalties. Media and politicos brought up Renho’s alleged ties to untrustworthy China (even though Taiwan and China are different countries; even the Ministry of Justice said that Taiwanese in Japan are not under PRC law), or that she had technically naturalized (Renho was born before Japanese citizenship could legally pass through her mother) but had not renounced her dual citizenship, which wasn’t an issue when she was a Cabinet member, nor when former Peruvian President and dual citizen Alberto Fujimori ran for a Diet seat in 2007 (Zeit Gist, May 5, 2009).

Whatever. Renho has proven herself a charismatic leader with an acerbic wit, ready to ask difficult and pointed questions of decision makers. She famously did so in 2009, during deliberations to fund the “world’s most powerful computer,’ when she asked, “What’s wrong with being number two?” The project still passed, but demanding potential boondoggles justify themselves is an important job. The fact that Renho is not cowed by tough questions herself is good for a country, which with 680,000 Japanese dual citizens deserves fresh unfettered talent with international backgrounds.

6 Abubakar Awudu Suraj case loses once and for all

This has made the JBC annual Top 10 several times, because it’s a test case of accountability when NJ die in official custody. In 2010, Ghanaian visa overstayer Abubakar Awudu Suraj was so “brutally” (according to this newspaper) restrained during deportation that he was asphyxiated. Suraj’s widow, unsuccessfully seeking justice through Japan’s criminal justice system, won civil damages from the Immigration Bureau in a 2014 Tokyo District Court decision. However, last January, the Tokyo High Court overturned this, deciding that the lethal level of physical force was “not illegal” — it was even “necessary” — and concluded that the authorities were “not culpable.” Suraj’s widow took it to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was rejected last November.

Conclusion: Life is cheap in Japan’s Immigration detention systems (Reuters last year reported more NJ deaths in custody due to official negligence). And now our judiciary has spoken: If NJ suffer from a lethal level of force — sorry, are killed by police — nobody is responsible.

5 2016 Upper house elections seal Shinzo Abe’s mandate

Past JBC columns on Japan’s right-wing swing anticipated that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would capitalize on the left’s disarray and take Japan’s imagined community back to an imagined past. Sure enough, winning the Upper House elections last July and solidifying a majority in both houses of Parliament, he accomplished this hat trick. Since then, Abe’s popular support, according to the Asahi, remains at near record-highs (here and here). There’s even talk of changing the rules so he can be PM beyond his mandated five-year term.

That’s it then, really. Everything we feared his administration would do since 2012 is all coming to pass: the dismissing of universal human rights as a “Western concept,” the muzzling and intimidation of the press under a vague state secrets act, the deliberate destabilization of East Asia over petty territorial disputes, the enfranchising of historical denialism through a far-right cabal of elites, the emboldening of domestic xenophobia to accomplish remilitarization, the resurgence of enforced patriotism in Japan’s education system, the further exploitation of foreign workers under an expanded “trainee” program, and the forthcoming fundamental abrogation of Japan’s “Peace Constitution.”

Making Japan “great” again, similar to what’s happening in the United States under President-elect Donald Trump, has been going on for the past four years. With no signs of it abating.

4 Next generation of “Great Gaijin Massacres” loom

In April 2013, Japan’s Labor Contracts Law was amended to state that companies, after five years of continuous contract renewals, must hire their temporary workers as “regular employees” (seishain). Meant to stop employers from hiring people perpetually on insecure contract jobs (“insecure” because employees are easily fired by contract nonrenewal), it is having the opposite effect: Companies are inserting five-year caps in contracts to avoid hiring people for real. Last November, The Japan Times reported on the “Tohoku University job massacre,” where 3,200 contract workers are slated to be fired en masse in 2017.

JBC sees this as yet another “Gaijin as Guinea Pig” scenario (ZG, July 8, 2008). This happened in Japanese academia for generations: Known as “Academic Apartheid,” foreign full-time scholars received perpetual contract employment while Japanese full-time scholars received permanent uncontracted tenure from day one. This unequal status resulted in the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-4, where the Ministry of Education (MOE) told National and Public Universities not to renew the contracts of foreigners over the age of 35 as a cost-cutting measure. Then from 1997, the MOE encouraged contract employment be expanded to Japanese full-time educators. From 2018, it will be expanded to the nonacademic private sector. It’s a classic case of Martin Niemoller’s “First they came …” poem: Denying equal rights to part of the population eventually got normalized and applied to everyone.

3 The government surveys NJ discrimination

Japan has been suddenly cognizant of “foreigner discrimination” this year. Not “racial discrimination,” of course, but baby steps. The Asahi kicked things off in January by reporting that 42 percent of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward encountered some form of discrimination, and nearly 52 percent of that was in finding apartments. Glad to have the stats, albeit localized.

Then the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights conducted its first-ever nationwide survey of discrimination toward longer-term NJ residents by mailing them a detailed multilingual survey (available at www.debito.org/?p=14298), asking questions specifically about unequal treatment in housing, employment, education, social situations, etc. It even mentioned the establishment of “laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination against foreigners” (not a law against discrimination by race, natch).

Although this survey is well-intentioned, it still has two big blind spots: It depicted discrimination as 1) due to extranationality, not physical appearance, and 2) done by Japanese people, not the government through systemic racism embedded in Japan’s laws and systems (see my book “Embedded Racism” for more). As such, the survey won’t resolve the root problems fundamental to Japan’s very identity as an ethnostate.

2 Blowback involving NJ tourism and labor

Japan’s oft-touted sense of “selfless hospitality” (omotenashi) is an odd thing. We are seeing designated “foreigner taxis” at Kyoto Station (with a segregated stop), “foreign driver” stickers on Hokkaido and Okinawa rental cars stigmatizing NJ tourists (and NJ residents touring), and media grumblings about ill-mannered Chinese crowding stores, spending scads of money (diddums!) and leaving behind litter. (Japan’s tourist sites were of course sparkling clean before foreigners showed up. Not.)

Then there’s the omnipresent threat of terrorism, depicted for years now by the government as something imported by foreigners into a formerly “safe Japan” (although all terrorist acts so far in Japan have been homegrown). To that end, 2016 was when Japan’s Supreme Court explicitly approved police surveillance of Muslim residents due to their religion. (What’s next? Surveilling foreign residents due to their extranationality?)

Yet foreigners are a necessary evil. Japan still needs them to do its dirty work in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fishery and nursing sectors. So this year the foreign “trainee” work program was expanded, along with measures against abuses. About time — bad things, including NJ slavery and child labor have been happening for decades, with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry acknowledging that about 70 percent of employers hiring “trainees” engage in illegal labor practices. Omotenashi has been counterweighted by government-sponsored exploitation of NJ, and now with the upcoming 2020 Olympics, there’s plenty more dirty work out there.

And after all this, 2016 offered one big bright spot:

1 Hate speech law gets passed — and enforced

Japan’s first law protecting “foreigners” from group denigration in public was passed nationwide in May. JBC (Feb. 1) heralded it as a step in the right direction. Critics quickly pointed out its shortcomings: It doesn’t actually ban hate speech, or have penalties for violators, and it only covers people of overseas origin “who live legally in Japan” (meaning “foreigners,” but not all of them). Plus it skirts the issue of racial discrimination, natch.

However, it has had important effects. The law offered a working definition of hate speech and silenced people claiming the “Western construct” of hate speech didn’t exist in Japan. It also gave Japan’s bureaucrats the power to curtail haters. The Mainichi Shimbun reported that this year’s xenophobic rallies, once daily on average somewhere in Japan, had decreased. Rallies also reportedly softened their hateful invective. Since Japan’s outdoor public gatherings need police and community approval (ZG March 4, 2003), even an official frown on hatred can be powerful.

Official frowning spread. The National Police Agency advised prefectural police departments to respond to hate speech demos. A court banned a rally in a Korean area of Kawasaki for “illegal actions that infringe upon the personal rights for leading a personal life.” Another court ordered hate group Zaitokukai to compensate a Zainichi Korean for public slurs against her. Both judges cited the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination, which has been ignored in lawsuits against “Japanese only” establishments.

These are remarkable new outcomes in a society loath to call “No Foreigners Allowed” signs discriminatory, let alone order police to take them down. Progress to build upon.

Bubbling under the top 10

11 Population of registered NJ residents reaches record 2.23 million despite significant decreases in recent years.

12 “Special economic zones” expand to the aging agriculture sector, and want “skilled foreigners” with college degrees and Japanese-language ability to till fields on three-year visas. Seriously.

13 The Nankai Line train conductor who apologized to passengers for “too many foreigners” on an airport-bound train is officially reprimanded, not ignored.

14 Osaka sushi restaurant Ichibazushi, which was bullying foreign customers by deliberately adding too much wasabi, is forced by social media to publicly apologize.

15 Debito.org’s archive of human rights issues in Japan celebrates its 20th Anniversary.

——————–
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Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. Unclear how it’ll be enforced.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s a little something that may or may not matter in future. As the Abe Administration seeks to expand the NJ “Trainee” sweatshop and slave-labor program out of the construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fishery industries and into nursing (not to mention the “special economic zones” so that foreigners with college degrees and Japanese language ability will have the privilege of tilling land and weeding crops on Japanese farms; seriously), we finally have a law to prevent the widespread abuses of NJ not covered by labor laws.  Abuses so widespread, as the article says below, that “about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies and organizations that accepted trainees last year were found to have violated laws,” according to the GOJ.  That’s quite a stat.

Now will this law be enforced? Remains to be seen.  I’m not sure how this governmental “body to carry out on-site inspections at companies and organizations using the program and offer counseling services for participating workers” will work in practice.  We’ve already seen how ineffectual other human-rights organs for “counseling” (such as the Ministry of Justice’s Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights) are in Japan.  And there are all manner of institutionalized incentives (and decades of established practice) for people to turn blind eyes.  After all, the only ones being hurt by this slavery program are foreigners, and they can just go back home if they don’t like it.  (Except that they can’t.)  Debito.org will keep you posted on developments. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////////
Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign trainees
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES
NOV 18, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/18/national/japan-enacts-law-prevent-abuse-foreign-trainees/

In an effort to prevent human rights abuses in the workplace, a law was enacted Friday to improve supervision of companies that accept foreign workers under a government program.

The move comes after the government decided recently to include nursing care in the list of industries in which foreign trainees can work under the Technical Intern Training Program, following the related legislation’s passage through the Upper House.

The change is expected to lead to an increase in the number of foreigners working as nursing caregivers in Japan, where demand for such services is expected to grow as the population grays.

Japan introduced the training program for foreign nationals in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. It currently covers 74 job categories chiefly in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fishery industries.

But the scheme has faced charges both within and outside Japan that it is a cover for importing cheap labor. There have been reports of harsh working conditions, including illegally long work hours and nonpayment of wages.

To tackle such illicit handling of foreign trainees, Japan will establish a body to carry out on-site inspections at companies and organizations using the program and offer counseling services for participating workers.

Since August, the Justice Ministry has instructed more than 200 mediator groups to stop using phrases such as “securing labor” in their advertisements calling on companies to accept foreign trainees. The government says the mediator groups bear the task of making sure the firms are accepting the trainees to transfer technical skills and make international contributions.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies and organizations that accepted trainees last year were found to have violated laws, with offenses including having trainees work illegally long hours.

A 26-year-old Vietnamese man who is trained for machinery use in Gifu Prefecture said some of his friends left companies after suffering violence from Japanese employees.

Under the new law, penalties will be imposed to ban employers from confiscating foreign trainees’ passports against their will and restricting their movements.

Companies that are judged as treating foreign trainees fairly will be allowed to have them work for up to five years, instead of the currently allowed three-year maximum.

When nursing care services are encompassed by the training program, it will be the first time that foreign trainees will be engaged in offering services directly to other people.

The government is planning to require the trainees to have a certain level of Japanese language skills to prevent communication problems when dealing with co-workers and people in their care.
ENDS

==============================
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CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a submission from Debito.org Reader CR, about the application of the “five year rule” of Japanese Labor Contract Law in Japan’s blue-chip companies. Although the 2013 revision in the law was meant to say, “five years of contract renewals means you must rehire the person as a regular employee (sei sha-in) without a contract” (which would end the exploitative system of unstable employment through perpetual contracting), it’s had the opposite effect:  encouraging employers to cap the contracts at five years.  Meaning that starting from April 1, 2018, five years since the revised Labor Contract Law took effect, we’re expecting to see a mass firing of Japan’s contract laborers.

This is precisely what has been happening to Japan’s non-tenured foreign academics for generations in Japan’s Academic Apartheid System, with the occasional “massacre” of older Japanese contracted academics just to save money, but now it’s being expanded systemwide to the non-academic private sector.  We’ve seen rumblings of its application at Tohoku University for everyone.  But of course we have to make it even worse for foreign workers:  At Canon, one of Japan’s flagship companies, NJ are being given special “temp” employment categories with contracts explicitly capped at five years from the outset.  One more reason to read your employment contracts carefully, if not avoid entirely the increasingly unstable and segregated jobs in Japanese companies.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

——————————————–

From: CR
Date: December 8, 2016
Hi Debito,

Long-time reader, few-times commenter. I’m contacting you because I think this would be a good follow-up to your post about the 5-year massacre issue.

I work as a translator for Canon. Although I don’t work at the 本社 (HQ), I am a Canon Inc. employee.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: you are welcome to use any information I provide here in your blog (and I am willing to get additional information as far as I am able), but I would prefer to remain anonymous.

At Canon, NJ are hired as “プロ社員” (pro sha-in), which basically means “contract employee”. Note that there is also a “Jプロ社員” (J-pro sha-in) category, as Japanese can also be hired as contract employees (my understanding is Japanese who are 中途採用 (chuuto saiyou, or halfway hires) start as contract employees, but can move to 正社員 (sei sha-in, or regular non-contract workers) within a year or two; I don’t know the conditions for this, however).

The contracts are typical one-year contracts with the option of renewal, provided renewal is the desire of both parties; basically the standard you would expect. As you know, in 2013 the revision to the Labor Contract Act came into effect, essentially giving contract employees an avenue to become 正社員 regular non-contract workers after five years of continuous, contract-based employment (the earliest this could happen for an employee is then April 1, 2018). This, presumably, was designed to help people like myself achieve greater employment security.

Here’s the thing. Apparently, after the revision to the law, and I’m not sure of the exact date that they started doing this because to my knowledge there are not really frequent hirings of NJ and nobody I’ve spoken with seems to know, NJ hires have a clause in their contract stipulating that there will be no further renewal after their period of employment reaches the 5-year mark. Potential hires are informed of this before or during the interview process, apparently, so those in the know can make an informed decision. However, it is also my understanding that there are people who were hired before this change took place and are being grandfathered in; in other words, the 5-year limit clause is not being added to their contracts, and presumably they will be able to become 正社員 when the time comes, but newer NJ hired will not.

Obviously I’m pretty incensed about this, it’s difficult to work in an environment where there are clear discriminations such as this. Note that while I believe the discriminations are racially-based, the only thing that is visible is based off nationality. I don’t know how the company handles NJ who have naturalized, or even if any naturalized Japanese citizens are among the employee ranks. It rankles even more because there are always various “Compliance”-related initiatives, announcements, and activities, to show employees how important it is to play fair, not discriminate, follow the rules and the law, etc.

So, big, established, famous, international Japanese companies are already putting discriminatory clauses that violate the spirit, if not exactly the letter, of the law into the contracts of NJ. Also, this effectively puts the kibosh on any potential promotions of NJ; you cannot be promoted as a contract employee. The glass ceiling is alive and well.

It would be nice to this get some attention and change as a result, but I won’t hold my breath about changes, at least.

All the best, CR

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

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JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Once again, the JT comes out with an insightful article about the difference between appearance and reality, especially in Japan’s labor market.  Okunuki Hifumi tells us about how Japan’s most-coveted job — civil servant (!) — actually comes with at a price of fewer rights under Japan’s labor laws.  Depending on your status, bureaucrats lack the right to strike, collectively bargain, or unionize (not to mention, as it wasn’t in this article, engage in “political activities”).  And that can severely weaken their ability to fight back when labor abuses occur (see in particular footnote 6) or, as schoolteachers, to educate students about politics.  Read on.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito.

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

(Photo Caption) Pop quiz: Which of these types of government worker has the right to strike — tax inspectors, schoolteachers, firefighters or public health workers? Answer: None of the above, thanks to an Occupation-era law designed to tamp down the influence of communism. | KYODO PHOTO

The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights
BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES, AUG 21, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/08/21/issues/flip-side-coveted-public-sector-jobs-japan-less-rights/

I research labor law and teach it to university students. In the first class, I break up the two groups of labor laws — those related to individual and collective labor relations — for my students. Individual labor relations law begins and ends with the 1947 Labor Standards Act (rōdō kijun hō); its collective counterpart is surely the 1950 Trade Union Act (rōdō kumiai hō).

About 99.9 percent of my 18-20-year-olds look blank the first time they hear the word “rōdō kumiai,” or labor union. Some of them have arubaito (part-time jobs) and thus already have become rōdōsha (workers) protected by labor laws, but they have not heard of labor unions and have no idea what such a creature looks like. I have my work cut out trying to explain to them the concepts of labor unions, collective bargaining and striking.

A popular professional aspiration among university students today is to join the ranks of kōmuin, or government employees. Civil servants have stable employment, meaning they don’t have to worry about the possibility of being laid off. Their work hours and days off are usually quite favorable compared with those at private-sector firms. (At least that is what is said — that is the reputation. The reality is not so straightforward.)

Once, the hot jobs were high-income positions with finance firms or trading houses, but today’s youth are more sober, preferring a steady, grounded career path. A 2015 poll by Adecco Group asked children between 6 and 15 years old in seven Asian countries and regions what they wanted to be when they grow up. Children in Japan answered in the following order of popularity: 1) company worker; 2) soccer player; 3) civil servant; 4) baseball player. Note the perhaps unexpected answers ranking 1) and 3). “Government employee” made the top 10 only in Japan. […]

Amazingly, each type of civil servant has different labor rights in Japan. I ordinarily teach labor law that protects private-sector employees, so when I tell my students that the labor laws for civil servants differ by type of job, they express shock, particularly when they find out that civil servants have fewer rights than other workers…

Read the rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/08/21/issues/flip-side-coveted-public-sector-jobs-japan-less-rights/

============================
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Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has talked at length about the “Great Gaijin Massacre of 1992-4,” where National and Public Universities decided to terminate en masse (at the urging of the Ministry of Education) their foreign faculty who were over 35 years old 1) as a cost-cutting measure, and 2) because they could — since most NJ were on contract employment (meaning one could be “fired” through a simple contract non-renewal), while full-time J faculty were almost always employed on permanent non-contracted tenure from day one. “Academic Apartheid” is what respected scholars such as Ivan Hall called it. And conditions have not really gotten better, as (again through government design) more full-time Japanese faculty are being put on contract employment themselves, while far fewer full-time NJ are being granted permanent tenure.

Now we have a new looming massacre. The labor laws changed again in 2013 to require employers to stop keeping people on perpetual renewable contract status. After five years of employment, employers must switch them to permanent noncontracted status. Well, the five-year mark is April 1, 2018, meaning there is an incentive for employers to fire people before they hit a half-decade of employment. Debito.org said before that that would happen, and there were some doubters. But here’s the first published evidence of that happening, at Tohoku University, courtesy of our labor law expert at the Japan Times.  After all these years of service, even less job security awaits. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs
by Hifumi Okunuki
The Japan Times, Nov 27, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/27/issues/five-year-rule-triggers-tohoku-college-massacre-jobs/

I have discussed the “five-year rule” several times before in this column — the revision of the Labor Contract Law (Rodo Keiyaku Ho) enacted in 2013. Under the amendment, any worker employed on serial fixed-term contracts (yūki koyō) for more than five years can give themselves permanent status. See my earlier stories for more details, particularly my March 2013 column, “Labor law reform raises rather than relieves workers’ worries.”

The amendment was supposed to give workers more job security. Or at least that is what lawmakers claimed the purpose was. From the start I had my doubts — doubts that are now being borne out.

The fact is, employers are using the amendment as an excuse to fire their workers or change their working conditions before April 2018. When the law was enacted, it was not grandfathered to entitle those who had already worked more than five years. That meant the clock started on April Fools’ Day, 2013, and that the first time it will be possible to use this purported job-security measure will be April 1, 2018.

After enactment, some employers put new hires on one-year contracts with a three-renewal limit, or a five-year maximum with no renewal possible afterwards. It seems obvious this was to avoid being restricted by the five-year rule, which is really a “more-than-five-year rule.” Other employers are planning to either change their employees’ working conditions or fire or nonrenew their employees over the coming year, 2017. Again, it seems obvious that their intention is to avoid the new law and thereby violate its job-security spirit.

And this month I’ll name names — or a name in this case. This month’s installment delves into the “Tohoku University massacre.” This prestigious, famous and respected college with a long history and tradition has revealed that it plans not to renew the fixed-term contracts of up to 3,200 employees when they next come up for renewal. This kind of move — effectively a mass firing — is rare in Japan, and the plan has already had a huge impact in education and labor-law circles.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/27/issues/five-year-rule-triggers-tohoku-college-massacre-jobs/

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

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MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)

mytest

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

From: XY
Subject: MOJ NJ Survey
Date: November 14, 2016
To: debito@debito.org

Dear Debito,

I am XY, a long year NJ resident. First I want to thank you for the great work you do to enhance human rights in Japan. I learned most of the discrepancies between law and practice (especially Hotels *cough*) from your blog. Great work.

Now to the actual reason of my mail. I have recently read on debito.org about that human rights survey the ministry of justice is conducting right now, and today I got the survey documents in Japanese and English. In your blog you ask for scans of these documents to check the nature of this survey. Here they are (downloadable PDFs):

外国人人権アンケート(Cover Letter)
外国人人権アンケート(英語)
外国人人権アンケート(日本語)

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

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:

Debito.org has focused on the GOJ’s biased surveys regarding human rights and NJ in the past, and found the science to be very bad. This poor science has even been found in surveys of NJ residents at the national (here, here, and here) and local levels (Tokyo and Urayasu, for example). It’s amazing how quickly common human decency and equal treatment evaporates from Japan’s social science just as soon as “foreigners” are brought into the equation.

So that’s why I approached these new surveys for “Foreigners Living in Japan” (as opposed to “Non-Citizen Residents of Japan”) from the Ministry of Justice Human of Human Rights (BOHR), Center for Human Rights Education and Training, with some trepidation.  Especially given the BOHR’s longstanding record of unhelpfulness and abdication of responsibility (see also book “Embedded Racism“, pp. 224-231).  But let’s take a look at it and assess.  Here is a sampling of pages from the English version in jpg format (the full text in Japanese and English is at the above pdf links).

First, two pages from the statement of purpose from the Cover Letter, so you get the tone:

Document-page-001

Document-page-002

Next, here’s the odd very first question.  It inquires whether the foreigner being surveyed actually interacts with Japanese, or lives as a hikikomori hermit inside a terrarium.  (It’s a bit hard to envision this kind of question coming from other governments.  In a question about discrimination towards NJ, why is this the first question?  Is it a means to discount future responses with, “Well, it’s the foreigner’s own fault he’s discriminated against — he should get out more”?).  Anyway:

Document-page-006

Skipping down to the next section, we see that they get to the discrimination issues (housing first, and that’s a major one) pretty systematically, and with the possibility of open-ended answers.  Good.

Document-page-008

Same with discrimination in employment:

Document-page-009

And then discrimination in access to services and in daily interactions:

Document-page-010

And then we get to a decent list of miscellany.  Note that there is no mention of any discrimination by officialdom, such as police harassment, racial profiling, or Gaijin Card Instant Checkpoints on the street or in hotels.  (Naturally:  The BOHR is part of the Ministry of Justice, as are the Japanese police forces — and their bunker mentalities are but an inevitable part of managing Japan’s security and erstwhile “world’s safest society” against outside threats).  According to this list, discrimination only seems to happen because of nasty “Japanese people” as individuals, not because of something more systemic and embedded, such as Japan’s laws, enforcement of laws, or judiciary.

Document-page-011

Then we get to issues of hate speech:

Document-page-012

Document-page-013

Then we get to the subject of what to do about it.  The survey starts off with the typical boilerplate about “cultural differences” (the regular way of blaming foreigners for “being different”, thereby deserving differential treatment), but then by item 6 we get a mention of a law against preventing “discrimination against foreigners” (as opposed to racial discrimination, which is what it is).  So at least a legislative solution is mentioned as an option.  Good.

Document-page-014

The rest talks about what measures the surveyed person has taken against discrimination using existing GOJ structures (the BOHR).  Then it concludes some background about the surveyed person’s age, nationality, visa status, home language, etc. (which is where that funny first question about “how much contact do you have with Japanese?” should have come; putting it first is, again, indicative.)

CONCLUSION:  In terms of a survey, this is an earnest attempt to get an official handle on the shape and scope of discriminatory activities in Japan, and even mentions the establishment of anti-discrimination laws as an option.  Good.  It also includes the first real national-level question about discrimination in housing in Japan, which hitherto has never been surveyed beyond the local level.  I will be very interested to see the results.

That said, the survey still has the shortcoming of the GOJ not accepting any culpability for discrimination as created and promoted by officials, including Japan’s police forces, laws, law enforcement, or legislative or judicial processes.  It still seems to want to portray discrimination as something that misinformed or malicious individuals do toward “foreigners”, without getting to the root of the problem:  That the real issue is racial discrimination embedded within Japan’s very identity as a nation-state (as I uncover and outline in book “Embedded Racism”).  Here’s hoping that research helps inform their next survey (as my research informed the Cabinet’s previously biased survey questions back in 2012 (page down)).  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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My Japan Times JBC column 102, Oct 31, 2016: “U.S. and Japan elections: Scary in their own ways”

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

U.S. and Japan elections: scary in their own ways
Subtitle:  American political campaigns can be frighteningly tribal while fear of the foreign permeates polls here
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, October 31, 2016
Column 102 for the Japan Times Community Page

Happy Halloween. Let’s talk about something really scary: elections in the United States and Japan.

I say scary because these countries are the No. 1 and No. 3 largest economies in the world, not to mention representative democracies considered too big to fail. Yet the way things are going is truly frightening.

Let start with election campaigns in the U.S., since they are probably very familiar and fresh to readers:

The U.S.: two tribes go to war […]

Read the rest in The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/10/30/issues/u-s-japan-elections-scary-ways/

======================
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Nikkei: Japan begins clearing path for foreign workers. Really? Let’s analyze the proposals.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  The Economist (London) recently has had a couple of articles on immigration to and even naturalization into Japan (here and here), so it looks like PM Abe’s alleged pushes to liberalize Japan’s NJ labor market (despite these other countering trends herehere, here, herehereherehere, and here) are gaining traction in the overseas media.  Let’s take a representative sample of the narrative being spun by the Japanese media for overseas consumption (in this case the Nikkei, Japan’s WSJ, which recently published an incorrect article about NJ issues and refused to acknowledge its mistake), and see how it holds up to scrutiny.  Original article text in bold italic, my comments interspliced in this regular text:

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

Japan begins clearing path for foreign workers

Nikkei Asian Review, August 11, 2016, Courtesy of JK
http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/Japan-begins-clearing-path-for-foreign-workers

TOKYO — The Japanese government is set to take steps to smooth the way for foreigners to enter and thrive in the domestic labor market, with the reforms targeting hospitalization, taxes and residency requirements.

The economic growth strategy devised by the central government in June highlights the need to aggressively attract foreign talent. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and others are hearing opinions from companies worldwide regarding bringing information technology specialists into Japan.

COMMENT:  This focus on “foreign talent” is basically policy wonk speak for “we’re not importing unskilled labor”.  Even though we are.  And have been doing so through a government-sponsored NJ slave labor program (this is not an exaggeration) for more than a quarter century.  And if we talk about this push for “specialists”, they’ve already tried that with the “Points System” visa regime, and, as we predicted, it failed miserably.  Understandably.  Read on to see why it’s going to fail again.

The trade ministry aims to amend related legislation and tax rules during the regular Diet session in 2017.

English-friendly hospitals

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare seeks to allay concerns among foreigners living in Japan about going to hospitals. Only about 20 hospitals nationwide are equipped to handle emergency cases involving foreigners. The goal is to double that number by March and raise it to 100 before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

COMMENT:  Nice, but up to 100 in four years?  That’s helpful for the tourists coming for the Olympics, but that’s not exactly a huge help for NJ who actually live in Japan, moreover outside of the Kantou conurb (where I anticipate the majority of these hospitals will be situated).  Moreover, 100 hospitals in a country where there are apparently, as of 1990, “8,700 general hospitals, and 1,000 comprehensive hospitals with a total capacity of 1.5 million beds” is minuscule (a little over one percent) and presumably not well spread out.

Given that the problem is not a matter of providing medical treatment in English (if a patient is, for example, unconscious or unresponsive, language is not an issue) but rather hospitals actually ACCEPTING or TREATING NJ patients (a big problem for Japanese patients too), merely ameliorating a language barrier (assuming all NJ speak English, too) is more of a salve than an actual cure of the larger problem.

The government will help cover costs arising from hiring interpreters and offering documents in English. Multilingual versions of questionnaires and hospital signs cost an average of 3 million yen ($29,619), according to estimates, and the government generally will pay half the expense. For medical interpreters and similar services, the state will subsidize a hospital to the tune of roughly 9 million yen.

COMMENT:  Nice, but obviously porkbarrel.

Officials also seek to help foreigners on the tax front. If a foreign worker dies in Japan due to unforeseen circumstances such as an accident, the inheritance tax applies to assets held in all jurisdictions. This discourages foreign talent with sizable assets from taking management positions in Japanese companies. Many are urging reform, and METI intends to coordinate with the Finance Ministry and ruling parties to apply the inheritance tax only to Japanese assets starting in fiscal 2017.

COMMENT:  Yes, that is, if you die and leave Japanese assets valued at more than US $88,000 (and there are ways of getting around this too — gifting it to your kin before you die, for example).  Clearly this is a concession the rich expats hanging around Roppongi Hills have lobbied for.  I doubt that this will affect most NJ residents (and not least the “foreign talent taking management positions in Japanese companies”, wherever they apparently are).

And (microaggression alert:) I love how NJ die of “accidents”, not of old age in Japan.  Because implicitly they are temporary and don’t live in Japan forever, right?  Nice, Nikkei.

Talent search

The government looks to ease residency requirements for guest workers. The Justice Ministry will recognize certified foreign care workers as specialists worthy of the corresponding visa status.

Japan currently admits care workers through economic partnership agreements, but those are limited to countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. The number of guest workers is expected to increase by allowing care givers who learn Japanese or professional skill sets at educational institutions to work in Japan. Necessary legislation is to be enacted during the extraordinary Diet session this fall, with the measures taking effect next fiscal year.

COMMENT:  Yep, they tried that too before.  Until the Indonesians and Filipinas realized they were being exploited by a revolving-door visa system that deliberately set the bar too high for passing, and decided to pass on Japan altogether. So Japan’s policymakers are moving on to the next exploitable societies:  Cambodia and Vietnam.  Which, note, are also not kanji-literate societies; if the GOJ really wanted to get people to pass the nurse literacy test (full of medical kanji), they would get nurses from China or Chinese-diaspora countries.  The fact that they won’t speaks volumes about their true policy intentions.  As does the next paragraph:

The government also seeks quick passage of legislation to add the care worker category to Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program, which provides support to developing nations.

COMMENT:  Meaning they’re going to bring them in too as “Trainee” slaves exempt from Japan’s labor laws.

Researchers and other highly skilled foreign professionals likely will find it easier to obtain permanent resident status. Currently, a foreign national needs to reside in Japan for five years before gaining that status. Government agencies are debating lowering the bar to less than three years, with a decision expected this year at the earliest. South Korea allows those with PhDs in high-tech fields to apply for permanent residency after a one-year stay.

Japan also aims to cut red tape surrounding investment and establishing new enterprises in order to help foreign corporations do business. Surveys examining barriers to foreign businesses and professionals have begun, and they will inform initial reforms to be decided by year’s end at the soonest. (Nikkei)

COMMENT:  These are proposals are still in the embryonic stage.  When that actually happens, that will be news and we’ll talk about it then.  Reporting on it now is still policy trial-ballooning on the Nikkei’s part.

FINAL COMMENT:  There is nothing here that constitutes actual immigration, i.e., bringing in people and making them into Japanese citizens with equal protection guaranteed under the law.  Until that happens, there is no discussion here worthy of headlining this as a “cleared path” for foreign workers.  It’s merely more of the same exploitation of imported laborers in a weakened position by government design.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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Book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Press 2016) now out early in paperback: $49.99

mytest

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Hi Blog. Sales of book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, November 2015) in hardcover have been outstanding.

embeddedracismcover

In less than a year after being published, WorldCat says as of this writing that 83 of the world’s major academic libraries worldwide (including Stanford, Cornell, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) already have it in their collections.

Now my publisher has brought it out in paperback early for classroom use (it usually takes a year or two before that happens). Price: Less than half the hardcover price, at $49.99.  It currently occupies the first spot of Lexington’s Sociology Catalog this year under Regional Studies:  Asia (page 33).

Now’s your chance to get a copy, either from the publisher directly or from outlets such as Amazon.com. Read the research I spent nearly two decades on, which earned a Ph.D., and has for the first time 1) generated talk within Japanese Studies of a new way of analyzing racism in Japan (with a new unstudied minority called “Visible Minorities“), and 2) applied Critical Race Theory to Japan and found that the lessons of racialization processes (and White Privilege) still apply to a non-White society (in terms of Wajin Privilege).

Get the book that finally exposes the discrimination in Japan by physical appearance as a racialization process, and how the people who claim that “Japan has only one race, therefore no racism” are quite simply wrong.  Further, as the book argues in the last chapter, if this situation is not resolved, demographically-shrinking Japanese society faces a bleak future.

Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination.” Now out in paperback on Amazon and at Lexington Books. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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CG on increased exit taxes on health insurance and residency when you change jobs and domiciles in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I just wanted to put this one out there as a general query.  Anyone else experienced this and gotten an explanation why?  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

======================
June 17, 2016
From: CG
Hello Dr. Arudou:

First, I just wanted to say “Thank You” for all the writing you’ve done. I purchased your handbook a while ago and it was a big help when applying for permanent residency here (successfully!)

I was hoping to ask you a question. I’ve done a fair amount of searching online and haven’t found an answer, and the people directly involved in the issue can’t (or won’t) give a plausible answer either. Recently I switched jobs and moved to a new town here after over ten years working for the previous town’s 教育委員会 [BOE]. When I received my final paycheck, they deducted twice the normal tax amount for 社会保険 [shakai hoken; health and pension insurance] and three times the normal amount for 住民税 [juuminzei; local residency taxes]、helping themselves to an extra over 8万円 [80,000 yen]。 Have you heard of such a situation before? The fact that I can’t find any information about such a “moving tax” or get clear answers strikes me as very strange.

If you have a moment, I’d be very glad to know your thoughts. Best, CG
======================
MY THOUGHTS: Not sure. Anyone out there with this experience who figured out what was going on? Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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TV “Economist” Mitsuhashi Takaaki on foreign labor in Japan: “80% of Chinese in Japan are spies”: “foreigners will destroy Japanese culture”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Let’s get right to it with a post from Debito.org Reader AG:
=========================
Date: June 12, 2016
From: AG
Dear Debito:

There is a lot of discussion about immigration and work in Japan. There is a video showing a so called economist ranting and spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) about why allowing immigration into Japan is a bad idea. Perhaps you would like to see into it and share it with your community at Debito.org. I support your site in many ways and I appreciate your insight and many matters that are wrong in Japan. I understand that your bottom line is to try to make a positive change in life.

Here’s the video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C18_G6wIh-Y

Sincerely, AG
=========================

COMMENT: The above video about Mitsuhashi Takaaki, a commentator, writer, TV personality, seminarist (juku), failed LDP candidate, and blogger about things he considers to be politics and economics, shows how normalized bigotry is in Japan — to the point of silliness.

Once you get past the stupid tic he has with pushing up his eyeglasses (redolent of aspiring Hollywood wannabes of the 1910s-1930s who thought their cute catchphrase, gesture, or sneeze would fuel an entire career), you realize what he’s enabling: Japanese media to espouse xenophobia.

In the video, where he’s critical of PM Abe’s policies (ignorantly portraying Abe as a proponent of importing foreign labor in order to undercut Japanese workers’ salaries), he goes beyond economics and into bigotry:  about Chinese (depicted as invading hordes with queue hairstyles, where he claims that “80% are spies” [source, please?]) and foreigners in general (they will “destroy Japanese culture”).  The research gets so sloppy that it reaches the point of silliness (at minute 0:30 they even misspelled TPP as “Trance Pacific Partnership”).  Watch the video yourself, but not as a lunch digestion aid.

In the end, Mitsuhashi is just an IT dork relishing his time in the sun, riding a patriotic wave while dividing, “othering”, and bullying minorities for his own financial gain.

Again, it’s one more indication that the long-awaited next generation of “more liberal Japanese” will be just as narrow-minded as the previous one (if not even more so, since they have no memory of the wartime excesses their embedded racism led to generations ago).  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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Kyodo: Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply [sic]. How about the J employers who employ illegally?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here we go again with some media bias focusing on the evils “illegal foreign laborers” do, overlooking the fact that it’s Japanese who hire them illegally.  (One segment even justifies these illegal hiring practices under the guise of economics.)

Two other submitters below make some more arguments, with a focus on the recent smoke out of illegal police activities in Ibaraki Prefecture.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply
Japan Times / Kyodo News, June 12, 2016, courtesy of JDG and BGIO
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/11/national/social-issues/foreigners-illegally-working-on-farms-in-japan-increases-sharply/

The number of foreign laborers working illegally on farms across the nation rose threefold over the three year period ending in 2015, according to government data.

The findings highlight the difficulties facing Japan’s agricultural sector, including labor shortages and the advanced age of many of the country’s farmers.

Among all the illegal foreign workers subject to deportation in 2015, the greatest number — 1,744 or 21.9 percent — had worked in the farming sector. That was up from 946 in 2014, 695 in 2013, and 592 in 2012, according to the Justice Ministry.

The ministry also found illegal farm workers were “concentrated on farms in Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures, which are easily accessible from Tokyo.”

The average age of the nation’s farmers is now 66.4 years old, and the fact so many have no one to succeed them has become a serious social issue.

“I just cannot keep my business afloat unless I hire (illegal laborers), even if it means breaking the law,” said a 62-year-old farmer in Ibaraki.

The government does operate schemes under which farmers can legally employ foreign workers, including a technical internship program for people from developing countries. Some 24,000 foreign laborers were working on Japanese farms as of fiscal 2014 under that on-the-job training program, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Since the government began compiling such data in 1991, Tokyo had regularly topped the list of 47 prefectures for the number of foreign laborers working illegally. But last year, the capital ranked third behind Ibaraki with 1,714 illegal workers and Chiba second with 1,238.

An immigration official said it is believed that around 5,000 undocumented workers are currently working in Ibaraki.

By nationalities, the greatest numbers of illegal workers came from China, Thailand and Vietnam.

The number of foreign workers who overstayed their visas rose in 2015. The increase came after the government relaxed visa requirements for visitors from Asian countries.
ENDS

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

Submitter BlondeGuy InOz comments: I love the way that the headline is “Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply” when in reality it should have been more along the lines of “Japanese agricultural employers continue to flout trainee laws and illegally exploit foreign workers from developing countries”, or alternatively “percentage of foreign workers from developing countries exploited by Japanese agriculture sector worker rises to 7% (1,744 of 24,000) of those employed in ‘trainee’ scheme”. But then such headlines would require the type of objective and balanced media coverage than has long been missing in what has the temerity to call itself ‘journalism’ in this country.

I let a lot of things go but I just couldn’t bring myself to let this one pass by without at least commenting. Note: that one of the main offending prefectures is Ibaraki prefecture. I experienced my fair share of racism and exclusion (e.g. denied entry to restaurants, denied the right to apply for a credit card, etc…) when living there during a previous stay in the prefecture between 1996 and 2001 (was resident in Japan from 1996 – 2010 before returning to my home country for what has been a better life).

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

Submitter JDG comments: Well, well, well! What have we here? The people benefitting from the anti-constitutional voter weighting disparity, the people receiving the most is government subsidies (including a special bonus to help them restructure for the now never to be implemented TPP), the people who have voted LDP over and over again. Rural farmers are the exact same people breaking the law by employing the greatest number of NJ illegally!

And guess where? Chiba and IBARAKI!

It makes a laughing stock and a sham of the legal system, the JA, the LDP, and the stupid notion that Japanese Shinto mumbo-jumbo rice farming culture is a corner-stone of Japanese identity! If it wasn’t for the LDP letting it’s voters illegally employ NJ, those voters and their farming culture would be over! No wonder Ibaraki police are so crazy; they are being told one thing by the government and then expected to turn a blind eye to the NJ underpinning the local economy! That conflict of interest must be causing them trauma!

In addition, I would put forward the following supposition to explain the behavior of the Ibaraki Police:

Local people, believing NPA statements that the vast majority of crime is caused by NJ, are alarmed by all the ‘shady’ NJ in Ibaraki.

The local police have to been seen to act tough on this issue to make the citizens feel safe, and to ensure that they don’t voice their dissatisfaction by throwing out the local LDP incumbent at the next election.

Therefore the PD put up posters of a militarized police, and hassle law abiding NJ whenever the locals phone them, since this means that they can be seen to be acting, when in fact they are choosing to overlook the huge numbers of NJ illegally employed by LDP supporting farmers, and under-pinning the local economy.

It’s all a dog-and-pony-show designed to distract the citizenry from politicians in league with law breaking Japanese farmers, so that they can keep their sticky fingers on the levers of power.

See? It all makes sense now.

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

ENDS

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The 2nd Great Gaijin Massacre in Japan’s education system, with 5-year contracts coming due in 2018 (2023 for uni profs).

mytest

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Hi Blog. This is an update to the Ninkisei Issue within Japan’s Academic Apartheid Education System, where foreign educators are given perpetual contracts. A contracted position may not sound bad to Western ears, but Japan’s tertiary education system (the second largest in the world) generally does not contract full-time Japanese educators. Since most full-time Japanese enjoy permanent tenure from day one of hiring, a contract becomes a term limit only for foreigners. Abuses of the system include “The Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994, where most foreign faculty above the age of 35 in National Universities (kokuritsu daigaku) found their contracts were not being renewed — in a successful attempt by the Ministry of Education to bring in younger, cheaper foreigners. Since these veteran teachers had not paid into overseas pension plans (and decades of Japanese pension payments are nonrefundable), they could not simply “go home”. They got stuck with part-time work with no benefits to pay house loans, fund kids’ college tuition, or fulfill pension plans.

According to Ivan Hall’s CARTELS OF THE MIND (WW Norton, 1998), there are more full-time foreign faculty with permanent tenure in one American university than in all of Japan! Not to mention a systemwide disdain (“academic apartheid”) towards foreign educators regardless of qualification, seeing them merely as cheap disposable labor. See the Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of institutions with breathtakingly unequal employment policies, at www.debito.org/blacklist.html

Now for the update.  Let’s see what happened to the survivors a quarter century on. The upshot is that their turn to be fired is now coming. According to labor union expert CF:

================================
“I have given it a nickname – the “2018 Cliff” If you have been working from (April) 2013 continually on renewable contracts, then (March) 2018 will be 5 years of employment, therefore on April 1 2018, if you demand permanent employment, the company must keep you on as permanent – until retirement (albeit on the pre-2018 conditions) from April 2019. To avoid this, companies will be dumping staff before the end of March 2018 to avoid the transfer to permanent status (無期転換). For better or worse, universities and research facilities deadline is 2023, so employees have an extra 5 years’ grace. The Cliff is coming, and many will be pushed off.
================================

COMMENT: So this is what NJ who persevered and contributed the bulk of their working lives to Japanese society, get at the end: An unceremonious dumping onto the job market, with no new place to go, and skills that will not easily transfer to their country of origin. And often before their MINIMUM 25 years (yes!) of required Japan-pension contributions are fulfilled.

People seeking to make a life in Japan: Beware! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

What follows is a discussion that transpired on a labor-rights listserv I subscribe to. Posts are used and redacted with permission:

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

Date: April 4, 2016
From: AB

Now going on three years, I was forced to resign in protest from a ’tenured’ position as an Associate Professor at [Honey Badger Japan] Jr. College. Going on 32 years, over half my life, living continuously in Japan – most of which was spent running from college to college as a hijokin adjunct, a graduate degree in T.E.S.O.L., research and publications, community out-reach work and international volunteer activities … phht … all gone.

How did HB Jr. College. do it? Or more importantly for fellow readers of this listserv, Easy. Here’s how it went down in my case.

Even after 11 years as a tenured full time member of the faculty, my department (only 8 full-timers at most) pretty much excluded me from any decision making processes at the required weekly meetings — and unlike my ethnic Japanese colleagues behavior towards each other, presumed to have the right to micro-manage my classes down to what language I should use in the classroom or in open campus activities, what materials are too easy, too difficult, or too unconventional for ‘my’ classes, and what pedagogic approaches I should use. A colleague (same age, became full-time when I did) opined that even on my weekends, I should first get departmental permission to use my English for volunteer activities … even in support of other departments at HBJC. I had no idea what they did on their weekends, could have been pachinko or Kabukicho for all I knew.

After some years of just shucking and jiving while bearing it all, I finally complained to the Gakucho (Dean), who reassured me that I was hired under the same conditions, rights, and obligations as ethnic Japanese members of the kyoujukai. Of course, how could he have said anything other?

I reported this back to my gakka’s shunin (Head of Department) who said:

1 – The current Dean of the school is wrong.
2 – I was hired while under the administration of a previous Dean with different policies, and those unstated policies were still in effect.
3 – The Department will not include volunteer activities in its curricula this year, so I am forbidden to use my office or resources for community outreach activities with the local city government (I was on the board of directors of XXXXX City government’s Kokusai Koryu Kyoukai) and other volunteer activities … four trips (at my own expense) to [an impoverished Asian country] with students from my own school as well as students from other Tokyo colleges, accompanying my students to a local kindergarten to teach English … as well as XXXXX in-house high school, working with Soup no Kai supporting the homeless in Shinjuku, collaborating with an NGO supporting the severely handicapped, and so on. Things that I thought would have been expected for promotion in U.S. universities were expressly forbidden by two successive department chairmen.

I reported the Department Chairman’s opinion to the Dean, particularly comment 3 which seemed contradictory to the school’s raison d’être as stated on their glossy homepage. The Dean disagreed with the department opinion, and once again, reassured me that I am an equal among equals, and it is up to me to just ‘try harder’ to communicate with my colleagues.

I requested a meeting between the Dean and my Department Chairman to decide my status … whatever that might be … along with its attendant rights and obligations. No such meeting was forthcoming, and neither did either indicate any willingness to discuss, much less settle, the issue.

Informed by the Gakubucho (Dean of the Jr. College and also a member of my department) that I was entitled and eligible to take my one year research sabbatical, I parlayed my volunteer activities in [the impoverished Asian country] with [a local institute] to serve as my sponsor, I quit my one part-time job at XXXXXXX University, and just prior to preparing for a year abroad, was presented by the Dean with a one page document, in Japanese, drawn up specifically for me. No other teachers who had taken sabbaticals in HBJC’s over 120 year history had ever been required to sign such a document requiring me to obey ALL school wide rules and attendant obligations, as well as ALL departmental rules and attendant obligations.

I pointed out that those rules and obligations were contradictory and problematic … and that they, themselves, have as yet to have agreed upon my status and obligations. In that meeting with the Gakucho and Gakubucho, I told them that if I sign such a document, according to department rules, I was explicitly forbidden by my department to voluntarily help even my own seminar student prepare for the XXXXXXXXX Speech Contest.  I had been the only one in the school since even before becoming tenured who took personal responsibility for speech contestant preparation.  Her speech was about her first hand experience at a seaside community during the Great Tohoku Earthquake. I asked the Gakucho and the Gakubucho that if I signed the document forbidding me from helping that student, if they would take personal responsibility for that student’s still embryonic speech. I still have a digital recording of that meeting, and the only response you will hear is an awkward silence.

Pressed again to either sign, or not sign, at the risk of losing my sabbatical … I had to make a choice on the spot, either support the student, or support my ‘career’. With no family depending on me to bring home the bacon, I had the luxury of choice, so I refused to sign. Meeting ended. Research sabbatical immediately revoked.

A day or so later, I made a phone call to XXXXXX University explaining my sabbatical had been canceled and inquired whether I might retain my 3 koma one-day a week schedule. ‘Sorry, that position has already been filled’ was the courteous reply.

Later I received a letter from the head of the Board of Directors of HBJC Inc. telling me that as I have demonstrated no willingness or capacity to follow BOTH the school and the department rules, as of the following academic year, I was to be relieved of all rights to teach classes, and report to my office and await forthcoming orders to be later more clearly specified.

In the meantime, I joined a local union, showed up to a few larger union meetings, and talked with a lawyer — who said I would likely win a case against the school, but it would be a long, emotionally costly, pyrrhic victory at best. A year and a half later, a couple of meetings between the school lawyer and my labor union reps, and my allotted medical leave of absence had expired, leaving me with no choice but to either return to the school under the same conditions (no classes, no research sabbatical) … or resign.

In effect, fellow listserv readers, ignore this cautionary tale at your own peril. When push comes to shove, your ‘contract’ is not worth the paper it’s written on.  Thinking that at age 60, with half a life-time experience, I could just start all over again and go back to life as an itinerant hijokin, living year by year. Ha. Can not even get beyond the faceless intercom voice at the new pre-school next door to my apartment to offer my services as an English volunteer (and here I am being led by mass media to believe the day care centers are in crisis mode) — much less even get a single koma of part-time work in Japan.

I will end this post with [this thought]: Earlier tonight, I saw on NHK 7 pm news that Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Dean gave the opening ceremony speech in English … ‘Be positive. Take chances’. What a crock. A goddamn Kabuki show. And followed at 7:30 pm by more Olympics-inspired panem et circenses in place of my beloved Hiroko Kuniya in prime-time ’Close Up Gendai’ … as if a bevy of ambitious cute young things in the late night CUG ‘plus’ will make up for her once or twice in a generation journalistic integrity. Sincerely, AB.

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

Date: April 14, 2016
From: CD

AB, it sounds like you were put through hell and back. I’m really sorry to hear it!

I’ve advised a number of people in labor situations over the years, including six people over the last twelve months. To be honest, there seems to be a recent upswing in these kinds of cases, almost to the extent of the great “gaikokujin kyoushi” purge of the 90s. While I have my own theories, I’d be interested in reading other opinions about whether and why this may be happening.

I have a pretty good track record with labor cases, not to mention negotiating experience on both sides of the table. From this perspective, let me offer some general advice:

1) Regardless of the provocation, don’t ever quit (unless of course you have a great new job lined up). Let them fire you instead–being terminated gives you advantages later.

2) While certain things can be required of joukin (aka “tenured”) university faculty–to include both the submission of syllabi and the wording used in said syllabi–many of the things listed in AB’s post (e.g., language of instruction, specific pedagogical approaches and materials) usually cannot be demanded of university joukin. (Part-timers can have less protection.) The only exceptions to this that I know of would be where the language and pedagogical requirements were either known to the applicant before hire or represent standards developed and agreed to by all (to include AB) the joukin faculty responsible for these classes–situations seen mostly with intensive language programs or English-medium instruction (EMI) departments/institutions.

3) Given #2, and assuming that AB really was joukin (hired under the same conditions, rights, and obligations as ethnic Japanese members of the kyoujukai), many of the issues described at his workplace fit the government’s definition of Power Harassment (パワハラ).

4) There are several legal remedies available to people in such situations, some expensive and some not so expensive. Regarding the latter, on February 13 in a post to this listserv, I described in detail a FREE (albeit slow) process where the city will fight your employer to stop the Power Harassment (to include even unlawful termination). Again, this process is SLOW–typically, it takes four months to a year to conclude a case. However, I have found it reasonably effective (they usually can negotiate better treatment/employment terms and/or buyouts)… and again it’s free.

5) As alluded to in #2, #3 and #4, the laws here are, to a surprising extent, designed to protect the employee. Moreover, even as a foreign contract worker, you sometimes (e.g., occasionally even in the case of contract non-renewal) have legal protections/recourses available to you that are not available in your home country. Failing to utilize them when wronged is… silly.

6) That said, join a union and try to prepare BEFORE trouble starts. Unions tend not to look favorably upon those who join only after something bad happens. Some will refuse outright to help, while others may be lukewarm in their support. In addition to joining a union, always keep everything (including the advertised copy of your job description and all pertinent emails) and document everything related to your job duties and work performance. While most likely you will never need them, the sad reality in this country is that you never really know. I personally have known foreigners who have had no problems for YEARS–sometimes over twenty years–only to come to work one day and suddenly find that they are no longer wanted.

7) If you need action/results quickly, use a lawyer–preferably one either contacted through your union or specializing in labor issues–and prepare to go to court. Remember that Japanese people DO sue their employers, and such lawsuits are not so rare. At my current university (and department…), there have been three (!) such lawsuits over the last eight years.

8) Know that, regardless of the strength of your case, your lawyer will never promise victory. (Typically, the best they’ll give you is a 50-50 chance if it goes to court.) That said, as I’ve posted numerous times before, your employer almost always does NOT want to go to court–because of the stigma involved in such cases, even winning represents bad publicity. Given this, employers in my experience will almost invariably seek to settle before going to trial.

9) Your employer will most likely lowball you with their first settlement offer and/or try to intimidate you into taking nothing. Now, the amount of settlement you can (should?) receive depends on many factors, including your hiring status (e.g., “joukin” or “ninki-tsuki”), years employed, the strength of your case and employer perception of your ability/willingness to fight. (I have personally found the last to be the most important factor.) That said, with regards to termination and contract nonrenewal cases, while every situation is different (and assuming you are not simply reinstated to your position), I’ve generally seen settlement ranges from four months to twelve months of salary.

Hope this helps! Sincerely, CD

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

Date: April 14, 2016
From: EF

At this point I would advise against teachers to stay here after age 50 or even after 45, unless you have tenure. I met a teacher who is 57 and lost his job at [a National University] after 8 years. Seven other teachers were gotten rid of too. He has a Ph.D. in education but can only get part-time work now. I know another teacher in [a city near Tokyo] who has no job and he must be about 58 or 59 now.

At my new job in XXXXX City the form asked whether I want to get paid or even be paid for commuting.  I guess they hope I will work for free. What do they want, retired teachers to just volunteer.  This could be because of money problems. At a national university in Tokyo, with a deficit of 400 million yen, the university decides that the tea machine in the part-time teachers’ room has got to go. This is in Chofu. Sincerely, EF

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

Date: April 15, 2016
From: GH

I would be wary of the idea that universities have an exemption to the five-year rule. There was a big discussion at my university about this last year, and the head of HR and one of the rijis told me that the wording of the exemption is not very clear (surprise surprise!) and that even among national universities, there was disagreement about what it actually means. Apparently, some universities are now taking the limit to be ten years whereas others are playing it safe and assuming it to be five. Wherever you work, it might be a good idea to find out how they are interpreting it.

My grasp of the legislation is not at the level of some of the posters here, but as I understand it, this new law comes with a number of loopholes anyway. For example, universities will still be able to cut part-timers if they are no longer needed because of “changes to the curriculum” regardless of how long they have worked there. A change to the curriculum could be something as minor as a tiny alteration to the name of a class (“the class that teacher taught is no longer offered at our university, so his/her services are no longer required”) so it seems to me that universities could still get rid of someone quite easily if they wanted to.

I think that in a perverse way, the situation will only become clear when the first person takes their institution to court. If / when that happens, all the other institutions will panic and there will be a huge cull. If it never happens, I guess universities will gradually forget about it. As I say, I am most certainly not an expert on this, but this is the situation as it was explained to me by the people in charge at my university. Sincerely, GH

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

Date: April 15, 2016
From: AB

To: ARUDOU, Debito

Hello Debito san,

Maybe you remember our recent exchange in an e-mail saying I was working on my own writing chops to add to the ‘Great Dialog’ of culture … what it means to be a human, what do we mean by ‘education’, and so on. I have been doing so on Quora, and many times, have posted links to your web page to substantiate my more anecdotal arguments. I am grateful for your critical eye and sheer doggedness in providing a much needed source of information that deserves a wider audience.

I am now 60, and apparently locked out of a career track in academia … failing to gain even one koma of part-time work after two years of submitting resumes and showing up for interviews, failing to gain permission to resume doctoral studies at XXXX Japan, and even failing to gain admission to an on-line Master’s Degree course at XXXXXXXX University in the US. As such, I do not have the financial safety-net of any institution at my disposal, and neither do I have the presumption that I will some day regain such institutional protection. And being kanji illiterate, I don’t even know how much I don’t know about Japanese law and what obligations and rights to which I am entitled (similar to my being kept running circles in the dark at HBJC Inc.). Feeling the full force of the Dunning-Kruger effect here.

Despite an abundance of information from your website (and book – bought, but not yet read), and some well-considered and well-meant advice from listserv members, Facebook ‘buddies’, Quora, and even family back in the states … my day to day survival, even my sanity, is sustained by only three things:

1 – A small community made up primarily of a close circle of friends, mostly Japanese — and mostly here in Japan. I think the constraints of Dunbar’s Number has more than a little to do with this.

2 – The new found leisure to read from the great works of the liberal arts tradition as well as more recent STEM oriented material … and write — as therapy. It helps to have at my disposal more than a lifetime’s worth of books, music, movies, and a wall full of video lectures from The Great Courses series.

3 – A stubborn tenacity to stand by the values and beliefs I have gained from the above two.

Kind regards, Debito san. And keep up the good fight.  Sincerely, AB.

ENDS
====================================

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