DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPT 23 2006

mytest

Good evening all. Arudou Debito in Sapporo here, with a roundup of recent articles I’ve been blogging recently:

Table of Contents:
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1) 2-CHANNEL’S DEFENDANT NISHIMURA “DISAPPEARS” (SHISSOU)
2) J TIMES: FUTURE CONFLICTS ON FOREIGN “OLDCOMERS” AND “NEWCOMERS”
3) YOMIURI: CRACKDOWN ON FOREIGN BUSINESSES IN COUNTRYSIDE
4) TOKYO GOV ISHIHARA TO RUN FOR THIRD TERM, DISSES “FOREIGNERS” AGAIN
5) ASAHI: MURDER SUSPECT TRIES TO BLAME CRIME ON “BLOND” MAN
6) KITAKYUSHU PROF BLAMES BAD ENGLISH EDUCATION ON FOREIGNERS WHO STAY TOO LONG
7) AKITA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY ADDED TO BLACKLIST
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Newsletter dated September 23, 2006
Freely forwardable

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1) 2-CHANNEL’S DEFENDANT NISHIMURA “DISAPPEARS” (SHISSOU)

I updated you last week (http://www.debito.org/?p=30 ) about my lawsuit against Japan’s largest Internet BBS, 2-Channel. Although they lost a libel suit to me last January, Owner and Adminstrator Defendant Nishimura Hiroyuki still hasn’t paid the court-ordered damages, moreover has ignored another series of paperwork my lawyers have filed to enforce the decision. Full details on the lawsuit at http://www.debito.org/2channelsojou.html#english

The news is that I just heard that Nishimura, with his invisible income, numerous personal blogs and online columns, and books published by the likes of Kodansha and Asukii, has made himself invisible. Yes, he’s just plain disappeared. Witness this newspaper article (translation mine):

============== BEGINS ==================
On September 22, it was established that Nishimura Hiroyuki (29), aka “hiroyuki”, administrator and operator of giant Internet BBS “2-Channel”, has disappeared (shissou joutai). This BBS is being run by Nishimura as an individual. Even after government organs have demanded that inappropriate posts be removed, and posters have their whereabouts revealed, [Nishimura] has let these things slide and not responded to orders to appear before courts. The worst case scenario is that “2-Channel”, an emblematic site to Internet industries, may even be shut down.
=============== ENDS ===================

I don’t know in what newspaper this appeared (it looks like a screen capture from a TV news show), but it is the genuine article, and visible at http://www.debito.org/nishimuradisappears.jpg

I have also heard rumors that Nishimura was about to declare personal bankruptcy, and has a gaggle of lawsuits following him to zap any above-board income (royalties etc.) he might legally receive. However, he’ll never be able to open and register a real company. If he does resurface (if he’s even still in the country) and declare himself bankrupt, he’ll apparently even lose the right to vote.

For the record, I do not support closing 2-Channel down (it is for millions a very valuable network). I only want it to take responsibility for filling the media with irresponsible information, so bad that even Japan’s cautious courts have determined in several cases to be libelous. Continuous evasion of these responsibilities as a member of the media may mean Nishimura gets his in the end. Keep a weather eye on this story…

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2) J TIMES: FUTURE CONFLICTS ON FOREIGN “OLDCOMERS” AND “NEWCOMERS”

Reporter Eric Johnston has done it again–another prescient scoop on what may become a pressing domestic issue in future: How a probable influx of foreign labor may cause frictions between foreigners themselves, i.e. the “Oldcomers” (the Zainichi generational foreigners) and the “Newcomers” (overseas-born immigrants, whose numbers are rising as the Zainichis’ fall). Excerpt:

============== EXCERPT BEGINS ==================
“I don’t think you’d see a level of violence between different ethnic groups that you see in other parts of the world because Japanese authorities and society would not tolerate it,” said former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief Hidenori Sakanaka. “But it’s likely that established foreign residents would discriminate against groups of new foreigners, barring them from apartments, restaurants, or jobs.

“It’s already happening in cities like Tokyo, but it could become a much bigger problem nationwide in the future,” he said.

And newcomers facing job discrimination in particular, be it from long-term foreign residents or from Japanese, could find that groups like labor unions that have often been at the forefront of protecting the rights of foreigners may change their attitude if they begin to see foreign labor as a threat.

“I can see a large influx of foreign workers sparking opposition from Japan’s labor unions,” Sakanaka said.

“Compared to the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, opposition within the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to large numbers of foreigners is quite strong, and much of this opposition reflects the opposition that exists in labor unions.” (Japan Times, Sept 12, 2006)
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

It also addresses issues such as education, discrimination, public policy, and a lingering ostrich mentality even amongst “progressive” (and Prime-Ministerial-aspiring) Dietmembers such as Kouno Taro. Blogged in full at
http://www.debito.org/?p=28

Speaking of internationalization tensions:

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3) YOMIURI: CRACKDOWN ON FOREIGN BUSINESSES IN COUNTRYSIDE

Here’s a harbinger of future foreign entrepreneurialism:

============== EXCERPT BEGINS ==================
The Toyama prefectural government has instructed two businesses
targeting foreign residents to improve their business practices after
discovering they had disregarded the city planning law, The Yomiuri
Shimbun has learned.

The prefectural government intends to issue similar instructions for
seven other businesses in the near future. If the conditions of the
instructions are not met, the businesses will be ordered to cease
operations. If the orders are again ignored, the prefectural
government will file criminal complaints against them.

The Construction and Transport Ministry is demanding the prefecture
also investigate the about 170 such businesses in the area that are
believed to be on the edge of the law as part of a clampdown on
businesses encroaching on the countryside…

The nine businesses for which the guidance has been issued or
scheduled comprise five used-car dealerships, a mosque, a real estate
office targeting foreigners, a money exchange business and a
used-appliance store. The operators of the locations include Japanese,
Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, among others…

[And of course, the perfunctory allusion to foreign crime…]

In the neighboring areas, there are a large number of robberies,
burglaries and traffic violations committed by foreigners….

(Yomiuri Sept 13, 2006, http://www.debito.org/?p=29 )
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

Goes without saying, but I would expect any businessman regardless of nationality to follow Japan’s zoning laws. But based upon the number of these “shack businesses” I see springing up in the Hokkaido countryside (where our foreign population is miniscule), I can’t help but think that crackdowns and criminal procedures wouldn’t be so considered without the foreign element. Let’s hope these proceedings also target places without mosques and Russian customers…

Now for a man who really wants foreigners to come to his town–as long as it’s for the Olympics…

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4) TOKYO GOV ISHIHARA TO RUN FOR THIRD TERM, DISSES “FOREIGNERS” AGAIN

Yes, the man who never misses an opportunity to slag somebody off (how dare the Fukuoka mayor put in an Olympic bid and compete with Tokyo, the center of the universe!) has decided to run for a third term as Tokyo Governor. Expressly so that he can shepherd his plans through for the 2016 Tokyo Olympics: Tokyo won the bid to be Japan’s champion on August 31.

That’s fine. But then Ishihara decided to punch below the belt when a critic just happened to be “foreign”:

============== EXCERPT BEGINS ==================
However, Ishihara’s trademark volatility came to the fore when Fukuoka supporter Kang Sang Jung, a professor of political science at the University of Tokyo–and a second-generation Korean born and raised in Japan–criticized Tokyo’s Olympic bid.

In his pre-vote speech, Kang provoked Ishihara’s ire by asking, “Can we win over world competitors with an Olympics of the rich, by the rich and for the rich?”

Ishihara replied in his speech, saying: “A scholar of some foreign country said earlier Tokyo has no philosophy. I do not know why.”

The governor then went on to make his displeasure clear later at a celebratory party, when he dismissed Kang as both “impudent” and an ayashigena gaikokujin (dubious foreigner).

(Asahi Sept 1, 2006, http://www.debito.org/?p=27 )
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

Aim high, shoot low. This caused quite a furor with human rights groups, since Ishihara promised to stop making these types of discriminatory remarks in 2000 after the firestorm wreaked by his “Sankokujin” (basically meaning “lesser-nation foreigners” in vernacular use) Speech to the Self Defense Forces (where he called for foreigner round-ups in the event of a natural disaster). For good measure, on September 15, Ishihara then talked about illegal immigration from the, quote, “sankokujin” all over again.

People have filed complaints, for what they’re worth (links in Japanese):
http://news.goo.ne.jp/news/asahi/shakai/20060916/K2006091504340.html?C=S
http://news.goo.ne.jp/news/asahi/shakai/20060920/K2006092004280.html
http://www3.to/kmj1

Can hardly wait to see how Ishihara assesses all the foreigners who come to spend money here during the Olympics… Given Japan’s overreaction to world-class sporting events, viz. the World Cup in 2002, I’m not optimistic.
http://www.debito.org/WorldCup2002.html

I’m also not all that optimistic about Ishihara getting the boot in the next election. But one can dream.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on with people blaming foreigners for their ills:

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5) ASAHI: MURDER SUSPECT TRIES TO BLAME CRIME ON “BLOND” MAN

It’s quite a famous case up here in Hokkaido, where a kid from a broken family in Wakkanai, Japan’s northernmost city, apparently tried to get his friend to help kill his mom. It’s a pretty sad case, covered assiduously by the Wide Shows, of yet another example of Japan’s apparent decline in morals. It’s further complicated (as far as this newsletter is concerned) by the following fact:

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The victim’s son had initially told investigators that he saw a man with blond hair running away from his home, and the first-floor living room appeared to have been ransacked. Investigators suspect that the two attempted to cover up their involvement.

(Mainichi, Aug 29, 2006, http://www.debito.org/?p=32 )
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

Fortunately, the police saw through this. But given the NPA’s long history of targeting foreigners (got lots of links, but I’m not going to include them all in this already long-enough post), I’m happy that they didn’t jump to conclusions (especially given the often-sour relationship between Japanese seaports and disembarking Russians, which I have also catalogued in great detail in the past).

The point I’m trying to make is this: This is yet another attempt to pin Japanese crime on foreigners. It didn’t work this time, but how many crimes in Japan which are suspected to be committed by “foreigners” are thusly red-herringed? Does wonders for the foreign crime rate. And this is not alarmism–I have archived two other cases in 2004 of “gaijin nasuri tsuke”, one involving a youth gang attack, the other an indolent trucker:
http://www.debito.org/aichibikergangpatsy.html

By the way, an interesting note about this article. The original Japanese at
http://www.mainichi-msn.co.jp/shakai/jiken/news/20060829k0000e040014000c.html
does NOT mention the blond man at all. It only says that the suspect saw “an unknown man” (mishiranu otoko) running away from the house’s genkan. Well, maybe both the media and the police are becoming more careful about how they investigate things nowadays. Good.

Now, how about some specious research from our intellectual best and brightest?

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6) KITAKYUSHU PROF BLAMES BAD ENGLISH EDUCATION ON FOREIGNERS WHO STAY TOO LONG

Professor Noriguchi Shinichiro of Kitakyushu University (whom I have on very good authority is a very progressive individual) does himself few favors, with one of those navel-gazing essays on how bad Japan’s English-language education is.

After lashing out at unqualified Japanese teachers, Noriguchi then lumps in foreign instructors as a factor–not for any qualifications they lack, but rather because of qualifications they apparently lose over time:

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In particular, native speakers who have lived in Japan for more than 10 years tend to have adapted to the system and have become ineffective as teacher–this is also partly because their English has become Japanized and is spoken to suit the ears of their Japanese students.

(Asahi, Sept 15, 2006, http://www.debito.org/?p=34 )
============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

I see. A foreigner who is less adjusted is axiomatically more effective. Hmm. Damn those foreigners for becoming used to the system, getting their bearings, and “Japanizing” themselves. How dare they? It’s even unprofessional.

I guess we can also assume that this means we should not give permanent tenure to foreign faculty in Japanese Universities, because they have a shelf life (instead of a learning curve). It certainly is logic that would happily be used by unscrupulous university employers (I have a list of them at http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html).

This argument, by the way, is quite similar to the one used by Asahikawa University in a famous precedent-setting lawsuit called the Gwen Gallagher Case (who was fired after more than a decade of service for no longer being, quote, “fresh” enough, see http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#ninkiseigallagher). I wonder if Noriguchi would enjoy being lumped in this kind of company.

So it’s one prof’s opinion, BFD. Unfortunately, Noriguchi’s essay appeared in one of Japan’s most influential, well-read, and prestigious columns called “Watashi no Shiten” in the Asahi.

I think he should issue a retraction. You can encourage him to do so via email at
snori@kitakyu-u.ac.jp
http://www.kitakyu-u.ac.jp/foreign/in/noriguchishinichiroin.htm

Speaking of universities:

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7) AKITA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY ADDED TO BLACKLIST

The Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of tertiary-educational employers who refuse to employ full-time foreign faculty on permanent-tenure terms (i.e. without contract–unlike most universities, which tenure full-time Japanese from Day One of hiring), has just gotten one addition.

It’s AIU–which has Gregory Clark as its Vice President. More on Clark at
http://www.debito.org/PALEspring2000.html
http://www.debito.org/gregoryclarkfabricates.html
http://www.debito.org/onsensclarkjtimes122599.html

It’s a bit of a surprise. Akita International University was opened a couple of years ago to offer “a radically new approach to education in Japan”–with classes entirely in English, overseas immersion, and other progressive educational strategies.

Which is sad because it seems to have lapsed back into bad old systemic habits:

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NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Akita International University (Private)
LOCATION: 193-2 Okutsubakidai, Yuwa, Tsubakigawa, Akita-City, Akita
http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html#aiu

EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Despite wanting PhDs (or the equivalent) for faculty, AIU offers 3-year contracted positions with no mention of any possibility of tenure, plus a heavy workload (10 to 15 hours per week, which means the latter amounts to 10 koma class periods), a four-month probationary period, no retirement pay, and job evaluations of allegedly questionable aims. In other words, conditions that are in no visible way different from any other gaijin-contracting “non-international university” in Japan. Except for the lack of retirement pay.

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Job advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education, dated September 2, 2006. http://chronicle.com/jobs/id.php?id=0000469416-01 (or visit http://www.debito.org/aiudata.html).

Other unofficial sources of dissent available on the Chronicle’s forums at
http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?topic=28632.0
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There will be more additions to make to my lists (including the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Businesses) when there’s time. They’ll be on my blog first, of course. Again, to receive things in real time, subscribe at http://www.debito.org/index.php
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All for today. Thanks very much for reading!

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org
http://www.debito.org
NEWSLETTER SEPT 23 ENDS

Asahi Sep 15 06: Kitakyushu prof discusses problems with English language education

mytest

COMMENT: For archival purposes: Kitakyushu University Prof argues (in one of Japan’s premier opinion columns) that one problem with English education is that foreigners stay here too long. Quote: “…native speakers who have lived in Japan for more than 10 years tend to have adapted to the system and have become ineffective as teachers–this is also partly because their English has become Japanized and is spoken to suit the ears of their Japanese students.”

I assume that this means we should not give tenure to foreigners, and that the Gwen Gallagher vs Asahikawa University Case (fired after more than a decade of service for no longer being, quote, “fresh” enough, see http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#ninkiseigallagher) is moot.

————————
POINT OF VIEW/ Shinichiro Noriguchi:English education leaves much to be desired
09/15/2006
SPECIAL TO THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200609150129.html

More than 100 years ago Natsume Soseki, a great writer in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), wrote, “These days young people studying abroad and coming back to Japan speak English fluently, but the content is shallow, almost nothing. Why? They do not possess the spiritual backbone–Chinese classics.”

This situation seems not to have changed since then; indeed, it may have become worse, because the number of shallow-minded youths is ever increasing.

Why has this happened? Who is responsible? What should we do to correct what is clearly a deplorable situation?

Based upon my 40 years of experience as an English teacher I would like to make some suggestions about the teaching of English at both the high school and university levels.

First, let me clearly say that Japanese society has been completely duped by the idea that the TOEIC test and the development of “communicative” skills in English will finally solve the long-standing problem of inept English education.

Japan’s higher education is helplessly caught in the trap of the TOEIC and “communicative English” diseases. TOEIC is simply another version of the university entrance examination, a form of assessment that has been severely criticized in the past. The TOEIC has simply been skillfully masked by corporations to appear up-to-date. The content is shallow and does not present any real challenge to the test-taker. Students can achieve higher scores by taking TOEIC-focused classes and cramming. It is for this reason that Japanese English instructors can do a better job teaching TOEIC classes than native-speaking English teachers.

Second, many teachers have been corrupted by the lax attitude toward teaching the English language in Japan. Since not much is expected of students, teachers expect little of themselves. They have created and perpetuated an unhealthy situation in which students who are eager to better their English have in fact little opportunity to improve their skills.

The government, in particular the education ministry, together with Japanese corporations, have been accomplices in creating this lamentable situation. They are blindly intoning the mantra of “communicative English” and the benefits of TOEIC, which is now in fact established as the standard by which English ability is measured. Many have come to believe that “communication” simply means the ability to speak English.

They no longer think that reading and writing in English are a true means of communication. As a result, a strange phenomenon has occurred. Our society has once more revealed its weakness as a homogeneous society, swinging from one extreme to the other. The companies that create and cater to the TOEIC test probably can’t stop laughing at this situation from which they derive great profit.

We should recall the now-forgotten fact that it was through the ability to read English that Japan was able to catch up with Western culture and technology in the Meiji and Taisho (1912-1926) eras. Many university English teachers have been complicit in these developments. They do not spend sufficient time and energy testing what students have learned in class or correcting what they have written in English.

We should fully grasp the extent of the change that has taken place and acknowledge that there is a clear difference between spoken and written English.

There are many people who, despite errors and despite the frivolous subjects about which they talk, can speak English with reasonable fluency, but they cannot write even a few sentences in correct English. The point here is that if we can write our ideas in English correctly, we will become skilled communicators.

The best way to correct this problem is to have our writing in English corrected by native English teachers, but this is not always possible. They must earn a living. Many are part-timers teaching a large number of classes at various universities, where they often simply go through the motions of teaching. But blame should not be placed upon the native speakers, because our society has allowed them to take advantage of Japan’s lax attitudes toward English education.

In particular, native speakers who have lived in Japan for more than 10 years tend to have adapted to the system and have become ineffective as teachers–this is also partly because their English has become Japanized and is spoken to suit the ears of their Japanese students. Some of these teachers are not aware of this.

It is, of course, Japanese university teachers of English who are most responsible for the depressing results of university-level English instruction.

It is a fact, however odd, that some university teachers of English failed the public junior and senior high school English teacher’s examinations, and then entered post-graduate schools only as a second choice.

Within a few years, however, they start teaching English at universities and are qualified to issue credits to students studying for the high school English teacher’s license. University teachers, of course, do not need a license of any sort to teach at universities. The education ministry often creates rules and standards that defy common sense.

The English ability of English-teaching staff is, frankly speaking, often poorer than that of capable students, especially when it comes to speaking and listening comprehension. Regardless of their academic fields–American or English literature, transformational grammar, phonetics, cultural studies–university instructors should possess thorough knowledge of the language and solid practical English skills. To improve university English education, I would propose the following:

・English teachers should have passed the first grade of STEP or achieved a score of over 600 on the TOEFL test;

・Teachers should study abroad, for at least one year, in an English-speaking country;

・The university English curriculum should place far greater emphasis on the reading and writing of English;

・English teachers should spend at least three years teaching English in high schools or prep-schools;

・The education ministry should devise a licensing system for university English teachers.

   *   *   *

The author is professor of English at the University of Kitakyushu.(IHT/Asahi: September 15,2006)

J Times Sept 12 06: Johnston on conflicts between “oldcomers” and “newcomer” foreigners

mytest

Trouble looms as foreign labor floods in

Integration issues, conflicts between older, newer arrivals a challenge
By ERIC JOHNSTON, Staff writer

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20060912f1.html

OSAKA — It’s 2030, and Japan is facing an unprecedented social problem. For the past quarter-century, ever since the population began declining, the government has encouraged the hiring of foreign laborers. But measures to control immigration have failed, and in some towns and villages foreigners now make up more than half the population.

Long-term foreign residents, who are more prosperous and politically connected than recent arrivals, worry the government is ignoring them and focusing only on the influx of newcomers, while labor unions complain foreign laborers are stealing their jobs.

As the problems mount, the public and media have begun asking why these problems weren’t anticipated in the first decade of the 21st century, when it became apparent Japan would need foreign workers.

For the past several years, politicians, bureaucrats, human rights activists and business leaders have been thinking about how to avoid the scenario described above. With Japan’s population now in decline and the need for more foreign labor becoming increasingly apparent, the issue of how to deal with newcomers has become a concern not just for Japanese but for long-term foreign residents, especially Koreans.

“There’s been much discussion on how to deal with the newcomers, which means those who have come to Japan mostly over the past few decades, and of creating policies for bringing in more foreign laborers,” says Bae Joong Do, a Kawasaki-based Korean rights activist. “But Japan has failed to adequately care for it’s ‘oldcomer’ foreigners who came during, or before, World War II and are now growing old.”

In March, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry announced a plan to create a society in which Japanese people can coexist with those from other cultures.

To integrate foreigners into society, both those who are here now and those who may come in the future, the ministry recommends that the central government provide foreign-language information at the local level; offer language classes and courses on Japanese culture and society; provide funding for housing, education, medical care and social welfare; and take steps to improve the work environment for overseas workers.

In May, a team of experts led by Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono published a report calling for a new immigration policy, one that limits foreigners to 3 percent of the total population and includes language proficiency requirements for foreign workers and their families.

The report emphasizes the need for skilled foreign labor — people trained in specific technical areas and fluent in Japanese — suggesting that such workers be subject to language testing before being allowed to enter Japan.

Both reports were generally welcomed by Japanese human rights activists as a first step toward ensuring better treatment of foreign workers, although the Kono report was criticized by some for imposing overly strict conditions for allowing in overseas workers.

But the reports, and the general tone of recent government discussions on the future of foreign labor, have been a cause for concern among long-term foreign residents.

Many long-term Korean residents have a special type of permanent residency. But their numbers are declining as they age and as more of their children take Japanese citizenship. In 2001, there were about half a million special permanent residents. Last year there were 452,000.

On the other hand, the number of more recently arrived foreigners who have become permanent residents is at a record high. There were 184,000 such residents in 2001; by 2005 that figure had climbed by more than 90 percent to 350,000.

“The balance between older and newer foreigners is shifting rapidly. But those with the most experience in fighting for the human rights of foreigners are often the older ones” says Osaka-based Song Jung Ji, who heads the Multi-Ethnic Human Rights Education Center. “They have long-established relationships with local authorities and worry a large influx of newcomers who don’t understand Japanese or Japan will destroy the progress they’ve made.”

Is a confrontation between these older and newer arrivals coming?

“I don’t think you’d see a level of violence between different ethnic groups that you see in other parts of the world because Japanese authorities and society would not tolerate it,” said former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief Hidenori Sakanaka. “But it’s likely that established foreign residents would discriminate against groups of new foreigners, barring them from apartments, restaurants, or jobs.

“It’s already happening in cities like Tokyo, but it could become a much bigger problem nationwide in the future,” he said.

And newcomers facing job discrimination in particular, be it from long-term foreign residents or from Japanese, could find that groups like labor unions that have often been at the forefront of protecting the rights of foreigners may change their attitude if they begin to see foreign labor as a threat.

“I can see a large influx of foreign workers sparking opposition from Japan’s labor unions,” Sakanaka said.

“Compared to the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, opposition within the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to large numbers of foreigners is quite strong, and much of this opposition reflects the opposition that exists in labor unions.”

Then there is the issue of education. At the local government level, especially in the Chubu region, where many South Americans live and work, concerns are mounting that the children of foreign laborers are growing up without access to a proper education because they don’t speak Japanese.

In addition, there are fears such children, as well as the children of foreign laborers who come to Japan in the future, will end up without basic language skills, further isolating them from Japanese society.

“Today, many children of foreign laborers only speak Spanish or Portuguese. This will make it extremely difficult for them to fit into Japanese society, and lead to all sorts of social problems later on. Education, especially Japanese-language education, is vital,” Vice Justice Minister Kono said at a news conference in late July.

“The reality is that all foreigners currently in Japan, and any future foreign workers, will find themselves isolated and marginalized by both Japanese and long-term foreign residents who are fluent in Japanese if they cannot speak and read Japanese,” said human rights activist Song.

“How Japan addresses the issue of language and cultural education for new foreigners will determine whether the future of foreign labor is a bright one or a nightmare,” he added.

But before official discussions on foreign labor go much further, national legislation to outlaw all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination is needed, according to the United Nations and nearly 80 Japan-based human rights organizations, many of which work to protect long-term foreign residents.

Without such a law, they argue, Japan will have serious problems with new arrivals, regardless of the restrictions on them, their Japanese-language skills or efforts to educate their children.

But the central government is not seriously considering such legal protections at the moment. In a comment reflective of the views of many senior policymakers and ordinary Japanese, Kono said he did not think such a law would be useful.

“Even if we were to pass such a law, Japanese attitudes toward foreigners wouldn’t change. It’s more important to change the culture of Japanese society to one that is accepting of foreigners,” Kono said.

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006