Yomuiri: Japan’s universities scramble for foreign students


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Some very good articles in the Yomiuri on just how far behind Japan’s universities are in attracting foreign students.  And how Japanese companies aren’t willing to hire them (We’ve discussed this briefly here before.)  Plus how Japanese universities treat certain nationalities of students differently, and some signs of Japanese students’ exodus for education overseas.  Good reading.  Arudou Debito in Haneda


The scramble for foreign students ( 1/ 2)


Students talk with Prof. Graham Law, right, during a lecture at the School of International Liberal Studies at Waseda University in Tokyo earlier this month.

Tokyo University’s Yasuda Auditorium in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo

As global competition to attract the brightest students intensifies, some Japanese universities are keen to lure foreign students who would otherwise aspire to attend prestigious universities in English-speaking countries. But this is not an easy task. In this installment of the “Currents” series, The Daily Yomiuri examines the challenges confronting Japanese higher educational institutions.

Mariko Bock, a 19-year-old U.S. student, originally from Indiana and currently enrolled at Waseda University’s School of International Liberal Studies (SILS), is pursuing her dream to become a journalist and work as a correspondent in Japan, her mother’s country.

“I came to the university as I’m able to continue to study in English, but take courses that are taught in Japanese as well,” Bock said.

She says her purposes for coming to Japan are being fulfilled, but that she sometimes feels frustrated by the low level of the classes.

“The level of English in some classes is disappointing. This is probably because SILS is still new, not all the professors are accustomed to teaching in English, and many Japanese students who do not have overseas experience or English education are not so fluent in English when they are in their first year or so,” Bock said.

While the school has been increasingly attracting both Japanese and foreign students, SILS Associate Dean Graham Law admitted there was still progress to be made, and predicted it might take a decade or so to perfect. “It’s a long-term project,” he said.

Waseda established the school in 2004 as one way for the 126-year-old university to tackle the looming crisis posed by the nation’s declining birthrate and intensified international competition to attract top-notch students.

“The number of Japanese students has almost halved since the early 1990s,” said Waseda University Vice President Katsuichi Uchida, who played a leading role in its establishment. “Even though Waseda enjoys a reputation as one of the top private universities in this country, it’s necessary to get good students from outside Japan in order to keep the academic level of the university steady.”

Aiming to make Waseda a world-class university, and a leader in the Asia-Pacific region, the school teaches all courses in English, striving to equip students with the ability to analyze, interpret and act upon any issue–a kind of training that is often lacking at Japanese universities.

The number of foreign students has gradually increased and in the 2007 academic year, 214 international students entered SILS, accounting for about 30 percent of the 757 new students at the school.

Waseda had the largest number of foreign students of any Japanese university–about 2,400 as of May 2007–but that number accounts for less than 5 percent of the 57,000 undergraduate and graduate students at the university.

Uchida said the university hopes to increase the number to 8,000 by strengthening its Japanese-language program for foreign students.

Although prestigious universities like Tokyo, Waseda and Keio have made efforts to attract foreign students, Japanese universities in general struggle to attract students from abroad, many commentators say.

David Satterwhite, the executive director of the Japan-United States Educational Commission, better known as the Fulbright Program, is one of those concerned.

“The crisis is real,” Satterwhite said. “Japanese universities have traditionally been very slow to change… Traditional elements of Japanese education, such as the administration system, are hindering the internationalization.”

Having lived in Japan for more than 35 years, Satterwhite believes Japanese higher education is now at a critical juncture. The country’s population is declining and aging, while its economy continues to struggle, and is under pressure from the burgeoning rivalry of China. In such an environment, many Japanese wonder where the country’s next generation of leaders will come from.

“The Japanese university system has provided for the needs of Japan, [but has] not been placing people or competing on a global scale,” Satterwhite said. “[We need] more courses taught in English, user-friendly support structure…also faculty who are more attuned to an international outlook.”


Left behind in global rankings

Japanese universities lag far behind internationally acclaimed U.S. and British colleges in global university rankings.

In the 2007 Times Higher Education-Quacquarelli Symonds (THE-QS) World University Rankings, one of the most closely watched college league tables, Harvard University held onto top spot, with Cambridge, Oxford and Yale just behind.

Far down the list, Japanese universities finally start appearing, with Tokyo University and Kyoto University ranked 17th and 25th, respectively.

In the ranking, which assesses universities under six criteria, Tokyo University got high scores in “Peer review” and “Employer review,” but scored quite low for numbers of International staff and students.

Global competition to attract the best students is fierce particularly in the science and engineering fields, as winning them brings not only fresh insights and perspectives to universities, but also could bring technological breakthrough for their host nations.

Britain and the United States have so far been winners because of their language advantage and handsome scholarship programs, among other reasons. English-speaking countries, such as Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa have also wooed foreign students.

Among the non-English-speaking countries to do well is South Korea, whose universities have increased the number of lectures conducted in English to accommodate overseas students.

According to the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, in 2006, 12 U.S. universities jointly organized a tour to Japan, China and South Korea to promote their colleges to Asian students. In Britain that year, then Prime Minister Tony Blair set a goal of bringing an additional 100,000 international students to the country by 2011.

The British government’s Chevening Scholarships have been a key element of that drive. Believing that attracting foreign students will have future economic and diplomatic benefits for Britain, the program, which began in 1983, supports about 1,750 students from more than 120 countries each year. All the students are identified as possible future leaders in their fields, according to the British Council Japan.

For the past few years, China and India have won the largest number of the scholarships. In 2007, 145 Chinese students each received an average of about 15,000 pounds (about 3 million yen), which included master’s course fees and living costs for a year.

The United States’ commitment to attracting overseas students is seen in the long-established Fulbright Program.

Although the scholarship differs depending on the origin of students, it supports nearly 3,000 students from about 150 nations. In Japan, the Fulbright Program says its alumni include Nobel physics laureate Masatoshi Koshiba and former U.N. Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi–two examples that demonstrate its function of nurturing leaders with connections to the United States.


Unique project big attraction

Compared with U.S. and British efforts, is the Japanese government doing enough to attract international students?

According to statistics compiled by the Japan Student Services Organization, the number of overseas students in Japan steadily increased until 2005, when it reached a record 121,812. The number has since declined, hitting 118,498 in 2007.

About 10,000 foreign students get government-funded grants, said Yuichi Oda, deputy director of the Office for Student Exchange of the ministry’s Student Service Division, adding that the government is well aware of the need to increase both the amount of grants and the number of students who receive them.

So how can Japan, a non-English-speaking nation, differentiate itself from other countries in the competition for students?

“Japanese universities need to work on their self-branding, in other words, raising their international profile,” Oda said. “But boosting name recognition isn’t enough.”

Japan needs to promote its educational institutes on the basis of their original research, capitalizing on the unrivaled reputation that some universities have in their fields.

One such study is “Secure-Life Electronics,” a project led by Prof. Kazuo Hotate, dean of Tokyo University’s School of Engineering.

The project involves about 130 doctoral students, who are working on various cutting-edge electronic engineering studies under a shared theme–safer lifestyles.

One of the project’s research centers, Hotate’s laboratory specializes in developing fiber-optic nerve systems with various uses. These systems can be embedded in bridges and aircraft wings, for example, allowing the structures to sense damage and provide an alert.

The Secure-Life project’s unique concept has already attracted many overseas students. Of about 130 doctoral students, about 50 come from abroad, representing such countries as China, Vietnam and Spain, to name but a few, according to Hotate.

Under the ministry’s two grant programs–21st Century COE (Center of Excellence) and Global COE–Hotate’s project will have received about 3.2 billion yen in total, mainly spent on the education and support of doctoral students, including an average of about 150,000 yen each month in financial assistance for about 80 doctoral students who do not receive any other financial aid. The system–still quite rare in Japanese graduate schools–also covers overseas students.

Hotate describes his course as “completely internationalized,” saying, “We seldom write theses or do research in Japanese.”


Return on investment

However, if Japan really wants to attract good foreign students, it must also help students develop their careers after graduation, according to experts.

“For international students, studying abroad is an investment,” said Lim Poh Soon, project manager of the International Strategy Research Group at the Mitsubishi Research Institute Inc. “It’s really important for them to see prospects for getting return–a job.”

Lim says a lack of employment support for international students has been responsible for turning good students away from Japan.

According to a survey of students from Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries conducted for the Foreign Ministry in 2003 by the Mitsubishi Research Institute, 27.4 percent said Japan should improve internship and employment support for foreign students.

“Besides the lack of support from the government, most Japanese firms don’t have a system to help overseas students get a job,” said Lim, who was involved in the survey. “While they say ‘We need international students and hope they will apply to us for a job,’ the country’s job entry system is so complicated that many of the international students give up on applying.”

Lim emphasized the need for a strategy on overseas students, involving cooperation between policy-side (government), supply-side (universities) and demand-side (companies). Without such a strategy, it will be difficult to win the competition for talented people, he said.

With this in mind, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry this summer will launch an internship program for overseas students. Aimed at helping overseas students obtain employment in Japan, the ministry plans to send them to about 400 firms, mainly small or midsize firms in Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi prefectures.

“Many Japanese firms say they’re reluctant to hire international students because they might not understand Japanese corporate culture,” Tatsuhiro Ishikawa, at the ministry’s Foreign Workers Affairs Division, said. “But offering such firms an opportunity to work with international students, even for a short period, might help promote understanding between them.”


Target of 300,000 set

Last month, the education ministry issued a draft of its basic educational promotion program, which declares its determination to take concrete measures to increase the number of overseas students studying in Japan to about 300,000 by 2020.

But it has yet to indicate how it plans to triple their number.

“The education ministry is working with the foreign, justice, economy and health ministries to review various aspects that affect the life of overseas students, including visa and job applications, to reach the target,” Oda says.

And he is clear about why the target matters, saying, “Increasing the number of such students is vital for Japanese society…as we need the benefits they can bring us.”

(May. 31, 2008)

The scramble for foreign students ( 2/ 2)


Chinese students shun Japan for practical, historical reasons

About 70,000 Chinese are studying at Japanese universities, comprising by far the single biggest group among the nation’s 120,000 international students. But Homare Endo, an adviser to Teikyo University Group who has served as a counselor for Chinese students in Japan since the early 1980s, says the cream of China’s students tend to go to the United States or Europe.

According to Endo, many Chinese students opt for these English-speaking destinations because they offer better opportunities to refine their skills in the language–a great advantage for job seekers and those hoping to start their own business.

Another important reason, Endo says, is the prestige that a degree from a university in the West holds among many Chinese. Japanese university degrees, by contrast, are respected by researchers, but have much lower standing among the general public, she says.

Endo suggested this stemmed partly from deep-rooted public sentiment about Japan among Chinese people. “Anti-Japanese sentiment resulting from this country’s history of aggression toward China is still prevalent in Chinese society,” said Endo, 67, who was born in China and spent her childhood in the country.

“Most Japanese universities are trying hard to improve their academic and research standards in order to attract international students,” she said. “But when it comes to the issue [of public sentiment], there’s nothing that the universities can do. I think the diplomatic relationship is much more important in this regard. ”

But the anti-Japanese sentiment in China is mirrored by anti-Chinese feeling in Japan. In part, this stems from the illegal employment of Chinese people coming to Japan on student visas–a problem that first began in the 1980s, and has since become the fixed image of Chinese students among many Japanese people, according to Endo.

A survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and Gallup Inc. in December 2007, showed strong distrust of China among Japanese people, with 74 percent of respondents saying they were suspicious of the country.

“There is an open contempt for Asian students, especially Chinese, at universities in Japan,” Endo said. “I’ve seen professors condemning Chinese students for not being fluent in Japanese, while being happy to speak English with Westerners who could not speak Japanese, for example.”

Concerning what individual universities can do to change the situation, Endo said they needed to become more progressive. “As many Chinese students hope to enter the business world after returning to China, collaboration between industries and universities will be key to attracting good students,” Endo said. “But many professors have been reluctant to go down that road, and such people often hinder efforts by colleagues at the same university to attract good students from around the world.”

“Japan has really good, advanced technologies, but that’s not enough,” Endo said. “Countries that have an open-minded culture are more likely to attract international students. If Japanese universities, or Japanese society, can’t break out of the traditional conservative mentality, they are going to find it really hard to prosper in a globalized world.”

–Kumiko Ono


World’s top colleges no longer seem remote to young

It was probably an ordinary chemistry class for the British students, but it was far from normal for Tomoki Otani. In fact, it turned out to be a life-changing experience for the 16-year-old Japanese boy.

“There were only eight students in the class! Each of them brought their own experiment kit to the class. Not only that, but they also were allowed to plan their own experiments,” Otani said, recalling the class at Whitgift School just outside London, where he attended a two-week summer program organized by Urawa High School in Saitama Prefecture.

In most Japanese schools, only teachers conduct experiments. The students–numbering about 40 for an average class–only get to watch from a distance.

“In England, even at high school level, the way of teaching and studying is so different from Japan, and I naturally thought the same would be true of universities there,” he said.

Otani eventually decided to seek enrollment at Cambridge University, one of the world’s most prestigious universities–a decision that he says probably had its origins in that chemistry class at Whitgift.

Now 20, Otani will this autumn start a new life at Peterhouse College, Cambridge University’s oldest and smallest college, after being accepted to read Natural Sciences.

He becomes one of a growing number of high school students who directly enter the best colleges and universities in English-speaking countries, eschewing top-notch Japanese options such as Tokyo University.

Otani decided to go back to Whitgift to take an International Baccalaureate (IB) course for a year–a courageous decision as he says his English was not great at the time.

He ended up staying for yet another year after going back to Urawa High School to obtain his Japanese high school diploma–a difficult step, as the stay in Britain had left him behind his classmates.

Urawa High School, known as one of the best schools in the prefecture, sent about 30 students to Tokyo University this spring, and Otani felt mounting pressure watching his friends start their college life in Japan while he persevered with his attempt to get into Cambridge.

Staying in Japan to seek entry to a Japanese university would definitely have been a safer course of action than studying to enter a British university, he says. Agonizing over his best course of action, Otani thought about applying to several Japanese universities that accept IB scores, in addition to British universities.

But his worries proved groundless when he received the happy news that he had been accepted by Cambridge in January this year.

The striking thing about the trend that Otani represents is that these students are so-called jun japa–Japanese whose parents are both Japanese and who never lived abroad as a child.

“Students nowadays compare universities in Japan and abroad to find the best place to pursue their studies,” said Naoki Kadonaga, who heads the International Department of Shibuya Senior & Junior High School in Tokyo, which also has witnessed the trend.

The high school was chosen as one of the Super English Language High Schools designated in 2005 as a part of the Education, Science and Technology Ministry’s program that offers three-year grants to schools focusing on English education.

All the Shibuya students take essay writing classes to develop their ability to think and write logically in English about social issues. After school hours, native English speakers provide classes to those hoping to get into overseas universities. In such classes, they study for the Scholastic Assessment Tests required for entry to some overseas universities, and learn how to write applications.

Thanks to such efforts, the school sends three to four students every year to overseas universities, including Harvard University, and some of them have been jun japa students. “Students these days have a much wider vision than before. For them, studying at overseas universities is no longer out of the ordinary,” Kadonaga added.

But the trend also has its negative side, according to Masayasu Morita, president and chief executive officer of hitomedia, inc.

“There is a talent drain. Japanese society is failing to make use of its best and brightest, so such people are going abroad. This isn’t just a failing of Japanese universities, but a failing of Japanese society as a whole,” Morita said.

Having studied at Harvard, Cambridge and the University of California, Berkeley, Morita has written “Todai yori Harvard ni Iko!?” (Let’s go to Harvard University rather than Tokyo University!?)–a book intended to encourage more Japanese to see Harvard as an option.

“Kids need to have dreams. Society should make them aware of the great and wonderful options that exist. There’s a whole world across the ocean with money movers like [Donald] Trump or [Andrew] Carnegie!” Morita said of global-level opportunities open to young Japanese.

Otani is still thinking about what to do after graduation from Cambridge, admitting that he never had a settled goal as a child. “My childhood dreams changed all the time, from sushi chef to police officer or pilot,” he says, but adding that he currently wants to work for an international organization, hoping to give back some of what he will have learned.

Now only four months are left before he starts his new life–a departure that he never imagined as a child.

“I made up my mind after considering the [advantages of] the British education system and the possible risks. Now I’m happy with my decision to go to Cambridge.”

–Atsuko Matsumoto

(May. 31, 2008)


American tarento Pakkun bullies eager language learners at G8 Summit Site


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Saw something on NHK last night (General, 11PM) that made me see red.

International comedy team Pakkun and Makkun (Pakkun is the American, Makkun the Japanese) were part of a comedy troupe who descended on the G8 Summit Site to test people’s language ability.

Perhaps this is part of their act (I have avoided Pakkun in particular for quite some time–so far I have only found him humorlessly obnoxious), but NHK was exploring how Hokkaido locals around Toyako had spent years preparing for the G8 Summit beefing up their English language ability.

First bit I saw (I came in late and left early) was a roundtable with a group of Japanese locals acting as a model UN, all speaking English to each other in the guise of several countries.  They were doing a decent job, had been learning from native volunteers (the TV show said) for about seventeen years.  Nice try, anyway, but Makkun told the Japanese woman to speak with her chest like a “typical American” (yeah, right); that’s pretty ignorant, but Pakkun told the guy posing as a Russian to learn a Russian accent–and essentially misled him into a German accent…!  Yeah, I’m sure that’ll help these people communicate.

It went on in this vein–Pakkun telling people that if they make a mistake in English, they’ll cause an “international incident” (yeah, sure).  Pakkun putting a hotel owner (who had studied English language tapes in his car for two years) on the spot and in his place by using a complicated English question (about whether he was using English geared for the workplace or general conversation–or something like that–it was pretty mumbled) and occasioning a “pardon”?  And Pakkun walking into an onsen area with slippers and a towel, and acting dumb about being cautioned (“Uh… take off your slip…” “I’m not wearing a dress.” “Um… your shoes, take to locker…” “You want me to go back to my locker and take my shoes in there?”, and so on) in particular showed incredible insensitivity and ignorance, particularly given Hokkaido’s past difficulties with NJ in places like Otaru onsens.

I had had enough.  I switched it off.  Way to go, Pakkun.  Japanese people in general have glass jaws when it comes to foreign languages in the first place.  And your going up there to nameru people with your native tongue, and doing it incorrectly and insensitively (it went beyond IMO a simple playfulness–it was making sport of them), did nobody any favors.  Least of all those earnest people who were trying so hard after so many years to cope with NJ.  Hardy har har.  Go to hell.  Arudou Debito in transit

Friday, June 20th, 2008 Symposium “Migration in East Asia: Cases Studies from Japan, China and Taiwan”, Waseda University


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Forwarding… Arudou Debito

Dear Professors and colleagues,

Re: Friday, June 20th, 2008 Symposium “Migration in East Asia: Cases Studies from Japan, China and Taiwan”

Greetings from Waseda University!

The Waseda University Doctoral Student Network (WUDSN), with the generous support of Waseda University’s Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration (GIARI) will hold a symposium on Friday, June 20th 2008, from 15:00 to 18:30. The symposium is entitled “Migration in East Asia: Cases Studies from Japan, China and Taiwan”.

At this meeting we our fortunate enough to have speakers with expertise on issues related to migration in East Asia and in particular, Japan, China, and Taiwan. Please see the symposium schedule below for more information about the speakers, titles of presentations, and attending discussants.

Welcome Address: Prof. Satoshi Amako
Session 1 : 15:00 to 17:00
“Dejima: Legacies of Exclusion and Control”
– Dr. David Blake Willis (Soai University)
“Sealing Japanese Identity”
– Dr. David Chapman (University of South Australia)
“The Underlying Myths, Beliefs and Calculations Reflected In the Naturalization Policy in Japan”
– Dr. Soo Im Lee (Ryukoku University)
“Examining the Role of Local Governments in Social Integration: A Comparative Examination of Social Integration Practices at the Local Government Level in Japan”
– Stephen R. Nagy Research Associate (Waseda University)

Discussant for speakers: Prof. Glenda S. Roberts

Session 2 : 17:15 to 18:30
“Creating a Transnational Community: Chinese Newcomers in Japan”
– Dr. Gracia Liu-Farrer (Sophia University)
“Hidden “In between-ness”: an Exploration of Taiwanese Transnational Identity
in Contemporary Japan”
– Peichun Han PhD Candidate (Waseda University)

Discussant for speakers: Prof. Shigeto Sonoda

Closing Remarks: Stephen R. Nagy

I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to this symposium meeting which aims to examine the issue of migration in East Asia from both sending and receiving countries’ perspectives. The event will be held at the Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies, Building 19, Rm 710 from 15:00 to 18:00. Please see attachments for details on presentation and the aims of the Waseda University Doctoral Student Network.

For information on how to get to Waseda University and about up coming events please refer to our homepage: http://www.waseda-giari.jp/jpn/wudsn/contact.html

Although registration is not necessary, organizers would greatly appreciate an email confirming your interest in attending. Please send email to Stephen Robert Nagy (s.nagy@aoni.waseda.jp) with name, affiliation, research area and email contact.

We hope that you will be able to join us for a stimulating afternoon of presentations and ample opportunity to exchange opinions, ideas and comments with our panelists.

Stephen R. Nagy

2008年6月20日(金)15:00から18:30まで、“Migration in East Asia: Cases Studies from Japan, China and Taiwan”と題するシンポジウム(早大)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
“Migration in East Asia: Cases Studies from Japan, China and Taiwan”

平素より大変お世話になっております。早稲田大学のStephen R. Nagyです。

さて、早稲田大学博士課程学生ネットワークでは、早稲田大学グローバルCOEプログラム「アジア地域統合のための世界的人材育成拠点(GIARI)」からの全面的支援を得て、2008年6月20日(金)15:00から18:30まで、“Migration in East Asia: Cases Studies from Japan, China and Taiwan”と題するシンポジウムを開催する運びとなりました。


Welcome Address: Prof. Satoshi Amako
Session 1 : 15:00 to 17:00
“Dejima: Legacies of Exclusion and Control”
– Dr. David Blake Willis (Soai University)
“Sealing Japanese Identity”
– Dr. David Chapman (University of South Australia)
“The Underlying Myths, Beliefs and Calculations Reflected In the Naturalization Policy in Japan”
– Dr. Soo Im Lee (Ryukoku University)
“Examining the Role of Local Governments in Social Integration: A Comparative Examination of Social Integration Practices at the Local Government Level in Japan”
– Stephen R. Nagy Research Associate (Waseda University)

Discussant for speakers: Prof. Glenda S. Roberts

Session 2 : 17:15 to 18:30
“Creating a Transnational Community: Chinese Newcomers in Japan”
– Dr. Gracia Liu-Farrer (Sophia University)
“Hidden “In between-ness”: an Exploration of Taiwanese Transnational Identity
in Contemporary Japan”
– Peichun Han PhD Candidate (Waseda University)

Discussant for speakers: Prof. Shigeto Sonoda
Closing Remarks: Stephen R. Nagy



シンポジウムの申し込むは不要ですが、ご出席いただけます方は、事前にお名前、ご所属、研究(関心)領域を明記してEメールにてStephen Robert Nagy (s.nagy@aoni.waseda.jp)までご連絡いただけましたら幸いです。


Stephen R. Nagy

Kyodo/Japan Today on Anthony Bianchi’s moves as Inuyama City Councilor



Hi Blog.  Old friend Anthony is showing great sustainability in his work as an elected town councilor–as the article below shows.  However, as commenters to Japan Today noted, the article neglects to mention one more factor in how difficult it is to be where he is today:  “Gives readers the wrong impression that any old Gaijin could do this if they want to. You have to become Japanese first!”  Anyway, good work, Bianchi-san.  Keep it up!  Debito in Sapporo


New Yorker, now councilman in Japan, aims to inspire American high schoolers
By Kevin Kuo
Kyodo/Japan Today, Undated, downloaded May 22, 2008
Courtesy of Dave Spector

Anthony Bianchi, a native New Yorker and current councilman in the rural Japanese city of Inuyama, recently hosted the first-ever Japan Day at his alma mater in Brooklyn, bringing with him some 30 students, local artists and craftsman from the Aichi Prefecture city as part of a cultural exchange program.

Widely known in Japan as the first North American councilman, the 49-year-old is currently serving out his fifth year in office in the central Japan city. But in his native Brooklyn he is mostly seen as an active alumnus of Xaverian High School with a penchant for promoting better Japan-U.S. relations.

‘‘The experience changed my life,’’ said Joe Giamboi, a senior who traveled to Japan last year. ‘‘It opened up the world to me.’’

The cultural exchange program, Building Bridges, aims to expose teens like Giamboi to the many aspects of contemporary and traditional Japan while also offering students an opportunity to showcase their musical talents to a foreign audience.

The program was established five years ago by Bianchi and Joe Loposky, Xaverian High’s music program director.

Since its inception, more than 100 Xaverian students have traveled to Japan to experience living with Japanese families, performing their repertoire of American tunes as well as opening up their perspectives on the world.

‘‘It’s more than just a home-stay program,’’ Loposky said. ‘‘Our boys are going over there to serve. They perform Jazz and Doowop, examples of American culture that Japanese over there may never have a chance to experience.’’

Building Bridges alternates trips annually, sending teens to Inuyama one year and then taking Inuyama residents to Xaverian the next.

This year the visitors from Inuyama City, a quaint locale of approximately 73,000 residents, showcased their talents and crafts for the program’s first-ever Japan Day festival.

The American students were offered chances to don traditional kimonos and watched a master craftsman bind the laces onto geta or traditional Japanese shoes.

They were also awestruck by Ouson Ito, who artfully combined her Japanese calligraphy with dramatic performance.

Ito, who began learning her trade at 6, drew the word ‘‘musubu’’ which means link or connection. She described how the original Chinese character consisted of two kanji, on the left a character representing string and on the right happiness.

She drew the character with the hope that Xaverian High School and Inuyama city would continue to maintain strong ties in the future.

The ties are already being established by other young students, such as Patrick Borja, a senior who thinks of Japan as another home. Though born in America, he has traveled to his parents’ native home in South America.

‘‘Japan has become my third home,’’ Borja said, explaining that ‘‘through the experience, I came back with greater confidence.’’

While Xaverian does not yet have a Japanese program, it is testing the waters with the hopes of setting up a teacher exchange between schools in Inuyama and Xaverian that would be mutually beneficial, Bianchi said.

Bianchi, whose first experience in Japan came through a home-stay program advertised in a newspaper, hopes that the program will encourage students to build international friendships.

‘‘If it weren’t for that home-stay experience in Japan, none of this would have happened,’’ Bianchi said, referring to his life in Japan. ‘‘I think it’s important for people to meet. I hope the relationships continue to develop and blossom.’’

The councilman smiled when asked about the similarities between his hometown in Brooklyn and his new home in Inuyama.

‘‘I liked Inuyama because it had a nostalgic feeling,’’ he said. ‘‘It was like an Italian household where they had three generations under one roof.’’ He said jokingly that one of the main differences between families in Inuyama and Brooklyn is that in Inuyama, ‘‘they don’t eat pasta.’’

Despite having distinct cultures, in both places he sensed a commonality in their deep respect for community.

The Building Bridges program, while not funded by Inuyama City, has benefited from Bianchi’s role as councilman. The city government has provided buses and the use of facilities which is sometimes ‘‘more helpful than money,’’ he said.

Before becoming a councilman, Bianchi worked first as an English teacher on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program and then spent eight years with Inuyama City’s Department of Education.

His move to the political arena was sparked by his desire to improve the city he had grown to love.

Although he doesn’t think of himself as a politician, Bianchi has had a significant impact on the image of Japan and Japanese politics both in his hometown of Brooklyn as well as in Japan.

One parent of a student who traveled to Japan last year said of Bianchi’s role as a councilman of Inuyama city, ‘‘I think it’s fantastic. I didn’t know an American could do that in Japan.’’

He hopes that his experience will encourage others to take more active roles in their local communities and governments.

‘‘Sometimes you think that you can’t change Japan because it’s this big monolithic thing.’’ he said. ‘‘To some people it represents change…I think it gives other Japanese the encouragement to do something…If you don’t like how the government is run, you can do something about it.’’

In his thick Brooklyn accent, the gregarious Bianchi repeated, ‘‘Hey… If I can do it you can do it.’’


Anonymous on job-market barriers to NJ graduates of J universities: The “IQ Test”


Hi Blog. Feedback from a reader about prospects of finding work in Japan as a NJ despite graduation from a J university. According to the author, barriers are put up at the entry level all over again to prefer native candidates–or at least how they get tested by IQ. Read on:

Hello Debito. I am a reader of your blog since I came to Japan the second time in September 2006. I am a Master’s student at [an extremely prestigious Japanese university] and do research on “national identity” in Japan. That is why I was interested in your homepage in the first place.

But now I feel discriminated the first time and wanted to ask you for some advice.

I started searching for a job in Japan because I will graduate next year but I want to stay in Japan. I started as early as the japanese students, visited countless fairs and setsumeikai, and bought all the expensive books on business fields, tests and self analysis. In short – I didn’t do anything wrong. But now all my J friends have a job contract and I still don’t what is extremely frustrating. Because I put more effort into it then most of them and I don’t think I am less smart, but still I did not get even one serious offer.

The reason for this is a stupid old fashioned IQ test like test which is quite the same at each company. It is not so difficult but the time limit for each problem is very strict, which is a major disadvantage for NJ graduates. Once I did the test in English at ONE out of 35 companies which provided the same test in English for NJ applicantsand passed easily, although English is NOT my mother language. I am German.

(I failed at the second interview though. Partly because I was inexperienced and nervous. It was my first and last opportunity for an interview)

I think this test is extremely unfair against all NJ, because it needs far much more preparation than for J students to master it and even then you have less chances to pass. In other words, even with the best preparation it’s a gamble.

It would be much better for the students (and the companies who waste talent) to provide the test in English and add an extra test for the Japanese abilities of NJ students. The English test for the J students is quite meaningless because its far too easy (I finished it 10 min. before the time was over and had everything right). But it is not enough to compensate the lack of speed reading skills in Japanese which need 12+ years of J education system.

I think if Japan wants to keep the students who studied here and want to contribute something to Japan’s society they should think these recruiting practices over, or they will loose well educated brain power in a world wide competition.

Anonymous (who is serously thinking about going to the US or back to Europe…)

COMMENT: When I got my first non-Eikaiwa job in Japan (back in 1989), I too had to take an IQ test–the same one meted out to regular entrants, and in Japanese. Well, I failed–after only a couple of years of classroom and street study, my Japanese wasn’t good enough yet. So the boss administered other tests, such as having me read the newspaper aloud etc, making it a language test. Up to that point, I had been trained more in Japanese the Spoken Language (Eleanor Jorden’s text), not written, so I didn’t do well enough for him again. He was about to deny me the job when I did what I do best–talk persuasively in Japanese. I convinced him the test wasn’t representative of my real abilities nor would it reflect accurately upon what I could do for his company. I passed that test, as I got hired, and from that point on became much better in Japanese working for a year at an intern in a software company. But this was Bubble Japan (and companies were looking for ways to “internationalize” themselves; plus I took a big pay cut), and I clearly got far more rope to explain my way into a job than the above author, who has far more ability and experience (and a degree from a world-class Japanese university) yet got stopped for lack of “measurable IQ”.

This is an issue that deserves attention, so others with experience should feel welcome to comment. For in the poster’s view (and mine), these sorts of barriers only hurt Japan when educated candidates want to stay and contribute. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Rube Redfield on the GOJ banning use of dispatch teachers in J universities


Hi Blog. Here’s one loophole that has just been closed by the GOJ–about the use of “dispatch teachers” (haken sha’in) in the place of full-time workers in universities.

Some background. My friend Joe Tomei defines “dispatch workers” as:

“A ‘dispatch teacher’ is one who is employed by a company which sends them (thus, ‘dispatches’ them) and bills the school. This was quite common for companies which wanted to have language lessons, but is a bit dubious when it is a university that is getting the teacher.”

This form of “outsourcing” creates problems not only with professionality (essentially putting in “temp” workers in place of qualified professionals), but also with labor standards, as you get disposable ersatz “part-timers” replacing all educators, full- or part-time, saving money on salaries and social insurance (which the educational institution must pay half of for all full-timers). You also have issues of employee relations; with a dispatch worker, management never even has to “meet” or associate with their worker; he or she just parachutes in without any oversight–except from the third-party dispatch company. And the contracting company can at a moment’s notice say, “get rid of this person”, and he’s replaced immediately–without even a contract term limit or “reasonable grounds” that could be taken before a Labor Standards agency. Thus job security and rights for dispatch workers are even less than that for regular part-timers.

Moreover, with big-name “dispatch agencies” (such as the erstwhile NOVA, Berlitz, and David English House) getting involved in this racket, you get businesses getting a percentage as well–sending in disposable labor for a fraction of the cost of hiring anyone with job security and training. The economic incentives are clear. So clear they were abused. Now the GOJ has banned it. Bravo.

As Rube Redfield writes below, the labor unions brought this one to the authorities’ attention, and got it redressed. Well done. Again, the power of protest and activism.

There are, however, universities (such as Ritsumeikan) ignoring these new GOJ guidelines. And there are still loopholes for people in primary and secondary education, with dispatch working still happening in non-university job markets. Maybe the GOJ will get to that, too (or maybe not, with the primacy of JET in this market). More on issues with employment in the Japanese educational job market at the Blacklist of Japanese Universities.

There is another loophole recently closed by the GOJ, that of universities putting age caps on employee job announcements (“candidates must be under 35 years”, for example). That was made illegal last October 2007. But I’ll let somebody who knows more about this write something up. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Kobe Shoin and the Use of Law
By Rube Redfield, IWW

In January of 2007, the EWA began negotiations with Kobe Shoin, concerning the replacement of EWA educators with dispatch teachers from the private companies ECC and OTC. Our Chairman (incho) Neo Yamashita pointed out that the use of dispatch personnel went contrary to MEXT guidelines, but was ignored. Shoin claimed that since the Metropolitan University of Tokyo used dispatch teachers, Shoin was free to do so as well.

In a further negotiating session, EWA declared willingness to go to the Kobe Labor Relations Board, disclosing the dubious practice of using dispatch personnel to replace qualified EWA members. We were begged not to carry out our threat, but since Shoin was unwilling to negotiate on this point (or any other), we went ahead and reported directly to the Labor Relations Board. Some of you may have seen the news clips of us doing so on TV.

MEXT changed their ‘guidance’ strategy later in the year, by passing “Article 19 of Daigaku Sechi Kijun,” making the use of dispatched teachers at the college and university level illegal. The new law comes in to effect April 1, 2008.

In negotiations with Shoin this past January (2008) we inquired if Shoin were now going to obey the new law and no longer bring in people from dispatch companies. The assured us that this was the case, and that no teachers from ECC or OTC (or any other jobber) would be employed at Shoin.

Kobe Shoin changed their employment practice as a direct result of EWA pressure. This once again shows the power of unionism. If any reader knows of cases where colleges or universities are still disobeying the law, please contact us. The new law should be a powerful tool in stopping the use of dispatch teachers in higher education in Japan.

Rube Redfield may be reached at rube39 ATT iww DOT org

Links to more information on the issue, courtesy of Glenski:

The General Union has a good description of 3 ways dispatch companies operate and their pitfalls.

This GU link (http://www.generalunion.org/News/68?lang=jp) talks about the illegality of outsourcing because of lack of licenses.

And another GU link (http://www.generalunion.org/News/67) citing an article in the Yomiuri which gives figures on how many dispatch ALTs are out there in Osaka prefecture.

And the NAMBU Foreign Workers Caucus has a bunch of info here.

Quick Report on Okinawa Trip: AmerAsian School, Kina Shoukichi


Hi Blog. Quick report about my recent trip to Okinawa, February 28-March 1, 2008:
I was invited by a troupe of academics (Dr Lee Setsuko of Seibold University, Nagasaki; Dr Kojima of Osaka Shukutoku University; and Dr Tanaka Hiroshi, of Ryuugoku University, and one of Japan’s foremost academics of NJ activism in Japan) down to Ginowan, Okinawa, to check out the local AmerAsian School.

(Ginowan-Shi Shimashi 1-15-22, phone 098-896-1215)
Some pertinent links:

The Amerasian School is a very worthwhile organization. amerasianschoolfront.JPG Located in a local city-run center and about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, it provides an education to children who fall through the cracks in Japan’s education system.

An estimated ninety percent of children there are from relationships from the US military bases, mostly single Japanese parents raising their children in Japan, but unable to fit into regular Japanese schools (due to bullying etc. issues). As the USG only allows those who are currently connected to US military to attend its free on-base schools (meaning children born out of wedlock, or left behind after divorce or desertion, are not entitled to on-base education), these are case of families that cannot afford the local Christian international school (with tuition fees of 80,000 yen a month; the AmerAsian School only charges 25,000 yen a month).

The AmerAsian School, which covers American elementary and junior high, lives on tuition, donations, and cheap perpetual lease agreements from Ginowan City. It was created to avoid embarrassment before the 2000 Nago Summit, when local activists offered to bring the subject of left-behind uneducated American-citizen children up with Hillary Clinton. However, as with most “ethnic schools” in Japan, it is in no way funded by the Education Ministry and enjoys no official “student discounts” etc. for transportation, food, etc.

From what your correspondent could see in a two-hour stay, the school is clean, orderly, and systematic. amerasianschoolclassJPG.JPGThe children are spritely, friendly, bilingual (for most of them, their first language is Japanese), with the majority a lovely blend of Japanese and African-American or Hispanic. The teachers, and principal Asano Makoto, are very dedicated folk indeed, and forgo a lot to make sure these children get at least a basic education.

What happens when the kids reach high-school age? Well… some of them there were many questions I would have liked to ask, but I wasn’t there to specifically interview them, so only got a few queries in edgewise. What I know I’ve written down for your information. If you want to know more, two books in Japanese (which alas I have not had time to read yet) you might consider tracking down:
Teramoto Hirotaka, ed. “Amerajian Suku-ru–Kyousei to Chihei o Okinawa Kara” (Fukinotou Shobou, 2001). ISBN 4-434-0958-3

Uezato Kazumi, “Amerajian–Mou Hitotsu no Okinawa” (Shin Nichi Purosesu KK, 1998). ISBN 4-87699-398-X
Suggest that anyone who can try to visit and contribute something.


By the way, we spent two evenings in Kina Shoukichi’s Live House “Chakra” on Kokusai Doori, Naha, taking in his brand of Okinawan music (guitars and jamisen combined masterfully, and incredibly hooky songs). Picture of his troupe in action:

His Wikipedia entry, for what it’s worth:
Kina Shokichi (Kina Shōkichi, 喜納昌吉, born June 10, 1948 in Koza (now part of the city of Okinawa), Okinawa, is a Ryukyuan rock musician who, along with his band Champloose, played a large role in the Japanese home-grown “folk rock” scene in the 70s and 80s. His first big hit was “Haisai Ojisan” (Hey, old man) in 1972, which he wrote when he was in high school. (He was actually in prison on drug-related charges when the song became a hit.) He is now perhaps equally well-known for his ongoing activism in the name of peace.
He was elected a member of the House of Councillors in July 2004.


He performed on Friday night; forty minutes of masterful jams and danceable sets. Met him afterwards for a small chat and got a signed copy of his CD. He’ll get copies of my books later.

I was less than 48 hours on Okinawa, but saw a hell of a lot. Even took a quick taxi ride up to Kadena Gate Doori (where we were admonished by an automatic-weapon toting Beigun guard not to take pictures by the gate), where we saw the effects of the current “lock down”. debitokadena.JPGThe Japanese press that morning made a big deal about the shuttered shopfronts due to lack of business. It didn’t look all that bad to me, and it looked more prosperous (such as it was) than outside Misawa Air Base sans lock down.


Hope to get down to Okinawa again someday soon. Was very impressed by the friendliness of the people and the relative responsiveness of even shopkeeps in the tourist traps. Should linger longer next time to let impressions sink in deeper.

Arudou Debito back in Sapporo

Yomiuri: Govt to help NJ primary- and secondary-ed students learn Japanese


Hi Blog. Speaking of language requirements for visa renewals, this may be good news, albeit it only applies to youth (very good news in itself). Sorry I left this article sitting in my inbox for so long. Friend who sent me this has this comment immediately below. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

There is one line that bothers me though: “Because these students do not speak Japanese, some have had trouble fitting in with classmates, which has led to behavior problems or even crimes.” They just had to throw that in. Reminds me of the anti-Mexican comments my grandfather is always sending me.

Govt to help foreign students learn Japanese
The Yomiuri Shimbun Nov. 6, 2007

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry will launch a program to help the increasing number of foreign students at public primary, middle and high schools to acquire Japanese language skills.

Currently, local governments handle Japanese language education for foreign students at public schools.

The ministry plans to provide financial and other support to the local governments to employ part-time instructors, who are proficient both in Japanese and a foreign language, with the goal of enhancing students’ understanding in classes and Japanese lessons.

According to the ministry, foreign nationals at public primary, middle and high schools throughout the country numbered 70,936 as of May 2006.

Of those students, 22,413 at a total of 5,475 schools did not understand Japanese sufficiently to absorb their lessons.

The number of these students increased by 8.3 percent from the previous year, and had been increasing annually.

Since the Immigration Control Law was revised to permit the employment of ethnic-Japanese foreign nationals for unskilled jobs in 1990, a growing number of people have come to Japan from South America.

Portuguese, spoken in Brazil, is the most common language among foreign students at 38 percent, followed by Chinese at 20 percent and Spanish at 15 percent.

Because these students do not speak Japanese, some have had trouble fitting in with classmates, which has led to behavior problems or even crimes.

The ministry is taking the increase in problems associated with Japanese language ability seriously and decided the central government needs to support local governments in this concern.

It has included 1.96 billion yen in its budget request for the next fiscal year for hiring about 1,600 bilingual instructors around the country by the end of that year.

(Nov. 6, 2007)

Asahi Watashi no Shiten: Schools for NJ children deserve GOJ support


Hi Blog. An excellent roundup of what’s been covered on Debito.org for quite some time–the emerging underclass of NJ children without an education guaranteed them in Japan. Here are the problems in nutshell. Debito


POINT OF VIEW/ Nobuyuki Sato: Schools for foreign children deserve support

01/28/2008 The Asahi Shinbun


Courtesy of Steve Silver

More than 2.08 million foreigners now live in Japan. With the rise in international marriages between Japanese and non-Japanese, the number of children who have dual nationality is also increasing. Of them, tens of thousands attend schools for foreigners.

Currently, there are about 100 schools for North and South Korean and Chinese children. In recent years, a growing number of people from South America and elsewhere have settled in Japan.

Schools to accommodate children of such “newcomers” are also increasing. There are 94 Brazilian schools and also schools for children from Peru, India, the Philippines and other countries. The total number of schools for newcomers exceeds 100.

Chinese schools in Japan have a history of more than 100 years, while ethnic Koreans from North and South Korea established schools for their children after World War II to teach them the language and cultures of their motherland. Thus, schools for foreigners in Japan have various backgrounds.

Schools for newcomers are concentrated in the Tokai and northern Kanto regions, home to many Brazilians and Peruvians who work as dispatch employees at automakers and other factories.

A Brazilian school in Ibaraki Prefecture celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. It started out as an unauthorized day-care center for children whose parents work at factories from early morning until late at night. As the children grew, the center set up elementary and junior high school classes.

The government does not recognize schools for foreigners as regular schools that provide general education. Therefore, they do not receive any government subsidies. Most of the schools are supported by donations from fellow countrymen.

While donations to European and American schools are now tax-exempt, the same rule does not apply to North and South Korean and Chinese schools, which are also categorized as kakushu gakko (miscellaneous schools).

Since most schools of newcomers are not even recognized as kakushu gakko but are treated as “private juku,” they are not even eligible for subsidies from local governments.

Some local governments have eased authorization standards for kakushu gakko. But in Gunma, Saitama and other prefectures that apply strict standards for authorization, it is difficult for most schools for newcomers to meet the requirements. Many of them rent small factories that went out of business and split them into six to nine classrooms to give lessons. Such schools do not even have gymnasiums or schoolyards.

Japanese children are guaranteed free compulsory education at public elementary and junior high schools. Accredited private schools also receive generous government subsidies. However, when parents of foreign nationality enroll their children at foreign schools because they want them to learn the languages and cultures of their homelands, they are not eligible for public support measures.

Moreover, at schools not authorized as kakushu gakko, consumption tax is imposed on tuition. Since students are not eligible for a student commuter pass, parents are required to bear a heavier financial burden than their counterparts at Japanese schools.

Although there are more than 200 foreign schools in Japan, few public subsidies apply to them. Most of the schools rely on the self-help efforts of foreign communities alone and are excluded from the realm of public education.

I believe there are few countries in the world like Japan where foreign schools are at a disadvantage compared with regular schools.

As Japan is about to become a “multinational, multiracial and multicultural” society, it is time we break away from “national education” and switch to “multiracial and multicultural symbiotic education.”

For that, we must establish guidelines for education that embrace multiracial and multicultural values and immediately implement systematic support, such as legislation to promote measures for schools for foreigners.

Doing so also meets Japan’s obligation under the international conventions on human rights including the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is also the duty of adults for children of the 21st century.

* * *

The author heads the research-action institute for Koreans in Japan. (IHT/Asahi: January 28,2008)


NYT: Losing an Edge, Japanese Envy India’s Schools


Hi Blog. Ironic article, given many eikaiwa won’t hire Subcontinental Indians because they don’t look the part or speak “gaijin” English… Then again, as the author admits, the following is just one of those fads, and fads fade. And when I sent this to an education list I’m a member of, they doubted many of the claims made in the article–such as the one-page essay in English at age five–as mere boosterism. And most importantly, what are the entry fees? Debito in Sapporo


Losing an Edge, Japanese Envy India’s Schools
New York Times January 2, 2008
Courtesy of The Club

MITAKA, Japan — Japan is suffering a crisis of confidence these days about its ability to compete with its emerging Asian rivals, China and India. But even in this fad-obsessed nation, one result was never expected: a growing craze for Indian education.

Despite an improved economy, many Japanese are feeling a sense of insecurity about the nation’s schools, which once turned out students who consistently ranked at the top of international tests. That is no longer true, which is why many people here are looking for lessons from India, the country the Japanese see as the world’s ascendant education superpower.

Bookstores are filled with titles like “Extreme Indian Arithmetic Drills” and “The Unknown Secrets of the Indians.” Newspapers carry reports of Indian children memorizing multiplication tables far beyond nine times nine, the standard for young elementary students in Japan.

And Japan’s few Indian international schools are reporting a surge in applications from Japanese families.

At the Little Angels English Academy & International Kindergarten, the textbooks are from India, most of the teachers are South Asian, and classroom posters depict animals out of Indian tales. The kindergarten students even color maps of India in the green and saffron of its flag.

Little Angels is located in this Tokyo suburb, where only one of its 45 students is Indian. Most are Japanese.

Viewing another Asian country as a model in education, or almost anything else, would have been unheard-of just a few years ago, say education experts and historians.

Much of Japan has long looked down on the rest of Asia, priding itself on being the region’s most advanced nation. Indeed, Japan has dominated the continent for more than a century, first as an imperial power and more recently as the first Asian economy to achieve Western levels of economic development.

But in the last few years, Japan has grown increasingly insecure, gripped by fear that it is being overshadowed by India and China, which are rapidly gaining in economic weight and sophistication. The government here has tried to preserve Japan’s technological lead and strengthen its military. But the Japanese have been forced to shed their traditional indifference to the region.

Grudgingly, Japan is starting to respect its neighbors.

“Until now, Japanese saw China and India as backwards and poor,” said Yoshinori Murai, a professor of Asian cultures at Sophia University in Tokyo. “As Japan loses confidence in itself, its attitudes toward Asia are changing. It has started seeing India and China as nations with something to offer.”

Last month, a national cry of alarm greeted the announcement by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that in a survey of math skills, Japan had fallen from first place in 2000 to 10th place, behind Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. From second in science in 2000, Japan dropped to sixth place.

While China has stirred more concern here as a political and economic challenger, India has emerged as the country to beat in a more benign rivalry over education. In part, this reflects China’s image in Japan as a cheap manufacturer and technological imitator. But India’s success in software development, Internet businesses and knowledge-intensive industries in which Japan has failed to make inroads has set off more than a tinge of envy.

Most annoying for many Japanese is that the aspects of Indian education they now praise are similar to those that once made Japan famous for its work ethic and discipline: learning more at an earlier age, an emphasis on memorization and cramming, and a focus on the basics, particularly in math and science.

India’s more demanding education standards are apparent at the Little Angels Kindergarten, and are its main selling point. Its 2-year-old pupils are taught to count to 20, 3-year-olds are introduced to computers, and 5-year-olds learn to multiply, solve math word problems and write one-page essays in English, tasks most Japanese schools do not teach until at least second grade.

Indeed, Japan’s anxieties about its declining competitiveness echo the angst of another nation two decades ago, when Japan was the economic upstart.

“Japan’s interest in learning from Indian education is a lot like America’s interest in learning from Japanese education,” said Kaoru Okamoto, a professor specializing in education policy at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.

As with many new things here, the interest in Indian-style education quickly became a fad.

Indian education is a frequent topic in forums like talk shows. Popular books claim to reveal the Indian secrets for multiplying and dividing multiple-digit numbers. Even Japan’s conservative education ministry has begun discussing Indian methods, said Jun Takai of the ministry’s international affairs division.

Eager parents try to send their children to Japan’s roughly half dozen Indian schools, hoping for an edge on the competitive college entrance exams.

In Tokyo, the two largest Indian schools, which teach kindergarten through junior high, mainly to Indian expatriates, received a sudden increase in inquiries from Japanese parents starting last year.

The Global Indian International School says that 20 of its some 200 students are now Japanese, with demand so high from Indian and Japanese parents that it is building a second campus in the neighboring city of Yokohama.

The other, the India International School in Japan, just expanded to 170 students last year, including 10 Japanese. It already has plans to expand again.

Japanese parents have expressed “very, very high interest” in Indian schools, said Nirmal Jain, principal of the India International School.

The boom has had the side effect of making many Japanese a little more tolerant toward other Asians.

The founder of the Little Angels school, Jeevarani Angelina — a former oil company executive from Chennai, India, who accompanied her husband, Saraph Chandar Rao Sanku, to Japan in 1990 — said she initially had difficulty persuading landlords to rent space to an Indian woman to start a school. But now, the fact that she and three of her four full-time teachers are non-Japanese Asians is a selling point.

“When I started, it was a first to have an English-language school taught by Asians, not Caucasians,” she said, referring to the long presence here of American and European international schools.

Unlike other Indian schools, Ms. Angelina said, Little Angels was intended primarily for Japanese children, to meet the need she had found when she sent her sons to Japanese kindergarten.

“I was lucky because I started when the Indian-education boom started,” said Ms. Angelina, 50, who goes by the name Rani Sanku here because it is easier for Japanese to pronounce. (Sanku is her husband’s family name.)

Ms. Angelina has adapted the curriculum to Japan with more group activities, less memorization and no Indian history. Encouraged by the kindergarten’s success, she said, she plans to open an Indian-style elementary school this year.

Parents are enthusiastic about the school’s rigorous standards.

“My son’s level is higher than those of other Japanese children the same age,” said Eiko Kikutake, whose son Hayato, 5, attends Little Angels. “Indian education is really amazing! This wouldn’t have been possible at a Japanese kindergarten.”

Fingerprinting: How Yomiuri teaches J children that NJ are criminals


“Teach your children well…” Crosby Stills and Nash

Hi Blog. Courtesy Jason Topaz:

“Just to add a little more info in the fingerprinting issue: I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry, but the Yomiuri Shimbun had an online article a few weeks ago on their children’s section, explaining the fingerprinting scheme to children.

The article is at http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/kyoiku/children/weekly/20071201ya01.htm”>http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/kyoiku/children/weekly/20071201ya01.htm (and blogged at Debito.org here).

I have to say I was a little disturbed by the cartoon

which roughly translates as:

GIRL: This is how foreigners who come to Japan register their fingerprints at places like airports.

BOY: The aim is to protect against criminals and terrorists coming to Japan.

GIRL #2: But you have to properly manage the registered face photo and fingerprint information.

(note background drawing of foreigner whose nose is approximately the same size as the airplane flying by)

COMMENT: It’s not a matter of managing the information. It’s a matter of how you manage this policy so that you achieve your goals without defaming an entire segment of the population. As usual, the Yomiuri has no qualms about selling the policy as a crime-prevention measure (which it never was–until recently) against “foreign guests” even to children.

Thanks a lot for carrying the bias down to the more impressionable generations. Arudou Debito



ブロクの読者、こんばんは。きょうの件は、子供の教育ですが、どうしても子供にも「外国人はテロリスト・犯罪者」を助長しないといけないですか。日本におけるテロは漏れなく日本人に起こされ、国内犯罪はほとんど日本人に犯されているのでこの指紋採取再実施は無意味と無関係です。この措置は税金の使用の手段にすぎないとはっきり言いましょう。でも、これは子供に伝わるでしょうか。有道 出人




●イラスト スパイスコミニケーションズ(ごみかわ淳)


(2007年12月1日 読売新聞)

「人権週間」法務省の強調事項・有道 出人の批評


Hi Blog. Sent this out to my Japanese lists. Debito

「人権週間」法務省の強調事項・有道 出人の批評

 みなさまこんにちは。有道 出人です。いつもお世話になっております。



一日人権擁護委員による街頭啓発 (甲府地方法務局)

「第59回 人権週間」強調事項(抜粋)
○「育てよう 一人一人の 人権意識」
_○「女性の人権を守ろう」 __ 
○「子どもの人権を守ろう」 __
○「高齢者を大切にする心を育てよう」 __ 
○「障害のある人の完全参加と平等を実現しよう」 __ 
○「部落差別をなくそう」 __ 
○「アイヌの人々に対する理解を深めよう」 __ 
○「外国人の人権を尊重しよう」 __
○「HIV感染者やハンセン病患者等に対する偏見をなくそう」 __
○「刑を終えて出所した人に対する偏見をなくそう」 __ 
○「犯罪被害者とその家族の人権に配慮しよう」 __
○「インターネットを悪用した人権侵害は止めよう」 __ 
○「性的指向を理由とする差別をなくそう」 __ 
○「ホームレスに対する偏見をなくそう」 __ 
○「性同一性障害を理由とする差別をなくそう」 __ 
○「北朝鮮当局による人権侵害問題に対する認識を深めよう」 __




有道 出人よりコメント:





宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人
December 5, 2007

GOJ Jinken Shuukan: “Human Rights Week” and its flaws


Hi Blog. If you’ve been watching TV or been out in a few public places, you might have seen two cute-ish big boy and girl mascot dolls named “Ken” (for “kenri”, one’s rights, or “jinken”, human rights), drawing attention to issues of discrimination in Japan. Otherwise you might not know that we are in the middle of Japan’s official week for human rights. “Jinken Shuukan” started on December 3 and ends on December 10, or “Jinken Day”. Sponsored by the notorious Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights (Jinken Yougo Bu, or BOHR–“notorious” for doing nothing much otherwise).

The website with this year’s 59th proceedings (thanks Stephanie) lists up these issues of note (my translations):
1) Teaching people one by one about the importance of human rights.
2) Human rights for women.
3) For children.
4) For the elderly.
5) For the disabled.
6) For the Burakumin.
7) For the Ainu.
8) For foreigners.
9) For people with AIDS or Hansen’s Disease (leprosy).
10) For formerly incarcerated criminals who have paid their debt to society.
11) For victims of crime and their families.
12) For the victims of human rights abuses on the Internet.
13) For people discriminated against for their sexual orientation.
14) For the homeless.
15) For those with Gender Identity Disorder.
16) For those who have suffered human rights abuses from the DPRK.


As far as Debito.org goes, here is what they say about their goals towards discrimination against “foreigners” (gaikokujin) on a page with a longer writeup: (again, my translation):


Reflecting the era of Japan’s Internationalization in recent years, every year the number of foreigners staying (zairyuu) in our country (sic–waga kuni) has been increasing. According to the Constitution, and by the nature of the rights of man, and leaving out the interpretation that the Constitution only applies to Japanese citizens, foreigners staying in our country also are guaranteed fundamental human rights. However, in practice, our country has had issues originating in history towards the Zainichi North and South Koreans [sic–Chinese/Taiwanese etc. not included]. There are also various incidents of human rights problems with foreigners facing discrimination in the workplace, as well as being refused apartments, entry into eating and drinking establishments, and public baths [thanks]. This is due to differences in language, religion, and lifestyle customs [sic–not also race].

Our country effected the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in January 1996, which demands that we take further action towards the elimination of racial discrimination and discrimination by nationality.

As Japan’s internationalization is anticipated to further proceed from now on, it is desirable that we respect the customs of foreigners, and as a member of the international society we accept diversity.

The Ministry of Justice Bureau of Human Rights as an organization will develop enlightenment activities that will cultivate an awareness of human rights suitable for Japan’s international era, where all citizens (kokumin) here or abroad will deepen their understanding and awarenesss of all human rights problems.

COMMENT: I’m not going to completely douse the fireworks here with acerbic comments (as it’s better that the GOJ is doing this than not, as long as they don’t claim to international bodies that this is enough–which they have a history of doing). But let’s do a quick roundup of the flaws in all the “human rights awareness” so ably called for by the BOHR:

a) Note how the BOHR still couches discrimination in terms of nationality, not as race or national origin. For what about the Japanese children with international roots, who face discrimination because they don’t “look Japanese”? This blind spot ignores one more facet of Japan’s true internationalization–where racial discrimination affects Japanese citizens too.

b) Note how the issue is still couched in terms of “us” and “them”–our citizens and those foreigners with their differences (which is not necessarily true–and this sort of thing is used more often as an excuse and a justification than an explanation). It’s not even clear that foreigners are even residents of Japan–only “staying” (zairyuu) as opposed to “residing” (zaijuu).

c) Still no call from the BOHR for an actual law outlawing racial discrimination–only for the “respect” for people (which, with 300 yen, might get you a cup of coffee; if the restaurant even lets you in).

d) And as I said above, the BOHR is famous for calling for action yet not effecting much (or any) action of its own–after all, as they will tell you at the very beginning of any interview you have with them over a human rights issue, they have no real power to stop a discriminator from discriminating, and (this they won’t tell you) have no legal obligation to call you back or tell you any results of any investigation (if any) they undertake (this is, they say, “for privacy concerns”). See what I mean at

Glad to see that “discrimination against foreigners” is now up to eighth in the ranking. Now if we could get it rendered as “racial discrimination”, it would more reflect reality. And treaty obligation.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo
More Keystone Coppiness regarding GOJ human rights awareness:
“Human rights survey stinks: Government effort riddled with bias, bad science”
By Arudou Debito. The Japan Times, Tuesday, October 23, 2007

NUGW’s Louis Carlet: “NOVA collapse a turning point in language industry”, Lesson For Food


From: carlet@jca.apc.org (Louis Carlet, NUGW Nambu Union)
Subject: [Nambu FWC] Nova Union Meeting and other upcoming events
Date: November 15, 2007 3:15:30 PM JST

Sisters and Brothers, (Nova Union General Meeting Sunday 7pm!)

The Nova collapse represents a turning point in the language industry. We have a chance to push through crucial reforms for the industry as a whole, including permanent job status and health care options for all teachers.

Our efforts over the past few years and through the media over the past few months have succeeded in raising awareness among the public of the precarious situation of language teachers and the abuse they undergo on a daily basis. This public awareness included the current Nova trustees, which is why they are pressuring G Education (the so-called “sponsor” selected to take over Nova’s operations) to comply with all labor laws and treat teachers, staff and customers as human beings.

We should congratulate ourselves for this crucial victory while quickly taking the next step. Let’s demand collective bargaining from G Education as soon as we have members employed and let’s ask for everything early on — since this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to chance the industry. Last Saturday, we passed out 500 flyers at the information session in Tokyo to potential G employees, asking them to join GUTS — G Union of Teachers and Staff.


Saturday, Nov.17 2pm Lesson For Food

We will meet at 2pm at Shinkoiwa Station (Sobu Line) and move to the Shinkoiwa Park for the first official Lesson for Food. If you want to watch this, please come at this time. Although, the Lesson for Food program was voted by the Nova Union members, it has drawn criticism from around the country. If you object to this program, please attend the Nova Union meeting on Sunday at 7pm at the union office and voice your concerns.

Sunday, Nov. 18, 7pm Nova Union General Meeting

We will hold a Nova Union general meeting from 7pm Sunday at the union office (Minato-ku, Shimbashi 5-17-7 Kobayashi Bldg. 2F, 03-3434-0669).

See map at bottom of the following web page: http://nambufwc.org/about/contact/

During the meeting we will decide policy, explain details of current situation, advice on resignation versus dismissal, explain government subsidy and unemployment insurance systems and answer questions. We will also hold elections for all executive posts, including president, general secretary, treasurer and Nova Relief Fund administrator. If you are interested in any of these posts, please let us know (nambu.carlet@ezweb.ne.jp) in advance of the meeting or at the start of the meeting. Also, please attend even if, or especially if you are now employed by G Education since we would like to begin setting up GUTS as a local of Nambu as soon as possible.

Thursday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 25

JALT’s 33rd International Conference

Japan Association of Language Teachers will hold its 33rd annual international conference from Thursday through Sunday, this year in Tokyo at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center near Sangubashi Station, one stop from Shinjuku Station on the Odakyu Line. On Friday, Nov. 23, beginning 2:30pm the labor caucus of JALT — PALE* — will hold its annual series of meetings, with guest lecturers including yours truly. We will discuss teaching from a working conditions and labor perspective including prospects for improvement in the wake of the Nova collapse.

*PROFESSIONALISM, ADMINISTRATION AND LEADERSHIP IN EDUCATION (PALE) promotes the status of language teaching as a profession both within the Japanese educational system and in relation to the wider national and international context.


— NUGW Tokyo Nambu – Nambu FWC —
Lessons For Food Campaign: http://nambufwc.org/lessons-for-food

Nova Union on former NOVA employees exodus to G Education


Blog: News on the NOVA aftermath from the employee union’s point of view; watch Fuji TV tonight (Sunday Nov 11) for coverage of their Osaka negotiations. Arudou Debito


From: carlet@jca.apc.org
Subject: [Nambu FWC] Nova and G
Date: November 11, 2007 10:16:04 AM JST
To: action@nambufwc.org

Much happened yesterday regarding the Nova case.

At 10am and 2pm at locations throughout the country, Nova’s trustee held information sessions explaining various aspects of the coming Nova bankruptcy and explaining G Education’s offer to hire all Nova teachers who want to be hired at the same working conditions they had before.

We leafletted the meeting in Tokyo, calling on teachers to join GUTS (G Union of Teachers and Staff, which doesn’t yet exist). Tony D. reports that 500 leaflets were passed out quickly with no problems.

We also last night joined forces with General Union to tell the trustee, Noriaki Takahashi, that former conditions are not enough. Both unions (Nambu and G.U.) submitted to him several demands, including full enrollment of all teachers in shakai hoken and open-ended employment. Other demands included a fund to protect student tuition advances. The trustee said he agreed with all the demands.

He explained that of all the 12 corporate “sponsors,” G had the best offer in terms of protecting staff and teachers — hire them all initially at same conditions — and in terms of offering something to students — can use remaining points by paying 25% of their cost on top of what they already paid to Nova. He said he agreed with the shakai hoken and open-ended employment demands and called on the unions to fight hard, to make his job easier.

Other details will be explained at our next Nova meeting — Nov. 18 at 7pm at the Nambu union office. Some details are very important concerning resignation versus dismissal. In short, if you want to work for G you must resign from Nova the day before you are hired by G. If you don’t resign from Nova, the trustee will fire you with a month’s notice. This will meet that your unpaid wages will continue to accrue even a month after you are fired. If you work for G, even if your school is not open and you are told to stand by at home, you will be paid full wages.

More to come later… Watch the Fuji TV news at 10pm tonight, which covers the Nova Union’s trip to Osaka to meet with the trustee.

In Solidarity,

Louis Carlet
NUGW Tokyo Nambu

IHT/Asahi and Metropolis: Two good articles on NOVA bankruptcy aftermath


Okay, yet another post under the wire…

Two good articles on the aftermath of the NOVA bankruptcy. One from the IHT/Asahi, the other from Metropolis Magazine by Ken Worsley of Trans Pacific Radio., including links to where people can get help. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Asahi Weekly
Cover Story: Nova fallout
IHT/Asahi: November 8, 2007

Courtesy of Thom Simmons

With 4,000 Nova Corp. teachers out of work, now is probably the worst possible time to be seeking a job as an English instructor in Japan.

Picture Caption: A Nova Corp. teacher, left, who lost his job when the Osaka-based chain of English-language schools collapsed seeks job advice from a counselor at the Shinjuku Employment Assistance and Instruction Center for Foreigners in Tokyo last week.

The collapse of the Osaka-based chain of language schools means that hundreds of teachers now apply for every job opening, according to GaijinPot, a popular online job-site for foreign nationals in Japan.

Longtime Nova employees accuse the company of operating under a system that made quitting the company an unpalatable option.

They said Nova specialized in recruiting young, inexperienced university graduates with little or no practical Japanese-speaking ability.

That left many of them ill-prepared to find new jobs outside of, and to an extent, within the teaching industry–hence the current fierce competition for teaching positions.

Nova insiders say the company churned out teachers in much the same way that a fast-food chain produces hamburgers.

English Spot, a school in Higashinari Ward, Osaka, said 400 people applied in October for a single job opening that eventually went to a 26-year-old French national who gained her teaching credentials in Britain and had been working for Nova.

It noted that the vast number of applicants for the job the woman landed were former Nova teachers like her.

The woman said, “I am happy that the school chose me because I know that a lot of people at Nova are in trouble right now.”

Her application for the new job stood out because of her track record as a language teacher in Britain, where she taught French and Spanish at a secondary school, said Matt Kelley, owner and director of English Spot.

On Oct. 26, the day she started working at the school, Nova filed for financial reconstruction under court supervision.

G.communication group, a consulting firm based in Nagoya, will reopen at least 30 Nova schools and says it hopes to rehire the Nova staff.

As for Nova’s former president, Nozomu Sahashi, he looks set to face criminal charges shortly for failing to pay billions of yen in wages to his employees, sources said.

Some former Nova teachers are in such dire financial straits they are having to rely on their former students to feed them.

Since mid-September when Nova’s arrears of payment problems came under the light, the number of job-seekers who posted their resumes at the GaijinPot Web site has increased five-fold, often reaching more than 1,100 new applicants a day.

“As former Nova teachers jump into the ring for fewer English teaching jobs, some employers might develop an attitude that potential employees must be the cream of the crop, with very little enthusiasm in even spending time on interviewing less qualified candidates,” said Percy Humphrey, GaijinPot’s general manager.

At least 9,000 former and current employees of Nova have registered with the Web site, which offers only around 200 openings.

Since Nova applied for court protection last month, 330 former Nova teachers have visited a specially created counseling corner set up by the Tokyo metropolitan government-run Shinjuku Employment Assistance and Instruction Center for Foreigners.

Their concerns rarely differ: They want advice on unpaid wages, unemployment insurance and new job opportunities. In addition, 500 former Nova teachers have contacted the counselors by phone.

Naoto Moriizumi, a senior official of the Tokyo Labor Bureau in charge of the counseling corner, said the teachers usually arrived in Japan with a visa in “humanities and international services,” which allows them to work at jobs requiring fluency in foreign languages.

“Aside from teaching English, there aren’t many kinds of jobs to which they can apply without a certain fluency in Japanese,” he said. “Even other language schools now want candidates to have conversation-level Japanese, but unfortunately most Nova teachers have not obtained it.”

This description certainly fits Schevon Salmon, a 24-year-old American, who was recruited by Nova on the campus of a Florida college two years ago.

Last week, the resident of Tokyo’s Taito Ward visited the Shinjuku employment center only to discover he is not eligible for a dozen English-teaching jobs due to his limited proficiency in Japanese.

“It’s twice as hard to find jobs in other areas, because you do not have experience or enough familiarity with the language,” he said.

Referring to Tuesday’s moves to take over some Nova outlets, Salmon said: “That’s great news … but it does little to console the mass of teachers out there who need work.

“Isn’t this Japan where your company is like your family and you take care of your company because you know your company will take care of you?”

He said Nova owes him 250,000 yen in unpaid wages.

The bureau estimates that former Nova employees are still owed at least 1.5 billion yen.

Operators of small-sized schools, meantime, expect Nova’s collapse will prove to be a windfall in terms of getting new students.

“There’s no doubt the Nova debacle must have hurt the image of English schools in Japan as well as Japan’s image as a job market outside of Japan,” said Kelley of English Spot in Osaka.

“But Japanese people’s enthusiasm to learn English remains unchanged and now students are becoming more discerning in choosing schools,” he said.

“English schools have to get back to fundamentals that we are here to educate, not just to make profit,” he said. (IHT/Asahi: November 8, 2007)


By Ken Worsley

The Decline and Fall of Nova
Japan’s largest employer of foreigners comes to an ignominious end
Metropolis Magazine November 9, 2007, Issue #711

“Any company that loses sight of the future and begins to think only of maintaining the status quo… well, that company is as good as finished.”—from Nova’s website

On Friday, October 26—while struggling to survive under a mountain of unpaid student refunds, strict government penalties, zero cashflow and an angry workforce—English language school operator Nova closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy protection after President Nozomu Sahashi was ousted in an emergency late-night board meeting.

The question on the minds of thousands of teachers, staff and students is whether those doors will ever open again. The answer may depend on whether or not the court-appointed bankruptcy lawyers are savvy enough to separate Nova from the man who ran it.

After the announcement that Nova was filing for protection, the court acted quickly, and by Friday afternoon had appointed two lawyers to act as trustees. Their task was to find a “sponsor” who would be willing to take over Nova’s operations and rehabilitate the firm. Hours later, four firms were named at a press conference: Department store operator Marui, retail giant Aeon, internet retailer Rakuten and Yahoo Japan.

Within a few days, however, Marui, Aeon and Rakuten stated they were not interested in the deal. Rakuten President Hiroshi Mikitani told reporters, “It’s honestly surprising that our name came up. I think it would be difficult for us to consider supporting Nova.” That left Yahoo Japan, which has yet to issue a public statement on the matter.

A few days later, the reasons why Marui was so turned off became clearer. The media reported that in May, Nova’s management was negotiating a deal in which Marui would provide Nova with ¥6.6 billion in cash in exchange for exclusive rights to collect on all loans taken out by Nova’s students. At the last minute, Sahashi walked out on the deal, saying he needed more time to think about it. He subsequently disappeared for a few days. Marui was not impressed.

That was apparently not the only time Sahashi scuttled a business deal that could have potentially helped Nova. Upper-level managers seem to have realized this a few months ago, and according to the Yomiuri Shimbun, have made five requests that Sahashi resign since mid-August.

The available evidence, as well as the media’s treatment of the story, have led many to believe that Sahashi is the single largest cause of Nova’s problems. Bankruptcy trustees have continued in their attempts to separate the man from the firm, bringing along members of the Japanese media to view the former president’s Osaka office. Boasting a suite, sauna and tatami room, the office apparently cost the company ¥60-¥70 million.

Much more egregious seem to be Sahashi’s stock transactions and flouting of the Securities and Exchange Law. When the firm applied for bankruptcy protection, it was reported by Kyodo News that Sahashi held about 20 percent of Nova’s shares. This was surprising, since Sahashi and Nova Kikaku, a firm run by one of his relatives, were publicly listed as holding an ownership stake of over 70 percent. Of course, Sahashi’s power was derived from that massive equity stake, and without it in the way, the other members of the board were able to force Sahashi out of his position.

Where did those shares go? The Mainichi Shimbun told us that by September 30, Sahashi and Nova Kikaku’s stake in Nova had declined to 16.02 percent and 3.69 percent, respectively. Yet Financial Services Agency regulations state that sale or purchase of greater than 5 percent of shares in a listed company must be reported within five days.

To make matters worse (for himself), on October 31 it came to light that Sahashi had been skimming money from Nova by selling video conference hardware at marked-up prices from Ginganet (a company of which he was virtually the sole operator) to Nova. Legal action against Sahashi is apparently being considered.

Finally, on the very day Nova petitioned for bankruptcy protection, Sahashi sold all of his shares in Ginganet and NTB (a travel agency he also ran) to an IP phone company in Tokyo. Nova’s court-appointed lawyers have expressed anger over this move, saying it should not have happened while the firm was entering bankruptcy protection.

In a sense, Sahashi has been playing into the hands of bankruptcy administrators who seek to pin the blame for Nova’s woes on him alone. His selfishness, petulance, disdain for employees and customers, and lack of business acumen make him an exceedingly worthy scapegoat. As this article was going to print, Sahashi remained incommunicado, and the bankruptcy administrators seem to be hoping that the worse he looks, the more the firm will appear as an innocent victim of his tyranny.

Will the strategy of separating Sahashi from the firm he wrecked succeed? Nova’s bankruptcy administrators claim that they have found a few firms interested in taking over the company’s operations, but this time they’re not naming names. Nova supposedly has until the second week of November to find a “sponsor,” or else it will be forced to go into a bankruptcy liquidation process.

This observer fears it may be too late. To paraphrase the quote from Nova’s website, Sahashi was the status quo, and sold the firm’s future to secure his exit. Whatever happens, Sahashi himself is as bad as finished.


Questions regarding legal issues such as claiming unemployment insurance, getting back pay and how to deal with eviction are never pleasant. Mix that with being in a foreign land and sifting through the slew of information coming from all manners of sources, and things are bound to get downright confusing. Here are some resources that should be helpful in seeking answers to those questions. As always, try to verify information with a second source, and if something seems suspicious, that’s probably because it is.

Gaijin Pot (http://www.gaijinpot.com/nova.php) has put together a collection of resources divided into four categories: Jobs, Housing, Legal Issues and Flights. From there we learn that Sakura House (http://www.sakura-house.com/english/nova.php) is offering discounts to former Nova teachers and that Qantas Airlines (03-3593-7000) is offering discounted rates to Australia for former Nova teachers.

If you’re thinking about collecting unemployment insurance, or would like more information on finding a new job, Hello Work (the “Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners”) is a good place to start. They have some resources available in English, and their website has a guide to offices with foreign language assistance. See http://www.tfemploy.go.jp/en/coun/cont_2.html.

A final source of information are the two websites of the General Union, which represents Nova workers. The main site (http://www.generalunion.org) has news, information and links to other resources. The Nambu Foreign Workers Caucus site (http://nambufwc.org/issues/shakai-hoken) has a bit more news on it, with information on upcoming meetings in the Tokyo area.


Protest Sept 29 re Monkashou’s Okinawa History Revisionism, Okinawa Convention Center


Hi Blog. Just got word of this from friend Gene van Troyer, regarding a protest tomorrow in Okinawa over WWII history revisionism from the Ministry of Education. Details below. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Perhaps Japanese are complacent when it comes to MEXT rewriting the history textbooks about Comfort Women and the Nanking Massacre during WWII, but what about here at home? It seems that there is no rest for the revisionists. Earlier this year (1) the GOJ through MEXT ordered all references to military-encouraged mass suicides in Okinawa to be expunged and replaced with less controversial and damning phrasing like “many people committed suicide.” Okinawans are in an uproar over this slap in their collective face (2), (3).

Coming up tomorrow, Saturday, Sept 29, from around 3:00 P.M. there is to be a general protest (kyoukasho kentei shuudanjiketsu) staged at the Okinawa Convention Center over MEXT’s attempt to rewrite history regarding the Japanese military’s policy of encouraged civilian “mass suicides” during the Battle of Okinawa. MEXT is pushing the view that it never happened. Scores of Okinawans who were there and witnessed it say it did (4), (5).

(1)***Okinawa Outcry Grows Over Japan Textbook Revision on WWII Suicides

http://www.propeller.com/viewstory/2007/06/09/1000-protest-in-okinawa-at-gov t-view-on-military-role-in-war-suicide/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.breitbart.com%2 Farticle.php%3Fid%3DD8PLABLG0%26show_article%3D1%26catnum%3D0&frame=true

(2)***1,000 Protest in Okinawa at Gov’t View on Military Role in War Suicide

http://www.propeller.com/viewstory/2007/06/09/1000-protest-in-okinawa-at-gov t-view-on-military-role-in-war-suicide/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.breitbart.com%2 Farticle.php%3Fid%3DD8PLABLG0%26show_article%3D1%26catnum%3D0&frame=true

(3)***Okinawans Outraged by What They Say is a Cover-up of Military-urged Mass Suicides During WWII Battle

http://www.propeller.com/viewstory/2007/06/09/1000-protest-in-okinawa-at-gov t-view-on-military-role-in-war-suicide/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.breitbart.com%2 Farticle.php%3Fid%3DD8PLABLG0%26show_article%3D1%26catnum%3D0&frame=true

(4) Ryuukyuu Shinpo article (Japanese) http://ryukyushimpo.jp/news/storyid-27569-storytopic-1.html

(5) Okinawa Times article (Japanese) http://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/day/200709281300_03.html

Japan Times Community Page on NOVA Eikaiwa, and Advice for Teachers


Hi Blog. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article. I’m told a lot of support came from readers of Debito.org, and I’m glad we could have been of assistance in an informative article during this very unstable time for Japan’s largest employer of NJ. Erstwhile employer by now, probably.

Incredibly good advice for employees in plight follows article below. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


As ‘eikaiwa’ giant plans school closures amid credit crunch, some fear the worst
The Japan Times, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007

By BEN STUBBINGS Staff writer

“The dark clouds that have been hanging heavily over us will be cast aside,” reads the English translation of Nova Corp. CEO Nozomu Sahashi’s memo faxed to staff Friday. “I said previously ‘the darkest time is before the dawn,’ and finally the first light of dawn can be seen.”

Nova is on the rocks, and the rosy forecast from the man at the helm of the Osaka-based “eikaiwa” behemoth may not be enough to reassure members of the 7,000-strong Nova crew — including some 5,000 foreigners — that the company isn’t sinking as Japan’s biggest conversation school chain plans to abandon at least 200 of its 900 branches, according to reports.

For the second month in a row, wages were paid late in September. Some teachers — those in the Osaka and Tokyo areas — were paid on time on the 14th; others received their wages on the 18th. Titled instructors are anxiously waiting to see if they get paid as promised on Tuesday 25th — 11 days late. Teachers in Nova-managed accommodation have received eviction warnings over unpaid rent despite the fact the company has been deducting money for this purpose from employees’ salaries.

Nova’s labor-relations and legal woes over the past years have been well documented, but the biggest blow for the firm was the punishment meted out by the Japanese government to the firm for deceiving students about lesson availability: The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) slapped business restrictions on the corporation in June, banning the signup of new students on upfront — and lucrative — long-term contracts for a six-month period. The bad publicity generated by the decision has led to increasing numbers of students canceling contracts and demanding refunds from the cash-strapped firm.

“It’s kind of like a financial run on a bank,” said Louis Carlet, deputy secretary general of the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu, which counts hundreds of Nova employees among its members. “That’s why this could be the biggest consumer wipeout in Japanese history, because the customers are depositing all this money as if in a bank, assuming the money will be there, and now . . . Nova students are getting worried that they’re gonna get wiped out, so they’re rushing to cancel the contracts and the more they rush the more Nova can’t pay their bills.”

However, Nova boss Sahashi is upbeat about the future. “I would like to inform you that the prospects look clearer for the refunds of cancellations that have accumulated until now and that a schedule has been established for refunding this money from the end of this month,” he wrote to staff Friday. “With this there will be no concern regarding salaries from next month onwards. I cannot announce further details at the moment but would like you to feel reassured and concentrate on business as usual.”

So what — if anything — does Nova have up its sleeve? Nova declined to comment over the phone for this story and e-mails to the corporation’s Tokyo and Osaka offices went unanswered.

The memo failed to impress Ken Worsley, Tokyo-based business consultant and editor of Japan Economy News.

“It is vague and contains no proof or evidence that something legitimate is on the way,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We should remember that in December 2005, a few weeks before eikaiwa operator NCB went bankrupt in January 2006, its management issued a similar notice, telling employees that they were about to receive a ‘capital injection’ from a large investor. It never happened, and on the day before January’s payday, NCB locked its doors forever and failed to pay staff or instructors. I see the same pattern evolving with Nova.”

The closure of some 200 schools, reportedly in the Tokyo area and Osaka, Hyogo and Aichi prefectures, should bring in a bundle of cash from savings on rent and the possible sale/rental of Nova-owned property. Is this the first stage in a process of consolidation that could save Nova from bankruptcy?

“I don’t think that Nova’s reported downsizing is a plan in the sense of being a well-thought-out business strategy so much as it is damage control,” Worsley said. “It has been suggested that they are being evicted from some locations, which would certainly indicate that cash flow problems run truly deep. On the other hand, if Nova has embarked upon a strategic downsizing without making an announcement to its employees and investors, one is forced to wonder to what extent the top management may be trusted.”

With Nova’s share price hovering around the ¥40 mark, down from around ¥100 in June (after hitting a high of ¥1,750 in 1999) and last quarter’s dismal financial report — Nova posted a ¥4.5 billion operating loss over the April-June period (before the METI order), nearly four times the loss over the whole of the last financial year — you might expect shareholders to be clamoring for the heads of top management. However, Nova’s top shareholders at least — Nova Kikaku (the corporation’s holding company) and Sahashi himself — appear to have faith in the current management. And despite the firm now going for a knock-down price, the fact that the same people who got Nova into this mess are still at the controls may put off potential buyers or partners.

“It would be a brave company that would take over a company in Nova’s situation without a change in management,” said Bob Tench, vice president of the Nova union. “The company has a large infrastructure, which in itself is a valuable asset; it has a lot of experience amongst its employees; and with the share price being so low it would be a good buy for a company — provided they could insert a new top management to run things properly from now on.”

Travel agency H.I.S. was reported to have been talking with Nova about a tieup in July, and some reports have suggested the stumbling block was Nova management’s insistence on staying put. Sahashi, in an interview following the METI order, also ruled out joining forces with other eikaiwa firms. “I don’t want to tie up with a fellow trader,” he said.

With Nova running out of both money and options, talk is increasingly turning to the possibility of bankruptcy.

“I think that Nova’s chances of pulling through and surviving as a company are slim at best,” Worsley said days after the school closures were reported. “I have predicted before that the company would go under around the beginning of November, and I see no reason to change that statement at this point. Late payment is a huge red flag that a company simply does not have a strong enough cash flow to deal with its operating costs. Given that we have seen two late salary payments in a row, I take this as a sign that Nova is nearing insolvency.”

If Nova files for bankruptcy, one concern — among many — for employees would be getting hold of unpaid wages. If teachers have time left on their visas and procedures go smoothly, this wouldn’t be a major problem, according to Carlet.

The prospects for students hoping to get money back that they paid Nova upfront for lessons, however, are bleaker.

“The students are very unlikely . . . to get much of their money back, and in the past — like with Lado — other schools have been willing to take the students, sometimes for free or half-price,” Carlet said, referring to an eikaiwa chain that went bankrupt in May. “However Nova, being the Goliath it’s always been in the industry, is not in either of the two industry organizations.”

A nightmare even worse than bankruptcy for Nova staff and students would be if the corporation soldiered on after all hope was lost, said Carlet.

“If they don’t officially go bankrupt that means the teachers won’t be dismissed, they just won’t be paid, and if they resign they’d have to wait three months (for unemployment insurance), and if they don’t resign we have to prove that it’s effectively a bankruptcy, which takes time, so either way they’re in serious trouble if Nova doesn’t officially go bankrupt.”

It’s a scenario that is well within the realms of possibility considering how much is at stake for those at the top of the firm, said Worsley.

“The only incentives are fear and greed. Let’s not forget: Should Nova go down, its top management will be in serious personal financial difficulties and will be unhireable. For top management, it makes sense to keep the company running as long as possible in hopes that someone will buy it out. This happened with NCB and Lado, yet in the end no one bought them out.”

With so much uncertainty surrounding the firm’s future, many teachers are not sticking around to see if Nova can weather the storm. Berlitz alone received some 200 applications over a couple of days last week from Nova teachers seeking jobs, said a company source.

Roy Beaubien, who jumped ship after the late payment of wages this month, advises other Nova employees to do the same.

“I’ve seen a Japanese English conversation school try to avoid going bankrupt first hand before. It was hell. Only many years later did any teachers — and only a few of them that stuck it out for years through many court hearings and after paying years of union fees — finally get some of their money from the company through the court system.

“As for me? I was until very recently a Nova employee. I applied for my paid holidays immediately after our pay was 12 hours later than usual. I then handed in my resignation soon after that. I learned my lesson years ago and I vowed never to go through that again. This time I wanted to get out when I was still likely to get what I was owed.”

Send comments on this issue and story ideas to: community@japantimes.co.jp
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007


Advice for teachers from The Japan Times


Union support
“The general union and Nambu decided on a policy that that we won’t take new members if Nova goes bankrupt. What we will have is a question-and-answer site — we’ll give all the information necessary to employees to get the government subsidy for unpaid wages, and we’ll hold a one-time “setsumeikai” (meeting) for any employee who wants to come. If it goes bankrupt, we will shut the doors on the Nova union, but of course they’re welcome to join Nambu separately.

“As for Nova members, we’ll be actively pursuing all their wages, not just the 80 percent guaranteed by the government. If Nova has any assets left, in general employees get first dibs, so we’ll be fighting for that.” (Louis Carlet, deputy general secretary of the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu)

Unpaid wages
“If there’s unpaid wages, we would have to go to the Labor Standards Office or a court and force (Nova) into paying whatever they have and then eventually when they can’t — when the court forces them to pay and they don’t have any money to pay — then it could be a long, drawn-out process. In the meantime, a lot of foreigners may not be able to stay in Japan to fight, so at least our union members, even if they have to leave the country, we’ll continue to fight for them.” (Louis Carlet)

“Even if the owner/the landlord/the agency is screaming at you to get out, you don’t have to leave — just keep paying your rent. If the company was supposed to be paying the rent and they haven’t, sue the company for fraud or tell the agency: ‘Look, the company’s supposed to be paying, and I’ve already paid the company.’ You have a right of residency, and anyone who wanted to get you out is going to have to get a court order to do it.”(Bob Tench, Nova union vice president)

“Your company does not sponsor your visa, even though a lot of companies say so: There is no formal relationship between an employer and the immigration office. When you go to renew your visa at the immigration office, you take your certificate of insurance, your employment contract and your tax-paid certificate. Those are the documents you need — that’s it, and your employer is obliged to provide you with those, for whatever reason, on request, within 24 hours.”

“If you think (bankruptcy is) gonna happen and, for example, your visa is coming up for renewal in one or two months, apply for a renewal now and present the documents that you have. You can ask for a new certificate of insurance, tax certificate and your current contract, which has an expiry date coming up, and present that to the immigration office saying: ‘I’m expecting to be renewed,’ and you get your visa renewed. All you have to do is say something like, ‘I’m thinking of taking a holiday at the time of renewal, so I need to renew now,’ because while your visa renewal is in you’re not allowed to leave the country, so it’s a perfectly valid excuse. . . . I would advise anyone to do that if they’re in that situation.” (Bob Tench)

“The union would fight every redundancy and under Japanese law there are quite serious restrictions about when redundancies may be made — certain stringent conditions have to be met by the company and of course the union knows the legal ins and outs of that, so of course the union would fight tooth and nail to make sure that all those conditions were properly met, and if they weren’t then we take the company to court.” (Bob Tench)

Unemployment insurance
“It’s a really complicated formula but there’s a limit — roughly speaking, teachers will get ¥200,000 a month. It’s not really a percentage of salary — if it’s a high salary you wouldn’t get 80 percent of that. You would get it for a certain number of months depending on your age and how long you’ve been enrolled in employment. The minimum is three months and you must get it before one year after dismissal, and if you resign you can’t get it for the first three months.”

“If (Nova) goes bankrupt, (employees) will be fired officially, dismissed by the receiver, and if they’re fired they can get unemployment insurance right away, if you’re in Japan and if you have a work visa, so if they’re in that situation that’s OK.” (Louis Carlet) (B.S.)

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007

Blacklist: Kansai Gaidai, Shokei Gakuin, Kyushu U; Greenlist: Nagoya, Aichi U of E


The Blacklist of Japanese Universities (http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html), where listed institutions have a history of offering unequal contracted work (not permanent “academic tenure”) to its full-time faculty (usually foreign faculty), has just been updated.

Joining the 102 universities blacklisted are three new entrants, as follows:


NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Kansai Gaidai University (Gaikokugo Daigaku) (Private)
LOCATION: 16-1 Nakamiyahigashino-cho, Hirakata City, Osaka 573-1001

EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Has a remarkable job advertisement where not only are the “ESL Instructor Positions” non-tenure track, with one-year contracts capped at five years, but also entail a heavy weekly workload of “ten 90-minute classes, fifteen 60-minute classes, or a combination thereof” (while tenured J professors rarely have more than 5-7 class periods a week). Duties also include “student counseling, training for speech contests, and other duties as directed by the school” (whatever that means). And what professional with an MA in “TEFL, applied linguistics, or education with a TESOL focus”, with international teaching/living experience elsewhere, and fluency in two languages, would settle for a piffling salary starting at “approx. 4 million yen per year”? (which, believe me, is peanuts!!) Finally KGU states, “The university is interested in midcareer professional ESL faculty who will make a serious commitment to its programs,” without making a serious commitment to the job security of the professional bilingual educator. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: 2007 advertisement from KGU on TESOL, available at http://careers.tesol.org/jobdetail.cfm?job=2619083

Webarchive in case of a dead link: http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html#kansaigaidai

NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Kyushu University (National)
LOCATION: 6-10-1 Hakozaki, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture

EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Institutes Gaikokujin Kyouin/Kyoushi system, meaning contracts for 2 years for full-time foreigners.

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Job announcement (August 2007) for a native lecturer for German, published on the homepage of the Japanese Society for German Studies (Nihon Dokubun Gakkai). Contract to start in April 2008, limited to 2 years. http://www.jgg.jp/modules/news/article.php?storyid=320 (German text), full translation and webarchive in case of a dead link: http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html#kyuudai


NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Shokei Gakuin College (Private)
LOCATION: 4-10-1 Yurigaoka, Natori-shi, Miyagi-ken (near Sendai)

EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: “This was formerly Shokei Women’s Junior College, which added the 4-year college 4 years ago. We 3 fulltime teachers, each of whom has had over 10 years’ employment at the college, were unexpectedly given notice of our termination. This happened when we went to sign our yearly contract. Our termination was in the contract, so we had the choice either of agreeing to being fired within two years’ time or losing our jobs immediately if we did not sign. There was no opportunity to discuss this. We were not told about this beforehand and we were not given any reasons. A few days later one of us asked why this decision had been made. The reasons were given reluctantly: they did not like the way we taught (not one person came to observe any of our classes), we had not published (when in fact some of us had), we had not attended meetings or done committee work (even though that was part of our agreement when we were initially hired; we were given extra classes instead) and we were not fluent in Japanese – meaning full literacy skills – despite the fact that we were initially hired with the understanding that Japanese reading and writing skills were not necessary for the job.
“The situation at the college is such that a new administrator came from a state university to help this college survive financially. But this college is a private institution and is designed differently than he was accustomed to. However, he has made sweeping changes that are not in keeping with the tradition of this college. That is, he has put a stop to faculty involvement in decision making, which was an integral part of this institution. Instead, he and his friends from the state institution have meetings off campus and then announce to the faculty what will be done. In other words, no one has a voice here any longer except him and his friends.
“Even when the original teachers from this college tried to persuade him to keep the foreign teachers, he refused to even listen to them. To make matters worse, no one explained to us foreign teachers about the tax situation in this city. So, suddenly, we were told that we would be responsible for paying a full year of taxes. In other words, we have to pay to leave the school. We could live for about 3 months on the tax we have to pay. So, this is very serious for those of us who do not have another job and are too old to get full time work. All of this is a tremendous shock because, in addition to having to pay taxes, the school is refusing to give us severance pay.”

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Chris Cuadra (schri AT mac DOT com), Shokei ex-employee Anne Thomas, Shokei teacher through March 2008

There are also some updates to the Blacklist–new job ads showing that certain universities just won’t change their ways:




Meanwhile, some universities are seeing the light, and improving job stability for NJ academics:



NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Aichi University of Education (Kyouiku Daigaku) (National)
LOCATION: Igayacho Hirosawa 1, Kariya City, Aichi Prefecture

GOOD EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE: Currently (2007) six out of seven non-Japanese staff are tenured (without tenure review) with exactly the same duties and salary as Japanese. Five out of the six tenured non-Japanese have had tenure from the first day of their contract.

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Oliver Mayer, Associate Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages at Aichi University of Education
NOTE FROM LIST MONITOR: CAUTION: Aichi University of Education is also on the University Blacklist, as it still offers full-time contracted employment to NJ academics.



UNIVERSITY: Nagoya University (National)

GOOD EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE: Has non-contracted permanently tenured employment for 36 non-Japanese faculty.

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Professor Takamatsu Michio of Nagoya University, met July 31, 2007 at Tokyo University speech regarding the Blacklist, who presented me with evidence scanned here (Japanese):
NOTE FROM LIST MONITOR: CAUTION. Nagoya University also contracts non-Japanese faculty with no clear tenure review system, so it also remains on the Blacklist.

All for now. I’m sure there’ll be more soon. The Blacklist and Greenlist have received a spike of attention in recent months. Glad they are being taken seriously at last. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Recent articles on lack of compulsory education for NJ children


Hi Blog. Some articles substantiating the emerging issue of what happens when you don’t make compulsory education a requirement for non-Japanese children. How nice of Japan to bring NJ laborers all the way over here but not take care of their children’s educational needs. Thanks for forgetting to include that in your educational reforms last December, PM Abe. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Over 22,000 foreign kids need Japanese-language guidance at school
Japan Today/Kyodo Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 07:06 EDT

Courtesy of Matt Dioguardi

TOKYO — The number of foreign children attending public elementary and secondary schools in Japan who are in need of Japanese-language guidance as of last September increased 8% from a year earlier to a record high of 22,413, the education ministry said Tuesday.

The figure, which has risen for four consecutive years, covers foreign children who go to public elementary, junior high and senior high schools, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Among the students, 39% of them speak Portuguese as their first language, 20% Chinese, 15% Spanish and 11% Tagalog. (Kyodo News)


1% of foreign children not in school
Yomiuri Shinbun Aug 3, 2007


Japanese original at
Courtesy of Matt Dioguardi

At least one percent of registered foreign school-age children living in the country do not attend either primary or middle school, according to an Education, Science and Technology Ministry survey. In addition, the whereabouts of 17.5 percent of children registered as foreign nationals is unknown, making it impossible to confirm whether they are going to school. The number of foreign children who do not attend school is believed to be much higher than 1 percent, according to ministry officials.

The ministry suspects that such a situation probably encourages juvenile delinquency and the illegal employment of such children. It will shortly establish a panel of experts to discuss measures to deal with the problem.

Between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2006, the ministry asked the Shiga prefectural and 11 municipal governments, including Ota, Gunma Prefecture, and Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, where many foreign nationals live, to survey the ratio of out-of-school foreign children for the first time.

According to the survey released Tuesday, of the 9,889 registered foreign children aged between 6 and 15 subject to compulsory education, 112, or 1.1 percent, did not take steps to enter primary or middle school or transfer to such schools after moving from other locations.

Furthermore, 1,732, or 17.5 percent, did not live at their registered addresses, making it impossible to contact them.

The ministry believes some have already left the country without notifying municipal governments, while others might have moved to other municipalities in the country.

It suspects that some children do not go to school after their families moved to new areas.

Asked why they did not send their children to school, 15.6 percent of parents, the largest group, cited a “lack of money,” 12.6 percent cited the “language barrier,” and 10.4 percent said they had “immediate plans to return to their home countries.”

Some parents also said their children had to work or take care of their younger siblings.

The parents were allowed to give more than one answer.


‘22,413 need extra schooling’

On Tuesday, the ministry released data which said that as of Sept. 1 last year, of the foreign children and students attending public schools in the country, 22,413 at 5,475 schools needed extra teaching for Japanese language–an increase of 194 schools and 1,721 children from the previous year.

By mother-tongue, 8,633 spoke Portuguese, 4,471 spoke Chinese and 3,279 spoke Spanish.


MOE’s original report cited in the article (Japanese):






ようやく文科省もこの現象を明かす統計も出してくれているので、早期に義務教育を全ての日本在住・納税者まで及ぼしましょう。有道 出人


2007年7月31日 読売新聞
Courtesy of Matt Dioguardi








(2007年7月31日21時47分 読売新聞)



J Times column on Hair Police and NJ educational underclass


Hi Blog. Yesterday (July 17, 2007) the Japan Times Community Page published my 36th column, on the “Hair Police” in Japan’s schools, and how they are part of the forces in Japan interfering with NJ education.

I’ve just put up a “Director’s Cut” version on my regular website, with links to sources. That can be found at:


UPDATE: It’s available at the Japan Times site at

Have a read! Debito


Schools single out foreign roots
International kids suffering under archaic rules

The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Column 36 for the Japan Times Community Page
“Director’s Cut” with links to sources
Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070717zg.html
PDF scan of the article courtesy Ben Goodyear at http://www.debito.org/JTHairPolice071707.pdf

Since 1990, when Japan started allowing factories to easily import foreign labor, the number of registered non-Japanese (NJ) residents has nearly doubled to more than 2 million. [SOURCE]

Many migrant workers have become immigrants: staying on, marrying, and having children.

Some have faced illegal work conditions, according to the domestic press: incarceration, physical and emotional duress, even child labor and virtual slavery. [SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2, SOURCE 3, SOURCE 4] Policymakers at the highest levels are currently debating solutions. [SOURCE]

Good. But less attention has gone to the children of these immigrants, particularly their schooling. This is a crisis in the making for Japan.

The bellwether of any country’s internationalization is the altered composition of the school population. Many of Japan’s immigrant children are becoming an underclass, deprived of an education for being born different than the putative “Japanese standard.”




Dealing with the ‘follicle enforcers’
Following is some advice on what to do if your child gets nabbed by the school “hair police.”

1. Support your child. Reassure him/her that he/she is as “normal” as anyone else.

2. Seek an understanding with teachers and the principal. Point out that variation is normal. There are plenty of Japanese with naturally lighter, curly hair.

3. Get written proof from your previous school that your child’s hair color or texture is natural.

4. Raise this issue with the Classroom Committee of Representatives (“gakkyuu iinkai”) and/or the local Board of Education (“kyoiku iinkai”). With all the attention on “ijime,” or bullying, these days, the board may be sensitive to your concerns.

5. Be firm. Dyeing hair is neither good for your child’s mental or physical health.

6. If compromise is impossible, consider changing schools (“tenkou”). Your child deserves a nurturing educational environment, not alienated by perceived “differences” on a daily basis. (D.A.)


Full article at:

J Focus on PM Abe’s Fundamental Education Law reforms


Hi Blog. Let me post this before I put up my July 17, 2007 Japan Times article, since it has bearing on Japan’s fundamental attitude towards education.

Japan Focus.com online academic site has just put up (July 9) an excellent analysis of PM Abe’s “teach primary students patriotism and love of Japan” reforms to the Fundamental Law of Education, passed December 2006.

Entitled, “Hammering Down the Educational Nail: Abe Revises the Fundamental Law of Education”, by Adam Lebowitz and David McNeill, the conclusion of the article is the most excerptable part:

Changes to the Fundamental Law of Education: From Citizens to National Subjects?

Much criticism of the amended education law has focused on statements clearly privileging the state over the individual; that is, statements affirming civil liberties still appear, often unchanged, from the original version, but are often undercut and diluted by new language. Perhaps more importantly, however, what makes the amended version of the law appear less a legal document than an expression of authoritarian will is not so much what is said, but how it is said. That is, the language of mystique and belief makes the very notion of individual rights seem anachronistic at best. For this reason the amended version is not a reflection of a democratic and constitutionally law-driven society but resembles in content and in intent the Edict, a product of a wartime regime.

The article contains an unofficial translation of the changes to the Fundamental Law of Education, side-by-side with the original 1947 document, at http://japanfocus.org/products/details/2468

Of course, left out of the article (as it is tangental) is the issue of how Japan’s children of international roots–including both the children of immigrant workers and the children of international marriages–will be affected by these revisions.

Even from the change in the word “we” (meaning Japan’s residents/citizens–still not completely overlapping), I see great problems in interpretation and exclusion. Excerpting again:

Old: Warera

Amended: Wareware Nihon Kokumin [We the Countrymen of Japan]


Warera is a non-partisan and generalized grammatical subject written phonetically. The new form in kanji is long and bombastic, and most notably conceptualizes “Japan” in an essentialist manner eliding a legalistic framework. The Constitution is not mentioned until the third paragraph. In short, the “we” of the old law were citizens of a constitutionally based body politic; now, “we” are in effect national subjects.

Thanks to PALE’s Robert Aspinall for notifying me. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

J Times on labor abuses at Gregory Clark’s Akita International University


Hi Blog. More labor abuses coming out at Gregory Clark‘s Akita International University (he’s vice president, after all; see his nice welcoming message to the world here). As catalogued yesterday in the Japan Times Community Page. Article also includes some lessons about what you can do about employers of this ilk.

Suggest you stay away from this place if you are looking for a job. More about AIU’s shenanigans at the BLACKLIST OF JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES, with the following entry:

NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Akita International University (Private)
LOCATION: 193-2 Okutsubakidai, Yuwa, Tsubakigawa, Akita-City, Akita

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 (click here to read text if previous link is obsolete). Other unofficial sources of dissent available on the Chronicle’s forums (links may obsolesce, and their contents are completely independent of the Blacklist) at http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?topic=28632.0

Now for the expose in the Japan Times. Debito in Sapporo


Wronged employees seek redress through mediation
Prefectural labor boards offer cheap alternative to suing in work disputes
Special to The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Imagine you feel wronged by your employer and find simply sharing your work woes with friends and chat groups inadequate. You want compensation and acknowledgment that your employer acted unjustly.

Suing is not your only option. Prefectural labor boards may hear your case and bring your employer in for reconciliation.

A few years ago I was given a pay cut at my last university for political reasons. I had asked the university president, in a one-page private letter, to consider replacing the Hinomaru Japanese flag flying in front of the university with an Earth flag, partly because the university was always squawking about how international they are, and partly because faculty were invited to share any ideas and concerns with our “open-minded” president. So when he told me the reasons for a 10-percent pay cut included my opposition to the Iraq war, and the “flag letter,” and ended my evaluation meeting wagging his finger saying, “You should love the Japanese flag,” I was shocked, but didn’t know where to turn. Suing seemed a long shot.

Two years later this same president made a dramatic declaration to the faculty, informing us that none of our renewable contracts would be renewed. Instead, we would have to reapply and fight for our jobs via open recruitment.

However, what we didn’t know then was that the directors and several favored faculty members had been “blown kisses” — promised jobs and told to keep the fact secret. When the dust settled, 12 faculty members had just reason to seek compensation for breach of contract, out of whom 10 banded together — all nonunion foreigners — to speak with a local union rep.

Foreigners tend to scatter after losing their jobs, and we were no exception. Of the 10, only three planned to remain in Japan, making legal action even more impractical. And, while unemployed, who would have the resources for legal fees? Thus, I looked at speaking with the union rep more as a counseling session, to have someone knowledgeable listen and give a viewpoint, and perhaps sympathize. Some of the “winners” at my university, for example, implied there had been no breach of contract. Were we exaggerating the injustice?

After listening carefully, however, the union representative flatly stated, “That’s illegal.” Then, even more encouragingly, he told us about a course of action that didn’t involve any lawyers or fees at all: Meetings with a prefectural labor board that could lead to “assen,” meaning mediation or reconciliation.

The first step, which could not be skipped despite the futility of it, was to hold direct talks with the university. It was decided, with the help of the union and labor board, to submit a “yokyu isharyo” (demand or request for compensation) for 5 million yen per person for financial damages endured due to breach of contract.

Then, three dismissed faculty members and two union representatives met with four university staff. When they denied there was any connection between evaluation and renewal — a key point of our dispute — we learned what an uphill struggle we faced.

At the same time, we had concurrently been meeting with the prefectural labor board, because they realized time was limited until we’d have to move from the area. After the university refused to pay at our second meeting — which was predictable — the labor board heard more details. For example, when one faculty member with a doctorate in a Japan-specific field and glowing evaluations asked for the reason for her dismissal/nonrenewal, she was told by the president, “You’ve been in Japan too long.”

The board, in addition to hearing such testimony, also read documents, from contracts to memos, that belied the university’s claims, and led them to decide there was just cause to pursue “assen.”

Four respected members of the community — a corporation president, a university professor, a labor representative, and the head, a lawyer — served as judges to hear both sides of our dispute and suggest a compromise.

A key point to note about the process is that it’s not binding. At any point either party can simply withdraw. That being said, the labor board informed us that the mediators succeeded in solving 80 percent of the labor disputes they heard. Furthermore, the labor rep noted that a university is under tremendous pressure to comply with the decision of an independent third party — especially since the authority behind the mediation process was, in our case, the prefecture, which had bankrolled the university when it opened.

The mediation process is designed to avoid huge winners and losers, so we knew from the start that receiving 5 million yen per person was highly unlikely. At the same time, the mediation process saved us time and money: while court cases may cost millions of yen in lawyer’s fees, and drag on for years, our mediation would last just a couple of months, and cost nothing save transportation to hearings. Furthermore, while all 10 members were encouraged to attend hearings, attendance was not required.

Thus, we dropped any demand for lost salary, which the courts might grant, and aimed for “just” 5 million yen per person. More importantly, we wanted a decision which indicated our university had acted inappropriately, in an effort to curb dictator-like management styles, give some power to dismissed faculty, and yes, receive financial compensation.

By the third hearing, it was clear that we would be awarded a settlement figure, which we, and the university, could accept or refuse. We were also told negotiations would end there, and both sides had a take-it-or-leave-it option.

The 10 of us felt vindicated by the decision, that the university acted improperly and should indeed pay compensation that ranged from 1 million yen to 1.7 million yen per person, depending on whether the person had secured employment yet.

Yes, some felt the figure was low, because it didn’t even fully cover their moving expenses. Still, 1 million yen or more per person — 13 million yen in total — clearly indicated the university’s culpability. And we had understood the limitations of the process from the start. With such a small amount, we felt confident the university would pay. After all, the total of over 13 million yen equaled just about half of the university president’s remuneration for one year.

For the three faculty who had received pay cuts due to the corrupted evaluation process, the mediators did not have the power to ask that we be compensated. However, the decided settlement amount would at least recover salary I lost for my flag letter and opposition to the Iraq war — or so it seemed.

Unfortunately, our result was destined to fall in the 20 percent of unresolved cases, because the university refused to pay even that amount. As the labor rep had explained on more than one occasion, the process doesn’t have any means to force employers to fulfill obligations. Still, even in the absence of compensation, vindication of our position made “assen” worthwhile.

The labor rep also explained another option in addition to “assen” or legal action. In 2006, Japan created a labor disputes system (“rodo shinpan seido”) so disgruntled workers could get a hearing with minimal cost and minimal delay. A judge decides the case after meeting no more than three times with one labor rep and a company rep.

Thus, the worker avoids not only lawyer fees, but a protracted court case that may otherwise drag on for years. And, as opposed to “assen,” unscrupulous employers don’t have a right to refuse or withdraw. Both parties can, however, appeal, all the way to the Supreme Court.

Our group didn’t have the option to use this new labor court because it only hears cases for individuals, not groups. Most who utilize this new system are labor union members — but some, like ourselves, join a union only after having a workplace dispute.

Thus, in this era of short term contracts, temporary jobs, and political shifts to the right, workers, foreign or otherwise, should remember they have rights and their employer has responsibilities. Unions, which only exist due to the support of their members, can point workers the way to “assen” mediation, a special labor disputes court, and, if those time and money saving options fail, can provide a union lawyer and sue the most unscrupulous of employers.

The writer of this article was obliged to use a pseudonym. Send comments and story ideas to:community@japantimes.co.jp

University Blacklist adds Hokkai Gakuen and Chugoku Univ, Greenlist gets ICU


The Blacklist of Japanese Universities (http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html), where listed institutions have a history of offering unequal contracted work (not permanent “academic tenure”) to its full-time faculty (usually foreign faculty), has just been updated for the season.

Joining the 100 universities blacklisted are two new entrants, as follows:

NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Chugoku Gakuen University and Junior College (Private)
LOCATION: Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture, west of Osaka.

EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: “Chugoku Gakuen has discriminated against its native speaking English teachers for many years and thus deserves to be placed on the blacklist. Although racial discrimination is not a crime in Japan, it is still intolerable. Neither myself nor my two immediate predecessors were able to attain working conditions on a par with the Japanese faculty. Academic credentials, publications, experience, and student evaluations have had no bearing on our position. I feel that have been discriminated against for years, and now, after seven one-year contracts, have been presented with a terminal contract. To date no one has been able to provide me with a reasonable explanation as to why I am treated differently. I have been refused promotion from lecturer to assistant professor although most other faculty are promoted after three years and generally become associate professor after five. The most recent reason is that since my Japanese is weak I cannot be on committees. Strangely enough I have been on one committee for the past seven years. I was also told repeatedly that my Japanese skills or lack thereof was not a problem, and when I offered to attend classes if that would help my situation I was told directly by the president at the time that I would never change salary or position no matter what level Japanese proficiency I attained. This year I did receive a salary increase (roughly 2% per annum if factored over my period of employment), but this came with the terminal contract. It is worth statiing that my two predecessors were capable Japanese speakers and faced the same barriers as myself. The school is now involved in an ongoing labor dispute with me and my union (EWA). The school has become a hotbed of cronyism since a new president entered the picture last year. To the disgruntlement and amazement of many faculty members, he has appointed a friend with almost no teaching experience and publications as a full professor. This is only one of the many positions filled without open competition or public posting of open positions. Please add this facility with its opaque policy making and discriminatory hiring practices to your blacklist.”

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Richard “Cabby” Lemmer, faculty member at that institution.


NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Hokkai Gakuen University (Private)
LOCATION: 4-1-40 Asahimachi, Toyohira-ku, Sapporo 062-8605 JAPAN

EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Nonrenewable 3 year contract for “position for a full-time native speaker of instructor of EFL”. Required to teach 10 lessons per week Monday to Saturday 9am – 9pm. Classes may include content-based EFL as well as all levels of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Materials development and other program-related activities will also be included in the duties. (Basically, you are required to do everything they ask). They expect a MA or PhD and in return offer a dead-end position offering a mere 4.4 million yen salary per year. Yet they also offer a similar position in the same department in Japanese with permanent non-contracted tenure and without any requirement of a PhD, which means they keep qualified foreigners disposable and tenure less-qualified Japanese. Sounds like a truly egalitarian place to work. Contact point for the throwaway English position: tkuri@jin.hokkai-s-u.ac.jp (Takehiko Kurihara)

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: JREC-IN website job advertisement ( http://jrecin.jst.go.jp/seek/SeekTop?fn=1&ln=1, DATA NUMBER : D107070218). Human Science Jobs – Advertised on July 7th 2007. (See entire advertisement archived here)

But there is also some good news. For the first time in the ten-year history of the Blacklist of Japanese Universities, the following has happened:

NAME OF UNIVERSITY: International Christian University (Kokusai Kirisuto Kyou Daigaku) (Private)
LOCATION: Mitaka, near Tokyo

GOOD EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE: Has many tenured Non-Japanese faculty, and also a functional tenure review process for those full-timers on contracts to eventually become tenured faculty.

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: A personal on-site investigation by the Blacklist Moderator, Arudou Debito, who met with several ICU faculty and Dean William Steele in April 2007, who substantiated the above. NOTE: ICU was for many years on the Blacklist, but has become the first university in the decade-long history of the Blacklist to not only be Greenlisted, but be permanently removed from the Blacklist as well. Congratulations, and thanks for your cooperation.

Thanks ICU.

If you would like to make a submission to the Blacklist or the Greenlist are welcome. Application is at http://www.debito.org/blackgreenlistapp.html. I welcome input. For example, if you find some job advertisement which proves a university qualifies for either list, please send me the text, save me some time by rewriting the pertinent data as per the Blacklist entry format sbelow, and a link. Please try to keep sources as close to primary as possible. Thanks.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

TPR on Kyuuma WWII remark, Cumings on DPRK, and Tawara on PM Abe’s Education Reforms


Hi Blog. Not necessarily NJ-rights related, but here are three recent podcasts I got a heckuva lot out of, and I think you might too.

One was released this very morning at online media station Trans Pacific Radio. Garrett DiOrio gave an editorial on the former Defense Minister Kyuuma’s remark about the atomic bombing at the closing of WWII (which led to his resignation). A remark, it might surprise you, I actually agree with.

So does Garrett. But it’s rare when I agree 100% with somebody’s writing, as I did Garrett’s editorial. At times I felt as if Garrett had put a tape recorder under my bed and listened to me talk in my sleep about this issue.

An excerpt:

Victimhood, though, is central to the denial argument. Claiming that the War was terrible and all who lived through it were victims together and that they should just try to move on is the only way the fact that it was the government of Japan that was primarily responsible for all of that suffering can be pushed into the background.

This Japan-as-victim mantra is so often repeated that it is as firmly a part of the canon of political correctness as more legitimate things such as the unacceptability of nuclear war and racism.

Back when much to-do was made over Minister Yanagisawa’s unfortunate “birth-giving machines” remark, I should have seen this dark side of political correctness rearing up its ugly head in Japan. Had people called for his resignation over his being part of a Cabinet with a deep disconnect with and disregard for the people of this nation, it would have made sense, but that wasn’t what happened. He said the wrong thing and it could have been sexist. That’s unforgivable.

Fumio Kyuma said something reasonable, if disagreeable. It could have been insensitive, though. More important, it violated the Japan-as-victim image Abe and other Diet members had worked so hard to maintain. After all, if the atomic bombs were unavoidable, that means something led up to them, which means the fact that those bombings were preceded by over thirteen years of war, in which Japan was the aggressor, would be dragged up all over again. That is not what the kantei wants, especially in the run-up to an important election.

This makes so much sense it’s scary. 20 minutes. Listen to, or read, the entire editorial at


Another talk I got a lot out of is a February 11, 2004 talk by Bruce Cumings, a scholar of Korean history, entitled
“Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth about North Korea, Iran, and Syria”.

An excerpt:
…as the Iraq war was unfolding. One of the curiosities of the commentary about the occupation of Iraq is that the [Bush] Administration wanted to compare what was going on to our occupations of Japan and West Germany. Democracy was going to flower in Iraq just as it did in Japan and West Germany. The opponents of the war constantly referred back to the quagmire that was the war in Viet Nam, and with the exception of a couple of editorials that I wrote, I saw nobody ever refer to the occupation of South Korea. Many Americans don’t realize that well before the Korean War, the United States set up a military government in South Korea, and ran it from 1945 to 1948. It had a very deep impact on Postwar Korean history. There are many things about the Iraq Occupation that are directly comparable to our occupation of Korea…

It goes on to talk about how things went very, very wrong on the Korean Peninsula, the emergence of the DPRK, and how and why things to this day are pretty sour in the region (with some interesting KimJongilogy within). This issue matters to Debito.org greatly, as the GOJ uses the spectre of the DPRK on practically a daily basis to among other things justify its mistrust of the NJ community, denying the Zainichis the regular rights of multigenerational residency in Japan (such as voting in local elections).

45 minutes. You can download it from the U Chicago CHIASMOS website at:


The final podcast I’d like to point out to you is another CHIASMOS one: Tawara Yoshifumi, author and Japan Left commentator, on “Japan’s Education and Society in Crisis”, delivered May 17, 2007. As Secretary General of the Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, Tawara delivers an excellent first half (the second half gets a bit bogged down in leftist boilerplate and education minutia) on what the Abe Administration is angling for with the LDP’s educational reforms: the resurgence of a militarized Japan, able to fight wars and project hard power onto the international scene.

Great food for thought, and there was even a question from the audience on the school grading of patriotism even for Japan’s ethnic minorities (which the questioner unfortunately assumed would only mean Koreans); the answer was, everyone who attends Japanese primary and secondary schools enforcing patriotic guidelines will get graded on love of Japan regardless of nationality or ethnicity; Tawara mentions to a case of a Zainichi Korean getting graded down.

An excerpt:
A source document of Mr Abe’s education reform is a report put out in December of 2000 by the National Alliance, of which the head is a Nobel Laureate in Physics, Ezaki Reona. And what Professor Ezaki says is that the question of schoolchildren’s abilities is a question of innate ability. It’s determined already for each child at the time of birth. It is something transmitted genetically. Consequently, a rational school policy would have all children’s blood tested upon their entry at school. And those who show genes which predispose them to learning effectively should be given the appropriate elite education. And the other children should be given an education that will promote their sincere attitude towards life…

2 hours and change. In Japanese with excellent consecutive English translation as always from Professor Norma Field. Download from:

Enjoy. I did. This is one of the advantages of cycling about 12 hours and 200 kms a week with an iPod on my shoulder. Listen while you exercise and give your mind a workout, too. Debito in Sapporo

Eric Johnston on NOVA and the Eikaiwa Industry


Hello Blog. About two weeks ago I sent mailing lists on Debito.org a request for information from Eric Johnston, Osaka Bureau Editor for the Japan Times, regarding NOVA and the Eikaiwa industry. Here’s a thank you he asked me to forward, and how the article turned out. Old news, but still very interesting. And it has the potential for shaking up the pretty rotten (both for consumer and for worker) Eikaiwa market in Japan. Debito in Sapporo

Subject: From: Eric Johnston –Thanks and a request for posting
Date: June 27, 2007 5:31:57 PM JST

To: List Members of Debito.org

Thanks to all who took time out of your busy schedules to answer my questions for the piece on NOVA and chain schools. I received lots of good advice to pass along to potential students, and learned quite a bit about how professional educators view the chain schools today.

The piece, coming out soon, will very much be a “news-you-can-use” type article. It’s aimed towards our younger Japanese readers, perhaps those in college or on their own for the first time in their lives, who are thinking about studying at a chain school. Much of the advice you’ll see in the article is simply common sense. But, as Will Rogers said, common sense is not so common, and good advice bears repeating.

Best, and again, thanks so much to everyone who wrote to me.

Eric Johnston
The Japan Times
Osaka bureau


Study the school before studying English
The Japan Times June 28, 2007
By ERIC JOHNSTON, Staff writer


OSAKA * Thinking about studying English at a private school chain? If so, proceed with caution and know what you’re getting into, say university English professors, teachers union representatives and the English-language schools themselves.

Their comments follow a recent scandal involving Nova Corp., which has cast a spotlight on the business practices of the “eikaiwa” English conversation industry.

Earlier this month, the government slapped the industry’s top company with a six-month ban on new customer contracts due to its deceptive practices, including distributing pamphlets that claim students can schedule classes at any time or branch, when in fact there was a shortage of teachers at times of peak demand.

Branches were also allegedly reneging on contract cooling-off period reimbursements.

Many academics warn that the primary purpose of the schools is not to provide an education but to offer a form of entertainment.

“At best, these chain schools are hit and miss. If they get a good teacher, they’re lucky and it’s worthwhile attending. If not, then it’s a ripoff,” said Rube Redfield, a longtime English instructor who teaches at Osaka University of Economics.

“I also tell them that if they find a good teacher, to take his class right away. Good teachers soon leave such places for better places, if they stay in education at all,” he added.

Many potential students are aware some schools are more about entertainment than education, and are more interested in having a good time and meeting new friends than in serious study. But the more naive students also don’t always realize that such schools have basically the same kind of mentality toward their customers as one sees in the “water trade.”

In Japan, the water trade, or “mizushobai,” refers to hostess bars and other forms of adult entertainment business.

The phrase carries the negative image of an industry bent on doing anything to earn quick money.
“I tell my students that the entire eikaiwa industry is a kind of mizushobai industry, and that the motives of those involved, including the customers, should be judged accordingly,” said Charles DeWolf, a professor at Keio University in Tokyo.

Such naive students are often lured into conversation schools by fast-talking salespeople who offer pie-in-the-sky promises of language fluency with little effort and within a short period of time, and are often clueless as to how much work is actually involved in becoming fluent.

“If you bought three years of tickets, were at a large school, got to know and choose your teachers, went every day, did all your homework and stayed in the chat room for long periods, your English would improve and it would be value for money. Otherwise, it’s not,” said Simon Moran of Osaka-based Modern English, a small chain of schools.

Despite the industry’s negative image often associated with consumer fraud, however, some efforts are being made to set ethics guidelines.

The Tokyo-based Japan Association for the Promotion of Foreign Language Education is a group of more than 60 large and small foreign-language schools nationwide. Established in 1991, its purpose is to provide member schools with business ethics guidelines and to offer practical advice to those seeking to learn a foreign language.

“We tell potential students to do as much research on schools as possible before they sign up. What’s most important for anybody who wants to learn a foreign language is to have a very clear idea of why they want to study,” said Masami Sakurabayashi, the association’s director.

“In addition, it’s vital that students, especially those who are young and on their own for the first time, understand and appreciate a contract’s legal ramifications and the obligations they are entering into. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand,” he warned.

Louis Carlet, deputy general secretary of Tokyo Nambu, one of the largest foreign teachers unions in the country, seconded that advice and added that serious students should not only look at schools but also at the working conditions of the teachers.

“It’s generally true that job security equals quality of education,” he said.

Despite a general agreement that the vast majority of students are not likely to become extremely fluent by just studying at a private school, some still see educational merit in signing up for lessons.

“Although there are many cons to their operations, private language schools often have classes of only three or four students, as opposed to classes of 40 like I teach now at university,” said Nara-based Paul Hackshaw, who teaches at Ryukoku University and Kyoto Women’s University.

Students often join an English school to meet and speak with people from a foreign country. But, as many English teachers in both private schools and universities point out, if meeting foreigners and learning English informally is your goal, there can be other, cheaper ways to do so, ranging from participation in international clubs to free language exchange meetings through local international exchange centers.

Thus, in this day and age, and especially if you live in an area of Japan with a modest population of foreigners, English schools are simply another way to learn English, and not necessarily the best or cheapest way. Let the buyer beware.

For related stories:
Nova dealt penalty for deception


Before you hand over any money for English lessons, take these tips

University English professors, people working at chain schools, union representatives and former students offer the following advice for people interested in studying English at private-language schools:

— Are you serious about becoming fluent or are you interested in just picking up a few words and phrases? If it’s the former, a school may be worthwhile. If it’s the latter, decide if your time and money may be better spent elsewhere. Alternatives for the casual learner include Internet lessons, self-study guides or finding either a private tutor or free language exchange partner through a municipal international exchange center.

— Have a strong idea why you want to study at a school, and set fluency goals for yourself. Be prepared to put in the time and effort it takes to reach your goal and create a plan to meet that goal. Otherwise, it’s highly likely you will quit halfway through.

— Identify and visit those schools you think are best suited to your goals and personality. Ask to sit in on a lesson that is in progress, as this will give you a better idea of what the school’s lessons and classroom atmosphere are really like, as opposed to signing up for a free trial lesson, which may not be representative of how the school works.

— Ask each school why students study there, and determine whether their goals are the same as yours.

— Ask the sales staff what professional qualifications the teachers have. Do they have master’s degrees or teaching certificates? How long have they been in Japan? How long have they worked as English teachers? Can they explain things in Japanese if necessary?

— Ask the sales staff about their own English-language speaking abilities, including how long and where they studied.

— Ask to speak to a teacher, one on one. Ask the teacher what texts are being used, how they teach and whether any extra investment in outside learning materials is necessary. If you are a low-level speaker of English, ask your questions in Japanese and see if the teacher understands you.

— When possible, consult beforehand with university professors of English, former students, foreign friends and those who use English on a regular basis, and ask them if they know about the school or its reputation. Check the English-language and Japanese media and see what has been reported about the school.

— If you don’t understand the contract 100 percent, don’t sign it.

— Find out what unions represent the teachers at the school you are interested in, and ask them about the school’s reputation.


Mainichi Waiwai: Schoolkids smell, partly cos they’ve got foreign parents


Hi Blog. Article from one of the Weeklies, so it’s naturally suss. But people read these things (I do–they’re well written), and Ryann Connell translates one that blames the decline in school student standards partially on foreign parents… Good ol’ “Education Insiders” stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for their comments, naturally.

Thanks to David Anderson for notifying me. Debito in Sapporo


Teachers crying foul over unhygienic kids
Mainichi Shinbun WAIWAI Page June 26, 2007, from Sunday Mainichi Issue Dated July 8, 2007


Japanese schools are getting filled with more kids that stink, according to Sunday Mainichi (7/8).
Growing disparity between the country’s haves and have-nots is believed to be behind the increase in unhygienic children.

But broken homes and the increasing number of foreigners in Japan are also being blamed.

“We have a lot of kids from homes where the parents aren’t financially blessed and few have a decent education. There are a few kids who live in really shoddy apartments,” a third grade teacher at a public elementary school in Tokyo tells Sunday Mainichi. “You can tell from the way they look and the way they talk that their lifestyle gives them something that makes them clearly different from the other kids.”
Often that leads these children to become the subject of teasing and bullying from their better off classmates.

Other teachers blame the widening gap between the rich and poor for the situation.

“There are definitely more smelly kids around,” a Tokyo junior high school teacher says. “Both parents are working during the day and some have to moonlight with bar work at night to make ends meet, so they’re never at home. Kids just go to sleep whenever they feel tired, and a lot of them nod off without having taken a bath. Some kids stop coming to school because their friends keep telling them that they smell, so you can’t treat the problem lightly. I tell the kids not to say things about the smell in the classroom, but frankly I find the reek to be disgusting, myself.”

Since Japan’s economy slipped into the doldrums in the early 1990s, companies have been shifting away from employing people as permanent staff and instead have been relying more on irregular hires. The upshot of this has been an increase in what’s being called the “working poor,” the people in paid employment who make barely enough money to stay above the poverty line. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported that last year 27.2 percent of Tokyo families are now living on less than 3 million yen a year, a 9.3 percentage point increase over the past five years.

It’s not just money worries, either. Parenting standards are also apparently in decline. In a central Tokyo school, teachers were worried when one little girl stopped turning up for class. Her mother, a single parent, was not forcing her to attend and willingly let her stay away whenever she felt like it.

“Her homeroom teacher went out to the girl’s home to check up on the situation. The little girl was sitting there with her hair done up in curls and dressed up like a princess. The homeroom teacher was shocked that the child was being treated virtually like a pet,” a teacher at the school says. “Turns out the mother got lonely at home by herself and wanted her daughter to be around with her.”

Growing numbers of foreigners are also having an influence on Japanese schools.

“There seems to be a lot of trouble surrounding couples where an older Japanese man has married a young Southeast Asian woman who’s come to Japan to make some money,” an education insider says.

One teacher approached a Japanese father and spoke of how his wife, who worked as a nightclub hostess and saved whatever she could while living in squalor in Japan so she could build a palatial home in her native country. The teacher, pointing out that Japan is living through an age of internationalization, encouraged the father to help his child learn Tagalog, the native tongue of his mother’s homeland, the Philippines. The teacher was shocked by the father’s response.

“There’s no need to do that,” the teacher tells Sunday Mainichi the 60-something Japanese father said. “If Japan had won that war, they’d all (Filipinos) be speaking Japanese by now.” (By Ryann Connell)
June 26, 2007

UPDATE June 27: My week speaking in Tokyo and facing the madding crowds


UPDATE JUNE 27, 2007

Hello Blog. I’ve left you fallow for a week now, my apologies. I’ve just come through what is probably my busiest speaking schedule yet. I gave what amounted to six speeches in as many days, all of them brand new, with Powerpoint presentations in two languages. Phew.

Backing up a bit on the timeline, I have had an incredible June, in the sense that there was no letup. From my mind-blowing trip to the USA and my Cornell 20th Reunion, where I discovered that bullying can become trans-generational (http://www.debito.org/homecoming2007.html), to coming home with jetlag only to be smacked by a car while riding my bicycle to work (http://www.debito.org/?p=453 –finding myself still able to cycle and walk but not climb stairs unassisted for awhile), I’ve had to deal not only with hospitals and insurance companies, but also deadlines that were constantly nipping at my heels. Finish one speech, start preparing another. Every day for about a week.


Early on Tuesday morning June 19, I finally started the paper I would be delivering on Friday and Saturday at Waseda University and the 2007 Asian Studies Conference Japan. Topic? Immigration’s effects on Japan, and how lack of governmental oversight has created Frankenstein’s Monster in the labor market. By Tuesday evening, I had pounded out seventeen pages with footnotes and references, and by Wednesday night I was on my third draft and 19th concluding page. I was still writing it on the plane down to Tokyo the next day, and by Thursday evening the fourth and final draft was finished (see it at http://www.debito.org/ASCJPaper2007.doc). I forwent catching up on any Internet or blogging, getting started on my concomitant Powerpoint presentation right away before any sleep (speeches I do nowadays are never only just reading from a printed document anymore; I find using Powerpoint to create visuals from the computer, instead of the Mind’s Eye or the OHP, to be very effective. Sadly, this means my workload is doubled.) Staying with friends Leisa and Stephen Nagy, I found myself striking a decent (but slightly worried) balance between being social, and wondering if I hadn’t taken outdone myself by saying “yes” to everyone who asked me to speak on this trip.


So Friday morning June 20, I went to Waseda early and used the graduate student facilities to pound out my Powerpoint in four hours (see it here at http://www.debito.org/japansmulticulturalfuture.ppt). I gave my speech to several grad students (even the American Embassy showed, thanks), and found that the presentation (with questions from the audience during) stretched what had to be a 20-minute talk into well over an hour (which earned tuts from timekeeper Stephen). A couple of grad students said I lacked data (naturally, the Powerpoint is a capsule summary; I suggested they download and read my whole paper), and one asked what percentage of Non-Japanese workers have working conditions as bad as I was citing from the newspapers.

I answered that it’s not a matter of degree–what percentage of exploitation and slavery by nationality would be the proper threshold for saying the system needs improvement? 1%? 5%? 20%? And anyway, we’ll never get reliable stats on this topic when many workers, legal or illegal, won’t come forward to bad-mouth their bosses or get deported. It’s like trying to guestimmate the amount of rape or DV in a society. To me it’s a red herring anyway, since horrible work conditions, even child labor and slavery, being inflicted upon even one laborer in Japan is too many. It’s illegal, too, but poorly enforced–both created then left to forge its own cruel realities by our government.

Anyway, yes, I didn’t have that data, and I could sense the glee in the grad students’ eyes. Gosh, they got me, the big bad speaker who for some reason needed to be shown he’s not all that smart or impregnable, without discussing the problems brought up. Such is one weak spot of academia. Not only does the “dispassionate view” that the academic must take suck the humanity out of issues of human rights, but also the trauma inflicted upon the researcher, suffering constant supervisor and peer vetting of theses in the name of “rigor”, creates a pecking order of nitpicking questions and data for data’s sake. After all, in an arena like this, it’s always seen as better to have data than not, right?, even when it’s irrelevant. “I don’t know” (rather than the consideration of “it doesn’t matter”) in a forum like this becomes an unforgivable weakness.

Then, ironies upon ironies, right afterwards I went to a series of lectures at Waseda on “Cool Japan”. There we had people discussing the intricacies of candles on the heads of certain manga characters, and musings on how Pokemon creates a self-actualizing world for children. Culture vulture stuff, nonrigorous hooey, but received with heavy-lidded adulation out of politeness. Lousy Powerpoint too. Left early.


Saturday June 23 was the Asian Studies Conference Japan at Meiji Gakuin University, and quite frankly, I found few papers all that interesting (and even fewer papers available for reading–made me wonder why I tried so hard to get my paper done on time). Some stuff on disaffected youth made me think, but nothing made me blink. And I used some of the time in droning presentations to whittle down my upcoming Powerpoint presentation to its bare essentials. Our roundtable (which had been gratefully preserved by people despite having one of our panelists drop out) had the torture of doing five papers in a two-hour period; each person got 24 minutes including Q&A. Stephen clocked in at 21 minutes with his interesting presentation on the official openness of local governments in different Tokyo Wards towards NJ residents (Adachi-ku sounded pretty progressive, whereas Shinjuku-ku ironically didn’t care–in fact was disinclined to see foreign residents as much more than a potential source of crime). Then I stampeded through my 35 slides and clocked in at 23 minutes just. We had a full house, no questions about data or lack thereof. Probably no time, alas.

Evening was spent catching up with old friends Ken, Garrett, and Alby from Transpacific Radio (http://www.transpacificradio.com –I’ve asked them if they’ll let me read the news sometime), plus newfound friend Aly who surfaced from the Internet to tell me about his woes getting stopped by the police all the time in Saitama (it’s getting worse; the cops apparently target foreigners more than the increasing number of shops with “JAPANESE ONLY” signs…). Stayed out too late and had one beer too many.


Sunday June 24 was even busier, if you can believe it. First thing in the morning (as in 9AM, running all the way to deserted downtown Tokyo), I met an Italian journalist (a lovely former fashionista named Stefania with a lovelier accent) who interviewed me for more than three hours for a 5000-word article on activism in Japan. Then taxied back to the ASCJ Conference, since I had been specially invited to attend a post-lunch talk by Nikkei Americans and Canadians about their feelings returning “home” to Japan.

Humph. With even less “rigor” (but good media), we had talks of what I call the genre of feel-good “baachan essays” (or conversely whiney ponderings about defeated expectations–i.e a “Japan don’t treat me right, despite” sort of thing). A love-in for those genetically-admitted, we received a talk about the narratives of older Japanese Americans and Canadians in the Kansai (which, since there were no narrative samples taken from younger women, or from any men at all “because they would disrupt the flow of information”, essentially became a survey of nattering older housewives shooting fish in a barrel). When I asked about if there were any plans to include the no doubt fascinating narratives of Nikkei Brazilians etc. (their factory schedules and language barriers notwithstanding), the answer was no, since, it was claimed, the study of Nikkei North Americans is far more underresearched. This surprising claim was based upon the fact that the Nikkei North Americans had fought or been betrayed by Japan in WWII, adversely influencing research of them. Aha. When the last speaker even asserted that Nikkei should being a White person to Japanese restaurants to get better service, I said, “It cuts both ways. There’s no science here.”

This confirmed a number of things I have been mulling over about these so-called Nikkei “returnees” (kibei) to Japan: How they seem to forget that their ancestors generally left Japan for perfectly good reasons, often because they didn’t fit in economically or socially. And they expect to come back and fit in now? I think it’s best to come here with no expectations or any trump cards due to genetics and make do as individuals, not Nikkei. But I’m sure they wouldn’t agree. To them it’s somehow some matter of birthright. Ah well. Enjoy the questionable social science from identity navel gazing and defeated expectations. It makes for exclusive ideological love-ins all over again, which happen to be just as exclusive as they feel they are facing in Japanese society.

Then in the late afternoon I carted my monolithic suitcase (full of books and T-shirts, http://www.debito.org/tshirts.html) through the subways (surprisingly unbarrier-free; I really feel sorry for people in wheelchairs), and found my way out to Tokai University, out in Odawara, an hour west of Tokyo. Hosts Charles and Yuki Kowalski had invited me out for two speeches care of their E-J translation ESP Classes in the International Studies Department. I had fortunately pounded out an 8-pager on “What is a Japanese?” shortly before I went to America weeks ago. I couldn’t even remember what I wrote, but as soon as we finished our home-cooked meal and some homeopathic remedy for my aching bike leg (it worked, actually–my leg hasn’t hurt since!), I went off to a deserted stay-over teacher’s dorm (I felt like I was walking the halls of the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING, expecting to find twins behind every corner), was given two nights in a lovely old corner room with big windows overlooking trees, and got started on my Tokai speech Powerpoint (see it at http://www.debito.org/tokaispeech062507.doc)


Rising early the next morning (5AM), Monday, June 25, I put the finishing touches on a few visuals, was escorted at 9:30AM into a full classroom of perhaps 150 students, and asked to read my speech in English (without the E-J translation department there to help). I looked at the list of keywords carefully prepared by several teachers (who had done a hell of a lot of groundwork for my speeches–with classroom exercises on Japan’s internationalization, their opinions on who qualifies as a Japanese, and Japan’s future), and saw a full small-print page with words that were second-nature to me by now, but challenging to even advanced non-native speakers. Oops. Wound up paraphrasing the hard stuff, throwing in translations for difficult concepts, and finishing my talk early to power the rest of the presentation with Q&A. Anything to keep people from falling asleep. They didn’t. The questions came easily and quickly, and people of all langauge levels seemed to enjoy the conversation about Japan’s future.

But that’s not all. Later on in the afternoon, we were seated in a 500-seat auditorium with our ten translators, all raring to go, dreading the Q&A, but doing just fine on the prepared statements. I had prepared even more Powerpoint visuals in the interim (see the full version at http://www.debito.org/tokai062507.ppt), and we had a grand old time–especially since the hall had actually filled to 600 souls!, containing the crowded tension and interest when jokes come up and the speaker gets a little bombastic with his points.

But the questions were hell for the interpreters. One asked, “What do you think is the definition of ‘country’?” (as in nation–kuni). Another asked if my demand for Japan’s Census to measure for ethnicity was not a form of privacy invasion, even discrimination. Still another asked if I objected to the word “haafu” for international children (going instead for “double”), then how do Nikkei fit in? Having interpreters was lucky for me–their time taken to interpret gave me time to consider my answer, but when my answer go too tough to translate, I wound up giving my full ideas in fast Japanese like SNL’s Subliminal Man–to quite a few laughs. In the end, we had a wonderful time, and an audience, according to the ESP coordinators, more numerous, engaged, and thoughtful about the topic at hand than any other guest speech they had ever hosted.

Much merriment followed that evening over beers with the interpreters (two of them were actually Chinese, with excellent Japanese skills and even higher tolerance for alcohol), so much so I realized I had stayed out too late again and drunk too much. And I hadn’t even started my Powerpoint presentation for my last speech to be given in less than 24 hours. The problem was this time it was entirely in Japanese…


Rising even earlier (4AM) on Tuesday, June 26, I set to work. Major publisher Shogakukan in Jinbochou, Tokyo, had invited me as part of their guest lecturer series for raising the awareness of their writers, inviting minorities and interest groups to give their perspectives on the mass media. They asked me to speak on a dream topic–“Language that Japanese don’t notice is discriminatory”–and believe you me I had a lot I’ve wanted to say.

So much so, however, that my Powerpoint slides kept growing and growing. By 9AM I had finished a first draft of 45 slides. On the train back to Tokyo I started getting more ideas, and by the time I camped out for two hours at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Library, I had put together 51 slides (see them all here at http://www.debito.org/shougakukan062607.ppt), proofreading and checking text animations just once more with 30 minutes to go. Grabbed a sandwich and a cab, sailed into Shogakukan (in my daze I remembered that I had tried to sell them both my novel MS in 1994 (excerpts at http://www.debito.org/publications.html#FICTIONAL), and my children’s comic book two years ago (more on that later sometime)), and with T minus ten I was hooked up and let fly. It was not the first time I’ve finished my Powerpoint presentation less than an hour before I gave it, but it was the first time I’d ever done it without any help from a native speaker. And from what I was told afterwards, the Japanese was just fine.

I won’t get into what I said here, as this essay is long enough, (read the Powerpoint–maybe I’ll get around to translating it some day), but two hours later I was back on the street, having accomplished my goals completely. I headed back to the FCCJ, had a big dinner of comfort food (nachos and fish and chips, washed down with Grolsch), and attended a compelling Book Break by Roland Kelts (http://www.fccj.or.jp/~fccjyod2/node/2272), author of “JAPANAMERICA: How Japanese Pop Culture has invaded the US”, who very articulately spelled out how manga and anime are influencing both American society and international print media. And in passing he described how Pokemon really affects kids, without lapsing into jargon or faffing about with personal impressions. Well done. We exchanged books (or actually, he’ll send me a copy of his later), and someday I might even get around to reviewing it for Debito.org.

Then friend and Amnesty International Group 78 Coordinator Chris Pitts (http://www.aig78.org), gave me a room to crash in in West Tokyo, and we stayed up nursing beverages until the wee hours. I was up this morning at 5AM to beat the morning rush hour and catch my 9:50 flight back to Sapporo. Then I taught a class, writing this up before and after.   I’m going to leave the keyboard now and sleep, thank you very much…


Again, I don’t think I’ve been this busy since grad school. Well, okay, once or twice since then. I can see that my daily grind of one paper per day back then was indeed good training. I’ll be down again in Tokyo in late July for yet another speech–if more don’t pop up like dandelions like what happened this trip. Keep you posted.

Returning to my regular blog schedule, I hope. Sorry for the hiatus. Arudou Debito back in Sapporo, Japan

Upcoming Tokyo Speeches: Waseda, Meigaku, Tokai, Shogakukan


Hello Blog. Quick note to tell you more about some speeches I’ve got coming up over the next seven days. Hard to believe, but four. Details as far as I know as follows:

Speech on Japan’s Immigration and Internationalization 2 to 4PM
Waseda University, Tokyo, International Community Center
Speech given in English, Q&A in English and Japanese
(More details at very bottom of this blog entry)

Paper Brief on Japan’s Immigration and Internationalization 3:30 to 5:30 PM
(One of five presenters, in English)
Part of the weekend-long Eleventh Asian Studies Conference, Japan
Meiji Gakuin University, Shirogane Campus
More on the conference at http://www.meijigakuin.ac.jp/~ascj/
Summary of the paper at the very bottom of this blog entry
Link to Draft Two of the paper (will be updated as revisions are completed) at http://www.debito.org/ASCJPaper2007.doc

“What is a Japanese?”, Simultaneous interpretation speech
Tokai University’s ESP Classes, International Studies Department.
International Students Lecture 9:20 to 10:50 AM
Interpretation Speech 3:10 to 4:40 PM
Hosted by Charles Kowalski of Tokai University

小学館 法務・考査室主宰
Speech in Japanese to Shogakukan Inc. on “Unwittingly Discriminatory Language in Japan’s Mass Media”.


Just to let you know I’m not going to be able to keep up the pace of one blog update per day. I have to get cracking writing all these speeches and papers, so I’m going to be offline until I’m in the clear.

More details on these venues if and when they become available, so check back here later. Meanwhile, you should be able to find out the whereabouts based upon the data above should you want to attend.

Thanks for reading, and in this case, for listening. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Topic: Immigration and Internationalization in Japan
Speaker: Debito Arudo, Associate Professor, Hokkaido Information University

I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to this meeting of the Waseda University Doctoral Student Network which hopes to promote more dialogue among students, chances to share their ideas with Professors and colleagues and create a stronger network of scholars at Waseda University.

Please see below for details on presentation and the aims of the Waseda University Doctoral Student Network.

Finally, I would like to invite professors to recommend students to present as well as students to contact me if they are interested in presenting in this forum in the coming months.

Stephen Robert Nagy
PhD Candidate
Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies.
Waseda University

Location: Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies, Waseda University
Building 19, Room 310, 2PM to 4PM June 22
For map see: http://www.wiaps.waseda.ac.jp/

Speaker Information:
Debito Arudou
Associate Professor
Hokkaido Information University
Home page: http://www.debito.org

ARUDOU Debito (BA Cornell, 1987; MPIA UC San Diego, 1991) is a naturalized Japanese citizen and Associate Professor at Hokkaido Information University. A human rights activist, he has authored two books, Japaniizu Onrii–Otaru Onsen Nyuuyoku Kyohi Mondai to Jinshu Sabetsu and its English version (Akashi Shoten 2003 and 2004, updated 2006), and is currently at work on a bilingual guidebook for immigrants to Japan. He also puts out a regular newsletter and columns for The Japan Times. His extensive bilingual website on human rights issues and living in Japan is available at http://www.debito.org

Presentation Title: Immigration and Internationalization in Japan

SUMMARY: Despite an express policy against importing unskilled foreign labor, Japan since 1990 has been following an unacknowledged backdoor “Guest Worker” program to alleviate its labor shortages. Through its “Student”, “Entertainer” “Nikkei Visitors” and “Trainee” Visa programs, it has brought in hundreds of thousands of cost-effective Non-Japanese laborers to stem the “hollowing out” (i.e. outsourcing, relocation, or bankruptcy) of Japan’s domestic industry. This has since doubled the number of registered Non-Japanese in Japan, but has not resulted in Japan’s acceptance of these laborers as “residents” or regular “full-time workers”, entitled to the same social benefits as Japanese under labor law (such as a minimum wage, health and unemployment insurance, and mandatory education of their children). Moreover, insufficient governmental regulation of these programs has fomented labor abuses (exploitative or slave labor conditions, child labor, human rights violations, even murder), to the degree where the Japanese government is now reviewing the process, with a discussion on “fixing” the system by 2009. The current debate between ministries is not on finding a way to help Non-Japanese workers live and assimilate better in Japan, but rather of making it clear they are really only temporary–making the visas more clearly term-limited revolving-door employment. Meanwhile, not only are labor abuses continuing, there is an emerging underclass of uneducated Non-Japanese children with neither sufficient language abilities nor employable skill sets. Immigration, however, continues apace, as the number of Regular Permanent Residents grows by double-digit percentages every year; by the end of 2007, this paper forecasts that it will surpass the number of generational Zainichi Permanent Residents for the first time ever. Surveying the most recent data available as of this writing (June 23, 2007), this paper concludes with a caution that the longer Japan delays its inevitable internationalization, the more likely that it will change, as Sakenaka Hidenori (Director, Japan Immigration Policy Institute) writes, from a “Big Japan” into a “Small Japan”, no longer Asia’s leader and regional representative.

Link to Draft Two of the paper (will be updated as revisions are completed) at http://www.debito.org/ASCJPaper2007.doc

Jun 27 Sophia U Film Showing: “Refusing to Stand for the Kimigayo”


Hi Blog. Little something which might interest you. Debito back in Sapporo


From: David Slater
Subject: Film Showing at Sophia U: “Refusing to Stand for the Kimigayo” (June
Forwarded by Robert Aspinall

Institute for the Study of Social Justice at Sophia University
Invites you to a film screening:

AGAINST COERCION:Refusing to Stand for “Kimigayo”
(87 minutes/in Japanese with English subtitles)
Directors: Matsubara Akira and Sasaki Yumi (Video Press)
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Room L921, 9th Floor, Central Library
Yotsuya Campus, Sophia University
Free Admission

Since the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education issued
a decree to strictly enforce the hoisting of Hinomaru
and the singing of Kimigayo at school ceremonies in
2003, over 340 public school teachers in Tokyo have so
far faced disciplinary actions for “negligence of
duties.” Although the Tokyo Local Court ruled such
coercion unconstitutional in September 2006, the Tokyo
Metropolitan Board of Education took disciplinary
measures against a further 35 teachers in March 2007
and appealed to Tokyo High Court. The punitive
measures of the Tokyo Board of Education are
cumulative, and as a consequence, it looks quite
possible at this point that some teachers will face
dismissal in March 2008 –if they continue to refuse
to stand for Kimigayo.

Such developments are not limited to Tokyo public
schools, and are indeed of particular relevance to
those who are in teaching professions at school as
well as university levels. The new Law on National
Referenda that the Abe government enacted last month
contains a stipulation that prohibits teachers (and
public servants) to “utilize their positions” during
future campaigns on constitutional revisions –in
other words, a school teacher or university professor
who expresses a view that does not conform with the
government proposal may very well face similar
disciplinary measures for “negligence of duties.”

This documentary film follows the school teachers, and
their students, as the teachers refuse to stand for
Kimigayo and face pay-cut, suspension, and re-training
programs. The doors open at 17:00, and the movie
screening is followed by a Q&A session with Ms.
Kawarai Junko, who is currently suspended from her
position at a school for the disabled in Tokyo.

This event represents the first part of a program
entitled “Is Freedom in Danger?” organized by the
Institute for the Study of Social Justice, Sophia
University. It will be followed by a symposium on
October 11, where Prof. Takami Katsutoshi (Sophia Law
School) will speak on the subject of constitution and
freedom, Father Tani Daiji (Bishop of Saitama,
Catholic Church) on freedom of religion, and Koichi
Nakano (Sophia University) on the contemporary
politics of illiberalism (all in Japanese).





上智大学 中央図書館9階L921号室
(With English Subtitles)



「憲法と自由」 高見勝利・上智大学法科大学院教授
「信教の自由と政教分離」 谷大二・さいたま教区司教
「反自由の政治」 中野晃一・上智大学国際教養学部准教授

David H. Slater, Ph.D.
Faculty of Liberal Arts
Sophia University, Tokyo

U Chicago talk by Imai Noriaki


Hi Blog. Interesting talk here by Imai Noriaki, one of the group of Japanese who went to Iraq three years ago on their own for research and humanitarian work, and wound up getting kidnapped (and shown on J TV with knives to their throats) by Iraqi militants. They were released, but not after running the gauntlet of hostile J media and politicians, and in my view quite a setback for activists in Japan.

Why this is interesting is because Imai doesn’t really come off as strongly as he should in his talk. Granted, he was young then (18), and full of vim and will. But he doesn’t really make his case even today as to why it was important that he go, and how unfair the consequences were in Japan afterwards (I do it instead in my Japan Times article excerpted below). Could be a language barrier (I’ve met the guy personally in Sapporo, since he’s from there, and he’s got a good heart), but at root is his pichipichi idealism which needs a few more doses of the realities of debate in the 21st Century.

He does, however, offer his attempts to make himself heard (trying to answer the critics–even making his cellphone number available to the anonymous and often very abusive online community in Japan), and where they got him (nowhere, really).

I sympathize. I am no stranger to criticism–I receive it practically every day from people who nitpick or attack without daring to identify themselves, or take any responsiblity whatsoever for what they say. They are not in the debate to actually offer any possiblity of changing their own minds–just blowing off steam or criticizing for sport. And I’ve long since learned there’s practically no point in responding because they are beyond being reached (especially when I have made my views as clear as I can in the thousands of essays over fifteen years I’ve archived on Debito.org), so I for the most part just don’t answer. After all, there are lots of them and one of you, and there are only so many hours in a day. More on how I reached this conclusion myself in my book JAPANESE ONLY.

Anyway, have a listen. Arudou Debito in Upstate NY.


“Why I Went to Iraq…Three Years Later”

March 29, 2007
Noriaki Imai, student environmental and peace activist

At 18 years of age, Noriaki Imai traveled to Iraq to study the effects of depleted uranium on Iraqi children. While in Iraq, he was taken hostage and threatened to be killed unless Japan withdrew its troops from Iraq. Fortunately, he was released alive, but when he returned home to Japan, he faced enormous public criticism.

Two different audio and video formats at

Part of the Japan at Chicago Lecture Series: Celebrating Protest; sponsored by the Japan Committee of the Center for East Asian Studies, the Human Rights Program, the Center for International Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the Environmental Studies Program and Middle Eastern Studies Students Association.

Kidnap crisis poses a new risk
Japan’s outrage toward the former hostages in Iraq could result in bad public policy

By Debito Arudou, The Japan Times, May 11, 2004

When five Japanese were taken hostage in Iraq last month, huge public concern for their safe return quickly gave way to hostility and a campaign of vilification. A disastrous public appeal by the families of three of the hostages for the withdrawal of SDF troops from Iraq encouraged the government to take a tough line, and facilitated a media frenzy that sought to paint the hostages as reckless, naive and of dubious political affiliation.

However, a series of measures proposed by officials emboldened by the backlash and designed to prevent a repeat occurrence of the kidnap crisis may only have the effect of snuffing out Japan’s nascent volunteer movement…

Rest at http://www.debito.org/japantimes051104.html


Dejima Award 2: NJ students barred from starting Ekiden footrace (Asahi)


Hi Blog. In what is sure to be a continuing series, I would like to award the Second Debito.org Dejima Award to the All Japan High School Athletic Federation.

Suggested by Chris Flynn, the Dejima Award is a showcase for those small-minded people in this society who feel the need to keep foreign peoples, ideas, and influences from these pristine shores. In much the same spirit as Feudal Japan kept foreigners secluded on an island off Nagasaki named Dejima centuries ago.

The obvious prescience displayed by the people who organize these footraces for students, when deciding to “keep the race more interesting for disgruntled fans” by shutting foreigners out of the starting lineup, is sure to make foreign students feel more welcome, and help keep Japan’s education system (struggling with our low birthrate, desperately courting foreign students) solvent and equal-opportunity. Not.

More from the Asahi Shinbun on this issue immediately following, with Japanese articles in the Comments section.

More on Japan’s nasty habit of shutting foreigners out of its sports and other competitions (again, sometimes using the same argument that foreigners have an unfair advantage due to physical or mental prowess) archived at

Avoid katou kyousou as best you can if it’s tainted with foreignness, I guess… Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Foreign students can’t start ekiden

Courtesy of Glenn Boothe

Bowing to pressure from disgruntled fans, a high school athletic association will prohibit foreign students from running the first leg of the All Japan High School Ekiden Championships relay marathon starting next year.

The All Japan High School Athletic Federation said the decision, reached Tuesday, is intended to make the races more interesting for fans.

But others say the move reeks of discrimination against foreign students.

In recent years, many students from Kenya have started the first–and longest–section of the ekiden races.

They have often built such wide leads that rival teams have had almost no chance to catch up in the later legs.

Ekiden fans and organizers said the strategies of those teams have made the races dull because the huge early leads all but eliminate the chances for the drama of a close finish.

Teams with foreign students running the first leg have won the All Japan High School Ekiden Championships five times in the past 10 years. Three of those victories were achieved after the first runner broke well ahead of the pack.

Of the five foreign students selected for the 2006 All Japan High School Ekiden Championships, four ran the first section for their teams.

“We looked into the issue in a constructive manner after angry fans complained it is a turnoff to see foreign students scoring an insurmountable lead in the first section,” said Kazunobu Umemura, executive managing director of the federation.

The rule will also apply to prefecture-level qualifying events.

The boys’ 42-kilometer ekiden consists of seven sections, with a 10-km first leg. The girls’ race, totaling 21 km, consists of five sections, starting with a 6-km leg.

Keisuke Sawaki, a director of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, said the high school federation likely had an “agonizing” time coming up with its decision.

“From the standpoints of ‘internationalization’ and school education, it would be ideal not to have any restrictions,” he said. “In reality, however, the differences in physical capabilities between Japanese and foreign students are far beyond imagination.”

Under rules established in 1994 by the All Japan High School Athletic Federation, the number of foreign students attending any competition under its supervision must be about 20 percent or less of all participating students.

In accordance with the rules, the number of foreign students who can enter the ekiden race has been limited to one from each school since 1995.

Koji Watanabe, coach of the track team at Nishiwaki Technical High School in Nishiwaki, Hyogo Prefecture, said new rules are needed to give public high schools with no foreign students a chance to win.

His team won the ekiden race in the boys’ division a record eight times.

But Takao Watanabe, coach of the track team at Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School in Sendai, disagreed.

“It remains questionable to distinguish runners by nationality,” said Watanabe, whose team won the ekiden race for three straight years with Kenyan students through 2005. “The decision is not good from an educational point of view because it can be viewed as excluding foreign students.”(IHT/Asahi: May 24,2007)

REPORT: Immigrant children and Japan’s Hair Police


Hello Blog. Just got back last night from speaking at a corporate human-rights retreat for the Mitsubishi keiretsu (more on that in a separate posting). Also from a fact-finding mission in the backwoods of Shizuoka, where internationalization is continuing so apace, the education system cannot keep up. That’s the subject of this report:



By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org)
May 22, 2007

(NB: This has become the subject of a Japan Times article: “SCHOOLS SINGLE OUT FOREIGN ROOTS: International kids suffer under archaic rules” (July 17, 2007), available at http://www.debito.org/japantimes071707.html)

INTRODUCTION: During one of my recent speech tours, I was told by a Nikkei Brazilian student (I will call her Maria) that her sister (call her Nicola) had been victimized by a Japanese high school’s rules. According to Maria, Nicola had been forced by her school to dye her hair weekly because it was not as dark as her peers’. Maria said she herself escaped the Hair Police (she looks more phenotypically “Japanese” than her sister), but Nicola was subjected to periodical and frequent hair root checks. Nicola was then told to darken and even straighten it. Although graduated from the high school, Nicola still has not only mental trauma from the ordeal, but also damaged hair which to this day has not recovered. This was narrated to me as an example of how Japan’s cookie-cutter educational rules are doing a disservice to Japan’s imminent internationalization.


BACKGROUND: After Japan opened the floodgates to cheap foreign labor under its “Trainee” and “Researcher” Visa programs in 1990 (more on these programs blogged at http://www.debito.org/?s=trainee+visa), the number of South Americans, Filipina, and Chinese etc. have rocketed; Brazilian residents of Japan now stand at more than 300,000, the third-largest foreign minority in Japan. Many are working for less than half regular wages and with no social benefits (such as pension or unemployment insurance, and in some cases, health insurance) under the conditions of their visa. They have kept Japan’s domestic industries domestic and competitive (Toyota, for example, has become the world’s number two automaker due to foreign labor (http://www.debito.org/shuukandiamondo060504.html)

They have also suffered the indignity of their children not having guaranteed access to education. According to the Asahi Shinbun of Feb 12, 2007 (http://www.debito.org/?p=241), between “20 and 40%” of all Brazilian children in Japan are not attending school. Japanese schools are even turning away foreign children because, they claim (legally correctly) that “only citizens are guaranteed an education in Japan”. Meanwhile, according to the Yomiuri Shinbun evening edition of May 21, 2007 (http://www.debito.org/?p=408), 20,000 NJ students in Japanese schools are not sufficiently capable in the Japanese language to follow classes. There are no clear remedial measures being taken by the national government; some local governments and NGOs are trying to fill in the gap, see http://www.debito.org/hamamatsusengen.html), and there are some fledgling ethnic schools, but they are underfunded, expensive to many at these wages, and ministerially unaccredited (which means graduates cannot enter many Japanese universities).

Thus the biggest losers in this dreadful state of affairs are the immigrant children, some of whom are growing up uneducated, illiterate in any language, and sentenced to become an economic underclass (and members of youth gangs; I anticipate more NPA fingers being pointed at NJ youth for causing crime, of course). Thus as Newsweek Japan headlines in its Sept 13, 2006 issue (http://www.debito.org/newsweekjapan091306.html English version http://www.debito.org/?p=16): “Japan is still shutting its eyes regarding its dependence on immigration”.

Even those who beat the odds and stay in school have to suffer the indignities of what is tantamount to officially-sanctioned ijime: Being pointed out for their differences assigned from birth, and told to somehow “correct” them, for the sake of rules that refuse either to acknowledge or to update themselves to a changing state of affairs.

We now turn this report to finding out what was on the mind of Maria and Nicola’s high school, and why they received different treatment just because one looked more like one of her parents…


May 22, 2007, 1PM
Address: Shizuoka ken Ohmaezaki shi Ikeshinden 2907-1, http://www.ikeshinden-h.ed.jp/pasoind.htm

Getting to Ikeshinden was neither quick nor cheap. A 40-minute bus ride from the nearest JR station (Kikugawa), it took me six hours round trip (and more than 10,000 yen) from my speech venue and back. The area boasts many tea and farm factories, not to mention chemical, biochemical, filtration and even fishing rod factories attracting cheap labor. Still, Ikeshinden could be any generic town in Japan, not clearly full of NJ residents, save for the occasional Brazilian restaurant, liquor store, or person with South American features on public transport.

I made an appointment at Ikeshinden the day before with a Mr Okada, a middle-aged man with the energy and drive of high school teachers worldwide. I was directed to him because he is in charge of what I will affectionately call the Hair Police–a group of teachers (who rotate this duty every few years) who go around checking the neatness and appearance of Ikeshinden’s students. Okada had been working here for six years and through two HS principals (every single one of them honored in black-and-white photos mounted respectfully on the wall on cushioned tasseled pillows; they glowered down on us in the conference room we talked in), and was very helpful in explaining what is behind these kinds of systems.

Okada: “We have the kids follow the rules as listed in the Seito Techou (Students’ Guidebook) 2007.” He cited the rules regarding hair and allowed me to transcribe them:

–will not perm, straighten, dye, bleach etc their hair.
…are not allowed to have extreme (kyokutan) hairstyles, or shave their temples etc.
…will not let their hair fall over their eyes (and will not let their hair grow down to their collars).
They will have a refreshing style as befits a high school student. (koukousei rashiku sawayaka ni suru)

–will not perm, straighten, dye, bleach, or add extensions etc to their hair.
…will not let their hair fall over their eyes
Girls with long hair will pin it back in a way that does not interfere with classroom instruction.

I noted that some directives were a bit vague. (Then again, I thought, if rules got instead too specific, it would feel militaristic…) Who was the final arbiter in case there was some, pardon the pun, grey area? Okada said that for the time being, he was entrusted with that duty.

I asked about the mindset behind enforcing these kinds of rules.

Okada: “It’s important to get the students to understand the importance of following rules in society (kihan ishiki).” He also noted that it was important that students look proper for job and college interviews, as the school’s reputation was on the line. “It’s also important for students to stop thinking selfishly, and have an awareness of society (shakai ishiki).”

That’s when I raised the question about who these rules are for. If the student wants to control his or her own image, that is their business, no? The rules seemed more for the school’s benefit than the students.

Okada: “Probably. But about a decade ago, our rules were much looser and our school was one of the worst in the area. So our principal tightened them up, and now our reputation has gotten much better. It’s still tight to this day.”

I asked how many NJ students they had. “Nineteen, mostly Brazilian. Some Phiippine, Chinese, and Peruvian too.”

So then I raised the issue of Nicola (whose name and nationality I did not mention), and how she still felt traumatized by the enforcement of these rules. “Her sister said that she was forced to change her natural hair color and style regardless. Isn’t this unaccommodating?”

He said that in his six years of teaching there he had never heard of someone having to dye their natural hair color to black. Or straighten. In fact, he noted, straightening hair was specifically against the rule book. “We might have some people whose hair lightens due to exposure to the sun during sports, but even then we don’t tell them to dye it back. The fundamental rule is: ‘Don’t mess with your hair.'”

I then asked how they determined whether someone’s hair was in fact “natural” or not, and how they conducted the follicular search.

Okada: “It starts from the first week of school. We check everyone in assembly and see if they have any attributes which run foul of the rule book. If so, they are called in later as a group and searched more closely.”

You mean you look for black roots?

“We can usually tell if they’ve done something to their hair. People who curl or otherwise fiddle with their hair end up lightening it. Hair which differs from root to shoot is suspect.”

But look at my hair. I have dark brown roots but light tips. Would I be suspect?

“You would be called in for a closer look. It’s pretty clear–you can see a straight line between old dye and fresh growth in a hair.” He then explained in quite exact detail how the inspection goes. My barber would applaud. “But if it’s declared natural, we leave it as is, of course.”

So what happens if somebody is rumbled with fake coloration?

“We tell them to get their hair dyed back to black in a week. If they don’t comply, we take further measures. We will check every week for a few weeks, and their homeroom teachers keep an eye on them in future.”

And what if they still refuse to comply? How far would you go? Suspension?

“Truth be told, it hasn’t come up. The students have always eventually complied.”

So I returned to Nicola’s case. She said that she wasn’t judged as natural and you know the rest. Could there be a flaw in the system?

“I’ve never seen anyone with natural hair color being forced to dye it. I can’t say more without knowing the specific individual case.”

That was where Nicola’s issue ended. Since it is my wont, I concluded with advice:

“Okada-sensei, I understand the need for uniforms and order in schools. However, uniforms does not necessarily mean uniformity, and uniforms and hair are different. You can change your clothes when you go home, it’s pretty easy. It’s not as much part of your identity. But having to change your hair, that goes much deeper. Require everyone, male or female, to shave their head and see if it doesn’t matter–to students, parents, and teachers alike. I bet nobody would agree to that.

“So let’s think about what these hair checks mean. I remember in my third-grade class in the US, we had a lice outbreak. So every morning our teachers gave all of us a lice check. I still remember how intrusive the procedure was, especially when my teacher actually plucked out one of my hairs, put it in an envelope, and had me wait outside the nurse’s office for an hour or so for her to get back and check it. False alarm–no vermin egg was found. But I still remember how traumatizing it was when I hadn’t actually done anything or had anything done to my hair.

“Same thing with your international students. Your rules still assume the ‘natural’, ‘normal’, default hair color is black. That’s not true in this world, and as Japan’s immigration increases, this is going to become even more apparent. As it stands, and as I believe happened in Nicola’s case, your system is open for abuse. And it led to someone getting hurt. As Japan’s schools are fast becoming the cutting edge of Japan’s internationalization, please be careful.”

He agreed, and that was where our conversation basically ended.


are inconclusive at this time. Until have direct photo evidence from Nicola (as in before entering Ikeshinden and during her education there) verifying a change in hair color, it’s a case of he-said, she said. I am grateful to the high school for opening their doors a bit and taking the time to explain their system, moreover lend an ear to my opinions. This is an issue that affects me personally since, as many readers know, my younger daughter is practically blonde. As she starts junior high soon, it’s very important to me that she not be similarly traumatized by banal officials following the rules without considering her feelings.

Chances are, probably few of these teachers were ever on the receiving end of this follicle search. It’s always very hard for the agent to understand the victim when he or she has never been a similar victim himself. By dropping by the school and making my case for a little less stricture, let’s hope it helps raise awareness of the needs of Japan’s future students.

Thanks to Maria and Nicola for their assistance.

This has become the subject of a Japan Times article: “SCHOOLS SINGLE OUT FOREIGN ROOTS: International kids suffer under archaic rules” (July 17, 2007), available at http://www.debito.org/japantimes071707.html

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org
May 22, 2007

Yomiuri: 20,000 NJ students in J schools can’t understand Japanese


Hi Blog. Got another report coming out in tomorrow regarding other ways Japan’s education system is letting immigrant children down. Meanwhile, here’s an article in the Yomiuri about the lack of apparatus to deal with the language barrier. For what it’s worth, in my grade school we had remedial classes for native Spanish speakers. And this was back in the early 1970’s. C’mon, Japan, you bring people over here, you take care of them. You didn’t foresee them having children, for crying out loud? Debito in Sapporo

20,000 in language pickle / Foreign students in need of specialized Japanese teachers
The Yomiuri Shimbun May. 22, 2007

Original Japanese blogged here

The number of foreign students in need of Japanese-language instruction in 885 municipalities exceeded 20,000 as of 2005, and the figure continues to increase, a government survey has found.

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry has produced guidebooks for language teaching, but most public primary, middle and high school teachers have little experience in teaching Japanese as a second language. Experts have pointed out the need for teachers who specialize in teaching Japanese to foreign children.

In Oizumimachi, Gunma Prefecture, about 6,800 of the town’s 42,000 residents are foreigners, and about 10 percent of all students in the seven public primary and middle schools hail from overseas.

Apart from regular classes, the schools also offer Japanese classes to increase foreign students’ language abilities. But the classes are taught by regular teachers who are not trained in language teaching.

An Oizumimachi Municipal Board of Education official said, “Although we’ve hired people who speak Portuguese or Spanish to help out [in the classroom], it would be hard to say our support for teachers is sufficient.”

At Okubo Primary School in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, more than half the 180 students come from South Korea, China, the Philippines and other countries.

“Even if these students can speak Japanese in everyday situations, acquiring the fluency that enables them to study in Japanese takes more time,” Principal Fumiko Nagaoka said.

According to the ministry, the number of foreign students who needed extra Japanese-language training in 1991 was 5,463, and exceeded 10,000 in 1993. As of 2005, the figure stood at 20,692, accounting for about 30 percent of all foreign students.

The largest group among the students are native Portuguese speakers, accounting for 37 percent, followed by those speaking Chinese (22 percent), and Spanish (15 percent).

This is a consequence of the 1990 revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law that allowed foreigners of Japanese descent to work in Japan, which was previously banned. The revision pushed up the number of people entering the country, mainly from South America.

However, the children of such people often stop attending school due to language difficulties, or find it hard to secure jobs after graduating from school.

The ministry has produced manuals for teachers to help them provide language lessons in conjunction with other subjects. A version of the manual was introduced for primary schools in 2003, and for middle schools in March this year.

The manual for middle school teachers says that setting riddles and playing other word games during Japanese classes can help foreign students increase their vocabulary, and that creating a dictionary of unknown words for students also can be helpful.

Only 70 of the 885 municipalities have specialized Japanese teachers. The ministry plans to expand the teacher-training system to cover Japanese-language instruction.

Prof. Ikuo Kawakami of Waseda University said: “In the United States and Australia, there’s a system to foster teachers to teach English to children who can’t speak the language. Japan should introduce a similar system and dispatch expert teachers to schools.”



読売:授業の日本語わかりません 外国人の子供2万人


授業の日本語ワカリマセン 外国人の子供2万人
読売新聞 2007年5月21日 夕刊

指導教諭 大幅に不足

(2007年5月21日 読売新聞)

UTU: Petition against outsourcing NJ jobs (人材派遣会社からの雇用を中止)




From: Nick Wood, President, NUGW Tokyo Nambu UTU

Dear Arudou Debito,

We would be grateful if you would consider adding the announcement below to your regular mailing.

I will be honest, there is some debate over the Japanese wording of the petition. UTU opposes the strategy of outsourcing, a strategy that is being used to cut jobs and wages. This, apparently, can not be easily translated into Japanese, and there is concern that the petition might be construed as an attack on despatch workers. This is most definitely not the case.

NUGW Tokyo Nambu’s Executive approved the petition last night, and we hope you can give it your support. The due date for collection is July 1, 2007

Best wishes… Nick Wood


UTU Announcement:
“Stop Outsourcing – Job Security for All” Petition

The University Teachers Union has launched a “Stop Outsourcing – Job Security for All” petition and is seeking the support of individuals, organizations and unions in Japan.

The petition, which will be submitted in early July, aims to highlight the threat of outsourcing to educational standards at universities, the threat of outsourcing to the job security of university teachers, and the general threat posed by the strategy of outsourcing to the living standards and job security of all workers – both Japanese and foreign.

Download the petition at http://www.utu-japan.org

The petition reads:


内閣総理大臣 安倍 晋三 殿




To Prime Minister Shinzo Abe:

Outsourcing is destroying job security. Agency workers are needed to fill temporary vacancies, but outsourcing is being used by employers to cut jobs, cut wages and cut benefits. We all have a right to secure employment. Stop outsourcing our jobs now!


University Teachers Union says: Some universities are trying to cut costs by using agency teachers and dismissing experienced instructors. Outsourcing threatens our job security and educational standards. Stop outsourcing now!

Download the petition at http://www.utu-japan.org, or here:
UTU Stop Outsourcing Petition.pdf

CHE on measures against Japan’s historical amnesia


Hi Blog. As a corollary to the issue of Japan’s historical amnesia (particularly the Abe Administration’s need to deny the Comfort Women issue and reinstitute “Beautiful Country Japan” though enforced patriotism and a selective retelling of history), here’s an example of civil society and disappearing war veterans at work to preserve the record. Debito in Sapporo


War Museum Resists Japan’s Historical Amnesia
The Chronicle of Higher Education April 27, 2007

Link for subscribers: http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i34/34a05401.htm
Courtesy of the author

The photographs are sickening, a gallery of horrors from a war in which the casualties were counted in the millions: decapitated and disemboweled bodies, dead babies discarded in ditches, skulls staring from a pile of human bones.

After five minutes, the mind starts to numb; 10 minutes and the air in this converted warehouse in a northern suburb feels still and heavy, the weight of history seeping through the doors.

In the newly opened Chukiren Peace Museum, the 80-year old curator, Fumiko Niki, is among a small group of activists and academics who have spent years compiling a depository of records that they say proves the enormity of the imperial army’s war crimes before and during World War II. The effort to remember that history is being lost in a growing revisionist tide, she fears.

“We are in a very dangerous period,” says Ms. Niki. “Awareness of Japan’s role in wartime is fading.”

The main purpose of the museum, she says, is to provide “facts and evidence to history scholars” who want to learn the truth of Japan’s war in China from the early 1930s to 1945. “It is a unique collection,” says the curator. “The repatriated survivors used to be rank-and-file soldiers, which means they were in the front line of the most murderous activities.”

Some other Japanese museums discuss the Nanjing massacre and other war crimes, but typically in a way that minimizes or whitewashes the brutalities committed. The most famous example is the museum attached to Yasukuni Shrine, in Tokyo, which is dedicated to the spirits of soldiers who died in combat, including some convicted of war crimes. That museum essentially argues that Japan was forced into the Pacific war by Western colonialism.

‘Lid on a Stinking Pot’

The core of the Chukiren museum’s collection is the testimony of 300 Japanese army veterans who, while in custody in China in the 1940s and 50s, confessed to atrocities there, including rape, torture, and infanticide. Photographic evidence is held in the archives. Ultranationalists have threatened to burn down the museum, prompting the elderly staff members to look into the unfamiliar world of high-tech security.

The firsthand accounts and more than 20,000 books were donated by Chukiren, an association founded in 1957 by 1,100 veterans who had been held prisoner in China after the war. Many of them had believed that they would be executed as a result of war-crimes trials in China in 1956. But only 45 were indicted, and all of the veterans were repatriated by 1964.

Some became academics and teachers and spent the rest of their lives writing and speaking about what they had done as soldiers. Their testimony was fueled by atonement, compassion, and the need to fight what they saw as Japan’s historical amnesia. When they were not being ignored, however, they were objects of scorn, vitriol, and mistrust. Many critics said the returned veterans had been brainwashed by Chinese Communist propaganda.

“You won’t find these things in school textbooks,” says one of the veterans, Tsuyoshi Ebato, who helped compile the archive.

The accounts include that of a sergeant major who had raped and killed a Chinese woman, and then actually joined other members of his unit in eating her flesh. Mr. Ebato says he himself trained recruits to use captured Chinese for bayonet practice.

“Terrible things like this happened all the time,” he says. “Now people are saying that they never happened. Japan wants to keep a lid on a stinking pot.”

The opening of the Chukiren museum has been hailed by progressive scholars.

“As a historian of that war, I find the testimony consistent with both the documentary record and my own interviews with Chinese villagers,” says Mark Selden, a senior fellow in the East Asia program at Cornell University, in an e-mail message. “Like their American counterparts who returned home to tell of their own destructive acts in Vietnam, the Chukiren soldiers have braved opprobrium from super patriots to tell the truth about the war and their own part in it.”

The collection also includes almost all of the writings of Masami Yamazumi, a former president of Tokyo Metropolitan University and a well-known critic of Japanese education.

Mr. Yamazumi linked his own efforts to preserve evidence of war crimes with his political activism. He fought a long battle to keep official displays of the controversial hinomaru (rising sun) flag out of official school ceremonies. Today, four years after his death, the flag flutters in schools across the country.

Peace as a Global Language calls for submissions by May 31


Hi Blog. Friend Albie Sharpe asked me to pass this along to you. I submitted a proposal for four different talks this morning–we’ll just let them choose which one (or two, perhaps) they want. Debito in Sapporo


Call for Presentations

6th Annual Conference

Peace as a Global Language Conference

Cultivating Peace, in association with a Model United Nations ‘Imagine Peace’
Date: Saturday, October 27 – Sunday October 28.
Venue: Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. 6 Kasame-cho, Sakyo ku, Kyoto 615-8558.

Submissions related to education and research in the following areas are invited:
– peace, the environment, human rights and other global issues,
– intercultural communication, values, health, gender and media literacy,
– foreign language education focusing on global issues.

Presentations may be in English or Japanese, or bilingual. The following presentation formats are possible:
– panel discussion (50 110 minutes)
– workshop (50 minutes)
– research presentation (50 minutes)
– poster sessions (no limit)
– other (please specify clearly).

Presenters may be teachers, students, researchers, journalists, activists and others interested in education for a better world.

Submissions should be no more than 100 words, with a 30 word abstract, and accompanied by the following information:
– Name & contact details of each speaker
– Format (Please also indicate if you are willing to give a poster presentation instead of another format.)
– Presentation language (English, Japanese or bilingual)
– Equipment required (please be very specific)
– Preferred date of presentation (November 12 or 13)
Applications may be rejected if the information provided is insufficient.

Submissions should be sent by e-mail to: submissions@pgljapan.org

Submissions may also be sent by post to the following address:
Craig Smith, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies
6 Kasame-cho, Sakyo ku, Kyoto 615-8558

Deadline for Submissions: May 31, 2007

Notification of Decisions: On/around June 30, 2007 via e-mail

Please note: Our budget is very limited. We regret that we cannot provide funding for transport and other expenses. We do not provide guarantees or other documents for visa applications. We are unable to send volunteers to meet presenters at the airport or provide assistance with accommodation (although homestay might be available for a limited number of presenters applying from overseas). Those unable to meet the above requirements are discouraged from submitting proposals as it may result in somebody else losing the opportunity to present. Please be sure to let us know of any change in your details such as e-mail address.

Further information will be posted on our website soon: http://www.pgljapan.org


Takahashi speech at U of Chicago: “Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”


Hi Blog. Great speech (available as a podcast from the link below) from the University of Chicago’s International and Area Studies Multimedia Outreach Service (CHIASMOS) (Thanks to Fiona for notifying me):

“Postwar Japan on the Brink: Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”
by Professor Tetsuya Takahashi, University of Tokyo
March 6, 2007

Professor Takahashi’s writings, including his 2005 bestseller, The Yasukuni Issue, make unmistakably clear that the role of the Shrine is antithetical to democratic values in Japan and to reconciliation with Asia, which requires acknowledgment of the harms inflicted through colonialism and war. The subject of his lecture is Japan at a crossroads today, its hard-won postwar democratic values at stake as never before.

Professor Takahashi teaches philosophy in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo.

Available as a podcast and/or video at:

Delivered in Japanese, with excellent translation by Dr. Norma Field (author, “In the Realm of a Dying Emperor”), there are no excuses for not listening on either side of the linguistic fence!

EXCERPT (minute 120):
“At the outset of my talk, I referred to the Tomita Memorandum as having been used by those who wanted to criticize the Prime Minister’s official visits to Yasukuni Shrine. However, I think that in the medium future, it is possible that that memorandum could be used in the opposite way–i.e. to clear the way for official visits by the Emperor himself. This past summer, in 2006, Foreign Minister Aso, an extremely influential politician, proposed that in order to revive the path for Imperial worship, the [Yasukuni] Shrine should be nationalized again. Such a proposal by such an influential politician is one we can not afford to overlook.

“It is the case that between 1969 and 1974, the LDP proposed legislation that would remove Yasukuni Shrine from its non-special status and make it again subject to State support. However, in that period, from 1969 to 1974, there was too strong a worry that this would lead to the revivial of militarism, and this legislation was not enacted. However, now, thirty years later, influential politicians in the LDP are stating that the State should remove, according to its own judgment, the Class-A War Criminals from Yasukuni Shrine, secure the understanding of China and Korea, and then make it possible to nationalize Yasukuni Shrine, make it possible for Yasukuni Shrine to have regular visits from the Prime Minister and the Emperor.

“I think that what I laid out earlier is that Triadic System stands a very good chance of being revived now. Namely, with the revision of Article 9, and the establishment of a force that is openly recognized to be an army, with the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education already effected in December of 2006 building in patriotic education. And then, the possibility of nationalizing Yasukuni Shrine–so that if there are deaths on the battlefield that occur, given the newly-established army, then these people will be enshrined in the national shrine and honored by the Prime Minister and the Emperor.

“I hope that you can understand now why I cannot accept that the problem of Article 9 is merely a problem with the Class-A War Criminals. I should have added that all these things could be happening according to this scenario with no objections coming from China and Korea–because the Class-A War Criminals have been disposed of.”
(Transcript by Arudou Debito)

Irish Times: “Abe unleashes the deniers of history”, NYT on textbook revisionism


Hello Blog. Thought this would happen. It’s business as usual as Japan Inc. takes on the world’s political arenas with spin doctoring over “Comfort Women” etc., to feint with the left hand while fiddling with the right. Distract with snow jobs while whitewashing the historical record. Only this time I think we’ve got enough people on the ground over here who know what our government is doing for a change. David McNeill releases an excellent article for the Irish Times, while Norimitsu Onishi, on an incredible roll these days, continues unearthing for the New York Times (who’da thunk it, considering Nori’s articles when he first got here…?) Debito in Sapporo

Abe unleashes the deniers of history
David McNeill
Irish Times, April 2, 2007


One of the Japanese TV networks recently pointed out that some of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ministers no longer stood up when he walked into the Cabinet meeting room. Even worse, fumed one observer, they kept chatting as he tries to start the meeting. Such disrespectful behavior in a political culture where small acts carry enormous symbolic weight could only mean one thing, most concluded: Mr. Abe had lost the respect of his troops.

The unruly Cabinet coincides with a period of plummeting approval ratings for the government, which started last year at 63 percent and now speed inexorably toward the low thirties as elections loom. After a string of scandals and six months in office compared unfavorably to the rocket-fuelled years of Mr. Abe’s predecessor Junichiro Koizumi, that shuffling of ministerial feet may be the harbinger of a prime-ministerial lynch mob.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Mr. Abe is taking shelter under a political umbrella he has always found comfortable: nationalism. The man who coined the election slogan “beautiful Japan” and who will, if nothing else be remembered for re-injecting patriotism into the nation’s schools (in an education law approved Friday) is also unleashing the historical deniers and whitewashers who have long been kept tied up in the dungeons of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The deniers offer a startling historical counter-narrative: Japan was not the aggressor in the Pacific War but the liberator, fighting to defend itself from the U.S. and European powers and free Asia from the yoke of white colonialism; Imperial troops were not guilty, as most historians suggest, of some of the worst war crimes of the 20th century but the “normal excesses” of armies everywhere.

Mr. Abe’s cabinet is dominated by such revisionists. Even as the prime minister was trying to put out the diplomatic fires sparked by his assertion in March that the Japanese wartime state did not round up thousands of sex slaves, his No.3 minister, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura was again denying the military was involved. “It is true that there were “comfort women” said Mr. Shimomura. “I believe some parents may have sold their daughters. But it does not mean the Japanese army was involved.”

Foreign Minister Taro Aso claims a proposed US House of Representatives resolution demanding Japan apologise for the abuse of the women is “not based on the facts.” Mr. Abe himself still says there was no coercion of the women “in the narrow sense of the word.”

As one observer said, what part of “coercion” does Mr. Abe not understand? “I found myself imagining the international reaction to a German government which proposed that it had no historical responsibility for Nazi forced labour, on the grounds that this had not been “forcible in the narrow sense of the word,” wrote Tessa Morris-Suzuki, a professor of Japanese History at the Australian National University.

The ground zero of the revisionist movement is Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine and the attached museum, which offers the same Alice-in-Wonderland version of history. For decades, Yasukuni has generated controversy because among the 2.5 million ordinary troops enshrined there are the men – officially branded war criminals — who led Japan’s disastrous 1931-45 campaign. The government has always said that it had nothing to do with the decision by Yasukuni’s Shinto priests to honour the men but evidence released this week suggests this is a lie.

Papers released by Yasukuni and compiled in a new book claim the government was “closely involved” in the campaign to enshrine hundreds of A, B, and C-class war criminals, going back to 1958. The campaign was of course done in secret. “How about enshrining them in a way that would be hard to discover,” wrote one Welfare Ministry bureaucrat. The conservative Yomiuri newspaper concluded Thursday that the government and the shrine “shared the view” that war criminals should be honoured.

Mr. Abe is a well-known supporter of prime ministerial visits to the shrine. Confronted with evidence that successive governments had shredded Japan’s Constitutional ban on the separation of state and religion, however, he reverted to type by denying any such thing. “I don’t think there is any problem,” he told incredulous reporters, those big teddy-bear eyes darting nervously from side to side.

So far the prime minister has swatted away speculation that he will visit Yasukuni this year, but this is clearly a case of damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. If he goes, he will torpedo Japan’s slowly healing ties with China and South Korea; if he doesn’t his nationalist supporters will cry foul.

The fact that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Japan early next month makes this political hire-wire act that much more fascinating for political watchers. Will the leaders of one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships discuss Japan’s undigested history? Will Mr. Abe continue to insist that politics and economics be kept separate? And will he keep the political forces he has helped unleash from destroying the hard-won respect Japan has earned since 1945?



April 1, 2007
Japan’s Textbooks Reflect Revised History


TOKYO, March 31 — In another sign that Japan is pressing ahead in revising its history of World War II, new high school textbooks will no longer acknowledge that the Imperial Army was responsible for a major atrocity in Okinawa, the government announced late Friday.

The Ministry of Education ordered publishers to delete passages stating that the Imperial Army ordered civilians to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa, as the island was about to fall to American troops in the final months of the war.

The decision was announced as part of the ministry’s annual screening of textbooks used in all public schools. The ministry also ordered changes to other delicate issues to dovetail with government assertions, though the screening is supposed to be free of political interference.

“I believe the screening system has been followed appropriately,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has long campaigned to soften the treatment in textbooks of Japan’s wartime conduct.

The decision on the Battle of Okinawa, which came as a surprise because the ministry had never objected to the description in the past, followed recent denials by Mr. Abe that the military had coerced women into sexual slavery during the war.

The results of the annual textbook screening are closely watched in China, South Korea and other Asian countries. So the fresh denial of the military’s responsibility in the Battle of Okinawa and in sexual slavery — long accepted as historical facts — is likely to deepen suspicions in Asia that Tokyo is trying to whitewash its militarist past even as it tries to raise the profile of its current forces.

Shortly after assuming office last fall, Mr. Abe transformed the Defense Agency into a full ministry. He has said that his most important goal is to revise the American-imposed, pacifist Constitution that forbids Japan from having a full-fledged military with offensive abilities.

Some 200,000 Americans and Japanese died during the Battle of Okinawa, one of the most brutal clashes of the war. It was the only battle on Japanese soil involving civilians, but Okinawa was not just any part of Japan.

It was only in the late 19th century that Japan officially annexed Okinawa, a kingdom that, to this day, has retained some of its own culture. During World War II, when many Okinawans still spoke a different dialect, Japanese troops treated the locals brutally. In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum presents Okinawa as being caught in the fighting between America and Japan — a starkly different view from the Yasukuni Shrine war museum, which presents Japan as a liberator of Asia from Western powers.

During the 1945 battle, during which one quarter of the civilian population was killed, the Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawa’s defense and safety. Japanese soldiers used civilians as shields against the Americans, and persuaded locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping. With the impending victory of American troops, civilians committed mass suicide, urged on by fanatical Japanese soldiers.

“There were some people who were forced to commit suicide by the Japanese Army,” one old textbook explained. But in the revision ordered by the ministry, it now reads, “There were some people who were driven to mass suicide.”

Other changes are similar — the change to a passive verb, the disappearance of a subject — and combine to erase the responsibility of the Japanese military. In explaining its policy change, the ministry said that it “is not clear that the Japanese Army coerced or ordered the mass suicides.”

As with Mr. Abe’s denial regarding sexual slavery, the ministry’s new position appeared to discount overwhelming evidence of coercion, particularly the testimony of victims and survivors themselves.

“There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide,” Ryukyu Shimpo, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, said in an angry editorial. “There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers” to blow themselves up.

The editorial described the change as a politically influenced decision that “went along with the government view.”

Mr. Abe, after helping to found the Group of Young Parliamentarians Concerned About Japan’s Future and History Education in 1997, long led a campaign to reject what nationalists call a masochistic view of history that has robbed postwar Japanese of their pride.

Yasuhiro Nakasone, a former prime minister who is a staunch ally of Mr. Abe, recently denied what he wrote in 1978. In a memoir about his Imperial Navy experiences in Indonesia, titled “Commander of 3,000 Men at Age 23,” he wrote that some of his men “started attacking local women or became addicted to gambling.

“For them, I went to great pains, and had a comfort station built,” Mr. Nakasone wrote, using the euphemism for a military brothel.

But in a meeting with foreign journalists a week ago, Mr. Nakasone, now 88, issued a flat denial. He said he had actually set up a “recreation center,” where his men played Japanese board games like go and shogi.

In a meeting on Saturday with Foreign Minister Taro Aso of Japan, South Korea’s foreign minister, Song Min-soon, criticized Mr. Abe’s recent comments on sexual slaves.

“The problems over perceptions of history are making it difficult to move South Korean-Japanese relations forward,” Mr. Song said.

Mr. Aso said Japan stuck by a 1993 statement acknowledging responsibility for past sexual slavery, but said nothing about Mr. Abe’s denial that the military had coerced women, many of them Korean, into sexual slavery.




ブロクのみんなさま、以降は株式会社 スリーエーネットァークという出版社への抗議文です。NPO 多民族共生人権教育センターからの依頼で、手紙の下で当グループからいただいた文書と関連記事をご参考まで。宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人


株式会社 スリーエーネットァーク
社長 高井 道博 様

北海道情報大学 助教授
有道 出人


冠省 私は日本の国際化を研修している北海道情報大学助教授有道 出人(あるどう でびと)と申します。帰化した日本人として、単行本「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽温泉入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店07年改訂)の著者です。詳しくはwww.debito.orgをどうぞご覧下さい。


既に様々な改善要請が御社に届いたと思いますが、ご存知の通り、図書館のスタッフは要求する立場にはありません。法律上(外国人登録法 第十三条 第二項)では「入国審査官、入国警備官、警察官、海上保安官その他法務省令で定める国又は地方公共団体の職員」に限り、要求することができます。図書館員は該当者になりません。




〒… 北海道情報大学
有道 出人



NPO 多民族共生人権教育センターより昨年の抗議文:

株式会社 スリーエーネットァークの社長 高井 道博氏からの返答(2006年5月26日付):



上記の毎日新聞の記事によると「返答を検討する」と言ったものの、1年間が経ってから当社一切譲りませんね。回答書で挨拶なく、「宜しくお願い致します」などさえない言い方などで、多少疑問が残ります。この出版社は外国人のニーズについて充分な認識がありますかね。有道 出人

PM Abe: OK, OK, I apologize for “Comfort Women”, already


Hi Blog. Trace the Arc of Abe, from denial to hair-splitting to no comment to deflection to apology through his cabinet. Previous articles archived here

However, belated apologies like this (just by simple human nature, apologies tend to mean less when they come after being demanded, especially over a long duration) will have the irony of a similar debate:

Just how much “coercion” was there behind Abe’s apology? And how does this affect the sincerity of the act?

Anyway, it’s a step in the right direction (was there any other direction realistically to step?). The media from the Mainichi etc. leading up to this included below. Debito in Sapporo


Abe apologizes to sex slaves
March 26, 2007. Mainichi Shinbun


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, under fire for denying that Japan forced women to work as sex slaves during World War II, offered a new apology Monday for the front line military brothels.

“I apologize here and now as prime minister,” Abe told a parliamentary committee, according to his spokesman Hiroshi Suzuki.

Thousands of Asian women — mostly from Korea and China — worked in the brothels, and estimates run as high as 200,000. Victims say the Japanese military forced them into the brothels and held them against their will.

Earlier this month, Abe denied there was any evidence the women had been coerced into sexual service, reflecting the views of conservative Japanese academics and politicians who argue the women were professional prostitutes and were paid for their services.

Abe’s denial drew intense criticism from Beijing and Seoul, which accuse Tokyo of failing to fully atone for it’s wartime invasions and atrocities.

The issue has also stirred debate in the United States, where a committee in the House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution calling on Tokyo to fully acknowledge wrongdoing and make an unambiguous apology.

Abe previously said he would not apologize because Tokyo expressed its remorse in a 1993 statement on the matter by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. (AP)

March 26, 2007. Mainichi Shinbun


Shinzo Abe’s Double Talk
He’s passionate about Japanese victims of North Korea — and blind to Japan’s own war crimes.
Washington Post, Saturday, March 24, 2007; A16


THE TOUGHEST player in the “six-party” talks on North Korea this week was not the Bush administration — which was engaged in an unseemly scramble to deliver $25 million in bank funds demanded by the regime of Kim Jong Il — but Japan. Tokyo is insisting that North Korea supply information about 17 Japanese citizens allegedly kidnapped by the North decades ago, refusing to discuss any improvement in relations until it receives answers. This single-note policy is portrayed as a matter of high moral principle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has used Japan’s victims — including a girl said to have been abducted when she was 13 — to rally his wilting domestic support.

Mr. Abe has a right to complain about Pyongyang’s stonewalling. What’s odd — and offensive — is his parallel campaign to roll back Japan’s acceptance of responsibility for the abduction, rape and sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of women during World War II. Responding to a pending resolution in the U.S. Congress calling for an official apology, Mr. Abe has twice this month issued statements claiming there is no documentation proving that the Japanese military participated in abducting the women. A written statement endorsed by his cabinet last week weakened a 1993 government declaration that acknowledged Japan’s brutal treatment of the so-called comfort women.

In fact the historical record on this issue is no less convincing than the evidence that North Korea kidnapped Japanese citizens, some of whom were used as teachers or translators. Historians say that up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines and other Asian countries were enslaved and that Japanese soldiers participated in abductions. Many survivors of the system have described their horrifying experiences, including three who recently testified to Congress. That the Japanese government has never fully accepted responsibility for their suffering or paid compensation is bad enough; that Mr. Abe would retreat from previous statements is a disgrace for a leader of a major democracy.

Mr. Abe may imagine that denying direct participation by the Japanese government in abductions may strengthen its moral authority in demanding answers from North Korea. It does the opposite. If Mr. Abe seeks international support in learning the fate of Japan’s kidnapped citizens, he should straightforwardly accept responsibility for Japan’s own crimes — and apologize to the victims he has slandered.


The analogy – fair or otherwise – between the Japanese abductees and second world war ‘comfort women’ and forced labourers of other types, seems to get very little attention in the Japanese press.

However, this article in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032301640.html was reported in this morning’s Asahi Newspaper (This is an onlilne article from yesterday) http://www.asahi.com/international/update/0325/006.html which accuses the Japanese prime minister of “double talk” about abductions.

BTW todays’ printed asahi article uses “ni mai jita” (forked tongue?) as a translation for “double talk” in the original, but yesterday’s internet version of the Asahi uses “gomakashi” (fudging) as a translation of the same article.

Abe’s talk is double, it is claimed, since he takes a severe, high moral against the North Koreans for abducting Japanese, but seems to be attempting to play down the abduction of Asians as sex slaves, claiming that there is no documentary evidence for abductions by the Japanese government. I am sure that at least the North Koreans have been drawing this analogy.

Indeed one Japanese abductee – who claims not to have been abducted – visited Japan and returned to North Korea saying things like (not accurate quote but something along the lines of ) ‘you don’t understand your past at all’ to this mother before he left. The mother thought he had been indocrinated. His story was reported in a back page Asahi article but I can’t find any mention of him on the net. Does anyone know his name?

Still less attention is the analogy between the Japanese abductees and the abduction of children – at least under non-Japanese law – by Japanese parents as mentioned in the life in Japan list previously on these threads. http://groups.yahoo.com/unbounce?adj=163087019,28171&p=1174878464 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/life_in_japan/message/1541 Tim

South Korean activist enters Japanese Embassy to protest World War II sex slaves
March 21, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


PHOTO CAPTION: A South Korean protester Oh Sung-taek, left, runs away from a police officer, right, after he climbs over the walls of the Japanese Embassy compound in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 21, 2007. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered outrage across Asia earlier this month by saying there was no proof the women, including some Australians, were coerced into prostitution. He later said Japan will not apologize again for the military’s “comfort stations.” The Korean read “History Distortion.” (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL — A South Korean activist scaled a wall of the Japanese Embassy on Wednesday, and staged a brief protest atop an embassy building against Japan’s denial of responsibility for forcing women to work as sex slaves during World War II.

Oh Sung-taek, a member of a vocal civic group, stomped on a Japanese flag and shouted anti-Japanese slogans for 10 minutes before he was removed by police, according to witnesses and a police officer. He wore a placard with a picture of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that read: “Destroy History Distortion.”

Police could not immediately enter the embassy to detain Oh because they needed permission from the embassy, the officer said on customary condition of anonymity.

Oh was among 100 protesters gathered outside the embassy for a rally that has been held every Wednesday since 1992 to demand that Japan apologize and compensate World War II sex slaves — who were also called “comfort women” — for Japanese troops.

“Japan who forgets her past cannot create a peaceful future,” read a banner held by one protester.

The turnout was larger than usual because Japan recently insisted there was no evidence its military or government forced women to work in World War II military brothels.

On Friday, Japan’s Cabinet issued a formal statement that no such proof existed, repeating a similar claim by Abe. The declaration was seen as a slap in the face of Asian nations already outraged over Abe’s remarks.

Historians say about 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, served in Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops.

Japan ruled the Korean peninsula as a colony in 1910-45 before it was divided into the South and North. Many Koreans still harbor resentment toward Japan’s occupation. (AP)

March 21, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Japan tries to calm furor over WWII sex slaves
March 7, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


Japan tried to calm an international furor Wednesday over its forcing Asian women to work in military brothels during World War II, saying the government stands by an earlier landmark apology for the practice.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered a barrage of criticism throughout Asia by saying last week there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. He said Monday Japan will not apologize again for the so-called “comfort stations” for Japanese soldiers.

“The prime minister’s recent remarks are not meant to change this government’s position,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said, referring to a breakthrough 1993 apology made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

“The government continues to support the Kono statement,” Shiozaki said.

Historians say thousands of women — as many as 200,000 by some accounts — mostly from Korea, China and Japan worked in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s.

Documentary evidence uncovered in 1992 showed the Japanese military had a direct role in running the brothels. Victims, witnesses and even former soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as prostitutes.

But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses. The government has also questioned the 200,000 women figure.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution demanding a formal acknowledgment and apology from the Japanese government for the brothels.

But on Wednesday, Shiozaki also reiterated earlier comments by Abe that the prime minister would not apologize again even if the measure passes.

“The U.S. resolution is not based on objective facts and does not take into consideration the responses that we have taken so far. Therefore, we will not offer a fresh apology,” Shiozaki said.

Abe’s recent comments about the military brothels have spurred a backlash across Asia, with critics in China, South Korea and the Philippines demanding Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing denounced the use of sex slaves as “one of the serious crimes committed by Japanese militarists during the second World War.”

Li also urged the Japanese government to “stand up to this part of history, take responsibility and seriously view and properly handle this issue.”

Shiozaki tried to downplay criticism that Japan was reneging on past apologies.

“I think we should not continue these discussions in an unconstructive manner for much longer,” Shiozaki said. “Japan’s stance is clear.”

The 1993 apology was not approved by the parliament. It came after a Japanese journalist uncovered official defense documents showing the military had a direct hand in running the brothels — a role Tokyo until that point had denied. (AP)

March 7, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Abe says LDP to conduct fresh investigation into WWII military brothels
March 8, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that ruling party lawmakers will conduct a fresh investigation into the Japanese military’s use of brothels during World War II.

The government is ready to cooperate with the investigation, Abe told a group of reporters, amid calls for a review from conservatives who question many of the claims by victims and others who say the government kidnapped the women and force them into sex slavery.

“I was told the party will conduct an investigation or a study, so we will provide government documents and cooperate as necessary,” he said.

Last week, Abe triggered outrage across Asia by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. On Monday he said Japan will not apologize again for the Japanese military’s “comfort stations.”

Earlier Thursday, Japan’s top government spokesman said that Japan’s position on the coercion of women into sex slavery on the front-line during WWII has been misinterpreted and misrepresented by the U.S. media, and Tokyo will soon issue a rebuttal.

Abe’s remarks came as the U.S. Congress was considering a resolution demanding a formal apology from Japan for its wartime use of the women.

Japanese leaders apologized in 1993 for the government’s role, but the apology was not approved by the Diet. Japanese officials have said the government will not issue a fresh apology and that the issue has been blown up by the U.S. media.

“Our view is that the media reports are being made without an appropriate interpretation of the prime minister’s remarks,” chief Cabinet spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said. “We are considering appropriate measures, such as putting out a rebuttal to reports or comments that are not based on facts or that are based on incorrect interpretations.”

He did not cite any specific reports.

“My remarks have been twisted in a sense and reported overseas which further invites misunderstanding,” Abe said. “This is an extremely unproductive situation,” he said.

Historians say as many as 200,000 women — mostly from Korea, China, Southeast Asia and Japan — worked in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s. Defense documents have shown that the military had a direct role in running the brothels, which the government had previously denied.

Abe said Thursday that he “basically stands by the 1993 apology.” The apology, made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledged government involvement in the brothels, and that some women were coerced into sexual service.

But Abe’s remarks appeared to step away from the government’s previous position.

Defense documents uncovered in 1992 showed the military had a direct role in running the brothels, a charge the government had previously denied. Victims, witnesses and former soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as prostitutes.

Abe’s comments have incensed critics in China, North and South Korea, and the Philippines who have demanded Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

The fallout from the remarks continued to build.

The coercion of women into prostitution was “one of the key, serious crimes committed by Japanese imperial soldiers,” Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

“We hope that Japan can show courage, take a responsible attitude toward history,” he said during a regular news briefing.

“This once again strips bare his true colors as a political charlatan,” North Korea’s official news agency said Wednesday. (AP)

March 8, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Japan’s Cabinet says no evidence establishing coercion of ‘comfort women’
March 16, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


The Japanese government has found no evidence that the military or government forced women to work in World War II military brothels, Japan’s Cabinet said Friday.

The Cabinet presented its assessment in a response to an opposition lawmaker’s question over its stance on a 1993 apology for the government’s role in setting up brothels.

The lawmaker, Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the Social Democratic Party, posted the documents on her Internet home page.

“The government has not come across anything recorded in the materials it has found that directly shows so-called ‘coercion’ on the part of the military or constituted authorities,” the document said.

Historians say as many as 200,000 women, most of them Asians, worked in Japanese military brothels across the region in the 1930s and ’40s.

Japanese defense documents have shown that the military had a direct role in running the brothels, which the government had previously denied.

A senior Japanese official apologized in 1993 for the government’s role, but the Diet did not approve the apology.

Abe triggered outrage across Asia earlier this month by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution.

The remark came as the U.S. Congress was considering a resolution demanding that Japan formally apologize for its wartime use of women.

Abe later said that he stands by the 1993 apology, and that Japan will not apologize again for the military’s “comfort stations.” (AP)

March 16, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Former Japanese leader Nakasone denies setting up sex slave brothel in World War II
March 23, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


A Japanese former prime minister and elder statesman Friday denied setting up a military brothel staffed by sex slaves during World War II, despite writing a memoir that critics say shows he did so while in the navy.

Yasuhiro Nakasone, who served as prime minister from 1982 to 1987 and was known for his friendship with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, described the facility he set up as a place for civilian engineers to relax and play Japanese chess.

“I never had personal knowledge of the matter,” Nakasone told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan when asked about wartime sex slaves, known in Japan euphemistically as “comfort women.”

“I only knew about it from what I read in the newspaper,” he said, adding that such enslavement was “deplorable” and that he supported the Japanese government spokesman’s 1993 apology to victims.

Historians say thousands of women — most from Korea and China — worked in the frontline brothels, and estimates run as high as 200,000. Victims say they were forced into the brothels by the Japanese military and were held against their will.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a resolution that calls on Japan to make a full apology for the brothels, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stirred criticism earlier this month when he denied there was evidence the women were forced into service.

A Nakasone memoir published in 1978 said that members of his 3,000-man navy unit in wartime Philippines and Borneo “began attacking women, while others took to gambling.”

“At one point, I went to great pains to set up a comfort station” to keep them under control, he wrote. The essay was in an anthology of war accounts, “The Eternal Navy — Stories to Hand Down to the Younger Generation.”

In the 1990s, former Philippine sex slaves cited the memoir as further proof Nakasone was involved with enslavement, bolstering their demands that Tokyo compensate the victims. The Japanese government in 1995 set up a private fund for the women, but never offered direct government compensation.

A Nakasone spokesman in 1997 told The Associated Press that the brothel was operated by local business people and that the prostitutes worked there voluntarily and had not been forced into sexual slavery.

But on Friday, Nakasone was vague about the activities at the facility, skirting a question about whether prostitutes were active there.

“The engineers … wanted to have a facility to relax and play ‘go,’ so we simply established a place so they could have that,” Nakasone said, explaining that the men — civilian engineers — needed someplace for rest and entertainment.

Nakasone’s government, as all Japanese governments until the 1990s, denied any official involvement with the wartime brothels.

The former prime minister is known in Japan for his nationalist stance. In 1985, he was the first Japanese prime minister to visit a Tokyo war shrine after it began honoring executed war criminals. (AP)

March 23, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

More on Ibuki “butter” Bunmei from Matt Dioguardi



On Feb 28, 2007, at 1:12 PM, Kirk Masden wrote:

I don’t know if Abe will be made to regret it but he should be.

Abe’s defense strikes me as more problematic than the original

gaff. Abe is equating homogeneity with getting along well. By this

logic, diversity (more foreigners in Japan, etc) leads to acrimony.

It also implies that whatever peace and good human relations have

characterized Japan thus far have been in spite of minorities such as

Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans, etc. This is a very problematic way for

Japan’s leader to defend a remark.

[Education Minister] Bunmei Ibuki’s comments continue to trouble me.

Some things to think about:

1. I’ve found at least two places where Ibuki specifically basically

says, “though there are exceptions such as the Ainu and the Zainichi

people, Japan is fundamentally, one ethnos, one culture, one ethnic

rulership, one language, one belief system” (As Kirk says above, this

is a very exclusivist attitude. He’s basically *excluding* the Ainu

and the Zainichi from participation in the successes of Japanese

rulership, culture, language, and beliefs.)

2. Ibuki also states in more than one place, practically like a

refrain, that because of the post-war constitution and Fundamental

Law of Education are western they emphasize rights over duty, private

over public. This is one reason why Japanese society is falling into

decadence. The examples given again and again are Livedoor and

Murakami funds. Ibuki will say, of course, rights and privacy are

very important, *but* … then he launchs into the problems they cause.

3. The solution suggested is to revise the constitution and the

Fundamental Law of Education to include more values of the Japanese


Has this not already happened somewhat? Article 2 of the Fundamental

Law of Education has been revised from what was previously an

emphasis on individuality and personal development, to a list of

values that perhaps are intended to reflect the values of the

Japanese ethnos.

So because there is a *perceived* majority, and the *perception* that

the *perceived* majority have certain supposedly *shared* values,

those values must now be imposed on *everyone*?

Good grief!

The one positive element here, is that I am gradually finding very

active and vocal Japanese citizens on the net who see through all

this nonsense. But so far not enough to stop the steamroller …

This is a really terrible price to have to pay for Koizumi’s economic


As far as Ibuki’s statements I’ve been blogging some of them here:






Matt Dioguardi


Asahi Column: Tokyo JH school refuses education to NJ child


Hi Blog. What a shock for the parents, not to mention the child who is being refused Secondary Education in Tokyo just because she is foreign. Not to worry, as friend Matt noted elsewhere–I’m sure our Education Minister Mr Ibuki is hard at work on it, given his melting concern with human rights, bullying, etc. Thanks to the Asahi for providing a venue for exposure. Debito in Kurohime, Nagano.


POINT OF VIEW/ Daisuke Onuki: Fundamental flaw remains in education law

The people shall all be given equal opportunities of receiving education according to their ability, and they shall not be subject to educational discrimination on account of race, creed, sex, social status, economic position, or family origin. Thus, the Fundamental Law of Education guarantees the equal opportunity of education to all people of Japan.

However, it is necessary to note that the word “people” is the translation of the word “kokumin,” which literally means “nationals.”

Currently, the most important law on education in Japan, as well as the very Constitution, does not guarantee the right to education for children with foreign nationalities.

Our eldest daughter, who has only Brazilian nationality, was once denied entrance to a public junior high school in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, when trying to transfer from a school in Brazil at the age 15 in the ninth grade.

Officials said our daughter was a year older than the proper age for obligatory education. They explained that exceptions cannot be made because the obligatory education system does not apply to a child without Japanese nationality.

Our daughter started primary school at the age of 7 due to her special needs of having to learn both her mother’s and father’s tongues, rather than at 6, which is the usual age for Japanese children. She went to Brazil after attending school for three years in Japan and returned here at the age of 15.

“If the child is a Japanese who had reasons to be enrolled in a grade lower than the appropriate one, obviously he or she needs extra year(s) to finish his or her ‘obligatory education’ and will be granted an exception. However, obligatory education does not apply to you,” they said.

I certainly hope that such an outright denial to school is rare in this country. There are already too many children of foreign nationalities, perhaps numbering in the tens of thousands, who are dropping out or are not attending school.

Legally, the blame for foreign children staying out of school does not fall on any officials or on the parents for that matter. That is because there even does not exist credible statistics concerning the problem.

Both the prime minister and the education minister clarified in the Diet last spring that while the proposed revision of the Fundamental Law of Education does not refer specifically to foreigners, those who wish so will continue to be treated in the same way as Japanese concerning the right to obligatory education.

I understand those words as meaning that when the guardians do not seek education for a child with foreign nationality, it is not the government’s problem and that, when they do seek education for their children, the government will not take the responsibility to treat them according to their special needs.

The Diet approved the revised version of the Fundamental Law of Education on Dec. 15. The use of the word “kokumin” continues in the revised law.

I find it a “fundamental flaw” of the Fundamental Law of Education not to guarantee the right to education of all children residing in Japan.

Issue overshadowed

The Japanese don’t notice the difference unless it is pointed out by those who suffer from it. For myself, I needed a family member without Japanese nationality to notice this flaw.

The problem has not been sufficiently raised by either the conservatives or the liberals. The argument has been overshadowed by the heated debate over the inclusion of “nurturing patriotic attitudes” as a purpose of education in the revised law.

Two years ago, when the population of Japan started to decrease, the number of foreign nationals registered here surpassed 2 million. More than half are so-called newcomers who stay in Japan for the purpose of work. The number of people from Brazil, the country of origin of my wife and daughters, now exceeds 300,000.

They started coming to Japan when the immigration law was revised in 1990 to allow Japanese descendents to visit and live in Japan without restriction in the activities they may engage in. While the government, and society, of Japan are undecided about whether to accept unskilled foreign workers, Brazilians are the ones “experimentally” filling the needs for manpower in all corners of Japan.

Brazilians coming to Japan for work are called “seasonal workers” both in Japan and in Brazil. Quite contrary to the image of the term, and possibly contrary to their original intentions, Brazilian workers often end up staying for 10 or more years in Japan, bringing their families and bearing children here.

Those people are usually called “immigrants” in other countries–a word hardly used here. The immigrant children in Japan, at least those with Brazilian nationality, tend to suffer from difficulties at school.

A survey six years ago estimated that 3,000 Brazilian children between 6 and 15 in Japan had never been enrolled in school. More recent estimates indicate that more than 10,000 Brazilian children never entered school or dropped out.

Somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of Brazilian children are currently out of primary education. These figures do not include the 25 percent of children who go to expensive Brazilian schools that are not officially recognized as “schools” by the Japanese government.

Japan has enough problems with Japanese children dropping out. Official figures show that 3.3 percent of all ninth-grade students refuse to go to school.

Efforts to care for the dropouts and recluses in special programs, or “free schools,” are playing an increasingly important role. Some free schools have become officially recognized as “private schools” and have received government funding since 2005.

However, the 48 Brazilian schools in Japan that are officially recognized by the Brazilian government, and 50 or so that are not recognized, do not receive any private-school funding from the Japanese government.

The situation in which possibly tens of thousands of foreign children are out of school, mostly watching TV at home alone or roaming shopping malls with friends, must be recognized as “child neglect” on the part of society.

Neglecting the child’s right to education is one of the most aggressive threats to the physical, mental and social integrity of the individual. Children with Brazilian nationality have been three to five times more likely to be put in detention centers than the general population over the past six years. This situation has the making of a new form of “ethnic crisis” taking place right in front of our eyes.

In the bicultural family where our children grew up, the refusal to let our eldest daughter attend school was a blow to the effort to “nurture love” of the children for the Japanese culture and country.

I decided not to fight Setagaya Ward, and possibly worsen the situation, and instead chose to live in another city where our child was accepted at school.

How many Brazilian families would know how to handle a similar situation so that their children could continue to study in and to like this country?

A first step

In recent years, many European countries have seen a rise in extreme rightist movements. Our country should not wait for that to happen before taking serious actions.

Guaranteeing foreign children’s right to education in other education-related laws to be revised in the following years will be important steps to take. It has been 16 years since this problem started in Japan’s Brazilian community.

Another year lost in the childhoods of tens of thousands of immigrant children will require an incredible amount of work in the future to undo the damage done to the children, society–and the hopes to build a healthy internationalist Japan.

* * *

The author is an associate professor of international relations at Tokai University and a member of the Alliance for Multiculture Childhood.(IHT/Asahi: February 12,2007)

Ibuki & Abe on human rights & butter, plus reactions from media and UN


Hi All. Sorry to be slow on this issue, but for the record, let me blog a few articles and reactions on this issue without much time right now for comment (will include comments from others). Debito in Youga, Tokyo


Ibuki: Japan ‘extremely homogenous’
The Japan Times Feb 26, 2007


NAGASAKI (Kyodo) Education minister Bunmei Ibuki said Sunday that
Japan is an “extremely homogenous” country, a type of comment that in
the past has drawn criticism.

In 1986, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a
“homogenous race” nation and faced strong criticism, mainly from Ainu
indigenous people.

Speaking at a convention of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s
chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture, Ibuki said, “Japan has been
historically governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an
extremely homogenous country.

“In its long, multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the
Japanese all the way,” Ibuki said in a 40-minute speech on education
reform. Ibuki is minister of education, culture, sports, science and

QUICK COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Just like, “In it’s long, multifaceted history, America has been governed by the Americans all the way.”?

Or how about Japan’s postwar SCAP? Oh, that doesn’t count, I guess. The issue is too silly to dwell upon any further. Let’s get to what makes this more problematic:


Abe sees no problem in education minister calling
Japan ‘homogeneous’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday downplayed
criticisms over his education minister’s remarks a day
earlier and said there was nothing wrong with the
minister calling Japan an ”extremely homogenous”
”I think he was referring to the fact that we
(the Japanese public) have gotten along with each
other fairly well so far,” Abe said when asked to
comment on the remarks by education minister Bummei
Ibuki. ”I don’t see any specific problem with that.”
Abe, who has been hit by a series of gaffes by
members of his Cabinet recently, added, ”Of course
there have been battles in our history, as in the
Sengoku (warring states) era, but it was rare that one
side would completely wipe out their opponents, so I
believe we’ve cooperated well with each other through
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the
top government spokesman, also said he did not find
the remarks ”specifically problematic” but warned
that ”Cabinet ministers must be responsible for their
own words.”
Ibuki said Sunday at a convention of the ruling
Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki
Prefecture that ”Japan has been historically governed
by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely
homogenous country.”
Remarks regarding homogeneity have drawn
criticisms in the past, such as in 1986 when then
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a
nation with a ”homogenous race.” He faced strong
criticism mainly from Ainu indigenous people.
In his 40-minute speech on education reforms,
Ibuki, who is minister of education, culture, sports,
science and technology, also said, ”In its long,
multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the
Japanese all the way.”
Ibuki also issued a warning about paying too much
respect to human rights, illustrating his remark by
pointing out what happens if one eats too much butter.
”No matter how nutritious it is, if one ate only
butter every single day, one would get metabolic
syndrome,” he said. ”Human rights are important, but
if we respect them too much, Japanese society will end
up having human rights metabolic syndrome.”


Abe fine with ‘homogeneous’ remark
The Japan Times Feb 27, 2007

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday downplayed criticism of remarks
by his education minister the day before and said there was nothing
wrong with Bunmei Ibuki calling Japan an “extremely homogenous” country.

“I think he was referring to the fact that we (the Japanese public)
have gotten along with each other fairly well so far,” Abe said. “I
don’t see any specific problem with that.”

Ibuki said Sunday at a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s
chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture that “Japan has been historically
governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely
homogenous country.”

Remarks regarding homogeneity have drawn criticism in the past. For
instance, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone faced a strong backlash,
mainly from Ainu indigenous people, when in 1986 he described Japan
as a nation with a “homogenous race.”





Bunmei Ibuki’s comments were *worse* than I realized. If this isn’t
big news, in my opinion, it *should* be. If I have time I will blog
on this tomorrow. I hope others do as well.

The Japan Times articles did *not* report on other comments that
*did* get reported in the Japanese press. Searching around I did find
that some of these comments got reported in at least one English
newspaper, the Telegraph.

Ibuki makes comments that show on a fundamental basis he
misunderstands constitutional government.

He seems to view rights as entitlements sort of handed out by the
government. However, these rights can be overemphasized and to the
detriment of the minzoku.

Minzoku translates as folk, but it’s code words for *race*, as in
Yamato Minzoku.

Ibuki’s opinion is that rights should not be overemphasized at the
expense of the minzoku. And he explicitly identifies the Yamato Minzoku.

This is the *same* minzoku that so many Japanese lost their lives
over during WWII.

This is sort of like saying, yes, it’s nice to have rights, but don’t
forget that the heart and soul of Japan is the Yamato minzoku, our
homogenous race heritage.

This is really unbelievable and stunning. The fact that Abe does not
see a problem with these comments is also political miscalculation he
hopefully will suffer for.

Ibuki should resign and Abe should profusely apologize.

Because of the importance with which I see this issue, I’m posting
the entire Telegraph article:

Minister’s human rights rant shocks Japan
By Colin Joyce in Tokyo
Last Updated: 6:39am GMT 27/02/2007

Japan’s education minister has stunned the country with a gaffe-
strewn speech in which he claimed that too much emphasis has been
put on human rights.

Bunmei Ibuki, 69, also said that Western-style individualism is
damaging Japan, while he praised Japan’s racial homogeneity and
appeared to denigrate minorities.

Japanese newspapers reported yesterday that Mr Ibuki, a veteran
politician who worked at the Japanese embassy in London for four
years in the 1960s, implied in his speech in Nagasaki that problems
with Japan’s education policy stemmed from the fact that it was
imposed by the US occupation authorities after the Second World War.

“Japan has stressed the individual point of view too much,” he
said. He also argued that a society gorged on human rights was like
a person with an obesity-related illness.

“If you eat butter everyday you get metabolic syndrome. Human
rights are important but a society that over indulges in them will
get ‘human rights metabolic syndrome’,” he said.

The speech raises questions about Tokyo’s commitment to concepts
such as human rights and democracy, which Japanese commentators
note were brought to Japan by defeat in the war rather than created
independently by domestic reforms.

It is unclear whether Mr Ibuki’s choice of the word “butter” was
intentional or unfortunate, but it echoes an old disparaging
Japanese expression for Western ideas: “stinking of butter”.

The term came about because Westerners traditionally had a far
higher dairy content in their diet than Japanese and hence were
thought to smell of butter.

Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/02/27/wjapan27.xml


Here is a link to his comments in Japanese:

Some of his comments:
1. 人権だけを食べ過ぎれば、日本社会は人権メタボ
ningendake wo tabesugireba, nihonshakai wa ninken metaborikku shoukougun
“If we (eat) partake too much of human rights, our society will
degrade as the human body does when it partakes of unhealthy food.”

2. 権利と自由だけを振り回している社会はいずれだ
kenri to jiyuu dake wo furimawashite iru shakai wa irzure dame ni
naru. kore ga konnkai no kyouiku kihonn houkaisei no ichiban no pointo
“If we only brandish our desire for freedom and rights, then society
becomes useless. That is the number one point of our educational

The idea that there is some kind of trade off between rights and a
“good” society is completely misconstrued. A good society is one
where people have rights and those rights are protected, period.

If we allow that rights can be curbed at the needs of *society* we
introduce a random variable that can be interpreted however one wants
to interpret it. We *all* have different views on what a *good*
society would be. This is why we have democracy.

Moreover, Ibuki doesn’t seem to grasp that freedom in a political
sense *only* means freedom from (physical) coercion. The government
cannot grant freedom in any other sense of the word. We accept that
the government will have to use a limited amount of (physical)
coercion to carry out its job, this is why we recognized the
fundamental danger inherent in governmental power.

Shall we allow more government physical coercion in in order to
support the Yamato minzoku. This is absurd. And its coming from the
minister of education!

The primary function of government is not to create a utopian
society, be it the Yamato minzoku, or some extreme form of Islam or
Christianity. The *fundamental* function of government is to
*protect* our rights. Through the exercise of those rights, we might
be able to help society, physical coercion should not shape those

I’ll note that at least one politician has a nice come back to Ibuki.
Kiyomi Tsujimoto stated:
nihon wa ninken ishiki ga tarinai kuni da to kokusaiteki ni mirarete
iru. metaborikku dokoro ka eiyou busoku da.

“As from an international perspective Japan does not have enough of a
human rights sense of consciousness, I’d say as far as human rights
rather than having a human rights syndrome, we’re undernourished.”




Beating the Yamato drum
The Japan Times March 1, 2007


With health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa’s gaffe remark that women are “childbearing machines” still fresh in people’s memory, yet another Cabinet member has put his foot in his mouth. This time, education minister Bunmei Ibuki has voiced objectionable ideas on the general character of the Japanese state and human rights issues.

In his speech about “education resuscitation” in a meeting of a Liberal Democratic Party chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture, Mr. Ibuki said the Yamato race has ruled Japan throughout history and that Japan is an extremely homogeneous country. He also expressed the idea that there should be limits to the enhancement of human rights. Likening human rights to butter, he said, “However nutritious butter is, if one eats only butter every day, one acquires metabolic syndrome. Human rights are important. But if they are respected too much, Japanese society will end up with human rights metabolic syndrome.”

Mr. Ibuki’s comment is ideological. It is known that Japan’s ancient culture, the foundation of Japan’s present culture, was an amalgamation of various roots. No one single race formed Japanese culture. Referring to Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s remark in 1986 that Japan is a nation with a “homogeneous race,” Mr. Ibuki said, “I did not say homogeneous race.” Even so, his mentioning the homogeneous character of Japan shows he does not altogether accept Japanese society as a composite also of Korean, Chinese and other foreign residents as well as Japanese nationals who do not identify themselves as members of the Yamato race — Ainu people, for example.

His human rights comment is also troublesome. It is clear that Japan has many human rights problems that must be addressed. Mr. Ibuki should remember that various rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are the basis of a healthy democracy. Strangely, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended Mr. Ibuki, saying his statements are not problematic. Such words will only fuel doubts about Mr. Abe’s integrity as a national leader.


EDITORIAL/ Ibuki in the dark on rights
Asahi Shinbun 02/28/2007

Addressing at a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture on Sunday, education minister Bunmei Ibuki said: “If you eat only butter every day, you develop metabolic syndrome. If Japanese overindulge themselves on human rights, the nation will develop what I’d call ‘human rights metabolic syndrome.'”

Metabolic syndrome’s telltale symptom is abdominal obesity, which could cause strokes and other diseases. Ibuki used this medical case to voice his view that society will become “diseased” if human rights are overemphasized.

Speaking on the present and future of educational revival, he also asserted: “Any society that goes hog-wild for rights and freedoms is bound to fail eventually. For every right, there is obligation.”

Perhaps Ibuki wanted to point out the mistake of asserting one’s rights without accepting the obligations that go with them.

However, although “rights” and “human rights” can overlap each other in some areas, they are not completely interchangeable concepts.

The very fact that Ibuki coined the expression “human rights metabolic syndrome” revealed his insensitivity to human rights issues. Is there truly a glut of human rights in Japan today?

In the education world in which Ibuki has the top administrative responsibilities, suicides among bullied children continue because they are unable to cope with the torment.

Elderly people are increasingly becoming victims of abuse. There are also endless cases of domestic violence and threats from spouses. Foreigners and people with disabilities continue to face discrimination.

Last week, a Kagoshima District Court ruling condemned the persistent police practice of using heavy-handed interrogation tactics to force “confessions” out of crime suspects and making up investigation reports.

The situation in Japan is alarming not because of human rights excesses, but rather because there are too many human rights issues that are being ignored by our society.

The abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents constituted a grave violation of human rights. Therefore, the Japanese government submitted a United Nations resolution condemning Pyongyang’s violations of human rights. The resolution was adopted by the world body.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated in his policy speech last month that he would work closer with nations that share such basic values as freedom, democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of law. But what we don’t understand is that the same Abe sees “nothing wrong” with Ibuki’s comment.

Human rights issues are among the primary concerns of the world today. It is surely Japan’s role to continue upholding democracy and human rights in the fast-evolving international community and situation in Asia. Japan will be held in higher esteem only if it strives to become a “human rights nation” where every individual is respected as a person.

It is all the more regrettable that Ibuki, the very minister in charge of Japanese education and culture, has uttered remarks that revealed his lack of respect for human rights. The last thing we want the education minister to do is give the rest of the world the wrong message–that the Japanese people are quite satisfied with the present state of human rights.

Where human rights are concerned, Japan is nowhere near developing any disease from overindulging. It is still undernourished.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 27(IHT/Asahi: February 28,2007)

人権メタボ 文科相のひどい誤診だ


















J Times quotes UN’s Doudou Diene re Ibuki comments


Hi Blog. Writing this between speeches. Got Eric Johnston of the Japan Times on the phone yesterday to UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene for some exclusive responses about Education Minister Ibuki’s quotes (and PM Abe’s defense of them). Ibuki compared paying (too much?) attention to human rights to Metabolic Syndrome, like ingesting too much butter. Huh?

I’ve been slow on the uptake recently (I have averaged about two speeches a day this week), but I’ll add Ibuki’s comments later for the record to this blog with a link from here.

Anyway, glad we got Diene on the record giving this administration the criticism it deserves. I made sure to get Kyodo and Japan Times articles on Ibuki and Abe into his hands. (As well as the Gaijin Hanzai Mag, of course, which he promised will go into his next report.) Great timing by these fools in the Abe Administration all around.

Got a speech in an hour to the Roppongi Bar Association, so signing off here. Sorry to be so slow recently. Debito in Roppongi Hills.


U.N. special rapporteur challenges Ibuki’s ‘homogenous’ claim
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer


The U.N. special rapporteur on racism countered Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki’s claim over the weekend that Japan is a homogenous country.

“There is no such thing as pure blooded or a pure race. Where do the Ainu fit in to Japanese society? Or the Chinese and Koreans?” Doudou Diene, the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Japan Times.

“I am absolutely shocked at his remark. Here is the education minister, the person who in charge of educating Japan’s children about their history, saying something that is so outdated.”

Diene is in Tokyo to follow up on last year’s U.N. report on racial discrimination in Japan.

On Sunday, Ibuki told the Liberal Democratic Party’s Nagasaki chapter that Japan has been historically governed by the Yamato — Japanese — race and that Japan is an extremely homogenous country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday defended Ibuki’s comments, which have also drawn criticism from human rights groups.

Abe said he thought there was no problem with Ibuki’s remarks as he believed the education minister was referring to the fact that Japanese have gotten along with each other well so far.

The special rapporteur said Japanese, South Korean, and Chinese history scholars should work together through the United Nations to resolve historical issues.

By doing this, he said, not only historical tensions but also the deeper racism in East Asia that has led to those tensions can be addressed in an atmosphere free from domestic politics.

Diene said Ibuki’s remarks and Abe’s comments about them will likely be included in the new report he will submit to the U.N. later this year.


Amnesty lashes out
Kyodo News

Amnesty International Japan on Tuesday harshly attacked education minister Bunmei Ibuki for saying too much respect for human rights would give Japan “human rights metabolic syndrome.”

In a letter sent to Ibuki, Amnesty demanded he retract his remarks, saying they “ignore the human rights of citizens.”

“It is true that exercising rights carries with it obligations,” the human rights group said. “But it is states and governments which undertake obligations to guarantee citizens their rights.”

Through the remark, Ibuki has neglected his obligations and is trying to restrict human rights, Amnesty said.

The Japan Times: Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007