Japan’s Supreme Court rules Japan’s marriage requirement for Japanese nationality unconstitutional

mytest

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.  I think this will be the best news we’ll hear all year:

Thanks to the vagaries (and there are lots of them) of Japan’s koseki Family Registry system, if a child is born out of wedlock to a Japanese man and a NJ woman, and the father’s parentage is not acknowledged BEFORE birth, Japanese citizenship up to now has NOT been conferred.  Japanese citizenship is still NOT conferred EVEN IF the J man acknowledges parentage AFTER birth.  

(If the situation was reversed i.e. J mother-NJ father, it doesn’t matter–obviously the mother and child share Japanese blood, therefore Japanese citizenship is conferred.  Of course, the NJ father has no custody rights, but that’s a separate issue…  More in HANDBOOK pp 270-2.)

But as NHK reported tonight, that leaves tens of thousands of J children with J blood (the main requirement for Japanese citizenship) either without Japanese citizenship, or completely *STATELESS* (yes, that means they can never leave the country–they can’t get a passport!).  It’s inhumane and insane.

But the Japanese Supreme Court finally recognized that, and ruled this situation unconstitutional–conferring citizenship to ten international children plaintiffs.  Congratulations!

News photo

Photo by Kyodo News

(NHK 7PM also reported last night that three Supreme Court judges wrote dissents to the ruling, some claiming that the Diet should pass a law on this, not have the judiciary legislate from the bench.  Yeah, sure, wait for enough of the indifferent LDP dullards in the Diet to finally come round, sounds like a plan; not.)

Read on.  I’ll add more articles to this blog entry as they come online with more detail.  One more step in the right direction for Japan’s internationalizing and multiculturalizing society!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Top court says marriage requirement for nationality unconstitutional

TOKYO, June 4, 2008 KYODO

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9133QJG2&show_article=1

     The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a Nationality Law article requiring parents to be married in order for their children to receive Japanese nationality, ruling in favor of 10 Japanese-Filipino children.

     The top court’s grand bench made the landmark decision in two separate cases, filed in 2003 by one such child and in 2005 by a group of nine who were born out of wedlock to Japanese fathers and Filipino mothers and who obtained recognition of the paternity of their fathers after birth.

     After the ruling, the children — boys and girls aged 8 to 14 years who live in areas in eastern and central Japan — and their mothers celebrated in the courtroom by exchanging hugs, with some bursting into tears.

     One of the children, Jeisa Antiquiera, 11, told a press conference after the ruling, ”I want to travel to Hawaii with on Japanese passport.”

     One mother, Rossana Tapiru, 43, said, ”I am so happy that we could prove that society can be changed,” while another said, ”It was truly a long and painful battle.”

     Hironori Kondo, lawyer in one of the two cases, said it is the eighth top court ruling that has found a law unconstitutional in the postwar period and that ”it will have a significant bearing on the situation facing foreign nationals in Japan.”

     Yasuhiro Okuda, law professor at Chuo University who has submitted an opinion on the case to the Supreme Court, said that in the past 20 years tens of thousands of children are estimated to have been born out of wedlock to foreign mothers, citing data by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

     A majority of the 15 justices including Presiding Justice Niro Shimada on the grand bench ruled the Nationality Law clause goes against the Constitution.

     The justices said in a statement, ”there might have been compelling reasons that the parents’ marriages signify their child’s close ties with Japan at the time of the provision’s establishment in 1984.”

     ”But it cannot be said that the idea necessarily matches current family lifestyles and structures, which have become diversified,” they said.

     In light of the fact that obtaining nationality is essential in order for basic human rights to be guaranteed in Japan, ”the disadvantage created by such discriminatory treatment cannot easily be overlooked,” the justices stated in the document.

     Without nationality, these children face the threat of forced displacement in some cases and are not granted rights to vote when they reach adulthood, according to lawyer Genichi Yamaguchi, who represented the other case.

     Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a press conference following the ruling, ”I believe the government needs to take the verdict seriously, and we will discuss what steps should be taken after examining the ruling carefully.”

     Three justices countered the majority argument, saying it is not reasonable to take into consideration the recent trend in Western countries that have enacted laws authorizing nationality for children outside marriages, on the grounds that the countries’ social situations differ from that in Japan.

     In both of the cases, the Tokyo District Court in its April 2005 and March 2006 rulings granted the children’s claims, determining that the differentiation set by the parents’ marital status is unreasonable and that the Nationality Law’s Article 3 infringes Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides for equality for all.

     Overturning the decisions, however, the Tokyo High Court in February 2006 and February 2007 refused to pronounce on any constitutional decisions, saying it is the duty of the state to decide who is eligible for nationality, not the courts.

     Under Japan’s Nationality Law that determines citizenship based on bloodline, a child born in wedlock to a foreign mother and Japanese father is automatically granted Japanese nationality.

     A child born outside a marriage, however, can only obtain nationality if the father admits paternity while the child is in the mother’s womb. If the father recognizes the child as his only after the child’s birth, the child is unable to receive citizenship unless the parents get married.

     In short, the parents’ marital status determines whether the child with after-birth paternal recognition can obtain nationality.

     Children born to Japanese mothers are automatically granted Japanese nationality, irrespective of the nationality of the father and whether they are married.

==Kyodo  ENDS

JAPAN TIMES EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL

June 6, 2008
Giving children their due

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20080606a2.html

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a Nationality Law clause that denies Japanese nationality to a child born out of wedlock to a foreign woman and Japanese man even if the man recognizes his paternity following the birth.

It thus granted Japanese nationality to 10 children who were born out of wedlock to Filipino women and Japanese men. The ruling deserves praise for clearly stating that the clause violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law. The government should immediately revise the law.

The 12-3 grand bench decision concerned two lawsuits filed by the 10 children aged 8 to 14, all living in Japan. The Tokyo District Court, in two rulings, had found the clause unconstitutional, thus granting Japanese nationality to the children. But the Tokyo High Court had overturned the rulings without addressing the issue of constitutionality.

Under the Nationality Law, a child born to a foreign woman married to a Japanese man automatically becomes a Japanese national. Japanese nationality is also granted to a child of an unmarried foreign woman and Japanese man if the man recognizes his paternity before the child is born. If paternal recognition comes after a child’s birth, however, the child is not eligible for Japanese nationality unless the couple marries.

The law lays emphasis on both bloodline and marriage because they supposedly represent the “close connection” of couples and their children with Japan.

The Supreme Court, however, not only pointed out that some foreign countries are scrapping such discriminatory treatment of children born out of wedlock but also paid attention to social changes. It said that in view of changes in people’s attitude toward, and the diversification of, family life and parent-child relationships, regarding marriage as a sign of the close connection with Japan does not agree with today’s reality.

The ruling is just and reasonable because children who were born and raised in Japan but do not have Japanese nationality are very likely to face disadvantages in Japanese society.

The Japan Times: Friday, June 6, 2008
ENDS

Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japan’s offer to sign Hague Convention on Child Abductions by 2010

mytest

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. Here’s a professional assessment by legal scholar Colin Jones in the Japan Times, on Japan’s recent offer to sign the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, and promise to do something about Japan becoming a haven for international kidnapping. As Colin puts it, results remain to be seen–when an abducted child to Japan actually gets returned. But it’s never happened.  

And I know from personal experience that Japan’s signing a treaty doesn’t mean the legal structure actually enforces it, such as in the case of racial discrimination in Japan. Read on:

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Hard work begins once Japan signs child-abduction treaty
By COLIN P.A. JONES, June 3, 2008

THE JAPAN TIMES COMMUNITY PAGE
THE ZEIT GIST

 

News photo
CHRIS McKENZIE ILLUSTRATION

If my own mailbox is any indicator, the Internet is buzzing as international family lawyers, family rights activists and others share an exciting piece of news: Japan is reportedly planning to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction! Perhaps Japan’s days as a haven for international parental child abduction are numbered. Perhaps Japanese courts will stop giving the judicial seal of approval to one parent’s selfish desire to erase the other from a child’s life. Fingers crossed.

Though one could question the timing of the very low-key announcement two months before the Hokkaido G8 Summit, the Japanese authorities should be commended for taking what will be a big step forward in the sphere of private international law. The concerted pressure of diplomats from a number of countries (including several G8 nations) who have pushed Japan on this issue for years, and the efforts of activists often parents who have lost any hope of being part of their own children’s lives but have continued to speak up for the benefit of others must also be acknowledged and appreciated.

I must confess to having been skeptical that this would happen so soon (it could happen as early as 2010) if at all. I will be glad–ecstatic–to be proved wrong. However, I do not plan to crack open any champagne until an abducted child is actually returned home. International treaties, like marriages and childbirth, are events to be celebrated, but all of the hard work comes afterward.

By entering into the convention, Japan will be agreeing with other signatory countries that children wrongfully brought to Japan even by a parent will be promptly returned. One key aspect of the convention is that it limits the role of judges in these decisions. Rather than deciding whether remaining in Japan is in a child’s best interests (which has almost always been the conclusion of Japanese judges in abduction cases), in cases under the convention judges are limited to deciding whether a child has been brought from his or her home country “wrongfully” (in violation of foreign law or court orders, without the consent of the other parent, etc.). If the removal is found to be wrongful, absent exceptional circumstances the judge is supposed to order the child’s return. All this is supposed to happen on an expedited basis in order to prevent a new status quo from developing in the child’s living environment.

Two other aspects of the convention are noteworthy. First, signatory countries are obliged to help locate abducted children. This would be a great improvement over the current situation in Japan, where parents who are able to commence what is likely to be hopelessly futile litigation in Japan’s family courts are actually the lucky ones, since this means they at least know where their children are. Less lucky parents have to try and find their children somewhere in the country, often disadvantaged by barriers of language and culture. The act of trying to find or communicate with your own child may even be deemed a form of stalking.

Second, the convention protects rights of access (or visitation, as it is called in some countries). Thus even foreign parents who do not have custody over their children can use the convention to try to preserve contact with children brought to Japan. Courts in some convention countries have been aggressive in interpreting this provision to ensure that even a parent with full custody does not use those rights to frustrate visitation by the other by relocating to a foreign country. Since Japanese courts typically only award visitation if both parents agree, and visitation orders are unenforceable anyway, any improvement in this area would be welcome.

Enforcement of return orders is likely to be the big hurdle for Japan in implementing the convention. Enforcement is an obstacle even in strictly domestic disputes between Japanese parents over child abduction or denial of access. Since family court orders are unenforceable, one wonders what will happen when the first return order is issued by a Japanese judge under the convention. It is, after all, clearly limited to the civil aspects of child abduction it does not require that children be returned by force.

In the U.S. or Canada, whether a case arises under the convention or not, court orders are backed by quasi-criminal sanctions such as contempt. In some states interfering with custody or visitation is itself a criminal offense. Even if it is not, a parent in these countries seeking to enforce access rights or the return of a child can usually call upon the police to help them. In extreme cases intransigent parents resisting enforcement may be arrested or jailed.

In Japan, however, police typically do not get involved in family matters or in the enforcement of court orders in civil matters. The only remedy available to parents with even a whiff of penal sanction involved is habeas corpus (which requires an abducting parent to appear with the child in court), though access to this remedy in disputes between parents has been limited by the Supreme Court.

It seems unlikely that Japan joining the convention alone would change this basic aspect of the country’s legal system, since it would involve the police (and prosecutors) in a vast new area of law enforcement family disputes when only a tiny fraction of such disputes would involve the Hague Convention. Perhaps some enforcement mechanism limited to convention cases will be developed, though it would be an odd (though not impossible) result if parents and children from abroad got a better deal in the Japanese legal system than those actually living in Japan. Furthermore, bureaucratic imperatives being at least as important as actual law in Japan, it is difficult to imagine how the police and prosecutors could ever find it in their interests to be arresting Japanese parents (more often than not mothers) in order to return Japanese children to foreigners.

Thus, if Japan joins the convention, its implementation may develop in one of three ways. First, it may be implemented as it is in other major countries and abducted children will be returned through its procedures–great! Or judges will issue return orders that prove impossible to enforce, leaving things largely as they are now. Perhaps convention cases will be given greater access to habeas corpus, which could be an improvement.

A third possibility, however, is that rather than issuing orders they know are unenforceable (or to avoid being seen as favoring foreigners), judges aggressively take advantage of the exceptions in the convention. One of these is that children do not need to be returned if it would “expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.” In some countries this exception is limited to cases where the child would be returned to a war zone, or similar situations. However, if the reasons used for denying visitation are any indicator–excessive present-buying, visitation making the custodial parent ill, etc. are any indicator, the bar for applying the psychological harm exception may end up being low.

Under the convention, another reason for refusing to return the child is if “the child objects and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views.” Since the convention does not specify what this age is, it gives courts a high degree of flexibility. Thus Japanese courts could continue to reward parental alienation by placing the burden of deciding on children. Getting children to say “I don’t want to see Daddy/Mommy” seems to work pretty well for getting a court to deny visitation, so getting them to say “I want to stay in Japan with Daddy/Mommy/Grandma” may work in convention cases too.

I feel like a bit of a wet blanket writing this. Make no mistake, it will be great if Japan actually does join the convention. Whatever help Japanese authorities need in understanding and implementing the convention should be offered unstintingly. Anything which improves the situation of children abducted to Japan is to be applauded. And if joining the convention somehow leads to improvements for the many more Japanese children in strictly domestic cases who lose one parent through judicial action (or inaction), it would be almost revolutionary.

Colin P.A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha University Law School. Send comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp
The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Japan Times 4th JUST BE CAUSE column on “Good Grass Roots” June 3 2008

mytest

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

GOOD NEWS FROM GRASS ROOTS
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 4
By Arudou Debito
Japan Times June 3, 2008
Draft ten with links to sources.

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080603ad.html

Reader Rodney in Vancouver recently emailed:  “I’ve often found your articles informative and useful, but they tend to take a tone of complaint.  Please tell us about some face-to-face, grassroots efforts that have helped make Japanese more considerate and respectful of those who are different.”

Thanks.  Yes, my essays sound like “complaints” because I focus on ongoing issues that need redress.  That doesn’t mean I don’t see the good news too.  Here are 700 words to prove that (apologies for leaving out anyone’s favorite topic):

First up, the labor unions (i.e. the ones that let non-Japanese join, even help run).  Their annual Marches in March, for example, have made it clear to the media (and nasty employers like NOVA) that non-Japanese workers are living in and working for Japan–and that they are ready to stand up for themselves, in both collective bargaining and public demonstrations.

These groups have gained the ear of the media and national Diet members, pointing out the legal ambiguity of Trainee Visas, and systematic abuses of imported labor such as virtual slavery and even child labor. For example, Lower House member (and former Prime Ministerial candidate) Taro Kono in 2006 called the entire work visa regime “a swindle”, and opened ministerial debate on revising it.

In the same vein, local NGOs are helping NJ workers learn Japanese and find their way around Japan’s social safety net.  Local governments with high NJ populations have likewise begun multilingual services; Shizuoka Prefecture even abolished their practice of denying Kokumin Hoken health insurance to NJ (on the grounds that NJ weren’t “kokumin”, or citizens).

These governments are holding regular meetings, issuing formal petitions (such as the Hamamatsu and Yokkaichi Sengens) to the national government, recommending they improve NJ education, social insurance, and registration procedures.

Still more NGOs and concerned citizens are petitioning the United Nations.  Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene has thrice visited Japan on their invitation, reporting that racial discrimination here is “deep and profound” and demanding Japan pass laws against it.

Although the government largely ignored Diene’s reports, United Nations representatives did not.  The Human Rights Council frequently referenced them when questioning Japan’s commitment to human rights last May.  That’s how big these issues can get.

More successes from the grassroots:  Separated/divorced NJ parents with no custody (or even access) to their Japanese children have drawn attention to Japan’s unwillingness to abide by international standards against child abduction.  After international media coverage and pressure, Japan announced last month it would finally sign the Hague Convention on Child Abductions by 2010.

Decades of civil disobedience by “Zainichi” Korean Permanent Residents led to the abolition of all NJ fingerprinting in 1999.  Although claims of “terrorism and crime” led to Japan reinstating NJ fingerprinting at points of entry into the country in November, the Zainichis were granted an exception.

Last year, a viciously racist magazine on foreign crime entitled “Gaijin Hanzai” found its way into convenience stores nationwide (Zeit Gist March 20, 2007).  Internet mail campaigns and direct negotiation with store managers occasioned its withdrawal from the market–even helped bankrupt the publisher.

And of course, there is the perennial campaign against “Japanese Only” establishments, which often exclude any customer who doesn’t “look Japanese”.  Following Brazilian Ana Bortz’s 1999 court victory against a Hamamatsu jewelry store, I was one plaintiff in another successful lawsuit (2001-2005) against a public bath.  The Otaru Onsens Case has become, according to law schools, a landmark lawsuit in Postwar Japan.

It’s a long story, but here’s the “face-to-face” for Rodney:  Only one Otaru bathhouse got sued because we went to each one (and a number of others around the country) for long chats.  One owner even became my friend, and, heartsick at what he was doing, took his “no foreigner” signs down.  As did many other places when persuaded politely by us. (More in my book Japanese Only.)

These are the butterflies flapping up a storm, sweeping down barrier after barrier.  Things are indeed getting better in many ways for NJ residents.

And that’s partly because we have shed our “cultural relativism” and “guestism”, pushing more for our due in a society that needs us.

People are listening.  Some steps forward, some back.  But we shall proceed and succeed, as the above examples demonstrate.

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

HANDBOOKcover.jpgArudou Debito is co-author of Handbook For Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan. A version of this essay with links to these issues at www.debito.org/japantimes060308.html

720 words

ENDS

“Japanese Only” T-Shirt appears in Italian SkyTG24 report on G8 Pre-Summit

mytest

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.  Was sent this a few days ago from journalist Pio D–him reporting on May 25, 2008, from the recent ecological G8 “Pre-Summit” in Kobe.  See the report from Sky TG24 in Italian here.  A screen capture:

Yes, he’s wearing an authentic “Japanese Only” T-shirt from Debito.org, from an authentic “Japanese Only” sign from the Rogues’ Gallery!

And there is more to report–I just heard from another reporter on the scene that security at the Pre-Summit was tighter than ever seen before–and will vindicate my recent Japan Times article on how international events, such as G8 Summits, bring out the worst in Japan vis-a-vis security measures (where civil liberties are lost and the police get the lion’s share of the budget).  I was promised a report in a few days…

Anyhow, hearty thanks to Pio!  I’ll be sending him a replacement Blue T-Shirt ASAP…  

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Free Multilingual Legal Advice Hotline open Sunday June 1, 1-5PM, from Japan Law Foundation

mytest

HANDBOOKsemifinalcover.jpgwelcomesticker.jpgFranca-color.jpg
Hi Blog.  Information courtesy of Kirill Konin at the United Nations…

I just received information about a hotline which will be open from 1 to 5pm on Sunday June 1st providing free legal advice to foreigners living in Japan. This is to test the demand for such a service in relation to research by the Japan Law Foundation being made by lawyers, NGOs and researchers on the necessity of starting a specialized law office/center for foreigners/refugees. Interpretation will be provided, in many languages.

If the hotline receives many calls, this will strengthen the case for such a service, which seems to be to be sorely needed.

If you also feel this could be an important service, please pass this information on.

For further information, please contact: Ms. Masako Suzuki on 03-5269-7773, at the  Executive Committee for Foreigners Legal Counseling (c/o ALT Law Firm)

MULTILINGUAL POSTER AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD IN PDF FORMAT AT
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Free Legal Telephone Counseling for Foreigners/Refugees

– By lawyers in different languages –

We, the Executive Committee for Foreigners Legal Counseling, have planned a one-day free legal telephone counseling for foreigners and refugees.  Such a nationwide free legal telephone counseling focused on foreigners/refugees by lawyers has never been held so far.  More than 10 lawyers will join this event and multilingual interpretation service will be provided.  This event is held in cooperation with the Center for Multilingual Multicultural Education and Research of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, the Catholic Tokyo International Center (CTIC), Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), and the House in Emergency of Love and Peace (HELP)

Up to now, specialized legal consultations for foreigners/refugees are available only in regions around big city areas. The purpose of this event is to make it possible for foreigners who have difficulty accessing legal consultation to consult with lawyers.

It would be highly appreciated if you can help us disseminate information regarding this significant event.  Please feel free to contact us at the following contact for any questions or further information.

This event has been planned in relation to the research of the Japan Law Foundation being made by lawyers, NGOs and researchers on the necessity of starting a specialized law office/center for foreigners/refugees, to cope with the rapid increase of the non-citizen population in Japan.

Date: Sunday June 1, 2008 13:00 – 17:00

Tel: 03-3547-0300

Languages Available: Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Russian, Indonesian, Burmese, Romanian and others.

Contact: Executive Committee for Foreigners Legal Counseling (c/o ALT Law Firm)

Tel:03-5269-7773 Fax:03-5312-4543

MULTILINGUAL POSTER AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD IN PDF FORMAT AT
ENDS

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

mytest

HANDBOOKsemifinalcover.jpgwelcomesticker.jpgFranca-color.jpg

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

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New Yorker, now councilman in Japan, aims to inspire American high schoolers
By Kevin Kuo
Kyodo/Japan Today, Undated, downloaded May 22, 2008
http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/new-yorker-now-councilman-in-japan-aims-to-inspire-american-high-schoolers
Courtesy of Dave Spector

NEW YORK —
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.’’

ENDS

Terrie’s Take 469: GOJ to sign Hague Convention on Child Abduction by 2010

mytest

HANDBOOKsemifinalcover.jpgwelcomesticker.jpgFranca-color.jpg
Hi Blog. The GOJ recently told the United Nations Human Rights Council that it suddenly has an interest in upholding international treaty against child abductions. Witness:

============================
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Second session, Geneva, 5 – 19 May 2008
A/HRC/WG.6/2/L.10 14 May 2008
DRAFT REPORT OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
Japan
(excerpt)
6. “Responding to various written questions submitted in advance, Japan stated its
willingness to cooperate with Special Rapporteurs, including arranging visits to the country
as time permits. Japan was also studying the relationship between the provisions of the
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture protocol and domestic legislation,
including on how the “visits” mentioned in the protocol will be carried out in practice. It
stated that it regards the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child
Abduction and the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, and
Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of
Children as effective tools for children’s rights and welfare, and will continue to study the
possible conclusion of the two conventions by giving due consideration to, inter alia, the
current social system, and the cultural situation of Japan.”

http://www.upr-info.org/IMG/pdf/UPR-_Japan_WG_report__text.pdf

(More excerpts on Debito.org here.)

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

Well, what a nice little article in ABC News and a bit of pressure from a couple of governments won’t do! As witnessed in this nice little roundup in Terrie’s Take from last weekend. Forwarding in its entirety. Bests, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(
http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, May 18, 2008 Issue No. 469 (excerpt)

Two weeks ago, the Japanese government made a notable announcement that may make Japan more compatible with the legal conventions used internationally, and will be of particular benefit to non-Japanese spouses of Japanese. The announcement was that by 2010, Japan would sign the the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international legal construct that attempts to deal with the thorny issue of court jurisdiction when children of international marriages are moved cross-border, often by a parent trying to thwart a court ruling in the previous jurisdiction.

Currently, Japan is known as a haven for disaffected Japanese spouses who, in getting divorced, abscond with their kids back to Japan. Once in Japan they can dare their foreign spouses to try getting the kids back — something that despite around 13,000 international divorces a year in Japan and more overseas, has NEVER happened.

The reason for this astounding statistic, that of zero repatriations of abducted children from international marriages after the kids have been abducted to Japan, is entirely to do with the attitudes of the Japanese judiciary and their wish to maintain 19th Century customs in the face of international pressure. Japan has ratified many parts of the Hague Convention treaties over the years, but in terms of repatriation of kids, they have been claiming for 20 years now to be “studying” the issue. That’s Japan-speak for “we’re not interested in making any changes”.

Our guess is that the recent announcement occurred after pressure from the USA and Canada, in particular. Things started to come to a head about 5 years ago, when fed up by repeating occurences of child abductions from both of those countries, and despite court decisions there for custody to go to the local parent, the consular staff of a number of these foreign embassies started holding annual summits to discuss the problem. These discussions escalated to pressure on foreign governmental agencies and politicians in some of Japan’s biggest trading partners — and finally someone spoke to the Japanese government at a sufficiently high enough level to get their attention.

The subject became especially sensitive when the Japanese were at the peak of their indignation over the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens several years ago, and were seeking international support. All the while, Japanese law allowed similar types of abductions here.

In case you’re not up on the state of play, there were 44,000 international marriages registered in Japan in 2006, and probably a good percentage of that number again of Japanese marrying overseas but not bothering to register back in Japan. The divorce rate within Japan is about 30%, and for Japanese living overseas (take the US as an example), it is typical of the local population, so more like 50%-60%. Thus there are a lot of international separations — many of which are not amicable.

But it’s when the kids are involved that things start getting really nasty. Usually in the case of a divorced international couple going to court overseas and after custody is awarded, if one of the parents fears a possible adbuction situation, the couple can be placed under a restraining order not to travel without the other spouse’s consent. The USA, Canada, Australia, and UK all do this. The kids’ passports will often be withheld as well. Unfortunately, there have been a number of cases where the Japanese spouse then “loses” the kids Japanese passports and applies to the local consulate for replacements — only to hop a flight back to Tokyo a few hours later, with the kids in tow.

Once in Japan, the jurisdiction suddenly falls to the Japanese courts, even if there is a foreign arrest warrant out for the absconding partner, and in several cases, even if there is an Interpol arrest warrant out. In Japan, there is no concept of joint custody, and the partner allowed to keep the kids is the one that has held them for the previous few months.

The courts’ opinion here is that kids need a stable environment, and the act of being the only guardian for a period of time, even if that guardian was in hiding, qualifies for this — unless the kids are under 5 years old, in which case they will typically be returned to the mother (if the father is the abscondee), or to the father if the mother has deceased. But not always. There are cases where the Japanese mother has died and the Japanese grandparents have kept the kids, instead of returning them to the foreign father. You can read more about this sad state of affairs at http://www.crnjapan.com/en/.

You won’t believe that this kind of thing is still going on in a first-world country like Japan in the 21st century.

The Japanese court attitude thereby encourages Japanese spouses wanting to hang on to their kids to hightail it back to Japan and lie low for 6 months. Currently there has been no case, even after the Japanese Supreme Court has awarded rightful custody to the foreign parent, where that aggrieved foreign parent has been able to go get their kids back. The reason is quite simply that Japan doesn’t have a mechanism for properly enforcing civil suit judgments, and typically a breach of an order in a civil suit does not result in the offender being subject to a subsequent criminal suit.

Thus, the Hague Convention on child abduction provides a mechanism whereby if children are illegally removed from their country of habitual residence, they must be returned, and the jurisdiction for subsequent court decisions is taken out of the hands of the Japanese courts. This is the first step in making international court rulings involving kids, stick.

We believe that this is going to be a long and slow process, but once the treaty is signed and the first few cases start to be heard, either the kids involved will be returned or the parent trying to hang on to them will create an international brouhaha that will highlight to the world the lack of protection of rights for international parents here in Japan. Who knows, maybe this will start another process — that of allowing foreigners actually residing within Japan to also regain the simple right of access to their children after a divorce.

But in reality we think this level of change will take several more generations and a lot more foreigners living in Japan to achieve…
ENDS

Japan Today: Gov’t looks to immigrants as population shrinks

mytest

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Hi Blog. Good news. The LDP (yes, the LDP!) is actually considering a proposal for not only an immigration policy, but even an immigration ministry, addressing problems we’ve raised here all along regarding seeing NJ as disposable labor, not immigrants.

No word yet on how to make NJ into actual legal residents, but these are still steps in the right direction. There are still politicians mouthing the same old canards at the end of the article, but one doesn’t expect everyone to see sense all at once. Let’s see how the proposals turn out when officially released. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Gov’t looks to immigrants as population shrinks
AFP/Japan Today Tuesday 06th May, 07:17 AM JST
Courtesy of Scott Walker
http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/govt-looks-to-immigrants-as-population-shrinks

TOKYO –Japan’s ruling party is considering plans to encourage foreign workers to stay in the country long-term, a daily reported Monday after the birth rate fell for the 27th successive year.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has proposed setting up an “immigration agency” to help foreign workers—including providing language lessons, the Nikkei economic daily said without naming sources.

The party also intends to reform current “training” programs for foreign workers, which have been criticized for giving employers an excuse for paying unfairly low wages, the paper said.

LDP lawmakers believe that immigration reform will help Japanese companies secure necessary workers as the declining birthrate is expected to further dent in the nation’s workforce, it said.

A group of about 80 LDP lawmakers will draw up a package of proposals by mid-May, it said. No immediate comment was available from the party on Monday.

A government report on the falling birthrate warned in April that Japan’s workforce could shrink by more than one-third to 42.28 million by 2050 if the country fails to halt the decline.

The government said Monday the number of children in Japan has fallen for the 27th straight year to hit a new low.

Children aged 14 or younger numbered 17,250,000 as of April 1, down by 130,000 from a year earlier, the internal affairs ministry said in an annual survey released to coincide with the May 5 Children’s Day national holiday.

The figure is the lowest since 1950 when comparable data started.

The ratio of children to the total population sank for 34 years in a row to 13.5%, also a record low, the ministry said.

Local media said it was also believed to be the world’s lowest, coming below 14.1% for both Italy and Germany.

Japan has struggled to raise its birthrate with many young people deciding that families place a burden on their lifestyles and careers.

Japan’s population has been shrinking since 2005 and the country is not producing enough children to prevent the drop.

Government leaders in Japan, which largely thinks of itself as ethnically homogeneous, have rejected the idea of allowing mass-scale immigration.

Some politicians have argued an influx of immigrants would lead to lower wages for Japanese workers and a higher crime rate.

AFP
ENDS

Mainichi: MOJ overturns deportation order, allows NJ couple to stay with child in Japan.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Good news from MOJ (despite Immigration’s intent to split this couple apart). The ruling elite are indeed capable of compassion after all. Kudos. Arudou Debito in Miyazaki

///////////////////////////////////////////////
Kurdish man, Filipino wife granted special residence permission after overstaying visas
Mainichi Shinbun March 25, 2008
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080325p2a00m0na009000c.html
Courtesy Jeff Korpa

KAWAGUCHI, Saitama — The Justice Ministry has decided to grant special residence permission to a Kurdish man, his Filipino wife and their 7-year-old daughter, overturning its earlier decision to deport the couple for overstaying their visas.

The ministry’s move came after the Tokyo High Court suggested a settlement in the case in which the family’s request to nullify the ministry’s order to deport them had been turned down by the Tokyo District Court.

“After the high court proposed a settlement, we determined that this would be the best way to grant them special residence permission from a humanitarian perspective,” said Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama during a press conference following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

As early as Tuesday, special residence permission will be granted to Taskin, 32, a Kurdish man with Turkish citizenship, his Filipino wife, Beltran, 41, and their daughter, Zilan, who live together in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture.

Taskin and Beltran met each other in 1998 while they were overstaying their visas in Japan. They got married after Zilan was born. However, the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau issued an order in 2004 to deport Taskin to Turkey and Beltran and Zilan to the Philippines.

The family filed a suit against the order, saying, “If we were deported, it would be difficult for us to live together because of religious and other reasons.” Taskin also maintained that he could be persecuted if he returns to Turkey because he had refused to serve in the military.

In March last year, the Tokyo District Court dismissed the family’s demand to nullify the deportation order, but the Tokyo High Court proposed in November that the case should be discussed with an eye to an interim solution.

The family is currently on provisional release status. They are poised to drop their appeal once they are actually granted special residence permission.
ENDS

毎日:強制退去訴訟:ジランちゃん一家に在留特別許可 法務省

mytest

HANDBOOKsemifinalcover.jpgwelcomesticker.jpgFranca-color.jpg
強制退去訴訟:ジランちゃん一家に在留特別許可 法務省
毎日新聞 2008年3月25日
http://mainichi.jp/select/jiken/news/20080325k0000e040041000c.html

 埼玉県川口市に住むトルコ国籍のクルド人タスクンさん(32)とフィリピン国籍の妻ベルトランさん(41)、長女ジランちゃん(7)の一家3人が、強制退去処分の取り消しを求めた訴訟を巡り、法務省は一家に在留特別許可を与える方針を決めた。鳩山邦夫法相が25日、閣議後会見で明らかにした。同日中にも1年更新の定住資格を与える見通し。

 1審は一家の訴えを退けたが、控訴審で東京高裁の寺田逸郎裁判長が外国人の強制退去を巡る訴訟では異例の和解を打診し、法務省が処分見直しを含め対応を検討していた。

 父母は来日して不法残留中の98年に知り合い、ジランちゃんが生まれ結婚。東京入管は04年、退去強制令書を発付し、父はトルコ、母子はフィリピンに強制送還されることになった。一家は「退去させられれば、宗教上の理由などから一緒に暮らすのは困難」と主張、兵役拒否したタスクンさんは帰国すれば迫害の恐れがあるとも訴えていた。

 東京地裁判決(07年3月)は「父母どちらかの母国で一緒に暮らすことに著しい困難は認められない」と請求を棄却したが、高裁の寺田裁判長は07年11月、「暫定的な解決を含め話し合いをしたら」と提案していた。

 現在、一家は仮放免中。鳩山法相は「高裁の提案を受け、人道的配慮から、在留特別許可が最善の方法と判断した」と述べた。原告側も在留特別許可を得られれば訴えを取り下げる方針。【北村和巳、坂本高志】
ENDS

Donald Richie gives great review of HANDBOOK in Japan Times

mytest

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THE JAPAN TIMES
THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF, Sunday, April 20, 2008
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fb20080420dr.html
Helping newcomers settle in Japan

By DONALD RICHIE
HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN, by Arudou Debito and Higuchi Akira, 2008, 376 pp. ¥2,300 (paper)

In this important and necessary book the authors address migrants and immigrants to Japan in saying that “we believe that your life in Japan should be under as much of your control as legally possible.” That it sometimes seems not to be, is the reason for their having written this handbook.

One of the reasons that your life can seem not under your control is ignorance — your own. It is this that the “Handbook” remedies by offering needed information — in English and Japanese — on most of the problems encountered by the newcomer.

There is nothing sinister in the fact that this book is necessary in Japan. Something like it is necessary in most countries. Transparency to newcomers is not a fact of life — natives have been known to disregard their own laws, and bureaucracies thrive on the red tape they can produce.

In Japan the kanji-curtain can cloak the facts and there is, as in all governments everywhere, a tendency toward the status quo and a dependency upon precedence. All of this, however, is vulnerable to informed investigation. This is what the “Handbook” offers — a practical illumination of the relevant laws of Japan and a hands-on approach to enforcing them.

The structure of the book is a paradigm of the newcomer’s experiences. The first chapter is about arriving and establishing residency in Japan, the second is about stabilizing employment. From there we go into starting a business, retiring, dying, having a funeral, paying taxes, and end with a chapter on how we can “give something back” to those among whom we live.

Particularly stressed are the needs of the immigration authorities with close attention paid to proper visas and the conditions under which they remain proper, those that allow work and those that don’t, and further considerations for the long-staying foreigner.

Recommended is the acquiring of either permanent residence or Japanese nationality. There are detailed tables indicating the nature and needs of both and their relative advantages. For permanent residence you will need 10 years residence plus the paperwork: for citizenship, five years plus paperwork — with marriage offering a shortcut to both. (Ministry of Justice statistics — for 2005 — indicate that 96 percent of applicants for citizenship succeeded.)

Warned against is overstaying and/or getting arrested. “The Japanese criminal justice system, with conviction rates at nearly 100%, overwhelmingly favors the prosecution. Do not get arrested in Japan.”

At the same time we are cautioned against the “victim complex” sometimes cultivated locally by foreign residents, longtime or not. We are encouraged to think logically and honestly, as in the differences pointed out by the authors between prejudice on one hand and discrimination on the other.

The former is not an illegal activity because prejudice is thought and you cannot outlaw thought in Japan — freedom of both speech and thought is guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution. Discrimination is, however, illegal, but “you must show that you are being discriminated against not by an individual but by a system or an organization.” Discrimination is action based on prejudice but it is not the same thing.

Much else is also explicated in these pages (taxes, health insurance, court cases, etc.) but a proper review of this very fine book would be as long as the book itself.

This is not the first such handbook. Others have included “A Practical Guide to Living in Japan” (Stone Bridge Press), “Living with Japanese Law” (Edikkusu Pubs) and “A Guide to Foreigners’ Rights in Japan” (Three A Network). Not the first, but this new handbook is much the fullest and consequently the best.

The wise newcomer, be he or she nascent migrant or not, is hereby counseled to acquire this valuable volume and render life in Japan not only possible but practical and pleasurable as well.

The Japan Times: Sunday, April 20, 2008
ENDS

Terrie Lloyd reviews HANDBOOK positively on Daijob.com

mytest

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The Handbook for Life in Japan
By Terrie Lloyd, Daijob.com, March 29, 2008
http://www.daijob.com/en/columns/terrie/article/1630

I don’t review many books because to be honest I don’t have a lot of free hours in the day. But when I heard that a new handbook intended to help foreigners learn and understand the regulations of life in Japan, and how to plan ahead for unexpected situations, I jumped at the chance to get a preview copy. The Japanese don’t make it that hard for foreigners to come and work in Japan, but once you get here, you soon find that no one really seems to know what the actual rules are – whether for visas, finding and keeping a job, taxes, getting married, retirement allowances, etc. Visiting the many Internet information boards can yield some information, but it is often out of date or wrong due to the writer’s lack of legal knowledge.

Well, there is now an authoratative guide to how to get to and live in Japan. It is called HANDBOOK for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan (“Handbook” for short) and is written by Arudou Debito, a well-known blogger and writer who naturalized as a Japanese citizen in 2000, and his cohort, Higuchi Akira, a certified Gyosei Shoshi (Administrative Solicitor).

This is a rather unique book because it takes the view that the reader is at some progressive point in their life in Japan, somewhere prior to first arrival right through to having your remains back home! It gives a general framework of major regulatory issues that each of us as residents in Japan have to deal with in our daily lives. In that respect it is an ideal manual for new arrivals wanting to know what they should and should not do in this rather opaque society. It’s also good for general updates for old hands like myself.

In several chapters, the Handbook gets quite specific, offering advice on what to do if something not so positive happens to you – such as if you get arrested, need to get divorced, get fired unfairly, get discriminated against, etc. These are things that are not spelled out in an authoratative way anywhere else that I can think of, and thus make the publication something you’ll want to keep handy all the time.

The Handbook starts out by defining exactly what documents you need to get into Japan and be legal for various types of activities – in particular for work. It does a good job of clarifying just what documents are needed to get into Japan and how a visa is not the actual certification that lets you stay here, a Status of Residency (SOR) is. It personally took me years to find out how the immigration system works – now you can read about it in just 12 pages.

There is a whole chapter on Employment, covering all the basics such as the labor laws, termination, salary and holidays, deductions and taxes, how the social insurance system works, what the difference is between full-time, part-time, and contract workers, and where to go when you need to get help. I have covered many of these topics over the years, but nonetheless found some materials relating to contract workers which covers new ground. While reading, I found myself making a mental note to follow up on this and get more information about it.

Indeed, this is one of the outcomes of reading the Handbook – it prompts you to want to find out more. Although the book has 376 pages, half of it is written in Japanese so that someone who you might be seeking advice from (a lawyer or Japanese friend or “senpai”) can quickly grasp the nature of what you are asking, and give you a more specific answer. This means that the Handbook is not only a quick read, but also is intended to be a framework rather than an exhaustive reference manual. Arudou addresses this fact by providing copious notes on where to go to get follow up help.

By the time you read this, you should be able to pick up the Handbook at your local bookstore. But just in case you can’t, Arudou maintains a pretty comprehensive website at www.debito.org, and right on the front page there is a link with instructions on how to order a copy. I checked Amazon.com, but obviously the book is still too early to have gone through their registration process yet. The retail price is JPY2,415, and my personal opinion is that it is worth every yen. A necessary read for newcomers, and useful “gap filling” information for longer-term residents.
ENDS

Quick note to readers: Book tour is going exceptionally well…

mytest

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Hi Blog. Been quiet the past couple of weeks as the HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS Book Tour reaches its home stretch. Just a quick word to tell everyone it’s been a life-changing experience, with boxes of books selling out, warm receptions, and good attendances everywhere. Quite simply, I’m not used to a book selling so quickly and reviews so universally positive. I enter the home stretch today, finishing up in Kansai tomorrow and heading due West to my final venues in Okayama and Fukuoka (see next post for full tour schedule). And if you want more information about the book, the reviews, feedback from readers, and bookstores I’ve personally visited nationwide to get the book stocked, please click here.

I anticipate the Debito.org blog will return to its regular schedule of daily updates by April 3. And my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column will be out April 1. Thanks to everyone as always for reading! Arudou Debito in Osaka

“WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS” stickers for businesses now on sale at Debito.org (Paypal OK)

mytest

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Hi Blog. Happy to announce, along with the sale of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS, another new program on Debito.org to push back the night–and counteract the nationwide spread of JAPANESE ONLY signs on businesses: New signs that say “WE WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS”:

welcomesticker.jpg
More details on how you can order these stickers through Paypal here:
http://www.debito.org/welcomestickers.html

I’ll have a list of businesses with the stickers up there as orders come in. Please patronize these establishments, and tell the management that you approve of the sticker!

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(PS: I’ll be on tour from now until April with only sporadic Internet access. Sorry to keep commenters waiting…)

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

mytest

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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
ends

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.
http://www.generalunion.org/law/dispatch

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.
http://nambufwc.org/issues/dispatch/
ENDS

Reuters: Study says Immigrants commit less crime (in California)

mytest

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Hi Blog. Let me just quote somebody else, since she put it so well on The Community List:

=======================
Did anyone happen to catch this story on Yahoo today? I wonder if Japan will get a clue and follow with similar (i.e. realistic) statistics or if they will continue hyping “increase in foreign crime” for political purposes? Tina Koyama, Niigata
=======================

Given how the J NPA is using completely unscientific methods to portray foreign crime (even calling another recent drop in foreign crime a “comparative increase”, as further justification for yet another crackdown), she has a very good point. Arudou Debito in Okinawa

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Study finds immigrants commit less California crime
Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:39 AM ET SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters)
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080226/us_nm/usa_immigration_crime_dc

Immigrants are far less likely than the average U.S.-born citizen to commit crime in California, the most populous state in the United States, according to a report issued late on Monday.

People born outside the United States make up about 35 percent of California’s adult population but account for about 17 percent of the adult prison population, the report by the Public Policy Institute of California showed.

According to the report’s authors the findings suggest that long-standing fears of immigration as a threat to public safety are unjustified. The report also noted that U.S.- born adult men are incarcerated at a rate more than 2 1/2 times greater than that of foreign-born men.

“Our research indicates that limiting immigration, requiring higher educational levels to obtain visas, or spending more money to increase penalties against criminal immigrants will have little impact on public safety,” said Kristin Butcher, co-author of the report and associate professor of economics at Wellesley College.

The study did not differentiate between documented immigrants and illegal immigrants.

The question of what to do about the millions of undocumented workers living in the United States has been one of the major issues in the U.S. presidential election. Mexico, which accounts for a high proportion of illegal immigrants in California, was deeply disappointed at the U.S. Congress’ failure to pass President George W. Bush’s overhaul of immigration laws last year.

When Butcher and her co-author, Anne Morrison Piehl, associate professor of economics at Rutgers University, considered all those committed to institutions including prison, jails, halfway houses and the like, they found an even greater disparity.

Among men 18 to 40, the population most likely to be in institutions because of criminal activity, the report found that in California, U.S.-born men were institutionalized 10 times more often than foreign-born men (4.2 percent vs. 0.42 percent).

Among other findings in the report, non-citizen men from Mexico 18 to 40 — a group disproportionately likely to have entered the United States illegally — are more than eight times less likely than U.S.-born men in the same age group to be in a correctional institution (0.48 percent vs. 4.2 percent).

“From a public safety standpoint, there would be little reason to further limit immigration, to favor entry by high-skilled immigrants, or to increase penalties against criminal immigrants,” the report said.

(Reporting by Duncan Martell; Editing by Adam Tanner and Bill Trott)
ends

ABC News (USA) finally breaks the story about Japan as haven for child abductions

mytest

HANDBOOKsemifinalcover.jpg
Hi Blog. Here’s a magnificent article from ABC News (USA) about how Japan remains a haven for child abduction after a Japanese-NJ marriage breaks up.

Long-overdue attention is given one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets–how NJ (who have no Family Registry) have essentially no parental or custody rights in Japan after a marriage breaks up. And how Japan refuses to take any measure to safeguard the access of both parents to or the welfare of the child under the Hague Convention (which it refuses to sign).

I met Paul Wong during my speech last December at the upcoming film documentary on this subject, FOR TAKA AND MANA. Glad he’s gotten the attention his horrible case deserves. I too have no access to my children after my divorce, and I’m a citizen! Bravo ABC. Get the word out.

More on this issue on Debito.org here.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Spirited Away: Japan Won’t Let Abducted Kids Go
American Parents Have Little Hope of Being Reunited With Children Kidnapped to Japan
By RUSSELL GOLDMAN
ABC News (USA) Feb. 26, 2008
http://www.abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=4342760&page=1
Courtesy of Damian Sanchez

Kaya Wong’s parents never imagined they would be able to have a baby.

Born two years after her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Kaya, now 5 years old, was a miracle.

But for Paul Wong, Kaya’s father, the unimaginable soon became the unthinkable. Months after the cancer fatally spread to his wife’s brain in 2005, Kaya, he says, was kidnapped by her maternal Japanese grandparents.

Despite being his daughter’s sole surviving parent, he has few options available to him as an American in Japan, a historically xenophobic country that does not honor international child custody and kidnapping treaties. It’s also a nation that has virtually no established family law and no tradition of dual custody.

He knows where his daughter lives, where she goes to school and how she spends her days, but despite the odd photograph from a family friend, he has not seen his daughter once in the last six months.

Wong is one of hundreds of so-called “left-behind” parents from around the world whose children have been abducted in Japan, the world’s only developed nation that has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

‘Heartbroken’

There are currently 39 open cases involving 47 American children spirited away to Japan, a key American ally and trading partner, but many more go unreported. Not a single American child kidnapped to Japan has ever been returned to the United States through legal or diplomatic means, according to the State Department.

“This entire experience has left me heartbroken,” Wong told ABCNEWS.com. “We always wanted children. My wife and I talked about starting a family for a long time, but because Akemi was sick we kept having to wait. When Kaya was born, I promised my wife that we would move to Japan so that our daughter would know about her Japanese heritage and Akemi, despite her own illness, could care for her elderly parents.”

Wong, a 41-year-old lawyer, says he does not regret keeping his promise to his ailing wife, but his pledge set into motion a series of events that have kept him from seeing his only child.

“She’s very energetic, outgoing, active, inquisitive innocent little girl. She is simply perfect, and sweet as can be. She is not afraid of anything,” he said of his daughter during a phone interview from Japan. “I’m breaking up just thinking about her and talking about her. She loves to laugh and has a smile just like her mother’s.”

Kaya was born in San Francisco in 2003 and is a dual citizen of the United States and Japan. The young family lived in Hong Kong, with Akemi making occasional trips to California for treatment until she and Kaya moved in with her parents in Kyoto, Japan.

Abuse Allegations Common

For more than a year after her mother’s death in December 2005, Kaya continued to live with her grandparents, with Wong visiting monthly from Hong Kong as he worked to find a job that would allow him to move to Japan.

Once he found a job and was preparing to move, however, things suddenly changed.

“Once I moved to Tokyo last year, the grandparents did everything possible to keep Kaya away from me. When I said I’m taking her back, they filed a lawsuit against me filled with lies and claimed I had sexually assaulted my daughter. There are no facts and the evidence is completely flimsy.”

According to Wong, with the exception of one long weekend in September 2007 when he took his daughter to Tokyo Disney, her grandparents were present every time he was with Kaya.

He said that a Japanese court investigator found that the girl was washed and inspected every day after a swimming lesson at her nursery school and her teachers never noticed signs of abuse.

ABCNEWS.com was unable to contact the grandparents Satoru and Sumiko Yokoyama, both in their 70s. State Department officials would not comment on the specifics of this case, but a spokesperson said that allegations of abuse were not uncommon in some abduction cases.

Kaya’s grandparents are elderly pensioners. Under a Japanese program to stimulate the birth rate, families with young children receive a monthly stipend from the government, one reason Wong believes the grandparents have chosen to keep Kaya.

Though Wong’s case is unique in that most child custody disputes result from divorce not death, his is typical of the legal morass in which many left-behind parents find themselves. He has spent thousands of dollars on legal fees and makes regular appearances for court hearings, but his case, like many others, remains stalled.

American parents quickly learn that the Japanese court system is rather different from that of the United States.

There is no discovery phase, pretrial disclosure of evidence, or cross-examination. Lawyers for each side simply present their cases before a judge.

Furthermore, there is no concept of parental abduction or joint custody. The parent or family member who has physical custody of the children, generally the Japanese mother or her family, is granted legal custody.

“Fundamentally, people believe that Japan must have a legal system available to deal with child custody and similar problems,” said Jeremy Morely, an international family lawyer. “In reality, however, there is no such system.”

“Family law is very weak in Japan. There is also a cultural perception that a Japanese child is best off in Japan with a Japanese parent. Boiled down, the law is: Whoever has possession has possession and the other parent should mind his own business,” Morely said.

Culture Clash

Culturally, there is no concept of dual custody or visitation. Once a couple gets divorced, the children are typically assigned to one parent and never again have contact with the other parent.

After divorcing his then-pregnant wife of four years in 1982, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi retained custody of his two eldest sons, Kotaro and Shinjiro. His ex-wife Kayoko Miyamoto took custody of their unborn son, Yoshinaga Miyamoto. Since the divorce Miyamoto has not seen her two eldest sons, and Koizumi has never met his youngest son, Yoshinaga.

Against this cultural backdrop, American parents seeking custody find themselves in an endlessly revolving door of hearings that go on for years and yield no results.

Paul Toland, a commander in the U.S. Navy, estimates he has spent “well over $100,000 in attorney’s fees” for the last five years in an effort to get back his daughter.

Toland’s daughter was taken by his ex-wife to live with her parents in Tokyo while he was stationed in the country in 2003 and he has not seen the girl since.

He began fighting for custody of his daughter Erika, 5, when she was just 9 months old. When his wife, Etsuko Futagi, committed suicide in September 2007, Erika’s maternal grandmother got custody.

“I feel real frustrated because I’m in a holding pattern,” said Toland, 40, who lives in Virginia. “It has been a nightmare trying to get through this.”

Possession Is Key

Though Toland is his daughter’s sole surviving parent, judges in countless hearings have upheld the cultural imperative that it is in the child’s best interest to stay with whomever she is with at that moment.

“Whoever has custody when they walk into court has custody,” Toland said. “Judges never want to disrupt the status quo. There is no enforcement of the law because there is no teeth in the system. Police won’t intervene because they say it is a family matter. Every judge knows that and rules in favor of the status quo because he would lose face if he ordered something that would never be followed through on.”

For now, Toland can only wait and keep trying through the courts.

He said he regularly sends “care packages  big boxes full of presents and videotapes of me reading her children’s books.” Since he does not know whether those videos ever make it to his daughter, he keeps copies locked in a strong box to give her if and when he finally gets custody.

He has considered kidnapping Erika, but says the girl is under her grandmother’s constant supervision.

“Parental abduction is not a crime in Japan, but taking a child out of Japan is a crime. It is legal to abduct my own kid in Japan, but it’s a crime to take her back home with me.”

His parents have each just turned 80 and have never met their granddaughter.

“It is a crime to keep my parents from knowing and loving Erika,” he said.

‘Countries Disagree’

With the legal and cultural cards stacked against them, many Americans turn to the State Department and politicians for diplomatic help, but to little avail.

“On most things Japan is an important partner,” said Michele Bond, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Overseas Citizens Services. “This, however, is one issue where we greatly differ. Left-behind parents often engage in a fruitless campaign to get back their children.”

The State Department, she said, regularly raises the issue of international abduction and Japan’s refusal to join the Hague Convention, a 1980 international treaty on cross-border abductions.

Other countries, particularly Muslim nations that practice Shariah, also have not joined the treaty, but in many of those cases the United States has worked out agreements, or memoranda of understanding, to allow for the return of children. There is no such memorandum with Japan.

“We engage with the government of Japan at every opportunity and bring it up all the time. We try to raise the visibility of the issue and make them aware that this is not the tradition in other countries. Progress has been slow but we are hopeful to find a solution that respects both cultures and everyone’s rights, especially the children,” Bond said.

The State Department currently has 1,197 open cases of child abduction involving 1,743 children worldwide.

Bond said many cases of abduction to Japan go unreported because families know there is little the U.S. government can do to help.

Legislative Efforts

“Culturally, the Japanese are not disposed to deal with foreign fathers. The law does not recognize parental child abduction. Criminal extradition is limited because they don’t recognize that a crime has taken place,” she said.

Despite efforts on behalf of U.S. legislators to contact Japanese diplomatic officials, Wong has received no word of a change in his case.

In April 2007, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sent a letter to President Bush about child abduction on the occasion of the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the United States.

“I am very concerned over Japan’s lack of assistance in these cases and urge you to insist that Japan cooperate fully with the United States and other countries on international parental child abductions. Furthermore, I hope you will press Prime Minister Abe to support the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and to implement a formal two-parent signature requirement for obtaining passports for minors,” the letter stated.

The Japanese government would not comment on specific cases of child abduction and in an exclusive statement to ABCNEWS.com never used the word “abduction.”

“We sympathize with the plight of parents and children who are faced with issues of this kind, which are increasing in number as international exchange between people expands,” reads a statement from the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The embassy said that the Hague Convention was inconsistent with Japanese law, but that joining the convention was still under review.

“Regarding the possibility of Japan’s joining the Hague Convention, we must point out that [the] Japanese legal system related to child custody is quite different from the underlying concept of the Hague Convention. Japanese courts always take into consideration what the best interest of a child is with respect to each individual case, while the Convention provides the relevant judicial or administration authorities in principle [to] order the return of the child, unless the limited exceptions apply.”

Few Successes

Left-behind parents are used to hearing similar language from Japanese judges and American diplomats relaying messages from their Japanese counterparts.

“We strongly believe that it is in the best interest of a child to have access to both parents,” said the State Department’s Bond.

She said a child has never been returned to the United States as a result of diplomatic negotiation or legal wrangling, and knew of only three cases where children were reunited with their American parents  “two in which the parents reconciled and one in which a 15-year-old ran away.”

Michael C. Gulbraa of Salt Lake City is the father of that 15-year-old, his now 17-year-old son Christopher. Christopher returned to the United States in 2006, and calling him a runaway undermines years of careful planning by his father to ensure that if his son wanted to get out of Japan he would be able to.

After Gulbraa and his wife divorced in April 1996, she gained custody of Christopher and his older brother Michael K. Gulbraa.

In 1999, when the boys were 8 and 9 years old, Gulbraa learned that his wife’s second husband was under investigation for abusing his biological son.

After months of investigation by court-appointed guardians and experts, his ex-wife, Etsuko Tanizaki Allred, feared she would lose custody and took the boys to Japan in 2001.

In 2002, the court gave Gulbraa custody and charged Allred under Utah law with felony custodial interference and a federal international kidnapping statute. Despite the international warrants for Allred, Japanese courts did not require her to return their children to Gulbraa.

“That’s how things remained until July 2006. I did everything I could think of. I even petitioned the Vatican to intervene,” he said.

In 2006, Christopher contacted him via text message and said he wanted to come back to the United States. Since his sons were kidnapped, Gulbraa had been working on a plan to get the boys emergency passports and onto a plane with whatever help U.S. diplomatic officials could legally provide.

One Who Escaped

When the boy’s mother learned of the plan, she took his cash and identification, making the train trip to the consulate and obtaining a passport all the more difficult.

Gulbraa will not disclose quite how his son got the money for the train, but said he had traveled to the Osaka consulate and provided it with photos of the boy and questions only he could answer in order to confirm his identity.

“Chris said he was going for a bike ride and got on a train from Nagoya to Osaka. We had to work through his not having any money or picture I.D. In late August 2006, he got home with the help of every agency of the U.S. government involved. From the consulate in Osaka to the embassy in Tokyo, everyone did everything to get him home without breaking the law.”

For Gulbraa being reunited with his son is bittersweet knowing his older son, Michael, remains in Japan.

Today, Gulbraa supports other left-behind parents and continues to petition the U.S. government to ensure kidnapped American children are reunited with their rightful guardians.

“It is mind boggling that we kowtow to an ally because we are worried about trade and beef exports, when people’s children are being torn from them. Abduction is abduction and it needs to stop.”
ENDS

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

mytest

HANDBOOKsemifinalcover.jpg
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
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20071106TDY03104.htm

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)
ENDS

Advance reviews for forthcoming HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS, by Akira Higuchi and Arudou Debito

mytest

Hi Blog. In Tokyo doing some finishing touches on our forthcoming book. Here are some things we can announce now: the book cover, advance reviews, and a nationwide book tour March 15 to April 1:

Japan’s biggest human rights publisher Akashi Shoten will publish my third book (first two are here), coauthored with Akira Higuchi. Table of contents follow after advance book review, cover image, and quick notice of the book tour:

Advance book reviews:
========================
“Higuchi and Arudou’s HANDBOOK promises to be the second passport for foreigners in Japan. It provides a map to navigate the legal, economic, and social mazes of contemporary Japanese life. Practical and affordable, clear and concise, the Handbook should contribute not only to a better life for newcomers to Japan but also to a more humane society in Japan.”

–Dr John Lie, Dean of International and Area Studies, University of California Berkeley, and author of MULTIETHNIC JAPAN.

“Finally, the book I always wished I had, explaining in clear and precise language the legal labyrinths that make life interesting and sometimes treacherous for non-Japanese trying to find their way in Japan. This is the A-Z what to watch out for and how to do it guide that will help all non-Japanese living in Japan. Whether it is visas, workers’ rights, starting a business, pensions, naturalizing, divorcing, etc. this is essential reading. For non-Japanese this is truly a godsend, but even better the entire text is bilingual so Japanese who have extensive dealings with non-Japanese can also better understand the rules of the game and avoid mishandling what can be difficult situations. I can think of no other book that comes close in promoting mutual understanding, one that is grounded in the law and brimming with practical advice.”

–Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan
========================
HANDBOOKsemifinalcover.jpg
(semifinalized cover, click to see full image)

===================================
“HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN” BOOK TOUR
Arudou Debito will be traveling around Japan during the latter half of March 2008 to promote his co-authored new book. If you’d like him to drop by your area for a speech, please be in touch with him at debito@debito.org. (This way travel expenses are minimalized for everyone.)

Tentative schedule follows, subject to change with notice on this blog entry.

March 15-23, Tokyo/Tohoku area.
Sat March 15 7PM FRANCA Speech Sendai Fukushi Plaza #2 Kenkyuushitsu) (FIXED)
Sun March 16 5PM National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu HQ, Shinbashi, Tokyo (FIXED)
Mon March 17 Roppongi Bar Association (being finalized)
Tues March 18 6:30-8:30 PM, Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Tokyo BOOK BREAK (FIXED)
Weds March 19, 7:30-9:30 PM Amnesty International Tokyo Group 78 Meeting (FIXED)
Fri March 21, 7PM, An evening with Debito, Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano (FIXED)
Sat March 22 Noon Lunch with Debito, Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano, Sponsored by 千曲(ちくま)市国際交流協会 (FIXED)
Sun March 23 6:30 PM Good Day Books Tokyo Ebisu (FIXED)

March 24-April 1, Kansai/Chubu area.
Tues March 25, FRANCA Speech Osaka (being finalized)
Thurs March 27, Speech at Shiga University (FIXED)
Fri March 28 Speech in JALT Kobe 5PM (FIXED)
Sat March 29, afternoon, Speech in Wakayama (being finalized)
Sat March 29, evening, Speech for JALT Osaka (FIXED)
Sun March 30, Speech at JALT Okayama 2-4 PM (FIXED)
Tues April 1, Speech in Fukuoka (being finalized)

Due back in Sapporo by April 2, so three weeks on the road. Interested? Please drop him a line at debito@debito.org
===================================

More information on the contents of the book at
http://www.debito.org/?page_id=582

See you at one of the venues! Please consider buying a book? Thanks for reading. Arudou Debito in Tokyo
ENDS

Mainichi: Chinese Trainees awarded big after taking exploitative strawberry farm to court

mytest

Hi Blog. Update to an earlier story on this blog. Good news about Strawberry Fields. You know the place where justice got real…

Congrats to the Trainees who didn’t just go home like good little disenfranchised Guest Workers, and managed to get the Japanese judiciary to establish deterrents to exploitative employers. Arudou Debito

============================
Employees win suit against Tochigi farms for unpaid wages, unfair dismissals
Mainichi Shinbun February 11, 2008
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080211p2a00m0na009000c.html
Courtesy of Ben Shearon

TSUGA, Tochigi — A group of strawberry farmers will have to pay a combined 30 million yen in unpaid and overtime wages, and reinstate five Chinese trainees who were unfairly dismissed after losing a class action suit brought against them by their employees.

The farmers have also acknowledged that they took away some of the trainees’ passports and forced them to save their wages: which, if proved, would constitute an illegal act, barring the farmers from accepting future trainees, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The trouble began when the Choboen strawberry farm in Tsuga dismissed five Chinese trainees in December last year because of a poor harvest, and attempted to force them to go back to their home country.

The five joined 10 trainees at six other strawberry farms in demanding 52.25 million yen in unpaid wages and overtime allowances over the past three years.

The owners of the seven farms have apologized for forcing the trainees to work for long hours and paying overtime allowances below the legal minimum. They agreed to pay a total of about 30 million yen to the 15, and Choboen retracted its dismissals.
(Mainichi Japan) February 11, 2008
ENDS

毎日:イチゴ農園が解決金3000万円 栃木

mytest

ブログの読者、以前取りあげたトピックスをアップデートを載せます。有道 出人

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

中国人解雇:イチゴ農園が解決金3000万円 栃木
毎日新聞 2008年2月11日 2時30分 http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/news/20080211k0000m040115000c.html

 栃木県のイチゴ農園が不作を理由に中国人技能実習生を解雇し、トラブルになっていた問題は、農家7軒が約3000万円の解決金を実習生計15人に支払うことで合意した。農家側は謝罪し、解雇を撤回した。

 同県都賀町のイチゴ農園「長苺(ちょうぼ)園」の実習生5人が昨年12月解雇され、無理やり帰国させられそうになったことからトラブルになった。5人は他の6農園の実習生10人と合流し、残業代など3年分の未払い賃金約5225万円を要求していた。

 農家側弁護士によると、最低賃金を下回る残業代だったことや、長時間労働を認めて謝罪。解決金として約3000万円を支払うことで合意した。

 農家側はこのほかに、パスポートを取り上げたり、貯金を強制したりするなどの行為があったことも認めている。法務省は「事実が確認できれば不正行為に該当し、受け入れ停止などの処分対象となる」と話している。【宮川裕章】

毎日新聞 2008年2月11日 2時30分
ENDS

朝日:外国人研修生、ブローカー介在禁止に 法務省 MOJ: Brokers to be banned for NJ Trainees

mytest

Hi Blog. No time to translate today. Some good news–the practice of using so-called “Brokers” for Foreign Trainee workers (who have no rights under labor law, as they’re only Trainees, and are thus quite easily exploited) are to be banned by the GOJ. So announces the MOJ in this article from the Asahi. Not an elixir, but a step in the right direction.

More on the problems with Brokers here. Debito

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

外国人研修生、ブローカー介在禁止に 法務省
朝日新聞 2007年12月25日09時50分
http://www.asahi.com/politics/update/1224/TKY200712240151.html

 外国人に日本の企業で知識や技術を身につけてもらう外国人研修・技能実習制度について、法務省は、受け入れ機関などに対して示している運用の指針を初めて改定する。制度は、安上がりな労働力の確保に利用されるなど、本来の狙いからかけ離れた運用が横行しているのが実情。このため、ブローカーを介在した受け入れを明確に禁止するなど改善を図る。

 研修・実習生は現在16万人。商工会や中小企業団体などが受け入れ機関となり、紹介を受けた企業などが最長3年の研修・実習を行う。だが、法務省が06年に「不正行為があった」と認定した機関は229機関と過去最多に。失踪(しっそう)する研修・実習生も増加し、同年は2201人に上った。

 同省が改定するのは、「研修生及び技能実習生の入国・在留管理に関する指針」(99年策定)。これまでは抽象的に表現されていた「留意事項」や「不正行為」を具体的に列挙することにした。

 受け入れ機関に対しては、研修先の企業を「労働力不足の解消」といった広告で募集することを禁止。商工会などの機関が名目だけの受け入れ機関になってブローカーに「丸投げ」し、ブローカーが不当に利益を得るのを防ぐ目的から「公的性格を有する機関が名目のみの受け入れ機関になり、実質は他の機関が研修を行うこと」を禁止項目として明記した。

 また、海外の派遣機関が、研修・実習生から法外な保証金を取っているケースがあることを踏まえ、「徴収が判明した場合、その派遣機関からの受け入れを取りやめる」ことも盛り込んだ。

 研修・実習生を保護するため、受け入れ機関に「失踪防止」を理由に宿舎からの外出を禁止する▽希望の有無にかかわらず旅券や通帳を預かる▽所定時間以外の作業を強要する——ことなどを不正行為として明記。違反すれば3年間、新規の研修・実習生の受け入れを認めないこととした。

 同省は年内にも公表し、年明けから各機関に説明を始める予定だ。
ENDS

川崎いじめ訴訟で100万円の賠償命令–Ethnically-diverse Japanese bullied in school wins lawsuit

mytest

Hi Blog. Been meaning to put this up. About the U Hoden Case, where a Japanese grade schooler with Chinese roots (one parent a naturalized Chinese) was badly bullied–so badly she had PTSD medically diagnosed. Her parents took the bullies to court, and last December, they won! More background on this case here. Their supporters’ website here. Arudou Debito

テレビ神奈川の解説
川崎いじめ訴訟で100万円の賠償命令
07/12/21(金)12:59
小学生時代のいじめが原因でPTSD=心的外傷後ストレス傷害になったとして生徒と両親がいじめた側に損害賠償を求めた裁判の判決で横浜地裁川崎支部はいじめた同級生の両親に100万円の支払いを命じました。
 訴えを起こしていたのは現在、高校1年生の女子生徒とその両親です。
 訴えなどによりますとこの女子生徒は川崎市多摩区の小学3年生だった2000年に同級生2人から暴力を振るわれたり中国人の父と日本人の母を持つことについて「ハーフ」とはやし立てられるなど日常的にいじめを受けていました。
 女子生徒はこのいじめが原因でPTSDになったとしていじめた側に慰謝料を求めていました。
きょうの判決で横浜地裁川崎支部の駒谷孝雄裁判長は「いじめによって受けた精神的苦痛は相当大きい」といじめの違法性を認め、いじめた側の同級生の両親に合わせて100万円の支払いを命じました。
(弁護団のサイトはこちらです。)
asahi122207.tiff

TIME: “Japan thwarts abusive police” by tweaking interrogation rules

mytest

Hi Blog. Too little too late…? And not enough background on Japanese police abuses… Debito

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Japan Thwarts Abusive Police
TIME Magazine Friday, Jan. 25, 2008 By AP/MARI YAMAGUCHI
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1706870,00.html
Courtesy of Jon Lenvik

(TOKYO)—No beatings. No threats. No overnight interrogations. Facing mounting accusations of brutality, Japan’s National Police set their first-ever guidelines for questioning methods Thursday in an attempt to rein in agents who go too far in pressuring suspects to confess.

The new rules are the first serious step by the police to change their methods, which have long been criticized at home and abroad for relying too much on confessions — often coerced — rather than on evidence.

The role of confessions has been a cornerstone of a criminal justice system in which more than 99 percent of cases that go to trial result in convictions, and judges are much more lenient in sentencing defendants who have confessed.

The rules, outlined in a 10-page report, ban interrogators from touching, threatening or verbally abusing suspects or forcing them to stay in one position. Interrogation sessions that run overnight or last more than eight hours are prohibited.

Critics, however, say the new rules don’t go far enough because they don’t call for video cameras or defense attorneys in interrogation rooms, though one-way mirrors will be installed.

“The new guidelines are not totally meaningless, and they could bring a certain level of vigilance,” said Toshio Tanaka, a lawyer specializing in interrogations. “But they’re far from sufficient until interrogations can be visually monitored.”

The changes follow a series of high-profile cases that uncovered heavy-handed police tactics.

Police in November admitted that a man had served two years in prison after being convicted of rape in 2002 based on a false confession. The real rapist was captured last year by police, and the first suspect is suing the government.
ENDS

Asahi: LDP project team considering making naturalization easier for Zainichis

mytest

Hi Blog. Interesting development. Comment follows article:

==============================
TOWARDS SUBMITTING A BILL REGARDING RECEIVING J CITIZENSHIP
LDP PROJECT TEAM: FOR SPECIAL PERMANENT RESIDENTS [ZAINICHIS]
Asahi Shinbun Jan 24, 2008
Translated by Arudou Debito, Original Japanese at http://www.asahi.com/politics/update/0124/TKY200801240498.html, or see previous blog entry.

TOKYO: A legal division within the Liberal Democratic Party, the “Project Team (PT) on Nationality Issues” (Kouno Taro, Lower House, Chair), decided at a meeting on January 24 to submit to this session of the Diet a bill, entitled “Special Exemption for Special Permanent Residents to Obtain Japanese Nationality”, which would simplify the procedure for Zainichi North and South Koreans etc. to become Japanese.

The bill would in essence provide a special procedure within the Nationality Law, limited to Zainichis, for them to receive fast-track approval within one year after application. Although in 2001 a similar bill was deliberated upon within the same committee, it was not formally submitted. Voices within the three-party ruling coalition countered, “If you create a fast-track for naturalization, you don’t need the [then-proposed] local-election suffrage bill [for Zainichis].” New Komeito countered, “We just can’t give up the Zainichi vote”, and both proposals fell through.

After January 24’s meeting, the 2001 Project Team’s former chair, Lower House Dietmember Ohta Seiichi, stressed, “I was particularly annoyed back then because we tried to take up the issue of local voting rights for Zainichis at the same time as amending the Nationality Laws. We didn’t listen properly to the needs of the actual Zainichi themselves, and look what happened. So this time, we’re only concentrating on simplifying the naturalization procedures, and not touching the local suffrage issue.”
==========================
ENDS

COMMENT: Understood. But what of just granting Zainichis (or everyone who wants Japanese citizenship) Dual Nationality, and just being done with it? That would cut many a Gordian Knot–not the least being naturalization as an issue of identity sacrifice.

A major barrier to taking Japanese citizenship is indeed procedural (says I, a person who went through it), but the bigger barrier is the issue of having to decide whether or not you can stop being “Korean”, “American”, whatever, and start being “Japanese” only. You’re not allowed to be both, even though you WILL (and should) be both in a modern society, suitably tolerant of differences and plurality, as befits Japan.

EVERY ONE of Japan’s developed-country brethren allows somewhere, sometime, somehow, and officially, a measure for dual nationality. So should Japan.

No doubt Kouno Taro, a man who is doing very good works indeed (and I stress this here because I know he reads this blog), would argue that we have to do this step by step–one development here, another there. Or else, like in 2001, both issues will crowd each other out from getting through the door.

The above news is a step in the right direction, to be sure (especially if the bill actually does get passed). But people like me want more than just baby steps, and indeed would like it if naturalization were easier for everybody.

And the easiest way to make it easier for everybody would be to make dual nationality possible. Is my take.

Anyway, kudos to Kouno Taro once again. Arudou Debito in Yurakucho, Tokyo

国籍取得法案提出へ 自民PT、特別永住者対象に

mytest

国籍取得法案提出へ 自民PT、特別永住者対象に
朝日新聞 2008年01月24日23時41分
http://www.asahi.com/politics/update/0124/TKY200801240498.html

 自民党法務部会の「国籍問題に関するプロジェクトチーム(PT)」(座長・河野太郎衆院議員)は24日の会合で、在日韓国・朝鮮人などの特別永住者が日本国籍を簡単に得られるようにする「特別永住者国籍取得特例法案」を議員立法で今国会に提出する方針を決めた。

 法案は、国籍法の手続きに特例を設け、特別永住者に限って通常1年近くかかる許可手続きを法相への届け出制に変えるのが柱。01年に与党3党が議員立法での提案を目指して自民党の党内手続きは終えたものの、党内に「特例法ができれば参政権法案は必要ない」といった意見が出たことなどから、公明党内から「参政権法案が棚上げされては困る」との懸念が広がり、提出できなかった経緯がある。

 当時、与党PTの座長として要綱案をとりまとめた太田誠一衆院議員は会合後、「前回も地方参政権との関連で取り上げられたが、心外だ。戦後、本人の意思を聞かれずに韓国朝鮮籍になった特別永住者に『申し訳ない』ということで、簡単に国籍を取得できるようにするもので、地方参政権の問題は視野に入っていない」と強調した。
ENDS

Kyodo: MOJ says GOJ to scrap NJ registration system and Gaijin Cards

mytest

Hi Blog: Could the rumors have been true after all?

=============================
Gov’t plans to scrap registration system on foreign nationals
TOKYO, Jan. 25 KYODO NEWS
Courtesy Martyn Williams
http://home.kyodo.co.jp/modules/fstStory/index.php?storyid=359649

(EDS: UPDATING WITH ADDITIONAL INFO)
The government plans to scrap the current registration system for foreign nationals living in Japan and introduce a new resident registry system similar to that for Japanese residents, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said Friday.

”We are moving in the direction of deciding to abolish it,” Hatoyama told a press conference, indicating the Justice Ministry and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry are working to craft a bill to that end to submit in next year’s ordinary parliamentary session.

Under the current registration system, the personal data of foreign nationals living in Japan, including their address and marital status, are registered only on an individual basis and not on a household basis, hampering local municipalities from grasping the situation of foreign residents in Japan.

Since foreign residents are not obliged to report to municipalities a change of address, it has also been difficult for the authorities to provide foreign nationals with information in areas such as school enrollment, health insurance, and residence tax procedures.

The move to scrap the system comes amid mounting calls for action from local municipalities with growing populations of foreign nationals such as Brazilians of Japanese descent. Some of the children of such residents are failing to enroll in local schools at the appropriate times.

”We are unable to properly notify families having school-age children of necessary information on school enrollment,” an official from the town of Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture, where foreign nationals account for about 16 percent of the overall population.

A social insurance consultant from the town, Shuichi Ono, said, ”Some foreign residents frequently move from one place to another. Once they return to their home countries, it is not easy to send them residence tax notifications.”

Under the envisioned registration system, information on foreign residents will be handled on a household basis as well.

The government is also considering replacing the current alien registration cards, which foreign residents are required to carry at all times, with a new certificate card.
=============================
ENDS

COMMENT: Pinch me. Let’s keep an eye on this one, people, as it’s fundamental to our lives in Japan–and getting rid of the Gaijin Card could be the best news we’ve had all decade. It all depends on what goes in its place. What’s with this “certificate card”, and will not carrying it 24-7 still be a criminal offense?

As commenters below put well, it’s not like any government to give up a means of control over people, especially when you consider that practically all governments to some degree control information about their foreigners (not to mention their citizens). But imagine if the Gaijin Card Checks actually became somehow less nasty (or even nonexistent–but that’s sky pie at this point), and NJ were actually formally registered as “residents” with some kind of juuminhyou?

In sum, will the new system be a way to ensure all people regardless of nationality are informed of and guaranteed the fruits of Japanese society? Or will it still just be a means to police them?

If you see any more articles before I do, please add them to the Comments section in full text with links. Thanks. Arudou Debito in Tokyo

Komeito leader agrees with DPJ proposal to give NJ Permanent Residents the right to vote

mytest

Hi Blog. Do I hear the sound of a wedge being driven into the ruling LDP/Komeito coalition? Debito in Tokyo

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Komeito leader welcomes Ozawa’s proposal to give foreigners voting rights
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080124p2a00m0na011000c.html
Courtesy of Stephen Vowles

Kazuo Kitagawa, secretary-general of ruling coalition partner Komeito, has voiced support for opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Ichiro Ozawa’s suggestion of considering submitting a bill to give foreigners with permanent residence status the right to vote in local elections.

“I would like a bill to be compiled and submitted,” Kitagawa said of the proposed move, adding that there had been arguments against it within the DPJ. “If they compiled it I would welcome that,” he said.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Ozawa said, “I’ve stressed before that the right for foreigners to vote in local elections should be granted. I’ve been criticized by long-time supporters, but the bottom line doesn’t change.”

There has been a strong tendency within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to take a cautious approach over granting foreigners with permanent residence status the right to vote in local elections. In 2005 Komeito submitted its own bill to the Diet, and the bill remains under deliberation.

Some LDP members have expressed concern over Ozawa’s comments, calling them a move to break up the ruling coalition.
/////////////////////////////////////////////////
ENDS

毎日:外国人選挙権:小沢代表の付与提案に公明歓迎

mytest

外国人選挙権:小沢代表の付与提案に公明歓迎
毎日新聞 2008年1月23日 18時02分
http://mainichi.jp/select/seiji/news/20080124k0000m010019000c.html

 公明党の北側一雄幹事長は23日の記者会見で、民主党の小沢一郎代表が永住外国人に地方選挙権を付与する法案の提出を検討する考えを示したことについて「ぜひまとめて、提出してもらいたい。民主党には反対論もあった。まとめていただくなら歓迎だ」と述べた。

 小沢氏は22日の会見で「以前から(地方選挙権を)認めるべきだと主張してきた。旧来の支持者からしかられたこともあったが、結論は変わらない」と語った。

 永住外国人の地方選挙権付与について、自民党内では慎重論が根強い。公明党は05年に単独で付与法案を国会提出、法案は継続審議となっており、自民党内には小沢発言を「与党分断策」と警戒する向きもある。【西田進一郎】
ENDS

Ryan Hagglund on how he successfully dealt with an exclusionary landlord

mytest

Hi Blog. Turned 43 years old today… Here’s Ryan Hagglund of Yamagata on how he successfully dealt with a very common problem in Japan–exclusionary landlords.

As you probably know, if a landlord has a “thing” about foreigners and decides not to rent to you, legally there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan. But Ryan found a place he liked and wasn’t having any of it. And he managed to change the landlord’s (and realtor’s) mind.

How? Sticktoitiveness and accountability. Lessons: 1) be as polite as possible while being clear that you will not accept a denial based on being foreign, and 2) audio record everything just in case you have to go to court.

(Covert recordings are also admissible in court. I did it for the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit, and it removed any possible element of plausible deniability or misunderstanding.)

Good work Ryan. Here are the series of emails he sent to the Life in Japan List. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

From: Ryan Hagglund
Subject: [LIFE IN JAPAN] Apartment Refusal
Date: December 4, 2007 10:10:00 PM JST

I have a quick question, if anyone can help. This afternoon the school I manage was told point-blank by the real estate agent we’ve been using that the apartment we had decided on for our new teacher is not available because the landlord doesn’t rent to foreigners, even if the company acts as the official tenant. We would like a chance to talk with the landlord, but the real estate company refuses to divulge any of his information. Is there any way to find out who the owner of an apartment building is? I would imagine there has to be some kind of public record out there. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you very much.

Ryan Hagglund, Yamagata

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

UPDATE ONE

From: Ryan Hagglund
Subject: [LIFE IN JAPAN] Apartment Refusal
Date: December 5, 2007 8:21:40 PM JST

Thanks to everyone for the comments and thoughts so far. I thought I would write with a quick update and a little more background information.

Anyway, the whole situation started with a new teacher who needs housing accepting a position at our school. My wife, who is Japanese and works for the school, went apartment hunting while I was teaching and found a really great one. The real estate agent kept telling her how wonderful it was and she was right; it is by far the best apartment we have seen in the area for the price and in a good location too. We wanted the new teacher to have a chance to look at it, so my wife called to let the real estate know that her husband, me, and a new employee would be down to look at the apartment as well. Up to this point we had not said that the occupant would be a foreigner. We weren’t purposely trying to hide that fact by any means; we just hadn’t thought to mention it. It’s legally a non-issue anyway. When I arrived with the new teacher and came in saying we wanted to look at the apartment that had been played up for my wife, the agent was hesitant. She said she would show us it, but that “special permission” is required for foreigners to rent. I mentioned that such as policy was illegal and that we would like to see it. Aside from the comment about special permission, she was quite polite and pleasant, though I had to ask for her business card as she was walking back to her car to return to the office, something I thought was unusual. This all happened Saturday, just before the office closed. (All the above conversations happened in Japanese, by the way, though our new teacher doesn’t speak much at all.)

On Monday we called to confirm the apartment, but were told this afternoon that it is not available for rent by foreigners. When my wife asked to please speak with the landlord she was told that wasn’t possible. Following the suggestions on this list, my wife went to the city hall, but was told that they could not divulge private information on the ownership of a building. We decided, then, to return to the real estate agent. We were polite, letting her know we realize she is in a difficult situation, but that denying an apartment to someone simply because they are foreign is illegal, a conclusion with which our school’s attorney agrees. We said that we would like to speak with the landlord and were willing to work with him to find a suitable compromise, such as the school renting the apartment instead of the new teacher, but that we definitely wanted that apartment and feel it is very important for the law to be followed. (We also recorded the conversation so that we have proof that we were in fact denied based on being foreign.) The real estate agent said she would talk with landlord and get back to us, so we’ll se what happens. We’ve also scheduled a consultation with an attorney tomorrow to talk about our options in case the landlord refuses. I hope that won’t be necessary. Trying to be polite, but firm.

Ryan Hagglund, Yamagata

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

UPDATE TWO

From: Ryan Hagglund
Subject: [LIFE IN JAPAN] Re: Apartment Refusal
Date: December 17, 2007 12:07:44 AM JST

I want to thank everyone for their support, comments, and suggestions on the apartment situation we encountered. At least one person asked for updates, so I hope you don’t mind if I oblige.

As you may remember, my wife checked apartments through many realtors for a new employee for our school. We decided on the best one we could find, a nice, newer, spacious 1LDK with 9-foot ceilings; bar separating the kitchen from the dining area; three-panel, glass-inlaid sliding doors separating the kitchen and dining from the main room; outdoor storage connected to the balcony; hikari-fiber internet; and video intercom system for the front door in order to evade the NHK guy :-). All of this for 45,000 yen per month, which is a decent price in this area without all the extras. As the realtor had told my wife, “If I was looking for an apartment, I would live here.” We agreed.

When we told the realtor we wanted the apartment and it became apparent that it was for a foreigner, we were then refused since the apartment owner has apparently had problems with a foreigner in the past. We found the same apartment listed with another agent in the area who told us the same thing. We have one of the refusals recorded. Neither agent was the main listing agent for the apartment, however. We wanted to talk with the owner or main agent about the situation, but we were refused the information.

On the advice of one list member who wrote privately, I went to the houmukyoku to find the registered owner of the apartment, and my wife and I gave him a visit Thursday evening. We were very polite and asked him if we could talk to him about the problems he had previously had with foreigners, but he said he has no policy against renting to foreigners and would have no problems renting to us. He then (supposedly) called the main real estate agent and gave us the news that someone else was already interested in the apartment, though, telling us to check with them about the situation the next morning. We at least got the main listing agent’s name, however.

My wife, being the amazing woman she is, knew the agency and said the light had been on when we passed it on our way to the owner’s house. We hurried into the car and got to the agency just as they were about to close. When we told them why we were there, they said the owner had refused us and there was nothing they could do. They were extremely surprised to learn we had just spoken to the owner, leading us to believe the owner had just been pretending to be on the phone. They then said someone else was interested in the apartment, so we would have to wait for their decision. We made it very clear, however, that we had made our decision a full week-and-a-half prior and considered ourselves ahead of any other possible renters. To make an even longer story a little shorter, they kept giving us the runaround until we had countered all of their “reasons” for our not being able to rent to us and essentially trapped themselves in their own excuses and twisted logic. We recorded the exchanges with both the landlord and real estate office and I would love to post them sometime, as they are absolutely mind-boggling. In the end, though, they ran out of even semi-plausible excuses and we got the apartment.

I have to admit I’m somewhat dissatisfied with the fact that we will be giving these people money. There was definitely a concerted effort going on in the background to get rid of us. At the same time, it was definitely the best apartment available and our new teacher shouldn’t have to settle for second-best simply because she’s foreign. In the end, our polite determination won out. Next time we need an apartment, though, we’ll know to have a Japanese person look first at what’s available and then decide from there. We wouldn’t have been shown the best apartment otherwise, which is a real shame.

Ryan Hagglund
My English School
Higashine, Yamagata

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

FINAL UPDATE

From: Ryan Hagglund
Subject: RESEND: Hi Ryan. May I blog your apartment report? Anything to add?
Date: January 11, 2008 10:35:07 PM JST
To: debito@debito.org

…Of course you may blog you like that I’ve reported to the Life in Japan list. I can’t think of anything at the moment to add to what I’ve written. I guess I would just emphasize that I made sure to be as polite as possible while being clear that I would not accept a denial based on being foreign… Thanks! Ryan

ENDS

Yomiuri: DPJ pushing bill for NJ voting rights in local elections

mytest

Hi Blog. Here’s some very good news. Somebody at least is recognizing the reality that you can’t keep people who live here permanently for generations permanently disenfranchised from the democratic process. One more reason to support the DPJ (or the New Komeito, depending on your politics–hopefully enticing it out of its Faustian deal with the devil just to share power with the LDP).

Wouldn’t it be interesting if in the end what made the LDP finally fall from power was issues of immigration and assimilation? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

DPJ lawmakers to push foreigner suffrage bill
The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 7, 2008
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20080107TDY03102.htm
Courtesy of Chris Gunson

Lawmakers in the Democratic Party of Japan are stepping up efforts to resubmit a bill that would grant permanent foreign residents the right to vote in local elections, according to sources.

With New Komeito also strongly demanding local suffrage for permanent foreign residents, DPJ lawmakers hope in the upcoming Diet session “to split the ruling camp by submitting the bill to the House of Councillors and call on New Komeito to endorse it,” according to one of the sources.

But some conservative lawmakers in the party are determined to block the resubmission.

“Looking at this constitutionally and from the state of the nation, there’s no way we can approve this,” one party conservative said.

The DPJ previously submitted the bill to the House of Representatives on two occasions–in 1998 and 2002–but it was scrapped after failing to pass both times.

New Komeito also submitted to the lower house in 2005 a bill for granting permanent foreign residents voting rights in local elections, and discussions have spilled over into the current Diet session.

The passing of any bill of this nature has been stopped in its tracks mostly due to deep-rooted resistance mainly in the Liberal Democratic Party.

Yoshihiro Kawakami, a DPJ upper house member, plans to call on supporters in the party and establish a league of Diet members aimed at resubmitting the DPJ’s bill.

In the new bill, a “principle of reciprocity” will be introduced, in which local voting rights would only be granted to permanent residents who hold the nationality of a country that allows foreigners to vote in elections.

“New Komeito’s proposed bill has for sometime contained the principle of reciprocity, and so New Komeito won’t be able to oppose the DPJ’s bill,” Kawakami said.

Kawakami and his supporters hope to gain approval from the party leadership and submit the bill for prior consideration by the upper house. (Jan. 7, 2008)
ENDS

読売:外国人の地方参政権法案、民主内で再提出の動き

mytest

外国人の地方参政権法案、民主内で再提出の動き
 永住外国人に地方参政権を付与する法案を巡り、民主党内で次期通常国会に再提出を目指す動きが活発化してきた。
2008年1月5日21時23分 読売新聞
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/politics/news/20080105ia22.htm

 地方参政権付与は公明党が強く求めており、「参院に民主党が法案を提出し、公明党に賛成を呼びかければ、与党の分断を図ることができる」との狙いからだ。ただ、党内の保守派議員は「憲法上も、国のあり方という観点からも、絶対に認められない」として阻止する構えだ。

 民主党は、同法案を1998年と2000年の2度にわたって衆院に提出したが、いずれも成立せず、廃案となった。一方、公明党は05年に衆院に「永住外国人地方選挙権付与法案」を提出、今国会でも継続審議になっている。自民党を中心に慎重論が根強いことが背景にある。

 民主党の川上義博参院議員は、党内の有志議員に呼びかけ、民主党案の再提出を目指す議員連盟を近く結成する方針だ。今回の法案には、相手国で外国人に対する選挙権を認めている場合にのみ、その国の国籍を持つ人に選挙権を付与する「相互主義」を新たに採用することを検討している。「公明党案にも、当分の間は相互主義をとることが盛り込まれており、公明党も民主党案に反対できなくなる」との判断がある。

 民主党の小沢代表は、「一定の要件のもとに地方参政権を与えるべきだ」と主張してきた経緯がある。川上氏らは、党執行部の賛同を得て、参院先議で法案を提出したい考えだ。

 これに対し、党内の保守派議員は「選挙権は、日本国籍を有する者に対してのみ保障されている。政局的な狙いから、『国のかたち』をゆがめるべきではない」と反発している。

(2008年1月5日21時23分 読売新聞)

APEC line open to NJ residents at Kansai Int’l Airport (UPDATED 1/7/08–now it is not)

mytest

Hi Blog. For those travelling over the holiday season, here are some helpful letters for those going through Kansai International Airport (Kankuu, or KIX). It turns out NJ residents can go through the APEC Immigration Channel (business line). Print up these letters if the terms apply to you, show them at the border, and decriminalize yourself more efficiently. Courtesy of Martin Issott. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(click on letter to expand in browser, Japanese and English)
Kix171207J.jpg
Kix171207E.jpg
ENDS

Depressed? Consult with Int’l Mental Health Professionals Japan

mytest

Hello Blog. How do you feel this time of year? Not too dusty, I hope. But I have to admit, I hate spending the Xmas-New Year Holidays in Japan. No semblance of a real Christmas atmosphere, absolutely boring nenmatsu-nenshi (TV’s Kouhaku is the pits), and no way for a Hokkaidoite like myself to get to a warmer clime unless we pay the minimum RT 50,000 yen airline connection “tax” to get to a bigger international airport.

Not that I’m blaming Japan (or Hokkaido–we have to do pennance somehow for our magical summers)–that’s just the way it is, and part of the dues of choosing to live and be a part of this society. But I still don’t like it.

I have my own strategies for dealing with it (writing, DVDs, trashy magazines, and pizza). For those who aren’t confident about their strategies and need some professional help, here’s information about a group in Japan called “International Mental Health Professionals Japan” which offers psychological services to an international clientele. Heard about it at a recent speech in Tokyo from Dr Jim McRae, President.

Given the state of mental health services in this country (generally pretty lousy; most Japanese quasi-“counselors” will probably unhelpfully attribute any mental issue involving a NJ to a matter of “cultural differences”, and Japan doesn’t even have certifications for clinical psychologists), this group is a boon. Some friends and I have had horrible experiences trying to check friends (who were acting mentally erratically to the point of presenting a clear and present danger to others) into mental clinics in Japan. Many clinics/mental hospitals simply won’t take foreigners (claiming, again, cultural or language barriers), advising us to “send them home” for treatment.

It’s nice to see professionals in Japan in the form of the IMHPJ below trying to help out. Spread the word.

Happy Holidays–or as happy as you can make them. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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INTERNATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS JAPAN

What is IMHPJ?
(taken from their website and from a flyer I received from Dr Jim McRae)

IMHPJ is a multidisciplinary professional association of therapists who provide mental health services to the international communities in Japan. Members are working in private practices or mental health related organizations worldwide.

Founded in 1997, IMHPJ’s goals are to improve the quality, quantity, and accessibility of mental health services available to the international communities in Japan by:

–maintaining an up-to-date database of professional therapists, where you can find the professional profile of the therapist of your choice.
–providing a forum for discussing and making co-ordinated joint efforts related to important issues or events.
–encouraging a high standard of ethical and professional performance for mental health professionals.
–providing opportunities for continuing education for members.
–facilitating peer support and networking among members and with related Japanese mental health organizations.

Clinical Members hold a Masters Degree or higher and have supervised postgraduate clinical experience. Assocate Members work in fields related to mental health or are students or therapists not yet eligible for clinical membership.

IMHPJ is multidisiplinary, including Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Family Therapists, and Child Psychologists etc.

IMHPJ members offer a range of recognized theraputic approaches for the treatment of relationship issues, stress, anxiety, depression, abuse, cross-cultural issues, children’s emotional and educational problems, and many other issues. Many of our members also offer phone counseling.

Native speakers offer therapy in English, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Polish. Some members are bilingual.

For more information, consult our website at:
http://www.imhpj.org
ENDS

Yomiuri: GOJ to forbid employers from confiscating NJ passports

mytest

Hi Blog. Here’s some good news.

After much trouble with employers confiscating NJ worker passports (ostensible reasons given in the article, but much of the time it led to abuses, even slavery, with the passport retained as a Sword of Damocles to elicit compliance from workers), the GOJ looks like it will finally make the practice expressly illegal.

About time–a passport is the property of the issuing government, and not something a foreign government (or another person) can impound indefinitely. The fact that it’s been used as a weapon to keep the foreign Trainee laborer in line for nearly two decades speaks volumes about the GOJ’s will to protect people’s rights once they get here.

Glad this is finally coming on the books. Now let’s hope it gets enforced. Referential articles follow Yomiuri article:

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Govt guidelines to forbid firms to keep foreign trainees’ passports
The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec 18, 2007
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20071218TDY01307.htm
Courtesy Jeff Korpa and Mark Schreiber

The Justice Ministry looks set to stop companies that accept foreign trainees from confiscating trainees’ passports and foreign registration certificates, ministry sources said Monday.

The toughened ministry guidelines for host companies also state that preventing foreign trainees from traveling wherever they wish to go when they are off duty is unacceptable. Firms have been curtailing the movement of workers and holding on to passports and certificates to prevent such trainees from disappearing.

The ministry will likely release the guidelines this week and will notify organizations, including commerce and industry associations, that accept foreign trainees of the new rules.

The foreign trainee system was designed to enhance international relations by introducing foreign trainees to new technology and skills, but it often has been misused as an excuse to bring unskilled workers into the country.

Commerce and industry associations and organizations of small and midsize companies accept foreign trainees, who are introduced to companies to learn skills for up to three years.

Under the current system, foreign trainees receive one year of training followed by two years as on-the-job trainees. As the training year is not considered employment, such workers are not protected by the Labor Standards Law.

The new guidelines for the entry and stay management of foreign trainees are a revised version of the 1999 guidelines.

The new guidelines prohibit host companies from using improper methods to manage foreign trainees, such as holding their passports, and foreign nationals from being accepted through brokering organizations other than via authorized organizations

Also banned are misleading advertisements for the recruitment of host companies, such as those that say foreign trainees can be used to resolve a labor shortage.

The tougher regulations are aimed at preventing commerce and industry associations from becoming nominal organizations for accepting foreign trainees. This practice has seen brokering organizations exploit foreign trainees by introducing them to companies.

To prevent overseas dispatch organizations from exploiting foreign trainees, the new guidelines also include a measure that requires host companies to refuse to accept foreign trainees in the event a foreign dispatch organization is found to have asked them to pay a large deposit. The guidelines have been revised for the first time in eight years because companies that do not not qualify to take on foreign trainees have been taking a rapidly increasing number of such workers.
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ARTICLE ENDS

REFERENTIAL ARTICLES:
Japan scheme ‘abuses foreign workers’
By Chris Hogg BBC News, Tokyo, Wednesday, 3 October 2007
http://www.debito.org/?p=681

EXPLOITING VIETNAMESE Apocalypse now
Japan Times Sunday, April 29, 2007 By MARK SCHREIBER Shukan Kinyobi (April 20)
http://www.debito.org/?p=619

POINT OF VIEW/ Hiroshi Tanaka: Japan must open its arms to foreign workers
07/03/2007 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
http://www.debito.org/?p=478

Nearly 10,000 foreigners disappear from job training sites in Japan 2002-2006
JAPAN TODAY.COM/KYODO NEWS Monday, July 2, 2007
http://www.debito.org/?p=475

Govt split over foreign trainee program
Yomiuri Shimbun May 19, 2007

http://www.debito.org/?p=435
For starters…
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
ENDS

Himu Case: Tokyo District Court orders Sankei Shinbun to pay NJ damages for reporting erroneous al-Qaeda link

mytest

Hi Blog. We’ve had enough rotten news recently. Now for some good news.

A Bangladeshi by the name of Islam Himu (whom I’ve met–he’s on my mailing lists) was accused during the al-Qaeda Scare of 2005 of being part of a terrorist cell. And the media, particularly the Sankei, reported him by name as such. Detained for more than a month by the cops, he emerged to find his reputation in tatters, his business rent asunder, and his life irrevocably changed.

This is why you don’t report rumor as fact in the established media. And as we saw in the Sasebo Shootings a few days ago, the papers and the powers that be won’t take reponsibility even when they get it wrong.

So Mr Himu sued the Sankei. And won. Congratulations. A good precedent. Now if only could get the Japanese police to take responsibility when they overdo things. Well, we can dream.

News article, referential Japan Times piece, and other background follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Sankei newspaper ordered to compensate foreigner over Al Qaeda slur
(Mainichi Japan) December 11, 2007
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20071211p2a00m0na027000c.html

The Sankei newspaper has been ordered by the Tokyo District Court to pay a foreigner 3.3 million yen in compensation for implying he was linked to Al Qaeda and plotting a terrorist attack.

The court found the paper had defamed 37-year-old company president Islam Mohamed Himu of Toda, Saitama Prefecture, and ordered it to compensate him.

“It was inappropriate to publish his name,” Presiding Judge Hitomi Akiyoshi said as she handed down the ruling.

Sankei officials said they were not sure how the company will react to the case.

“We want to take a close look at the ruling before deciding how to respond,” a Sankei spokesman said.

Court records showed that Himu was arrested in 2004 for forgery and fined 300,000 yen. The day after his arrest, the Sankei ran a front page story under the headline “Underground bank produces terror funds, man with links to top terrorists arrested.”

Sankei proceeded to write that Himu had links to high-ranking Al Qaeda members and was suspected of involvement in procuring funds for terrorism.
ENDS
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Alleged al-Qaeda link seeks vindication
Bangladeshi wants apology, claims he was falsely accused by police, press
The Japan Times April 2, 2005
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/nn20050402f4.html

A Bangladeshi businessman who was incorrectly alleged by police and the media last year as being linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network is seeking vindication.

Investigators held Islam Mohamed Himu for 43 days but ultimately found he had no links to al-Qaeda.

Himu said that even since being freed, he has struggled to get his life and business back on track. He has filed a complaint of human rights violations with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

“I want to ask senior officials of the government or police: what was my fault?” Himu said in an interview.

“The Japanese police and media have destroyed my life,” said the 34-year-old, who runs a telecommunications company in Tokyo.

“I want them to apologize and restore my life,” he said, urging the government to help him obtain visas to make business trips to several countries that have barred his entry following the allegations.

Himu came to Japan in 1995 with his Japanese wife, whom he had met in Canada. After establishing a firm in Tokyo that mainly sells prepaid international phone cards, he obtained permanent residency in 2000.

Police arrested him last May 26 and issued a fresh warrant June 16. They alleged he had falsified a corporate registration and illegally hired two employees, including his brother.

While in custody, investigators mostly asked if he had any links to al-Qaeda, noting that a Frenchman suspected of being in al-Qaeda bought prepaid phone cards from him several times, according to Himu.

He said he tried to prove he had no connection with terrorists, telling police the Frenchman was one of several hundred customers and he had no idea the man used an alias.

However, police dismissed his claim, he said, and leaked to major media organizations, including Kyodo, their suspicions that he was involved with al-Qaeda, and all of them reported the allegations.

Himu said he believes police arrested him as a scapegoat even though they knew he had no link with al-Qaeda.

He was nabbed shortly after the media reported that the Frenchman had stayed in Japan in 2002 and 2003.

Prosecutors did not indict him on the first charge, while a court fined him 300,000 yen on the second charge. He was released on July 7.

Himu said the prosecutors’ failure to indict proves he was not an al-Qaeda member, but it did not necessarily constitute a public apology.

All his employees left following the release of the sketchy police information, and he now has 120 million yen in debts due to the disruption of his business, he claimed.

The Japan Times: Saturday, April 2, 2005

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REFERENTIAL LINK:
Japan Times and Asia Times articles on 2004 police Al-Qaeda witch hunt, Himu Case, and police detentions in Japan.
http://www.debito.org/japantimes102305detentions.html

ENDS

McGowan Case: Steve wins case on appeal at Osaka High Court

mytest

Good news at last. Comment follows at bottom:

ARTICLE BEGINS
==========================

African-American wins Y350,000 in damages for being denied entry into Osaka shop
Japan Today, Wednesday, October 18, 2006 at 19:41 EDT
http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/387820/all
Courtesy Kyodo News

OSAKA — The Osaka High Court ordered an Osaka optical shop owner to pay 350,000 yen in damages to an African-American living in Kyoto Prefecture for denying him entry to the shop in 2004, altering a lower court ruling in January which rejected the plaintiff’s damages claim.

Presiding Judge Sota Tanaka recognized the owner told Steve McGowan, 42, a designer living in the town of Seika, to go away when he was in front of the shop, and acknowledged damages for McGowan’s emotional pain, saying the entry denial “is a one-sided and outrageous act beyond common sense.”

However, the remark “is not enough to be recognized as racially discriminatory,” he said. McGowan had demanded 5.5 million yen.

According to the ruling, the owner told McGowan to go away to the other side of the road in a strong language several times when he was about to enter the shop with an acquaintance in September 2004.

The plaintiff had claimed the owner said, “Go away. I hate black people,” but the ruling dismissed the claim, as the possibility that he misheard the owner cannot be eliminated.
A plaintiff attorney said, “It’s unreasonable that discrimination was not recognized, but the court ordered a relatively large amount of damages payment for just demanding the plaintiff leave the shop. It seems that the court shows some understanding.”
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ARTICLE ENDS

COMMENT:
I am very happy Steve McGowan appealed his case, as it shows just how ludicrous the previous District Court ruling was last January.

Full information on the case at
http://www.debito.org/mcgowanhanketsu.html

The previous decision disqualified McGowan and his wife as credible witnesses to any discrimination, by ruling:

1) McGowan’s testimony inadmissible, as he apparently does not understand enough Japanese to reliably prove that the store-owner used discriminatory language toward him.

2) McGowan’s wife’s testimony as negatively admissable. In her follow up investigation, McGowan’s wife didn’t confirm whether the store-owner had excluded McGowan because he is black (“kokujin”); she apparently asked him if it was because her husband is *foreign*.

Put another way: A guy gets struck by a motor vehicle. The pedestrian takes him to court, claiming that getting hit by a car hurt him. The judge says, “You weren’t in fact hit by a car. It was a truck. Compensation denied.”

This was a huge step backward. As I argued in a Japan Times column (Feb 7, 2006, see http://www.debito.org/mcgowanhanketsu.html#japantimesfeb7), the McGowan decision thus established the following litmus tests for successfully claiming racial discrimination. You must:

* Avoid being a foreigner.

* Avoid being a non-native speaker of Japanese.

* Have a native-speaker witness with you at all times.

* Record on tape or video every public interaction you have 24 hours a day.

* Hope your defendant admits he dislikes people for their race.

Actually, scratch the last one. The eyeglass shop owner did admit a distaste for black people, yet the judge still let him off.

Now this High Court reversal sets things back on kilter, although it pays McGowan a pittance (35 man yen will not even cover his legal fees!) and will not acknowledge the existence of racial discrimination.

That’s a shame. But it’s better than before, and far better than if he did not appeal. Gotta pray for the small favors.

Thanks to Steve for keeping up the fight! Arudou Debito in Seattle, USA