SNA Visible Minorities 21: “A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”, April 19, 2021


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SNA — I’ve been involved in activism in Japan for many years. Indeed so many that my online archive of work,, just turned 25 years old last week. With that in mind, I’d like to devote this column to a retrospective of the past quarter century: What, if anything, has contributed to help make conditions for Non-Japanese residents and Visible Minorities better? first went live on April 15, 1996, during the earlier days of the World Wide Web, as a means to respond to online bulletin board critics. When topics came up over and again, I’d just archive a previous essay on and send a link. After a couple hundred essays were organized into general information sites, became a platform for issues involving foreign residents of Japan.

The first major issue I took up was “Academic Apartheid” in Japan’s universities. This is where all Japanese full-time faculty were granted contract-free tenure from day one of employment, while all foreign academics, despite many being better qualified than their Japanese counterparts, got perpetual ninkisei contracts (some of them term-limited) without the opportunity for tenure.

I discovered a “smoking gun” one day in my university mailbox: A paper directive from the Ministry of Education encouraging national and public universities to fire their older foreign professors by not renewing their contracts. I scanned it, archived it, and sent a link to prominent advocates like Ivan P. Hall (author of Cartels of the Mind) for further exposure. It turns out that a government demanding their universities axe all their foreigners over forty is state-sponsored discrimination, and it blew up into an international issue that even then-US Ambassador Walter Mondale took up.

All of that information is still up on today, and it turns out that a permanent archive that is searchable, citable, with context and without paywall, is a valuable resource, especially as many unscrupulous people would rather have a history of their actions and policies disappear into the ether. Once archived on, it didn’t. Soon other issues on garnered national and international attention, even generating public policy movements…

Rest is at

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Sept. 19, 1999: 20th Anniversary of the Otaru Onsens Case today: Kindle eBooks “Japanese Only” and “Guidebook” are now downloadable for (almost) free


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Hi Blog.  September 19, 1999 was a watershed day in my life, when my family, friends, and I visited the “Japanese Only” Otaru public baths and exposed discrimination in Japan incontrovertibly as racial in nature.

It has been exactly twenty years to the day since then, and not enough has changed.  People (including Japanese citizens) are still being refused services in Japan based upon whether they “look foreign”.  The police still engage in racial profiling as standard operating procedure to ferret out “illegal foreigners”.  There still is no law against racial discrimination in Japan’s Civil or Criminal Code.

Japan remains a signatory to the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination, where it promised (since 1995) to “undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms“. Nearly a quarter-century later, this clearly has not happened.

All of this has been charted and cataloged in great detail in my book “Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan“.

To commemorate twenty years of GOJ negligence following a case that changed the dialog on discrimination in Japan, my “Japanese Only” Kindle eBook is now free to download on

Well, nearly free. Amazon requires that I charge something, unfortunately. The minimum price is 99 cents US. So I’ve set that price for the book in all countries effective immediately.

Similarly, my book for how to cope with life in Japan and make a good living here, “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan”, is now also nearly free. 99 cents.

Go download and enjoy both. And may the lessons of the Otaru Onsens Case reverberate and help everyone in Japan have equal access to public goods and facilities. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Japan lowering age of adulthood to from age 20 to 18 in 2022: Also means Japan’s dual nationals now must declare by age 20, not 22.


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Hi Blog. In mid-April the Japanese Government did something rather landmark: For the first time in more than a century, it passed a bill lowering the age of adulthood by two years; meaning that by April 2022, people fresh out of high school (or some who haven’t graduated yet) can now vote and apply for credit cards/loans (although still they cannot drink, smoke or gamble; that permission stays the same at age 20). It also means that the criminals classified as “juvenile offenders” (with more lenient penalties) can now be tried as adults, and that both men and women can now equally marry at age 18.

More in the Japan Times at

Where this matters to is how Japan’s international citizens are to be treated. Before, legally Japanese with two citizenships (e.g., Japanese children of international marriages) would have to choose one (since Japan does not permit dual nationality) at age twenty, with a two-year grace period. Now that requirement has likewise been shifted down to 18 with a grace period up to age 20.

For those who are facing that choice,, in its HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS, recommends that dual nationals declare their citizenship as “Japanese” and keep quietly renewing their non-Japanese passport. There is no way for the Japanese Government to force you to surrender your foreign passport (as it is the property of the foreign government), or to get information on your citizenship status from foreign governments.  Be advised. Nothing has changed in this regard except that youths have to make an identity choice at a more youthful age.

Speaking of that quiet option to choose both citizenships, let me steer readers to an insightful Japan Times feature that came out a few months ago, including interviews of Japan’s international children and their reactions and strategies.

Dr. Debito Arudou


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CG on increased exit taxes on health insurance and residency when you change jobs and domiciles in Japan


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Hi Blog.  I just wanted to put this one out there as a general query.  Anyone else experienced this and gotten an explanation why?  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

June 17, 2016
From: CG
Hello Dr. Arudou:

First, I just wanted to say “Thank You” for all the writing you’ve done. I purchased your handbook a while ago and it was a big help when applying for permanent residency here (successfully!)

I was hoping to ask you a question. I’ve done a fair amount of searching online and haven’t found an answer, and the people directly involved in the issue can’t (or won’t) give a plausible answer either. Recently I switched jobs and moved to a new town here after over ten years working for the previous town’s 教育委員会 [BOE]. When I received my final paycheck, they deducted twice the normal tax amount for 社会保険 [shakai hoken; health and pension insurance] and three times the normal amount for 住民税 [juuminzei; local residency taxes]、helping themselves to an extra over 8万円 [80,000 yen]。 Have you heard of such a situation before? The fact that I can’t find any information about such a “moving tax” or get clear answers strikes me as very strange.

If you have a moment, I’d be very glad to know your thoughts. Best, CG
MY THOUGHTS: Not sure. Anyone out there with this experience who figured out what was going on? Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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More public-policy bullying of NJ: LDP Bill to fine, imprison, and deport NJ for “fraud visas” (gizou taizai), e.g., visa “irregularities” from job changes or divorces


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Hi Blog. Some more wicked policy is in the pipeline, giving the government (and the general public) even more discretion to target NJ for criminal penalty.

Consider the policy below in the Japan Times article, creating a new form of criminal called “gizou taizaisha” (“bogus visa holder” in the translation, but more in the spirit would be “fraudulent visa holder”).  This has been discussed on before in the context of fabricating a foreign crime wave (where despite statistically plummeting for many years now, the police can still claim foreign crime is rising because in Japan it allegedly “cannot be grasped through statistics”).

Naturally, this issue only applies to NJ, and this means more racial profiling.  But for those of you who think you’re somehow exempt because you’re engaged in white-collar professions, think again.

Immigration and the NPA are going beyond ways to merely “reset your visa clock” and make your visa more temporary based on mere bureaucratic technicalities.  This time they’re going to criminalize your mistakes, and even your lifestyle choices.

Read the article below and consider the permutations that are not fully covered within it:

Which means you’re more likely stuck in whatever dead-end profession or relationship (and at their whim and mercy).  For if you dare change something, under this new Bill you might wind up arrested, interrogated in a police cell for weeks, convicted, fined, thrown in jail, and then deported in the end (because you can’t renew your visa while in jail).  Overnight, your life can change and all your investments lost in Japan — simply because of an oversight or subterfuge.

Source for these issues at Higuchi & Arudou’s bilingual HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN.  NJ in Japan already have very few protected human or constitutional rights as it is.  This law proposes taking away even more of them, and empowering the Japanese police and general public to target and bully them even further.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Immigration crackdown seen as paving the way for state to expel valid visa-holders
The Japan Times, August 19, 2015 (excerpt), courtesy lots of people

[…] Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has submitted a bill to revise the immigration control law that will stiffen the crackdown on individuals it views as an emerging threat to public safety.

While it is unclear whether the bill will be passed during the current Diet session that ends in late September, lawyers and activists warn it is intended to give authorities leeway to weed out foreigners they consider “undesirable.”

Not only that, the envisaged law is so broadly defined that its impact could in reality extend to any foreigners who have mishandled their paperwork in applying for visas, they said, adding it even risks stoking xenophobia among the Japanese public.

The revision takes aim at what the government tentatively calls bogus visa holders, or giso taizai-sha (those staying under false visa status). The government has no official definition for them, but the term typically refers to foreigners whose activity is out of keeping with their visa status.

“The tricky thing about them is that they are outwardly legal,” immigration official Tomoatsu Koarai said, adding they possess a legitimate visa status and therefore are registered on a government database as legal non-Japanese residents.

Examples include “spouses” of Japanese nationals married under sham marriages, “engineers” whose job has nothing to do with engineering, and “exchange students” who no longer engage in academic activities after facing expulsion, the Justice Ministry said. Unlike visa overstayers, whose illegal status is clear-cut, these bogus visa holders theoretically remain legal until they are apprehended and have their visas revoked.[…]

Under the current framework, bogus immigrants are stripped of their visa if apprehended, but they face no criminal penalty, although they will either be deported immediately or instructed to return home within a month, depending on the circumstances.

The law, if enacted, will subject those who obtained or renewed visas through “forgery and other unjust measures” to criminal penalties, including up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of ¥3 million. The ministry believes imposing criminal penalties will serve as a deterrent.

The envisaged law will also expand the scope of foreigners subject to visa revocation.

Currently, foreign residents are allowed to retain their visa for three months after stopping their permitted activities. The bill calls for scrapping this three-month rule and ensuring that foreigners who discontinue their activities forfeit their residency status the instant they are caught engaging in something different or “planning to do so.” […]

Lawyer Koji Yamawaki, for one, pointed out that requirements for criminal penalties were too broad.

Similar court rulings in the past suggest the phrase “forgery and other unjust measures” does not just refer to cases involving obvious deception and mendacity, he said. It could also include simple missteps on the part of foreigners in filling out application forms, such as failing to notify immigration beforehand of some minor facts concerning their life in Japan, he said.

“For example, it’s often the case foreigners applying for a working visa don’t inform immigration of the fact they live together with someone they are not legally married to, because they thought the information was not relevant. But the reality is many of these omissions have been deemed by immigration serious enough to revoke one’s visa,” Yamawaki said.

What’s worse, after the law’s enactment, these minor lapses could not only cost foreigners their residency status, but hold them criminally liable.

“The point is, under the intended law, even if you’re not being actively deceitful, you could still be prosecuted for simply not mentioning facts that immigration wanted to be aware of — no matter how irrelevant and trivial they may be. The law is that broad,” the lawyer said. […]

One such example is technical interns who work under a state-backed foreign traineeship program called the Technical Intern Training Program.

Under the discredited initiative, allegations are rife that interns have been underpaid, forcedly overworked and abused sexually and verbally by unscrupulous employers. Fed up with subpar wage standards, a record 4,851 interns fled their workplaces in 2014, according to Justice Ministry data.

As the ministry acknowledges, these “runaways” will be considered in violation of the envisaged law once it takes effect, too, because — technically speaking — they no longer are fulfilling their duties as “technical interns” as per their visas.

Full article at

SITYS: JT publishes lawyer’s analysis of J-cops’ arbitrary “stop and frisk” procedures. It’s now actually worse for NJ than has reported before (correctly)


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Hi Blog. Hokay, let’s go over this issue one more time on (the previous times from here): the ability of J-cops to racially profile and subject any “foreigner” to arbitrary Gaijin Card ID-checks. I offered advice about what to do about it (print and carry the actual laws around with you and have them enforced).

Last time I talked about this (in my Japan Times column last April), I noted how laws had changed with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law, but the ability for cops to arbitrarily stop NJ has actually continued unabated. In fact, it’s expanded to bag searches and frisking, with or without your permission (because, after all, NJ might be carrying knives or drugs, not just expired visas).

Well, as if doubting the years of research that went into this article (and affirmed by Japanese Administrative Solicitor Higuchi Akira in our book HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS), the JT put up a “featured comment” saying that my article was wrong and a source for misinformation:


MM333:  I’m sorry, but the information in this article and on the website describing the powers of the police to stop foreigners and demand passports or residence cards for any reason ‘whenever’ is inaccurate. The law does not give the police in Japan arbitrary powers to conduct suspicionless questioning.

As specified in Article 23 of the ‘Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act’ (see below), a police officer may demand to see a passport or residence card if it is in the execution of his/her duties, in other words only when s/he is doing what s/he is empowered to do by the ‘Police Duties Execution Act’ or other relevant acts.

The main duties of the police are specified in the ‘The Police Duties Execution Act’ (see below). The duties of the police are of course very wide ranging but they are not unlimited. In a nutshell, the police may question someone if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a crime, is about to commit a crime or the person may have information about a crime.

Also, the police must offer assistance if they believe that the person is a danger to themselves or others (this is why the police may stop someone when they are riding a bicycle without a light at night even though the police may have other motives for the stop).

They may also stop you if they believe you might be a victim of a crime (As when they stop you on your bicycle and ask if you have registered it in light of all the thefts in the area) or if your acts may endanger anyone with a view to preventing any crime from occurring. The police also have additional duties imposed on them by other laws. For example, executing warrants under the ‘Code of Criminal Procedure’ or issuing fines under the ‘Road Transportation Act’.

Therefore, the police in Japan are not legally permitted to randomly stop anyone whether Japanese or foreign and demand to see their passport or residence card. The reason for this is quite simple and obvious. If the police randomly stop someone, they cannot have reasonable grounds to suspect that any crime has been committed, whether that be overstaying a visa or any other crime.

There is no doubt that in practice police in every country may try to exceed their powers, but it is quite another thing to assert that the police actually have the right to do this. In may interest people to know that the laws imposed on the police in Japan with regards to questioning are actually more restrictive as compared with the US (ie. Stop and Frisk) or the UK (ie. CJPOA Section 60).

I would recommend that everyone read the law themselves and consult a Japanese attorney if they have questions about the law. I would also ask the Japan times to have this article reviewed by a Japanese attorney and corrections made where appropriate to avoid misinformation being spread.

(Article concludes with cited laws.  See the bottom of the JT article at the top of the comments section.)

Well, I’m not a lawyer (I can just read the laws; but naturally that doesn’t count in the face of an anonymous commenter of unknown credentials), so the JT was probably just thinking it should cover its glutes. However, eventually the JT DID consult a lawyer and ran the following article — where it’s even worse than I argued:

The lawyer is essentially suggesting that you had better cooperate with the police because the laws will not protect you — especially if you’re in a “foreigner zone” of Tokyo like Roppongi. Excerpt:


Legal hurdles are high when it comes to seeking redress
Limits on ‘stop and frisk’ open to interpretation by Japan’s police and courts
BY AKIRA ISHIZUKA, The Japan Times, July 20, 2014
Full article at

JT:  In short, the police are permitted to:

1) stop a person for questioning, and, if they try to escape, to seize them (although the officers are not allowed to restrain or arrest them).

2) question them (although they have no obligation to answer these questions).

3) request (but not force) them to accompany the officers to a nearby police station or police box for the questioning.


4) frisk them with or without consent. (This is not written in the act, but precedents have established this. Basically, the frisking is limited to patting down over their clothing.)

Legal precedents in these cases have tended to stress the importance of balancing the public’s right to privacy with the necessity and urgency of the specific investigation and the public interest in preventing the crime the individual stopped by the police was suspected of being involved in. […]

Regarding the profiling, considering it was in Roppongi, which has a bit of a reputation for crime involving foreigners, the police officials could probably come up with a number of explanations for why they stopped [a NJ named P], such as a suspicion that he was carrying or selling drugs. It is unlikely that any judge would rule that this was a case of profiling and that the questioning was illegal.

As for the frisking, it was legal for the officers to pat P down over his clothes and bag, even without his consent. However, it would be illegal if an officer searched inside P’s pockets or clothing without consent or intentionally touched his genital area, even over his clothes. […]

So, in conclusion, what can you do if you are approached and questioned by police officers? Cooperating may be the smartest option and the fastest way to get the whole ordeal over as quickly as possible, but if you don’t feel like being cooperative, you can try asking the police officers what crime they are investigating and attempt to explain that you are not doing anything illegal, clearly express the will to leave and then do just that. Don’t touch the police officers, don’t run and don’t stop walking — and don’t forget to turn on the recorder on your smartphone in front of the officers, thus making it clear that you have evidence of any untoward behavior.

You cannot be forced to turn the recorder off, no matter what the police officers yell at you. Best of luck!

Akira Ishizuka is an attorney with the Foreigners and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners in the Tokyo area (; 03-6809-6200). FISS lawyers address readers’ queries once a month. Questions:


COMMENT: You know there’s something seriously wrong with a system when legally all you have is luck (and a cell phone recorder) to protect you from official arbitrary questioning, search, seizure, and racial profiling by Japanese cops. Even a lawyer says so. So that’s definitive, right?

Now, then, JT, what misinformation was being spread here by my previous article? How about trusting people who give their actual names, and have legal experience and a verified research record (several times before in past JT articles)? And how about deleting that misinformative “featured comment” to my column?


2012 revisions to immigration and registry laws shaking down NJ for Pension & Health Insurance back payments


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Hi Blog. This entry is more of a query than a conclusive essay. I raise the question because we’re seeing the intended aftereffects of the 2012 revisions to the Immigration law (which allowed for NJ to be properly registered as residents on the Juuminhyou, but also centralized control of IC-Chipped Gaijin Cards in the national government) emerge. And allegedly more targeting of NJ in terms of social welfare schemes.

A friend of mine writes in (edited):


Don’t know if you’ve heard about the latest moves by the GOJ to milk foreign residents of their hard-earned cash. They are looking into NJ with the help of that new IC chip torokusho card and making people pay for the kokumin hoken health insurance AND nenkin pension they have never paid into.

I know several people who have been hit with this and it has drained their bank accounts.  They can’t even afford the plane ticket to go back home and see ailing parents. They said a lien would be put on their account/pay checks if they didn’t pay.

A teacher I know (in his 40s) has been here some 10 years and has NEVER paid into the health insurance scheme nor nenkin. He called up city hall inquring about this and they said yes indeed he is delinquent will have to pay up all those missed years! They asked his name and he said thank you and hung up the phone! 

Another friend of mine got zapped for back payments. Every month he was being charged fines/penalties for late payments. So even if he negotiated returning to a monthly fee he would still have to pay a huge amount in extra fees. So he paid it off lump-sum and has depleted all of his savings.

The health insurance is important as one needs that to ensure treatment here, but having NJ pay into the nenkin scheme if they feel they will not be here forever to pay into it is ridiculous.  Any advice on how to get around this? I’d love to hear what you think on the matter.


COMMENT: We talk about Japan’s social welfare systems in detail in HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (and my eBook GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN). Personally, I take the side of everyone paying in. I believe that everyone in a society should support the national umbrella insurance systems, because opting out by saying, for example, “I’m not sick now so I don’t need it; I’ll only sign up when I get sick,” is fair-weather freeloading, as if you’re expecting a return on an investment when you need it but you didn’t make the investment in the first place.  (National systems can’t remain solvent like that. These issues were developed and ironed out during the Obamacare debates.)   Also, saying that “I can’t see myself retiring in Japan so I shouldn’t have to pay into Japanese pension” is also bad logic, especially given Totalization Agreements Japan has arranged with a number of societies (also covered in HANDBOOK/GUIDEBOOK) for pensions to be started and completed in different countries.

That said, there are a couple of issues that affect NJ differently here.  One is that one of the reasons why some J have not paid in is because their employer (who is responsible to pay in half of their employees welfare benefits if they work 30 hours a week and up, i.e., full time) didn’t pay in their half.  This is often unbeknownst to the NJ employee and a tax dodge by the employer.  Yet the person who gets chased down for the back payments is the NJ employee.

Another issue that affects everyone is that Japan’s pension system basically requires 300 months (25 years) of work before you qualify for any pension (although I have heard that might be changing to 10 years’ minimum investment).  That’s the longest minimum pension investment for any industrialized society.  But since that affects everyone, that’s part of the price you pay to live in Japan.

The difference is that for the Japanese public you get a nicer attitude and less draconian enforcement.  Japanese just get official posters nicely cajoling them to pay into the social welfare schemes, but there is no real enforcement unless they want future pension payments (or to avoid public shame, as was seen in 2004 when Japanese politicians were caught not paying in).  But for NJ, now that all of their visa and registry issues have been consolidated behind Central Control, their very visa renewals are contingent upon paying into social welfare, and they’re being chased and shaken down for the money.  It’s a very different approach, and the newfound dragnet further encourages bureaucrats to scrutinize and treat NJ as potential social deadbeats.  It’s one more official way to treat NJ as “different”.

Anyone else out there being officially shaken down?  And for how much?  Arudou Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART 2: New eBooks by Debito on sale now


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Hello Newsletter Readers. This month’s Newsletter is a little late due to a press holiday on May 7, the date my Japan Times column was originally to come out. So this month you get two editions that are chock full of important announcements. As a supplement, here is information about three new books of mine that are now out in downloadable eBook form:


1) Debito’s eBook “GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $19.99


Following December’s publication of the revised 2nd Edition of long-selling HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS comes a companion eBook for those who want to save paper (and money). A handy reference book for securing stable jobs, visas, and lifestyles in Japan, GUIDEBOOK has been fully revised and is on sale for $19.99 USD (or your currency equivalent, pegged to the USD on Amazons worldwide).

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at




It has been more than ten years since bathhouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up “NO FOREIGNERS” signs at their front doors, and a full decade since the critically-acclaimed book about the landmark anti-discrimination lawsuit came out. Now with a new Introduction and Postscript updating what has and hasn’t changed in the interim, JAPANESE ONLY remains the definitive work about how discrimination by race remains a part of the Japanese social landscape.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at


3) Debito’s eBook “IN APPROPRIATE: A NOVEL OF CULTURE, KIDNAPPING, AND REVENGE IN MODERN JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

In Appropriate cover

My first nonfiction novel that came out two years ago, IN APPROPRIATE is the story of a person who emigrates to Japan, finds his niche during the closing days of the Bubble Years, and realizes that he has married into a locally-prominent family whose interests conflict with his. The story is an amalgam of several true stories of divorce and child abduction in Japan, and has received great praise from Left-Behind Parents for its sincerity and authenticity.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at


Thanks for reading and perhaps purchasing!  Arudou Debito


eBook GUIDEBOOK for RELOCATION and ASSIMILATION to JAPAN now on sale, US $19.99 or local currency equivalent


eBooks, Books, and more from ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hello Blog.  I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my latest downloadable eBook:

Arudou Debito’s GUIDEBOOK for RELOCATION and ASSIMILATION into JAPAN (eBook for Amazon and NOOK, 2013)


Price: $19.99 or local currency equivalent at Amazons worldwide (available also from Amazon Japan here currently for JPY 1979).  Also at Barnes & Noble for NOOK.

Here’s GUIDEBOOK’s synopsis:
Are you interested in living in Japan? Not visiting as a tourist — actually living in Japan with a secure visa and a stable job. Would you like to set up your own business and found your own corporation? Or understand how Japan’s salary system or health insurance works? What Japan’s minimum labor standards are, and the legal differences between part-time and full-time employment? How to write a Last Will and Testament in Japan, or hold a culturally-sensitive funeral? Or would you like to give something back to Japan’s civil society by founding your own non-profits or NGOs?How about getting some advice on how to deal with some unexpected problems, such as handling workplace disputes, dealing with police, going to court, even going through a divorce? 

Would you like to become a Permanent Resident or even a Japanese citizen?

GUIDEBOOK will offer information on all this and more. Written by 25-year resident and naturalized Japanese citizen Arudou Debito, GUIDEBOOK’s information has been called “the fullest and consequently the best” by Japan Times Book Reviewer Donald Richie, and garnered praise from other Japan specialists such as John Lie, Jeff Kingston, and Alex Kerr.

GUIDEBOOK has been newly updated for 2013, to include the 2012 reforms to Japan’s Immigration Laws. Now for the first time in eBook format, GUIDEBOOK is here to help you with nuts-and-bolts advice to establish a good life in this wonderful country, Japan!

GUIDEBOOK has been completely updated for 2013.  Similar information is available in English and Japanese at

Get a copy if you’re interested! On sale from yesterday, it’s already at this writing #9 on Kindle nonfiction eBooks on Japan.  Thanks everyone!  ARUDOU Debito

JT: Japan’s minimum retirement age to increase to 65 by 2025


Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. Here’s something interesting for those of you working in Japan and intending to stay on until retirement. Those of you who have done the research (see also our HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN) will know that (aside from a quickie lump-sum you can withdraw if you’ve only paid in for a few years and are leaving Japan) you have to pay into Japan’s mandatory pension system for 300 months (i.e., 25 years) or you don’t get anything back. Further, you can’t collect it until the mandatory retirement age, which was 60, but now has been raised to 61 and soon will be raised to 65, according to the Japan Times. So that means that even if you want to stop work early even after paying in for 300 months, you simply cannot collect. This is also assuming that, given the decreasing population and increasing pensioners, Japan’s pension system will even be solvent by the time you reach retirement age. Something to think about. Other issues of import raised in the Japan Times article link as well. Arudou Debito


Mandatory retirement takes a leap forward
The Japan Times, March 24, 2013

[excerpt] …Americans saw nothing odd about staying on the job until reaching age 65.

Now finally, Japan is catching up. From next month, when the 2013 fiscal year begins, the revised Law Concerning Stabilization of Employment of Older Persons takes effect, and the mandatory retirement age, defined as the minimum age for payout of social security pensions — last raised from 55 to 60 years in 1998 — will go up to 61, and then increase incrementally at the rate of one year of age every three years, until 2025, when the mandatory retirement age reaches 65.

Over the long term, the new statute is expected to have profound effects on hiring, the wage structure and many other aspects affecting the nation’s corporate culture.

Yet Japan, with its declining birthrate and aging population, clearly had to do something to maintain the size of its labor force (which was 62.98 million as of 2010). Mass immigration, one of its few other options, has been proposed numerous times over the years, but for reasons too numerous to raise here keeps getting put on the back burner.

Rest of the article at


Donald Richie passes away at age 88. Saluting one of our pioneering Japanologist brethren


Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. I just want to say a brief word of thanks to Donald Richie for a life well lived on the occasion of his passing (thanks AS for the notification) yesterday at age 88. We’ll add articles as they come out in commemoration, but here’s the first brief one from Yahoo News/Asahi Digital:


ドナルド・リチーさん死去 黒沢・小津らを海外に紹介
朝日新聞デジタル 2月19日(火)20時2分配信





The era of the pioneering Immediate Postwar hands-on Japanologists is truly and inevitably coming to an end. First Edwin Reischauer (long ago in 1990; I managed to meet him and host a talk by him and his wife Haru at UCSD in 1989), then Edward Seidensticker (2007), now Donald Richie (for whom has had praise for in the past for his healthy attitude of “swallowing Japan whole”; I met him about ten years ago and had a very good conversation; he also kindly lavished praise on HANDBOOK). Of the very famous ones, Donald Keene is basically the last one standing.  And I don’t think I will be able to eulogize that Donald in the same way.

I will miss Donald Richie. Feel free to append articles and your thoughts below. Arudou Debito

2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan on sale Dec 2012, updated


Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN goes on sale in December 2012.

This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012.

A table of contents, excerpt, and more details on what’s inside and how you can get the book here. Those rave reviews here.

Get ready to get yourself a new copy! Arudou Debito

(Oh, and my Japan Times JBC column has been postponed a week due to a major scoop this week that will fill the Community Page…)

WSJ: “‘Expats’ Say Goodbye to Gaijin Card”, needs more research beyond “Expat” conceits


Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. Here we have the Wall Street Journal up to its old tricks: Representing the “Expat” community’s attitudes towards Japan, doing “Japan Real Time” research that is essentially navel-gazing about Japan from a skyscraper window (or a computer screen, as it were).

Even though the reporter, Sarah Berlow, parrots much of the net-researched stuff (courtesy of the GOJ, sharing the same blinkered viewpoint of life in Japan for NJ residents) accurately, check this bit out:

“New residents will instead be given a “residence card” similar to the ones Japanese citizens carry, except for a special marking designating the holder’s nationality.”

Err… wrong. Japanese citizens have no residence cards to carry, as we’ve discussed here on for years. This fact has long seeped into the consciousness of people who ACTUALLY live here, as one of the WSJ commenters duly notes:

There is no such residence card for Japanese nationals. Japanese citizens usually use drivers licences, health insurance cards or passports for ID if necessary. They most certainly are not issued with these or similar residency-based cards currently, I am aware of no plans to do so, and there is no compulsory carrying of ID required for Japanese citizens (except to enter an airport). The previous system required non-Japanese to carry a credit card-sized ID card at all times (subject to penalty if not carried) and will still do so. Japanese citizens do not have to carry ID and will still not be required to do so.
Source for comments relating to requirements for resident non-Japanese : , especially under Q1-9

And how about this: “These new changes come as the government attempts to increase this number [of foreigners entering Japan], to an “era of 25 million foreign visitors to Japan” by 2020, a goal established in 2011.”

Err… foreign tourists never had to carry Gaijin Cards in the first place (only people who had to register with residency visas of three months and up), so these changes have no connection and will have no effect. Does Ms. Berlow even have a residency visa in Japan so she might know about this from personal experience?  If not, there are whole books on this, ones so easy even the busy-getting-rich-off-their-Expat-packages-and-enjoying-their-Expat-Bubble-Enclaves Expats can read them (cf. HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS), so bone up.

And there is no mention of the RIFD Gaijin Card Chipping for the new “Gaijin Residency Cards” only, something I’ve made a fuss about in the past.  Ms. Berlow uses the word “track” in regards to NJ within the article, which is appropriate, for reasons she probably didn’t research enough to anticipate.  RFID enables remote tracking of people’s credit card numbers, to begin with.

And with technological advances, as I’ve argued before, it is only a matter of time and degree before it’s capable at long distances — if it’s not already. Don your tinfoil hats, but RFID technology is already being used in military drone guidance systems for long-distance precision targeting. You think the GOJ’s going to abdicate its wet-dream ability to keep physical track of potential foreign “illegal overstayers”, now that it has the ability to RFID chip every foreign resident from now on? Oh well, the “Expats” need not worry. They’re not in Japan forever.

Finally, what’s the reason I’m jumping on the WSJ so much?  Because, as I’ve said, they’re up to their old tricks.  Don’t forget, it was the WSJ who first broke (and legitimized in English and Japanese) the story about the fictitious “Flyjin” Phenomenon, setting the agenda to tar the NJ who left (or worse, stayed for the stigma).  Thus the WSJ’s record of “spoiling things” for NJ in Japan is on par with what critics claim does.  Sorry, we might not have their media reach or legitimacy, but at least we do better research here, for free.  That’s a deal even a non-“Expat” can afford.  Arudou Debito


The Wall Street Journal May 7, 2012, 3:57 PM JST
Expats Say Goodbye to Gaijin Card
By Sarah Berlow Courtesy of TS

This summer marks the end of an era for foreigners residing in Japan. Starting July 9, the 60-year-old “certificate of alien registration” — the credit-card sized i.d. informally known as “the gaijin card” — will go the way of yakiimo carts, weekly Astroboy broadcasts, and uniformed men punching train tickets.

New residents will instead be given a “residence card” similar to the ones Japanese citizens carry, except for a special marking designating the holder’s nationality. It’s part of a series of amendments to Japanese immigration law designed to create a simpler system for the government, and a way for foreigners to feel, well, slightly less alien.

One main change: foreign residents and Japanese nationals can sign up with the government under the same resident registration system, rather than filing under separate categories, as currently required. That means foreigners generally can handle more of their bureaucratic needs only with their local municipal office, reducing the need to deal with immigration authorities. The new law is also designed to make life easier for Japanese with non-Japanese spouses. The entire family can be registered in one system, and the foreign spouse can be listed as the head of the family. Under current law, those families have to register under two different systems.

Another significant change: longer stay periods on certain visas. Some specialized workers, like engineers, can stay for up to five years instead of the current three; students can stay for up to four years and three months, up from the current maximum of two years and three months. Re-entry permits are being extended to five years from the current three years.

According to the Immigration Bureau of Japan, the new system will better track “the residency of foreign nationals residing in Japan for the mid-to long-term with resident status, and ensure greater convenience for those foreign nationals.”

The “gaijin card” was first created in 1952, and for many years included the holder’s fingerprint — a requirement that drew complaints from foreign residents who felt they were being treated as criminals. That feature was dropped by 1999.

The changes come as Japan faces a sharp drop in foreign residents, a trend prompted by the long recession, the reduction in financial jobs following the 2008 global financial crisis, and the rising cost of living due to the strong yen. Last year’s quake, tsunami, and nuclear accident didn’t do much to encourage foreigners to stay.

At the end of 2011, the number of registered foreigners in Japan had dropped by about 56,000 from 2010 to 2,078,480, the third consecutive decline, according to Japan’s Ministry of Justice.

The number of foreigners who entered Japan 2011 was 7.1 million down 24.4% from 2010. These new changes come as the government attempts to increase this number, to an “era of 25 million foreign visitors to Japan” by 2020, a goal established in 2011.

Read this post in Japanese/日本語訳はこちら≫

WSJ 2012/5/8 14:56
外国人登録制度、7月9日に廃止へ 60年の歴史に幕










記者:Sarah Berlow

JT Community Page 10th Anniversary: Write a Haiku, win a copy of Debito’s HANDBOOK


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. As I wrote last week, next week heralds a celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Japan Times’ Tuesday Community Page. As I’ve written about 100 articles and JBC columns for it so far, I’ll be doing double duty next week with two articles, one in commemoration, and one a regular JBC column (more on the topic shortly before publication).

This week, however, in anticipation, the JT announced that it would be offering FIVE free copies of Akira Higuchi and Arudou Debito’s bilingual HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (more on it here), which has been a solid and steady seller, what with all the information about getting the right visa, getting a steady job, getting settled for a permanent life in Japan, and dealing with problems and issues that may come up. Table of Contents and reviews here.

That’s right, five free copies of HANDBOOK, and all you have to do is write a Haiku in English about Japan — “the good, the bad and the ugly”. Some examples (there are many more at the link) by Zeit Gist contributor Colin Jones this week include:

Random card checking
Fingerprints at the airport
Yokoso Japan!

Non-Japanese folk
Have constitutional rights
Except when they don’t

Barred from the hot springs
for invisible tattoo
It says “foreigner”

Now, those are my kinda Haiku. And no doubt we’ll have some anti-Debito ones too (taste the irony of being rewarded by the very person you’re dissing!). Go for it!  Submit via:

Happy Anniversary, Community Page!  Arudou Debito

Interview by JapanTechTalk on NJ rights, courtesy of Mondo Books Nagoya


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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  My last night in Nagoya (as in last night) I had an immensely enjoyable interview with JapanTechTalk’s Robert Sanzalone over tebasaki.

Have a listen!

Amazing how six hours after an interview takes place it can be all over the Net.

Thanks to an introduction by Mike and Jose at Mondo Books Nagoya.
on Facebook

Two autographed signed copies of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS available at Mondo. First come, first purchased!  How to get there at above links!

Arudou Debito in Nagoya, off to Tokyo for a movie screening of SOUR STRAWBERRIES with Amnesty International tonight.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 17 July 7 2009 on Roppongi Urine Samples: “Cops crack down with ‘I pee’ checks”


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatartwitter: arudoudebito
The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Cops crack down with ‘I pee’ checks

Column 49 for the Zeit Gist Community Page/Column 17 for the JBC column
Version with links to sources

My blog has been getting periodic pings about rumblings in Roppongi: Tokyo cops cleaning out pesky foreign touts before Olympic inspectors see them; the U.S. Embassy warning Americans to stay away from the area after reports of drugged drinks and thefts.

The latter was particularly embarrassing (coming from the Americans, of all people) given Japan’s reputation for having the world’s safest streets. So police have begun reasserting their control, cracking down on — you guessed it — foreigners. And where might you find them? You guessed that too.

I heard about police raids in Roppongi in May and June. But now they are going beyond ID checks for visa overstayers. Regular customers have been apprehended for drinking while foreign, bundled into police vans and shuttled off to HQ for urine tests for drugs. According to their associates, those testing positive for controlled substances have been deported.

What triggered this drugs dragnet? A few months ago, several sumo wrestlers (Japanese and otherwise) were discovered possessing and puffing marijuana. Then it turned up in universities and rugby teams, and suddenly reefer madness was toking its toll on Japan’s youth. Some reeferers referred the cops to foreign dealers in — where else? — Roppongi.

This justified a budget for new trooper toys. An alert reader sent in an article reporting that the National Police Agency bought 78 spectrometers in May from Thermo Fischer Scientific Inc. designed for quick drug analysis.,3081,20517,00.html

Back to the Roppongi smoke-out: Witnesses told they saw foreigners being rounded up at bar exits for a piss take. However, few people who looked Japanese were detained, they said.

Of course, if cops are looking for the dealers (as opposed to users) who corrupted our youth, I’m not sure how a tinkle test would uncover them. But never mind — the police have to do something, or at least be seen to be doing something.

But watch the policy creep beyond suspected dope dens. Another blog reader, motorbiking at sunrise to a Roppongi dojo in April, said that patrolling cops ignored him parking until he took off his helmet. Then they made a beeline and demanded to search his luggage compartment. “I hear that marijuana is pretty popular in Canada,” one cop commented after finding out he was Canadian, implying that he was possibly carrying the demon weed. Finally, they had him reach for the sky while they searched his pockets.

Yet another reader reported that he was approached last March in Roppongi Hills by a young trainee cop who demanded his bag for inspection. Explicitly accusing him of carrying drugs and knives, moreover talking down to him like he was “a child or a mental incompetent,” the cub cop kept snarling until his handler intervened. Seeing their prey was a Hanshin Tigers fan ,they let him go. Phew. Go Tigers!

But the metastasis of the surveillance society is only just beginning. Reports from Tokyo’s Shibuya, Yoyogi and Akihabara indicate that even Japanese are being targeted for these surly satchel searches. Meanwhile, The Japan Times reported on June 26 that spy cameras — staffed by neighborhood associations, not trained professionals — are being installed in 15 other residential areas nationwide. So don’t expect this to be a temporary anticrime campaign.

Again, as I’ve argued before (Zeit Gist, July 8, 2008), this is a case of “gaijin as guinea pig.” Laws bent to target foreigners will ultimately be stretched to target everyone else.

And here’s what’s bent: By law, cops need a warrant to do a bag inspection, not to mention take a urine sample.

Last Wednesday, I telephoned Azabu Police Station to find out how this circle was being squared. I was connected to a Mr. Teshima, who was in no mood for questions. After identifying myself by name and affiliation (that of human rights group FRANCA), he repeatedly refused to give me straight answers.

I did get Mr. Teshima to confirm that the police were subjecting foreigners to urine tests. But, he averred, not only foreigners. When I asked him to explain the criteria for deciding whom to stop and detain, he refused to elaborate.

When I asked if a warrant for a pee check was necessary, he said it depended on the situation. What kind of situation? Not gonna say, but if the individual agrees to submit to this wee procedure, “we no longer need a warrant.” What happens if they don’t submit? Not gonna say.

When I asked if noncooperation could lead to arrest, he said he was now too busy to answer any more questions. When I asked him what his position was in the police department, he enforced his right to remain silent and hung up on me.

In a separate inquiry, The Japan Times wrung these clarifications out of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Public Relations Center: 1. Police raids on businesses only happen after a reliable tip; 2. Urine testing is not a new procedure, and has always been done whenever necessary; 3. Only those who look wasted on drugs will be asked for a urine sample; 4. Urine samples are only ever taken after persuasion, never under threat.

Sure. But something still stinks. Much ink has been expended exploring how the Japanese police lack accountability. They can detain you for “voluntary questioning” with or without probable cause for days at a time, convert that into an arrest for up 23 days, carry out unrecorded grillings that famously crack detainees into making false confessions, interpret the constitutionally guaranteed right to remain silent as a sign of guilt, and otherwise just make your life miserable in detention if you don’t “cooperate.”

The police, however, as Mr. Teshima demonstrated, often see themselves as under no compulsion to cooperate — even when you need information to make your rights and their legal obligations clear.

If this were a contractual relationship, and an agent took advantage of your ignorance to lock you into a punitive agreement, it would be considered fraud. But police hold themselves to a different standard. Never mind informed consent — your ignorance becomes leverage for them to detain, arrest and imprison you.

Thus, without checks and balances, things stretch to their logical extremes. Random street stoppages have crept beyond simple ID checks into “I pee” checks. These are clearly more invasive, more intrusive, and more easily mixed up (urine samples require scientific precision — they can be spilled or misplaced; it’s not as if they have photo ID). They are in any case beyond the current bounds of the law regarding search and seizure without a warrant.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that drugs are a bad thing and that people must obey narcotics laws. But there are also issues of law enforcement here that must be obeyed.

These checks take on added importance since it seems these “random” pee searches, done without accountability or appeal to counteract “false positives” (such as from poppy seeds, nasal sprays, medicines for colds, migraines and allergies, and even tonic water), may in fact not be all that random after all. One mistake and your life in Japan as you know it is over.

So let me enlighten. This is the law:

Police cannot search your person, property or possessions without a warrant. Ask for one: “Reijou ga arimasu ka?”

If they threaten to take you to a police box for questioning, refuse and don’t move. Police cannot force you to go anywhere without a formal arrest (taiho).

But be careful. Do not raise your voice. And never ever touch the cop, or they could arrest you for “obstruction of duty.” This is why sometimes you see street standoffs between cops and questionees during which nobody moves or talks until somebody gets tired and goes home.

Know your rights by checking out, or read more in our “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” But don’t assume the police will give the public the same cooperation they demand from the public. Accountability gets in the way of their modus operandi. Laws protecting people against invasive procedures interfere with keeping the streets safe from foreigners.

Anyway, shouldn’t Roppongi also be protesting this? Inconveniencing customers to this extent without probable cause is bad for business.

It’s also bad for society in general. What happens to a small minority sets precedents for the rest of the population. Ignore this at your peril.

Debito Arudou is the author of “Japanese Only.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments to
The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 7, 2009

“Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants” featured in Legal Scriveners magazine


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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Trying to limit myself to one post per day, and timing is off with Roppongi Piss Issue. Let me post this briefly, then send something later after midnight.

Just heard from Akira today. Our book (“our” meaning friend Akira Higuchi and myself) HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMER, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (Akashi Shoten Inc.) has just been featured (well, listed, anyway) in this month’s “Nihon Gyousei”, a national magazine for legal scriveners.

Great news. The book has really come into its own. If you don’t have a copy, you really oughta consider getting one. It deals with things you need to know to make a better life in Japan. does its best, but the Handbook is one-stop shopping. And if you want to support’s activities in some financial way, consider purchasing.

More on what’s in Handbook and how to get a copy here. ( is not the best way, BTW.) Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Sunday Tangent: Shinjuku-ku issues its own quadralingual guidebook to life in Tokyo.


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to JK. Comments? Debito


Hi Debito:

Looks like your handbook has some competition:

Guide to Living in Shinjuku

新宿生活スタートブック:4カ国語で生活ガイド本--区が発行 /東京

I don’t suppose Shinjuku-ku would be kind enough to release a “Guide to Living with Foreigners,” in Japanese aimed at the existing residents of the Ward….

IMO「新宿生活スタートブック」 = ‘Read This Book, Become A Good Gaijin, And Don’t Cause Us Any Trouble”. –JK


Debito here again:  Page down below articles to see sample scans of book.  I contacted Shinjuku-ku for copies, which they very kindly sent at their own expense.  Thanks.

Personally, I think it’s a good college try, and every local govt should issue one of these to its NJ residents.  Better than not having a book at all.  And I appreciate that it’s quadralingual.  I assume they took the four top nationalities in their district and extrapolated languages (no Spanish or Portuguese, however.  Ah well.)  Get yourself a copy from Shinjuku.  Way cool.


Shinjuku Ward issues daily living guide in four languages

The municipal government of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward has released the “Guide to Living in Shinjuku,” a daily life manual in four languages aimed at new foreign residents.

The illustrated guide is in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese with furigana phonetic readings above the kanji characters for easy reading. The guide covers details of moving into an apartment, such as the deposit and so-called “key money,” as well as etiquette such as polite greetings to neighbors after moving in, not playing music too loudly at night, and making sure to check with the landlord before getting a pet.

The 74-page manual also covers practicalities of everyday living in the ward, such as separating garbage, procedures to follow in case of a natural disaster, bicycle manners and making it clear that smoking is prohibited on the streets.

The manual is available at the foreigner registration desk at the ward office, and at the Shinjuku Multicultural Plaza in Kabukicho.

The ward has also issued a new version of its English language ward map. The previous map was printed on a single large sheet of paper. The new version, however, comes as an easy to carry 58-page booklet of highly detailed maps.

Both the map booklet and the living guide are available for free. Copies of either can be obtained by contacting the Shinjuku Ward Culture, Tourism and International Affairs Division at 03-5273-3504.

(Mainichi Japan) April 12, 2009


新宿生活スタートブック:4カ国語で生活ガイド本--区が発行 /東京






毎日新聞 2009年4月7日 地方版






Happy New Year: Retrospective: 10 things that made me think in 2008


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.  Happy New Year.  To open 2009, here’s my annual essay where I note ten things that caused me to think quite a bit last year.  Some things I partook in (books and media and whatnot) might also be interesting for you to delve into as well.  For what they’re worth, and in no particular order, here goes:


10) IIJIMA AI’S DEATH:  It’s not something that I would admit to Japanese female friends (who pretty much uniformly dislike Ai for what she represents — a porn star that somehow escaped into regular TV land — and for, I might add, her power over men), but I am a fan.  Have been for most of my years here in Japan.  It’s not just because I followed her from her days exposing her backside on the successor to TV show “11PM” (there’s a blast from the past for you readers here from the bubble years!), “Gilgamesh Nights”, enjoying the contrast between her and pneumatic Hosokawa Fumie (who appealed to the J-men who liked their women less spicy).  It’s not just because she was to me pretty all over.  I really liked her personality (yes, the singular):  unafraid of men — unafraid of just about anything, apparently.  I enjoyed her stints as a regular tarento on shows like “Sunday Japon” (where lucky devil Dave Spector sitting behind her got to smell her hair on a weekly basis) even after it did not involve disrobing:  She had an unabashed charm that was both abrasive and funny; you never knew what she was going to say next (or write next:  she had a decent blog and a surprise bestseller in “Platonic Sex”).  She was somebody I would have liked to have had a conversation with.  Now with her death from an apparent suicide near Xmas, that’s impossible, and I’m saddened.  She was too young (36), and I doubt she found much contentment in life aside from money and media attention; I wonder if it was the wrong kind of attention that did her in in the end.


9) CYCLING FROM MIYAZAKI TO KURASHIKI:  Every Golden Week I embark on my get-back-in-shape-after-the-long-Hokkaido-winter sojourn, where I go somewhere warm and cycle to a big airport.  This year, starting from Miyazaki for the second year in a row, I jumped on my mountain bike and went up the northern shore, getting close to Oita before taking a ferry to that funny little peninsula reaching out from Shikoku, then cycled along the coast to Matsuyama, took the odd series of bridges (which have bike paths!) comprising the Shimanami Kaidou to near Hiroshima, then pedaled the odd coast of southern Okayama to Kurashiki, where showers, booze with good friends (who I think still don’t believe I really cycled from that far south), and Scrabble galore awaited.  The biggest shock (for me):  I cycled an average of 100 kms a day for six days.  It was easy.  Yes, easy.  I’m about to turn 44 and as long as my kiester is properly padded, I can pedal all day.  Just plug in the iPod, alternate between podcasts and pump-up music, and I feel like I can go anywhere.  Let’s hope that I don’t get a heart attack on one of these trips when age finally catches up with me.


8) FRANCA:  Stands for Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (, and the idea came forth when long-term NJ residents, furious at being fingerprinted again from November 2007, asked to form a group that would represent their interests.  We’ve been taking it slow over the year and building up awareness and interest, but this year I realized (with the Tohoku region in particular) after a series of speeches that I don’t need to tow this movement along (as I have with other projects I’ve taken up, such as the Kunibengodan).  There is a critical mass of people here who don’t see themselves as “guests”, and are ready to stand up for themselves and claim their due as taxpayers and contributors to Japanese society.  Next step:  formally registering the group as an NPO with the Japanese government.  Readers out there who are used to running businesses (I’m not) are welcome to step forward and help make this organization a paying job for them.


7) TOYOKO G8 SUMMIT:  Yes, it could have been a bonanza for Hokkaido.  Yes, it could have put us on the map like the 1972 Olympics did.  But a G8 Summit is not designed for popular participation or investment in infrastructure like an Olympics.  Summits are events where Secret Service Sherpas parachute in, seal off the entire community, and make sure the riff-raff (as in the electorate, who might have something to say as part of the democratic process) don’t get in and spoil the world leaders’ elaborately-crafted dinner and publicity parties and junkets for their entourages.  What was the payoff for Hokkaido?  Not much:  The media center they built was soon knocked down (“ecologically recycled”), and people like me couldn’t even get a job as a local-hire interpreter (the Sherpas bring their own; again, it’s a hermetic system), and by the grace of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs those allowed in (the media) stayed in officially-approved hotels (who raised their prices appreciably to gouge reporters:  More on life behind the Summit walls in by reporter Eric Johnston at 

Worst of all was Japan’s bad habit of using international events to convert bits of Japan into a police state, spending far more money than anyone else in the G8 on policing and security.  (See my Japan Times article on this at   And with a racial-profiling element to their “anti-terrorist” activities.  I (as well as lots of other people) discovered that when walking through Chitose Airport while non-Asian.  In sum, the G8 Summit inconvenienced thousands of people, and wasted millions of dollars on something that could have been done with a conference video call.  Made me doubt the efficacy of world leaders meeting at all, especially when the Summit didn’t prevent the financial meltdown months later. 


6) CALIFORNIA TRIP 2008:  I spent all of August and two weeks of September on tour both for business and book promotion.  Not only did I get back to see what even the bluest state in America had become under 8 years of Bush II (one mixed-up place, abandoning Gov. Gray Davis for Schwartzenegger thanks to Enron; more below), I also managed to plug back into what could have been my life had I stayed a California Boy in the Bay Area.  It wasn’t my choice to begin with (I was born near Berkeley, and moved to the US East Coast at age five when my mother remarried), but I’m still not sure which would have been the better life.  More at


5) DVDS:  ENRON — THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM, and MICHAEL MOORE’S “SICKO”.  These are the two most powerful movies I saw all year.  ENRON doesn’t just talk about the fall of a company — it even manages to show how business gone wild through true laissez-faire (not to mention outright tolerance of lying) destroys economies and people.  It is also the most interesting movie about accounting I have ever seen (just edging out Itami Juzo’s MARUSA NO ONNA movies).  SICKO is the other side of that coin on a more interpersonal level, since similar unethical pricing and qualification schemes and unfettered management of inelastic demand (be it electric power or medical care) destroys lives all the same.  One documentary was an excellent postmortem, the other was a harbinger, singlehandedly putting universal health care back on the US political agenda.  Watch them and think about how markets and government should work.


4) BOOKS:  Francis Wheen’s KARL MARX and HOW MUMBO-JUMBO CONQUERED THE WORLD.  Francis Wheen writes like the smartest kid in the class (I never thought anyone could summarize Marx’s Das Kapital in one paragraph), and makes you want to read more of anything he writes.  He puts a very human face on Marx, as well as on the actors creating the Grand Illusion of free-market capitalism and equitable societal development.  (The biggest dupe of the Postwar Twentieth Century:  “the trickle-down effect”.)  Wheen is as lucid as Bertrand Russell at times (and more amusing) as he traces the arc of economic, political, and social theory for the past forty years.  It’s a wonderful debug.  But don’t expect a mentoring from this author (I doubt he himself would welcome the role), for he prescribes little in return.  Wheen has that veddy British tendency to whale on people by criticizing them intelligently, if not a bit cuttingly, but not offer much ideology of his own for others to criticize back.  It isn’t until you get to the very end, where in a couple of succinct paragraphs he reveals his dogma:  Put reason above emotion and non-science in all respects (even when he gets a bit emotional himself).  He has faith that “truth is great and will prevail”.  Provided that people can be educated enough to think for themselves, and not be duped by the world’s ideological snake-oil salesmen.  Reading Wheen is a valuable antidote to them.  I still think, in the end, Bertrand Russell did it better, but Wheen does it more accessibly and practically for today’s marketplace of ideas.


3) JAPAN TIMES COLUMN:  Last March, my JUST BE CAUSE monthly column started with a focus on human rights.  So far, so good:  Not running out of topics and it’s amazing just how much debate a mere 700 words can spark (viz. the “gaijin” trilogy of essays over the summer).  I also felt like people looked at me differently once this column started going — not just a “blogger” anymore, but an actual pundit in a national newspaper.  If that’s a complimentary status to have, I’ll try to earn readers’ respect over the next few years.  I hope I’m serving well enough now.  Next column out January 6.


2) “HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS”, co-authored with Akira Higuchi.  This was where it all fell into place.  No longer was I just being labeled a “troublemaker” who sues people at a drop of a hat, and writes books about lawsuits as some form of catharsis.  No such dismissal could be made about HANDBOOK, a bilingual bestseller (in the small human-rights book market), clearly written as a means to help people make better lives here in Japan.  It garnered not a single mixed or negative review.  As a person who seems cause controversy just by exhaling, I’m just not used to the unqualified positive.  I hope the book serves well in future too.

And at the end (again, this list was in no particular order):  The Booby Prize for biggest disappointment mediawise of the year:


1) KEN BURNS’ “THE WAR” DOCUMENTARY:  I will watch anything by Ken Burns, the director who revolutionized the historical documentary with his daylong THE CIVIL WAR some decades ago.  I own everything he’s got out on DVD (and yes, there are a few turkeys:  THE CONGRESS is one).  But my appetite was whetted when NPR reviewer David Bianculli called THE WAR (about World War II from an American perspective) “his best”.  I watched it after viewing the even longer British-produced (and now History Channel staple) THE WORLD AT WAR series, made nearly forty years ago. 

I understand Burns’s production was about how a world war affected the US domestically, but his presentation rankled for the first time ever.  Not only was the music and tone of the documentary in places quite inappropriate (upbeat contemporary songs for wartime scenes, for example), but the feeling was cloying, even jingoistic at times, as if boostering for Americana in the face of an international war (TWAW only pandered to its British audience once:  it’s overuse of “Banzai” as Japan invaded British territories in South East Asia.)  Unforgivable was the closing line of the final episode:

“This film is dedicated to all those who fought and won that necessary war on our behalf.”

I see.  Well, maybe I’ve been too influenced by Japan’s need to see everyone (even the aggressor nations, such as itself) as the victims of war.  But a film about a world war should not just herald those who won it.  It should salute those who died in it, who suffered in it, regardless of side.  History already overwhelmingly favors the victors of war.  Why would a historian like Burns repeat that error by just honoring one side, as if those who suffered the historical accident of being on the wrong side do not deserve a modicum of respect for doing what many simply had to do?  There is the victimization, the tragedy of group madness and legally-enforced conformity that leads to war anyway.  It’s not all winners vs. losers, good vs. evil, is it?  Let’s be a bit more sophisticated in our paid tributes, shall we?


Alright, these are the things that made me think quite a bit this year.  Thanks for reading those thoughts, and have a Happy New Year 2009.  Arudou Debito

FYI: People working for American companies in Japan are covered by US Civil Rights Law


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 note on a subject that may help people working for American multinational companies.  They have double labor rights/civil rights protections — both American and Japanese.  And apparently the American government links to the civil rights authorities of other countries/unions like Canada and the EU.  More on the EEOC site.  Further, HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS has been helping people define their terms and anchor their arguments.  Happy to hear.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Did you happen to know that U.S. civil rights law (equal employment opportunities, or EEO) applies to U.S. citizens working abroad for U.S. multinational companies?
under:  “Multinational Employers”

This is a heads up to the expat community.    Very few know that if they are working for the Japanese sub of an American company, and feel they are being discriminated or not given equal opportunities (based on a U.S. understanding of what that is!), they can go to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) in the US.

EEOC Charge mediation is confidential.

Very few American-parent companies here tell their workers about the EEO coverage.   Basically, Congress wrote the law to hold the American parent liable for the activities of the overseas company that it controls.   So one possible remedy is filing an EEO complaint, which can be done over the internet.  Employers are supposed to tell the employees about these coverages and remedies — it says so in the 1964 act.

One thing that should also be pointed out is that there is a statute of limitations on EEOC charges.    Usually this is 300 days, but in some instances might only be 180 days.    It isn’t clear, though, that if the company does not NOTIFY you of the coverage, whether these limitations would apply.  So to be on the safe side, assume 180 days.

There is also a non-retaliation provision:   Form 5 information page states:
“Please notify EEOC or state and local agency where you filed your charge if retaliation is taken against you or others who oppose discrimination or cooperate in any investigation or lawsuit concerning this charge.   Under Section 704(a) of Title VII,  . . . [etc.], it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against present or former employees or job applicants, for an employment agency to discriminate against anyone, or for a union to discriminate against its members or membership applicants, because they have opposed any practice made unlawful by the statutes, or because they have made a charge, testified, assisted or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the laws . . . “
HANDBOOK has been very handy in explaining Japanese labor law, since it is not exactly the subject of substantial English-language literature in other countries or languages.   In addition, letting people around Japan know about the EEO coverage, it helps anyone who is caught in a similar bind.  Japanese labor law investigators don’t seem to be all that vigilant when it comes to foreigners — not only language barriers, but also a sense that the foreign person “really isn’t supposed to be here” in the first place.


Tanya Clark reviews HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS very favorably.


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. Another nice review of HANDBOOK this time from Tanya Clark (niece of Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark, BTW). See other reviews (including the Japan Times, the Daily Yomiuri, etc.) here. FYI. Thanks Tanya. Debito



Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan – A Review


I first visited Japan thirty years ago and have since lived, studied and worked in the country; as well as reported on it extensively, so I can say with absolute certainty that gems like the Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan by Arudou Debito and Higuchi Akira (Akashi Shoten: 2008) are way too rare.

BI (Before the Internet) I, and anyone with more than a passing interest in Japan, would have to scour bookstores and libraries looking for clues as to how to navigate our way through life in Japan. New publications would elicit [internal] squeals of glee – even if closer examination would, all too often, lead one to suspect the author may have only travelled from Narita Airport to Roppongi [the area of Tokyo where foreigners tend to congregate] — and gone no further. At least, perhaps, I would silently hope, some glimmer of useful, new fact would find its way through the dross to help inform the daily challenges of life in Japan. And, on those rare occasions, a real jewel revealed itself, the joy was genuine.  

Post internet, of course, research into life in Japan is so much easier. But, it is not all that straightforward. The language challenge remains. And while many of the more basic details (how to get a tourist or working holiday visa, how to find a hotel etc.) are fairly well documented; the deeper details are not. The nitty gritty of a life lived in Japan is barely revealed.

So, it was with my [mental] fingers tightly crossed that I first opened Arudou and Higuchi’s book. I have interacted with Arudou off and on over the years as his editor and as someone who paid passing attention to his activities as a Japan-based activist for foreigners’ rights. Arudou had taken the challenging path of adopting Japanese nationality (he was an American citizen) and creating a life for himself in Hokkaido, itself a frontier-esque northern island in Japan. Knowing Arudou knew his subject had raised my hopes. But, he and his writing partner pulled it off?

Indeed they had. The two of them (Higuchi is a Hokkaido-based lawyer) had summarised the nuts and bolts of life for people whose Japan stay is extended. Whether it is maintaining a funeral plot in Japan, buying a car, joining a union or tips on divorcing a troublesome partner — life’s essential tips and tricks are covered.

Their approach is straightforward. The brass tacks of a life lived anywhere have some pretty common themes — and they adopt these as the core chapter topics.

· Arriving and establishing a home
· Stabilizing employment and lifestyles
· Starting a business
· What to do if…(life, work, court, family)
· Retirement and planning for the future
· Giving something back

The book is written in English and Japanese, the Japanese text is on the obverse and English on the verso. The English used is not grammatically complicated (a deliberate move by the authors to allow for easier access to readers whose English is a second language) but not so simplistic as to annoy your average English speaker. The Japanese text adopts a similar approach.

Should you be curious, the first three chapters were written by Higuchi and the others by Arudou.

There is a Japanese-ness to the layout and structure, even to the tone, of the Handbook. Their approach is sparse, grey; a touch bureaucratic. Each topic is broached directly, then broken down into its core elements; explained and ticked off; as the authors rapidly move on to the next huge life issue. This helps to create an easy to read and accessible volume; despite the breadth and depth of their goal.

A typical example of this approach would be their coverage of Japan’s salary system.

Now let’s talk about how people get paid in Japan. As the Labor Standard Law only requires payment of salary (kyuuryou 給料, rendered as kyuuyo 給与 on documents) at least once a month, most companies pay once a month (usually on the 25th); few companies pay fortnightly.

The next paragraph breaks down the contents of a typical pay check, the next discusses the biannual bonus system. After that they examine deductions and taxes and then look at the different insurances covering workers in Japan.

The authors make no commitment to provide an exhaustive fount of information on any one topic. Their goal was to create a concise and affordable reference book to help people find information efficiently. And they do so. Where possible, they provide information on additional sources (including websites). The section on the salary system concludes with links to four useful English language resources.

One key difference between this book and nearly everything else out there is that the authors assume their readers are looking to make a permanent life in Japan.

Most guides to living in Japan, rightly or wrongly, tend to focus on life as a foreigner, as someone who only plans to be living in that country for a set period of time (even if it is ten years).

Arudou and Higuchi write for an audience that views its move to Japan as permanent (even if it is for ten years).

This is a big theme in terms of Japan’s relations with its foreign residents. Personally, I would argue Japan is one of the few developed countries that does not try particularly hard to assimilate foreigners into its society. There are others who would agree.

Arudou has been particular active in this arena; seeking to bring Japan’s attention to some of the more exclusionary practices he has come across. [See Arudou DebitoJapanese Only–The OtaruOnsen Refusals and Racial Discrimination in JapanAkashi Shoten: 2006.]

The authors’ approach confronts some time-honoured “Japan’s myths” as well. In the coverage on ‘Going to Court’ they write:

Japan is thought of as a “non-litigious” society, where going to court is viewed as “un-Japanese”. We do not agree. In 1998 alone, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, there were 5,454,942 court cases in all levels of Japan’s justice system. … People in Japan do sue. We recommend that readers view the Japanese judiciary system as just one more alternative for conflict resolution. The Japanese courts exist for a reason. Use them. 

The authors are also realistic.

…taking things to court is risky. There is no trial by jury in Japan … so one or three judges will decide your case over several years. If you can wait and have patience and money … then go to court.

Intentionally or otherwise, these excerpts sum up life in Japan all too well. Yes, living in Japan is just like living in most other places (pretty much) — but there is a twist. This Handbook is an excellent guide to set you on the way to learning all those twists (and a few turns).

In brief, Arudou and Higuchi have put together an essential handbook covering the key topics and questions anyone living in Japan (or intending to) needs to address.

Bankruptcy of a monopoly: Good riddance to Yohan foreign book distributor


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.  This hasn’t been all that noticed in the English-language vernacular media, but it’s big news in the publishing industry.  And for authors who sell books in Japan.

Yohan (Nihon Yousho Hanbai), the monopolist distributors of foreign-language books, just went bankrupt. Its websites are even offline (Japanese, English)  

Well, good.  To quote Nelson Muntz: “Haa haa”.  

Yohan is essentially the Darth Vader of Japanese book distributors.  I know from personal experience (trying to sell my books published by Akashi Shoten Inc., which refused to pay Yohan’s extortionate subscription rates or meet its restrictive conditions) that if you want to sell even Japan-published books written in English, you either go through Yohan, or your books don’t sell.  They don’t get shelf space.  

We already see book stores (check out Maruzen or Kinokuniya) selling imported English-language books (i.e. best sellers, novels, and classic literature) at exchange rates not seen in Japan for more than two decades (think between 150-200 yen to the dollar).  But the banditry doesn’t stop there.  Whenever I went to bookstores and asked them nicely to stock my books (be they JAPANESE ONLY or HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS), almost everyone agreed to, thanks.  Of course, I’d go back a couple of weeks later to see if they stocked it and how it’s selling, and in many cases I’d find no copies in the “books on Japan” section.  Then I’d check with the cashier and on more than one occasion be told they had stocked it.  But Yohan didn’t want any books that “weren’t theirs” on those shelves, so Yohan had actually SENT MY BOOKS BACK TO THE PUBLISHER.  When the store agreed to restock them, they said the only place they were *allowed* was in the “foreign language learning section” (i.e. Eikaiwa), a market with more publishers and distributors.  But that’s definitely not my genre, so many a browsing sale was indubitably lost.  Yes, Yohan had that much control.

So to repeat:  Here we have a cartel masquerading as a company, with exclusive rights to sell cash cows like Harry Potter in English, way overcharging us for books, controlling stores’ contents and shelf space, and keeping out rivals.  And they STILL couldn’t stay in business!

Good riddance to bad rubbish.  Here’s hoping we can get my and other people’s non-Yohan books (particularly minority-press views on Japan) on the shelves now.   Germane articles about the Yohan bankruptcy follow.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japanese Import Book Seller Yohan Goes Bust

Tokyo, July 31, 2008 (Jiji Press) – Major Japanese import book retailer Yohan Inc. on Thursday filed for bankruptcy with Tokyo District Court with debts of some 6.5 billion yen, Teikoku Databank Ltd. said.

Yohan Book Service Inc., which is receiving business turnaround support from Yohan Inc., also went bust, filing for protection from creditors with the same court under the Civil Rehabilitation Law, according to the credit research agency.

Yohan Book Service, which operates Aoyama Book Center, left debts of about 5.4 billion yen.

Established in 1953, Tokyo-based Yohan Inc. imports such books as U.S. magazine Newsweek and runs bookstores.

The company has run into financial difficulties since its interest-bearing debts mounted following its aggressive investments.

In the year that ended in November 2007, the firm incurred a net loss of 1,065 million yen.


Online competition drives foreign book seller bankrupt

A leading importer and seller of foreign books in Japan has filed for bankruptcy amid the prevalence of online sales of foreign books.

Nihon Yosho Hanbai, known familiarly as Yohan, filed for bankruptcy at the Tokyo District Court on Thursday. The company has incurred 6.5 billion yen in debts.

Also on Thursday, Yohan Book Service filed for court protection from creditors under the Civil Rehabilitation Law. The affiliate company, which runs Aoyama Book Center and Ryushui Shobo, has incurred 5.4 billion yen in debts.

Established in 1953, Yohan sold a wide variety of books, from the general to the technical. The company had business relationships with about 150 publishers in about 20 countries — most of them English-speaking nations.

In September 1992, the company boasted annual sales of 9.638 billion yen. However, as online sales of books became more prevalent, Yohan’s annual sales dropped to 5.563 billion yen as of August 2005. By November 2007, sales had plummeted to 3.125 billion yen.

Bookoff Corp., a leading used book dealer, has shown interest in supporting the affiliate company Yohan Book Service.


Yohan In Bankruptcy  Posted at 10:24AM Thursday 31 Jul 2008

Yohan, the long standing distributor of foreign books and magazines in Japan, went into bankruptcy today and all their employees were dismissed at once, the office was closed down immediately and the website appears to be closed.It is understood that it has gone down the bankruptcy route, rather than a supervised corporate reorganization. Yohan did not have any significant property and assets and reports suggest that there will be no payment of debts.

The affiliated bookshop chains, Aoyama Book Center and Ryusui Shobo are applying to the Corporate Reorganization Law to try and keep going. The bookstores are still operating and it is believed that the name of the company that will take on the business will be announced shortly.

It really is getting tough out there…everywhere.


Cody’s Owner, Yohan, Files for Bankruptcy  

Publishers’ Weekly, July 31, 2008

With today’s news that Japanese book distributor, bookseller and publisher Yohan Inc. filed for bankruptcy with Tokyo District Court, it becomes clearer why the company closed Berkeley, Calif., icon Cody’s Books earlier this summer. Ironically, at the time of the purchase in September 2006, Cody’s owner Andy Ross stated that Yohan’s financial resources would strengthen existing the store’s operations. Yohan also owns Stone Bridge Press in the U.S.

As reported in JiJi Press, 55-year-old Yohan was 6.5 billion yen in debt. Yohan Book Service Inc., which operates the bookshop chain Aoyama Book Center, has also filed for protection from creditors and has debts of 5.4 billion yen.

According to Book2Book, all Yohan employees were laid off and the office was closed. The bookstores are still operating.

Submitted by: Peter Goodman (
7/31/2008 10:57:03 AM PT
Location: Berkeley, CA
Occupation: President, Stone Bridge Press

This is a much more complicated story, but one thing I need to make clear: Stone Bridge Press is NOT owned by Yohan. Our owner company did NOT go bankrupt. Stone Bridge is NOT a part of any bankruptcy filing. That said, the Yohan people are long-time friends, and we feel terrible about all the very good and experienced book people who have lost their jobs. Peter Goodman, Publisher Stone Bridge Press


洋販:自己破産を申請 洋書販売の最大手、ネットで打撃

毎日新聞 2008年7月31日 20時10分






「洋販」自己破産 ブックオフが青山ブックセンター支援

朝日新聞 2008年7月31日22時34分







Daily Yomiuri May 30 2008 reviews HANDBOOK positively



Hi Blog.  Here are some very nice words about HANDBOOK from the Daily Yomiuri.  Yowza!  Debito


Cradle-to-grave guide to the good and bad of life in Japan

You’ve gotten engaged? You’ve decided to start your own business? You’re going to have a baby?

Congratulations! But now what do you do?

You’ve lost your job? Your car has been stolen? You’re getting divorced?

Too bad. But now what do you do?

Live in one place long enough, and sooner or later you will experience a life-changing event there–good or bad, planned or sudden. If you are a foreign resident of the place where it occurs, having to navigate unfamiliar channels of officialdom can make things all the more stressful.

Authors Arudou Debito and Higuchi Akira saw a need and decided to fill it with their Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan (Akashi Shoten, 370 pp, 2,300 yen), published in March.

The book outlines the basic procedures to follow in each of the above scenarios plus many others, from how to give your newborn child a middle name (combine it and the first name into a single word on official forms with space for only first and last names) to how to plan your funeral (if you’re not having your body shipped overseas, prepare to be cremated).

Asked why they had written the book, Higuchi told The Daily Yomiuri last week: “It’s simple. Newcomers don’t have enough information in English. It’s not that easy to find that information in one book.”

Arudou, in another interview the same day, elaborated, saying: “I don’t think the government makes it very clear how people can make a stable life over here. They make it very clear how you can come here, not how you can stay here.”

The book is completely bilingual, with English on one page and the corresponding Japanese text–with hiragana pronunciation guides–on the facing page.

Higuchi, a certified administrative solicitor, explained how he and Arudou came to be writing partners. “I and Debito are in an association called the Hokkaido International Business Association,” he said. “We have meetings every other month, and about two years ago we had a meeting about changes to commercial law. I talked about commercial law and also related issues such as visas and business licenses. And Debito said, right after the meeting, ‘Why don’t we write a book?'”

Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen originally from the United States, was already a published author. His book Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan, traced the progress of an antidiscrimination lawsuit in which he was one of the plaintiffs.

Not surprisingly, the Handbook does contain a section on lawsuits. “Japan is thought of as a ‘non-litigious’ society where going to court is viewed as ‘un-Japanese.’ We do not agree,” the authors write. “In 1998 alone, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, there were 5,454,942 court cases in all levels of Japan’s justice system…People in Japan do sue. We recommend that readers view the Japanese judiciary system as just one more alternative for conflict resolution.”

The book covers the criminal justice system from two perspectives: that of victims wishing to report a crime and that of innocent people wrongly arrested. The authors write that they “assume that readers are not breaking any Japanese laws (if you are, then sorry, we cannot help you).”

Even for readers who never find themselves involved in a criminal case, these sections are educational. If you’ve ever read a news story about the “rearrest” of a person already in police custody, it is helpful to know–as the book explains–that one use of this legal maneuver is to prolong the period for which a suspect can be held for questioning.

There is a surprisingly specific section on what to do if you are asked to display an alien registration card. “Renting a DVD at a video store should not require proof of a valid Immigration visa,” the book states.

Asked why this is an issue, Higuchi explained: “Because on the card there is a lot of information, maybe too much information for average foreigners [to comfortably reveal]. Usually you just don’t want to show your workplace and household and everything…Whenever you can avoid it, you should use a drivers license or other identification.”

And of course, getting a drivers license is one of the other topics covered in the book.

Because the Handbook covers so many issues, it generally gives a bird’s-eye view of each one. Details of your situation may vary, but this little volume should get you off to a good start by recommending what forms to fill out, what government offices to visit and what authorities to consult for specific guidance.

Asked to characterize the reader feedback he has received so far, Arudou summed it up as: “Where has this book been all my life? It’s about bloody time.”

(May. 30, 2008)

Donald Richie gives great review of HANDBOOK in Japan Times



THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF, Sunday, April 20, 2008
Helping newcomers settle in Japan

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

Terrie Lloyd reviews HANDBOOK positively on


The Handbook for Life in Japan
By Terrie Lloyd,, March 29, 2008

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, and right on the front page there is a link with instructions on how to order a copy. I checked, 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.



Hi Blog. I still haven’t quite gotten into the groove of blogging once per day, so please me punt for today (if I have any more energy tonight, I’ll write another entry) and just blog a link to an excerpt of our new book HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS. It came out on academic website JAPAN FOCUS about a week and a half ago.

If you want a peep inside the book’s covers, here’s the place to go! Arudou Debito still recovering in Sapporo

Trans Pacific Radio Podcast on HANDBOOK


Interview with Debito Arudou on the Publication of the Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants
Filed under: Trans-Pacific Radio, TPR Spotlight
Posted by Ken Worsley at 10:57 pm on Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In this edition of TPR spotlight, Debito Arudou joins TPR’s Garrett DeOrio and Ken Worsley to discuss the upcoming release of his new book, Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants, which is set to go on sale from March 15.

In the interview, Debito speaks about why the book was written, what kinds of resources it offers for people moving to Japan, his relationship with co-author Akira Higuchi, the upcoming book tour, and what might be in store for the future of Japan’s increasing number of foreign residents who decide to stay in Japan long term, if not permanently.



======== 出版・ブック・ツアー発表 ========

有道 出人です。ご無沙汰しております。しばらく連絡していない理由は単行本を共著したのです。明細(まえがき、書評、ブック・ツアー日程、目次)はこれから発表します。宜しくお願い致します。

タイトル:「ニューカマー定住ハンドブック 日本で働き、暮らし、根付くために」
英語タイトル:Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan
ISBN: 978-4-7503-2741-9
著者:樋口 彰 と 有道 出人

カリフォルニア大学バークレイ校社会学部教授国際・地域研究所長、「MULTIETHNIC JAPAN」著者








— 樋口 彰、行政書士
(higuchi DOT akira AT gmail DOT com)
— 有道 出人、JAPANESE ONLY著者 

有道 出人のブック・ツアー(3月15日から4月1日まで):
3月15日(土) 仙台FRANCA 福祉プラザにて
3月16日(日) 東京新橋 NUGW本部にて
3月17日(月) Roppongi Bar Association, Century Courtにて
3月18日(火) 外国特派員協会(FCCJ) Book Break 有楽町にて
3月19日(水) アムネスティ インタナショナル 高田馬場にて
3月21日(金) 長野 亀清(かめせい)旅館にて
3月22日(土) 長野 亀清(かめせい)旅館にて
3月23日(日) Good Day Books 東京都恵比寿にて
3月25日(火) 大阪FRANCA 大阪市立市民学習センターにて
3月27日(木) 滋賀大学にて
3月28日(金) 日本全国語学学会(JALT) 神戸支部 国際会館にて
3月29日(土) 日本全国語学学会(JALT) 和歌山支部 ビッグアイにて
3月29日(土) 日本全国語学学会(JALT) 大阪支部 生涯教育センターにて
3月30日(日) 日本全国語学学会(JALT) 岡山支部 表町サンカクAビルにて
4月1日(火)  福岡 福岡ゼネラル・ユニオンにて

目  次
第1章 来日のための手続
1 - 日本のビザ制度を理解する(ビザ、在留資格(SOR)、在留資格認定証明書(COE))の違い   
2 – 日本に来るための手続
  - 在留資格認定証明書を国外から取得する
  - 在留資格を日本国内で取得・変更する
  - ビザ、在留資格、在留資格認定証明書のまとめ
3 – 日本に来てからの手続
  - 家族を呼び寄せる
  - 一時出国する
  - 滞在期間を延長する
  - 転職する
  - 就職のため在留資格を変更する
  - 入国管理局での手続のまとめ
4 –  どんな在留資格があるのか?
  - 全27種類の在留資格の一覧
  - 職種にあわせた在留資格の例
  - 在留資格をとるための条件の例
5 -  オーバーステイや資格外の活動をすると?
 - 最近の入管法の改正
  - 知らずに違反してしまう例
  - オーバーステイした場合のアドバイス
6 – 永住許可と日本国籍
  - 違いと取得のための条件
7 –  まとめと安定した在留資格に向けてのアドバイス

第2章 安定した仕事と生活のために
1 - 日本の労働環境の特徴
2 – 労働に関する法律
3 - 労働契約
4 – 給料の制度
5 – 源泉徴収と税金
6 – 労働者のための労働保険と社会保険
7 - まとめ

第3章 事業を始める
1 – なぜ起業か
2 – 個人事業か法人事業か?
3 – 会社の種類
4 – その他の事業形態(NPO、LLP)
5 – 株式会社を設立して事業を開始する方法
6 – 事業の許可
  7 – 事業を続けていくために必要な定期的な手続
  8 – 事業を成功させるためのアドバイス
  9 – 用語集

第4章 こんなときはどうするか? トラブルへの対処法
警 察:

差 別:
(差別の定義については、 )

裁 判:
(日本の裁判制度については、 )


(家族について、結婚や子供の入学といった一般的なことは、  章参照)

(日本で生活するうえで障害克服や生活改善についてよくある質問。銀行口座開設などの一般的な内容は  章参照)


第5章 こんなときはどうするか? トラブルへの対処法

第6章 社会へ還元する: シビルソサエティーの発展
1. 団体を探す
2. 新たに自分で団体を設立する
3. 団体を正式なものにする
4. 行動から主義・主張へ
5. 「日本は決して変わらない」という主張を前向きにとらえる
6. 結論

第7章 まとめとアドバイス

PRESS RELEASE for Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants


For the record… released March 4, 2008:
////////////////// PRESS RELEASE //////////////////


////////////// FREELY FORWARDABLE //////////////

Akashi Shoten Inc, Japan’s biggest human rights publisher, will sell “HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN”, by Administrative Solicitor HIGUCHI Akira and author ARUDOU Debito from March 15. Details in brief:

ISBN: 978-4-7503-2741-9
Authors: HIGUCHI Akira and ARUDOU Debito
Languages: English and Japanese (on corresponding pages)
Publisher: Akashi Shoten Inc., Tokyo (
372 Pages. Price: 2300 yen (2415 yen after tax)
Goal: To help non-Japanese entrants become residents and immigrants
Topics: Securing stable visas, Establishing businesses and secure jobs, Resolving legal problems, Planning for the future from entry into Japan to death.

Interested in living in Japan? Not visiting. Actually living here, perhaps permanently? In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Non-Japanese residents have come here for good. However, there is often insufficient information on how to make your life more secure. HANDBOOK will help–offering advice on topics like stabilizing your visa and employment, establishing your own business, dealing with frequent social problems, writing your Will, even working with Japan’s Civil Society. Buy this book and start planning your future in this wonderful country!

Ordering details at

Further Information follows:
(including the FCCJ, Good Day Books, and Amnesty International)

Advance book reviews (excerpts):
“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… 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.”

–Dr Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan, and author of JAPAN’S QUIET TRANSFORMATION

“If there weren’t an Arudou Debito, we would have had to invent one… Arudou and Higuchi’s Handbook is an indispensable reference for all outsiders who live here for any length of time.”

–Alex Kerr, author, DOGS AND DEMONS and LOST JAPAN

(specific details on locales and times at

Sat March 15 Sendai FRANCA
Sun March 16 NUGW Tokyo Nambu, Shinbashi
Mon March 17 Roppongi Bar Association
Tues March 18 Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Tokyo
Weds March 19 Amnesty International Tokyo
Fri March 21 Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano
Sat March 22 Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano,
Sun March 23 Good Day Books Tokyo Ebisu
Tues March 25 Osaka FRANCA
Thurs March 27 Shiga University
Fri March 28 JALT Kobe
Sat March 29 JALT Wakayama
Sat March 29 JALT Osaka
Sun March 30 JALT Okayama
Tues April 1 Fukuoka General Union



Migration of labor is an unignorable reality in this globalizing world. Japan is no exception. In recent years, Japan has had record numbers of registered foreigners, international marriages, and people receiving permanent residency. This guidebook is designed to help non-Japanese settle in Japan, and become more secure residents and contributors to Japanese society.

Japan is one of the richest societies in the world, with an extremely high standard of living. People will want to come here. They are doing so. Japan, by the way, wants foreigners too. Prime Ministerial cabinet reports, business federations, and the United Nations have advised more immigration to Japan to offset its aging society, low birthrate, labor shortages, and shrinking tax base. Unfortunately, the attitude of the Japanese government towards immigration has generally been one of neglect. Newcomers are not given sufficient guidance to help them settle down in Japan as residents with stable jobs and lifestyles. HANDBOOK wishes to fill that gap….

1 – Understanding the structure of the Japanese Visa System (the difference between “Visa”, “Status of Residence” (SOR) and “Certificate of Eligibility” (COE))
2 – Procedures for coming to Japan
– Acquiring SOR from outside Japan
– Changing or acquiring SOR from inside Japan
– Chart summarizing Visa, COE, and SOR
3 – Procedures after you came to Japan
– Bringing your family over to Japan
– Leaving Japan temporarily
– Extending your stay in Japan
– Changing jobs in Japan
– Changing SOR so you can work
– Chart summarizing Immigration procedures
4 – What kinds of Status of Residence are there?
– Chart outlining all 27 possible SOR
– Recommendations for specific jobs
– Requirements for select Statuses of Residence
5 – What if you overstay or work without proper status?
– Recent changes to Immigration law
– Examples of unintended violations
– Our advice if you overstay your SOR
6 – Getting Permanent Residency and Japanese Nationality
– Chart summarizing the requirements and differences between the two
7 – Conclusions and final advice on how to make your SOR stable

1 – Characteristics of Japanese labor environment
2 – Labor law
3 – Labor contract
4 – Salary system
5 – Deduction and Taxes
6 – Labor insurance and Social Insurance for workers
7 – Summary

1 Why start a business?
2 Sole Proprietorship (kojin jigyou) or Corporation (houjin jigyou)?
3 Type of corporations
4 Other forms of business (NPO, LLP)
5 Procedures for starting a business by setting up a kabushiki gaisha
6 Business license
7 Periodical procedures to keep your business going
8 Advice for a successful business
9 Terminology

(These are frequently asked questions about overcoming obstacles and improving your lifestyle in Japan.)
if you want to study Japanese
if you want to open a bank account (and get an inkan seal)
if you want a credit card
if you want insurance (auto, life, property)
if you want a driver license
if you want to buy a car
if you are involved in a traffic accident
if you want Permanent Residency (eijuuken)
if you want to buy property
if you want to sell your property, apartment or house
if you need counseling or psychiatric help
if you want to take Japanese citizenship (kika)

if you are asked for a passport or ID (“Gaijin Card”) check by police
if you are asked for a passport or Gaijin Card check by anyone else
if you are arrested or taken into custody by the police
if you are a victim of a crime

(What we mean by “discrimination”, pg ##)
if you are refused entry to a business
if you are refused entry to a hotel
if you are refused an apartment
if you have a problem with your landlord, or are threatened with eviction
if you are refused a loan
if you want to protest something you feel is discriminatory

if you want legal advice, or need to find a lawyer
if you want to go to court
if you want to go to small-claims court (for fraud, broken business contracts, etc.)

if you want government support for labor dispute negotiations
if you want to join or form a labor union
if you want to find another job

if you want to get married
if you want to register your children in Japanese schools
if you want to register your newborn Japanese children with non-Japanese names
if you have a problem (such as ijime bullying) in your children’s schools
if you want to change your children’s schools
if you suffer from Domestic Violence
if you want to get divorced
if you are having visitation, child custody, or child support problems
if you are a pregnant out of wedlock by a Japanese man

– Corporate Retirement Benefits (taishokukin)
– Pension (nenkin)
– Private annuity (kojin nenkin)
– Long-term investment
– Elderly care and Nursing Care Insurance (kaigo hoken)
– Medical care and Medical services for the aged (roujin hoken)
– Guardian for adults (seinen kouken)
– Inheritance (souzoku) and taxes
– Last Will and Testament (yuigon, igon)
– Japanese rules regarding family inheritance
– Culturally-sensitive funerals (osoushiki)
– Japanese cremation rules
– Repatriating a body for ceremonies overseas
– Maintaining a funeral plot in Japan

1. How to find a group
2. Starting your own group
3. Formalizing your group (NGOs etc.)
4. Making activism more than just a hobby.
5. Running for elected office
6. Staying positive when people claim “Japan will never change”
7. Conclusions



////////////////// PRESS RELEASE ENDS //////////////////

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


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
(semifinalized cover, click to see full image)

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 (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

More information on the contents of the book at

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