Eurobiz Magazine’s Tony McNicol on the future abolition of the “Gaijin Tax” Re-Entry Permits


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Hi Blog.  Eurobiz Magazine a couple of months ago ran an article talking inter alia about something I’ve called the “Gaijin Tax” for more than a decade now — the Re-Entry Permit system.  Thought of by some as a way of punishing the Zainichi Koreans etc. for staying behind in Japan (given all the incentives for them to leave after being stripped of colonial Japanese citizenship, moreover registered as foreigners in the late 1940’s), the Re-Entry Permit actually is a tax with a profit motive — even the lecturer cited by Tony McNicol below states this openly about its proposed abolition:

Without re-entry permit income, currently ¥6,000 for multiple re-entry, the changes are likely to lighten the government’s coffers. “This is a huge reduction in our revenue,” said Matsuno. “The Ministry of Finance is angry.”

What a piece of work our government can be.  Charging for visas for foreigners and passports for nationals is one thing (and I just paid 16,000 yen for a new ten-year Japanese passport; ouch).  But charging foreigners for their addiction to going “home” (or for even daring to leave Japan) with their visa held hostage, well, that’s just as I’ve suspected all along — a mean-spirited means to sponge off the NJ population.  Good riddance to it.  Arudou Debito


Eurobiz Magazine August 2010
Your new alien registration card
Changes under the new Japanese immigration system
By TONY MCNICOL, courtesy of the author

Applying and paying for a re-entry permit has long been an unavoidable nuisance for foreign businesspeople traveling out of Japan. But during a recent EBC organised event at the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation it was announced that the “gaijin tax” will soon be no more. It was just one of a raft of changes to the law explained to attendees by Hiroaki Matsuno, a deputy director at the Ministry of Justice.

The government plans to bring the revised regulations into force by July 2012 at the latest, and the Ministry of Justice is already busy at work on the details. Matsuno, who took up his current post a few months ago, has been working till midnight almost every day, he said.

The biggest change is that, rather than two tiers – immigration bureau for visas and local ward or city office for alien registration cards – everything will now be handled by the Ministry of Justice. For the first time, mid- to long-term foreign residents will come under the juminhyo (residence registry) system; good news for legal foreigners, but bad news for illegals who will not be able to receive the replacement for the current alien registration card – or services such as government healthcare.

In principle the new “residence card”, which will basically replace the “status of residence” stamp in passports, will be issued at the airport at the time of landing. “But we can’t afford to place machines at all of Japan’s airports,” stressed Matsuno. (Japan currently has over 80 airports). For those arriving in the boondocks, the card will be sent by post.

For some changes to details on the card, say a change in employer, reporting to the immigration bureau will be required by law. The ministry is investigating the use of proxies, said Matsuno, but has not yet made a decision. The ministry is also considering allowing notification by post or through the internet.

Hopefully, the changes will reduce work for the immigration bureau and shorten queues in their offices (a relief for those who have run the gauntlet of the Shinagawa bureau). “We have been very sorry to keep people waiting,” said Matsuno. Most visa categories will be extended from three to five years, and the residence card will expire after the same period. There will also be a change in the re-entry permit. Mid- to long-term foreign residents will now be exempt from needing a re-entry permit as long as they re-enter Japan within 12 months. (The re-entry permit system will remain for other cases.)

Without re-entry permit income, currently ¥6,000 for multiple re-entry, the changes are likely to lighten the government’s coffers. “This is a huge reduction in our revenue,” said Matsuno. “The Ministry of Finance is angry.”

Rest of the article at

Japan Times: Eikaiwa Gaba: “NJ instructors independent contractors w/o labor law coverage”, could become template for entire industry


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Hi Blog.  Dovetailing with yesterday’s post on NJ’s treatment at unemployment agency Hello Work, here’s more on how weak NJ’s position can be when they ARE hired, in this case by Eikaiwa company Gaba, who says their NJ staff aren’t covered by Japanese labor laws. Arudou Debito


THE JAPAN TIMES Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010
Gaba teachers challenge ‘contractor’ status
Union fears employment model could mark first step on slippery slope for eikaiwa firms
By JAMES McCROSTIE, courtesy of the author

Instructors first formed a union in September 2007 and, according to union members, met with company representatives for talks. However, managers always refused to enter into serious negotiations, arguing the instructors were not employees and, as itaku — independent contractors — weren’t covered by Japanese labor laws.

Determining who qualifies as an employee and who can be classed as an independent contractor isn’t always clear. However, the method in which workers are scheduled and their place of work are important considerations…

In its financial report, the company argues that because it doesn’t designate working time or location and doesn’t give specific instructions for lesson content, it considers its instructors to be independent contractors…

Japan’s Statistics Bureau’s annual Labor Force Survey shows the number of nonregular workers has increased steadily since 1999, after the Japanese government started relaxing regulations to make it easier for companies to hire workers outside their regular employment system. In 1999, 25.6 percent of Japan’s labor force was classified as nonregular. By 2009 the figure had increased to 33.7 percent.

Employing instructors as independent contractors allows Gaba to reduce labor costs… Combs warns that instructors at other schools may also face being shifted to independent contractor status in the future.

“Gaba lowers the bar on the entire industry, and it will tempt other companies to try the same thing,” he says.

Ringin agrees that the stakes are high in the union’s battle with Gaba over the individual contractor issue.

“If Gaba gets away with using the itaku system, Berlitz and the other chains would be crazy not to follow.”

Rest at

Allegations that GOJ’s Hello Work refuses NJ applicants, as evidenced by “Japanese Only” employer Zeus Enterprise of Tokyo Ginza


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Hi Blog.  Here’s missive from a Mr. Jiasheng Kang Yoshikawa, who claims that government-run unemployment agency Hello Work not only segregates by nationality for job offers, but also promotes companies that refuse otherwise qualified candidates just because their hiring practices are “Japanese Only”.  He provides evidence that Zeus Enterprise Inc. of Tokyo Ginza is doing just that.  Since the Labor Standards Law forbids employment discrimination by nationality, the fact that a GOJ agency is doing this is shocking indeed.  But hardly out of character, alas.  Have a read.  Blogged with the author’s permission.  Arudou Debito


October 22, 2010

Hello Debito, I’m a Chinese-Canadian living in Japan and I am very supportive of your effort on anti-racism in Japan.

You mentioned in your website that you welcome people to submit “Japanese only” signs if they see one. So I decided to do so although this is from a company website on recruiting, not an actual shop sign.

I’m currently in the middle of looking for a job. I’ve been living in Japan for 10 years and because of my Asian look, Japanese language skill, and my adopted Japanese last name (from my wife), I have been facing less discrimination when applying a job, compared to many other foreigners. However every time when I visit the hellowork’s foreigner section, I can always hear some employers routinely refusing applications from foreign residents, especially those from regions such as Africa, Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The foreign residents section itself is a discriminatory practice too as foreign residents have no other choice but are required to visit a segregated “foreigner section”, even though in my case I do not need any language interpretation or counselling on Japanese life.

When I visited hellowork last week, as usual I have the staff phoning hiring businesses to introduce me as an applicant. Because all the jobs I apply require high level of trilingual (English, Japanese, Chinese) skill, most companies do not mind my background as a foreigner, however Zeus Enterprise, upon hearing that I’m a foreigner from the hellowork staff, rejected me as a valid applicant, saying that this position is for “Japanese only”.


What I feel frustrated is that as a government agency, and as a “specialist” to assist foreign residents, hellowork’s foreign section never actively counter-argue with employers. In almost all instances they’ll simply say “I understand” and hang up, without stating that it’s a discriminatory practice and is against general human rights.

I also find it appalling that Zeus Enterprise even dare to indicate their “Japanese only” requirement on their website. (Most companies nowadays only reject verbally but do not dare to write so explicitly on job postings).

I’ll follow your suggestion to visit the local Jinken Yogo Bu for a discussion.

It will be great if there are more discussions on job discrimination against foreign and foreign-looking residents with legal employment right in Japan.

All the support from Chiba.

Jiasheng Kang Yoshikawa

Yachiyo, Chiba

NHK 7AM this morning: Offer coupons at Narita Airport to NJ with “preferential exchange rates”. The catch is…


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Hi Blog.  Related to my post last Saturday talking about how things were becoming cheaper in a deflationary Japanese economy:

Something came on NHK News this morning at 7AM that nearly induced reverse peristalsis on my corn flakes due to excessive laughter.  Deep breath:

The exchange rate this morning was 81 yen and change to the dollar.  The (well-grounded) complaint is that this is discouraging tourism to Japan and purchases from NJ tourists, due to things being make more expensive upon exchange.

So NHK was breathlessly reporting (live) from Narita Airport this morning how authorities had come up with a great wheeze to stimulate spending!

Ready for it?


Meaning that if you hold one of these coupons (they provided a graphic with a big-nosed (of course) gaijin clutching this precious slip of paper), you would get a discount on your exchange from dollars (or whatever) into yen.

And that preferential rate would be?

Ready for it?

(Rips the Post-It off the graphic…)

30 SEN!!

Yes, 0.3 OF A YEN discount off your yen exchange rate!!

They even conveniently calculated with a couple more graphic Post-Its how much you would save.  Tourists, if they could see beyond their proboscis to spending some 2300 USD or so, the amount saved would be…

Ready for it?

(Rips the Post-It off the graphic…)


My god, I’m surprised people aren’t lining up!  The main NHK announcers also found this decidedly uncooworthy.

They also gave a rupo afterwards (with some token NJ tourists praising Japanese food) at a Narita cafeteria that was also taking drastic (and I mean DRASTIC!) measures to encourage consumption of their meals, by dropping some prices a few hundred yen.  Some fried chicken had been reduced from 700 to 500 yen!  (Albeit this price was arguably overpriced in the first place; a captive-market airport economy tends to do that.)  We had some grateful NJ tourists praising the move, and closeups of one slurping noodles with a big grin.

For all the money they saved from the preferential coupons (provided they carry a few thousand dollars in cash on them during their stay), they could get one free entree from this cafeteria AND a can of Coke from a vending machine — and still have a few yen change!!  Roll up!  Roll up!

File under cluelessness.

Seacrest Out!

NYT on Japan’s deflation: “Japan, Once Dynamic, Is Disheartened by Decline”


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Hi Blog. In yesterday’s blog entry, Doug gave us a comment referencing a NYT article on the effects of a long recession, deflation, and overall economic slippage in world rankings on Japanese society. The bit that resonated with me came at the very end:

Japan, Once Dynamic, Is Disheartened by Decline
Published in the New York Times October 16, 2010

…Deflation has also affected businesspeople by forcing them to invent new ways to survive in an economy where prices and profits only go down, not up.

Yoshinori Kaiami was a real estate agent in Osaka, where, like the rest of Japan, land prices have been falling for most of the past 19 years. Mr. Kaiami said business was tough. There were few buyers in a market that was virtually guaranteed to produce losses, and few sellers, because most homeowners were saddled with loans that were worth more than their homes.

Some years ago, he came up with an idea to break the gridlock. He created a company that guides homeowners through an elaborate legal subterfuge in which they erase the original loan by declaring personal bankruptcy, but continue to live in their home by “selling” it to a relative, who takes out a smaller loan to pay its greatly reduced price.

“If we only had inflation again, this sort of business would not be necessary,” said Mr. Kaiami, referring to the rising prices that are the opposite of deflation. “I feel like I’ve been waiting for 20 years for inflation to come back.”

One of his customers was Masato, the small-business owner, who sold his four-bedroom condo to a relative for about $185,000, 15 years after buying it for a bit more than $500,000. He said he was still deliberating about whether to expunge the $110,000 he still owed his bank by declaring personal bankruptcy.

Economists said one reason deflation became self-perpetuating was that it pushed companies and people like Masato to survive by cutting costs and selling what they already owned, instead of buying new goods or investing.

“Deflation destroys the risk-taking that capitalist economies need in order to grow,” said Shumpei Takemori, an economist at Keio University in Tokyo. “Creative destruction is replaced with what is just destructive destruction.”

Whole article at:

COMMENT:  The homey explanation of complex economics aside (which few can comment on with certainty due to the unusualness of a deflationary economy), the reason why this passage resonated with me:

As a friend of mine’s brother (who works for a major US insurance company) said to me the other night, I am “upside down” in terms of my house loan.

I recently had my house (a 49.5-tsubo structure on 169 tsubo of land), purchased in 1997, appraised. Under current market prices, I was told that I could get 65,000 yen in monthly rent should I ever try to rent it out.

However, I am paying around 115,000 yen PER MONTH in terms of mortgage, plus three months of rent out of my Bonus twice a year. Not to mention property taxes per annum of about 102,000 yen (down slightly from two years ago), and some insurance of about 60,000 yen per year. All told under current exchange rates, I have to make more than USD 25,000 per year just to feed the home front.

And if heaven forfend I were to sell the house, the market for second-hand homes is such that the house itself is basically worthless. Essentially only the land is worth something. The plot was purchased for 12,000,000 yen back in ’97. The next-door plot, of equal size and back then of equal price, is now being signposted as going for 4,500,000 yen. Event then, the plot is still unsold. So I don’t fancy my chances for recouping much of anything should I try to unload my property.  Then I would still be saddled with a vestigial loan balance with nothing to gain from it.

Of course, it was understood back then when I bought the house that it was not an investment in terms of money, but rather a chance for me to carve out a world of my own design within Japan — with a house designed to my family’s specifications with enough space to grow and be comfortable.  A place of our own.  With a lawn to cut.

It was meant to be a “Happily Ever After” scenario.  But then again few of those fairy-tale scenarios withstand the Test of Time.  I didn’t count on my asking for a divorce, on no longer living under that roof,  or on my salary going down by about a quarter as the loan premiums went up.  As frequent readers of know, my ex and kids are still living there (I didn’t want to boot my kids out of the house they were growing up in) and I’m covering everything except utilities.  Hence my “Upside Down Mortgage” is going from financial Albatross to increasingly unsustainable.  Something’s gotta give, sooner or later.  I just hope it won’t be personal bankruptcy.

As one of’s goals is to cover the life of one person living in Japan as a form of case study (so people can avoid and learn from my mistakes), I’ll keep you advised someday on what happens next.

When I came to Japan I said I wanted to live like other Japanese.  According to the NYT article above, it seems I’m doing just that.  Arudou Debito

Fukuoka General Union info site on how BOEs are outsourcing ALTs through dispatch companies, not through JET Programme


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Hi Blog.  Here’s an informative page from the Fukuoka General Union on how local boards of education are outsourcing ALTs through dispatch companies in place of actual JETs through the JET Programme.  Excerpt follows:


By the Fukuoka General Union
Throughout Japan Boards of Education have been moving away from the JET program in favour of outsourcing ALT jobs to dispatch companies. In Fukuoka it has come to the point that most BOEs subcontract out their work.

This page is aimed to shed some light on the current systems that operate to the detriment of ALTs – who are practically all non-Japanese (NJ).

– Why do BOEs outsource ALT teaching jobs.
– The difference between direct employ, sub-contract and dispatch contracts.
– What is illegal about a sub-contract ALT working at a public school.
– The tender bid process.
– How much money do dispatch companies make from ALTs?
– Dispatch company ALT and health insurance.
– How dispatch companies and BOEs get rid of ALTs they don’t like.
– Ministry of Education tells BOEs to directly employ ALTs – BOEs ignore directive.
– Labour Standards Office issue reprimand, BOE has head in the sand.
– How the sub-contracting system damages other teachers in the industry.
– Why the Fukuoka General Union is fighting for direct employment.
– Reference materials
– You Tube news reports on the ALT sub-contracting issue (Helps explain the situation to Japanese teachers)

Why do BOEs outsource ALT teaching jobs.
Up until a few years ago most local governments procured their Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) through the JET program. However, with local government budgets tightening, they began looking for ways to cut expenditure. The cost of keeping a JET was about 6 million yen per year, so when they were approached by dispatch companies which offered to do it for less they jumped on the bandwagon. But not only did they save money, they outsourced the management of the ALTs, getting the dispatch company to take on the troublesome chore of getting the ALT accommodation, assimilating them into Japanese society and taking care of any trouble that arises. Like a cancer the number of non-JET ALTs at public schools increased to a point where they make up the bulk of ALTs in Fukuoka (and other) Prefectures. To outsource the ALT teaching jobs, they have determined that it is a “service” (業務 gyomu)…


Rest at

Here’s an old article from the Mainichi I had lingering in my archives on this subject, to give you an idea just how widespread the practice is.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

偽装請負:千葉・柏市小中61校で認定 外国人指導助手不在に
毎日新聞 2010年4月17日 東京朝刊, Courtesy JH







毎日新聞 2010年4月17日 東京朝刊
ENDS uses “gaijin” stereotypes (blond wigs and fake noses) to push their website on TV


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Hi Blog. Reader RN sends this:

September 19, 2010

Hi Debito, Hope all is well. Not sure if I’ve told you this before but I own a Slingbox in Fukuoka which allows me to watch live Japanese television from home here in the USA. This evening I was watching 福岡放送 (FBS) and saw a commercial that was apparently trying to depict two Japanese people feeling like they were in a foreign country while on vacation. To make them look “foreign” they placed large noses and blonde hair on them and made them speak Japanese with a distinct foreign accent. It kind of reminded me of the whole McDonald’s Mr. James deal (not as blatant but still made me think, “What the heck?!”). I was attempting to put together screen shots, etc. for you (as my Slingbox allows me to pause and back up) but I found the commercial on YouTube. The company is ながさき旅ネット [which links to an English site sponsored by the “Nagasaki Prefecture Convention and Visitors Bureau“]. Here is the CM link:

(Now made “private”. New link at

And here are some screen captures.  How nice.  Not.  Arudou Debito




Transit Tangent: Hell to pay at LAX


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Hi Blog.  Now in Calgary after one day (more than that, actually) flying from Narita to Los Angeles, then transferring to San Francisco and finally here.  Redeeming air miles gets you some pretty circuitous flights.

One of the most frequent questions I get is, “Now that you’ve given up your American citizenship for Japanese, what kind of reaction do you get from US Customs with a Japan passport?”

Well, actually, up to now, not all that bad.  First time I went back was in 2005 (I never left Japan once between 2000 and 2005; boy that’s hard core), and that was Newark on the way back to Japan after getting to Montego Bay via the Peace Boat.  (The Jamaicans, btw, were so amused by my passport that they took it to the back room for a quick guffaw amongst themselves before letting me pass.)  US Customs gave me a look, asked me what I did in Japan, how long I would stay, and that was it.  I thanked him for the painlessness of the procedure, and spent the night drinking with Rutgers law school grads Curzon and friends.

Second time was more interesting.  Went to San Jose with my university students in 2006, and the African-American gentleman manning Customs did do a double take, then talked to me in Japanese about where I was going and how long I was staying.  No altercations, no incidents with my students (who didn’t speak much English and were happy to meet that Customs officer), easy peasy.

Other times also, no real issues.  Taking the train from Vancouver to Seattle in October 2006 (I always wonder why American Customs is allowed to have their border check IN VANCOUVER STATION itself — the Americans certainly wouldn’t allow another nation to plant their Customs flags on US soil), the officer actually talked to me for about ten minutes about potential places to eat and see in Japan (he was going there with his Korean wife in a few weeks); had to break off conversation because the train was about to depart.  Other visits in 2007 and 2008 also passed by without interrogation.

But this time was different.  Landing at LAX yesterday, a buff tattooed officer did more than just a few double takes, and, in addition to the regular questions about how long, birthplace, and what I did for a living, wanted to know why I was coming in on a Japanese passport instead of an American one.  “Japan does not allow dual nationality,” I explained.  “So you have no other nationalities?”  No.  “Wait a minute, I’m going to have to talk to my supervisor.  I can’t let you in on this passport if you still are an American by birth.”  I let him check, but I’m not sure if he’d get the concept of an American actually renouncing.  He came back and gave me a smile (rare for these people, as you know), and said, “Anyway, welcome back.  Enjoy your stay.”

It was a nice welcome after all that, especially given the inauspicious beginning of this trip at Narita.  Let me back up a few hours:  When I first checked in at NRT, the ticket clerk asked, “Have you checked in with ESTA?”  What’s that?  “The Electronic System for Traffic Authorization.  Every non-citizen going to America has to check their passports in with the US Government before departure.”  Oh oh.  Er, no.  But I’m only transiting to Canada.  “Doesn’t matter.  Okay, go to the internet terminals down at the end of the hall and check in online.  Should be pretty quick.  You’ve got three hours.”

So we unpacked my computer, got a day pass for online use, and went to the ESTA site.  It requires name, address, passport, date of departure, airline (hell, there are lot of them, and United was far down the alphabetized list) and flight number, a list of questions you should answer “no” to, the address you will be staying at in the US (no option for people transiting).  And oh, fourteen USD for those who qualify for the visa waiver program.  Credit cards accepted.  Humph.  How convenient, for them.

I typed in all the info with middle finger raised and got a screen which said, “AUTHORIZATION PENDING:  …A determination will be available within 72 hours.  Please return to this web site…”  That’s where I began to get pretty antsy.  My passport still has my previous surname (Sugawara) on it, and four pages later an official amendment indicating that my surname is now Arudou.  But when we tried to use the automatic check in, “Sugawara” came up in the scanner, with a button to press saying “Is this the same as the name on your ticket?”  (It wasn’t.)  The MOFA hadn’t gotten around to updating their records after four years, I guess.  Maybe that was what snagged me with ESTA.

I took my computer screen back to the ticket clerk, where he said, “Hm, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.  Let me try to see… Oh, look, it’s just come up.  You’re cleared.  Here are your boarding passes.  Enjoy your near-heart-attack.”  Okay, I made that last one up.

So if the ticket clerk was Charon piloting me over the River Styx, the tattooed Customs officer at LAX was Cerebus at the gates of Hell.  And LAX was indeed a reasonable facsimile of it.  Consider this:  We have to get our baggage, of course, but they came to a different carousel than the one announced on the plane (and there was no sineage saying that the emerging bags were from our flight).  Then I saw a sign saying “Connecting Flights”, waited twenty minutes in line, and found out that it was actually lost baggage claims.  “No no, you go dere, dat line”, said the clerk.  “But that’s not what your sign says.”  “You go dere, dat line,” was the automated response.  So I joined everyone else in an enormous line to hand in the tickets that say, “We are not bringing in any fruits or vegetables or whatever into the US”, which required an individual passport check again with only two people on duty (took about another 45 minutes).  Then I followed the signs to Connecting Flights, got into another line, and was told after another fifteen minutes that I just needed to hand my bags to “dat guy over dere”, since they were already tagged through to YYC (then why the hell did I have to collect them myself, then?).

Bags stowed, I followed the CF (no longer “Connecting Flights”; more like “Cluster F*ck”) signs, and felt like I had been Barnumed (“Come see the Egress”), as I found myself out on the street!  Some friendly guy came up and asked if I was looking for CFs and directed me down the street and up the stairs.  Then he asked me for a donation (as an Official Airport Volunteer, with embossed name tag) to his orphanage.  I begged off and got upstairs, only to be told by another TSA officer to get into another 45-minute long line to go through Security scanning again!  Finally through that, I was back in the transit zone.  But the LAX lounges looked in a state of permanent decomposition, and the TSA people acted as if they were defending a fortress, and we would be damn lucky if we were let into their compound.  No thanks for our cooperation, no pleases when requesting.  Just, “We’re protecting you, so be grateful.  Or else.”

And what was the Or Else?  I got a glimpse of it when talking to my Calgarian seat neighbor on the last leg of my flights.  I was noticing how Canadian Customs forms for “Are you bringing any fruits in?” allow for families to write their names on one tag (no individual tags lengthening the line), and don’t even require a passport number!  He said, “Yes, my wife and I have separate surnames, and once we got to the head of the line the US Customs guy said we had to have separate tags.  So he crossed her name off and said, ‘Fill this out and get back at the back of the line.’  I reacted and said, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding.’  He didn’t like that.  ‘You sassing me?’, he said.  I tried to take it back, but he called for an officer to escort me to an interrogation room where I sat alone.  I couldn’t go anywhere — he had confiscated my passport!  So after twenty minutes or so he came in and asked me the standard questions again about where and how long, then let me go to find my wife on the other side.  I don’t say anything beyond ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir’ to these people anymore.”  Wow, way to put travelers in their place.

Not ten hours out of Japan, and I was already missing it.  Customs people (not to mention Narita Cops and their random racial profiling) there can be pretty surly too, but at least things are signposted, and somebody is making an effort to be clear about where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to do.  And the transit lounges, although Spartan, are still clean and reasonably airy.  LAX was, in a word, a shithole.

I’ve seen it before at other decrepit airports in the US (try JFK), but what a great impression to leave upon visitors to the US — one of decay.  Enough people have complained about Japanese airports (particularly Narita), and there have been improvements (Haneda, Chitose, Centrair, and KIX are all decent if not downright nice, and even Narita has have gotten better).  Japan takes very seriously its impression overseas and works on it.  America just doesn’t seem to care — hey, you’re lucky if we let you into our fortress.  I’m sure Ellis Island too was a shithole.  But at least you only had to go through it once — it’s not a major international hub for citizens too.  What kind of place takes more than two hours to allow people just to get on a connecting flight, and charges them for the privilege?  One that doesn’t deserve my ever going there again.  I got to YYC, got my bags, and was outside and all done within fifteen minutes.  Oh Canada!

Other American airport horror stories welcome.  Seems like the American airline industry is on a race to the bottom for standards of customer service.  Some airports have already essentially become bus stations.  I look forward to getting back to Japanese standards.  Arudou Debito in Calgary

Summer Tangent: summary of Amakudari system


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Hi Blog. For a Summer Tangent, here’s a good summary of Japan’s Amakudari system, and its effects on politics and prospects for reform. The Economist has come a long way from when I first read it back in the Eighties, when it basically assumed that Japan’s postwar economic miracle was due to theoretical economic efficiencies (as opposed to a closed captive domestic market and sweetheart-deal overseas trade access). Now they have people here on the ground (well, one that I’ve met, and I found him knowledgeable and impressive) who aren’t blinkered by mere Adam-Smithism and clearly know their way around. Good. Have a read. It’s short and sweet.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan’s overpowerful bureaucrats
Summertime, and the living is easy
Politicians fail to end cosy ties between pen-pushers and business
Aug 5th 2010 | TOKYO

A SWATHE of high-ranking bureaucrats from Japan’s biggest ministries began in new posts on July 30th, doled out as part of an annual summer rite. A gaggle of even more senior ones were asked to retire—and immediately won cushy, lucrative jobs at quasi-public agencies and private foundations. Some were even sent to companies in industries they had previously regulated.

The practice is called amakudari (meaning “descent from heaven”). It has long reflected unhealthily close relations between bureaucrats and business, distorting the work of civil servants on the look out for a plum job, and burdening firms with the deadweight of ex-pen pushers serving as “senior advisers”. At its worst, it lets civil servants enrich themselves, pay back vested interests and resist economic reform. One reason why Japan’s banking crisis in the 1990s took so long to fix was because former senior staff from the finance ministry and Bank of Japan had moved to the banks that needed fixing. They pressed their former deputies to bail them out on soft terms, and then failed to carry out much-needed surgery.

For decades politicians of all stripes have vowed to end amakudari. True to form, the new Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power promising change, but so far has done little, though there is talk of shutting a few quangos—such as a farm-road-planning group linked to the agriculture ministry. In theory this could mean big changes: around 100 “public corporations” are attached to ministries and another 6,500 semipublic associations exist. Together, such firms enjoy an annual budget estimated as large as ¥3.4 trillion (around $40 billion).

But few expect action soon. The rationale for amakudari is that, given Japan’s strictly hierarchical society, getting old civil servants out of the way is the only means of letting younger ones rise. Companies comply because they rely on cosy official contacts to prosper: a board director at a big Japanese firm concedes that its heavenly arrivals help to ease interactions with regulators.

Kicking this unhealthy habit, therefore, requires broad, sharp changes to much of how Japanese culture, politics and business works. Don’t expect to see that done by next summer.


Coleman Japan Inc. has instructions “For Japanese Consumers Only”


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Hi Blog. As a lighter post for Sunday, Reader SW sends these words and a silly instruction booklet from Coleman Japan Inc., saying their instructions are “For Japanese Consumers Only”.

I think Coleman HQ (in the US) has let their oversight of their licensee go a bit, allowing the assumption that only Japanese can read Japanese. A bit of sense and sensitivity would have rendered it as “For Consumers in Japan Only” (which I’ve seen enclosed for some products in terms of warranties). Or else this needn’t be put on the form at all: I doubt anyone will panic if they see a page of gibberish as long as there is another page with something legible. But this carelessness has left a bit of a sour taste in one consumer’s mouth, quite unnecessarily. Read on. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


August 5, 2010
Dear Debito,

First of all, I would like to thank you for all your efforts. It is good to know that someone cares.

The other day I wanted to buy a cooler, after all it is a hot summer and nothing feels better than having a BBQ on the beach.

So, I went to a sports shop and found a good sized one from Coleman. When I opened it, I saw some instructions and the first thing that I saw was ‘For Japanese Consumers only’. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about it but it was enough for me to feel somewhat offended by it.

We have seen the hot springs, the hotels and clubs but if they start doing this now also with goods, I think it is going a bit too far.

Have a look at the enclosure and tell me what you think.

Enjoy the 35C tomorrow, hopefully you will go to the beach too with a nice cooler.  SW.


Japan Times Community Page on “Trainee” Jiang karoushi, how employer Fuji Denka Kogyo is trying to get away with it


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Hi Blog. The Japan Times once again makes Tuesdays a must-buy day, as the Community Page once again puts out another good article of investigative journalism, this time about the death of NJ from overwork under the aegis of the GOJ’s “Trainee” visa program.

We’ve already talked here about the Jiang Xiaodong death being the first officially acknowledged as a NJ karoushi. The latest development on that is, according to the article:

The labor office ruling has been passed to the public prosecutor, but it is unknown at this stage whether criminal charges will be laid against Fuji Denka Kogyo or the company’s president, Takehiko Fujioka. Furthermore, lawyers representing Jiang’s wife and family, who are suing for compensation, are claiming the company falsified work records by creating a new time card that showed Jiang worked considerably less overtime than he actually did. Their investigators were able to determine that in the year up to his death, Jiang did an average of more than 150 hours overtime per month — meaning he spent a combined monthly total of 310 or more hours on the factory floor.

But the investigation goes deeper now in the Japan Times. Excerpt:


The Japan Times, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010
Dying to work: Japan Inc.’s foreign trainees

…Recent amendments to the Immigration Control Act, which also included changes to Japan’s alien registration card system, have improved the situation for participants of the internship program, although arguably it is a case of too little, too late.

Under the old system, those in the first year of the program were officially classed as “trainees,” not workers, meaning they were unable to claim the protections Japanese labor law affords regular employees.

For example, the minimum wage in Japan varies according to prefecture, and currently the national average is ¥713 per hour. But as foreign trainees are not technically “workers,” employers are not obliged to pay them even this. Instead, they receive a monthly “trainee allowance,” which for most first-year trainees falls between ¥60,000 and ¥80,000 — the equivalent to an hourly wage in the range of ¥375 to ¥500 for a full-time 40-hour week.

For first-year trainees, trying to survive on such a low income is a real struggle, so most have to do a great deal of overtime just to make ends meet.

Although the “trainee” residency status still exists for foreign workers who arrived before 2010, it is currently being phased out, and from 2011 all first-year participants in the program will be classed as technical interns. This a significant step forward, as the Labor Standards Law and the Minimum Wage Act apply to foreign migrant workers with technical-intern residency status. However, whether migrant workers are actually able to access the protections they are entitled to is another matter, and the issue of oversight — or the lack of it — is still a long way from being resolved.

Abiko believes this absence of proper oversight has grown out of the internship program’s weak regulatory structure and a general lack of government accountability. The government entrusts most of the operations of the internship program to JITCO, an authority that lacks the power to sanction participating organizations or companies, says Abiko.

“JITCO is just a charitable organization. It is very clear that JITCO is not appropriate to regulate and monitor this program.”

In addition, she argues, the financial relationship between JITCO and the collectives or companies under which trainees work makes JITCO’s role as a regulatory body even more untenable. JITCO’s total income for the 2008 financial year was ¥2.94 billion. More than half this amount, ¥1.66 billion, came from “support membership fees” paid by the companies themselves.

“How can JITCO appropriately regulate and monitor their support members when they are dependent on them for membership fees?” she said.

Full article at


Shame on Berlitz Japan for its court harassments, firing teacher for having cancer


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Hi Blog. Shame on Berlitz Japan for its harassment of employees in court, and for firing people for their union activities (illegal under labor law) and for having cancer. This sort of thing should not be allowed in a civilized labor union market. But of course, especially in Japan’s Eikaiwa market, that’s assuming a lot. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Talks drag on, teachers fired in Berlitz case
By JAMES McCROSTIE, courtesy of Kevin (excerpt)

After 20 months of legal wrangling, neither side has managed to snag a win in Berlitz Japan’s ¥110 million lawsuit against five teachers and their union, Begunto.

On the recommendation of the case’s lead judge, the company and union have been in court-mediated reconciliation talks since December. The agreement to enter the talks came after a year of court hearings into the suit…

Louis Carlet, one of the union officials being sued, describes progress at the once-a-month, 30-minute negotiating sessions as “glacially slow.”…

The battle between Berlitz Japan and Begunto began with a strike launched Dec. 13, 2007, as Berlitz Japan and its parent company, Benesse Corp., were enjoying record profits. Teachers, who had gone without an across-the-board raise for 16 years, struck for a 4.6-percent pay hike and a one-month bonus. The action grew into the largest sustained strike in the history of Japan’s language school industry, with more than 100 English, Spanish and French teachers participating in walkouts across Kanto.

On Dec. 3, 2008, Berlitz Japan claimed the strike was illegal and sued for a total of ¥110 million in damages. Named in the suit were the five teachers volunteering as Begunto executives, as well as two union officials: the president of the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu, Yujiro Hiraga , and Carlet, former NUGW case officer for Begunto and currently executive president of Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union (Tozen)…

Another of the teachers named in the suit, Catherine Campbell, was fired earlier this month after taking too long to recover from late-stage breast cancer cancer. In June 2009, Campbell took a year of unpaid leave to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Because Berlitz Japan failed to enroll Campbell in the shakai hoken health insurance scheme, she was unable to receive the two-thirds wage coverage it provides and had to live with her parents in Canada during treatment. The company denied Campbell’s request to extend her leave from June to Sept. 2010 and fired her for failing to return to work.

Berlitz Japan work rules allow for leave-of-absence extensions where the company deems it necessary.

“If cancer is not such a case, what would be?” Campbell asks. “On one hand, I’m lucky to be alive and healthy enough to even want to go back to work, so everything else pales in comparison,” she explained. “But on the other, the company’s decision does seem hard to understand. The leave is unpaid, and I don’t receive any health benefits, so it wouldn’t cost Berlitz anything to keep me on; and for me, it’s that much harder to restart my life without a job.”

Rest of the article at

Toyota QC and “culture” again, says it will increase safety by dealing with mechanical and cultural defects, with Japanese-only review panel


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Hi Blog.  As an update to the whole Toyota and safety issues (with people blaming them on cultural differences), now we have news that Toyota is actually going to “review defect measures” and “beef up quality controls” using “outsiders” for “independent scrutiny”.

I myself am not all that optimistic.  Toyota is, as the article says below, essentially “keeping it in the family”.  After previously penalizing an American QC expert for his scrutiny, they’ve anointed a blue-ribbon panel of experts who are Japanese only. Yeah, that’ll learn ’em about “cultural differences”, all right. Especially since the article below once again quotes Toyota as still trying to “bridge a cultural gap”.  As if culture is any factor here in making unsafe cars safe.  Enforced cluelessness.

Meanwhile, a US federal grand jury is subpoenaing Toyota to make sure the documentation doesn’t also continue to “stay in the family”. That article and video below too. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Toyota to study quality panel’s recommendations
By YURI KAGEYAMA (AP) – July 13, 2010 Courtesy of MD

TOKYO — Toyota will start studying an assessment of the company’s quality control conducted by four outside experts to help beef up quality controls at the recall-battered automaker under a program that began in March to review defect measures.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday it was tackling a number of improvements, including analyzing each accident and consumer complaint more thoroughly and boosting communication with journalists and other outsiders to be better at ensuring quality.

Toyota, the world’s top automaker, has seen its once sterling image for quality plunge since October after recalling more than 8.5 million vehicles around the world with defective gas pedals, faulty floor mats, software glitches and other problems.

Despite vowing to improve quality, the automaker has in some cases discouraged independent scrutiny. Electronic messages obtained by The Associated Press in the U.S. show Toyota was frustrated with Southern Illinois University Professor David Gilbert, whose research indicated that electronics might be to blame for unintended acceleration problems in Toyota cars.

The messages show Toyota not only tried to cast doubt on his findings but also made clear it was displeased. One Toyota employee questioned whether he should be employed by the university, which has long been a recipient of company donations.

In steps disclosed Monday as under way, Toyota said it is boosting collaboration between Toyota’s quality-related divisions and its legal division, beefing up training among employees to get a better grasp of customers’ views on vehicle troubles, and trying to obtain more input from third-party experts.

Toyota has added four academic and consumer experts, who were recommended by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, which is not directly affiliated with Toyota. They are Hiroshi Osada, professor of management at the Tokyo Institute of Technology; Noriaki Kano, honorary professor at Tokyo University of Science; Yasuo Kusakabe, chairman of the Automobile Journalist Association of Japan and Yoshiko Miura, general manager at the Japan Consumer’s Association.

“Especially pressing is the need for establishing guidelines to steer crisis-management activity by the president and other members of senior management,” the panel said in a summary of their report. “Also pressing is the need for bridging the culture gap between Japan and other nations in public relations activities.”


SEC and Federal Grand Jury Are Investigating Toyota
Toyota Subpoenaed Over Sudden Acceleration Cases
ABC NEWS Feb. 22, 2010

A federal grand jury in New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into sudden acceleration in Toyotas.

VIDEO:  Koua Fong Lee, in prison for vehicular homicide, says Camry’s brakes didn’t work
Article and video at

The grand jury in the Southern District of New York issued a subpoena on February 8 asking Toyota and its subsidiaries to “produce certain documents related to unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles and the braking system of the Prius.”

According to documents filed with the SEC, Toyota also received a voluntary request and a subpoena from the Los Angeles office of the SEC on February 19 asking for production of “certain documents including those related to unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles and the company’s disclosure policies and practices.”

NYT has video and article on JITCO NJ “Trainee” Program, including sweatshop conditions and karoushi


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Hi Blog. Following The Economist London, The Old Grey Lady (the overseas paper the GOJ cares most about) has finally gotten around to reporting in depth on the abuses in the JITCO NJ “Trainee” program, including the exploitative work conditions and even death. Good. The NYT article also reports that pay and treatment reforms have taken place since July 1, but cast doubt on their effectiveness. Anyway, good to have this out on video and in text. This is probably why the GOJ is so loath to acknowledge any of the 127 “Trainee” deaths mentioned below as from overwork — it makes headlines overseas.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo.

Training Programs or Sweatshops?
From across Asia, about 190,000 migrant trainees toil in Japanese factories and farms. Allegations of labor abuses against these workers are widespread.
New York Times July 20, 2010, Courtesy of Bendrix


Japan Training Program Is Said to Exploit Workers
NYT July 21, 2010

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Six young Chinese women arrived in this historic city three summers ago, among the tens of thousands of apprentices brought to Japan each year on the promise of job training, good pay and a chance at a better life back home.

Instead, the women say, they were subjected to 16-hour workdays assembling cellphones at below the minimum wage, with little training of any sort, all under the auspices of a government-approved “foreign trainee” program that critics call industrial Japan’s dirty secret.

“My head hurt, my throat stung,” said Zhang Yuwei, 23, who operated a machine that printed cellphone keypads, battling fumes that she said made the air so noxious that managers would tell Japanese employees to avoid her work area.

Ms. Zhang says she was let go last month after her employer found that she and five compatriots had complained to a social worker about their work conditions. A Japanese lawyer is now helping the group sue their former employer, seeking back pay and damages totaling $207,000.

Critics say foreign trainees have become an exploited source of cheap labor in a country with one of the world’s most rapidly aging populations and lowest birthrates. All but closed to immigration, Japan faces an acute labor shortage, especially for jobs at the country’s hardscrabble farms or small family-run factories.

“The mistreatment of trainees appears to be widespread,” said Shoichi Ibusuki, a human rights lawyer based in Tokyo.

From across Asia, about 190,000 trainees — migrant workers in their late teens to early 30s — now toil in factories and farms in Japan. They have been brought to the country, in theory, to learn technical expertise under an international aid program started by the Japanese government in the 1990s.

For businesses, the government-sponsored trainee program has offered a loophole to hiring foreign workers. But with little legal protection, the indentured work force is exposed to substandard, sometimes even deadly, working conditions, critics say.

Government records show that at least 127 of the trainees have died since 2005 — or one of about every 2,600 trainees, which experts say is a high death rate for young people who must pass stringent physicals to enter the program. Many deaths involved strokes or heart failure that worker rights groups attribute to the strain of excessive labor.

The Justice Ministry found more than 400 cases of mistreatment of trainees at companies across Japan in 2009, including failing to pay legal wages and exposing trainees to dangerous work conditions. This month, labor inspectors in central Japan ruled that a 31-year-old Chinese trainee, Jiang Xiaodong, had died from heart failure induced by overwork.

Under pressure by human rights groups and a string of court cases, the government has begun to address some of the program’s worst abuses. The United Nations has urged Japan to scrap it altogether.

After one year of training, during which the migrant workers receive subsistence pay below the minimum wage, trainees are allowed to work for two more years in their area of expertise at legal wage levels. But interviews with labor experts and a dozen trainees indicate that the foreign workers seldom achieve those pay rates.

On paper, the promised pay still sounds alluring to the migrant workers. Many are from rural China, where per-capita disposable income can be as low as $750 a year. To secure a spot in the program, would-be trainees pay many times that amount in fees and deposits to local brokers, sometimes putting up their homes as collateral — which can be confiscated if trainees quit early or cause trouble.

The Japan International Training Cooperation Organization, or Jitco, which operates the program, said it was aware some companies had abused the system and that it was taking steps to crack down on the worst cases. The organization plans to ensure that “trainees receive legal protection, and that cases of fraud are eliminated,” Jitco said in a written response to questions.

Ms. Zhang says she paid $8,860 to a broker in her native Hebei Province for a spot in the program. She was assigned to a workshop run by Modex-Alpha, which assembles cellphones sold by Sharp and other electronics makers. Ms. Zhang said her employer demanded her passport and housed her in a cramped apartment with no heat, alongside five other trainees.

In her first year, Ms. Zhang worked eight-hour days and received $660 a month after various deductions, according to her court filing — about $3.77 an hour, or less than half the minimum wage level in Hiroshima. Moreover, all but $170 a month was forcibly withheld by the company as savings, and paid out only after Ms. Zhang pushed the company for the full amount, she said.

In her second year, her monthly wage rose to about $1,510 — or $7.91 an hour, according to her filing. That was still lower than the $8.56 minimum wage for the electronics industry in Hiroshima. And her employers withheld all but $836 a month for her accommodations and other expenses, according to her filing.

And as her wages went up, so did her hours, she said, to as many as 16 a day, five to six days a week. Modex-Alpha declined to comment on Ms. Zhang’s account, citing her lawsuit against the company.

As part of the government’s effort to clean up the program, beginning July 1, minimum wage and other labor protections have for the first time been applied to first-year workers. The government has also banned the confiscating of trainees’ passports.

But experts say it will be hard to change the program’s culture.

Economic strains are also a factor. Although big companies like Toyota and Mazda have moved much of their manufacturing to China to take advantage of low wages there, smaller businesses have found that impossible — and yet are still pressured to drive down costs.

“If these businesses hired Japanese workers, they would have to pay,” said Kimihiro Komatsu, a labor consultant in Hiroshima. “But trainees work for a bare minimum,” he said. “Japan can’t afford to stop.”

For almost three years, Catherine Lopez, 28, a trainee from Cebu, the Philippines, has worked up to 14 hours a day, sometimes six days a week, welding parts at a supplier for the Japanese carmaker Mazda. She receives as little as $1,574 a month, or $7.91 an hour — below the $8.83 minimum wage for auto workers in Hiroshima.

Ms. Lopez says Japanese managers at the supplier, Kajiyama Tekko, routinely hurl verbal abuses at her cohort of six trainees, telling them to follow orders or “swim back to the Philippines.”

“We came to Japan because we want to learn advanced technology,” Ms. Lopez said.

Yukari Takise, a manager at Kajiyama Tekko, denied the claims. “If they don’t like it here,” she said, “they can go home.”

But after inquiries by a reporter for The New York Times, a company that organizes the trainee program in Hiroshima, Ateta Japan, said it had advised Kajiyama Tekko to recalculate the wages it pays foreign trainees and ordered it to grant the vacation days owed to the trainees.

“They may have pushed the trainees too hard,” said Hideki Matsunishi, Ateta’s president. “But you must also feel sympathy for the companies, who are all struggling in this economy.”

Jiang Yiyi and Yasuko Kamiizumi contributed reporting from Tokyo, and Tyler Sipe from Hiroshima.

Economist London on Japan’s treatment of Chinese: Welcome tourist money, work “Trainees” to death


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Hi Blog. A couple of days after this issue appeared in Kyodo and on, the Economist London had an article in its print and online version. (If is an inspiration for your articles, may we say how grateful we are for the extended audience.) With even more research and quotes, and a comparison with another issue also recently discussed on (how Chinese money is affecting the tourist economy), here’s the article. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Chinese in Japan
Department stores and sweat shops
It’s one Japan for rich Chinese shoppers, another for low-skilled workers
Jul 8th 2010 | TOKYO

MANY Japanese strive to keep up egalitarian appearances. Porsche drivers keep their cars tactfully hidden away. Houses of the well-heeled are unflashy. In the finest department stores, even the demure “elevator girls” are treated with impeccable politeness.

But when it comes to the way Japan treats its nouveau riche neighbour, China, different rules apply. Two events this month betray the double standards with which Japanese officialdom treats China’s rich and poor. On July 1st Japan relaxed visa requirements for well-off Chinese tourists. It was not stated how much anyone needed to earn to apply for one. But as long as they had at least a gold credit card and a solid professional or civil-service job to go back to, they were free to come to Japan, to shop until they dropped.

Far from the bright lights of Japan’s shopping districts, however, young Chinese working in small industrial firms get anything but red-carpet treatment. On July 5th Kyodo, a news agency, reported that 21 Chinese were among 27 foreign trainees who died last year on a government-sponsored skills-transfer scheme for developing countries that over the past four years has brought in an average of 94,000 workers a year, mostly from China.

Of the 27, nine died of heart or brain diseases, four died while working and three committed suicide. A few days earlier officials confirmed that a 31-year-old Chinese trainee who died in 2008 after clocking up about 100 hours a month of overtime was the victim not of heart failure, as originally reported, but of “karoshi”, the Japanese affliction of death from overwork.

Japan International Training Co-operation Organisation, the outfit set up by five government ministries to oversee the skills-transfer programme, refuses to discuss the deaths. But Lila Abiko, of the Lawyers’ Network for Foreign Trainees, an NGO, says many guest-workers do so much low-paid overtime—with the support of their employers—that they literally work themselves to death. The mortality rate from heart disease and other stress-related ailments among trainees in their 20s and 30s is almost double that of Japanese of the same age, she says. “Japan is the richest country in Asia, yet this programme is exploiting poor Chinese like slaves.”

Japan’s shrinking population is at the root of both phenomena. As domestic spending declines, Japan needs wealthy Chinese tourists to help prop up the local economy, and low-skilled Chinese trainees to help man its factories. Figures for both have climbed (see chart).

The worse the demographics become, the more useful it may be for Japan to have China on its doorstep. But for the moment, the best many Chinese can say about Japan is that they love its products. That is not the basis for an enduring affinity.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column July 6, 2010: “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry”: how government agencies want NJ tourists yet are accessories to excluding them


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The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Japan’s hostile hosteling industry
Draft eleven with links to sources and alternate conclusion

Online version at

As you may know, Japan has no national civil or criminal legislation outlawing and punishing racial discrimination, meaning businesses with “Japanese only” signs aren’t doing anything illegal.

Problem is, I’m not sure it would matter if such a law existed.

To illustrate, consider one business sector that — technically — cannot exclude customers by race or nationality: hotels. Article 5 of Japan’s Hotel Management Law (ryokan gyoho, or HML) says that licensed accommodations cannot refuse service unless 1) rooms are full, 2) there is a threat of contagious disease, or 3) there is a issue of “public morals” (as in shooting porno movies there, etc.).


However, as discussed here last week (“No need to know the law, but you must obey it,” Zeit Gist, June 29), the law in Japan can be a mere technicality.

The HML is frequently ignored. Quick online searches (try Rakuten or Jalan) soon uncover hotels either outright refusing non-Japanese (NJ) lodgers, or, more circumspectly, those that say, “We don’t take reservations from NJ without addresses in Japan” (which is still unlawful).

SOURCE:  Jalan:  (recently amended to say “NJ without domestic contact addresses” refused)

Rakuten:  (now amended to say “no bookings from overseas”)

Still excluding:

When I call these hotels and ask why they feel the need to exclude (it’s my hobby), their justifications range from the unprofessional to the cowardly.

Most claim they can’t provide sufficient service in English (as if that’s all that NJ can speak), so naturally it follows that they won’t provide NJ with any service at all. Or they say they have no Western-style beds (I wonder if they worry about people using chopsticks too?).

More clever managers claim “safety” (the trump card in Japanese culture), as in: “In case of an emergency, how can we communicate with NJ effectively to get them out of a burning building?” (When I ask how they would deal with blind or deaf Japanese customers, they become markedly less clever.)

The nasty managers hiss that NJ steal hotel goods or cause trouble for other guests, thus making it a crime issue. (After all, Japanese guests never get drunk and rowdy, or “permanently borrow” hotel amenities themselves, right?)

This attitude in Japanese hotels is surprisingly widespread. According to a 2008 government survey, 27 percent of them said they didn’t want any NJ customers at all.


Some might claim this is no big deal. After all, you could go someplace else, and why stay at a place that doesn’t want you there anyway? At least one columnist might claim that culturally insensitive NJ deserve to be excluded because some of them have been bad guests.

Fortunately, these apologist fringe opinions do limited damage. However, when a government agency allows — even promotes — the systematic exclusion of NJ clients, we have a real problem with the rule of law in Japan.

Consider the curious case of the Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Association ( ). In September 2007, I was notified that their English site was offering member hotels two preset options for “acceptance of foreigners” and “admittance of foreigners” (whatever that difference may be). Of the 142 hotels then listed, 35 chose not to accept or admit NJ customers.


I contacted FPTA and asked about the unlawfulness. A month later their reply was they had advised all 35 hotels that they really, really oughta stop that — although not all of them would. For its part, FPTA said it would remove the site’s “confusing” preset options, but it could not force hotels to repeal their exclusionary rules — FPTA is not a law enforcement agency, y’know. I asked if FPTA would at least delist those hotels, and got the standard “we’ll take it under advisement.”

Case closed. Or so I thought. I was doing some followup research last December and discovered that even after two years, FPTA still had the option to exclude on their Japanese Web site. And now nine times more hotels — 318 — were advertised as refusing NJ (gaikokujin no ukeire: fuka).


I put the issue up on, and several concerned readers immediately contacted FPTA to advise them their wording was offensive and unlawful. Within hours, FPTA amended it to “no foreign language service available” (gaikokugo taio: fuka).

This sounds like progress, but the mystery remains: Why didn’t FPTA come up with this wording in Japanese on its own?

Moreover, unlike the Japanese site, FPTA’s English site had stopped advertising that NJ were being refused at all. So instead of fixing the problem, FPTA made it invisible for NJ who can’t read Japanese.

Furthermore, when researching this article last month, I discovered FPTA had revamped its site to make it more multilingual (with Korean and two Chinese dialects, as well as English). However, the multilingual site buttons for searching accommodations led to dead links (the Japanese links, however, worked just fine).

On May 24, a Mr. Azuma, head of FPTA’s Tourism Department, told me it was taking a while to reword things properly. I asked if the past two years plus six months was insufficient. Miraculously, in time for this article, the foreign-language links are now fixed, and no more excluders can be found on the site.

However, the underlying problem has still not been fixed. Another NJ recently alerted me to the fact that the only hotel in Futaba town, Fukushima Prefecture, refused him entry on May 2. He had made the mistake of going up alone to the front desk and asking in Japanese if he could have a room. Management claimed none were available.

Suspicious, he walked outside and had his Japanese wife phone the hotel from the parking lot. Presto! A twin room was procured. She walked in, got the key, and all was sparkly.

When I phoned the hotel myself to confirm this story, the manager claimed that a room had just happened to open up right after my friend left. Amazing what coincidences happen, especially when this hotel — also featured on the FPTA Web site — advertises that they “can’t offer services in foreign languages” (or, it seems, even if a foreigner speaks a nonforeign language).

SOURCES: here and here

Let’s connect some dots: We have public policies working at cross-purposes. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism wants more NJ to visit and pump money into our economy, with Japan relaxing visa requirements for mainland Chinese tourists as of July 1. Yet the Ministry of Justice and other law enforcement agencies just want to keep policing NJ, and that includes deputizing hotels. This is why since 2005 they’ve been demanding hotels photocopy all NJ passports at check-in — again, unlawful (Zeit Gists, Mar. 8 and Oct. 18, 2005).

Of course, this assumes that anyone pays attention to the laws at all.

Japan’s lack of legal support for hapless NJ tourists (not to mention residents) — who face unfettered exclusionism precisely where the HML says they shouldn’t — are thus finding local government bodies conspiring against them.


Brains cooked yet? Now get a load of this:

As of June 1, the Toyoko Inn chain, already saddled with a history of poor treatment of NJ and handicapped customers, opened up a “Chinese only” hotel in Sapporo. When I called there to confirm, the cheery clerk said yes, only Chinese could stay there. Other NJ — and even Japanese — would be refused reservations!

I asked if this wasn’t of questionable legality. She laughed and said, “It probably is.” But she wasn’t calling it out. Nor was anyone else. Several articles appeared in the Japanese media about this “exclusively Chinese hotel,” and none of them raised any qualms about the legal precedents being set.

SOURCES:  Toyoko’s history:
Sapporo Chinese Only:

So what’s next? More hotels segregated by nationality? Separate floors within hotels reserved for Chinese, Japanese and garden-variety gaijin? What happens to guests with international marriages and multiethnic families? Are we witnessing the Balkanization of Japan’s hosteling industry?


Folks, it’s not difficult to resolve this situation. Follow the rule of law. You find a hotel violating the HML, you suspend its operating license until they stop, like the Kumamoto prefectural government did in 2004 to a hotel excluding former Hansen’s disease patients.


Oh wait — the ex-Hansen’s patients were Japanese, so they deserve to have their legal rights protected. It sucks to be NJ: The laws, such as they are, don’t apply to you anyway — if they are applied at all. Yokoso Japan.


Oh wait — the ex-Hansen’s patients were Japanese, so they deserve to have their legal rights protected.

Sucks to be NJ: Let NJ in our orderly society, and they cause so much confusion that people don’t even feel the need to obey the law anymore. Now that even Japanese are being excluded, no doubt NJ will be blamed for disrupting the “wa” once again. Yōkoso Japan.

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to

Japan Times & Kyodo: Foreign “trainees” dying at rate of two to three a month, takes two years for one to be declared “from overwork” (karoushi), more than a quarter from “unknown causes”


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Hi Blog. First the articles, then my comments:


27 foreign trainees died in Japan in FY 2009
Japan Today/Kyodo News Tuesday 06th July 2010, 06:44 AM JST, Courtesy of Yokohama John

TOKYO Twenty-seven foreign nationals who came to Japan for employment under a government-authorized training program died in fiscal 2009, the second worst figure on record, government officials said Monday. Most of the workers who died in the year that ended in March were in their 20s to 30s, officials of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Of the 27, nine died of brain or heart diseases, four died while working, three died by suicide, three died in bicycle accidents and the remainder died from unknown causes, the officials said.

By country, 21 came from China, three from Vietnam, two from the Philippines and one from Indonesia, they said.

The number was the second largest, following the 35 foreign nationals who died in fiscal 2008. This could trigger moves toward revising the government program, first launched in 1993, as a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer who is an expert on the issue, said, ‘‘Many trainees who died of brain or heart diseases could have actually died from overwork, while those who killed themselves could have committed suicide induced by overwork.’’

COMMENT: Taste the ironies in this article. First, how in 2009, the death of 27 “Trainees” (i.e. people brought over by the GOJ who as people allegedly “in occupational training” don’t qualify as “workers” (roudousha) entitled to labor law protections) is only the SECOND worst figure on record. Second, how we have close to a third (as in eight NJ) of the total dying of “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation; don’t they have autopsies in Japan to fix that? Oh wait, not always.) Third, how about the stunning ignorance of the sentence, “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. If the Kyodo reporter had bothered to do research of his media databases, he’d realize it’s hardly “recent” at all. And it’s not being fixed, despite official condemnation in 2006 of the visa regime as “a swindle” and death after death (at a rate two to three per month) racking up. Karoushi was a big media event way back when when Japanese were dying of it. Less so it seems when NJ are croaking from it.

Now for the second article (excerpt):


‘Karoshi’ claims first foreign trainee
The Japan Times, Saturday, July 3, 2010, Courtesy of JK

MITO, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) A labor office in Ibaraki Prefecture will acknowledge that a Chinese national working as an intern at a local firm under a government-authorized training program died from overwork in 2008, marking the first foreign trainee “karoshi” death from overwork, sources said Friday.

The male trainee, Jiang Xiaodong, had worked since 2005 at Fuji Denka Kogyo, a metal processing firm in the city of Itako, Ibaraki Prefecture, but died of cardiac arrest in June 2008 in company housing at age 31.

He worked more than 100 hours overtime in his last month, the Kashima labor standards inspection office said.

Jiang’s relatives are separately claiming he worked more than 150 hours overtime in his second year and after. However, he was only given two days off in a month, they claimed.

According to a group of lawyers trying to raise the issue of the trainee program’s abuse by many employers as a source of cheap labor, this will be the first intern karoshi. The lawyers also accuse the government of having lax oversight of trainee working conditions.

Rest at

COMMENT CONTINUED: So it only took about two years for “a labor office” to admit that a NJ “trainee” had been worked to death, given the hours he worked that were a part of the record? Gee whiz, what Sherlocking! Lax oversight indeed. How many more people have to die before this exploitative and even deadly system is done away with? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Sunday Tangent: CNN: Activist Junichi Sato on International Whaling Commission corruption and GOJ/NPA collusion


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Hi Blog.  For a Sunday Tangent, here is a hard-hitting article (thanks CNN) showing how activism against a corrupt but entrenched system gets treated:  Detention and interrogation of activists, possible sentencing under criminal law, and international bodies turning a blind eye to their own mandate.  Lucky for the author (and us) he is out on bail so he could write this.  He wouldn’t be bailed if he were NJ.  More on the IWC’s corruption in documentary The Cove — yet another reason why the bully boys who target people’s families (yet don’t get arrested for their “activism”) don’t want you to see it.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


IWC’s shame: Japan’s whale slaughter
By Junichi Sato, Special to CNN June 25, 2010 courtesy of SS

Junichi Sato, colleague face charges after finding corruption in Japan’s whaling industry
Sato: He and Toru Suzuki were held, questioned, often taped to chairs, for 23 days
Sato says Japan uses guise of “scientific research” to slaughter whales
Sato: As IWC does nothing, Iceland, Norway and Japan kill 30,000 whales
Editor’s note: Junichi Sato is the Greenpeace Japan program director, overseeing advocacy efforts for the international environmental organization’s Japanese branch.

(CNN) — After just two days of closed-door negotiations, the leaders who had gathered at the International Whaling Commission in Agadir, Morocco, announced no agreement was reached on the IWC chair’s proposal to improve whale conservation.

Greenpeace did not support the proposal, but we had hoped governments would change it to become an agreement to end whaling, not a recipe for continuing it.

It is particularly disappointing to me, because my professional commitment to end the whale hunt in my country of Japan — which led to the exposure of an embezzlement scandal at the heart of the whaling industry — has come at significant personal cost.

The investigation I conducted with my colleague, Toru Suzuki, led to our arrests in front of banks of media outlets who had been told about it in advance.

The homes of Greenpeace office and staff members were raided. Seventy-five police officers were deployed to handcuff two peaceful activists. We were held without charge for 23 days; questioned for up to 10 hours a day while tied to chairs and without a lawyer present. We are now out on bail awaiting verdict and sentencing, expected in early September.

If I can risk my future to bring the fraudulent Japanese hunt to an end, if whaling whistle-blowers are prepared to risk their lives to expose the corruption, how can it be that the IWC has yet again failed to take the political risk to pressure my government to end the scientific whaling sham?

Since the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling came into force in 1986, Japan has continued to hunt whales under the guise of “scientific research,” making a mockery of the moratorium. By claiming that slaughtering thousands of whales, in waters designated a whale sanctuary no less, is a scientific experiment needed to understand whales, Japan has violated the spirit and intention of the moratorium as well as the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary.

Iceland and Norway have simply ignored the moratorium. Those two nations, together with Japan, have killed more than 30,000 whales since then. I have always opposed my country’s hunt, which is why I decided to join Greenpeace. While it may be an emotionally charged political issue outside Japan, domestically it barely causes a political ripple. In 2006, Greenpeace decided to focus the bulk of its anti-whaling campaign in Japan to bring the issue home.

Wholly funded by Japanese taxpayers, the whaling program has produced no peer-reviewed scientific research and has been repeatedly told by the IWC that the so-called research is not needed or wanted. All it has produced is a massive bill for the taxpayers and tons of surplus whale meat that the Japanese public does not want to eat. It has also produced endless rumors and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Two years ago, following a tip from three former whalers turned whistle-blowers, my colleagues at Greenpeace Japan and I began a public interest investigation and discovered that indeed, corruption runs deep.

All three whalers claimed that whale meat was routinely embezzled, with the full knowledge of government and whaling fleet operator officials. Greenpeace eventually intercepted one of nearly 100 suspicious boxes coming off the ships.

Although its contents were labeled as cardboard, 23.5 kilograms of prime whale meat were inside, destined for a private address.

On May 15, 2008, we handed over the box to the authorities, with additional evidence of the crime. Initially the Tokyo district prosecutor began to investigate. But we were eventually charged with trespass and theft of the whale meat, valued at nearly 60,000 yen (about $550 at the time). We face from 18 months up to 10 years in jail for exposing the truth behind an industry that is financially, morally and scientifically bankrupt.

The U.N.’s Human Rights Council on Arbitary Detention has ruled that our human rights have been breached and the prosecution is politically motivated. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed her concern about our case. Amnesty International, Transparency International, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, countless international legal experts, politicians and more than half a million individuals have raised their voices in opposition to the prosecution.

We will be tried and sentenced in September, more than two years after we first exposed the corruption. But the scandal does not end there. Just last week, more allegations emerged that Japan engages in vote-buying and bribery to keep its whaling fleet in the water.
But the truth is that Japan’s whaling program relies on secrecy and corruption to stay afloat.

And yet, the IWC continues to close its doors and ears to the reality of Japan’s commercial whaling. I came to Morocco in the hope that this, the International Year of Biodiversity, could mean an end to all commercial whaling, but I leave knowing that governments are only interested in taking strong public positions on whales but not in taking action to save them, not even behind closed doors.

Mine and Toru’s political prosecution is a clear sign that Japan has no intention of easily letting go of its debt-ridden whaling program. There are too many vested interests inside the government. That is not surprising. What is more disappointing is that those vested interests have gone unchallenged by the IWC, the body set up to conserve whales.

It may be surprising that in this day and age, and given the huge public interest in the issue, conversations about saving whales are held in secret. But the truth is that Japan’s whaling program relies on secrecy and corruption to stay afloat.

After two years of negotiations, this year’s meeting could have been an opportunity for the IWC to actually move forward and end the status quo. But its collective failure means that 24 years after the establishment of the moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan, Iceland and Norway will continue again to hunt whales with impunity.

I challenge the commission to throw open its doors and shine a spotlight on the corruption that is so evident, investigate all the allegations affecting the IWC that have been laid clearly before it on numerous occasions and realize that it is not only Japan’s international reputation that has been tainted by the failure in Agadir.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Junichi Sato.


Kyodo: Police raid car scrap yards run by NJ, suspecting them as “breeding grounds for crime”


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Hi Blog.  Comments?  My main one is the majority of the raids were conducted without warrants, something I’m not sure would be permissible at Japanese-run chop shops without a suspicion of a crime.  NJ, however, fall under immigration law, meaning they are more vulnerable to random search for suspected visa violations (and oh by the way we’ll check the business you run too while we’re at it).  I don’t know much about the subject (or the market), so those who do please feel free to fill us in.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Police launch nationwide raids of car scrap yards
Kyodo News:  Wednesday 23rd June, 2010, courtesy GB

TOKYO — Ten prefectural police authorities on Tuesday launched coordinated on-site inspections of around 426 car scrap facilities across the country, suspecting that the facilities, run mostly by foreigners, could be breeding grounds for crimes such as vehicle theft, auto parts smuggling and harboring illegal immigrants.

The inspections were conducted based on the antique dealings law, the immigration law, the building standards law and other legislation, with the participation of immigration authorities and some local governments. Of the 426 facilities, 14 were raided based on warrants issued by courts.

Investigators said the raids are part of Japan’s efforts to tighten security ahead of a meeting of government leaders from Asia-Pacific rim countries in Yokohama in November, as some of the facilities could be linked to international terrorist groups.

The inspections and raids had led to the arrest of seven foreigners including Iranians, Ghanaians, Vietnamese and Chinese in Kanagawa, Saitama, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures on suspicion of violating the immigration law, police said.

Saitama prefectural police also arrested 17 Vietnamese and a Japanese national who is of Vietnamese descent on suspicion of stealing 250 million yen worth of heavy machinery parts in Saitama and four neighboring prefectures, including Tochigi and Gunma, they said.

Car scrap yards are often located in suburban areas with convenient access to highways and ports, and obscured from the outside by containers and other barriers.

In 2007, a grenade and live ammunition were confiscated from a yard in Niigata Prefecture. Forged alien registration cards have also been found at other yards, they said.

According to the National Police Agency, there are around 1,400 car scrap yards nationwide, of which 1,100 are run by foreigners, including Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Chinese nationals.

Car theft is the most notable crime linked to such facilities, the investigators said. Stolen vehicles are often shipped to the Middle East, Africa and other locations overseas after being disassembled at the yards.

The Toyota Hiace is one of the most popular targets for theft by foreigners as it is known for its durability in tough environments.

Aichi prefectural police cracked a car theft ring last year consisting of 15 Nigerians and Ugandans who specialized in stealing Hiace vans.

‘‘Stolen cars have been exported with vehicle identification numbers taken from scrapped cars, but they’ve begun dismantling stolen cars before shipping as customs authorities have tightened monitoring,’’ a police official said. ‘‘That’s why they need scrap facilities,’’ said the official.


Canada spending even more than Japan this time on G8/G20 summits. However, controversy ensues.


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Hi Blog.  Let’s see how a vetting media works.  Investigating journalists uncover money being wasted and tell the public about it.  Few apparent fears in the domestic media about spoiling the party for our international guests.  And no apparent trampling on civil liberties.

Should happen in Japan too, as we have freedom of the press.  But no, check out what happened the last two times Japan hosted G8 Summits (here and here).

I think it’s about time we stopped this corrupt nonsense in the guise of international summetry.  It’s like holding an Olympics every year in a sparkling new venue, except nobody can attend but government elites.  Pigs at the trough.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Canadian summitry
A loonie boondoggle
Ostentation in a time of austerity
Jun 17th 2010 | OTTAWA

FOR all his gifts as a political tactician, Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, may have miscalculated how much Canadians want to pay to host the G8 and G20 summits from June 25th to 27th. As the government struggles to close a large budget deficit, it is spending C$1.2 billion ($1.2 billion) to host the world’s leaders—60% more than Japan, the previous record holder, coughed up for the G8 gathering in Okinawa in 2000.

Mr Harper points out that Canada is holding back-to-back summits—doubling the cost, he says. The government also notes that it can hardly be blamed for providing airtight security. It has built a steel fence around the woodland cottage resort at Muskoka that will receive the G8, and deployed special forces on overtime to lurk in the water and surrounding forest.

But critics counter that Mr Harper could have saved money by inviting the G20 to Muskoka as well, rather than receiving them separately in Toronto, 200 km (125 miles) to the south. Moreover, they note that much of the budget has gone on items of dubious utility and taste. The prime minister has become the butt of jokes for commissioning an artificial lake, complete with mock canoes and recordings of the call of the loon, for the G20 summit’s media centre—which sits just yards from the real Lake Ontario. In Muskoka taxpayers are on the hook for a refurbished steamboat that won’t even float until the summit is over, and new outdoor toilets 20km from the meeting site. So much for small government.



Auditor ready to look at G20 security tab
Sun May 30, 9:45 PM
By The Canadian Press, Courtesy of MMT

OTTAWA – Auditor General Sheila Fraser is ready to look at the huge security costs for the G8 and G20 summit meetings next month.

”Once the events have occurred and the spending has occurred we can look to see if it was done appropriately,” she told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.

The billion-dollar tab for security prompted angry clashes in the House of Commons last week, with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews staunchly defending the costs.

”It certainly seems like a lot of money,” Fraser said. ”I think we have to understand better what is it for.”

She said the audit would be routine.

”Given the amount of spending, it is something that we would normally look at in our financial work,” she said.

”I would expect that there are a lot of people involved in this,” she said. ”The costs of housing and overtime and equipment I’m sure are going to be substantial.

”We would have to look at what planning has gone on and was the spending really just for these events or not.”

Toews says he’s fine with an audit.

The G8 is slated for Huntsville, Ont. June 25-26 followed immediately by the G20 in Toronto.

Fraser also said she hasn’t heard formally that MPs and senators have changed their minds about letting her audit the half-billion parliamentary budget.

”I’ve had no communication from them since their letter indicating that they were refusing our request.”

The politicians, though, are saying she’s welcome to come in for an audit. They changed their tune after the public reacted angrily to the news they had turned down Fraser’s request to look at Parliament’s annual half-billion-dollar budget.

Fraser says if she does get a formal invitation, she won’t focus on the expenses of individual MPs and senators.

”What we had proposed was never an audit of MP expenses alone,” she said. ”That would have been part of a financial management audit, but we would also look potentially at issues like human resource management or security on the Hill, contracting, those sort of broader management issues.”

Her auditors would be more interested in procedures and policies.

”We would look to see what kind of rules and procedures and controls are in place,” she said.

”We would expect the House of Commons and the Senator to have good policies and procedures, that they be comprehensive and that they be communicated well. If that is the case, we would do spot checks to make sure that those policies are actually being followed.”

She said such an audit normally takes about a year, so if the invitation comes soon, she could have a report by the middle of 2011.


Asahi has whiny article on how Chinese tourists don’t spend properly


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something to kick the weekend off:  A whiny article by the Asahi picking on Chinese tourist spending habits.  It’s not that they don’t spend, oh no; it’s more that they don’t spend PROPERLY.  They spend too much of their time SHOPPING!  Heavens to Murgatroyd!  I think Japan’s media in this economic climate should be happy that rich Chinese are coming here to spend at all (and not staying on to trouble Japanese society through illegal overstays); they’re already being sequestered in some places.  But no, we’ll get the grumbles that they’re not getting out enough anyway.  What would be the perfect tourist in Japanese media eyes, I wonder?  What would be the perfect consumer, period?  Dare anyone criticize the Japanese public for their underconsumption, then?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


China tourists stingy in some areas
2010/06/16 Courtesy of Peach

Japanese businesses and local governments that have gone all out to win over the throngs of Chinese tourists are finding that their guests can be a frugal bunch at times.

The Chinese tourists have shown a tendency to scrimp on accommodations and meals and bypass tourist attractions for the main purpose of their trips–buying electronic appliances and designer brand clothing and accessories.

Industry officials said if Japan wants to truly capitalize on the roughly 480,000 Chinese who visit Japan each year, it will have to do much more to convince the tourists that there is more to Japan than just shopping.

“Many of the points of interest, meals and souvenirs that Japanese are promoting are of little interest to Chinese,” said Ke Yue, president of public relations company Japan-China Communication Co.

Ke said Japan’s strategy should include nurturing human resources to specialize in the needs of Chinese tourists, whose numbers show no signs of slowing down.

A fierce price war has erupted over tours to Japan, with the price of a five-night, six-day packaged trip being offered for as little as 4,000 yuan (about 53,000 yen or $577) to 5,000 yuan.

According to an executive at a Chinese tourist agency, companies are eking out profits by cutting costs for meals and accommodations.

As a result, 90 percent of the packaged group tours are handled by Chinese, Hong Kong or Taiwanese businesses because few Japanese tourist companies would be able to generate a profit.

In Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, located at one end of the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line highway that spans Tokyo Bay, the number of Chinese who stayed overnight soared thirteenfold from 2,089 in 2005 to 26,162 in 2009.

The rise was attributed largely to the change in management at the Tokyo Bay Plaza Hotel in the city in 2006, when the current owner, a Japanese national originally from China, took over.

But the influx of tourists has not led to increased income for local businesses in the area.

According to Tokyo Bay Plaza Hotel staff, most Chinese simply use the hotel as a launch pad to travel across the bay and spend their money at stores in the Ginza and Akihabara districts of Tokyo.

The tourists’ shopping priorities are also reflected at the Taiyoro restaurant on the 47th floor of the Apa Hotel & Resort Tokyo Bay Makuhari in Chiba, which is usually packed with Chinese tourists on weekends.

“Ninety-five percent of our customers are group customers. Of them, 70 percent are Chinese,” said Akiharu Taiyoro, operator of the Taiyoro chain of restaurants. Taiyoro, a Shanghai native who became a naturalized Japanese in 2006, operates 10 restaurants in such tourist destinations as Tokyo and Osaka.

In 2009, more than 1.18 million people dined at Taiyoro’s buffet-style restaurants, which offer all-you-can-eat lunches for 1,500 yen, and dinners for 2,000 yen, plus free soft drinks, for two hours.

Tour groups accompanied by guides can receive a 30-percent discount.

Taiyoro said he visits China every other month to negotiate with travel agencies there.

“Chinese tourists come to Japan to shop, so they like to finish their meals quickly. The average tour group will spend about 45 minutes eating at our restaurant before a new group comes in. So it is a low-margin, high-turnover business, but it’s profitable,” he said.

In Fukuoka, where 66 cruise ships from China are scheduled to call port this year, city officials have estimated an economic windfall of 2.89 billion yen from the Chinese visitors.

But according to a travel agency official in the city, the cruise ships moor in Fukuoka for only about 10 hours, and most tourists are more interested in shopping than taking in the sights.

The central government has eased visa requirements for individual tourists and increased promotion campaigns to lure more Chinese tourists to Japan.

But experts say this may not be enough to spread the wealth.

“Japan must rush to create an environment that allows visitors to freely enjoy their visit,” said Du Guoqing, an associate professor of tourism at Rikkyo University.

Du, for example, pointed out that the inability to use Chinese driver’s licenses in Japan deprives the tourists of a chance to see much of the country.

Toyoko Inn opens “exclusively Chinese” hotel in Susukino Sapporo, refuses Japanese and other NJ; media ignores questionable legality


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Dovetailing with the recent posts showing China’s increasing domestic influence over Japan’s economics (here and here), below we have some newspaper articles (Japanese, couldn’t find English anywhere) noting that Toyoko Inn has opened a new hotel complex in Sapporo Susukino that caters exclusively to Chinese.  The Nikkei and the Yomiuri call it “Chuugokujin sen’you hoteru” below, smacking of the “Nihonjin Sen’you Ten” wording used for signs in Russian excluding all foreigners entry from businesses in Monbetsu, Hokkaido (i.e. only Chinese are allowed to stay in this hotel).  Local Doshin only mildly mentions they are “Chuugokujin muke” (catering to Chinese).

I’m pretty torn by this development.  On one hand, here is an unusually progressive business initiative in hiring and catering to NJ (with nary a mention of  all the “different culture resulting in the inevitable frictions” that was a undercurrent of much domestic reporting about, say, Australians investing in Niseko).  Supply and demand, you might say, who cares if the money is from Chinese.  Fine.

On the other hand, however, we have the Balkanization of the hotel industry, with NJ being assigned their own special gated community (in violation of Japanese law; choosing customers by nationality is unlawful under the Hotel Management Law), with again nary a question about the legality.

And again, this is the Toyoko Inn, with its history of special policies for racial profiling and declining hotel rooms (or threatening to) to “foreigners”, including residents and naturalized citizens, who do not show their Gaijin Cards.  Not to mention embezzling GOJ funds earmarked for handicapped facilities.

In short, I smell a rat.  Yet more opportunism and questionable legal practices by Toyoko Inn.  I’d recommend you not patronize them, but then again, unless you’re a Chinese reading this, you probably can’t stay at the hotel in question anyway.   Arudou Debito in Sapporo


東横イン、札幌に中国人専用ホテル 来月開業 :日本経済新聞


– 中国人客専用ホテル…札幌にきょう開業 –

(2010年6月1日 読売新聞)








東横イン 札幌に「中国人向け」6月開業 接客、食事に工夫(05/28 06:40)





I called Toyoko Inn Susukino Minami at 011-551-1045 and got a very friendly female clerk. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hi there. I heard about your place in the newspaper. Just wanted to ask: Does your hotel accept only Chinese guests?”

“That’s correct. Only Chinese.”

“You mean Japanese customers are refused too?”

“That’s right.”

“And all other foreigners other than Chinese are not allowed to stay?”

“That’s right.”

“Er, isn’t that against the Hotel Management Law?”

“Yes, it probably is.”

We started laughing, and I said, “This is the first hotel I’ve heard of in Japan where even Japanese guests are refused.”

“Yes, quite. It’s a funny situation, isn’t it.”

I appreciated the candor, but the question still remains: What the hell is going on, and why is nobody calling Toyoko Inn on the unlawfulness of the situation? Instead, we have newspapers promoting them as such without any analysis?

What a bent hotel chain the Toyoko Inn Group is.

Reuters: Showings of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove cancelled in Japan due to threat of protest


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Hi Blog.  Here we go again.  Something critical of Japan becomes derided as “anti-Japanese” and is threatened if it gets shown in Japan.  This society has to learn that criticism of Japan is actually good for Japan, and that bully boys who want to suppress healthy debate about an issue should be ignored or criticized themselves as unhealthy and unconstitutional.  Yet protests by The Left go ignored because they probably won’t get violent, while protests by The Right just might, and the police won’t prosecute if they do.  Hence the incentive to become violent is there for the bullies, and they get even more power through intimidation.  Canceling showings of a controversial movie like this just strengthens the bullies and helps them proliferate.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS:  Do what another Reader suggested yesterday:  Get a copy of The Cove and show it to your friends and students. has had no problem selling right-wing and racist literature in Japanese, so why not?  (Now, if only they would get around to putting up a version in Japanese.  Here’s information on The Cove in Japanese from the directors.)


Dolphin hunt film screenings cancelled in Tokyo

Scientific American/Reuters June 5, 2010 Courtesy of Ken’ichi

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo screenings of “The Cove,” an Oscar-winning documentary about a grisly annual dolphin hunt have been canceled over planned protests by conservatives who say the film is anti-Japanese, the distributor said on Saturday.

The film, which picked up an Oscar for best documentary feature this year, follows a group of activists who struggle with Japanese police and fishermen to gain access to a secluded cove in Taiji, southern Japan, where dolphins are hunted.

Directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos and featuring Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer from the “Flipper” television series, “The Cove” has prompted activists to threaten street demonstrations.

Planned showings of the film at two cinemas in Tokyo this month have been canceled because of fears the protests might inconvenience movie-goers and others, according to Unplugged, the Japan distributor.

Screenings at one Osaka theater have also been called off, but Unplugged is still in negotiations to show the movie at 23 venues around the country this summer, said a spokeswoman for the company, who asked not to be named.

Unplugged has received threatening phone calls and protesters have gathered outside its offices, she said.

“‘The Cove’ is absolutely not an anti-Japanese film,” Takeshi Kato of Unplugged said in a faxed statement. “I believe a deep and constructive debate is needed about the content of the film.”

O’Barry, who is set to visit Japan from June 8, said Japanese film-goers should be allowed to see the documentary.

“It’s not right that a small minority of extremists could take this right away from them,” he said in a statement. “To do so is a clear threat to democracy.”

The film was shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year, but has yet to be made widely available to the public.

Japan’s government says the hunting of dolphins and whales is an important cultural tradition.

New Zealander Pete Bethune is currently on trial in Tokyo for boarding a Japanese vessel in an attempt to stop the annual whale hunt in the Antarctic.

(Writing by Isabel Reynolds; editing by Ron Popeski)

Claiming workplace harassment is “The Japanese Way” costs Eikaiwa GEOS in NZ NZD 190,000 in court


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something that should raise a smile this Saturday morning.  Somebody working in an administrative position as a NJ in a Japanese company (GEOS, an Eikaiwa!) gets harassed in the workplace (gosh, what a surprise).  Then when taken to court, the company tries to claim this harassment is “The Japanese Way”!  Guess what:  They forgot this ain’t a Japanese courtroom where this actually might wash.  They lose.  Just goes to show you that what are considered working standards in Japan towards NJ (or anybody, really) aren’t something that will pass without sanction in other fellow developed societies.  Attitudes like these will only deter other NJ from working in Japanese companies in future.  Idiots.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


‘Japanese way’ costs $190,000
By Joseph Barratt, Courtesy of CM
New Zealand Herald Sunday May 30, 2010

The boss of a multi-national English language school in Auckland has been awarded $190,000 after an employment tribunal dismissed claims he was used to being treated “the Japanese way”.

David Page was stripped of his job as regional director of GEOS New Zealand at a conference in 2008 and demoted to head of the company’s Auckland language centre.

In April last year, he was fired by email after being given “one last chance” to make the school profitable.

Page launched an unfair dismissal claim against GEOS, which comes under the umbrella of the GEOS Corporation founded by Japanese businessman Tsuneo Kusunoki.

But the company responded by claiming that Page “accepted understanding of the ‘Japanese way’ of doing business”. They went on to say he was used to Kusunoki “ranting”, “berating” and “humiliating” people “so this was nothing new”.

But the Employment Relations Authority said the company’s failings were “fundamental and profound”.

Member Denis Asher said the final warning was “an unscrupulous exploitation of the earlier, unlawful demotion”. He said: “A conclusion that the ‘Japanese way’ already experienced by Mr Page was continuing to be applied is difficult to avoid.”

Page, an Australian, started with the company as general manager for GEOS Gold Coast, Australia, in July 1999.

He moved to Auckland in March 2006, to take on the role of regional director. He was informed of his demotion at a regional conference in Thailand in November 2008.

Four months later he received a final warning that if the Auckland language centre was not in profit by the end of May his employment would be terminated.

Asher also said “an entirely unfair, unilateral process was applied” by the company in the decision to dismiss Page.

Page was awarded $55,000 for loss of income, $21,000 for hurt and humiliation, and $31,849.99 for long service leave. The total amount, including superannuation, under-payment of salary, holiday pay and bonuses came to more than $190,000.

The parent company, GEOS Corporation, went bankrupt in April owing $121 million. The New Zealand branch has been taken over by New Zealand Language Centres Limited. They refused to comment last night.


Former J employees sue Prada for sexual and power harassment, TV claims “racial discrimination”


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Hi Blog.  In an interesting twist to the whole “racial discrimination” issue in Japan, we have Japanese managers suing their former employer, world-famous luxury brand maker Prada, for alleged workplace sexual and power harassment, and “lookism” (i.e. treating people adversely based upon their “looks”).  Some excerpts from the Japan Times:


The Japan Times Saturday, March 20, 2010
Fired Prada manager files suit (excerpt)
Former Prada Japan manager Rina Bovrisse filed suit Friday with the Tokyo District Court, seeking compensation for emotional distress from alleged harassment, she and her lawyers said….


The Japan Times Saturday, April 17, 2010
Ex-Prada exec claims harassment (excerpt)
Former Prada Japan senior retail manager Rina Bovrisse, who is suing the company over emotional distress from alleged harassment, said Friday she took the action to support mistreated working women in Japan who don’t feel they have the power to fight their employers.

“I filed the lawsuit against Prada Japan for creating a working environment cruel and unsafe for women,” Bovrisse said at a news conference at the Tokyo District Court. “Prada Japan’s personnel practice is abusive to women.”

The civil trial, in which Bovrisse will argue that the Italian fashion company discriminated against her and other female workers for what the company president called poor appearance, will get under way May 14. She is demanding an apology, compensation and cancellation of her dismissal from the company….


The Japan Times Saturday, May 15, 2010
Two former managers to file harassment suits against Prada (excerpt)


Two former shop managers of Prada Japan will file harassment lawsuits against the company, a move inspired by a former senior retail manager who sued the company for another harassment case, her lawyer said Friday.

Yoshiki Kojima, the lawyer for former senior retail manager Rina Bovrisse, revealed the move when her suit commenced before the Tokyo District Court. Bovrisse is demanding the company apologize, pay compensation for emotional distress and come up with measures to prevent harassment. […]

Bovrisse alleges Prada Japan’s CEO asked her to get rid of shop managers and assistant managers who he described as unattractive last May. After she refused to do so, Prada Japan’s human resources manager gave most of those managers, including the two planning to file suit, transfer orders that amounted to demotions in May and June last year, according to Bovrisse and a shop manager and two assistant shop managers who received the orders.


FNN News May 14, 2010
(05/14 18:53)


COMMENT:  Good, in the sense that people who are treated badly by employers don’t just take it on the chin as usual.  But what makes this a issue is the allegation, made by at least one morning Wide Show (“Sukkiri” last Monday, May 17), is that the companies are practicing “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu).

Funny thing, that.  If this were a Japanese company being sued for harassment (some examples here), there would be no claim of racial discrimination (as race would not be a factor).  But this time it’s not a Japanese company — it’s Prada.  Yet when NJ or naturalized Japanese sue for racial discrimination (as they did in the Otaru Onsen Case), the media would NEVER call it “racial discrimination”, merely “cultural misunderstandings” and the like.

Another example of the Japanese media saying racism is only something done TO Japanese, never BY Japanese?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Takasago Hotel, Fukushima-ken, has “rooms all full” if lodger is NJ


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As a follow-up with the exclusionary hotels (and the prefectural tourist agency that promotes them) in Fukushima-ken, here we have one person’s experience the other day getting refused at one of them, by being told that there were no rooms available (meaning they get around the Hotel Management Law that forbids refusing people for reasons such as being a customer while NJ).  Discriminators are getting more sophisticated, so it looks like we have to have native Japanese make reservations at some Japanese hotels on our behalf.  Sheesh.

I’m going to be on the road for a few days (Tokyo and Nagoya) doing a couple of speeches, so brief entry for today.  Arudou Debito in transit.


May 11, 2010
Dear Debito,

Thank you for your effort to improve the lives of foreigners in Japan. I’ve read a lot on your blog about Japanese businesses refusing foreigners by explicitly stating so, and you give good advice on how to deal with this. Unfortunately there is also quite a lot of concealed discrimination.

During Golden Week for example, I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Takasago ( in Futaba (Fukushima-ken), the only hotel in town, and was told to go to the next bigger city because all rooms are full (the whole conversation in Japanese). I left the lobby and immediately my girlfriend, who is Japanese and had waited outside, called the hotel and asked for vacancies. She was offered a twin room, walked in and got the key, all this within 5 minutes.

It could be that the room had just been cancelled but I don’t think so as we called immediately after I had left the lobby. We stayed in that twin room (the owner didn’t notice me walking in again later) and that night as well as the next morning there where no signs whatsoever of any other hotel guest, the parking lot was empty etc.

I find this kind of discrimination particularly annoying because you can’t do much if the hotel owner just claims all rooms are full. MP


Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Speaking of “Peter Rabbit Taxes” for Japanese tourists:  Here we have more information about Japanese travel agencies overcharging, surcharging, or refusing to sell tickets at all to NJ. is offering different prices based upon nationality, according to A and J below.  Contrast with H.I.S. and No.1 Travel doing the same thing back in 2006, despite their claims that they would stop.


Travel firm rapped over foreigner ticket policy
Top travel agency charges foreigners more for ‘discount’ air tickets


Japan Times July 4 2006

The nation’s largest discount travel agency, HIS, which also runs foreigner-friendly No.1 Travel, has based the price of some air tickets from Japan on the nationality of the traveler, possibly in breach of Japanese law, The Japan Times has learned.

Foreigners trying to buy discount tickets through the company were quoted higher prices than Japanese customers purchasing discount seats on the same flight.

The policy came to light when the company offered a discount ticket to Los Angeles over the telephone to a Japanese caller, but said it was no longer available at the quoted price after finding out a Canadian was the intended traveler.

It then informed the caller that the price for the ticket would be higher for a non-Japanese customer.

However, Japanese Air Law, Article 105, Paragraph 2, clearly states that “no specific passenger or consigner will be unfairly discriminated against.”

The company, which has acknowledged the ticketing policy, has defended its actions, denying ticketing pricing discrimination and suggesting foreign customers pose a threat to profits.

Rest of the article at

//////////////////////////////////////////// archives on H.I.S.

Do watch yourself when dealing with travel agents in Japan.  Check pricing at the agency’s website after you get an estimate, and don’t buy on the spot.  Charging different fares by nationality, according to my investigations back in 2006, is not allowed by the Ministry of Transport.  But it happens in Japan, it seems quite unabated.  Where are you, government enforcers?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Apr 7, 2010

Dear Debito, First of all, lot of thanks for you daily effort to the cause of improving the living of the foreign community in Japan and arduous endeavor without any doubt.

The last two years I have been witnessing how foreigners colleagues are denied travel tours (national and international) because they are foreigners and can not speak Japanese fluently.

This time happened to my girlfriend when trying to make a reservation for a tour trip to Hong Kong for the both of us. It made her felt so bad that she automatically canceled.

I don’t want to be excessively reactionary about this but it doesn’t seem right.

I’m thinking about asking myself why are the reasons I have to extra pay, because I don’t really get it.

Any thoughts would be really appreciate it.

Please find enclose the mail.
By the way I’ve been living 12 years in Japan and I do speak, read, write fluently Japanese.

Thanks for your time. A inTokyo


> To: ******
> Subject:
〔てるみくらぶ〕オンライン予約受付確認 WB0119192
> Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 15:11:07 +0900

> 失礼ですが、お客様皆様の国籍はどちらになりますでしょうか。
> 外国籍のお客様にはお一人様¥5,000の追加料金をお願いしております。
> 外国籍のお客様は追加代金が必要になる場合があります。」と記載させていただいております。
> 現地オペレーターとの契約上観光プランに参加される外国籍のお客様は追加代金がかかってしまうのが現状です。
> また、外国籍のお客様はお申込み書類と一緒にパスポートのコピーもお願いしております。
> なお、国籍やお客様によってVISA、再入国の書類が必要となりますので、
> 必要でございましたらご自身でご準備願います。

> また、パスポートと請求書のお名前が一文字でも
> 間違いがあると飛行機に搭乗できませんので変更ある場合は必ずご入金
> 前にお電話にてお伝えください。入金後は取り消し手数料の対象となります。
> また、混み合う時期は変更ができずチケットを確保できない可能性が
> ありますので十分ご注意ください。
てるみくらぶ 香港課 多々良
> 03-3499-4111


Also from J:

April 7, 2010

Sorry to bother you, but a friend sent me this “gem”, and I’m itching to send them an e-mail:

■日本国籍の方対象コースです。外国籍のお客様は、追加料金が必要になる場合がございますので、別途お問合せ下さい。  (It was 5000 yen.)

It gets better:

They don’t even bother explaining why.
ENDS Recommends: “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, By Christopher Dillon; Tokyo book tour next week


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Earlier this year I was forwarded a manuscript by a Mr Christopher Dillon, entitled “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan“.  I liked it so much that I’m recommending it here on  As I say within the inside cover:

“Dillon’s book is so good that while reading it, I felt like I was an adult in a toy store:   Envious of the stuff kids have now that I would have loved to have as a kid.  If only I had the information in this book when I was building my house in the 1990s, I wouldn’t have ended up with the financial albatross I have now!  LANDED is an essential resource for anyone considering buying the most expensive consumer good in one of the most expensive (and tricky) housing markets in the world.  It’s even a good read!”

As per the spirit of (which seeks to help and empower people in Japan), and in the spirit of my first Housebuilding in Japan Essays I wrote more than a decade ago, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone looking to settle down for good in Japan.  Here are some cover and table of contents scans, and information about next week’s book tour in Tokyo.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Word from the author today about his book tour in Tokyo next week:

Hi Debito, I hope you’re having a good Golden Week break. I will be in Tokyo next week to speak at the following events, which are open to the public:

May 11 at 12:00 noon — Book launch sponsored by the Canadian and the Australian and New Zealand chambers of commerce.

May 13 at 7:30 PM — The Tokyo Writers Salon (

May 14 at 12:00 noon –The Forum for Corporate Communications (

I hope you can attend.

Kind regards


Christopher Dillon

Follow Landed: Japan on facebook


GEOS Bankruptcy and G-Education takeover: Internal document forwarded to stating staff not getting back wages


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Hi Blog.  I’m sure you’ve heard about the next great pop in the Eikaiwa Bubble in Japan, the bankruptcy of GEOS this month.  Looks like there be a similar takeover and people left without jobs or remuneration for past work, so people in the industry, heads up.  I was forwarded this morning the following internal email from GEOS, and those in the know might be able to explain better here or elsewhere what this all means.  FYI.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Begin forwarded message:

From: ジオス 法人営業部 加瀬 <>
Date: April 27, 2010 2:32:25 PM GMT+09:00
To: 法人営業部(中部) 加瀬 <>
Subject: 【【Notice to all GCI corporate class teachers】】

Dear all my hard working staff.

With the absolutely regrettable news of the bankruptcy of Geos Corp, I must tell you that your salaries for the time period between 2010, March 16th to 2010. April 21st Will NOT be paid to you. There isn’t any cash left. We will work on a way for you all to collect some of your money back through the government. We are still unsure of the procedures to do this.

G-Education has offered to take over the Geos Corporate sales Division and resume all corporate class operations from the May 6th 2010. However it will be under the new payroll system as follows:

  • All previously negotiated hourly/rates between the GCI and part-time teachers will remain in effect.
  • New Payment period will be as follows: For work done between 5/1 and 5/31+ transportation expenses  will be paid on 6/21. For work done between 6/1 and 6/30+ transportation expenses  will be paid on 7/20. etc.
  • Paydays will now be on the 20th of the month or previous business day should the 20th of the month fall on Nat. Holiday or weekend.

At this point the GCI has been completely decimated. Our clients are outraged and my teachers left on stand by.  Myself and Terakawa-san have made a gentlemens agreement to try and salvage and rebuild our perfectly-functioning, profitable corporate class system. We are giving ourselves 3 months to do it, or we will eat our hats.

What we need from all of my precious teachers is an agreement that you would like to continue your classes with Myself and Terakawa-san at the helm. Could you please respond to me by email  “Yes” or “No” If you respond “No” I hold no hard feelings against you and I would hope to work with you again in the future when other opportunities arise.  DEADLINE FOR RESPONSE WILL BE MAY 5TH 2010. And we hope to resume operations immediately after golden week.

At your service

Junichiro KASE
G-Education (GEOS Corporate Classes Division)

ジオス 法人営業部/加瀬淳一郎

連絡先; 080-3440-6397







Sunday Tangent: Japanese porkbarrel airports as “infrastructure in a vacuum”, and how JR duped me into buying a train ticket to nowhere


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Hi Blog.  Had an interesting experience yesterday on the way home to Sapporo yesterday, so I thought I’d make that today’s blog entry.

We’ve had some media buzz last month about Japan’s regional airports (with the opening of Ibaraki’s airport, that makes a total of 98 international, national, and municipal airports around Japan — close to two per prefecture, and that apparently does not count the ones inside of JSDF military bases).  A full list of them here.  The buzz from the Japan Times, Editorial, March 23, 2010:

When airports eat each other
Japan has 98 airports. The transport ministry’s recent survey of 72 of them indicates that the economic viability of many airports is low. Unless local governments and concerned businesses make serious efforts to attract more passengers, some airports may be forced to close.

The survey compared the actual number of passengers who used the 72 airports in fiscal 2008 with passenger-number forecasts. The actual number exceeded the forecast at only eight airports — Naha, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Okayama, Nagoya, Haneda, Shonai (Yamagata Prefecture) and Asahikawa (Hokkaido). At about half of the 72 airports, actual use was less than 50 percent of what was forecast.

On March 11, Ibaraki airport opened as the nation’s 98th airport. Some ¥22 billion was spent to build the airport, which has a 2,700-meter runway. The chance of the actual passenger total of the airport exceeding the forecast amount is almost nil, as it connects only to Seoul, with one round-trip service a day. From April 16, it will also offer a once-daily round-trip service to Kobe.

Major airlines have shied away from Ibaraki, fearing a lack of passengers. The airport, about 80 km from Tokyo, is touted as the third for the capital, but access to it is hardly convenient.
Rest of the article at

I personally have used a lot of Japan’s airports on my domestic travels, usually for business:  Sapporo Chitose, Sapporo Okadama, Hakodate, Misawa, Akita, Higashine Yamagata, Hanamaki Morioka, Niigata, Sendai, Chubu Nagoya, Mihara Hiroshima, Izumo Shimane, Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, the former Kokura Fukuoka, Oita, Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Naha Okinawa, and of course Itami, KIX, Narita and Haneda.  I also will state that I have no problem with regional airports being built as long as they are used.  As the Japan Times editorial mentions above, if access is convenient.

However, I thought Hanamaki Morioka defied that assumption pretty badly yesterday, so let me narrate the adventure:

As regular readers know, I have been on a two-week tour of Tokyo and environs doing UN and NGO FRANCA stuff.  But as my JAL mileage seems to accumulate less and less every year, I found that I could only get as far as Hanamaki Airport this year (the next band of free return flights starts at Sendai and stretches to Osaka, I was about 2000 miles short).  So I made arrangements to meet friends in Morioka, gave a speech in Sendai, and did my business further south.  Fine.  The problem was I had to get back up to Hanamaki from Tokyo to go home (no problem again, I thought; my flight back was from 6:10PM), and that’s at least 3 hours from Tokyo (it still worked out cheaper than a RT flight to Haneda, and I can spend time productively watching episodes of Survivor on my iPod).

Here’s where it got interesting.  I bought my ticket via JR all the way from Tokyo to “JR Hanamaki Kuukou Eki”, logically thinking that a JR station with the name of the destination would actually take me to that destination.  I got a print-out from JR Tokyo:  get off at Shinkansen Eki Shin-Hanamaki, change trains for JR Hanamaki Station, and finally arrive at JR Hanamaki Kuukou Eki.

It wasn’t to be.  I arrived at Shin-Hanamaki only to find the stationmaster advising me to get a cab from there to the airport.  I said I had a ticket all the way to Hanamaki Airport Station but he still made the same recommendation.  I asked for a refund of the remaining two-station portion but he refused to give it.  So I followed my ticket to see where it would take me.  It took me outside, a five-minute walk, to a completely separate teeny station that was JR Shin-Hanamaki regular-train station.

With changes, it took me another half hour to get to JR Hanamaki Station, where I changed to another station which after another twenty minutes or so got me to the Holy Land.

But JR “Hanamaki Airport Station” was a tiny place, where even the office was closed despite arriving a little after 4PM.  It was 4kms from the airport, a sign said.  As was advised, no way to get there but again by cab.

Here are some pictures to illustrate how idiotic the situation is (click on any photo to expand in browser):

Caption:  This is a JR station servicing an international airport?

Caption:  Yes it is.

Caption:  Note the distance to the airport:  4kms.  Used to be two.  Still, this JR station was never connected to the airport, is the point.

Caption:  Station office is closed.  Note time on clock.  You have to hand in your ticket into a little mailbox as you enter the station doors.  Honor system.

Caption:  Business is done for the day.  Nice to have bureaucrats go home so early.  If they even come to work here at all.

On the way to the airport, I talked to the cabdriver about this situation.  He said that Hanamaki Airport was indeed four kms away, and 5 kms from JR Hanamaki Station.  It was in fact 6 kms from Shin-Hanamaki Station, meaning I had just gone one great ellipse to get to the airport.  “JR Hanamaki Airport Station is the closest to the airport, therefore it became the station.”  But it’s still only accessible by taxi. “Or bus.  From Morioka Station.”  Which was the way I went when arriving from Sapporo two weeks ago, but it’s a half-hour bus ride away.

The taxi driver continued, “The JR station used to be only two kms away, not the four that it is now.  But they decided to spend even more money to build another terminal closer to the auto expressway.”  Even though they have cars so they don’t have that much farther to drive, while we foot travelers have to shell out for a taxi?  “Yep.  It’s good for us taxi drivers.”

All told, I wasted close to an hour between arriving by shinkansen and arriving at the airport; good thing I allowed enough time to get there.  I was also 1240 yen cab ride poorer for the experience, but sometimes one has to pay to get interesting blog entries.

But what kind of a government and infrastructure builds an airport, and then makes it nearly impossible for basic public transport to service it?  Even dupes the consumer into believing the JR station goes to the airport?

“Ozawa and his porkbarrel,” said the cabdriver.

This is why the regional airports attracted so much controversy last month.  And why, every now and again, we get annoyed articles about bureaucrats building public buildings, staffing them with retired bureaucrats, then making it as complicated or expensive as possible for the public to actually use them.

As we should.  Guess what airport I won’t be using again.  Thanks for the memories, Hanamaki.  Arudou Debito back in Sapporo.

More anti-NJ scare posters & publications, linking PR suffrage to foreign crime and Chinese invasion


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Hi Blog.  Following up on some previous posts (here, here, and here) on how the debate on NJ PR suffrage has devolved into hate speech, here is how bad it’s getting.  We have anonymous flyers appearing in people’s snailmailboxes accusing NJ of being criminals (and linking it to not granting suffrage), fomenting anti-Chinese sentiment with threats of invasion and takeover, and even a book capitalizing on the fear by saying that granting NJ the vote will make Japan disappear.  Read on:

First up is a notice I received world about on February 28, 2010, from a Nagoya resident.  (click on image to expand in your browser)

As you can see from the headline, we have the “Beware of Foreign Crime” slogans, with the claim that foreign crime is rising (an outright lie — it’s been falling for years:  sources here, here, and here)).  It asks people to lock their doors properly and be careful of walking alone.  Then it digresses to say that the DPJ is planning to bring in immigrants and grant them suffrage, and that more crimes are anticipated, so protect your family and property by linking your opposition to the NJ PR suffrage bill to crime prevention.  It then asks people to do their own research, using search terms “NJ suffrage” and “danger”, plus “mass media” and “biased reporting”.

And who put this out?  At the very bottom it just says that these are “internet users” who have woken up to the dangers out there, and are putting this flyer out at their own expense.  They are not in any way affiliated with a group or religion.  They’re just anonymous internet bullies.  (Okay, the last sentence they didn’t the courage of conviction to say:  never mind taking responsibility for their actions — such is the modus operandi of the anonymous bully.)

Next up:  A flyer that appeared in a person’s snailmailbox in Narita, February 23, 2010: (click on image to expand in your browser)

Very well rendered in classic easily-understood manga illustration, it zeroes in on the dangers of NJ PR suffrage in terms of Chinese hordes.  Once they get elected, tiny little carbon-copy slanty-eyed Maos all vote in a bloc in small towns and get elected.  Just like, they claim, some Chinese did in Richmond, BC, Canada, and the candidate allegedly couldn’t even speak English!  Then Chinese will take over public utilities and blackmail old, hardworking Japanese into paying user fees, and then we’ll have an invasion of Chinese voters, ballots in hand.  Before you know it, we’ll be surrounded, thanks to immigrants’ higher birthrates, and we’ll see the same fear of foreigners here as we see in Europe, where the Dutch are being crowded out of their own country.  Etc etc.  In other words, it’s turning the positive arguments for immigration on their head, and making the issue into a zero-sum power game with Japan being lost in the process.

And finally for today, an actual published mook, found on newsstands in Tokyo and no doubt much elsewhere on March 7, 2010.

The title is “Emergency Publication” (aren’t they all?), “NJ PR suffrage will be the end of Japan”.  Same thing in the subtitles:  “China can now legally invade us!”  “The Policy for 10 Million Immigrants will make Japan into a foreign country.”  With flakey Zainichi Taiwanese commentator Kin Birei (who is all over the ideological map whenever she appears on Koko Made Itte Iinkai) saying “Naturalize if you want to vote”, etc.

What follows are the Table of Contents and a sample page, courtesy of MS.  He comments that “The contents aren’t as bad as the cover.”  Then like Miwa Locks “Foreigner-Proof Security” and “Gaijin Hanzai Mook“, once again we have businesses riding the anti-foreign scare wave to make a quick buck.

This is why we need laws against hate speech in Japan — to prevent the knock-on effects of fear by anonymous bullies being further fanned by the profit motive and marketing sharks.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Asahi: Prof pundit on Toyota uses “culture” benkai to explain recall issues


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Hi Blog.  As a weekend tangent, here’s more on Toyota and how we try to steer attention away from matters of engineering — by blaming it once again on culture, and getting some university prof to mouth it for legitimacy’s sake.  Comments from submitter BT included.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


On Feb 26, 2010, at 11:45 AM, BT wrote:

Greetings and salutations! Just came across this little gem while reading the Asahi Shinbun earlier today. I thought you might be interested (if someone else hasn’t already sent this in):

It’s an interview about Toyota recalls in the US, with “Hideo Kobayashi, a visiting professor at Yokohama National University’s Center for Risk Management and Safety Sciences”. I’m talking specifically about these two quotes:

“Q: Wasn’t Toyota’s confidence in product quality one of the factors that led to its sloppy handling of the situation?

A: Can what people in Japan consider “good quality” be also considered good in the United States, which has a more diversified population?

Japanese people generally have high driving skills and similar physical features. But the United States, whose society was more or less built by immigrants, has people with various physical features and behavioral patterns. To get a driver’s license, you don’t need the sort of skills that are required in Japan..”

(The “we’re superior” routine)


“Q: Some say the reaction to Toyota’s problems has an aspect of “Japan bashing” about it. What is your view?

A: With American companies such as General Motors Corp. going under and Toyota doing well in sales, there naturally is an aspect of Japan bashing. But this is something that has to be overcome.”

(The “poor, poor Japan” routine)

Cheers from Tokyo!  BT

‘Toyota relied too much on Japanese way’

2010/02/26, Interview with Hideo Kobayashi (THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)

What can companies do to avoid the pitfalls that have plagued Toyota Motor Corp. over its vehicle recalls?

Hideo Kobayashi, a visiting professor at Yokohama National University’s Center for Risk Management and Safety Sciences, says Toyota failed to recognize differences in the way Japanese and Americans perceive recalls.

Kobayashi is an expert on crisis management concerning safety measures and is well-versed in recall matters. Because product problems are bound to crop up, he says companies should deal with them while paying attention to detail.

Following are excerpts of an Asahi Shimbun interview with Kobayashi:

* * *

Question: In the United States, Toyota has come under fire for being tardy in issuing recalls. What is your sense of the whole Toyota issue?

Answer: Trouble always occurs when a carmaker develops, produces and introduces a new vehicle. When problems occur, modifying the vehicle is what every automaker (in the world) does as a matter of course. While the modification is usually carried out on cars to be produced in the future, the system of recalls specifically targets vehicles that have already been manufactured so that they are fixed, too.

I think the biggest problem with Toyota was its failure to recognize the difference in thinking in Japan and the United States over the issues of recalls and safety. It apparently made a typically Japanese judgment.

Japanese companies have a strong tradition of being bound by legal regulations, with a deep-rooted perception that issuing a “recall is evil.”

In the United States and Europe, companies believe that from a crisis management viewpoint, “the sooner a recall is done, the easier it is to contain the damage.” As a result people think: “Because there is a recall (system), we can travel in a car without having any worries.”

Overseas subsidiaries (of car manufacturers) that are aware of these things had better take the lead in coping with recalls. However, faced with rapid market expansion and increased sales, Toyota probably decided that it would be easier for the headquarters (in Japan) to make a judgment.

Q: Some say the reaction to Toyota’s problems has an aspect of “Japan bashing” about it. What is your view?

A: With American companies such as General Motors Corp. going under and Toyota doing well in sales, there naturally is an aspect of Japan bashing. But this is something that has to be overcome.

To survive, many Japanese companies need to go overseas for sales and manufacturing, but they won’t succeed if they force their Japanese style (of doing business). Overseas subsidiaries must hire locally and assimilate.

Q: Wasn’t Toyota’s confidence in product quality one of the factors that led to its sloppy handling of the situation?

A: Can what people in Japan consider “good quality” be also considered good in the United States, which has a more diversified population?

Japanese people generally have high driving skills and similar physical features. But the United States, whose society was more or less built by immigrants, has people with various physical features and behavioral patterns. To get a driver’s license, you don’t need the sort of skills that are required in Japan.

Naturally, there can be various troubles even with cars developed in Japan that are regarded as good in the country. Problems need to be handled with attention to detail.

Q: Toyota has decided to introduce a brake override system that enables a driver to stop the car even if the gas pedal is depressed. Was it a problem that there was no such system previously?

A: It was rather whether (Toyota) had explained to customers the lack of the system and what could happen as a consequence.

Newsweek column: “Toyota and the End of Japan”


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Hi Blog.  A bit of a tangent, but not really.  Newsweek observes Japan’s future (playing I assume on the academic-circles buzzword “the End of History”, by Francis Fukuyama, which always caused confusion; it threatens to do the same here) in terms of Toyota’s current missteps.  I’ll keep my comments until afterwards.  Read on:


Toyota and the End of Japan
By Devin Stewart | NEWSWEEK
Published Mar 5, 2010
From the magazine issue dated Mar 15, 2010, Courtesy Club of 99

Japan was morbidly fascinated by the spectacle of Toyota president Akio Toyoda apologizing to the U.S. Congress for the deadly defects that led to the recall of 10 million of its cars worldwide. The appearance of the “de facto captain of this nation’s manufacturing industry,” as Japan’s largest newspaper referred to Toyoda, seemed to symbolize a new bottom for a nation in decline. Once feared and admired in the West, Japan has stumbled for decades through a series of lackluster leaders and dashed hopes of revival. This year, Japan will be overtaken by China as the world’s second-largest economy. Through it all, though, Japan could cling to one vestige of its former prestige: Toyota—the global gold standard for manufacturing quality.

And now this. Toyota is getting lampooned all over the world in cartoons about runaway cars. Japan’s reputation for manufacturing excellence, nurtured for half a century, is now in question. Shielded by the U.S. defense umbrella after World War II, Japan focused its energy and money on building up only one aspect of national power: quality manufacturing. A foreign policy commensurate with Japan’s economic strength was subordinated to industrial policies aimed at creating the world’s best export factories. No matter how quickly Chinese and South Korean rivals grew, Japan could argue that its key competitive advantage was the quality of its brands. “Toyota was a symbol of recovery during our long recession,” says Ryo Sahashi, a public-policy expert at the University of Tokyo. Now Toyota’s trouble “has damaged confidence in Japanese business models and the economy at a time when China is surpassing us.”

There was some sign of slippage even before the Toyota recalls. Many other top Japanese manufacturing brands lost their made-in-Japan luster, says Michael J. Smitka, an economist who specializes in the Japanese auto sector. Sanyo is gone, its pieces sold off in a restructuring. Toshiba and Fujitsu also are reorganizing. Sony is as much a Hollywood hitmaker as a Japanese manufacturer, and Mitsubishi Motors, Mazda, and Nissan have all had tie-ups with foreign companies through the years. In the early part of the last decade, particularly under the maverick administration of celebrity prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, Japan made fleeting attempts to promote itself as the land of the new new thing: nano-this, bio-that. Nothing stuck. There is still no Japanese Google.

So Toyota remained special, the largest and virtually the last remaining face of Japanese manufacturing and trading prowess. With $263 billion in sales last year it remains Japan’s biggest company by far and the world’s largest auto manufacturer. But the recall has now exposed problems there, too. Like many Japanese companies, even global ones, it has suffered from an insularity and parochialism, and a hierarchical structure that discouraged innovation or input from others. Robert Dujarric of Temple University–Japan says that most of the core management team is Japanese, and the company’s suppliers are part of Toyota’s vertical structure, limiting contact with outsiders. The public-relations response has been plagued by Japanese cultural tendencies to dodge controversy and conflict, even to the point of denying glaringly dangerous problems, like sticking accelerating pedals.

In many ways, Toyota is symptomatic of a nation that has lost its way. According to a 2008 Pew survey, Japanese were more dissatisfied with the direction of their country than almost any other nation, including Pakistan and Russia. As a result, the Japanese electorate in August 2009 threw out the old guard Liberal Democratic Party after a half century of nearly unbroken rule. The new government, led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, promised change—a “revolution,” even. Hatoyama talked about Japan taking a larger role in the world, but it was telling that his first big international splash was on a local issue: urging the U.S. to shrink its military base on Okinawa. In his first six months, Hatoyama’s approval ratings have plummeted from 75 percent to 37 percent. An Ipsos/Reuters poll in February showed that just 14 percent of Japanese were confident that their country is headed in the right direction, the lowest level of confidence in any of the 23 countries surveyed. For many, the Toyota debacle suggested a further step in the wrong direction. “Toyota represents Japan all over the world in terms of Japanese culture and Japanese economy,” says Masayoshi Arai, a special adviser to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. “We are proud of Toyota, so this story has damaged our pride.”

Toyota’s fall from grace caps a 20-year economic malaise that is infecting the popular culture, manifesting itself in a preference for staying home, avoiding risk, and removing oneself from the hierarchical system. A generation of people in their 30s and 40s—the prime working and family-raising years—are said to be unwilling to take any risk, no matter how small. Sugomori (nesting) people spend their days seeking bargains online. With wages declining, soshoku-kei danshi (grass-eating men) avoid going out or trying to find a career for themselves. According to some surveys, this generation has reported preferences for avoiding cars, motorcycles, and even spicy food. Entrepreneurship is seen as an unpromising career prospect. Estimates of the number of hikikomori (shut-ins who have given up on social life) have risen. Japanese psychologist Tamaki Saito, the foremost authority on the trend, speculated in 1998 that the number of such Japanese could be 1 million; last month authorities said it may be as high as 3.6 million. The country’s suicide rate—more than 30,000 per year for 12 years—is double that of the United States and second only to Russia among the G8 nations, and getting worse.

This all has dire economic effects. Low birth rates and out-migration patterns mean the country’s population is predicted to fall from 127 million to 95 million by 2050, creating unparalleled demographic pressures. A shrinking, bargain-hunting, risk-averse population translates into a deflationary spiral, low wage growth, and decreased tax revenues. Japan’s debt is now more than twice GDP, by far the highest rate of any industrialized nation. In a March piece entitled “Japan’s Slow-Motion Crisis,” Kenneth Rogoff, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, wrote that Japan was “a poster child for economic stagnation,” noting its “legendary” inefficiencies in agriculture, retail, and government. His conclusion: Japan’s fiscal situation grows more alarming by the day. The stock market stands at a quarter of its 1989 high, and now Toyota’s stock has fallen 20 percent since the recalls began.

The optimistic view is that Toyota’s travails will spur Japan, finally, to become less insular and more open to new ideas. Initially, many in Japan denied the problem, called the controversy an American overreaction, and concocted conspiracy theories about the U.S. government or unions sabotaging Toyota cars to boost sales of the government-supported General Motors. Now, however, the Hatoyama administration is moving to push change on Toyota in ways its business-friendly predecessors in the LDP never would have, says Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian studies at Temple University–Japan. Transport Minister Seiji Maehara has “not missed a chance to berate Toyota,” accusing it of failing to listen to customer complaints, says Kingston. The mainstream media have also taken off the gloves, he notes, with some of the biggest newspapers saying that Toyota has embarrassed Japan in the world, and that Toyota must regain the trust of its customers.

The less rosy scenario is that Japan will respond to this humiliation by retreating deeper into its shell. Since Koizumi’s term ended in September 2006, three prime ministers have had to step down within a year. The elite now understands the problems Japan faces, but the cultural shift required to confront them may just be too great, says Edward Lincoln, a New York University Japan scholar. Rather than, for example, competing with China for the leadership role in Asia, it is quite likely that the Japanese will cede that ground while feeling sorry for themselves, says Lincoln. In other words, Japan will continue to give up, fade away, and blame its limitations on demographics and the changing international balance of power. In this bleak view, the Japanese will return to their mantra of shoganai (nothing can be done). Indeed, it seems that Japan’s long decline may not be accelerating, but the prevailing sentiment is that nothing can be done to apply the brakes.

Stewart is Program Director and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.


COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I think the article is focussing overmuch on the symbolism of one company and one economic sector representing economic superpowerdom (imagine if people were to talk about the faltering of GM and make the case that America was coming to an end as we know it).  Granted, I think Japan is in relative regional decline (as I think America is in relative world decline; but that was inevitable as other countries get rich and develop).  Sorry to sound like a “State of the Union” speech, but I think Japan’s fundamentals are at the moment still relatively strong.

Moreover, seeing the world from the view of capitalism’s obsessive need for perpetual growth is bound to cause a degree of disappointment, as economies mature (or in Japan’s case, age) and offer diminishing marginal returns, while growing economies appear ascendant.  Whether that becomes “triumphalism” (if not a bit of schadenfreude, for those with long memories of having to eat crow during Japan’s seemingly-invulnerable Bubble Years) depends on your columnist.

I do agree that Japan is retreating into a shell, however, but I’m not sure which is worse — the racially-based arrogance we saw in Japan during the bubble years, or the racially-based defensiveness we see now.

PS:  At least can we learn, after all these years, how to properly transliterate “shiyou ga nai”?!?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

ENDS MOJ removes “health insurance” as guideline for visas


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Hi Blog.  Time for some good news, for a change.  After some negotiations, the MOJ has dropped the requirement that people be enrolled in Japanese health insurance programs.  So sez below.

Now, while I acknowledge that this source has a conflict of interest (being funded by the very overseas agencies that want to sell health insurance, meaning their motives are not altruistic; its claim that they are the only news source on this is a bit suss too, given the Japan Times reported this development last February), this requirement for visas would have forced many people, who hadn’t paid in due to negligent employers, to back pay a lot of money just for a visa renewal.  That it is no longer a requirement is good news, and now that we have formal acknowledgment of such in writing from the GOJ is the final nail.  Courtesy of Aly.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


On 2010/03/03, at 16:34, “Free Choice” wrote:

Good news! We petitioned against the Immigration Bureau guideline linking social insurance to visa renewal – and we’ve won! The fruits of our labors together have been realized. Guideline No. 8 has been officially deleted as of today, March 3, 2010. The newly revised (showing seven instead of the present eight) guidelines is now posted on the Ministry of Justice’s website.

While the Immigration Bureau will continue to require non-permanent residents to present an insurance card at the visa application window, not doing so will cause no negative effect whatsoever upon an individual’s visa renewal. (The guideline never applied to permanent residents; as previously, they are not required to present an insurance card at all.) Although Immigration will encourage enrollment in Japan’s social system by distributing brochures, individual offices and officers are “forbidden” to pressure anyone to join. In fact, the new guidelines state clearly that “enrollment in the social system will in no way be tied to visa renewal.” Additionally, the Ministry of Justice will set up a new hotline to field complaints from visa applicants who feel that they were in any way pressured or coerced to enroll.

The Japan Times, Daily Yomiuri, and other media have yet to report that the guideline ‘was’ (past tense) deleted. It would seem that Free Choice has the jump on the news – again. That’s because, due to your invaluable support, we ARE the news! The foreign community united together in standing up to the bureaucracy and our voices were heard. We at the Free Choice Foundation would once again like to express our heartfelt thanks to you for your participation in this important issue.

For further information please visit the Free Choice website:

To download the new guidelines, please go here:

As you can see, No. 8 is gone!

Kindest regards,
Ronald Kessler, Chairman
The Free Choice Foundation

P.S.: Please feel free to forward this email to any family or friends that may have an interest in this breaking news.


Emily Homma on Filipina nurses in Japan being abused by GOJ EPA visa program


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Hi Blog.  Finally, we have a voice from a person in the know about what’s going on with NJ being brought over to Japan on special visas to work in Japan’s health care industry.  According to the report below, the trilateral (as in Japan-Philippines-Indonesia) EPA nurse program is everything I expected, and more.  People being ill-trained, unsupported in a hostile workplace, financially strapped and exploited, having unreasonable expectations (particularly regarding language study) heaped upon them, and then tested with hurdles so high they’ll not qualify to stay.  And thus the Revolving-Door Work-Study Program cycle once again is complete, with NJ overwhelmingly unable to live in Japan under these conditions.  Leach off their work for a year or three, then send them home.  ‘Cos we don’t need to invest in anyone but real Japanese, not potential immigrants, no matter how much they want to stay here.  Too bad.  But it’s within character of the GOJ policymakers.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Subject: EPA Foreign Nurses and Caregivers Working in Japan Urgently Need Help
Date: January 31, 2010


Hi Debito-san,

My friend Emily Homma and myself are trying to reach out to the English speaking press in Japan, so that the message below reaches as many people as possible.  We hope that you will be able to help us spreading the word.

Thanks a lot,

Annerose Matsushita in Fukushima For Emily Homma in Saitama


Here is what I wrote in the following blog (I am’s webmaster): tml

Emily Homma lives in Saitama (Kanto) and has been assisting Filipino nurses and caregivers who came to Japan under the Economic Partnership Agreement of Japan (EPA). She helped them with Japanese language support, clothing donations (Japan is much colder than The Philippines) and others.

You may have heard of this program through local news. Having seen with her own eyes the situation from the nurses’ side, Emily wishes to let people in Japan and overseas know their truth and their feelings.

You can read here what Emily wrote:

“EPA Foreign Nurses and Caregivers Working in Japan Urgently Need Help

The Economic Partnership Agreement of Japan (EPA) with other countries, especially with the Philippines (JPEPA), has placed many Filipino nurses and caregivers working in Japan in a miserable situation where they are subjected to unfair labor practices, extreme pressure to study kanji, and poor salaries.

When they arrived in Japan in May 2009, the Filipino nurses and caregivers were glad to be finally given the opportunity to serve Japanese society as hospital workers. However, after only six months of Nihongo study and three months of hospital work in hospital, the Filipino nurses along with their Indonesian counterparts have been suffering from various hardships not only from unfair work policies, low salaries, and local workers’ rejection but also from strong pressure to master medical-nursing kanji and the Japan nursing system. It is a system that, unfortunately for the foreign workers, only those with high level-Grade 12 Japanese training or nursing graduates could understand.

Specifically, the Filipino nurses find themselves in the following extremely frustrating situations that leave them no choice but contemplate leaving Japan soon:

1. Japan puts the Filipino nurses and caregivers in a cheap labor trap, requiring them to pass the Licensure examinations within three years although they are given only six months of formal Basic Nihongo study and occasional group reviews. The Japanese government and the Japan Nurses Association (JNA) insist that foreign nurses take the examination in Japanese without furigana phonetic guides for the kanji characters. Yet, the nurses are required to pass the licensure examination to get promoted to fulltime nurse positions and acquire the privilege to bring their dependents to Japan. Considering that medical kanji is extremely difficult even to their Nihongo teachers in Japan, this highly restrictive stance of the government and the JNA not only reflects a serious barrier to foreign nurses from getting integrated into the local workforce but also a clear intent to use or exploit the foreign nurses for three years on a temporary basis just like any expendable commodity.

2. The salary and benefits for these foreign workers—a gross total of only 120,000-200,000 yen—are not enough to sustain a decent and respectable life in Japan. With majority of the health workers receiving only a net pay of about 60,000 yen after deductions, they have to resort to extraordinary remedies just to meet all of their living expenses in Japan: house rent, electricity, gas supply, Internet connection, cellular phone bills, and transport expenses. This puts them on a starvation situation and makes them unable to send a substantial amount of money to their respective dependents in their homelands. Indeed, some hospital administrators in Japan make local Japanese health workers work on a 7.5-hours-per-day basis to make them remain part-timers receiving an hourly rate of only 900 yen, but applying the same policy to foreign workers with no relatives in Japan to help them meet the cost of living utterly abuses the foreign health workers’ rights, disrespects their experience and profession, and degrades their worth as health workers. For this reason, the Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services (JICWELS) must be prevailed upon to choose only hospitals that can afford to offer good wage packages when hiring foreign health workers.

3. Foreign nurses in Japan are subjected to undue comparison and unfair competition with local workers, fostering great insecurity on the former. There are strong indications that the presence of foreign workers in Japan hospitals is perceived as a threat to local workers’ employment status or hopes for salary improvement. This breeds disrespect and scorn towards the foreign workers and fosters an unfriendly atmosphere in many work settings. As a result, the foreign nurses are finding it extremely difficult to cope with their new environment, making it a big question if they could really fit in and be accepted as workers in Japan under an atmosphere of mutual understanding and cooperation.

4. Japan’s nursing system, being far different from those of the homelands of the foreign nurses working in Japan, makes it extremely difficult for the foreign nurses to adjust and cope. The experience and education of foreign nurses working in Japanare comparable and largely attuned to the culture and job expectations of Western countries. They are therefore finding it difficult to adjust to the kind of assistant nurse work and nursing aide tasks expected from them in Japan. Compounding the problem is that it was not made clear to them before hiring what specific job functions they are expected to perform, a situation made worse by the language gap and the inadequacy of the foreign workers in understanding Nihongo. Thus, even if some of the foreign nurses have already attained a certain level of Nihongo, there is a crying need for Japanese-language nursing books, training materials, and exam reviewers to be translated into English and explained in English.

5. There is no existing training program or orientation for foreign nurses on the Japan nursing system before they assume their jobs. Due to the absence of this training or orientation, foreign nurses are frequently reprimanded and ridiculed by their local workmates when they are unable to perform according to the Japanese system. For their part, hospital administrators just rely on the suggestions and complaints aired by the foreign workers, and many of those suggestions and complaints are simply ignored. There is clearly a need for immersion and retraining of foreign nurses so they can meet the work and performance standards of the hospitals of their host country.

6. The Japanese work ethics and work attitudes differ greatly from those of foreign nurses. To foreign workers, rushing and scurrying at work reflects inefficiency and unpreparedness, but to the Japanese, to do this shows one’s dedication and excellent performance. For the leaders of local workers, bullying and humiliating a trainee nurse is part of the training, and the trainee nurse is expected to endure this abuse without complaining. But foreign nurses, having been trained in a work culture where respect and professionalism are a must among workmates especially in the presence of patients, often are constrained to express their concerns and suggestions against such bullying and humiliation. However, their doing so is often perceived as en expression of distrust towards the prerogatives of the hospital management, so even the mild criticisms expressed by foreign workers could easily backfire on them.

7. There is hardly any room for advancement or career development for foreign nurses in Japan. In the absence of any program by the Japanese government and its health services sector, the career and promotion opportunities of foreign nurses and other workers are seriously stifled in Japan. Even if they work in Japan for a long time, there is very little hope for them to rise above the position of nursing aides performing the tasks of caregivers and domestic helpers. Indeed, in a country where even the local workforce is deprived of advancement opportunities, the native Japanese workers often tell the foreign nurses: “You are not needed here. You’d better work in countries where you could communicate in English.” It is clear that when the opportunity arises, these foreign nurses would rather leave Japan and work in countries where they are more likely to realize their dreams of growth and professional advancement.

8. There being no labor attaches to represent them in Japan, the foreign nurses are left to fend off for themselves and to fight for their rights on their own. As a general rule, JICWELS always takes the side of oppressive hospitals when foreign nurses complain against questionable employment terms and practices. Its stock answer is often that “they didn’t have any precedent of previous case experiences” and that “everything the hospital says is final.” Consequently, no transfer ever takes place when a nurse requests for placement to a better and fairer hospital. The foreign workers, already burnt out at work, therefore often drive themselves to exhaustion in fighting for their own rights in hospitals with an uncaring administration or management.

Considering these very serious problems besetting Filipino nurses and other health workers in Japan, it is respectfully proposed that the JICWELS and the Philippines, particularly the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), should immediately and carefully examine the flaws in the hiring and deployment of the first batch of Filipino nurses and other workers to Japan. This needs to be done before the second batch is allowed to come to Japanin May 2010. Both Japan and the Philippines must sit down together in a spirit of amity and cooperation to forcefully and meaningfully address the working conditions of Filipino nurses and other health professionals in Japan, an increasing number of whom have been suffering from extremely low pay and inadequate benefits, work displacement, mental stress, and utter frustration in their jobs.

Action must be taken now before it is too late.

Sincerely yours, Emily Homma, Saitama, Japan”


From:  Emily Homma
Hello Debito,

Thank you so much for considering the article/letter on the nurses and caregivers’ plight for your next topic. The nurses have been looking forward for that chance to be heard through your column.

They had their first try of the nursing exam given in Japanese last February 21, but they could hardly understand the kanji characters, not even the directions. They still sat for the exam of course, but just guessed on the answers, for the questions were extremely hard for their low Elementary Nihongo level (comparable to grade 4 pupil’s) . From about 80 JPEPA nurses that took the exam, only two of them who had straight four months of fulltime review (without work) under a doctor mentor could say that they could read many of the kanji characters, but do not understand the meaning of the questions. The group is hoping that, at least two of their batch members (of 90) would pass this year’s exam.

Majority are thinking of staying here in Japan just within the length of the three-year period, for they do not expect to pass the licensure exam if given in Japanese with full kanji without phonetic symbols. This would mean, Japan does not only give these foreign workers difficulties in life and career, but wastes its own resources and tax money training these people in their Nihongo and provide dormitory accommodation (for six months) only to find them leave from May this year (when the group is expected to renew their one-year visas) until the end of the three-year period to pass the exam. Japan has to review the program in order for these Filipino and Indonesian health workers possibly pass the exam, gain better lives, and so that their income level reaches regular local nurses’ pay. Meantime, all of them must be granted a fulltime status and a uniform 160,000 yen pay (not 120,000 gross, with just 60,000 yen net…which is exactly my brother’s net pay this February) so that they would not worry where to get their food sustenance while enduring life here.

There are a lot more issues related to these problems…they were mentioned in my previous letter. Please ask me any other things you want clarified, or contact my brother, the JPEPA nurse leader for other comments (Joseph Benosa) at jcbpogiben AT yahoo DOT com.

Thank you Debito and Annerose for helping us.

Emily Homma
Instructor/Teacher Trainor/Civic Volunteer
emilyhomma AT yahoo DOT com

Comfort Hotel Nagoya unlawfully tries Gaijin Card check on NJ resident, admits being confused by GOJ directives


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Hi Blog.  Writing to you jetlagged from Sapporo, just back from Canada.  I had a wonderful trip and if I can get my next Japan Times column (out Tuesday March 2) out in time (my topic I had been writing about got bumped with the sumo stuff I blogged about yesterday) I might write some impressions.

Meanwhile, pursuant to the discussions we’ve had recently on about exclusionary hotels, here’s an email I got last month regarding Comfort Hotel Nagoya’s treatment of a NJ customer, and how empowered her to stand up for herself.  Well done.  Even the management says the administrative guidance offered by the authorities, as in the law requiring ID from NJ tourists vs. the official (but erroneous) demands that all NJ show ID, is confusing them.  And since I’ve pointed this out several times both in print and to the authorities (and the US Government itself has also asked for clarification) to no avail, one can only conclude that the GOJ is willfully bending the law to target NJ (or people who look foreign) clients just because they think they can.  Don’t let them.  Do what SM did below and carry the law with you.  And stand up for yourselves when you check into a hotel.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


From: SM
Subject: Asked For Passport & Alien Registration – Comfort Hotel Nagoya Airport
Date: January 13, 2010

Hello Debito,

We met in September at the Writers Conference in Kyoto. I enjoyed your presentation, and I am a regular reader of your website.

Below is a letter I received from the management at the Comfort Hotel Chubu Airport. If you would like to use my story as well as the letter below on your site, feel free to add it. If you do decide to use it on your site, could you remove my name and email address? Thanks.

The background:

For Christmas vacation, I decided to avoid the morning rush to the airport and spend the night at the Comfort Hotel, conveniently attached to Chubu International Airport. When I checked in, I was immediately asked for my passport. I let the clerk know that I was a long-term resident of Japan, and would be giving her my home address rather than a passport. She then said that if I would not give her the passport, I would have to show her my Alien Registration card. I told her that as a resident with a permanent address, this would not be necessary. She said it was the law, and that to stay in the hotel, I would have to show her my card. I once again refused, telling her that she did not have the authority to ask for an Alien Registration card. She became quite flustered. I continued filling out the form, including my full name and address. When I passed her the form, she stood her ground and said I must show her my card. I asked to speak to a manager. She left, and I waited in the lobby for ten minutes. She returned with another woman who did not say a word to me. She told me the amount to pay, gave me my change and sent me on my way. I was too tired to pursue it, and just happy that I had a room to go to.

In the morning, I returned to the lobby and asked to speak to a manager. A man came out, and I explained the law to him and showed him the English/Japanese version of the law provided on Debito’s site (I had it displayed on my iPhone). He was polite, but quite insistent that the law stipulates that all foreign residents are required to show their Alien Registration. I asked him to research it further and gave him my business card. (By the way, he was Chinese. I asked him if he was ever required to show his Alien Registration when he stayed at hotels. He answered honestly that he wasn’t. He then gave me his business card which indicated that he had taken a Japanese name. When I pointed this out to him, and asked whether his name may be the reason he is never asked to show his identification, he smiled and agreed that that was probably the case.)

He did research the law, and wrote the following letter to me:


From: “コンフォートホテル中部国際空港”
Subject: Thank you stay
Received: Friday, January 8, 2010, 7:48 AM

Dear SM

Thank you for having stayed at Comfort Hotel Central Intl. Airport at the end of Last year.

I am ashamed that our staff’s imperfect knowledge of non-Japanese residents made you unpleasant when you registered at our hotel due to the lack of my training as the manager.

The reason was the staff had been confused the registration procedure for non-Japanese residents with the one for foreign visitors. The Hotel Business Law under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare says hotel staffs must see and copy the foreign visitors’ passports.

I looked over the Law concerning this case.
The Alien Registration Law under the Ministry of Justice says, in Art. 3, paragraph 1,2 and 3, non-Japanese residents cannot refuse to show their alien registration cards when government officials demand to do it. It means we, hotel staffs, don’t have the right to ask non-Japanese residents for their alien registration cards as you said.

I learned from this case and gave directions to our hotel staffs. I keep on training them so that they understand the Laws concerning the registration procedure for non-Japanese guests well and provide good service.

I would like you to know the reason for this case was that the guidance by the two Ministries confused the staff and she didn’t understand well.

We hope we have a chance that you stay at our hotel.

Comfort Hotel Central Int’l Airport
Eisho Hayashi


Needless to say, I was very pleased that he had followed up on the problem, and accepted responsibility for the mix-up. As I travel quite a bit, I am going to give the Comfort Hotel another chance. I’ll be heading out of Nagoya in late February ~ I’ll let you know how it goes at that time.

Thanks, Debito, for keeping me in the know of my rights. I’m not sure I would have had the nerve to push it as far as I did without having the knowledge that you supply on your site. SM

ENDS McDonald’s Japan loses big, shutting 430 outlets, thanks in part to “Mr James” campaign


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Hi Blog.  File under “revenge is sweet”:  McDonald’s Japan lost out big last year in Japan in part, according to the article below, to their gaijin shill “Mr James”. They refused to retract the campaign, and then played dirty pool in the media regardless of how it affected Japan’s ethnic minorities.  (It’s not only McD’s, of course; Mercedes-Benz is currently doing much the same thing with their own idiotic gaijin shill “Mr Naruhodo”; at least he speaks in kanji too.)  But this time, according to this article, it looks as though they got bit in the ass for it.

Good.  Kinda makes one believe in karma after all.  Arudou Debito in Banff.


McDonald’s to Close Hundreds of Outlets in Japan
Posted 8:45 AM 02/09/10, courtesy of ADW

McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) is closing 430 restaurants in Japan, the latest sign of the faltering economy in the Asian country.

A 50% owned affiliate will shutter the locations over the next 12 to 18 months in conjunction with the strategic review of the company’s real estate portfolio. The world’s largest restaurant chain plans to take charges of $40 million to $50 million in the first half of the year. McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) has 3,700 stores.

“These actions are designed to enhance the customer experience, overall profitability and returns of the market,” the company said in a press release.

McDonald’s also is opening 90 new restaurants and refurbishing 200 in Japan. Clearly, McDonald’s is retrenching. The fast food market in Japan is bad because of the weak economy. It’s the same reason that Wendy’s Arby’s Group Inc. (WEN) said in December that it was exiting the Asian country. A Wall Street Journal editorial recently argued that “the unfolding economic crack-up in Tokyo is something to behold.” Japan has never really recovered from the lost decade of the 1990s and the current worldwide economic recession is underscoring these weaknesses. Some experts have urged U.S. officials to learn from Japan’s mistakes.

The Golden Arches has been struggling in Japan for a while. Last year, a marketing campaign featuring “Mr. James,” a geeky, Japan-loving American, was denounced as an offensive flop, according to McDonald’s has tried to appeal to Japanese tastes with wassabi burgers, chicken burgers and sukiyaki burgers. A Texas Burger, with barbecue sauce, fried onions, bacon, cheese and spicy mustard, proved to be a hit. But consolidated sales at McDonald’s Japan fell 10.8% last year. Profit is expected to plunge 54.7% this year.

Overall, though, McDonald’s continues to hum along. Global sales rose 2.6% in January, topping analysts’ estimates. Comparable store sales in the U.S. fell 0.7% in January, a weak performance that nonetheless surpassed the rest of the industry thanks to the popularity of the Mac Snack Wrap and the Dollar Breakfast Dollar Menu. In Europe, Asia/Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, comparable sales rose 4.3%. Shares are up 6.6% over the past year.


UK Independent: Toyota’s problems being pinned on foreign parts.


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Hi Blog.  Oh how the mighty have fallen.  Toyota, once the #1 automaker worldwide (well, for a spell) after years of building on a sterling reputation created over decades for quality and service, has finally fallen to earth.  I don’t think Shadenfreude is the natural order of things when titans stumble, but what I’ve always been miffed at is how little Toyota officially acknowledges that the secret to their success is imported NJ workers helping them cut costs through low wages.  (I could never find any official stats on how many NJ are part of the Toyota system within Japan.)  I was wondering if someone would be blaming the foreigners for sloppy parts.  Well, it turns out, they kinda are.  Read on.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


In Toyota City, recalls are blamed on foreign components
By David McNeill
The Independent (UK) Wednesday, 3 February 2010, Courtesy of TO

Toyota City, about 200 miles east of Tokyo, once appeared on the map – if it appeared at all – as Koromo. But in 1959 town leaders renamed it after the up-and-coming local car producer, and twinned their modest town with the then global centre of auto production, Detroit.

The move must have seemed comically ambitious at the time, but half a century and over 170 million vehicles later, nobody is laughing at the world’s biggest automobile manufacturer. Toyota City is today far larger and incomparably richer; like Toyota’s cars it is a neat, efficient, slightly featureless place in contrast to the once all-conquering Detroit, which has become a byword for urban decline.

But success has come at a cost, as the firm’s problems this week show. Toyota has long been known both for the ruthless efficiency of its production line, and the matchless quality of the cars that emerged at the other end. But now the car-making behemoth has been humbled by a series of huge foreign recalls, which a shaken executive vice-president, Shinichi Sasaki admitted may cost up to $2bn (£1.25bn) in lost output and sales. The latest recall, to fix a fault that could jam accelerator pedals, involves 4.2 million cars worldwide, including roughly 180,000 in Britain.

That comes on top of another five million vehicles sent back to workshops for repair in the US, after a separate accelerator problem reportedly led to several deaths and at least a dozen class-action lawsuits in North America. Toyota was also forced to stop stateside sales and production of eight models last week, all of which will further tarnish its reputation and deal a huge blow to this year’s balance sheet, admits Sasaki. “The sales forecast is something that we’re extremely worried about,” he said this week.

Today, claims that only Toyotas made outside Japan using foreign-made parts were affected by the crisis was dealt a blow when it emerged that there have been more than 100 complaints, in Japan as well as the US, about the brakes on its new hybrid Prius model. And yet, as industry analysts have noted, the company has yet to make a formal apology for these shortcomings, let alone unveil a convincing programme for addressing them.

Experts are pondering how a company that made better, more reliable cars than almost anyone else could have ended up in such a mess. At home in Japan, which has been mostly unaffected by the recalls, the media has already named the guilty party – foreign parts makers. Toyota’s enormous global expansion has forced it to rely on local manufacturers, resulting in a drop in quality.

The faulty accelerator pedal, for example, was made by a North American company – one reason why Toyota is reportedly switching back to its decades-old domestic supplier Denso Corp. That is just one symptom of a wider problem familiar to many multinationals: how to protect quality at overseas factories, particularly when you are a company that employs 300,000 people around the world, selling in 150 countries. “Toyota set up so many plants, turning into an international company,” Keinosuke Ono, professor of business at Chubu University in Kasugai, Japan, told AP this week. “It was inevitable that rank-and-file quality is becoming endangered.”

Over two decades ago, the company began the foreign transplant of what became known as the “Toyota Way”, a system of lean production aimed at eliminating waste, producing zero defects and continually improving line performance (“kaizen”) that has transformed car-making worldwide. Some commentators also credit Toyota with a more profound innovation: shifting responsibility for production from managers back to the shop floor.

Toyota workers are not penalised for spotting problems and stopping a line, they are praised, points out Yozo Hasegawa, author of Clean Car Wars: How Honda and Toyota are Winning the Battle of the Eco-Friendly Motors. In fact, Toyota factories employ teams whose sole job is to find problems and save time and money. American factories were hampered by stalling production lines, but Toyota improvised, says Hasegawa. “When a problem arose, it would undergo repeated questioning until its roots could be traced, and a kaizen or improvement measure put in place to prevent a repeat.”

Experts say grafting that system on to overseas factories has mostly worked, but replicating Toyota’s network of trusted parts supplies, built over decades in Japan, has been more difficult. Figuring out how to fix that problem will keep the company’s top executives busy in the months to come. Meanwhile, they are praying that their mounting troubles don’t persuade buyers to switch brands. One US consumer group blames the accelerator pedal problem on at least 18 deaths in the last decade.

Only time will tell if the recalls are but potholes on Toyota’s road to world domination or signs of a deeper structural malaise, but don’t feel sorry for Toyota City yet. Although analysts expect Toyota’s market share in Europe and the US to drop to its lowest level since 2006, this is a company with deep pockets. Before its problems began last year, the car-maker had a war chest of over €19bn, helping it earn the nickname “Toyota Bank”. Toyota didn’t end General Motors’ 76-year reign as the world’s sixth-largest auto-maker by being bad at what it does. A comeback seems inevitable.

NZ publisher perpetuates “Tales of Gaijin”; I have to withdraw submission due to rubric I cannot accept


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[NB:  Original title of this post has been amended]

Hi Blog.  I was invited a little over a year ago to submit two stories to a NZ publisher, a new place called Fine Line Press, run by a jolly decent fellow I know (former head of the Tokyo Chapter of JALT) named Graham Bathgate.  One story was on the Otaru Onsens Case, the other on the Top Five Things I Like About Japan.  I knew the person, was happy to oblige, and we exchanged some story drafts until satisfaction about the submissions were reached on both sides.

However, in August I heard that the book would be published under the rubric of “Foreign Tales from Japan” (actually, they were originally punning on the “Tales of Genji” to make “Tales of Gaijin”.  Ick).  Alas, I am not a foreigner in Japan, and I said I did not want my stories to be included either under this rubric or within this concept.  I have, naturally, very strong feelings about being treated as a foreigner in Japan, and I do not like publishers (and former long-termers in Japan, such as Graham) exporting the binary “Japanese vs. Gaijin” mindset to media overseas.  We have enough trouble dealing with it over here without it being propagated in more liberal societies (such as NZ).  Graham, IMHO, should know better, and should publish better.

So I protested and asked the rubric to be changed or my writing withdrawn.  After several months of silence, I got the final word:  The rubric would stand.  Okay.  Sad to see.

But I’m not one to let things like this go.  I feel the publisher led me down a garden path, and then wound up pigeonholing me through imported racist paradigms.  Should be known about.  Here’s the main correspondence we had, for the record.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


From: graham bathgate
Date: December 26, 2008 11:54:02 AM JST
Subject: Graham Bathgate here

Dear Debito, A long time ago we connect re JALT stuff, etc. Actually,
I interviewed you in a room at Sophia University (Jan. 28 ’01) and produced
a piece which unfortunately I had no outlet for. That was entitled
“Onsen in hot water won’t come clean”.

Now I wonder if you would be interested and have the time
to craft a story for a book I would like to publish in 2009. It will
be my second book, the first being a slim volume of memoirs
by an old student of mine, now 85 – called “Glimpses of Old Tokyo”.
The second book has the working title of “Tales of Gaijin” and
will be stories derived from the personal experiences of people
who have lived or still live in Japan.
I have taken the liberty of including the brief guidelines straight off
to you, knowing that you are already a very productive writer – I greatly
admired your home page and writings. Must be hugely helpful to
all people, newcomers and old-hands in Japan.
You’ll see below that there’s a limit of 2000 words on a story, but no-one’s
going to quibble about 2,500 or a bit more. The deadline for an idea for
a story is end of January, and for writing something, the end of March ’09…

Hope to hear from you soon. All the best for 2009. Graham
Guidelines in acronym form (PILLOTS) for your story about Tokyo/Japan:

P – Personal experience / feelings
I –  Images – clear and concrete – of Tokyo and/or Japan
L – Lyrical (The prose should have beauty if not poetic quality)
L – Light (Story ideally shows a light side of life in Japan with serious  comment on this …… or vice versa
O – Observation (A clear event described or some thoughts about                                        Tokyo/Japan – contrast/comparison with other places OK)
T – Tokyo-based atmosphere preferred / Japan fine, too
S – Short (Not more than 2,000 words, or two or three very short “stories” adding up to that). There can be exceptions but 5,000 words would be a take-over!


We had a few months of drafts bouncing back and forth, arrived at finished product, then I got this update:


From: graham bathgate
Subject: Invitation to book launch Tokyo
Date: August 8, 2009 7:41:28 AM JST

Dear All, Please have a look at the invitation on the site ….. and tell a friend:

Iit will be “Foreign Tales from Japan” next year.

My apologies to those of you already received something like this. Cheers, Graham


I immediately checked things out and sent this reply:


Subject: Re: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.
Date: August 8, 2009 10:04:27 AM JST
To: Graham Bathgate

Hi Graham. I’ve had a look. I am gravely disappointed by the publisher’s prospectus:

A colleague at the school we taught at in Tokyo said that everyone has a good story to tell, possibly very true for travellers to the Far East. Recalling this we decided to ask friends there if they would like to write about an experience in Japan. The contributions were sufficient to start work on the next book. It will be published by the end of 2009, a compilation of forty stories by foreigners who live or have lived in Japan.

The basic idea in producing this kind of book was to give a chance to people to tell their Japan experience in well-crafted story form, a tale that deserves to be recounted but perhaps wouldn’t otherwise find its way into print. The working title of the book isTales of Gaijin (after “Tale of Genji”).

It will fascinate anyone interested in how foreigners view Japan and what their unique experiences were. It is hoped that Japanese people will read these stories and reflect on the images and opinions of people who love Japan.


Debito continues:

“a compilation of forty stories by foreigners who live or have lived in Japan”, “how foreigners view Japan” etc

I’m not a foreigner.

“Tales of Gaijin (after “Tale of Genji”).”

This had better not be the title of the book.

If this is how the book is shaping up, I want no part of it. I never knew that this would be sold as a book by “foreigners”, worse yet “gaijin” (a racist term in the very title). Either have your publisher make the proper accommodations for long-term residents and citizens or withdraw my story. I will have no part in perpetuating racist stereotypes overseas.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(cc publisher, which worse yet looks like it’s you. You wrote this??)


From: Graham Bathgate
Subject: Re: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.
Date: August 8, 2009 11:12:34 AM JST

Dear Debito,
Sorry you feel the book will not shape up and be fair to all, especially to the
Japanese. All the stories have wonderful unique experiences
to tell. There are haiku and tanka, too. It is a fine collection. I would be
sad to lose your story because it gives an edge to the book which is lacking
somewhat, I feel. However, good experiences in an adopted country have
a readership, I am sure, not only among non-Japanese but also I hope
among Japanese.
The working title was the play on title “Tales of Genji”. Not the final title
at all.
What title would you suggest? I am open.
What else would you like changed? Again open.
I hope I can keep your story. It’s one of the best.


Subject: Re: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.
Date: August 8, 2009 10:28:32 PM JST
To: Graham Bathgate

Graham, I think you missed my point. You are selling this as a book with the perspectives of foreigners. What about me, then? I am not a foreigner. Can you not see the disconnect?

Titling: “Foreign Tales from Japan”, okay, but again, what about me? Not foreign. If you say it’s foreign perspectives, I’m out.

Moreover, if you use the word “gaijin” in the title, my essay is off limits. I am not a gaijin, or a gaikokujin, and I will not be associated with any work which imports and uses that binary rubric to view the world. I am a Japanese. Full stop.

Do you at least see the problem I’m talking about? I’m not talking about “fairness to all, especially to the Japanese”. I’m talking about accuracy. Calling me a foreigner is inaccurate. With me so far? If so, email back and we’ll continue this discussion.

PS: Again, did you write the book blurb below?


I received no answer until January 12, as in two days ago.


From: Graham Bathgate
Subject: Re: Launch ……. I am deeply disappointed…..
Date: January 12, 2010 6:47:17 PM JST

Sorry such a late reply, but Xmas or something.
Many other writers were happy as “gaijin”, so I would like to
save your “Onsen”, if I may, for another publication.

I’ll be sure to let you know about the launch of “Forty Stories of Japan”, probably
beginning of November in Tokyo, but should be out here in March.
All the best for Tiger,


On 14/12/2009, at 7:32 PM, Arudou Debito wrote:

Hellooooo Graham? What’s happening with my writing, please? Debito


Begin forwarded message:

From: Arudou Debito
Date: August 13, 2009 9:55:43 PM JST
To: Graham Bathgate

Subject: RESEND: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.

Graham, did you get this? Debito


Begin forwarded message:

From: Arudou Debito
Date: August 8, 2009 10:28:32 PM JST
To: graham bathgate

Subject: Re: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.

Graham, I think you missed my point. You are selling this as a book with the perspectives of foreigners. What about me, then? I am not a foreigner. Can you not see the disconnect? … [rest of forwarded message deleted]


Shark updates on Toyoko Inn’s discriminatory treatment of NJ clients


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Hi Blog.  I’ve reported on nationwide bargain business hotel chain Toyoko Inn before, regarding their lousy treatment of me at check-in back in 2007 (when they decided to gaijinize me, and quite nastily too; my letter of complaint to HQ went unanswered), and for refusing reservations for other NJ if they don’t produce Gaijin Cards (something they are not entitled to do under laws governing Immigration or hotels).  Not to mention their lousy treatment of handicapped guests (embezzling GOJ subsidies earmarked for barrier-free facilities).  It’s a place I’ll never stay at again.

Now for an update.  Over the past couple of days, a Reader who calls himself The Shark has been sending us good reports on Toyoko Inn as comments that deserve a blog entry of their own.  We aim to please.  Other people with experiences (Doug also commented, and I’ll repost that too) at Toyoko, feel free.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, whose life is probably officially half over as of today (age 45).


SHARK’S REPORT BEGINS (collated), received January 11 and 12, 2010:

Summary about Toyoko-Inn hotels:
(1) They will refuse foreigners if the foreigner does not show some kind of ID.

I had exactly the same experience with this hotel chain. In my case my wife went first and explained the situation to me by phone. I had her convey that I refuse to stay at the hotel on the grounds of discrimination. The hotel then said to my wife that it’s not compulsory and seeing as I would be with my wife they would let it pass. Needless to say I wont be going to that chain again. The experience puts me off traveling in Japan.

The TOYOKO INN hotel chain (東横イン) state the following in their “Terms & Conditions for Accomodation Contract” which can be found in any of their rooms:


The Guest shall register the following particulars at the front desk of the Hotel …
… (2) Except Japanese, nationnality, passport number, port and date of entry in Japan; (The copy of the passport is necessary) …”
or in Japanese:
“…(2) 外国人にあっては、国籍、旅券番号、入国地及び入国年月日。(確認の為、パスポートのコピーをとらせていただきます)。”

  • My (Japanese) wife checked in so we had no problems. But by chance I noticed these conditions inside the room and talked to the front staff about them (in Japanese!). Here are parts of our conversation:
  • Me: According to Japanese law you don’t need this information from foreigners living in Japan. Do you know that?
  • Staff: We know it’s not required by law. It’s just our policy.
  • Me: If I came alone (without my wife) and I didn’t show you my passport would you refuse me?
  • Staff: Yes, we would.
  • Me: But according to the Hotel Management Law coming without a passport is not a reason for refual.
  • Staff: We know that. It’s not the law. It’s just our rule.
  • Me: So your rule is above the law, right?
  • Staff: Right.
  • Me: How about foreigners living in Japan and travelling domoestically without a passport?
  • Staff: Oh, they can show their driver’s licence or some other ID.
  • Me: Why?
  • Staff: We need to confirm that their address is correct.
  • Me: Does that mean, you belive that Japanese guests dont need to show an ID because they would never lie about their address? But non-Japanese guests need to show an ID because they are more likely to lie about their address?
  • Staff: That’s the rule at our hotels. But please don’t think it’s discrimination.
  • ==> NB: She started using the word discrimination (差別) during our conversation. Because I delibarately decided not to use it!
  • Me: If I told you I were Japanese would you believe me?
  • Staff: Yes, we would.
  • Me: So how you know someone is Japanese?
  • Staff: If someone can speak Japanese , then he or she could be Japanese.
  • Me: So your decision about someone’s nationality depends on that person’s language ability?
  • Staff: Yes, that’s how we do it.

At that time I decided to discontinue the conversation before it became even weirder than it already was.

Summary about Toyoko-Inn hotels:
(1) They will refuse foreigners if the foreigner does not show some kind of ID.
(2) They use creative methods to confirm someone’s nationality.

The Shark and the Ant seem to have had a similar “Toyoko-Inn” experience.
It’s a pity they have such a policy. Because that hotel chain is quite cheap and they are all over Japan.
Their webpage and all their information is multilingual (Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese).
However, I believe equal treatment matters more to foreigners than any non-Japanese language information.
I personally will not be staying at Toyoko-Inn hotels again (as long as they have such a policy in place).

One more thing:
Sometimes they don’t listen when foreigners complain.
So in my case my (Japanese) wife was kind enough to tell the front staff in front of other people that she too would not be staying there again if they didn’t treat her husband like all other people.
Suddenly they paid more attention and promised my wife that we would get a reply from the hotel management regarding that matter.
Haven’t received anything yet. But if we do get anything in writing that might be of interest to others I will post it here.

One final thing about Toyoko-Inn:
If you want to make reservation online, you need to tell them your date of birth and your citizenship. Even Japanese guests need to provide this information! Under citizenship (国籍) you can have a selection of 15 countries (including Japan). Otherwise you need to select “other countries”
So they didn’t even bother to compile a list of all countries in the world. And the logic behind their selection is incomprehensible. Slovenia is included for instance, but Russia isn’t.

You can check it out yourself. That’s their webpage:
(of course: just for looking, not for booking!)



First I am not saying this never happens, because obviously it does (not one of the dudes that says if it does not happen to me it does not happen). It really sucks.

I have used Toyoko Inns for over 5 years now for business and have never had this happen to me. I am usually travelling alone and on business. The locations I have used are numerous (Kofu, Kumamoto, Fujisawa, Sendai, etc.)

The reason I bring this up could there be some other type of profiling going on? I am not married to a Japanese woman and usually show up alone. I complete the check in process in Japanese and write my name in katakana and address in my feeble nihongo.

The places are cheap, clean, and have good internet connectivity and even a little breakfast in the morning. I think the best deal in Tokyo is the Toyoko at Shinagawa if you can get in.

It sucks this is happening….especially to guys that are with their wives!!!! I hope the wives are furious!

I am wondering if these events are taking place in the same locations?

Shark do you mind saying where this happened? And if you get a reply I would love to see it. I use this chain all the time.


Discussion: KFC Australia’s “racist” CM vs McD Japan’s “Mr James”


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Hi Blog.  This has been bubbling a bit these past couple of days in the Comments Section of a few blog entries, so let’s bring it to the fore and get a discussion going.

KFC (aka Kentucky Fried Chicken) has been accused of racism, according to various media sources, thanks to a recent advertisement it ran in Australia.  Here it is:

The Guardian UK writes:
KFC accused of racism over Australian advertisement
KFC advert showing Australian cricket fan placating West Indies supporters with chicken has caused anger in America
Andrew Clark, Wednesday 6 January 2010 16.32 GMT

The Australian arm of the fast-food chain KFC has been accused of racial insensitivity over a television commercial showing an outnumbered white cricket fan handing out pieces of fried chicken to appease a dancing, drumming and singing group of black West Indian supporters.

Aired as part of a series called “KFC’s cricket survival guide”, the 30-second clip depicts an uncomfortable looking man named Mick wearing a green and yellow Australian cricket shirt, surrounded on all sides in a cricket stand by high spirited Caribbean fans.

“Need a tip when you’re stuck in an awkward situation?” Mick asks. He then passes round a bucket of KFC chicken, the drumming stops and he remarks: “Too easy.”

Although intended only for an Antipodean audience, the clip has quickly found its way around the world on the internet, prompting stinging criticism in the US where fried chicken remains closely associated with age-old racist stereotypes about black people in the once segregated south.

A writer at one US newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, questioned whether the ad was a spoof, remarking: “If it is a genuine KFC advertisement, it could be seen as racially insensitive.”

Another on-line commentator, Jack Shepherd of BuzzFeed, asks: “What’s a white guy to do when he finds himself in a crowd full of black folks? KFC has the answer.”

KFC Australia has come out fighting, saying that the commercial was a “light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team” that had been “misinterpreted by a segment of people in the US.”

The company said: “The ad was reproduced online in the US without KFC’s permission, where we are told a culturally-based stereotype exists, leading to the incorrect assertion of racism.

“We unequivocally condemn discrimination of any type and have a proud history as one of the world’s leading employers for diversity.”

In the Australian media, the reaction has been mixed, with some commentators accusing Americans of “insularity”. Brendon O’Connor, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, told 9 Network News that the association between fried chicken and ethnic minorities was a distinctly US issue: “They have a tendency to think that their history is more important than that of other countries.”

The flare-up comes three months after another racial controversy between Australia and the US in which the American singer Harry Connick Jr, appearing as a judge on an Australian television talent show, reacted strongly to a skit in which a group of singers appeared with blacked up faces to emulate the Jackson Five.

On the show, called “Hey, Hey It’s Saturday“, Connick gave the group zero points and demanded an apology from the broadcaster, remarking: “If they turned up looking like that in the United States, it would be like ‘hey, hey, there’s no more show’.”


Then this happens:

KFC advertisement in Australia sparks race row
By Nick Bryant BBC News, Sydney
Friday, 8 January 2010

The Australian arm of the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken has had to withdraw an advertisement after accusations of racial insensitivity.

It showed a white cricket fan trying to pacify a group of rowdy West Indian fans by handing around fried chicken.

When the advertisement reached America via the internet there were complaints.

It was accused of reinforcing a derogatory racial stereotype linking black people in the American deep south with a love of fried food.

The advertisement from Kentucky Fried Chicken features a white cricket fan dressed in the green and gold of the Australian team surrounded by a group of West Indian supporters, who are dancing and singing to a calypso beat.

He decides to quieten them down by handing around a bucket of fried chicken.
Picked up by the American media, the advertisement immediately stirred controversy, because it was alleged to have perpetuated the racial stereotype that black people eat a lot of fried chicken.

The fast food chain’s head office in America said it was withdrawing the advertisement, and apologised for what it called “any misrepresentation” which might have caused offence.

It is the second time in three months that something broadcast in Australia has caused a racial stir in America.

The last flare-up was over an entertainment show on the Australian network Channel Nine in which a group of singers appeared with blacked-up faces to impersonate the Jackson Five.

COMMENT: Funny thing, this. We get KFC Australia doing a hasty retreat from its controversial commercial days after it goes viral on YouTube, and pulling it pretty quickly.

Now contrast with the ad campaign by another American-origin fast-food multinational, McDonalds. For those who don’t know, between August and November of last year McDonald’s Japan had that White gaijin stereotype “Mr James” speaking katakana and portraying NJ as touristy outsiders who never fit in. More on what I found wrong with that ad campaign here.

Yet the “Mr James” ad campaign never got pulled — and the debate we offered with McDonalds Japan was rebuffed (they refused to answer in Japanese for the Japanese media). In fact, the reaction of some Asians in the US was, “Karma’s a bitch“, as in White people in Japan deserve this sort of treatment because of all the bad treatment they’ve foisted on Asians overseas in the past. Still others argue that we can’t expect Japan to understand the history of other countries, or how they feel about certain sentiments found overseas, and one shouldn’t foist their cultural values onto other cultures (this argument usually pops up when one sees minstrel blackface shows etc in Japan). This argument was also made in comments to this blog as well.

But KFC pulls the ad, in contrast to “Mr James”, where people rushed to defend it in the name of cultural relativism. Why the difference?

I’m not saying I have the answer to this question. So I bring it up for discussion here on What do readers think?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients


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Hi Blog.  Now back to business.  While doing research over the new year, I got quite a shock when I was doing some followup on a case of exclusionary practices.  I reported on in September 2007 that Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website was advertising 35 hotels that refused NJ clients.  This is one of the few business sectors that actually has explicit laws preventing refusals of customers based upon nationality alone (thanks to the Hotel Management Law, see below), so when a government agency is even promoting “Japanese Only” hotels, you know something is rum indeed.

What’s even more rum is that even after I advised the Tourist Information Agency that what they were doing is unlawful, and they promised in writing to stop doing it, now two years later the same website is now promoting 318 (!!) hotels that refuse NJ clients (in other words, about half of the total).  You can’t help but get the feeling that you have been lied to, and by government bureaucrats.

A brief write up, with links to sources, follows.  At the very bottom are screen captures of the FTIA website evidencing the exclusionary practices.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Place:  Fukushima Prefecture (35 hotels, now 318 hotels)[1]

Background:  In September 2007, the author was advised that the Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website[2] in English listed and advertised 35 hotels in the region that officially refused NJ clients.

Action taken by observers/activists:  In September 2007, the author contacted the Fukushima Tourist Information Agency, and advised them this practice of refusing NJ is unlawful under the Hotel Management Law (Hotel Management Law (ryokan gyouhou), Article 5[1], which says that hotels may not refuse customers unless 1) rooms are full, 2) there is a threat of contagious disease, or 3) there is a threat to “public morals” (fuuki)).  A FTIA bureaucrat who contacted all 35 hotels responded in October, stating, “Most of the answers were, ‘We do not explicitly refuse NJ’,” as they had never had a NJ client.  However, eight hotels of the 32 they were able to contact stated they would continue to refuse NJ, because they did “not have staff who spoke English”, therefore “they could not positively (sekkyoku teki ni) receive NJ”.  The FTIA said they advised them of the unlawfulness of this practice, and would be clarifying their website questions in future.

Current status (as of this writing):  A January 2010 search of the Japanese website[3] using search terms “gaikokujin no ukeire: fuka” revealed 318 lodgings refusing NJ lodgers, and amending the search terms revealed 335 places accepting NJ.  It would appear that the prefectural tourist agency officially offering the option to refuse NJ lodgers enables businesses to refuse.  This would appear to be within character:  The GOJ reported, in an October 2008 nationwide survey of 7068 responding hotels, that 27% of all hoteliers did not want NJ clients[4].

[1] Primary source information at



[3], enter 外国人の受入:不可 into the キーワード section.

[4] “No room at inn for foreigners”, CNN October 9, 2008, and 「外国人泊めたくない」ホテル・旅館3割 07年国調査」 朝日新聞2008年10月9日, both archived at


Here are some evidentiary screen captures from the FTIA website as of January 3, 2010 (click on image to expand in your browser)
First, the site with search terms that indicate that 318 hotels refuse NJ clients:

Example of one hotel that explicitly says it refuses NJ clients:

Screen capture with different search terms, indicating 335 hotels of the total allow in NJ:

Example of one hotel that allows in NJ clients:


Tangent: Getchan on Japan Post’s recent anti-terrorism half-measures regarding parcels


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Hi Blog. For the last tangent of the new year holidays, here’s Getchan with a report on his latest tribulations at the Japan Post Office, where he talks about recent measures they’ve taken to foil terrorism that are not all that well-thought-through. Not an issue that’s necessarily “NJ-related”, but for those who use the posts, here you go.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hi all.  The recent foiled suicide bombing attempt on a US plane from Amsterdam to the US prompted “Japan Post” to take radical measures in cooperation with domestic airlines to prevent bombs from getting aboard planes.

Here’s how it’s done.

“Japan Post” offers flat rate envelopes. For a flat rate of 500 Yen (approx. $5.50), snail mail users can buy a ready-to-mail cardboard envelope. Maximum weight is 20 kg!! There are no limits on distance, and anything within the framework of the law can be enclosed. Each envelope has a detachable bar code label, that the sender keeps, and another that the delivery man takes off upon delivery. The flat rate envelope can be deposited in mail boxes, and at P.O. counters for immediate dispatch (ah, well, next outbound mail truck, that is…). Contrary to 1st class mail, these envelopes are transported by air, which makes them real fast! From my place to Southern Japan, which can easily be 1,000 to 1,500 miles, it’s mostly next day delivery, as can be verified by online tracking.

The parts to be filled in are: Sender’s data, recipient’s data, and description of contents. The latter has been mandatory since the aftermath of 9/11 for ordinary parcel post, which carries automatic insurance of up to 100,000 Yen ($1100). The flat rate envelopes cannot be insured, but my buyers prefer it over registered 1st class mail, just because the envelopes are sturdy, and delivery is a day or two faster! Fine with me, as I don’t have to spend money on packing materials.. ;-).

A few days after the foiled attempt on the Detroit flight, I had to send

1) $350 worth of merchandise to a buyer near Tokyo – I never write “Stamps” on the outside of the flat rate envelopes – even though our mail system is very safe, I just don’t want to push it!

2) A Bon Jovi CD as a birthday gift to a friend in Osaka.

As I deposited the items at a P.O. counter, the cute and very nice lady told me I had to note the contents outside, new rules imposed by Japan Post. I said, that one contained valuables, and one contained a birthday present, and I added that there was no way I was noting “stamps” on the outside of the first item, as I wasn’t going to invite thieves, and no way I was noting “CD” on the outside of the second item, as I wasn’t going to spoil the surprise for my friend. I took the items back & deposited them in a mail box outside the P.O., and everything would be fine.


Next day, I found a form letter in my P.O.Box, informing me that both items had been sent surface and would thus be delayed by a day or two.

I went to see the postmaster to tell him, that this was totally useless, as – except for imminent, clear and present danger – Japan Post employees are not authorized to open and check the mail for contents.

Postmaster: “These are the new rules, airlines won’t accept parcels and flat rate envelopes for air transport, if the contents are not noted on the outside”

Me: “But they get X-rayed anyway”

Postmaster: “NO, they DON’T!” (now, was he supposed to tell me that???)

My conclusion – potential and active terrorists in Japan can be trusted in this country. If they wanted to mail a bomb and blow up a plane that way, they would have to mark “bomb” on the parcel, and that would thwart their efforts, would it not? Japanese authorities have everything under control and would be able to sort out any flat rate envelope marked “Bomb”, while the CIA lets known suspects slip thru… 😉

And BTW, 1st class registered mail doesn’t need to have the contents noted outside, but can weigh up to 2kg – terrorists don’t use 1st class registered mail, as they would have to give their return address…

Wow, do I feel safe… Happy and safe New Year 😉 Getchan


Yomiuri: Scriveners aid illegal marriages, work


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Hi Blog. Reader JK comments on an article from a couple of months ago.  Letting him take the keyboard for today.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hi Debito:  OK, this is good:

Scriveners aid illegal marriages, work

I assume that the clerks in question are going out of their way to assist foreigners in obtaining residency permits (even to the point of placing ads in newspapers) due to bribery (as opposed to benevolence), and that this behavior is motivated by said clerks’ cognizance of loopholes in the immigration control law.

If so, then there’s nothing less than a government-backed residency permit black market at work, which, I might add, shows no signs of going away — a simple to fix the problem would be to amend the immigration control law to punish the clerks as needed, but is that what’s happening? No. Instead the issue is being given superficial treatment:

  • a) The MPD established a ‘liaison council’ with metropolitan government and the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau to talk about clerks gone bad.
  • b) The Tokyo association of administrative scriveners will “keep a close watch over suspicious ads in newspapers and on the Internet”.
  • c) Japan federation of administrative scriveners associations is calling on scriveners to “behave themselves”.

If I may be facetious for just a minute, the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau should either fix the situation or cut the clerks out of the loop and pocket the cash for itself by establishing a legitimate residency permit market.-JK

The article:


Scriveners aid illegal marriages, work

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Ads placed by administrative scriveners offices in newspapers for Chinese and Koreans indicate they help in illegal immigration applications.

In recent years, a number of administrative scriveners have helped foreigners obtain residency permits illegally, taking advantage of the fact that the immigration control law stipulates no punitive measures for violators.

Administrative scriveners were reportedly involved in at least 10 cases of fraudulent marriage and illegal employment exposed by the Metropolitan Police Department since 2006. Some even placed ads in free newspapers for foreigners to attract customers, the MPD said.

The MPD has reported one case it deemed “heinous” to the Tokyo metropolitan government, which has the authority to punish administrative scriveners, and asked it to consider punitive action. The MPD plans to provide information on nine other cases to the relevant local governments if those cases are also judged as heinous.

The MPD arrested a 39-year-old South Korean man in May last year on suspicion of brokering a fake marriage between a 39-year-old South Korean woman and a 35-year-old Japanese man.

The Korean man told police he asked an administrative scrivener in the Tokyo metropolitan area to file an application for a residency permit that the woman needed in order to get married, a senior MPD officer said.

During police interrogations, the Japanese man and Korean woman reportedly said the scrivener filed the application on their behalf despite knowing their marriage was fake.

Given their confessions, the MPD investigated whether it could bring a criminal charge against the scrivener in question. Because the immigration control law has no punitive provisions regarding false marriage applications, the MPD examined whether the scrivener could be accused of abetting a fake marriage, or of helping a suspect to evade capture.

The scrivener voluntarily submitted to questioning but denied any wrongdoing, saying he did not know it was a fake marriage. The MPD had no alternative but to give up bringing criminal charges against the scrivener.

In July, the MPD arrested six Japanese and Chinese brokers in connection with a case in which a Chinese farmer illegally obtained a residency permit by posing as an interpreter. Police investigations discovered forged employment contracts at the office of an administrative scrivener who is different from the one who prepared the application for the residency permit.

The MPD has confirmed that scriveners were involved in 10 falsification cases since 2006. The scriveners accepted application requests from brokers and from applicants themselves.

Many of the scriveners involved in the 10 cases placed ads in newspapers catering to Chinese and free papers in Korean that are available in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area and elsewhere, the MPD said. The ads included statements like “special procedure to obtain residency permit for illegal residents” and “marriage procedures for illegal immigrants.”

The MPD suspects that such advertising facilitates illegal employment and fake marriages.

For this reason, the MPD considers it necessary to deal harshly even with cases in which criminal charges cannot be filed, by calling for the authorities concerned to take punitive action.

Together with the metropolitan government and the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, the MPD established a liaison council to discuss countermeasures against administrative scriveners involved in illegal immigration cases. Through the council, the MPD provides relevant information for the metropolitan government and bolsters its surveillance of illegal activities by scriveners.

A senior member of the Tokyo association of administrative scriveners said his organization would strictly deal with any scriveners found to have committed illegal acts.

The association is “keeping a close watch over suspicious ads in newspapers and on the Internet in an effort to be aware of their activities,” he said.

Its parent organization, the Japan federation of administrative scriveners associations, is making its own efforts to tackle the issue.

“We’ll work toward maintaining public trust in scriveners by using various occasions, such as seminars, to call on scriveners to behave themselves,” a federation official said.

(Oct. 12, 2009)  ENDS

The ludicrousness of Japan’s Salary Bonus System: How it contributes to Japan’s deflationary spiral


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Hi Blog.  Big news across Japan these past couple of days has been how the Winter Bonus has been slashed between 10 to 15 percent for bureaucrats:

Japan Times Friday, Dec. 11, 2009
Bureaucrats’ winter bonuses shrink
Kyodo News (excerpt)
Central and local government employees got smaller winter bonuses than usual Thursday as the protracted recession took its toll on compensation, according to estimates from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

The bonus for a 35 1/2-year-old civil servant with a nonmanagerial job came to an average of ¥647,200, down 6.6 percent, while that for a 36.6-year-old local government employee came to ¥607,000, down 7.3 percent, the ministry said.

Rest of the article at

(BRIEF ASIDE FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH JAPAN’S “BONUS” SYSTEM:  Those of us on regular full-time salaries get paid monthly, then get a “bonus” of several months pay every six months (usually between two to six months’ pay total, divided by two times a year, which in effect increases your total annual salary mathematically by about a third).  This has long been standard practice in Japan, and every June and December the postwar Japanese economy suddenly becomes awash in cash, as families suddenly get a glurt of around 100 man en in their accounts.)

Some people might say, well, tough beans — these bureaucrats were being overpaid anyway, so it’s about time.  The problem is that this practice is a bellwether:  other industries see this as an excuse to cut their own salaries.  My university (which is private-sector, but they directly cited the Bonus cuts to the national bureaucrats (kokka koumuin) as justification) cut all of our Bonuses this year and will continue to do so in perpetuity.  As in:  they cut our bonus multiple from 4.5 months’ salary total per year to 4.15 months’, and will not change that until the national bureaucrats revise their multiple upward.

So that means my Winter Bonus this December dropped by 15% compared to the same Winter Bonus December of last year, or about a drop of 12 man before taxes, and man am I pissed off about it.  (I might add that this is on top of the general trend:  my total annual salary has dropped more than 200 man between 2003 and 2008.)  This means that paying off my bank loan for the house I built back in 1997 (I owe three months’ mortgage payment every bonus), and a bit of insurance on top of that, completely devoured my Bonus for the first time ever yesterday.  Any more cuts, and I’m going to lose money every Bonus period.

That’s if I get a Bonus at all.  That’s the screwy thing about this Bonus System.  It’s fine in a high-speed growth economy, where you have businesses withholding about three to six months’ pay so they can earn interest on it, then pay your employees in a glurt and keep the interest.  But banks in Japan don’t pay interest anymore, so that’s no longer an incentive.

And in a mature (or even flat or negative GDP for the past two decades) economy, the Bonus System just doesn’t make sense anymore.  When you can at whim withhold a third of somebody’s salary just because the company feels it didn’t perform well enough this quarter, that should be cause for strikes and reforms.  But Japan’s unions are pretty weak and underwhelming in negotiations (compared to, say, Korea’s), and I have heard no voices yet for abolishing the Bonus System in favor of a flat (and higher) monthly salary.

I heard yesterday from a friend that he heard on the TV wide shows that only 14% of all people surveyed got a rise in Winter Bonus this December.  Everyone else either had no change, a drop, or NO BONUS AT ALL.  (I searched for a source for this, but came up short. Readers, please have a look around too.)  If this is true, and almost everyone is getting screwed by this system and losing money in real terms, it’s not just a labor issue anymore:  We’re talking about a deflationary spiral, as domestic consumption decreases and domestic demand follows suit, and more companies find themselves yet again cutting Bonuses because they say they have to, but really because they can.

Considering that banks in Japan do not offer refinancing deals (mine, Hoku’you, formerly Takugin, doesn’t; I asked), this deflationary spiral just means they’re taking more money from me even if my monthly payments stayed the same.  (They’re not, by the way — they’ve gone up about 1 man per month over the past two years!  Double whammy.)  And banks are wondering why more people are defaulting on their loans these days?  They should stop being greedy and start lowering their premiums too to match the fact that people in general are being paid less.  But that’s not going to happen for the foreseeable future, because there’s no precedent for it.  Meanwhile, Japan just keeps sinking deeper, as “the system that soured” (to quote Richard Katz) gets more and more sour.

Lose the Bonus System.  It is increasingly becoming a way to deprive workers of a third of their annual salary at corporate whim.  And it only feeds the forces that are hurting Japan’s consumers.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


UPDATE DEC 17:  Courtesy of Ken.

Winter Bonuses To Fall To 20-Year Low: Nikkei Survey

TOKYO (Nikkei)–Overall winter bonuses to be paid this year will tumble to a level last seen 20 years ago, according to final estimates that Nikkei Inc. released Thursday.

A drop in winter bonuses may mean a gloomy year-end shopping season.

The weighted average bonus is seen falling 14.81% from the previous year to 701,571 yen before taxes, down for the second straight year. This is the sharpest drop since the survey was first conducted in 1978.

The Nikkei tabulated the bonus payment plans of 643 companies. The percentage of firms that will cut bonuses rose from 51% in last year’s survey to 83%. Meanwhile, those planning to raise bonuses fell from 44% to 12%.

The bonus cutback signals that corporations are still trying to curb personnel costs due to uncertainties over future economic trends, despite some earnings improvement from growth in emerging markets.

Bonuses are expected to fall 17.71% at manufacturers. The automobile and electronics sectors, which had increased bonuses in 2008, are poised to cut them by around 20% this year due to slumping exports caused by the global economic downturn and strong yen. Food producers plan to raise bonuses by 0.26%, making it the only group among the 18 manufacturing sectors to boost payments.

Nonmanufacturers plan to reduce bonuses by 5.17%, except for firms in the land transport sector, which plan to bump up payouts by 0.08%.

(The Nikkei Dec. 11 morning edition)

Mainichi: Senior Immigration Bureau officer arrested on suspicion of corruption


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Hi Blog.  Let’s look how deep the rot runs.  It’s not just human traffickers bringing in NJ on “Entertainer Visas” sponsored by the State.  It’s not just factories bringing in NJ on “Trainee and Researcher Visas” to exploit as sweatshop labor — again, sponsored by the State.  It’s even now according to the Mainichi article below the Immigration Bureau profiteering, using their power for rents-seeking (in the academic sense) to skim off money again from migrants.

Although not an elixir for all these problems, an Immigration Ministry with clear immigration policies (and not mere policing powers, given how unaccountable the Japanese police are; even below an “internal investigation” has been promised; bah!) would in my view help matters.

The big losers are of course the commodities in these exchanges — people, i.e. the NJ, who are here at the whim, pleasure, and profit of the powers that be.  Sickening.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS:  Note the stats of mizu shoubai workers, ahem, “Entertainers” included below.

Senior immigration officer arrested on suspicion of corruption
(Mainichi Japan) December 5, 2009,
courtesy of JK, MS and others

A senior immigration officer arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes is believed to have told his briber to set up an office in Kawasaki as a front.

Arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes in return for favors in the screening of residence permits for female bar workers was Masashi Ogura, 54, a chief screening officer at the Narita Airport District Immigration Office. Also arrested on suspicion of bribery was Shingo Ito, 46, the president of a Shibuya company that accommodates overseas entertainers.

Ogura is accused of accepting a total of about 6 million yen from Ito between July 2007 and November this year, while he served in positions at the Yokohama and Narita Airport district immigration offices. Both parties have reportedly admitted to the allegations against them.

Police said that Ito’s company had mainly Filipino women come to Japan as dancers and singers and work at a pub that he operated in the Tokyo city of Fuchu. He also introduced them to other restaurants, investigators said. Ogura reportedly used immigration computer terminals to look up the criminal history and immigration logs of the foreign women that Ito was planning to bring to Japan, and leaked the information.

“He (Ogura) silently accepted the fact that there were false details on application forms,” Ito was reported as telling investigators.

On Friday police searched about 20 locations in connection with their investigation into the alleged bribery, including the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau.

Investigators suspect that Ogura had Ito set up an office under the jurisdiction of the Yokohama District Immigration Office. They said Ito had earlier heard from a man involved in the same type of business that screening at the Yokohama immigration office was lenient, and approached Ogura, treating him to meals and a round of golf.

Ito’s company did not have any business facilities under the jurisdiction of the Yokohama immigration office. To obtain residence permits at the office, the company applying must have a business facility under the office’s jurisdiction with at least five permanent employees. Ogura reportedly told Ito to get his “appearances in order” and set up an office in Kawasaki. The office had just one desk and no permanent manager.

It’s believed that tightened immigration procedures played a part in the pair’s actions. In the past, there were many cases in which women entered Japan on entertainment visas but ended up working as bar hostesses, which promoted immigration authorities to tighten screening of the places where they were working in 2005. According to the Justice Ministry, some 135,000 people entered Japan in 2004 as entertainers, but in 2005 the figure dropped to about 100,000 and in 2008 the number sunk to about 35,000.

Masahiro Tauchi, director-general of the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau, expressed regret over Ogura’s arrest.

“It is extremely disappointing that a worker has been arrested. We will thoroughly carry out an internal investigation and deal with the matter strictly,” he said.

Original Japanese story follows:

毎日新聞 2009年12月4日








収賄容疑で東京入管職員を逮捕 在留資格認定で便宜、580万受領
産經新聞 2009.12.4 11:52 Courtesy of MS

Advice re Japan Law Society, Tokyo/Osaka association of NJ lawyers: they really won’t pay you if they invite you to speak


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Hi Blog.  As a Sunday Tangent, let me express some long-overdue dissatisfaction with an organization that I gave a presentation to quite some time ago.

The Osaka-based Japan Law Society (AKA Kansai Attorneys Registered Abroad) invited me to speak for them on September 4, 2008.   I did just that.  According to their website:

September 4, 2008 Non-Japanese Residents and the Japanese Legal System: Cognitive Dissonances to Consider Arudo, Prof. Debito (David Ardwinckle) [sic] speaker’s home page Constitutional & Civil Rights

I spent a number of days on my powerpoint (see it here) and my handout (see it here), staying a couple of days in an Osaka dive hotel at my own expense working on it.  I tried to make a seminar worthy of overseas educational credit (which is what their Continuing Legal Education program is about, see FOOTNOTE below; I have emails indicating that they applied for it, and they had me fill out an application for it).  Thus I believe people would pay money for this class if it were offered overseas.

But after I gave the presentation, I was paid not a sou.  This was not made suitably clear to me in advance, and when I inquired about this situation last month, this is the exchange we had.  I sent:

2009/10/29 Arudou Debito wrote:
Tokyo Coordinator Ms. Akane Yoshida Licensed in New York
Legal Department Kao Corporation
Tel: 03-3660-7049 Fax: 03-3660-7942

CLE Coordinator
Mr. S. McIntire ALLEN (源 眞久)
California Bar License #210750 & New York Bar License #2785913 Not licensed in Japan
phone +81-(0)50-5806-8816 or +1 (310) 929-7256 facsimile: +81-(0)6-6131-6347 mobile: +81-(0)90-5469-7675
voice/video: Skype gaikokubengoshi

To Whom it May Concern

My name is Arudou Debito, and I spoke for the CLE on September 4, 2008 on “Non-Japanese Residents and the Japanese Legal System: Cognitive Dissonances to Consider”. Record is on your website at

I apologize for the lateness of this letter, but I have been checking over my records recently, and I have yet to receive payment for costs (transportation, accommodation) or for speaking honorarium for this occasion.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience how much we have outstanding, and I will send you remittance details.

Thanks very much for your attention.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Their response:

From: “S. McIntire ALLEN”
Date: October 29, 2009 5:46:36 PM JST
To: Arudou Debito
Subject: Re: To Japan Law Society: Some unfinished business from September 2008, from Arudou Debito


From the very beginning we explained more than once that there was no honorarium, and you acknowledged that in a phone conversation with me when asking me about where to find inexpensive accommodations. I told you we are a volunteer organization, and you were our second speaker ever, and we had a negative balance in the accounts. I don’t know where you got this idea that we would reimburse you for travel.

As a consequence of you bad mouthing us on your home page, we do have a questionnaire now that enables us to have a record of the speakers acknowledgement that there will be no payment:


S. McIntire ALLEN (源 眞久)
California Bar License #210750 & New York Bar License #2785913 Not licensed in Japan
Sent from Osaka, 27, Japan

More fool me, you might say, for accepting this invitation. But quite honestly, I have never given a speech in Japan where there was no remuneration whatsoever. Even those organizations who said it was “volunteer” paid me 5000 yen in travel expenses without telling me in advance.  It’s common practice in this society.  It’s what professionals do.

Moreover, lawyers are not a profession short of money.  Quite a few people attended the presentation (it was even video simulcast), and when I told a couple of them (including Japan Times reporter Eric Johnston, who also attended) I never got paid, they were quite shocked.  Even they said that it would have not put them out to chip in something like 1000 yen as an entry fee.

The biggest irony here is that we’re talking about lawyers.  They’re quite willing to sell their services to the highest bidder.  But it appears that some of them aren’t willing to pay for the services that will further the interests of their organization, and their own professional and educational experience and credentials.

Mr Allen even contacted me for research purposes on July 10, 2009, and about a separate legal matter on July 12, 2009 (which I will keep confidential), despite all this.  I declined to answer.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that when the Japan Law Society invites you as a speaker and then says it will not pay you, take it seriously.  It won’t.  But that’s in my opinion quite unprofessional and deserves to be known about.  Professionals who want related professional assistance should be willing to compensate the provider for the service.  That’s how the system works when professionals are involved.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


FOOTNOTE about CLE credit being applied for via using volunteer professional help:


JLS presents low-cost CLEs connected by video teleconference between Osaka and Tokyo. The CLEs permit Japan practitioners to exchange experiences in an informal setting.


JLS is an approved Multiple Provider under the auspices of the California Bar Association. Please check with your jurisdiction to see if they accept credit for CLEs approved by California, or the California Multiple Provider Rules. If you are licensed in a jurisdiction other than California, and you have information about your jurisdiction’s CLE recognition, or lack of recognition, of California CLE credits, please send that information to the CLE Coordinator so we can post the information on the Accreditation page so that other JLS members may easily find the information. Please indicate the source for your information.
California calculates credit based on 60 minutes of class time per hour.  Some jurisdictions, such as New York, accept 50 minutes of class time to qualify for one credit hour.  For instance, a two hour JLS CLE could be worth 2.4 hours of CLE credit in a 50 minute jurisdiction.  California attorneys participating in Japan in a CLE accredited by a 50 minute jurisdiction are permitted to claim a 50 minute hour of instruction as one hour of credit.  However, JLS CLEs are accredited by the Bar of California, so all credit hours must have one hour of instruction time.  Please check with your jurisdiction if you have questions about accreditation.


NPR interview with Jake Adelstein, author “Tokyo Vice”, on how police and laws do not stop NJ human trafficking in Japan


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Hi Blog. Jake Adelstein, whose new book TOKYO VICE just came out, was interviewed on America’s National Public Radio program “FRESH AIR” on November 10, 2009. What follows is an excerpt from their podcast, minute 23:45 onwards, which talks about how domestic laws hamstring the NPA from actually cracking down on human trafficking and exploiting NJ for Japan’s sex trades. Jake’s work in part enabled the US State Department to list Japan as a Tier-Two Human Trafficker, and got Japan to pass more effective domestic laws against it.

Read on to see how the process works in particular against NJ, given their especially weak position (both legally and languagewise). If NJ go to the police to report their exploitation, it’s the NJ who get arrested (and deported), not the trafficker. And then the trafficker goes after the NJ’s family overseas.  Glad people like Jake are out there exposing this sort of thing.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


DAVE DAVIES: On a more serious note, you became aware of some women who were working in the sex industry, who appear not to be there of their own free will. There was human trafficking going on. How did it work in the cases that you found?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Japan is much better than it was than the time I started writing about this. But essentially it works like this: You bring foreign women into the country, often under false pretences — that they would be working as hostesses, or working as waitresses in a restaurant. You take away their passports. You put them in a room. You monitor their activities so that they can’t leave. And then you take them to the clubs where they have sexual relations with the customers. And, aren’t paid. The women have no freedom of movement. They’re told, after they’ve slept with a customer, or been forced to sleep with a customer — sometimes they were raped first, so they’d get used to the job — that if they go to the police, since they’re in Japan illegally, that they would be deported and they would still owe money for their travel expenses to Japan. And very often these traffickers would have agents within the countries where they were recruiting these women, often Eastern Europe, and contact the families of the women under various pretexts, to let them know that if they disobeyed, or did something in Japan or ran away, that their families back home would be menaced or killed.

DAVE DAVIES: You worked really hard to develop sources, and get enough on the record to write a story about this going on, and identify some of the people who were operating these human trafficking sex joints. What was the reaction among the police and other authorities when you exposed this?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: The reaction was that they asked me to introduce them to some of the women who were victims, so that they could *arrest* them, and have a pretext to raid these clubs. An officer there I really liked a lot named Iida-san said, “I’d love to put these places out of business. But you have to understand that these women, while they are victims, that we can’t protect them. We have to prosecute them under Japanese law. There is no provision in the law that allows us to keep them in the country while we do the investigation. So, I *could* do the investigation, and I could put these people out of business, but in order to do that, I’m going to have to have you put me in contact with some of the women, and I’m not going to be able to take a statement from them without arresting them.” And I couldn’t do that.

I went to another division of the police department and asked them, “Can you do anything about that?” And they said, “We can do something about it, but first of all, we don’t have enough people who speak foreign languages to do a very competent investigation right now. And we’ve got a lot of other things on our plate. While your article is good, it is not something that is immediately actionable for us.”

DAVE DAVIES: Which was enormously frustrating for you.

JAKE ADELSTEIN: It was *enormously* frustrating. And when I realized of course was that, while the cops have problems with this and would like to do the investigations and put these people out of business, that essentially the law wouldn’t let them do it. That’s why I began writing about the flaws in the law, the whole legal system, and I also began taking studies and information and stories that I had written up as a reporter to the US State Department representative at the Embassy in Tokyo.

DAVE DAVIES: In effect, by embarrassing the government, you were able to get some reform?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Yes. I can’t take total credit, but I would like to take some credit for supplying the US Government with enough information that they could embarrass Japan enough so that Japan felt compelled to actually put some laws on the books that trafficking harder to do. One of the things I was most proud of was, the International Labor Organization did a very scathing study of human trafficking problems in Japan — pointing out the victims weren’t protected, the traffickers were lightly punished, fined, and rarely did jail time. Which the Japanese Government, which sponsored this study, told them “never release”. I was able to get a copy of that report and put it on the front page of our newspaper as a scoop, while the Japanese Government was still getting ready to announce their plan of action. And I think that had a very positive effect of making them put together a plan that was actually effective.

UPDATE: Kyoto Tourist Association replies, tells Kyoto hotel “Kyou no Yado” to stop “Japanese speakers only” rules


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Hi Blog.  Regarding an issue I blogged here about earlier this week, about a hotel named “Kyou no Yado” that advertised on its Rakuten Travel listing that it would refuse any customer who did not speak Japanese, an update:

I contacted the Kyoto Tourist Association, the Kyoto City Tourism Board, and the National Tourism Agency in Tokyo about this issue with handwritten letters last Monday.  I received a letter yesterday sokutatsu (included below) from the Kyoto Tourist Association, as well as a personal phone call yesterday afternoon from a Mr Sunagawa there, who told me the following:

  1. The hotel was indeed violating the Hotel Management Law (which holds that people may only be refused lodgings if all rooms were booked, there was threat of contagious disease, or endangerment of “public morals”) by refusing people who could not speak Japanese,
  2. The hotel was hereby advised by KTA to change its rules and open its doors to people regardless of language ability,
  3. The hotel did not protest, and in fact would “fix” (naosu) its writeup on its Rakuten Travel entry,
  4. The hotel hasn’t gotten to it yet, but assuredly would. (It still hasn’t as of this writing.)

I asked what was meant by “fix”, and whether the language would just be shifted to find another way to refuse people again in violation of the Hotel Management Law.  Mr Sunagawa wasn’t sure what would be done, but they would keep an eye on it, he said.

Mr Sunagawa was very apologetic about my treatment, especially given the rudeness of Kyou no Yado’s written reply, and hoped that I would consider coming back to Kyoto soon and not have an unfavorable impression of it.

COMMENT:  This is far better than I expected.  The KTA had told me on Monday that they had no real authority (kyouseiryoku) here to advise a nonmember hotel, yet here they were taking this up and making the call.  I guess Kyou no Yado’s reply was really unbecoming to the situation.  Bravo.  Quite honestly, given the fact that I’ve contacted a number of authorities regarding local exclusionary signs and rules (which usually resulted in nothing being done), I wasn’t even expecting an answer (hey, bureaucrats will get paid anyway even if they sit on their hands; avoiding work is easier for them).

Find another exclusionary hotel like this?  Contact the local town or city tourist agency and include the letter from the KTA below, referring to it as a template for how some government agencies do get off their duff.  Anyone want to do that for the exclusionary hotel in Wakkanai? (“Itsuki”, the one which outright refuses all foreign clients, even cancels reservations if the customer’s name looks to be foreign).  Be my guest.  Don’t be theirs.

Meanwhile, let’s keep an eye on “Kyou no Yado’s” Rakuten Travel listing.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Letter from KTA follows, click to expand in browser:




Tangent: Korea Herald: Attitudes in Korea towards budget travelers: open up love hotels?


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Hi Blog. In light of the recent discussion we’ve been having about Japanese hotels, and some of their attitudes towards international travellers (many hotels refuse NJ or non-J speakers outright, claiming their lack of ability to provide service; see RELATED ARTICLE: Asahi/CNN: GOJ survey report: 38% of J hotels had no NJ guests in 2007, and 72% of those (as in 27%) don’t want NJ guests!), contrast with the situation in Korea and one columnist’s proposal.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

NB: Before anyone begins to suspect that I think everything in Korea is gravy compared to Japan, let me say this:  of course not. I just think that given the very strong cultural similarities between Korea and Japan, what may be possible as an alternative in Korea might be some bellwether for what’s possible here too. Is all.  If Japan really wants its Yokoso Japan! to work better, it could do worse than consider promoting more open-minded hotels for international clientele.  Instead of promoting exclusionary ones (like the Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information Association did a couple years back), for example.


Howdy. I spotted this article on 1 person’s idea in Korea to open up cheap accommodations to foreigners: love motels. Some application to tourism in Japan and Japanese love hotels. (As an innkeeper, though, I should be worried about the idea of new competition for “Inbound” accommodation. On the other hand, if Kamesei can’t compete with love hotels, then there are other issues that need to be dealt with…)

B. Rgds, Tyler at Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano


“Love motels” offer more than “love”
By Brian Deutsch
The Korea Herald 2009.10.28

There’s been some talk about hotels and motels in the news recently, especially since Lee Charm, head of the Korea Tourism Organization, was criticized by a member of parliament for the country’s failure to provide budget accommodation to international travelers. One English-language paper indirectly quoted the lawmaker as saying “the nation is helpless in the face of the aggressive invasion of foreign budget hotels” and then said that one reason Korea can’t attract and keep foreign tourists is because accommodation is unsatisfactory.

But Korea’s lack of affordable rooms long predates Lee’s tenure. It isn’t a deficiency that can be blamed on foreign chains or foreigners-turned-Koreans, and it isn’t something that can be changed with a new slogan. Though international travellers might have few lodging options available to them, it’s helpful to learn about a fun, affordable alternative to expensive luxury hotels and overpriced tourist hotels.

International tourists relying on foreign-language information will have two choices for accommodation: rooms in luxury hotels that cost hundreds of dollars a night, and rooms in “tourist hotels” that average 100,000 won ($85) a night or more. Of course, outside of Seoul and Busan there is often nothing available for the person searching in English, Chinese or Japanese (languages spoken by almost all tourists visiting Korea).

The result: Tourists unwittingly find themselves paying twice as much for a place half as nice as the rooms hiding in plain sight.

An option I’ve always enjoyed is motels. You’ll rarely find information about them in English, but they’re certainly popular among Koreans – one recent estimate said there are 31,000 – and the newer ones are clean, conveniently-located, nicely-equipped, and a fraction of the cost of a tourist hotel.

Though they’re primarily used as a place to share an intimate moment, people are starting to realize they’re not only about sex. A Yonhap News piece in August looked at the ways motels have changed to attract not only clients looking for a few hours to get away, but people who want to relax in other ways. Competition has pushed motels to offer more, and, the piece says, “more and more motels are transforming their guest rooms into private entertainment places equipped with wide-screen TVs and other high-tech gadgets as a means of attracting clients.”

Large televisions, computers, big beds, and bathtubs are standard in the newer rooms, and some of the more stylish ones offer jacuzzis, Nintendo and PlayStation consoles, motorcycles in the room, and even telescopes on upstairs verandas, all for between 50,000 won and 100,000 won a night. The kitch of multicolored mood lights and swanky interior is a fun, welcome change from drab apartment rooms or ordinary faded beige of older tourist hotels. Prospective travellers can make informed decisions about nicer motels by browsing the maps and photographs on an online motel directory, available in Korean.

There are several such directories –,, and are among my favorites – in addition to search engines on portals like Naver and Daum that will return hundreds of results, although these are inaccessible to people who can’t navigate Korean websites. A Naver search for motels in Jeollanam-do turns up 775, and a Naver search for Gwangju retrieves 464. The English-language KTO site devoted to accommodation, though, shows only six motels in Jeollanam-do, and zero for Gwangju.

This means international tourists must rely on the few tourist hotels that have English, Chinese or Japanese-language webpages, the few places that will show up on an internet search. These places are often two or three times as expensive as a motel room, though, and often not as nice. Amenities are frequently old, dirty, and disappointing. Guests often book rooms under the assumption that the hotel is in a convenient location, but arrive to find it’s in the middle of nowhere or in a seedy neighborhood. Likewise foreign-language travel websites will advertise restaurants, bakeries, and bars on the premises, though those who have seen the hotels in person will find no such features.

There is also no guarantee that you’ll find staff that can communicate in the language you need. The unsuspecting international tourist who assumes there will be staff members on hand who can clearly communicate in a foreign language will likely find themselves disappointed. But the limited information on accommodation in Korea means would-be tourists must rely on the few options that have assembled something resembling an English-language page.

In spite of their ubiquity, there is a love-hate relationship among Koreans with motels and what they stand for. After all, there aren’t hundreds of motels in each town because Koreans love to travel, and they don’t rent rooms in two-hour blocks because Koreans have evolved beyond sleep.

Motels are also often the most prominent buildings in the neighborhood, and tend to make the news only when there’s a suicide or when the police break up gambling and prostitution rings.

A newspaper in Gwangju recently complained that gaudy motels – topped with statues, domes, and flashy lights – are safety hazards and eye sores. And in May a writer for the English-language Gwangju News attracted the scorn of a local newspaper by writing about motels, the latter accusing the former of not understanding Korean culture and spreading misinformation among foreigners. Back in 2002, as a way to remove some of the stigma associated with motels, Korea designated a certain number as “World Inns.”

Foreign budget chains can succeed in Korea because there is simply no one else providing this basic service to foreigners. And in an age when Korea is trying to encourage foreign investment, scapegoating foreign companies is nothing short of xenophobic. But one option might be to invite some of the best motels into an umbrella program and create a foreign-language directory for the benefit of foreigners and international travellers.

It certainly behooves those already in Korea to take advantage of these motels. There’s a lot more to do at love motels than you might think.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of The Korea Herald. Brian Deutsch can be reached at, or by visiting his website at – Ed.