Mutantfrog on Death of Yokoso Japan, plus birth of Welcome to Tokyo


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Hi Blog. Japan is rebooting its image for international tourists. According to Adamu at Mutantfrog:


April 7, 2010
The Japanese government has announced a new international tourism slogan:

“Japan. Endless Discovery.“

Great, at least this time it’s in English! It’s similar to many other simple catch phrases used by other countries: “Malaysia, truly Asia,” “Seoul’s got Soul,” and so on. The Japanese-language slogan is more of more of a mouthful and literally translates as “Japan, a country where you will encounter endless discovery.” There’s also a new logo with a stylish but classy combo of cherry blossoms and the Japanese Rising Sun.

I like “Endless Discovery” because it has a message that happens to be true. As a foreigner living in Japan most days there’s something new to discover. This message could help put new visitors in the right frame of mind to enjoy themselves. Japan’s not a country like Thailand where you can head straight to the resort and not worry about foreign customs. It’s an adventure in many respects – new food, few English speakers, complicated train system, etc. (and the area outside of Tokyo is even harder to navigate), so why not put a positive face on what Japan’s got to offer?

I’d like to give Maehara and his people some credit for picking a slogan that actually makes sense. It’s comforting to think the people in power might actually understand the outside world a little bit. It’s one big, noticeable difference between the parties.

This will replace the old slogan Yokoso! Japan, announced in 2003 to much confusion by most people who had no idea yokoso means “welcome” in Japanese. Well-known Japan commentator Alex Kerr was especially critical, saying it might as well be “blah blah blah Japan.” It’s been a favorite target of mockery among many in the gaijin community and can currently be seen on taxis, buses, posters, and even transport minister Maehara’s lapel pin. You’ll be missed! The “Visit Japan Campaign 2010” site is still up, so you can soak up some of the goodness before it closes. There’s other questionable language on the site, like “Yokoso Bazar” and “Revalue Nippon.”

Rest at


That’s one thing of interest. Now how about Tokyo’s very expensive reboot? Courtesy of BD:


April 8, 2010
Debito: Wanted to call your attention to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s new “Welcome to Tokyo” tourism website which features a short anime which [according to the Tokyo Shinbun Dec 20, 2009, link now dead] reportedly cost 50M Yen. That’s my tax dollars at work trying to lure foreigners to a city who’s governor is historically renown for his anti-foreigner rhetoric. Wonder if there’s anything that can be done to call out the points made by UN Rep Bustamante with regards to this site’s obvious ruse.


COMMENT: About the Tokyo promo: Watch the “Honey Anime” in particular. A lot of bald-facedness going on there. I don’t personally watch much Anime (so it might be an issue of genre or style), but I find its eight-year-old-child attitudes towards life a bit cloying, and inappropriate for regular tourists. And you just gotta grimace at the bit where Tokyo-to’s oceanic territory is depicted as a haven for happy whales (never mind the Red Tides or, you know what…). As flash and expensive as the site is, I find the promotion campaign a bit “terrarium in a fishbowl”, with little apparent knowhow of how to appeal to outsiders and what they want after a very expensive plane trip plus hotels (oooh, Tokyo’s got a ZOO!!).  And let’s not mention our xenophobic governor…

Charming for some, no doubt. But for me, just weird, and not terribly appealing, having been to Tokyo as a tourist (and guest speaker) my entire life in Japan (that’s right; I’ve never lived in Tokyo). Come to Tokyo and see how clean-line it really isn’t. Like seeing the waxwork dish of lunch outside the restaurant, and coming in to see it’s not at all what it was advertised. But that’s only my impression. What do others think? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan Times on a “Non-Japanese Only” sushi restaurant in Okinawa


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Hi Blog. I had heard numerous reports about a place down in Okinawa that turned away Japanese customers (or, rather, charged them an exorbitant fee for membership) in favor of NJ. It made print today in the Japan Times Zeit Gist Column. Excerpt follows:


The Japan Times, March 6, 2010
‘Non-Japanese only’ Okinawa eatery turns tables
Jon Mitchell explores why one restaurateur has effectively banned Japanese patrons

Despite overwhelming Okinawan opposition to the presence of the United States military, open animosity towards American servicemen is remarkably rare here. One of the few places where it is experienced, though, is in central Okinawa’s entertainment districts. Japanese-owned clubs and bars regularly turn away American customers, and some of them display English signs stating “members only” and “private club” in order to exclude unwanted foreign patrons. With Japan’s laws on racial discrimination tending towards the ambiguous, transforming a business into a private club has become a common way to circumvent any potential complaints to the Bureau of Human Rights.

Under these circumstances, the notices on the door of Sushi Zen, a small restaurant located at the edge of Chatan Town’s fishing port, are not unusual: “This store has a members-only policy. Entry is restricted to members.” However, what is different is the fact that they’re written in Japanese, and designed to keep away Japanese customers. Furthermore, Sushi Zen’s owner is not a xenophobic foreign expatriate, but a soft-spoken Japanese man named Yukio Okuhama.


Rest of the article at

COMMENT: Now, while I can’t personally condone this activity, I will admit I have been waiting for somebody to come along and do this just to put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s see how people who defended the exclusionism of “troublemakers” who just happened to be foreign-looking (hiya Gregory Clark) in the Otaru Onsens Case, react to somebody excluding “troublemakers” who just happen to be Japanese. And watch the hypocrisy and “Japanese as perpetual victim” arguments blossom.

If this winds up getting “Japanese Only” signs down everywhere, this will have been a useful exercise. Somehow, I don’t think it will, however.  Japanese in Japan are never supposed to be on the losing end of a debate on NJ issues.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Another request for Readers: What are merits/demerits of immigration?


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Hi Blog.  I’m currently at work at JIPI on my presentation for next Monday evening on why Japan needs immigration, and what Japan must do to bring it about.

I’ve made a list of the Merits and Demerits of Immigration, and will deal with each one in turn in my powerpoint.  Plus I will talk about the issue in terms of a “give and take”, as in what the GOJ must give to Immigrants, and what Immigrants must be willing to give back to Japanese society in return.

I have plenty of ideas, of course.  But let me ask Readers for feedback on the above issues:

  • What are the merits of immigration?
  • What are the demerits of immigration?
  • What should the GOJ give to make Japan more attractive for immigrants?
  • What should immigrants do to make themselves part of Japan?

It’s a very open question I’m asking, of course.  I just don’t want to think about this all alone and miss something important that we all should have said.  Fire away.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo

Just heard: NGO FRANCA and I will be meeting with UN Special Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante March 23, Tokyo. Anything you want me to say or give him?


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Hi Blog.  Short entry for today.  I just heard yesterday from NGOs concerned with human rights in Japan that I will be part of a group meeting with Mr Jorge Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, on March 23 in Tokyo.

I will have twenty minutes to make a presentation regarding exclusions of NJ in Japan in violation of UN CERD treaty.

Is there anything you’d like me to say?  I already have some ideas here (see Chapter 2).  But I’m open to suggestions and feedback.  If there is anything you would like me to present him, please send me at  Please keep submissions concise, under 2 sides of A4 paper (meaning one sheet front and back) when formatted and printed.

To give you some idea of format, I’ve given presentations to UN Rapporteurs before, particularly Dr Doudou Diene back in 2005 and 2006.  The archive on that here.

I will of course make the case that the GOJ is being intransigent and unreflective of reality when asserts, again and again, that Japan does not need a law against racial discrimination.  And in violation of its international treaty promises.

The floor is open, everyone.  Thanks very much for your assistance.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Chair, NGO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA)


UN: Transcript of the Japanese Government CERD Review (76th Session), Feb 24 & 25, Geneva. Point: Same GOJ session tactics as before.


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Hi Blog. What follows is the full text of the GOJ’s meeting Feb 24-25, 2010, with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, something it faces for review every two years.

Media-digested highlights of this meeting already up on here.

Although it was noteworthy for having 14 Japanese delegates from five different ministries (something the UN delegates remarked upon repeatedly), quite frankly, the 2010 session wasn’t much different from the previous two reviews.  In that:  The CERD Committee tells the GOJ to do something, and the GOJ gives reasons why things can’t change (or offers cosmetic changes as evidence that things are changing; it even cites numerous times the new Hatoyama Government as evidence of change, and as a reason why we can’t say anything conclusive yet about where human rights improvements will happen). The 2008 review was particularly laughable, as it said that Japan was making “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination“.  I guess an actual law against racial discrimination isn’t a conceivable measure.  As the GOJ delegates say below, it still isn’t.  But it is according to the CERD Committee below.

In sum, the biannual to-and-fro has become Grand Kabuki.  And while things got bogged down in the standard “minority” questions (Ainu, Ryukyuans, Burakumin, and Zainichis — all worthy causes in themselves, of course), very little time was spent on “Newcomer” minorities (sometimes rendered as “foreign migrants”), as in, the NJ (or former-NJ) immigrants who are now here long-term.  People like me, as in racially-diverse Japanese, aren’t seen as a minority yet, even though we very definitely are by any UN definition.  Plus, hardly any time was devoted at all to discussing the “Japanese Only” signs extant throughout Japan for many UN sessions now, the most simple and glaring violation of the CERD yet.

I haven’t the time to critique the whole session text below, but you can look at the 2008 session here (which I did critique) and get much the same idea.  I have put certain items of interest to in boldface, and here are some pencil-dropping excerpted quotes:

UN:  I listened attentively to the [Japanese] head of delegation’s speech, and I can’t remember whether he actually used the concept of racism or racial discrimination as such in his speech. [NB: He does not.] It seems that this is something that the state in question prefers to avoid as a term.

UN: [T]he law punishes attacks on the honor, intimidation, instigation, provocation and violence committed against anyone. While that is what we want too. That is what we are seeking, to punish perpetrators of such crimes and offenses under article 4. What is missing is the racial motivation. Otherwise, the crime is punished in the law. So would the government not be interested in knowing what is the motivation behind such a crime? Should the racial motivation not be taken account of by the Japanese judges? […] I’m really wondering about whether you really want to exclude racial motivation of crimes from all of the Japanese criminal justice system.

UN: [S]hould I take that Japan is uncomfortable in the international sphere, and it would like to have as little interaction as possible with the rest of the world? […] [D]o you just want to trade but not to interact with other people? That is my worry taken the way you have been dealing with international instruments.

UN: I’ve been struck by the fact that, and this is what Mr. Thornberry called “technical points,” but it seems that these technical points are still unchanged. There has been no real change between 2001 and today.

GOJ:  With regard to the question of the establishment of a national human rights institution, […] there is no definite schedule in place.

GOJ: [T]o make a study for the possible punitive legislations for the dissemination of ideas of racial discrimination may unduly discourage legitimate discourse, […] we need to strike a balance between the effect of the punitive measures and the negative impact on freedom of expression. I don’t think that the situation in Japan right now has rampant dissemination of discriminatory ideas or incitement of discrimination. I don’t think that that warrants the study of such punitive measures right now. […]   And if the present circumstances in Japan cannot effectively suppress the act of discrimination under the existing legal system, I don’t think that the current situation is as such therefore I do not see any necessity for legislating a law in particular for racial discrimination. [NB:  The last sentence is practically verbatim from the 2008 session.]

GOJ:  For those persons who would like to acquire Japanese nationality, there is no fact that they are being urged to change their names. For those people who have acquired the Japanese nationality on their own will they are able to change their name. But, as for the characters that can be used for the name, for the native Japanese as well as the naturalized Japanese, in order not to raise any inconveniences for their social life, it may be necessary for them to choose the easy to read and write characters used in common and Japanese society.

UN: I think it would be difficult to say that the views of CERD and of the Japanese government have converged in any substantial degree since the time when we last considered the Japanese periodic report that initial report. […] I would on behalf of CERD respectively urge that our suggestions and recommendations for changes in Japanese law and practice to bring it more into line with the international norms in this matter.

Full text of the session follows.  Notable bits in boldface.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Transcription of the Japanese Government CERD Review (76th Session)

Transcribed by Ralph Hosoki, Solidary with Migrants Japan

First Day[1]

(February 24, 2010 (15:00~18:00): Japanese government presentation and CERD questions)

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

For that reason and this will be followed by interventions of members of the committee in the order that they request the floor. After they have spoken which I expect which would take us to six o’clock this evening and even then I suspect there won’t be enough time but in the next morning that is tomorrow we will have the first round of responses from your side and for that you will have another hour and 15 minutes to respond to the questions and what I anticipate is that there will be so many questions that you will have to have clusters and probably you will have to have a working dinner, your delegation, going late into the evening in my experience, which I think you’re members of your delegation can look forward to and after that once again, members of the committee will ask a second round of questions, and then we will again give you time to respond whatever you can within the time that is available so I think we look forward to an extremely productive interactive dialogue and without further ado sir, I should like to give you the floor to introduce your report.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Thank you, thank you Mr. Chairperson, in order to save time, I think I will omit the introduction of my delegation who came from Tokyo from various ministries. I think you have a list of our delegation at your hand. So I will start from the beginning, my sort of opening remarks.

Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, it’s great honor to be engaged in constructive dialogue today with the committee. I would like to extend opening remarks on behalf of the Japanese delegation at the beginning of the examination.

In September 2009, our Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama shortly after he took office, addressed the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly, and advocated the concept of “Yuuai” or fraternity as Japan’s new principle for dealing with domestic and diplomatic issues. This principle is a way of thinking that respects one’s own freedom and individual dignity while also respecting the freedom and individual dignity of others. The government of Japan will implement this convention based on this principle.

Furthermore Prime Minister Hatoyama in January this year, made a policy speech at the Diet under the main theme of protecting people’s lives. The Prime Minister stated as follows, “In order to prevent individuals from becoming isolated, and to create an environment in which everyone, the young, women, elderly, and those challenged by disabilities, can use their talents to play a full part in society with a sense of purpose and pride. We will work to obtain an accurate understanding of the employment situation and work to rectify the systems and practices that currently act as barriers.”

Japan believes that all human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal values and our legitimate concerns of the international community. It is with this belief that Japan is actively engaged in efforts to protect and promote human rights with the attitude of dialogue and cooperation.  As part as part of such efforts in August of 2008, Japan compiled and submitted to the committee the third to sixth periodic reports on Japan’s achievement in efforts with regard to human rights guaranteed by ICERD. In addition to the periodic reports, we made maximum effort in compiling and submitting answers to the list of issues to the committee.

The ICERD is the main mechanism for dealing with racial discrimination and all other forms of discrimination. And the universal implementation of the convention is important for creating a society without racial discrimination. It is needless to say that after ratification of international conventions, it is important to see to what extent the rights stipulated in them are protected and promoted by each state party. In this respect, we are glad to have the opportunity to be examined by the committee through which we can review the status of Japan’s implementation of the convention from an international standpoint, and reflect the findings in our diplomatic policies.  We are looking forward to listening to various views from the members of the committee in order to improve the human rights situation in Japan.

Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee, I would like to take this opportunity to explain some of the major steps the government of Japan has taken in relation to the convention. First, Japan is working actively to establish comprehensive policies for the respecting of the human rights of the Ainu people. Following the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, the Japanese Diet, our Parliament, unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Ainu people as an indigenous people in June 2008. In response to this resolution, the government of Japan recognized the Ainu people as an indigenous people who live in the Northern part of the Japanese islands, especially in Hokkaido, and established the Advisory Panel of Eminent Persons on Policies for the Ainu People with a representative of the Ainu people participating as a member. The panel members visited regions where many Ainu people reside and exchanged views with Ainu people. In 2009 the panel compiled a report and submitted it to the government of Japan. In this report, the panel expressed its views that the government of Japan should listened sincerely to the opinions of the Ainu people and make efforts to establish Ainu policy reflecting the situations of Japan as well as the Ainu people. This view is based on the recognition that Ainu people are an indigenous people and the government of Japan has a strong responsibility for the rehabilitation of their culture. The report identified three basic principles on implementing the Ainu related policies. That is one, respect for the Ainu people’s identities; Two, respect for diverse cultures and ethnic harmony; and three, nationwide implementation of Ainu related policy. The report also made recommendations on concrete policy measures including promoting education and public awareness about the history and culture of the Ainu. Constructing parks as a symbolic space for ethnic harmony and promoting the Ainu culture including the Ainu language.  Furthermore, the report advised the Government of Japan to conduct research on the living conditions of the Ainu people outside of Hokkaido and to implement measures for improving their living conditions throughout Japan. In August 2009, the government of Japan established the Comprehensive Ainu Policy Department to develop an all encompassing Ainu policy. The first director of this department Mr. Akiyama is sitting next to me. And in December 2009, decided to set up the meeting for promotion of the Ainu policy with the participation of representatives of the Ainu people. The first session of the meeting took place last month followed by the first working group next month, and that meetings are scheduled to be held regularly. The government of Japan will materialize policies and also follow up on the implementation of policy.  Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee, Prime Minister Hatoyama in his policy speech at the Diet in October last year, committed “to promote culture of diversity to enable everyone to live with dignity by respecting the history and culture of the Ainu people who are indigenous to Japan.” In this direction, the government of Japan will create an environment which will enable the Ainu people to be proud of their identities and inherit their culture.

Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee, secondly, let me explain our effort to promote human rights education and enlightenment. The government of Japan believes that everyone is entitled to human rights, should correctly understand other people’s human rights and respect each other. Under this belief, the government of Japan place importance on human rights education and enlightenment. In December 2000, the government of Japan enacted the Act for Promotion of Human Rights Education and Encouragement which led to the formation of the Basic Plan for Promotion of Human Rights Education and Encouragement in March 2002. According to the basic plan, the human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice expand and strengthen awareness raising activities to disseminate and enhance the idea of respect for human rights. Various activities are conducted by the organs, with a view to fostering human rights awareness as appropriate in age of globalization for eliminating prejudice and discrimination against foreigners as well as for promoting at an attitude of tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, religions, lifestyles, and customs of different origins. Human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice also have been endeavoring to protect human rights through other activities such as human rights counseling, investigation, and the disposition of human rights infringement cases. In particular, in April 2004, the government of Japan fully revised the regulations of human rights infringement incidents treatment to ensure quick, flexible, and appropriate enforcement of investigation and relief activities. Based on this revision, when the human rights organs recognize the fact of human rights abuse case, including acts of racial discrimination, they commence relief activities immediately and carry out the necessary investigation in cooperation with the administrative organs concerned. If it becomes clear as a result of the investigation, that human rights abuse including acts of racial discrimination has occurred, human rights organs take various steps to relieve individual victims. For instance, they admonish and order the perpetrator to stop such acts of racial discrimination, and request that those parties authorized to substantially respond to the case, take necessary measures for the relief of the victims and prevention of reoccurrence.

The human rights organs also endeavor to prevent reoccurrence of act of racial discrimination, by educating the persons concerned with regard to respect for human rights. Furthermore, from the perspective of remedying human rights issues, Japan is currently working on studies aimed at the establishment of a national human rights institution which independent of the government would deal with human rights infringements and remedy the situation as quickly as possible. The Human Rights Protection Bill which the government of Japan submitted to the Diet in 2002, provided that Human Rights Commission to be independent of the government take measures to remedy human rights infringements in a simple, quick, and flexible matter. However, the bill did not pass due to the dissolution of the House of Representatives in October 2003. Therefore, currently a new bill on a new human rights remedy system is under review under this new government of Japan.

Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee, I would like to avail myself on this occasion to announce Japan’s new initiatives with regard to refugee related policies. As part of its effort to make international contribution and provide humanitarian assistance, the government of Japan decided to start a pilot resettlement program and admit Myanmarnese refugees staying in the ____ Camp in Thailand.  More specifically, Japan will admit 30 people once a year, for three consecutive years from this year. That means in total approximately 90 people. For this purpose, three weeks ago, we dispatched a mission to the camp to interview candidate refugees. Japan is proud that it will become the first Asian country to introduce a resettlement program. Japan will make the most effort in order to live up to the expectations from the international community. The government of Japan in cooperation with relevant organizations and NGOs will provide refugees substantial support for resettlement such as guidance for adjusting to Japanese society, Japanese language training, and improvement consultation and job referral. Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee, Japan, on the basis of that spirit declared in the Constitution and the preamble of the convention disallow any discrimination against race and ethnicity, and continue to make tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation in Japan. The Japanese delegation is ready to most sincerely provide answers on any matters of concern you may have during this important examination. So it’s my hope that we will have constructive discussions. Thank you very much Mr. Chairperson.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you sir. Sir, would you like to give the floor to other members of his delegation at this stage or would you prefer to do that later? I thank you for your introduction and this gives us more time for the committee members to pose questions and I give the floor now to our distinguished rapporteur Mr. Thornberry.

Mr. Thornberry

Thank you Mr. Chairman, and again I would like to thank the delegation, the head of delegation very warmly for opening address and for the report and responding so promptly to the questions submitted by this rapporteur. It is a great privilege for me to act as country rapporteur on this occasion. This is the second occasion in which Japan has reported to this committee, and the first was in 2001 when I had just joined the committee. You ratified in 1995, you have not or not yet accepted the optional or____optional declaration in relation to the individual communications procedure of the committee nor indeed as I understand to the amendments to article 8. Both of which procedures I think in our previous meeting we commended or the article 14 procedure and the amendments to article 8. Nevertheless, you’ve consolidated many issues in your succinct report, and we are very grateful for that.

If I may start with perhaps a number of rather technical matters relating to the convention and the surrounding framework of human rights. 53 out of 173 states parties have accepted the individual communications procedure, and I note also that Japan has not yet accepted the optional protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights so it doesn’t engage with that system, but colleagues would commend article 14 to you as well as other procedures because it gets to the heart of issues about racial discrimination. Looking at your spectrum of human rights commitments there are in fact a number of cases in which instruments relevant to our convention perhaps would engage your further reflection, notably ILO Convention 111 on discrimination in employment, ILO Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples, and the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education. All of these are related in one way or the other to the issues that CERD deals with so it might be interesting for you to reflect upon widening the circle of human rights commitments. I also note that you didn’t ratify the Genocide Convention of 1948, but that you have I think accepted the statute of the International Criminal Court which is interesting because of course, part of the jurisdiction, the substantive jurisdiction of the statute is precisely the crime of genocide. Of course the decision to accede or not to accede to a particular convention is a sovereign prerogative and we respect that, but certainly, some of the conventions I’ve referred to do serve as benchmarks of good practice and can in fact be very very helpful I think for a state in elaborating its policy, and I’ve only singled out those which are relevant to the issue of racial discrimination, and they also enable the state to engage with certain supervision systems which again can be I think a positive experience.

Before passing on from this review, the general situation, CERD and other relevant conventions, I would like to recall one historical very positive fact and that was Japan’s pioneering effort in the time of the League of Nations to try to insert a provision in the League system on the equality of nations and peoples, and following that the world had to wait until the United Nations Charter before we had the major reflection of the principle of nondiscrimination; in this case on the grounds of race, sex, language, or religion, and our convention and all other conventions stem from that important architectural aspect of the human rights program.

If I may take some very specific matters on the report, supplemented by your questions, the report and your responses contain many statistics including figures disaggregated by citizenship, nationality, but paragraph 4 of the report says that ethnic breakdown for Japan is not readily available, Japan does not conduct population surveys from an ethnic viewpoint. I must say this has caused the rapporteur some heartache in the sense of trying to get a grip on relevant figures. For example, in relation to Koreans, you say that 600,000 approximately, that’s just round up those numbers, foreigners who are Koreans; 400,000 of which are special permanent residents, but there is also a figure of some 320,000 naturalizations that I have come across, and in recent years up to 2008, so we are actually talking about a million, something roughly around a million Koreans and Korean descent. The committee often asks for statistics; we understand the difficulties that states may have for various reasons including reasons to do with privacy and anonymity and so on, not wanting to pigeonhole people in certain ethnic categories, but it can be tremendously helpful I think and also in many cases necessary to get a grasp of the situation by understanding its dimensions and if an ethnic question can’t be asked in a direct way in a census, we often encourage states to find creative ways around this, including things like use of languages we recommended to other states from time to time; social surveys, etc., and a number of other methods that are…this is essentially designed not simply to help the committee – that’s not the point – but to help the state, I think to understand the dimensions of a particular question, and enable them to focus their policy more appropriately.

Your response to question 1 regarding people of Okinawa and Dowa Burakumin, simply recalls that they are Japanese nationals under the law, but of course that is a legal position and doesn’t directly respond to a question on statistics. I mean all countries have some provision or other on equality before the law, but this does not prevent statistics, ethnic or otherwise, being offered preferably on the basis of self definition. I would simply say that identity in this world is a more complex notion than perhaps than nationality in the legal sense – nationality or citizenship. On some of the key issues that are of interest to the committee and we had extensive NGO information and other information. We don’t for example have information on Okinawan people, because you reference that case equally be equality before the law. So the question of visibility of minorities arises significantly in Japan, and we don’t have information on ethnic minorities who have Japanese citizenship. We have information on foreigners of various kinds which you have kindly provided. But we don’t really have adequate information to make our own judgments on ethnic minorities with Japanese citizenship. We always have in some form or other a data question which we put to states and many different approaches to addressing this question are possible.

The second issue, rather technical one on the place of the convention in the law of Japan and the prohibition of racial discrimination, we have noted and it’s still the case that there is no general law in Japan prohibiting racial discrimination, and Japan has not regarded it as necessary to adopt specific legislation to outlaw racial discrimination, and the citation in defense of this position is article 14 of the Constitution whereby it talks about equality before the law and no discrimination on grounds of race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin. If I may just make a few brief points on this. In the first place, I think the list of grounds relevant to this convention in your constitution is narrower, and it doesn’t…we have five grounds, and it doesn’t cover them, of course there may be overlaps between the grounds – that is a possibility – but nevertheless, I think…it seems the Constitution is a more restrictive list than the convention.

The second, I’m not absolutely sure from responses and information we’ve received generally about the systematic application of this convention to private conduct in the situation of Japan. The convention directs itself in addition obviously to activities of the state, the state authorities and state organs, it directs itself to the activities of persons, groups, and organizations, and is a convention based on public life, which is more than the public administration of the state. We found some cases against actions against private persons they seem in some cases unsuccessful, but a comment would be welcome on this. I mean most cases, I would say these days, most states do not have direct discriminatory provisions it’s often the activities of private persons that the committee is dealt with as engaging responsibilities in gauging the obligations of the state under the convention. But following that, I’m also not absolutely clear if there is a prohibition on indirect discrimination in the law of Japan. The convention does not actually speak of indirect discrimination, it talks about intentional discrimination, discrimination in effect, but we have tended to translate that using contemporary language into the idea of indirect discrimination.

The other point on the question of how the convention reaches down into the law, it’s fairly clear that certain elements in the convention do require legislation. One may point out article 2, article 4, article 6 for example, clearly require legislation. Article 4 perhaps is in some ways the clearest. There’s an obligation to legislate under the convention in terms of racist speech and in terms of organizations. And we have elaborated that in general recommendation 15. We’ve talked about the convention in large measure being non-self executing; doesn’t apply to all of the convention, but certainly certain aspects of it do require legislation, so I would offer that thought for your reflection.

The other point is that there are cases we note where the convention has functioned as a criteria in the interpretation of laws, but only maybe as one criteria among others and perhaps that doesn’t have the same level of stability and predictability as a prospective law on racial discrimination. We would think it would guarantee a greater measure of legal certainty, and influence the conduct of potential perpetrators of racial discrimination and potential victims equally. And we note the various issues raised including today on the human rights protection bill; the one that lapsed and again we are always interested in current plans and projects to revive something similar, but I think…I can’t speak for the committee in advanced entirely, but the idea of a separate law I think does commend itself as very much the best way to implement the obligations under the convention.

On another technical matter, but one with a little more human content perhaps than I’ve been arguing so far. We asked you about one of the grounds of discrimination, namely the ground of descent, one of the five grounds for racial discrimination in article 1 with particular reference to people of the Dowa or Burakumin, and paragraph 8 of our previous observations made it clear that we felt that descent had its own meaning within the spectrum of grounds, and we’ve asked this again, and you’ve made a response – the response is a very interesting one. Since we asked this question last time, of course we’ve had General Recommendation number 29 on descent based discrimination.  Your response seems to claim that descent has no really separate meeting and is subsumed by the other grounds referred to in article 1. On the contrary the committee’s view is that while it is, we would say “in pari materia” of the same kind of substance as the others it does have a separate meaning and adds something to the convention. You also referred to the travaux préparatoires [the official record of a negotiation] of the convention and argued that descent was introduced to cover up confusions about the term national origin and so on, but there are also if one looks at the travaux just more widely, there are many references to caste and descent based systems in those travaux, particularly in the context of discussions on special measures.

My other maybe technical point is that, of course examination of the travaux of a treaty is important, but in the scheme of interpretation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties for example, the travaux are supplementary means of interpretation, and the text and subsequent practice are the primary means of interpretation. We note with great interest that there was in fact for the Buraku Dowa program of special measures, for a long period of time, I think maybe 30 years, but they were terminated in 2002. But I think the groups concerned did hope that certain compensation as it were in legal terms in terms of policy and legislation would arise from that to make up for the termination of the special measures program. We issued a recommendation last August on special measures, and our view is that special measures may be terminated when sustainable equality has been achieved. So that they’ve done their job in a way that the community itself can sustain its position in society. But nevertheless, this again a rather technical discussion we welcome the embracing of the spirit of the convention as you put it in your response, and this is very welcome. But then again you have pointed that broad legal guarantees and so on and that legislation is there but of course legislation, as a committee says, always has to be implemented and not simply promulgated, so I think real action and continuing action in light of your good intentions would be much appreciated by the committee.

I would just ask one question perhaps, is there actually a government department or ministry that specifically addresses the Buraku question which is very specific to Japan but also has certain analogies with systems elsewhere, and if not special measures what kind of general measures, because we have quite a number of presentations to the effect that in the field of housing, education, gaps between Buraku and other members of the population of Japan have narrowed, but perhaps not necessarily sufficiently. I there are still issues to do with marriage and Buraku Lists, and also discriminatory acts of individuals and derogatory comments in the mass media, the Internet, and there are issues around housing and land values and so on, which I think do deserve attention. These are difficult matters and they reach down to the mores of society in a very deep sense, and the state clearly I think has good intentions, in this respect, there is also I think vigorous activity in civil society so that one hopes that action and cooperation will continue and intensify.

Sorry it is slightly back to technicalities again, but on the issue of reservations Japan has entered a reservation to articles 4a and 4b of the convention in the interest of freedom of expression. It does not cover article 4 paragraph c which is about public authorities and public institutions to promote or incite racial discrimination. So your reservation doesn’t in fact cover inflammatory statements by public officials, and NGOs have presented example of that. Article 4A and 4B are accepted only to the extent of the fulfillment of the obligations is compatible with the guarantee of the right to freedom of assembly, association, and expression and other rights in the Constitution of Japan.  That was the reservation.

If I can just unpack the reservation very briefly it doesn’t refer to international standards on freedom of expression and therefore one has a problem with many of these reservations and there are analogies elsewhere that they tie the reservation to the text of a constitution so that in inverse situations through the principle of international law, if the constitution changes does that imply that the international obligations change? Which should really be the other way. It is also potentially a very wide reservation because it not only talks about specified rights but also other unspecified rights in the Constitution. We’re not always clear why reservations are maintained; perhaps you might have more to say on this. We are certainly not going to enter a legal struggle with the state party though we can and have often commended states and recommended states to either reduce the scope of reservations or to remove them or at least examined very seriously about whether there is a continuing necessity to maintain the reservation and the reasons therefore.

Your legislation or understanding of your principles on hate speech is that you have a fairly tolerant approach in that most of the legal action as it were takes place in the field of defamation against private individuals, but perhaps class defamation or derogatory marks about a group as a whole might not be so easily caught within your present structure and also for example article 4 a deals with racist propaganda which deals with group; it is clearly expressed in article 4 as well as individual dimensions. And CERD has always regarded article 4 as a high importance in combating racial discrimination and an essential reinforcement for the educational value of an educational program or the educational value of other provisions against racial discrimination. Anyway we know that in international law freedom of expression is not unlimited and there are dangers to a society in what one might call a coarsening of public debate, and we have been presented with evidence of rather gross unpleasant statements directed against groups in Japan. I won’t go into that further perhaps colleagues might want to take that one through.

Turning to particular groups, and going slightly away from the technicalities on the Ainu we note the welcome change to recognize the Ainu as an indigenous people and the support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Panel of Eminent Persons, the Consultation Forum, and the head of delegation has given us an update on these matters today. I suppose what we are interested in is the immediately proximate steps to be taken in conjunction with representatives of the Ainu to translate the good intentions of the government into practical programs, and indeed recognition as an indigenous group does bring with it in train quite a number of issues to do with identity, culture, language, land rights, sacred sites; there are a whole range and I’m sure you’re fully aware that any kind of legislative program based upon current standards of indigenous rights would in fact be a fairly extensive program, but anyway we note the positive change, welcome them greatly, and wish you well in your efforts to implement those good intentions.

On Okinawans, we note your response to question 18, and your reluctance to extend indigenous peoples term to natives of Okinawa. Okinawa, however has a fairly distinctive history – some of it I have to say from 1879 onwards was a very difficult history for the people of Okinawa who continue to be…live in a very heavily militarized part of Japan the with very small part of Japan’s total area but an enormous percentage of its military installations. They do seem to this member of this committee to be elements of a distinct culture, a distinct language, a distinct history, and certain prior presence in Okinawa, significant political and other presence before 1879.  We note that Okinawan language, or Ryukyu, is not taught in public education in Japan nor in Okinawa, and again you mention the people of Okinawa are Japanese nationals, but again that seems to me to be a citizenship question. We note the visit of the special rapporteur on racism a few years ago to Okinawa alleging lack of consultation and other matters; perhaps, if you have further comments on that it would be interesting to hear them. But I also note that UNESCO has regarded the Okinawan language as a distinct language so I think in this situation many countries would accept the Okinawans, an analogous group, either as an ethnic minority or an indigenous people.

On the Korean question I think I have puzzled over these statistics long enough and I think I’ve explained where I think I have arrived on this question. We did have a question about – we put this last time as well – on change of names in order to get naturalization and you have responded to that. The very interesting category in some ways this special permanent resident because they were people who actually lost Japanese nationality, and I have to say, when this happened in 1952, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations put it rather dramatically and said that with the withdrawal of citizenship, 500,000 foreign people suddenly appeared in Japan overnight. They are governed by the alien registration act.  I still puzzle over this term, special status; what exactly does it imply. It seems that there are significant differences between the special status residents from either of Korean or Chinese descent and the position of Japanese citizens. I mean, is there a special set of rules devoted to them that are different from Japanese citizens but also different from rules applying to other foreigners?

On the question of non-nationals generally, CERD has issued general recommendation number 30. All I can say on a whole is that on the whole we don’t see in the human rights field any great distinction should be made between nationals and foreigners.  There is room in international…we relate that out to international law generally. There is room often in the sphere of political rights to make those distinctions but otherwise human rights are human rights and I think as broad of framework as possible of human rights is always the most appropriate policy when we’re dealing with non-nationals. I mean, even in the political field we find that many countries permit non-nationals – give them a right rather – to vote in local elections. I’m not sure whether that applies either in the case of the special permanent residents in Japan or indeed, other non-citizens, non-nationals. On the Korean issue, Koreans in general, I’m not particularly confining myself to the special permanent residents, there is still the issue of names. I think your response…you said that the limited list of Japanese characters and everybody else has to comply with that but I think that’s the problem – that situations of people of Korean and Chinese ethnicity applying for naturalization are not the same as position of ethnic Japanese, and that’s a situation perhaps that one could have a look at.  I also noticed also in the figures, the fairly stable block in terms of numbers of special permanent residents, Korean, Chinese, and so on, who opt not to go for naturalization – not to become Japanese citizens, and I must say this rather set me puzzling a little bit as to why this is the case. First of all there is the names issue, but in a sense statistically and otherwise they appear if they do opt for Japanese citizenship, they open themselves a program of maybe effective assimilation in the education and other systems, because there’s not a great deal of recognition of ethnic minority rights in Japan as far as I can understand things, in terms of language, identity, culture, and so on. And it just occurred to me that if the gap, if there was a more open approach to the issue of ethnic minorities in Japan perhaps those who wish to conserve their identity might be more encouraged to opt for Japanese citizenship. It is simply a thought that I would actually commend for reflection.

The other point is on education. We had many presentations on education and in addition to issues like harassment of Korean and other non-ethnic Japanese in schools, there’s two things: Many Koreans and others opt for the, what I would call the regular school system or the public school system, it would be interesting to know in the public school system, how does the curriculum accommodate minorities and whether we are talking our Japanese citizens or noncitizens in terms of culture, history, background, language, and so on. What does it teach, the regular school system? In history classes for the regular school system, do they emphasize the contribution of various ethnicities to the construction of Japan? There is a double issue in the area of ethnic minorities here because the state on the one hand has the duty to equip the children with the ability to succeed in Japanese society, but secondly it also has the obligation to pay attention to history, culture, language, and it is a difficult balance to be attained. In addition to the public school system of course there are a number of non-accredited schools, in which it seems to us, and I can’t go through details now, that significant disadvantages compared with the public school system in terms of funding, in terms of treatment of taxation for taxation purposes, and other matters. So we would welcome perhaps a comment on this, and some of those schools do appear to be…particular reference is made to schools with people of Japanese descent from Brazil and Peru being in a particularly critical situation. There are all these many other issues related to minorities to do with identity, language, participation in national life, participation in decisions affecting them and so on, but in a way we haven’t been able to find, or haven’t been able to find out much about that because of the lack of data, this kind of screen of citizenship which really ends for all practical purposes ethnic data in the state party.

Two further issues very briefly. We have a lot of information on migrant woman. This is purely on the, I suppose, the noncitizen category. We welcome comment on that. Some hostile attitudes because of appearance, speech, dress. Particular criticism was referred to us on the revised immigration control act of 2009 and how it makes it rather difficult for women who are suffering domestic violence – they must continue as a spouse for more than six months, otherwise residence rights are revoked, and difficulties in accessing public services. Again, we don’t have real statistics on these matters and the committee doesn’t deal with gender issues directly, but when we feel there is an ethnic dimension to them using a principal we have called, and others too, “intersectionality,” we will deal with them. And finally, on this, there are some issues to do with refugee recognition, and in both cases there seem to be issues in and around lack of understanding, language questions, inhibiting access to services, and some kind of cultural disjuncture, lack of information in appropriate non-Japanese languages about procedures as mediated to the public, and so on. But anyway, we note positive remarks about a new program that you’ve made.

A couple of final comments, Chairman, and thank you for your indulgence, I think points have been made by a number of committees about a national human rights institution, and we note the positive approach expressed today by the head of delegation towards this development and welcome this very much. Your response actually, on this one was a rather interesting one because you said even in the response before today’s information, you would work towards a national human rights institution. You referred to a range of problems including Buraku, Ainu, Okinawa, and Korean issues which is I suppose precisely the issues that I’ve been trying to highlight today. So one hopes that the national human rights institution will enable a certain broadening of scope in relation to the human rights of these groups. I’m not aware, by the way, if there is any national plan in Japan or the plan of implementation of Durban Declaration in terms of elimination of racial discrimination, but I would be happy to be corrected on if that is incorrect.

Finally, a few brief comments, these are just my comments, the concluding observations are for the committee as a whole. On general social conditions, we have a certain focus on particular groups, but there’s also evidence of a widespread social difficulty in relations between Japanese and non-Japanese in both ethnic and citizenship terms. I mean, for example, we’ve had a number of evidences put forward to us about difficulties in discrimination in rights of access to places open to the public which is clearly referred to in article 5f of the convention. This is something that might be changed in due course by the adoption of the law, because I think the experience of many countries is that this kind of attitude, generalized attitude, can certainly be reduced in its scope and intensity by the passing a law which makes certain kinds of refusal of admission etc. clearly illegal and offers punishment or provides punishment for perpetrators and compensation for victims. It may also be that your approach towards hate speech is respectful of freedom of expression but perhaps over tolerant. CERD has mentioned many times that mass media and political class in general have special responsibilities here. And as I say in article 4 of the convention does require legislation, it is fairly clear in terms of racist discourse and racist organizations as to what must be done. I’ve made some suggestions on completing the network or widening the network of human rights obligation, including, I guess colleagues would also recommend adoption of our procedure under article 14.

Japan is a world-class economy and cultural power much admired for its goods for its cultural products and I think it’s important to match this prestige within arrangements in the human rights field because human rights arrangements influence the perception of countries. We construct our image of a society and people partly on that basis. And we’ve heard today much that is good and positive and perhaps there are more initiatives that will be referred to before the conclusion of our exchange, but I think a deepened engagement even on one’s first impression of reading the materials about Japan would be welcome and necessary, and I recall the very positive sentiments we’ve had related to us today by Prime Minister Hatoyama. So my observations are offered seriously and respectfully to the delegation to open a constructive dialogue with the state party even if the we do not eventually agree on all points, so again, many thanks for your information and apologies to the Chairman and my colleagues for overstaying, extending my speech, but I look forward to seeing what colleagues will comment, and I will try to draw the whole discussion to a brief conclusion at the end of tomorrow morning’s session. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Mr. Thornberry. I appreciate very much the depth of information and the hard work that has gone in preparing your comments which I think will be most useful for the state party’s delegation as well as to other members. I am going to give the floor now to the speakers who have requested the floor in the order that they requested, but before I do so, in view of the very importance of this debate, and the fact that we have so many speakers and I anticipate more, I would request, therefore, as much as possible to focus on questions, specific questions, related to the state party’s report. With that, I will give the floor now to the first speaker on my list, Mr. Amir followed by Mr. Avtonomov.

Mr. Amir

Thank you Chairman. I wish to thank and also congratulate the delegation from Japan chaired by the distinguished ambassador and also I wish to congratulate the head of the delegation and all the members of the delegation on the quality of their report which is before the committee members. I also thank Mr. Patrick Thornberry who has covered everything. He has covered all of the articles of the convention. Chairman, if I took it upon myself to take the floor during this debate, it was firstly and foremost to highlight by way of a comment, the exceptional nature and character of Japan. The first reforms did not just start now, the first reforms started at the end of the Second World War. They started when, as a wheat importer, Japan managed to build terraces across very volcanic terrain. We know that Japan is a country which has experienced earthquakes unfortunately, on a regular basis. But Japan has managed to master this natural phenomenon, to master this natural phenomenon from which all of the Japanese people could potentially suffer. And we know as well, quite to what extent Japan has been at the forefront of technical and scientific and academic advances and in all spheres on research, research which of course has increased productivity, production across all sectors of economic activity.

Chairman, Japan has also made major efforts on a human level because the former land owners in rural areas has seen their land nationalized and this land, this farming land, has gone directly to the peasants to the people who could not buy the land because they had no money and some of the production has gone back to the peasants themselves so that they could make sure they could feed their cattle and also feed themselves; and then of course there is also a share which was sent to the former land owners because they had to provide compensation for the nationalization of this land and this went on for several years before the Japanese peasants became real farmers in their own right, so having said that, Chairman, racial discrimination as seen in the report that we’ve read, and as seen as well in the alternative report which have been submitted by nongovernmental organizations is a matter of some concern. It’s not because we believe one side or another, that is not what I’m saying when I look at the reports. I’m concerned because I thinking of the history of Japan going back to what Mr. Thornberry said on the issue of education and the issue of training at all levels; mainly education and training for future generations. Japan has a certain past, it has a certain present, and it has a certain future, and it’s the future that today I would like to focus on.

And these are my thoughts as to your future. Discrimination against indigenous minorities living in Japan who have lived in Japan historically, the ancestral populations, in the 17th, 18th, 19th century, if we look at the history of Japan we saw that this populations as well as other indigenous peoples were quite simply discriminated against because of the vertical hierarchy of values. Let me look at the peoples which come from outside of Japan itself and here I am thinking in particular of Koreans and Chinese and Thai and Filipinos. Here I’m thinking about all the different minorities represented in Japan who have their own identity from their own origins. So there are these different indigenous minorities and then there’s also these minorities from outside. We see globalized discrimination which historically may have some raison d’être, may have some foundation, but history is now being transformed and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is raising issues to overturn history to establish these minorities in their full rights as enshrined in the convention, this international convention. Education, teaching, training well what programs do you have there? What do you teach young Japanese children today, apart from science and technology, of course? What else do you teach them? Do you teach history as part of your core curriculum in Japan – in particular, the history of your relationship with these minorities and also with your neighbors?

You asked me to be brief today, Chairman, given the number of experts who are to take the floor during this debate, so I decided to say, for example, we have the example of Australia with the Aborigines, we have the example of New Zealand, and how they work with their minorities. These parts of their population who are original inhabitants of the country, and these countries have apologized to these minorities, indigenous peoples who have historically been discriminated against and we should pay tribute to New Zealand for this; it is a matter of honor for them, we should pay tribute to Australia for the fact that they have officially presented their apologies to these minorities of their own cultural traditional identity. And in the United States as well we have the situation of Martin Luther King who has become a symbol of the fight against racial discrimination. Two centuries of slavery, while today we have Martin Luther King as a symbol, he is a symbol of freedom, freedom of the United States of America, freedom in their fight against racial discrimination. So it is a matter of honor for these countries such as New Zealand and the others I mentioned to say, “Yes, it’s true, it happened, it’s in the past, now it’s over.”

So education, education is a bridge, a bridge to bring together all the children in Japan, all the citizens of Japan, and the fact that you teach how to learn lessons from history that would limit all forms of racial discrimination in the treaty sense of the term, because it would teach unity, unity not based on identity, cultural ethnic identity, but social economic unity based on equal rights, and this kind of unity would give Japan greater resources to move forward towards further modernization to create Japan for tomorrow, you should make similar progress as you have made in science and technology in the development of your human resources in a very sensitive area which is that of research into human and social sciences to make sure that the discrimination that we have learned about in particular through the alternative reports will slow down and disappear so that Japan can once again be a cultural and multicultural model as well as an economic model and a political model and a humanitarian model. And I am sure that we will see great progress from Japan in this field of human rights. Thank you Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you for your intervention. Mr. Avtonomov, you have the floor, followed by Mr. Murillo Martinez.

Mr. Avtonomov

Thank you Chairman. Chairman, thank you for having given me the floor. I shall try to be as brief as possible but all the same before I start my comments I do wish to welcome the distinguished delegation from Japan; there are so many of you here, we do note that, we have an appreciation; it demonstrates your respect for the committee and demonstrates quite how important this dialogue is for you. And you know that this dialogue is really the most important part of our procedure for the examination of reports, it’s only through a dialogue that we can really identify the stance of a particular party to the convention. It’s only in this in this way we can really know what is happening in Japan, how matters are being settled to make sure that our recommendation are really targeted, they are concrete, and they are useful ones for you, And they’re not just general comments without the true knowledge of the country. And I’d also like to thank the distinguished country rapporteur Mr. Thornberry, as always, he has carried out an in-depth analysis, a broad ranging analysis of the situation in the country and of the report itself. Japan is a long way away from Europe so of course you have your specific country characteristics and it’s very important for us to learn more about this because our convention applies to all countries, but each country is different, and has its own characteristics, and so it is very important that this be underscored for us as members of the committee as the rapporteur has done. I would like to say that the report is highly informative. I was very interested indeed to read it and to read about the court decisions and so on contained in the report – not all countries provide such detailed information and in particular on the court decisions related to the fight against racism. All of this information is very useful indeed, so thank you. And it’s a very good thing that the report carries on from the initial and the second reports so there’s a clear progression here and we see here answers to specific comments made, so that’s very useful as well. Of course we are not always satisfied by the answers but they are there, that’s important. It is very important for us to see how the state is making progress, and I very much appreciate the introductory statement made by the distinguished ambassador. I have the greatest respect for all of the initiatives that you are implementing and your work with refugees, that new initiative from Japan, and the “Yuuai” concept as well that was mentioned and it was announced by the Prime Minister Hatoyama. I think these are very important initiatives; we see a new vision of Japan to cope with changing circumstances of the contemporary world and I think we need to take into account all of the information you have provided today when we analyze reports and prepare our concluding observations and recommendations. I’d like to thank you as well for your answers to the questions raised by the distinguished rapporteur, the questions, the list of issues that he sent prior to our meeting to the state party.

But having seen all this information, I do still have a few questions that I would like to put, and I won’t go into any detail right now because Mr. Thornberry has already covered most of the questions I had, I don’t need to go into any detail, but I do still have a few questions that I’d like to highlight. I have visited your wonderful country. I really do like your country, there’s a lot of things that we should learn from you I know, and I would say that we have special links I think between Russia and Japan, links that other countries might not have with your country, because there is a small Orthodox church in Japan; it was first founded by the Russian ministries in the beginning of the twentieth century, but it’s carried on, and it’s developed as a Japanese Orthodox church and so it has the Russian orthodox traditions and the Japanese culture as well, so it’s a very interesting example of cultural interaction, and I can see that our relationship is a very close one, and I hope that our peoples and our countries will become ever closer in the future.

Having said all that, I do have a few specific questions, and in particular on current developments in your country. Firstly, I draw your attention to the fact that there is a bill, a draft law on education, on ensuring education for children irrespective of their ethnic appurtenance. This is a draft law or bill which is currently being examined; it was initiated by the government before the parliaments now. I think it’s a very good initiative but all the same, I was wondering about the different ministers, who were saying that you should exclude the Koreans from the scope of this draft law given the diplomatic relations you have with North Korea. Well, the Koreans coming to study in Japan will be those who are resident in Japan; they won’t be those from outside. So I’d like to receive some further information from the distinguished delegation on this draft law, and to make sure that I have your reassurance that such discriminatory amendments will not be brought into the law, and irrespective of the relationship between the governments of Japan and North Korea here. I saw on the Internet, I think it was today, in the Asahi Shimbun, the editorial which criticized this kind of an approach to this draft, or this education bill. I understand a little bit of Japanese. I can speak a bit of Japanese and I can read a bit, so I was having a look at the newspaper website today. I can’t express myself that well in Japanese, I apologize for that, but I think I did pick up this issue, and Mr. Thornberry has raised the issue of the Koreans. I think that there is a long standing situation that some Koreans have remained foreigners; they have not acquired citizenship, and we can’t really understand that fully. If the Koreans have not taken on their citizenship of the Republic of Korea or of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, so South or North Korea, then can they then receive Japanese citizenship? I understand that sometimes they have decided, as Mr. Thornberry said, to do so, but what is stopping them from receiving citizenship now? So I’d like to ask the distinguished delegation what the situation is in citizenship laws in Japan on this matter. How can you acquire citizenship, are there any restrictions, limitations, are there any particular advantages for some or special fast-track procedures for some? I’d like to know about your laws on citizenship in the light of our convention, and sometimes there are traditions which are not in line with our convention – I’m not saying that’s the case with Japan – but I can’t really understand the situation fully here I’d like to note what legislation you have on citizenship in Japan which prevents these Koreans from receiving citizenship.

And Mr. Thornberry has already said that there are restrictions, there’s the different alphabet, and so on, so perhaps, there’s difficulties with the alphabet, I know that there are different alphabets, but there are the two different ways of writing; and what about Chinese language? They can read Japanese many of the same hieroglyphs are used; and so I’d like to understand what barriers there are for citizenship. I don’t know quite how to read all hieroglyphs, of course, but I do have to keep studying on this, but I think that it is something that is accessible to Koreans and to Chinese people living in Japan. So Chinese people live in Japan as well, and we know that there is a major part of Yokohama which is a Chinese district. It’s a real Chinese district, and I went there and I met with Chinese people, and I lived for some time in Ofuna City in Japan, and there are Chinese restaurants, and of course, there are Chinese people living and working for a long time in Japan, so why don’t we see this in the report? Does the Japanese government have a policy for Chinese people? Do they have special privileges? I don’t really see that reflected in the report, but I won’t go into any more detail on that right now.

And Mr. Thornberry mentioned these people living in Okinawa. They are from Ryukyu originally but now in Okinawa, and is there a position from the Japanese government on these people? I would be very grateful to receive further explanation on this situation. Is there a desire to recognize them as a distinct ethnicity, ethnic group, are there any particular measures for this ethnic group, for this group of persons; that are differences in culture and history, we know this. I won’t go into further detail now, you know the situation; there is linguistic and cultural issues. There was an independent state on those islands and so there is a certain culture and identity, so I would be very grateful indeed to the distinguished delegation to receive further explanation as to the state’s position on these parts of the population. I think it is very important indeed for us because they are in an indigenous people. I had a look at that in the report. I saw that the state party has moved away from using the word Utari to the Ainu to the name which they have decided they want to be called. That’s very important for us as a committee because it is very important for people to decide themselves what they want to call themselves. I think that is a basic right of any indigenous people to choose their own names, choose what they are called.

And then, my last question is on the Burakumin. We know that the Buraku people…we understand the position, well I know the position, let’s put it that way, I know the position of the state party, we’ve heard it, but all the same, in our convention we do talk about origins, and the Buraku are people of a certain family, and this is how they are defined, their origin is not just based on their social status. So I would be very grateful to the distinguished delegation for further explanation as to the situation with these people. I know that there is a long-standing tradition of family registration, so they register – people say well this is my family, this is where my family comes from, and everybody knows that in Japan, everybody knows where these Buraku people live, so if this information is accessible to third parties, that could be an issue. I’m not going to say whether this kind of family registration is right or not, but it could give rise to questions on whether all of this information should be shared or not – should this family registration be allowed or not, or with certain restrictions; this work is perhaps only just starting, but, maybe, of course every people has its own way of defining itself, and so it’s interesting to see further clarification on this, I’d be grateful indeed too, if you could give us more information on any work which might be underway to move on from this family-based registration or any other way in which you are creating the necessary conditions for the Burakumin be able to develop further, be further part of society.

Mr. Thornberry has already mentioned the special measures; we know that the special measures were in existence for 33 years, but I’d like to see more information about this. Did you achieve the objectives that you set when you introduced these special measures, and then what happened once these special measures were no longer in force. I won’t go into any more detail on this, you know that our committee adopted a general recommendation on special measures, but that was taken after you had done away with these special measures in Japan. But I’d like to know whether you achieved your objectives because we are concerned about special measures, so I’d like to receive further information to gain a deeper understanding of the issues. So thank you once again for all of your work, your introductory statements, your answers to the list of issues, thank you very much.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you, Mr. Avtonomov. Obviously you’ve studied very hard and you are familiar with the issues, and I was pleased to hear also that you can speak a little Japanese. So anyway, distinguished members, I still have a long list of speakers, and being practical and giving equal opportunities to everybody, I would suggest you speak for eight minutes if possible. And of course, I won’t censor you, but I would like you to exercise self regulation rather than for me to interpose. I don’t wish to do so at all, so having said this, and this is a suggestion, I give the floor to Mr. Murillo Martinez, followed by Mr. Cali Tzay.

Mr. Martinez

Thank you Chairman, I will be brief. First of all, Chairman, I would like to join with other speakers, I would like to thank the distinguished delegation from Japan for their reports. This has been analyzed in detail by our rapporteur. Mr. Thornberry. Chairman, Japan certainly enjoys what I would call relative calm and tranquility. It’s true that there’s an awful lot of racial discrimination in the world; still, the committee has been very emphatic in highlighting, of course there is no country in the world that can escape from this phenomenon scourge of racism and intolerance. I listened attentively to the head of delegation’s speech, and I can’t remember whether he actually used the concept of racism or racial discrimination as such in his speech. [NB: He does not.] It seems that this is something that the state in question prefers to avoid as a term. There is a new government in Japan as we have heard. And recently, we’ve heard there is going to be a new vision adopted by this country. Perhaps the delegation could say a little bit about how this new view of your country is going to sort of tie in with the phenomena of racism – and I’m thinking particularly of the day to day life of the foreign population in your country, because we have heard that there are problems afflicting foreigners in your country.

For instance, the Koreans. It would also be useful to know a little bit more, and I’m thinking about this segment of the population. What is the impact of your educational policy? Do you have special support for instance, so that children from these groups or this population can be better integrated in the educational system in your country? And finally, Chairman, it would be useful if the Japanese delegation could say something about whether you have monitory mechanisms in your country monitoring the phenomena of racism and xenophobia in Japan. And I’m thinking here also of the Internet as well. Do you have any sort of observatory or monitoring center on racism and discrimination or any statistics that could give us a broader view of this phenomenon and how it has an impact on victims of racism and xenophobia? The rapporteur has referred to the human rights institution – again it would be useful to know how far you’re going in ensuring that this body is going to be in complete line with the Paris Principles. Thank you.

I thank you for your questions and your intervention. I give the floor to Mr. Cali Tzay, followed by Madame Dah.

Mr. Cali Tzay

Thank you Chairman. Thank you for giving me the floor. I would like to thank the distinguished delegation from Japan, and of course thank the head for the presentation. I would join with others in the committee for thanking Mr. Thornberry for this excellent in-depth report. I’ve also heard a lot from Mr. Avtonomov and learned a lot from him. I think, thanks to his intervention, he’s given me a better picture of Japanese culture as well. And to some extent, that’s taken words out of my mouth. I only have, therefore, one or two questions to make. First of all, I’d like to thank the delegation for your answers, the information you’ve provided in the report. I had many questions on the Ainu in your country, but you’ve provided a great deal of information in your report and also in your oral presentation this afternoon, and I’d like to thank you for that information on the Ainu. I would like to echo what’s been said by Mr. Thornberry on the Ainu, and I would like therefore to know a little bit more about the situation of the Ainu and how they are treated in Japan. In this Eminent Persons Panel, could you tell me first of all how many people are members of this panel related to the Ainu, and also, I’d like to quote here in English now, “An environment which will enable the Ainu people to be proud of their identity and inherit their culture.” Does this mean that the Ainu are not proud of their own identity?

And NGOs have also told us that a high level official made racist statements against immigrants, something which has whipped up discriminatory feelings in the country targeting certain individuals in the Japanese population. What measures therefore is Japan taking in line with article 2(1) indent a, and also article 4 of our convention? We welcome the government’s initiative to have a school quota covered for all children who are of school age, but as an expert, I’m worried about the attitude of some ministers; they seem to want to exclude students of Korean descent. Even today, in the editorial of one of the most renowned newspapers, it actually criticizes the attitude of the ministers and asks the Japanese government to look at this again, because this is something that is violating the right of education for these children. According to information we’ve got, only the Ainu have been recognized as an indigenous people, and naturally we’d like to congratulate you on that, and welcome that. The Okinawa as I understand it are also an indigenous peoples. As we’ve heard from Mr. Thornberry, in some areas there is discrimination and historic persecution of these peoples. I would therefore respectfully ask whether they can be recognized as an indigenous people – in other words, the Okinawa, they have their own history, their own culture, their own language. Precisely because of that, they were the subject of persecution. Many thanks Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

I thank you Mr. Cali Tzay. I give the floor to Madame Dah, followed by Mr. De Gouttes.

Ms. Dah

Thank you Chairman. I would also like to welcome the Japanese delegation. I’d like to congratulate them on their presentation. Allow me also to thank Mr. Thornberry, really thank him for this very exhaustive analysis, and very precise analysis that he’s conducted, and as is his custom it is a brilliant analysis. Mr. Thornberry, I think, hasn’t left us really much to say because he has covered the ground so well, but I will try just to raise a few points if I may, Chairman. Also Chair, you have of course limited our speaking time, but I will do my best. It’s the second time that we’ve had Japan before this committee. They have come along this time with the very dense and informative report. It does raise a number of questions. The rapporteur has raised some issues already. We have others, but I don’t think we will have an opportunity to exhaust the subject. Since this is the second report from Japan it gave me an opportunity to re-read the initial report and also look at the analytical report and reports following that presentation.

I’ve been struck by the fact that, and this is what Mr. Thornberry called “technical points,” but it seems that these technical points are still unchanged. There has been no real change between 2001 and today. Now, when international commitments are made particularly in the area of human rights, it’s always difficult to change things and change them quickly, particularly when reservations have been entered, reservations entered to substantive provisions. I agree entirely with Mr. Thornberry as regards to the reservations in his particular analysis on the reservations and indeed his thinking on article 14. Having said that, I do think change can be brought about very cautiously if necessary but something that will make this convention and this convention is very dear to us and very close to our hearts, and which Japan also has studied very carefully before it acceded to this convention in 1995. We still believe that you would be in a position to remove that reservation. Japan has told us that you are still engaged in thinking on this particular point, and let’s hope that this thinking will eventually lead to a withdrawal of the reservation.

Chairman, in similar vein, there is no change in the ethnic composition in Japan and indeed as regards the definition of racial discrimination in this report. I’d like if I may to refer to some points, really just points for reflection as opposed to questions as such. First of all, on the Ainu, the Ainu people. They have been recognized as an indigenous people. You have started to take specific measures for the Ainu people. I have to agree with Mr. Thornberry that perhaps this needs to be taken further. We need to take these initiatives further so that you are also in conformity with all the international engagements and commitments you have signed up to, including the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the ILO Convention, and to make these operational, and as regards the rights of these peoples. I know that in Japan, you give a lot of leeway to your municipalities, but I think for such important issues, it’s terribly important that the central government, the central state takes commitments and lays down very clear and targeted guidelines.

On the Buraku, this refers…thinking back to this notion of descent, and it is certainly something that sparked our thoughts in my mind. I certainly don’t need to tell my colleagues or the Japanese delegation how and why this definition came in, but I have to say that as regards to the Buraku, I have been struck by just how similar their situation is to those who are affected by the caste situation in Africa. And that really is something that struck me. We must get beyond any form of stigma, stigmatization, and it’s up to the government to do this. Now, I understand that this takes a great deal of time and energy; it boils down to education, it boils down to consciousness raising. But I do believe that the Japanese government is able to do this work in other areas, and I think they can certainly do more in this particular area.

Let me now turn to everything that has to do with the foreigners in and outside Japan. Mr. Thornberry has talked about immigration problems, other colleagues have talked about the place of foreigners. Again, it struck me that increasingly Japan is opening up to the world. It’s increasingly an open country, of course is no longer an island, it’s many islands, but increasingly it is opening up to the world, you’re getting people from Brazil from the other Asian countries, and from other regions of the world as well. And some of these people choose to remain in your country, and that is something that is, if you like, pushing Japan to a certain position in the sense that they need to take initiatives to ensure these foreigners are integrated, at the same time, their specific identities are preserved and protected. Brazil, for instance, is apparently the third source of immigration in Japan. I was struck by that figure. I have some doubts on some measures that have been taken. We’ve heard about these attempts to change names. I mean, it may well be that there is going to be an African wave suddenly coming in to Japan. I just wonder what you are going to do when it comes to changing African names, if that wave ever arrives in Japan. We’ve heard that some people have been forced to change names, and here I’m being the devil’s advocate. I take the example of somebody coming from say my region. If, for instance, somebody came from my region to Japan and they had to change their names, they would be doubly frustrated in terms of their cultural identity, and let me explain what I mean by that. We have been colonized; now, I don’t like talking about colonization because at the end of the day colonization was a failure of humanity, but I feel duty bound to talk about colonization in certain conditions. Our family names were changed…if, for instance, an African hand to change their name or their surname was simply struck out, deleted, I see this as a double humiliation, and it’s certainly not something that’s desirable. Therefore, I hope that Japan will be in a position to review its policy in this area. And should something like this happen in the future, by then you would have found a satisfactory solution, satisfactory tool.

Chairman, I would conclude with the amendment to article 8 of our convention [on the establishment of a Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, with oversight powers]. I’m concerned at the fact that Japan to date has not yet accepted that amendment. Japan, and we’ve heard this so many times this afternoon, Japan is a great country, it is a great power indeed, and a major contributor to the United Nations. If there are any questions of principle which prevent your government from accepting this, you can certainly tell us why. If it is not a question of principle, well, the ideal for the committee would be for Japan to accept the amendment to article 8 to the convention, thereby ensuring funding for…it would not be a problem for the United Nations nor would it be a problem therefore for members of the committee. But Chairman, before I conclude, I would like to thank the Japanese delegation for their presentation, and I am keen and impatient to hear answers to my questions. Many thanks.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Madame Dah. I give the floor to Mr. De Gouttes, followed by Mr. Huang.

Mr. De Gouttes

Thank you Chairman. I’d like to thank the Japanese delegation, a very numerous delegation, I think 20 or so have come along this afternoon. I’d also like to thank the head of the delegation for his oral presentation. I naturally like to thank Mr. Thornberry for his very in-depth and very precise analysis. Again, we are used to that form of analysis; it was an extremely useful presentation from Mr. Thornberry as well. We’re all well aware of the wealth and also the complexity of the historical and cultural and sociological situation of this great country that is Japan. The sixth report which often refers back to the initial report which is was examined in 2001. The sixth report I have to say still leaves some issues pending. There is an awful lot of information that we’ve got. A lot of information I have to say has come from the NGOs who are here present in the room as well.

The first question on the different groups of the population in Japan. Para. 4 of your report talks about the Ainu living in Hokkaido. You say that we’re talking about 23,782. The head of delegation said this afternoon, that the government has now recognized the Ainu as an indigenous people in conformity with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, following on from a resolution of the Japanese Diet. This is extremely positive and we acknowledge that. But, and this is my question, what about the other groups? What about the other minorities? This question was addressed as part of the compilation drawn up for that UPR, the universal periodic review, and also in the conclusions of the UPR, the universal periodic review, in the conclusions of 2008. This is also an issue that was examined very closely by the special rapporteur, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism. This was back in 2005. The special rapporteur highlighted the situation of three minorities. The Ainu, but also the Buraku, and the inhabitants of Okinawa. Alongside these minorities, the special rapporteur also indicated the situation of the descendants of the former colonies, in other words Chinese, Koreans, and also the situation of foreigners and migrants in Japan from Asia or coming from other regions of the world.

Now, the question we all have in our minds, is what measures are being taken to protect the rights of other groups other than the Ainu? Because we’ve already heard there is recognition there. What is being done to protect their language, education, schooling, their identity more broadly? As to the Buraku community, the summary document – this again was part and parcel of the UPR – it highlights the need to protect this Buraku community. It said there, and this is what we have in this report, 3 million, 3 million peoples, in other words, one of the main minorities in Japan, descending from so-called pariah communities, if you like, a hangover from the feudal period. Because apparently, in the past, this population had professions linked to death or impurity, and this is a past that still weighs heavily, a taboo, although there has been an abolition of the caste since the 19th century. Mr. Thornberry quite rightly recall, and Madame Dah also pointed out that our convention in its first article, talks about descent-based discrimination and that our general recommendation 29 of 2002 has to do with descent-based discrimination or related to castes. We would like to know, therefore, what definition does the government intend to give of the Buraku people. How do you intend to define them? How do you intend to put an end to the discrimination of the Buraku? And also I would extend that comment to the Okinawan. So that’s my first question.

My second question is more specific. It has to do with the application of article 4 of the convention, and your penal legislation which criminalizes acts of racism. When I look at this report, it seems that there hasn’t been much by way of progress since the 2001 report. No new laws, no new legislation against racial discrimination, and in this jury system that you have in Japan, the convention therefore is not directly applicable. And this was said just now there has been no withdrawal of the reservation to article 4a and b. You also have problems with this idea of freedom of expression. This is something that is also highlighted in your report. Let me just recall however that the committee had clearly stated in its preceding concluding observations and in general recommendation 15 that provisions of article 4 are imperative and that there is compatibility between the prohibition of the dissemination of any idea based on racism and discriminatory…that is compatible still with freedom of expression.

My final question has to do with the implementation of article 6 of the convention – legal prosecutions when there is racial discrimination acts. 66 and 68 of your report give us some information on this. 71 also talks about complaints that have been dealt with by the Ministry of Justice human rights body. But out of the 12 rulings mentioned from 61 to 68, most of those were overturned, most of the complaints were rejected. Does this not illustrate therefore that you need to have more awareness, you need to better mobilize the police authorities, and broadly, the legal community on racism? I will leave my other questions to one side. Most of them have already been covered. They have to do with the importance of creating a national human rights institution which is independent in conformity with the so-called Paris Principles. Also the question of harassment of Korean children in Japanese schools, and also problems of non-nationals – foreigners – and according to information that we’ve received from NGOs, the fact that the Supreme Court refuses to accept the role of mediators for foreigners who had been specialized in settling and sorting out family disputes or other forms of disputes between foreigners, so I just wonder why the Supreme Court has rejected this idea of having a mediator for foreigners. I would like to thank the delegation, thank you Chairman, and again, I appreciate and look forward to the answers from the Japanese delegation. Thank you.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

I thank you, Mr. De Gouttes. I give the floor now to Mr. Huang, followed by Mr. Diaconu.

Mr. Huang

Thank you Mr. Chairman. I express my warm welcome to the big Japanese delegation headed by the ambassador in charge of human rights and humanitarian affairs of the Foreign Ministry to have a dialogue with this committee. I would like to join my colleagues to commend his Excellency, Mr. Ambassador’s comprehensive remarks, and also thank Mr. Thornberry for his length, in-depth analysis and comments. Japan has acceded to the major international human rights instruments. We appreciate the Japanese government submit to the committee its third to sixth periodical reports which provide a good condition for our constructive discussion and dialogue. Mr. Chairman Japan is a very interesting Asian state. We all know that Japan is an industrialized developed country and is an economic power in the world. But the Japanese people keep living in their own way. In the Oriental people’s eyes, Japan is a quite westernized Asian country, but it is not difficult to see that there are a lot of good traditions have been well preserved and inherited by the Japanese people. Comparatively speaking, the Japanese national is not a complicated nationality like other Asian countries. In Japan, there are not many minorities and indigenous people, except as just mentioned, the Ainu; not like China. We have 55 national minorities. The major national minorities in Japan are the immigrants from the other countries, especially from the neighboring Asian countries and regions.

Mr. Chairman, beside what the other colleagues already mentioned, I would like to say something about this strengthening of education on the elimination of racial discrimination to the people carried out by the state party government according to article 4 and 7 of the convention of ICERD so that to protect the basic and the legal rights of the minorities as mentioned above. Mr. Chairman, it is my understanding, these kind of education through all means possible at least includes two aspects. That is, to make acknowledgment of the convention among the people of the state party; and through the education, to enhance the awareness of the state party’s citizens to fully implement the convention to act according to the regulations set by the convention. It is not deniable fact that there is racial discrimination phenomena still exists in the Japanese society. For instance, the attitude towards the people of the former colony origin is known to all, that due to historical reasons of the Second World War, there were a certain amount of people now live in Japan who came from the Japanese former colonies – mainly from the Korean peninsula and Taiwan and other Asian countries; although, most of these people have now become the Japanese citizens after 1952. Half a century has already passed. We found that these people, including their second and third generations, are still in difficulties to be integrated into the Japanese society. Some Japanese nationals, especially among some elder Japanese, still have the self feeling of superiority over these people of former colonies. These people are not equally treated as Japanese nationals, but being discriminated in the field of employment, education, and social life. I should say this is really unfair to these people because since these people resided in Japan, they have constantly made great contributions to Japan in its industrializing process. They should enjoy the same rights as of the other Japanese nationals. So I suggest that the state party government should enact a basic and comprehensive law to eliminate societal and administrative and legal discrimination against these people.

As stated in article 4 of the convention, I quote part of it. “States Parties condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination.” I noticed that Japan has made reservations on 4a and 4b, but I think that the concept and the spirit of this article should be accepted by the state party.

Mr. Chairman, another aspect, I should mention is that there were some reports about discriminatory incitements made by the Japanese officials. Some Japanese politicians and public officials and those Japanese extreme rightists, they use some occasions, stigmatize the foreign migrants as I quote, “a bunch of thieves” or “troublemakers” or “criminal factors” etc. Really, I was shocked when I heard this kind of ___ came out from the mouth of the public officials. This irresponsible nonsenses incite hatred of the Japanese national toward the foreign migrants. I believe that it is really necessary for the Japanese government to engage special human rights seminars for these politicians and public officials according to the article 4 of the convention. As cited in article 4 (this should be article 7), “States Parties undertake to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information, with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and to promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups.” By doing so, to eradicate their feeling of hatred and xenophobia toward the foreign migrants in Japan, and to get rid of their deep rooted colonial thinking.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, once again, I highly comment the great efforts made by the Japanese government in the field of promotion of human rights, especially of the elimination of racial discrimination in Japan; include also, as just now as the ambassador mentioned, the Japanese government has already made some new measurement to eliminate the racial discrimination. So thank you Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you for your comments, Mr. Huang. I give the floor now to Mr. Diaconu, followed by Mr. Peter.

Mr. Diaconu

Thank you Chairman. Chairman, the presentation of the report by the delegation of Japan and the presentation of his considerations by Mr. Thornberry have opened up the path for a very substantive in-depth dialogue with delegation and it is my feeling that such a dialogue is absolutely vital in the light of the report and in the light of the discussions we have been having up until now. We really do need this dialogue. Now, to turn to the indigenous populations…We see that the Ainu are recognized as an indigenous people, but there are still some problems that remain there. Nongovernmental resources tell us that there are still problems regarding access of the Ainu people to fishing in the coastal areas where formerly they had access. But other persons would have the right to access these fishing areas in the coastal waters, so I’d like to have some comments on this from the delegation please.

Then, on the Ryukyu Okinawan population. If this population speaks a different language whether it be a dialect or not, it needs to identify what is the difference between Japanese and this language. If they have distinctive traits, why are they not also recognized as being an indigenous people?

Then the Buraku. We have taken careful note of your position that this is not a problem of race. But our convention also refers to descent because the concept of the sentence exists in our convention and we can’t say that this is a mistake. We can’t say that this is a mistake to have this concept in the convention and there is no reservation to article 1 of the convention on the issue of descendance being contained in the convention. So 40 years later you can’t come to us and say it’s wrong. I don’t think that would be the right approach for us in this discussion, especially as regarding the Buraku, I have read in some document that there is still a system of family registration, so registration by family. Does this system still exist? Because this system really was used to demonstrate that these people are part of a caste, a separate caste, so that they would not be given access to certain roles and jobs in the civil service and public authority, and measures are taken until 2002, special measures were taken for the Buraku until 2002. Why were these special measures terminated? Are they not in the same situation? Are they not still in the same situation? Are they up to the same social, economic, cultural level as other Japanese citizens? We don’t see answers for these questions.

Then, another question I have for the delegation is on the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. This declaration was adopted in 2007. What is the position of Japan on this declaration on indigenous peoples? And on Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization on indigenous peoples, does Japan intend to ratify Convention 169 of the ILO?

And now, on the Koreans. Well, there are many things to say on this subject. It would seem as though they have been resident in Japan since the Second World War; they had Japanese citizenship but they lost it following the application of the treaty, the San Francisco Treaty in 1952. Some of them have maintained citizenship, have kept Korean citizenship, some have not. These people have lived in Japan for all this time, they remain in Japan and they have no intention to leave Japan, so is it not possible for these Koreans individuals to receive Japanese citizenship that they lost during the war?

The present report refers us to the former report saying that this would be possible. So have these people, Koreans, asked to regain their Japanese citizenship or have they not asked to regain it? And if they have requested the return of their citizenship, what is the Japanese authority’s position on this? I am surprised that there are schools which deal with North Korean and those that deal with South Korean. I am reminded of the situation in the past with German schools which were East German or West German schools. Well, it seems strange to me. What happens at these Korean schools? We’re told that a measure has been adopted recognizing the studies carried out in Korean schools as being equivalent with those studies carried out in other schools so that these children can go to university. But then we read later on that it’s only the Tokyo School which has studies which are recognized as being equivalent. So what happens to the other Korean schools in other towns and cities around Japan? I don’t think it is acceptable that you allow such schools to exist, but then to say to the students, the pupils, you don’t have access to university. Yes, the state can establish curricula, criteria to make sure that the level of teaching is the same as in Japanese schools, but if the state doesn’t do this well then, it’s my feeling that it is absolutely unacceptable to punish the pupils at these schools, these pupils and students who come from a certain ethnic group.

We’ve taken note of the racist attacks against Korean schoolchildren and also the measures that the state has taken to counter such attacks and acts of aggression to prevent them and to punish them. This has to be done, you have to ensure better protection of these schools, but I am surprised that the poor relations between Japan and North Korea, and the missiles which were set off by North Korea have had an impact on the Korean children. What are they guilty of? What are these Korean children guilty of? So here, I really think is an issue of education for the general population. So that what happens in international relations is not reflected in everyday life of the population and in particular, the everyday life of the children studying at these schools.

We also read in the documents we have that the Korean language schools are not exempt from some taxes, whilst others schools are exempt from these taxes, including the international schools. Well that’s discrimination then. Why, is this distinction drawn? We need to have some answers on that subject too.

Then on refugees. We are told in the report that refugees are accepted from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and the ambassador has told us that refugees from Myanmar are also accepted.  But what is the situation regarding refugees from other countries? Why not accept refugees from other countries? The 1951 Convention should be applied by Japan. Is it only applied for Asian countries? I don’t think so. So, I would like to see some answers on this from the delegation.

I’m coming to article 4, and of course I’d like to endorse what my colleagues have said. If we read about the Japanese reservation, well we see that Japan should ____ article 4 to the extent that this does not run counter to the obligations in its constitution. Well what does this mean? To what extent is article 4 actually applied in Japan? I’ve read through the report and the second report as well the former report, and I see that the law punishes attacks on the honor, intimidation, instigation, provocation and violence committed against anyone. While that is what we want too. That is what we are seeking, to punish perpetrators of such crimes and offenses under article 4. What is missing is the racial motivation. Otherwise, the crime is punished in the law. So would the government not be interested in knowing what is the motivation behind such a crime? Should the racial motivation not be taken account of by the Japanese judges? I’m really raising questions here. I’m really wondering about whether you really want to exclude racial motivation of crimes from all of the Japanese criminal justice system. I am wondering about this and I’ve really like to have some clarification on the subject. And if we note in the new report, the cases which have been examined by the judicial system in Japan, that judges have referred to racial discrimination in their judgments. They have referred to the racial connotations of such and such an act so that judges seem to feel the need to take account of racial discrimination as a motivation. Why does the state, the government itself, not want to take account of it when they are confronted with it in real life? So these are the immediate questions that I wanted to raise, and this is referred to others.

The report says that the Chinese have now come to Japan are more numerous than the Korean inhabitants. But we haven’t received much information about the Chinese population in this report. Are there Chinese language schools? What is their status if they exist? And the Chinese population, are they from Taiwan, are they from continental China, do they have separate schools? I’d like to know what their position is and what their position will be in the future in your country. But having of said all that, I would like to add to what Mr. Huang said, what is vital in a country is generalized education of the population to promote the elimination of racial discrimination. Thank you.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Mr. Diaconu, for your intervention, and I give the floor now to Mr. Peter, followed by Mr. Ewomsan.

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I would also like to join my colleagues in welcoming the large delegation of Japan headed by his Excellency the ambassador in charge of human rights and humanitarian affairs. I would also like to thank most sincerely our colleague Professor Thornberry for his very thorough analysis of the report by Japan. Mr. Chairman, I would look at four issues very briefly. Some of which have been touched by my colleagues and also some of which have been touched by his Excellency the ambassador. The first issue, Mr. Chairman, relates to existence of a human rights commission in Japan. Mr. Chairman, as Madame Dah has said, Japan is a model in the world. It is looked at like other developed countries, and therefore it is a little bit unsettling to note that to date, we are speaking of not having a human rights commission in that great country, an institution where people can go for redress. We are told that the 2003 draft was shelved. There was a draft of 2005, but to date five years later, we do not have anything in place. Now, my worries, Mr. Chairman, is that whenever, from my reading, whenever there is a new change in government in Japan, there are also fundamental changes, changes relating to human rights, changes relating to military bases, and so on. Now, my question is that when can we expect, do we have a timeframe for when we can expect a human rights commission before another change comes in and then we don’t have a human rights commission. So I really want to hear a view and taking into account the importance of Japan in the world. And we thought that as a model, giving example, it should not only talk, but also walk the talk as well. Mr. Chairman, that is my first point.

My second point Mr. Chairman, leads to Japan and the international instruments relating to human rights. Let me say this and I may be wrong, I stand to be corrected by the delegation. Among the developed countries, Japan seems to have signed, ratified, and acceded to the least, and I am underlining the word, to the least international instruments if you combine conventions and protocols relating to human rights. Just take quick count gives a total of 13 conventions and protocols to which Japan…protocols and the conventions on human rights to which Japan is not a party to. And even where it is signed, there are several reservations including the reservation relating to our own convention, reservations relating to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, reservations relating to the rights of the child, and so on. And of course sometimes, Mr. Chairman, and again here I wish to be corrected if I’m wrong, that even the pattern of signing and ratifying international instruments by Japan is also sometimes contradictory. Contradictory in the sense that if you look at the report, Mr. Chairman, on page 18 paragraph 56, it’s about abolition of apartheid. It says, apartheid does not exist in Japan, such a policy is prohibited in paragraph 1 of article 14 of the Constitution, and then it goes on. And yet, if you look at the ratifications, Japan has not signed, ratified, or not acceded to the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Japan has also not acceded to the International Convention against Apartheid in Sports and so on. So I think there is a contradiction between what is there in municipal law and the international pattern of Japan when it comes to ratifications. Now Mr. Chairman, my question here is that should I take that Japan is uncomfortable in the international sphere, and it would like to have as little interaction as possible with the rest of the world? Is that the picture that Japan would like to give us? Mr. Chairman, I’m saying that because that is the tendency in international interactions. But we see a different Japan when it comes to trade. Japan seems to be trading with everybody. Mr. Chairman, and Japanese products are household names. You talk of Sony, Honda, Toshiba, Suzuki, Yamaha, and so on. In my own country, every motorcycle whatever, where ever it is made is called a Honda, even if it is made in America, they would still call it a Honda. So, my question is, Japan do you just want to trade but not to interact with other people? That is my worry taken the way you have been dealing with international instruments.

Mr. Chairman, my third issue relates to application of international law in Japan. Mr. Chairman, Japan follows the monist school as opposed to the dualist school in appreciation of international law. That means that once Japan signs and ratifies an international legal instrument, that instrument becomes part and parcel of Japanese municipal law straightforward without the need of special legislation for domestication. Now, Mr. Chairman, what is strange is that individuals in Japan are not allowed to invoke these international instruments when they are pursuing their rights. It is alleged that ratification of instrument is a state-state issue which does not concern the individual. Now, Mr. Chairman I wanted to get a comment from the delegation, headed by his Excellency the ambassador, why can’t individuals invoke international legal instruments to which Japan is a party, in pursuit of their rights.

Mr. Chairman, the last point relates to article 14 of ICERD. Now that we don’t have a human rights commission in Japan, the way for the individual is narrow. I just wanted to know from the delegation are there any initiatives within the government sectors in Japan to make the necessary declaration relating to article 14 of ICERD so that individuals can have access to the committee, or should I take this to be a no-go-area when it comes to the government of Japan? Mr. Chairman, those were my worries which I believe the delegation will assist me in clearing them, but again I really want to take this opportunity to thank the delegation of Japan, headed by his Excellency the ambassador, for coming for this dialogue. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you very much for your intervention, and I give the floor now to Mr. Ewomsan, followed by Mr. Lindgren.

Mr. Ewomsan

Thank you Chairman. Similar to my colleagues, I’d like to welcome and congratulate the Japanese delegation on their report. I am not usually long, but I have to say that I very much admire Japan as a country. Japan is a country that has managed to make so much progress in the area of its economic development without losing its soul. And I know that Japan also is able to make the very most of its culture, the strength of its culture and its traditions. Having said that, I am very much struck by the consequences of social stratification and how that has an impact on the Buraku. Therefore, it would be useful to have more information on the situation of this community. I’d also like to know about the measures that the government intends to take to improve the situation of these people and to eradicate any discrimination against them. I’d like to congratulate Mr. Thornberry for his excellent analysis and I share his thinking. I’ve also taken note of what Madame Dah had to say as well. Let me say that I have a great deal of admiration for Japan, and it would be excellent if Africa could learn from such an example. I’ve tried myself to write some haiku, proof of my admiration for Japan, in fact haiku in my language means a, like a bean, the seed of a bean, literally. And of course if I went to Japan myself I would probably have to change my name. I wouldn’t be as lucky as Madame Dah, because I already have two first names which are apparently Japanese. Thank you.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Mr. Ewomsan, and I give the floor now to Mr. Lindgren.

Mr. Lindgren

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, as you are aware, I am here today thanks to the strike of Lufthansa, which did not allow me to go back to my country. It is nothing against Japan, it’s because I had to go back to Brazil. So I am telling this in order to explain to the Japanese delegation that I really hesitated to ask for the floor because I don’t consider myself well prepared to comment in detail your report. I can easily join my colleagues and thank you for the report and for the amount of people that you brought to present their report and to defend its content and give explanations to us to the doubts that we have. But I decided after all to take the floor for two reasons.

One is a point of clarification, which was motivated by the statements by some colleagues including Mrs. Dah, because it’s true that the report refers several times to the large number of Brazilians who are immigrants in Japan. And I would like to tell to my colleagues because they probably are not aware of this, that in the end of the 19th century, Brazil received millions of Japanese immigrants and they were, and they are, a fundamental part of the Brazilian population. They are all Brazilians, they were essential for the establishment of the Brazilian nationality, and whatever positive development we have, we owe to a certain extent to the contribution of the Japanese. In the second half of the 20th century, mostly in the years in the 70s and from the 80s on, Brazil came into a crisis and then there was the reverse movement. The Brazilians went to Japan in large numbers and they are still in large numbers. They do not constitute what some countries call, even Mr. Thornberry and I myself don’t like the term, but they do not constitute a visible minority. They look very much like this delegation physically, so certainly they speak a kind of Japanese that by now must be at best laughable; Portuguese Brazilian slang and the very limited contribution from the original Japanese of their ancestors. They are as close to the original Japanese as I am myself Lindgren am to the Swede who was at the origin of my name, so I have nothing to do with them. When the Brazilians went to Japan at first, and because of the excellent opportunities they found there in the factories of Japan, even if their wages were smaller than those of the Japanese, they never complained, they lived quite well. They suffered – and this is not a complaint Mr. Ambassador because this is being resolved already, is already resolved by consular relations between our countries – but when there was this crisis which led several enterprises to dismiss people, of course the Brazilians as foreigners were among those who were the first to lose their jobs, and then there were planes that were chartered by Japan to send them back to Brazil. It was something strange, but please I repeat, it is no complaint, I do not envisage this from the point of view of racism, nothing like this. This is just an explanation that I wanted to give to my colleagues.

Now, I come to the point that I really would like to stress to the Japanese delegation, even though I didn’t prepare myself well for this interview with you. I remember that for the…since I first attended a meeting of this committee, it was eight years ago, there was a special session on the question of the pariahs, or the_____and so on. It was soon after the Durban conference, and there we learned, I learned for the first time about the Buraku people. And I noticed even though superficially, I noticed that your report speak about, for instance the Hokkaido Ainu people. It speaks about foreigners from other areas, Korean residents in Japan, and so on. But what I learned about the Buraku people in front of my eyes, is specifically from the Mission to Japan by the special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, at that time it was Mr. Doudou Diene in 2006. I would like you to explain to us what are these Buraku people? Why are there remnants of discrimination against these people? Even what is told here in this report by Mr. Doudou Diene is not so terrible, so you can speak freely about it so that we understand from the source instead of learning it from other people. Thank you very much.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

I thank you Mr. Lindgren. It is our good fortune in a way that you were unable to return to your country so you have lightened our debate this afternoon and I certainly personally am very happy to see you here although it may be inconvenient for you and one trusts that you will be homeward bound in the not too distant future. And of course, I presume you will return thereafter. You won’t just say goodbye to us for good. Well, distinguished members and distinguished members of the delegation of Japan I have exhausted the list of speakers, and I think somebody else wants again to…Mr. Diaconu, did you want to say something?

Mr. Diaconu

No, no.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

We have exhausted the list of speakers for this afternoon. As you can see, it was a very rich debate on rather very rich commentary by members of the committee. So have about 10 minutes left, and we always like to utilize our time well, so if you would feel like responding to some of the questions now, I would request you to end your intervention about two or three minutes before the hour so we can conclude the session in an orderly way. You have the floor sir.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Thank you Mr. Chairperson. First of all, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the special rapporteur, Mr. or Thornberry, and other members of the committee. We received very inside depth and very positive comments from you. I appreciate first of all. And then of course we received your comments or your questions which I think we can answer after we sort of sort out question. Since I listened, there are many questions sort of shared by most members, so I think we can sort of sort out, and then make questions, I mean, the answer is clear, tomorrow, by our delegation members. And then, especially I was impressed by comment made by Mr. Thornberry referring to Japan’s first contribution to this question of discrimination against racism when the League of Nations was established, while we sort of___try to include the principle of nondiscrimination into the League of Nations’ major principles. But later on, this was achieved by the United Nations. That was exactly what I was thinking when coming back to this room in the Palais de Wilson, of course. Thank you very much.

That reminded us furthermore, one more time, that we, Japanese, have to be a sort of vanguard or sort of a forerunner to implement this convention and further sort of cooperate with you and other nations to promote the principles and spirit of this convention. As you saw our delegation, big numbers, we have 14 members from five different ministries and agencies. Despite of the difficulty, for example I faced yesterday, of the some labor difficulties by Air France and Lufthansa and so forth, you see our delegation composed of those young, prominent, future public servants of Japan. Since we experienced the almost first ever real change of government or change of government in 50 years time, now, so the questions relating to the…some aspect of your questions are indeed sincere sort of review on the new government. So some points, I think our delegation can give you a little bit more detailed explanation tomorrow. What kind of consideration, what kind of review are now taking place – although some of them are not yet materialized by parliamentary actions. But we are doing. So on specific issues of personal question, I think my deputy, Ms. Shino, can answer in broad sense. May I?

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)


Ms. Shino (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Mr. Chairman and rapporteur, Mr. Thornberry, and the distinguished members of the committee, thank you very much for listening to us and giving us valuable comments. Since the remaining time is not that long, I would like to give you my overview comments. If I do remember correctly, from Mr. Thornberry, Madame Dah, as well as Mr. Peter, there was a question about what is the situation right now on the individual communication. Now, as Mr. Thornberry has pointed out, not only article 14 of the ICERD but also the ___ ICCPR, we have not adopted the amendment for the individual communications, and we have not yet accepted at all the individual communications for the other instruments, either. Now, at the present status of our study is, as the members have said, the individual communications, in order to ensure the effect implementation of the instruments, we are aware that this may be a significant means to ensure ____, but in order to accept it, and in order to make it a useful system for Japan, in what form would be the best form and way to accept this, there are many things that we need to further consider. So on this point, as Ambassador Ueda has mentioned, under the new government, this has been given a priority. We have been instructed from the new government that we should give priority to this issue. So we are making a very sincere study into this matter right now. But as of yet we have not arrived at a conclusion. That is the present status. So that was very briefly my comment on the individual communications. Thank you.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The typical sort of situation now in Japan. So, tomorrow I think we can explain to you more in detail on some of your questions. So today, I repeat our sincere appreciation to those, all those members of the committee for such a constructive, very constructive exchange of views. I thank you very much Mr. Chairperson.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

It thank you Mr. Ambassador Ueda, and this actually shows how important we consider your country, and the interest that your country has aroused in members of our committee, which also reflects the interest of the international community. So with this, distinguished members, I will now conclude this meeting, and tomorrow morning we will take up Japan at 10 o’clock sharp.


Second Day

(February 25, 2010 (10:00~13:00): Japanese government response and interactive dialogue session)

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

…Of course it would be better to answer questions raised by members one by one but because of the time constraints I think I will ask my delegation members to answer in sort of a compiled way to similar questions from several members of the committee. So first, I think I would like to ask my colleague Mr. Akiyama, the director of the newly established department for Ainu policy, to answer on the questions of the Ainu people. I will ask my colleague Mr. Akiyama to answer. Thank you.

Mr. Akiyama (Japanese government delegation; Cabinet Secretariat)

Good morning distinguished members of the committee as I have been kindly introduced, my name is Mr. Akiyama. I’m the counselor of the comprehensive Ainu policy department. There has been a major interest shown by the distinguished members and I am truly appreciative of that. Let me now provide answers to your questions. First of all, to Madame Dah as well as Mr. Diaconu, for your questions. For the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the international covenants to do with the indigenous peoples in line with these incidents it is necessary to reinforce as well as expand the rights of the Ainu people. At the Diet of June of 2008 unanimously the resolution on the recognition of the Ainu people as an indigenous people has been adopted. And with the Ainu, the member also participating under the chief cabinet secretary, the Advisory Panel of Eminent Persons on policies for the Ainu people was established. And in July the report of the panel was submitted to the government and in August of last year,_____the government to take the initiative in administering the Ainu policy under the cabinet secretariat, the new office was established which is the Comprehensive Ainu Policy Department. And in a comprehensive manner Ainu policies are being promoted and coordination and adjustments are being made with the other ministries. Based upon the report being submitted in July 2009 by the advisory panel on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to which we have participated in the consensus adoption, it is taken for granted that it should be based upon the Constitution which is the supreme law for Japan and also___as to the significance of the general international guideline for the policy of the indigenous peoples and also taking into consideration article 2 paragraph 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. We are able to take special measures in order to guarantee the equal human rights for certain people. In December of last year we have newly established the Council for the Promotion of the Ainu Policy headed by the chief cabinet secretary and we are trying to proceed with the Ainu policy in a comprehensive manner.

Let me now turn to the question from Mr. Cali Tzay. How will we be able to ensure the adequate participation of the Ainu people in the policy making? And there was also a question with regard to the proactive involvement by the central government in this issue as I mentioned earlier, the Advisory Panel of Eminent Persons of Ainu policy which was established in July 2008, this advisory panel is made up of seven persons, and out of those seven, the Ainu representative was one. And in this advisory panel, the panel members made on site visits for three times into the areas where Ainu people are living in large numbers. And we also listen to the voices of Ainu people so that we could come up with discussions on how to promote Ainu policy in the future. Therefore, in this way, in the policy forming process, the government has paid much attention to the involvement of Ainu people themselves and last August the comprehensive Ainu policy______ cabinet and in December as well we set up the meeting for the promotion of Ainu policy which was headed by the chief cabinet secretary last December. Therefore, in this way, the government, the central government is taking the initiative in order to plan and promote Ainu policies. There were 14 members that participated in this meeting for the promotion of Ainu policies. Out of those 15, Ainu who represented themselves were numbered five. Mr. Abe vice president of Hokkaido Ainu Association who is observing the session is one of those representatives and members. And aside from those five Ainu members, the government of Hokkaido, the mayor of Sapporo, and the local community leaders and also experts on Constitution and experts on history in addition to Professor Yozo Yokota, a former member of the working group on indigenous populations, and Mr. ____ Ando, a former member of the UN Human Rights Committee. And this meeting for the promotion of Ainu people, the first meeting was organized and held last month. And in the following month we are going to start the working group under this meeting and in this working group we are going to look into the possibility of setting up a park as the ethnic harmony space and we are also considering the possibility of conducting a survey with regard to the living conditions of Ainu people.

And this survey at this point in time, the policies relating to the improvement of living standards of Ainu people are only located and practice in Hokkaido but the central government is trying to expand these measures nationwide, therefore aside from Hokkaido, how many Ainu people are located in what places, and what are their living conditions; we have not, we have no clear information about such status and situations. Therefore, as a preconditioned of the nationwide implementation of the policies we have to look into the status of those people living outside of Hokkaido, but in conducting such a survey there is going to be an issue relating to the protection of privacy, therefore with regard to the methodology, as I mentioned earlier, at this working group of the meeting of the promotion of Hokkaido (?) is going to take care of that. And Mr. Abe, who I mentioned, is also involved in this working group. Therefore, we try to listen to the views and voices of the Ainu people in conducting a national survey.

Therefore, in this way as far as the central government is concerned, it is always sensitive to listening to the views of the Ainu people. And on top of that, the government is already going to encourage Ainu people to be proud of their own identity and encourage them to be the bearers of their own culture, and such vision and concept has been captured in the address that was given by the Prime Minister at the Diet.

Next, I would like to turn to the points that were made by Mr. Cali Tzay and Mr. ____that Ainu people may not be proud of their identity and what may be the reason why the name has been changed from Utari to Ainu. On these points, Japan as the government policy modernization has been preceded with…as a consequence there has been serious damages had been imposed on the Ainu culture which has led to the discrimination as well as prejudice over the Ainu people that may have prevented the Ainu people to choose the life with pride as Ainu. Even though the intrinsic culture may have been significantly damaged, without losing the identity and thereby reviving its identity and maintaining such identity is still present in Japan as Ainu people is something very meaningful and the United Nations Declaration says that diversity in culture should be respected as common asset for mankind. We are fairly aware that we should take due note of that aspect. So government would like to create society whereby the Ainu people will be able to say with pride that they are of Ainu.

Next, the name for the Ainu people has been changed from Utari to Ainu. Let me explain the process. The Association of Ainu People which is the Hokkaido Ainu Association, in the past because of the discrimination as well as prejudice over Ainu people they did not use the name of Ainu. Instead, they used the name Utari which meant the compatriots in Ainu language. But in April last year, the name of the association was changed from Hokkaido Utari Association to Hokkaido Ainu Association. So it indicates, I believe, that social environment is gradually changing whereby the people of Ainu are able to say with pride that they are of Ainu.

The next question is from Mr. Diaconu, the access to fisheries is limited for Ainu people and that was the question, and we would like have an update on this question, and in a related question any special measures or any measures relating to the utilization of the land and natural resources for Ainu people. Ainu’s access to fisheries is limited, while it is not limited for other people, there was such a statement or a comment was made by the member.  But I think this comment was relating to catching of salmon in inland waters, but the catching of salmon in the inland waters is prohibited against all people based on the domestic law. So it is not the fact that it is only limited to…it is not the fact that the access is only limited for Ainu people.

Now with regard to the capture of salmon in the inland waters by Ainu people in so far____part of a traditional ritual,_______ special admission is applied in some rivers and with regard to the utilization of land as well as natural resources as part of the comprehensive measures for the rehabilitation of Ainu culture, in the advisory panel there was an extensive discussion involving Ainu people themselves. The traditional living environments for Ainu people which is now being regenerated at two locations in Hokkaido and that there are some actions taken in order to gather resources in nature in the national parks and also some exchange programs are also carried out according to the report by the advisory panel that says that because of the lack of sufficient utilization of the land and natural resources there are some hindrance in this regard for the continuation and the development of Ainu culture. There were such arguments that were made by Ainu people.

Therefore, we have decided to listen to Ainu people and the things are supposed…should be reviewed from the public policy viewpoint and going forward, we consider it very important to allow the necessary utilization of land and natural resources for the continuation of Ainu culture. As for specific policies in particular with regard to the regeneration and re-creation of Ainu traditional living environment we are going to consider the possibility of expansion of such areas based on the views from Ainu people. And also, necessary adjustment has to be carried out and put in place so that those national parks that could be used for that purpose, and this way we are considering a gradual realization of the continuation of Ainu culture by the utilization of land and natural resources and we are going to continue to listen to Ainu people’s views at such venues as Ainu policy promotion _____.

Lastly, as Mr. Thornberry has mentioned that legislation may be necessary in order to reinforce the rights of the Ainu people. As for the legislative measures, in the process of the policies that are to be formulated and implemented we would be looking at how the policies will be progressing and also based upon the results of the actual livelihood survey to be made of the Ainu people living outside of Hokkaido and also listening to the views of Ainu not only from the philosophical point of view, we also need to look at diverse viewpoints including the content of policies to be legally positioned. Now, as for the legislative measures in the report coming from the Advisory Panel of Eminent Persons the resolve and the stance of the national government must be indicated specifically in the form of law. The legislative measures may have significant relevance in promoting in a secure manner Ainu policies going forward. So the government would like to duly base ourselves on such recommendations and study about the possible legislations. Thank you for the comments.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Next, the Foreign Office and Ministry of Justice staff will answer on the questions of people of Okinawa and Buraku. Please…

Ms. Shino (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Good morning. My name is Shino with the Foreign Ministry. Now, there are a series of questions and comments with regard to Okinawa people suggested by Professor Thornberry and others. Now, we are not professionals of ethnology and linguistics and so it is rather difficult for me to give you a clear statement on that the ethnicity of the Okinawan people and I hope that you will understand that position. As part of the government position, those people living in Okinawan islands have nurtured a unique and rich culture and tradition. And we can acknowledge the fact and at the same time it is the view of the government that there is no indigenous people other than Ainu in Japan.

However, ___we have to think in accordance with the spirit of ICERD is that to find out if there is any discrimination against Okinawan people and if it does exist, then what kind of measures, countermeasures should be put into place. And in this regard, what I would like to answer is in fact Okinawan people are also Japanese nationals, and they enjoy the equal rights as Japanese nationals and they can also rely on the same____which is available to Japanese nationals. At the same time, in Japan everybody is allowed to enjoy their own culture and they can practice their own religion and there is no prohibition with regard to the rights of using their own language. Therefore, based on this regard we are promoting Okinawan development plan in order to promote the traditional culture and lifestyle of the Okinawan people.

Now, on the interpretation that Japan had on the term descent, there have been several comments and questions have been asked. For the descent as included in the convention, the interpretation of Japan, it has been clearly had been given in the last review as well as in the periodic report submitted by the government of Japan as well as in our answers to the list of questions. Rather than having the exchange of views with the distinguished members on the interpretation of the term descent at this dialogue today, as I have already mentioned in the case of the Okinawan people whether any discrimination exist for the Dowa people and if there is discrimination what are the responses taken. It would be more befitting with the spirit of the ICERD in having such exchange of views. We have all been respecting to the maximum the principle of equity under the law which is being ensured in article 14 paragraph 1 to try to realize a society without any discrimination.

Ms. Aono (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Justice)

My name is Aono with the Ministry of Justice. Thank you very much for insightful views expressed in the last session. Mr. Avtonomov and Mr. Diaconu there was a question about the family register system, with regard to the current family register system, it is a system, a rational system which we can see the family relations. Therefore, with regard to any possibility of revising the method of organizing family relationship information or data we have no such idea at this point in time. Now there was also a question with regard to access to the family register database. And from the viewpoint of the protection of individual information, in 2008, on May 1 revised family register law was forced and as a result, the identification of the_____is to be made as part of efforts to prevent any wrongdoings and such measures have been in place.

Next, many members of the committee have asked the question but in particular from Mr. Diaconu, whether the specials measures law on the Dowa policies have met with success for its purpose. Because we deemed it necessary to take special measures for the Dowa issue, the law regarding the special fiscal measures of the government for regional improvement, the projects, and the other special measures law were established. However, the national government as well as local governments and other parties had been making efforts for more than three decades. The poor livelihood environments begetting discrimination again and again have been significantly improved and we have seen the promotion of education and enlightenment in eliminating the consciousness for discrimination. And based upon the major changes that are happening in the environment surrounding the Dowa district, special measures law was terminated at the end of March in 2002.

And also on the Dowa issue, the Ministry of Justice human rights organ is making the appropriate advice for the human rights consultations, and when there is a suspicious case for infringement of human rights investigation will be made as a case for the human rights investigation, and if we do find such facts of infringement then the appropriate measures will be taken to remove such infringements, and if the case is being found where messages and information is written on the Internet which is harmful then we will ask the Internet service provider to delete such messages. We are also conducting educational programs to resolve any discriminatory ideas.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Next, Ministry of Education and Science staff will answer on the question of the education related, school education related matters of minorities.

Ms. Konishi (Japanese government delegation: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

My name is Konishi with the Ministry of Education. Now I would like to take the floor and talk about educational measures relating to minorities. There are two major questions. The first one, was raised by Professor Thornberry and Mr. Amir, the elimination of discriminatory attitudes in Japan and for that to be achieved education on the history with the neighboring countries, and what kind of education programs are being offered for that purpose at public schools. At elementary and junior high schools, in the subject of social studies, when the students learn about the history of our country, they are taught in connection with the history of neighboring countries. And at senior high schools history of the world is a compulsory subject, and the neighboring countries’ situations are also taught in connection with the global history. And in the history of Japan subject, the political relations with neighboring countries and also exchanges and contacts at the economic and cultural level have been provided as part of the education program. And aside from that, in the subject of geography, under the title of the research into the neighboring countries, that the relations have been established with the cultures and lifestyles have been intermingled. And in politics and economics study at senior high school, that there is also a wording that is contained in the course of the study that is aimed at promoting international law understanding including human rights.

Next, for the foreign children on education of the children there was a question that was raised. Allowed me to answer. From Mr. Martinez, especially in the educational area for foreign children what are the measures taken for their education and the recent situation needs to be informed. Now, for the foreign children, if they wish to enroll in the public compulsory schools, based upon the article 13 of ICESCR, as well as article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We do accept them on free of charge basis. If such children wish to enroll in school for foreigners, of course they can choose to do so. The Ministry of Education, in order that the foreign children will not miss the opportunity to enroll in the public compulsory educational schools, we are providing the school enrollment guidebook in seven languages which give the procedures for enrollment as well as educational system in Japan and we are disseminating such brochures at the educational board and others. Furthermore, for the projects promoting the acceptance of foreign schoolchildren, bilingual counselor is being located at the educational board to provide counseling and information and enrollment. We also have been allocating supporters who can speak the mother tongue of such foreigner children in order to assist them for the Japanese language education. We are thus assisting the enrollment of the foreign children into public schools and we would like to make further efforts to facilitate the acceptance of such children in the public schools.

Next, this is a question raised by Professor Thornberry. Education programs are offered to Peruvians of Japanese descent and Brazilians of Japanese descent. Currently, the number of Brazilian schools in Japan is 84. Out of that number, there are three schools were Peruvians. And out of that number 53 schools are accepted or approved by the government of Brazil. So in those schools, they are guaranteed to smooth the advance into higher schools for those Brazilian children in Brazil. In these schools services are provided to those Brazilian children and parents who are going to stay a short period of time in Japan and those schools are offering education programs and curriculums based on the Brazilian course of study. And the local governments are offering the special allowances subsidies in order to reduce the level of tuition and free medical check. And aside from that, in order to make improvements to the education status and the management of administration of the Brazilian schools, we are also conducting a research and survey on the immediate issues that face Brazilian children.

Next, the economic support provided to the schools for foreigners. Especially, economic assistance as well as for the tax incentives, Mr. Thornberry has asked us to inform him on those measures. And also from Mr. Diaconu, some international schools are allowed tax benefits that may lead to discrimination amongst the schools for foreigners. So let me answer those questions in one segment. First of all, for the schools for the foreigners, those miscellaneous schools which are authorized by the prefectural governors based on the school education law article 134, and the entities are in the form of school corporations or quasi-school corporations. Necessary support are given from the local governments and such. On the other hand, as for the tax measures, those schools for foreigners which are being authorized as miscellaneous schools, under the certain conditions, the consumption tax on tuition are being exempted. Furthermore, on the entity for establishing the school is in the form of school corporations or quasi-school corporations, income tax, corporation tax, local resident tax, enterprise tax, and others are being exempted. As for corporation tax and income tax benefits for further benefits offered these schools for foreigners for those corporations which are establishing miscellaneous schools which accept the foreign children which are in Japan only for the short stay, it has been approved to be given tax benefits from the point of view of policy____to promote inward foreign direct investment. So I don’t think that’s what constitutes an undue discrimination to the other foreign schools. Having said that, in order to expand the scope of schools for foreigners which are covered by the tax benefit measures, we need to consider new policy goals as well as to study the criteria for institutional systems in order to achieve the goal in an effective manner so we would like to continue to make study.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Next, there are so many questions about Koreans living in Japan. So, about their working conditions and improvement matters, that sort of things, Ministry of Welfare and Labor staff will answer and then harassment and that sort of thing will be answered from staff from the Ministry of Justice, and then about educational aspects the Ministry of Education staff will answer, so please, first about improvement of labor conditions. Please…

Mr. Hoshida (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)

My name Hoshida with the Ministry of Health. There was a question raised by Mr. Huang. There was an____improvement in the area of education and employment and living conditions. And with regard to education, with regard to accepting Korean residents and other foreigners of other nationalities, so if they wish to enter a compulsory education in public school, they can be admitted without any charge, and if they would like to enroll in foreign school this option is also left to them. With regard to employment, for the purpose of elimination of discrimination, we are providing guidance and awareness raising programs targeting employers so that they can introduce a fair screening system and recruitment system. As far as those workers that are employed in Japan despite their nationalities, the labor related laws will be universally applied. With regard to the social security programs, not only those Korean residents, but also all those foreigners residing in Japan legally, the same rule and system is applied to them. Thank you.

Mr. Ehara (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Justice)

My name is Ehara from the Human Rights Promotion Division of the Ministry of Justice. Mr. Diaconu, Mr. De Gouttes, and Mr. Thornberry have asked on the question of the harassments for the students of the Korean schools. For the children enrolled in Korean schools, and the question of harassment for such children, Ministry of Justice human rights organ has been engaged in a campaign to educate the___people. We have a slogan of respecting the human rights of foreigners as the major item for such annual campaigns. Throughout the year we have education activities on a nationwide basis. We also have established human rights counseling centers so that the children enrolled in Korean schools as well as the related people will be able to consult on the different questions and if we do find some suspicious cases of human rights infringements, we will expeditiously make investigations and take appropriate measures. In particular, when there is intermittent nuclear testing as well as launching of missiles, incidents by North Korea may trigger harassments to children enrolled in Korean schools. We will make the utmost efforts to continue our promotion and education activities and we tried to gather relevant information and if we do suspect that there may be infringement of human rights we will expeditiously investigate as to the case of human rights investment to take very strict measures and we will reinforce the human rights protection measures and provide guidance to the relevant departments. Recently, in April of 2009, North Korea launched a flying object and also in the same year in May, North Korea conducted underground nuclear testing. And the Ministry of Justice human rights organ provided necessary guidance on those occasions. Thank you.

Next, the question about Korean schools and what kind of curriculum programs are being offered. This was a question raised by Mr. Diaconu. First of all, there are schools for Korean residents, they are the ones the schools where they can learn their own culture. As for those schools that accommodate Koreans with North Korean nationality those schools are admitted as miscellaneous schools and they are relieved of the fixed asset tax and the corporation tax and the business tax except taxation on donations.

As for those schools for Korean residents with South Korean nationality, they offer learning and study about the Korean language and the Korean culture and there are some schools that are admitted or approved as formal school that is stipulated by article 1 of the School Education Law. And the course of study is applied to those schools when it comes to their teaching programs. Many of those schools for Korean residents, they have already been admitted or approved by local governments and there are many schools as such that receive subsidies from local governments. There was another question raised, out of those schools for Korean residents there are_____located in Tokyo that are eligible for the admittance into university. And there was also a comment made that the unfair treatment was applied to those schools because their eligibility was not admitted. Now with regard to the eligibility to be admitted into university in Japan, regardless of the Japanese nationality, anyone who has graduated from a senior high school or the students with the academic skill that is equivalent to a graduate they are admitted or they can be eligible. Therefore, it is not the fact that those graduates of the Korean schools for Korean residents are located in Tokyo, that there are five schools in Shizuoka Prefecture and eight schools and Aichi Prefecture which is famous for Toyota and there are two other schools in the prefecture and their eligibility is admitted. And we also softened the regulations relating to the eligibility to be admitted to university in September 2003 for those graduates of foreign schools located in Japan if those schools are admitted as equivalent to the academic achievement of the schools in their home countries. And those graduates of foreign schools that are accredited by international accreditation organizations, also those persons are judged eligible by each university, so those conditions were added to this regulation, therefore, the foreign nationals are widely admitted to be eligible to be admitted to university.

Now, let me answer to the question raised by Mr. Avtonomov which is on the bill to make free of charge the tuition for the senior high school that North Korean schools are to be excluded. There has been a newspaper report to that effect and what are the facts was the point of the question. As you may know the bill to make tuition free of charge for the senior high schools to not collect tuition for public senior high schools and to provide assistance the money for enrollment into senior high schools have been adopted by the Cabinet in January this year and the bill was submitted to the Diet. We are aware of the content of the newspaper report which was pointed out. In the bill for the miscellaneous schools including the schools for foreigners, the coverage would be for those____in the senior high schools which are similar to the senior high schools as stipulated under the ministerial ordinance. So we would like to make the appropriate decision based upon the deliberation to be done by the Diet.

Sorry for my long answer. This is going to be my last answer. Mr. Thornberry and Mr. Amir raised the following question relating to human rights education and awareness raising. This is going to be my last answer. Programs for human rights education and awareness raising targeting_____population more detailed information is needed and targeting in particular the younger generation in particular in public schools, what kind of human rights education programs have been offered in the curriculum. Now, I would like to put them together in my answer. First, human rights education and awareness raising programs, in March 2002, the Basic Plan for Human Rights Education and Encouragement, and based on that, the human rights, the respect for human rights and awareness raising should be pursued through school education and social education, elimination of prejudice and discriminatory attitudes and awareness raising activities in order to realize_____solution for discrimination related problems. And based on the Constitution and the Basic Law on Education, in school education and depending on the development level of the children, throughout school education, the government paid much attention to programs and educational programs that are aimed at raising human rights protection. And at the Ministry, from the viewpoint of the protection and the respect for basic human rights and together with the Board of Education, we have been promoting the comprehensive human rights education promotion_____designated to promote human rights education research that are focused on school functions to look into what kind of teaching instructions and methodologies should be employed for promoting human rights education. And we have been promoting those____programs and projects. With regard to human rights organs of the Ministry of Justice, they have identified Dowa problems, Ainu people, and foreign nationals. Those minority groups are picked up and selected as priority items throughout the year and they have been engaged in organized lectures and symposia and training sessions nationwide.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Next, Ministry of Justice staff will answer on the question of the monitoring mechanism and statistics on the cases of racial discrimination or xenophobia, and also the question on the establishment of the human rights institute in Japan.

Mr. Ogawa (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Justice)

My name is Ogawa from the Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Justice. First of all, from Mr. Murillo Martinez, there was the question on the monitoring mechanism and whether such a mechanism is in place for xenophobia. And in particular, what may be the situation for the xenophobic information as being placed in the Internet. Now, the Ministry of Justice human rights organs are dealing with various issues to do with human rights including discrimination on foreigners. We are providing through the human rights counseling, to provide appropriate advice as well as introducing the relevant institutions and the legal of affairs bureau and local legal affairs bureau on a nationwide basis. And when we find that there are some suspicions of infringement of human rights we will make investigation as to the case of human rights infringement. And when we acknowledge that there is a fact of infringement, we will take necessary measures to eliminate such infringements and also to take preventive measures for recurrence. As for cases of human rights infringement of foreigners, the cases opened up newly within 2008, the number was 121, of which the cases to do with discriminatory treatment number 97, and 16 cases for assault and abuse. Now, let me refer to the Internet situation. Ministry of Justice human rights organ have been put forth to stop human rights infringement abusing the Internet as the campaign slogan. For encouragement and promotion activities throughout the year we have encouragement activities on a nationwide basis for those malicious sorts of cases which infringe on human rights including the honor as well as privacy of others. When we can identify the senders of such information or message, through education and encouragement of those persons, try to eliminate such infringements. When we cannot identify the senders we will ask the Internet service providers to delete such information. We are always taking appropriate measures.

With regard to the question of the establishment of a national human rights institution, there were four members who asked this question. The government considers necessary to set up an independent national human rights institution in order to achieve effective remedy of human rights victims. Currently, with regard to the organizational structure, we have been looking into the issues relating to the establishment in earnest. This national human rights institution which will be newly established, will be set up in accordance with the Paris Principles. At this point in time, there is no definite schedule in place, but we would like to try and make efforts so that the draft, the bill, related bill will be presented to the Diet at the soonest possible date. Thank you.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Next, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will answer on the question of article 4 a b of this Convention and the question of the political right of the foreigners.

(?) (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Now, the number of conventions as ratified by Japan may be different depending on how you count it, but we try as much as possible to ratify those conventions.  As Mr. Peter that has rightly said for ICESCR as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Japan attaches reservations, and I also agree with Mr. Peter that reservations to be attached in ratifying the convention should be minimal as possible. But, in making precise study for the guarantee____required by the convention ____condition and method for ensuring the guarantee____in Japan of the need to clarify by attaching reservations. Now, as to specific question, the concept of what is being provided by article 4___of the convention includes the broad aspects for various situations and various types of conduct. For example, dissemination of ideas of racial discrimination and for all of such situations to try to apply punitive laws. For example, in view of freedom of expression where necessity and____of constraints should be strictly circumscribed as well as principle of legality of crime and punishment____specificity and clarity of scope and punishment____require may not be compatible with guarantees prescribed in the Japanese constitution and thereby we have attached a reservation for article 4 a and b. To withdraw the reservation, as to say to make a study for the possible punitive legislations for the dissemination of ideas of racial discrimination may unduly discourage legitimate discourse, so we need to strike a balance between the effect of the punitive measures and the negative impact on freedom of expression. I don’t think that the situation in Japan right now has rampant dissemination of discriminatory ideas or incitement of discrimination. I don’t think that that warrants the study of such punitive measures right now.

There was a question with regard to the voting rights, suffrage, that at the local government level, there was a ______ that argued for the suffrage right should be admitted in local governments, and since October 1998, as many as 15 bills were submitted to the Diet, in this regard. And the government would like to monitor what kind of actions will be taken at the Diet level.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Next, I ask the staff from the Ministry of Justice to answer questions on nationality or citizenship and refugee related matters.

(?) (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Justice)

Please let me give answers to the questions from Mr. Thornberry as well as Mr. Diaconu, for the special permanent residents. Special permanent residents in accordance with article 2a and b of the treaty of peace with Japan, the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan have been separated from the territories of Japan from the day of entry of force of this treaty. In accordance with that, notwithstanding the will of the person those who had to leave Japanese nationality, but those people who continually reside in Japan before the ending of the second world war as well as their descendants. For these sorts of people, the special law, the name is, Special Law on the Immigration Control of Those Who have Lost Japanese Nationality and Others on the Basis of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, that has been promulgated. So compared to the other foreigners, by the provision of the law for the reasons for deportation is extremely limited and also the ceiling for the reentry permit is three years for the general foreigners but for the special permanent residents it is four years. So there are special considerations given to these people because of the historical developments as well as the fact that they have been long settled in Japan. Special permanent residents are able to acquire Japanese nationality through naturalization. For those people who have special territorial as well as blood relations with Japan, the conditions for naturalization are being relaxed.

Next, there was a question raised by Mr. Avtonomov. What are the advantages and disadvantages for those Korean residents who do not ask for naturalization? Now, basically naturalization obligation is based on individual will and so when it comes to their reasons for not applying for naturalization or for applying for naturalization, it is very difficult for us to make specific comments on those individual feelings. Now for those who have special territorial relations and bloodline relations the naturalization conditions have been relaxed in which I have already mentioned.

Next, I would like to give answers to the questions raised by many members including Mr. Thornberry whether the name needs to be changed at the time of naturalization. For those persons who would like to acquire Japanese nationality, there is no fact that they are being urged to change their names. For those people who have acquired the Japanese nationality on their own will they are able to change their name. But, as for the characters that can be used for the name, for the native Japanese as well as the naturalized Japanese, in order not to raise any inconveniences for their social life, it may be necessary for them to choose the easy to read and write characters used in common and Japanese society. Now, the name to be adopted upon the naturalization, it is not that you should use just the Chinese characters; you can also use phonetic characters like hiragana and katakana as well.

Next, there was a question raised by Mr. Diaconu, with regard to the acceptance of Indochinese refugees. Now, regardless of the nationality of those refugees, based on the Convention on the Status of Refugees and so forth they seek refuge in Japan escaping from political persecution, they are supposed to be recognized as refugees and in consideration of ______ situation facing those refugees, we will offer humanitarian considerations and services, and so it is not the fact that our refugee related policy is only limited or restricted to those from Vietnam, Indochina, and Myanmar.

Now, as to the procedures of recognition of refugees, there was a question raised by Mr. Thornberry as to the language and as to the lack of information. The application for recognition of refugees are being prepared in 24 languages as for brochures to inform the procedures for refugee recognition is being prepared in 14 languages and such documents are available in the local immigration control offices on a nationwide basis as well as through the Internet. Whenever an interview was conducted, for the application to be recognized as refugees, as a principle, we go through the interpreter in the language as required by the applicant. And in the interview, we would confirm whether the applicant adequately understands the languages by the interpreter. The procedure is always being a very careful procedure in selecting the interpreters as well. As for the translation of the document in order to make expeditious decisions the government pays for the cost of the translation.

Next, this is a question raised by Mr. Thornberry with regard to migrant woman exposed to domestic violence and Mr. Thornberry was paying attention to the revised immigration law which took place last February. And if there is no substantive marriage status for over six months, their status is to be revoked and there is a______. It is true, but this is for the purpose of targeting disguised marriage or false acquisition of the status of residence, and this is the purpose of the revised law. And as you raised in your statement when the migrant worker or migrant women in the process of divorce mediation and who is also exposed to domestic violence, and so she is not in the substantive marriage status, but with the justifiable reason, the revocation clause is not going to be applied. And under the revised immigration control law, if the revocation is to be applied to a certain person, that person who is subject to the possibility of revocation has to be presented with the alternative status of residence. And that kind of consideration should be given by the government and which is also stipulated in the law. And that ends my answer.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Thank you. Again, from the Ministry of Justice staff will answer on the question of the specific… from the Ministry of Foreign affairs specific law or legislation on nondiscrimination and the question of the discrimination amongst private citizens.

(?) (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Now, whether there is a necessity to adopt the law on racial discrimination, and implementing article 4 of the ICERD in Japan, article 14 paragraph 1 of the Constitution includes the equality under the law for which includes the forbidding the racial discrimination has the members____very well. For expression as well as dissemination of the ideas for discrimination if it is in the content of damaging the honor and credit of the specific individuals as well as groups, there are some punitive laws for instance, collective intimidation as well as habitual____these are the crimes which are punishable under the law concerning punishment of physical violence and others. And if the present circumstances in Japan cannot effectively suppress the act of discrimination under the existing legal system, I don’t think that the current situation is as such therefore I do not see any necessity for legislating a law in particular for racial discrimination. Furthermore, from Mr. Diaconu, raised the question on the relationship between the discriminatory motive and the criminal justice procedures. In the criminal justice trials in Japan, the malicious intent is an important element to be considered by the judge in sentencing. Therefore, whether the motivation is based upon racial discrimination or not it is being appropriately being considered under the criminal justice in Japan in the degree of sentencing.

Now, I take the floor. This is a question by Professor Thornberry. The question was relating to the prohibition of racial discrimination between private persons. Now article 14 of the Constitution is not directly applying to the behavior and acts between private persons, but it is covered and controlled by the civil code, and the implementation of the civil code, the objective of article 14 is supposed to be taken into consideration. To be more specific, in the private law any racial discriminatory acts that infringe on the basic human rights may be judged as invalid. And in relation to that, if there is any damage inflicted on others as a result of racially discriminatory acts, total responsibility should be borne by that person in the form of the payment of damages in certain conditions. Therefore, a fair and just compensation has to be made. And in addition to that, the Constitution stipulates that anyone is guaranteed the right to court and so any victim subject to racial discriminatory acts can apply for relief based on the abovementioned laws. Therefore, the provisions of the Constitution can be appropriately applied onto acts between private persons.

Next will be the last comment from the Ministry of Justice. Mr. De Gouttes has raised the point why did the Supreme Court refuse the appointment of a foreigner to the family court mediator. As a premise for this, to be engaged in an act of exercise of public power, or to participate in public decision-making for important measures, and also for the civil servants given the task to participate in such processes, we suppose that the persons having Japanese nationality are to be appointed. So under such a premise the family court mediators who are part-time staff of the court, will be engaged in the process of participating in the mediation committee. And they will be engaged in acts of exercise of public power. And also, may participate in the public decision-making, they would fall under the category of civil servants getting the task to participate in the public decision-making. So in order to be appointed it requires Japanese nationality. So we recognize that the Supreme Court has refused the appointment of foreigners to the family court mediators because such reason.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Finally, questions concerning on the amendment of the convention, and also questions relating to the ILO related treaties, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Welfare and Labor will answer.

(?) (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)

First of all, the effectiveness of the treaty there was a question raised by Mr. Peter. As Mr. Peter mentioned, there are conventions that have been ratified by our government have the same effect as the domestic law, but if there is any misunderstanding on the part of Mr. Peter I just would like to make a correction. When an individual lodges a complaint, it is possible for him or her to invoke the international treaty. And there were such court cases and the specific example is contained in paragraph 66 of the periodic report.

Now we understand that for the amendment of article 8 of the ICERD is to have the contribution to become the main source of finance from the countries including the non-parties to the convention. That’s to say to be funded through the ordinary budget of the United Nations. On the other hand, we are of the position that the duties of the convention will bind, as a principle, only the parties so there is no plan for us to accept such an amendment because it should be the parties who should bear the expenses for the ICERD Convention.

Mr. Hoshida (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)

I am Hoshida with the Ministry of Health. There was a question raised by Thornberry and Diaconu. Now with regard to ILO Convention 111, is aimed_____eliminating discrimination in wide scope in the areas of employment and occupation. And in concluding or ratifying the Convention, I should say that there should be scrutinization of the Convention and domestic laws and their compatibility between the two. So we would like to continue this study, but under the article of the Constitution basically in general terms, all people are treated equal under the law and in the areas of employment and occupation related labor laws are in place in order to carry out measures against discrimination. Now, next, ILO convention 169, this is relating to the indigenous peoples customary practice relating to punishment that should be respected and also that the measures in place of detention will take precedence over the punishment the detention____for indigenous peoples. But this should be reviewed from the viewpoint of the principle of legality of crime and punishment and the quality and fairness of punishment, I consider it involves a lot of problems before we can actually conclude this convention.

Next, there was a question raised on the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the International Convention against Apartheid in Sports. For the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid as well as the International Convention against Apartheid in Sports, Japan has not ratified those conventions. But consistently from the past Japan has not condoned apartheid because it oppresses racial equality as well as respect of basic human rights.

The last question, the Genocide Convention was not ratified by Japan. There was a question as such. The genocide crime for instance is a heinous crime that is committed in the international community and we should not stand idle on those issues. The reason why we joined ICC was exactly from that viewpoint and understanding. But when it comes to the Genocide Convention, the domestic law should be stipulated in order to punish them, and the punishable acts are quite wide in scope and so in our government actions we have to consider the necessity of the Genocide Treaty and also the domestic laws that should be put in place so we have to continue with careful consideration of the possibility.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

This concludes our answers.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Excellency, I am most grateful to you and your delegation for the replies you have given and the fact also that your delegation has done it with discipline and we have adhered to our time constraints so now what I propose doing is I’d explained I’d give the floor to speakers in the order that they have requested the floor and this will be followed by further responses from your delegation. May I request distinguished members to be direct in their questions and observations so that our dialogue is truly an interactive dialogue. I give the floor to Mr. Diaconu followed by Mr. Lahiri.

Mr. Diaconu

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, I would like to welcome the answers, as you said disciplined and well organized and to all our questions. Now, I noted very interesting developments concerning the Ainu people. Consultations have taken place, measures have been taken concerning the access to resources of land to fishing and the preservation of their culture. And I think this is a very important opening to any other measures concerning the implementation of our convention. Many things which were not clear for us resulting from the formulations in the report like for instance that concerning the Tokyo School or the refugees. Now, we have a clear picture on these issues from the answers given by the delegation. There are still issues on which we would like the delegation and the government to make efforts to make progress.

The issue of other indigenous peoples, I think that remains a permanent problem a permanent issue to be considered by the state party. And I would submit that the State party should organize consultations with the representatives of these people. As you have consultations with the Ainu representatives why don’t Japanese state bodies have consultations with the representatives of the Buraku or Ryukyu people to see what is and what do they want, what is their problem. And also why don’t you initiate studies on their culture, on their language to see what are the differences. Are these people different from the Japanese majority do they have a different culture and language because if they have one that is a minority with the meaning of culture and language and it should be taken care of if this is a people who were there for centuries then these are an indigenous people which is different from the Japanese majority. So one has to find out, but for this, dialogue is necessary talk to their representatives please.

As to the issue of descent, descent based discrimination, I looked at the answer given by the delegation to this issue, in the answers given to questions of the country rapporteur. And I can tell you that I am not convinced by this answer. I’m not convinced. So the issue of descent has to be placed somewhere but under our convention. Not outside. Some of the countries of the region consider that this is a social problem not an ethnic one. You don’t consider it even as a social one. And you don’t consider it as an ethnic one. Then what it is for you? It is in the convention. Find the place for it in the convention. And if it is considered to be a national or ethnic origin okay, but let’s deal with it under the convention. Look again at the situation of these people because this is the most important issue. Are they treated as people on the basis of social stratification as a group which is considered under social stratification as a caste according to a caste system. Then it is a people which is discriminated on the basis of descent.

As to schools, we received some answers and some of them are complete and good. I think this question should be given more attention in order to avoid any discrimination in terms of tax exemptions and in terms of recognizing studies in different schools and recognizing access to children of these schools to higher education.

As for the article 4, as I noticed already there is legislation in the country to punish these acts for everybody. What one could call a general criminal law. These acts are punished from the smallest let’s say the less difficult offenses to the violence. But what is missing is that racial motivation, there is no legislation which is asking the judge to take into account the racial motivation. And this is about racial discrimination. No country could tell us that there is no racial motivation in the country when such acts are committed. There is racial motivation in some cases not in all. It is up to the judge to find it, but give it the possibility to find it. And that is why I think that under malicious intent as it was said today here, discrimination and racial discrimination may come very well under malicious intent. But the judges have to be given the possibility under a piece of law for interpretation to take into account the racial motivation as a malicious intent among other malicious intents.

So these are my comments and thank you very much. Thank you again. I think this is a good dialogue we had and we are making progress, we are understanding better each other, and we see what are the issues to be dealt with. Thank you.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

I thank you for your comments Mr. Diaconu, and I hand the floor to Mr. Lahiri followed by Mr. De Gouttes.

Mr. Lahiri

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Since I did not take the floor yesterday I would like to, like all the others, my colleagues, welcome the Japanese delegation of an impressive size and with young and bright faces and I’m sure you’ll do well in public service. I listened with great interest, or very closely to the long exchange that we had yesterday.

And while of course our exchange was informative and taken in very good spirit, I think it would be difficult to say that the views of CERD and of the Japanese government have converged in any substantial degree since the time when we last considered the Japanese periodic report that initial report.

The one issue that on which there is a clear indication of change and progress is the recognition by the Japanese government that an independent national human rights institution in accord with the Paris Principles would be helpful and desirable, and that it is working on it.

However, since 2001, I may be wrong but from what I can see, there has been little change in the absence of legal provisions which would allow the effective implementation of this convention in the way that we are used to dealing with it.

On information relating to the minority groups, the continued disadvantages of people of Korean stock and Chinese also to an extent and overall the absence of meaningful implementation of the recommendations and suggestions and CERD’s last report.

Mr. Chairman, Japan is a very unique country unlike much larger Asian countries like India which came under the thrall of British colonialism or China which easily lost or quickly lost the Opium War. Japan has had an entirely different trajectory. Within 50 years of the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and his black ships, Japan had developed into a modern and industrially advanced nation and had militarily defeated in much larger country like Russia – a Western country. My Japanese friends sometimes tell me that this is due in some measure to a spirit of__[sonnou jouhi?]__I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it correctly____translated loosely as “throw out the barbarians” which swept Japan during the Edo period; it’s a spirit based on chauvinistic ethnic pride, but it stood Japan in a very good state not just recently, but apparently also in the seventh century in its confrontation against the ____ Kingdom in Korea or the Tang Dynasty. More recently, this spirit of____to use a shorthand for it, allowed and you know which went on changed slightly during the Meiji Restoration. It allowed Japan to preserve its independence, to prevent the kind of national catastrophes which many other countries in Asia suffered, and in that sense it has been important in the Japanese nation’s, the way it has achieved its position which is widely admired in Asia.

However, times have now changed and Japan perhaps doesn’t face such threats. I think for a committee like CERD, I would on behalf of CERD respectively urge that our suggestions and recommendations for changes in Japanese law and practice to bring it more into line with the international norms in this matter. Are not rejected in the spirit of____but it is clear that we are both on the same side. There is no contradiction and we hope that our suggestions in this matter in terms of the various points that have been raised by my colleagues yesterday and today are given due consideration and perhaps we can express the hope that by the time we meet next time for an exchange there will be greater convergence not on the overall issue of racial discrimination I mean those that we have already but on the mechanisms for implementing the convention on which I suspect we still have some divergences. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you for your interesting remarks, and Mr. De Gouttes you have the floor followed by Mr. Peter and then Mr. Murillo Martinez. Sorry Mr. Prosper. After Mr. De Gouttes, it’s Mr. Prosper followed by Mr. Murillo Martinez. But perhaps Mr. Peter will also speak later.

Mr. De Gouttes

Thank you Chairman. My comments will go along the same lines to a great extent to what Mr. Diaconu has said. I’d like to thank the delegation for the replies given this morning which were very complete. Particularly the ____the Ainu people, the progress made and the consultations with that population group in Japan.

But there are other groups other than the Ainu which also seek respect for their cultures and languages and their rights. This is particularly true of the Burakumin. Once again then, I’d like to refer to the summary produced by the Office of the High Commissioner during the UPR in May 2008 in the report of the special rapporteur for contemporary forms of racism in 2005. According to those documents, the Burakumin are apparently very numerous apparently some 3 million people. These reports also state that they are descended from communities considered as being pariah during the feudal period. The report again states that it’s because they had they did work related to death for example, they had jobs which were considered impure, so it’s a difficult past for this population, although the castes have been abolished for a long time. Inevitably then there is the criteria of descent in terms of where they come from. And you’ve already said and Mr. Diaconu has noted that article 1 of the Convention deals with racism based on race but also descent and we have a general recommendation number 29 which refers to this concerning discrimination based on descent or caste origin. Now, I think there’s been a good opening up to the Ainu people so the question is whether you can also envisage consultations with other groups seeking promotion of their rights including the Burakumin who also live in Okinawa (this is incorrect). So I’d be very interested in continuing this discussion on the notion of descent and possible openings we could expect from your government on what seems to be a difference between the committee and yourselves on the criteria of discrimination based on descent. That’s what I wanted to add to the discussion. Thank you Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Mr. De Gouttes. Mr. Prosper, you have the floor followed by a Mr. Murillo Martinez.

Mr. Prosper

Thank you Mr. Chairman. First, I want to thank the delegation for its presentation the information in the report provided both yesterday and today. I did not speak yesterday but I have to say that listening to the conversation and the dialogue we definitely learned a lot and received greater insights as to not only the situation in Japan but also your policies and your rationale for what you do and what you are doing. I would also like to thank the rapporteur for his thorough assessment yesterday really, for me it removed the need to intervene yesterday on many of the issues and I was able to have the luxury of listening to my colleagues ask the questions.

Today an interesting issue was raised which is relevant to the committee but it’s something that’s of personal interest to me and I just wanted to explore it a little bit more and that is the issue of the Genocide Convention as well as the issue related to the ICC the International Criminal Court. I remember I was involved in the negotiations from the beginning and I remember at the time in the late 90s when the United States was trying to assess and determine its position both under President Clinton which I was involved with and then later with President Bush we were looking to what Japan was doing and considering as you know there were conversations on the margins let’s put it, and you finally decided to join the ICC which the United States has not and there are reasons for that. But what I found interesting is that you felt comfortable enough to join the ICC but not comfortable enough to become a party for the Genocide Convention. In fact I would have found it to be the opposite such as we are, the United States is. I’m still struggling to understand why is it that you are able to be in that position or you feel comfortable in that position particularly because with the ICC as you are well aware of there is the principle of complementarity which obviously would grant you as well as other states parties the first bite of the apple if one of your nationals were accused of a crime under the ICC genocide crimes against humanity and war crimes. And part of the principle of complementarity is that state parties will enact legislation that would allow for them to punish those crimes found within the ICC so I’m just trying to understand the consistency because it is an apparent inconsistency and I’m sure you have an explanation for it whereby signing the ICC you’re basically saying that you are in a position to prosecute the crime of genocide yet you are not a state party to the Genocide Convention. If you could either now or we don’t need to take up the time just later or in the future reports just explain that a little bit more for our understanding because obviously the crime of genocide are acts which is as you said are reprehensible and it’s a fundamental protection that is consistent with the convention we are discussing here today, but again I would like to thank you for the dialogue, the information that you provided. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Mr. Prosper. I give the floor to Mr. Murillo Martinez, followed by Mr. Cali Tzay.

Mr. Martinez

Thank you Chairman. I too would like to thank the distinguished delegation of Japan for the very detailed replies they’ve given today. I’m pleased to hear that you have very detailed statistics on acts of xenophobia managed by the Ministry of Justice and it’s also very encouraging to know that you are making efforts to adopt a human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.

Now, this is not so much a question, but yesterday we heard about Japan’s role, major contributions in international cooperation to promote human rights. And I am sure the delegation knows that last December, the General Assembly by acclamation, declared 2011 to be international year for persons of African origin. I’d like to take advantage of this opportunity then, just to note the importance of that commemoration and to express my optimistic hope that Japan like other countries will be very committed to that process and will make a very positive contribution to achieving the objectives which I’m sure will mean implementation of mechanisms for voluntary contributions. Thank you very much, Chairman, I do apologize to the delegation for taking advantage of this excellent opportunity for making that little speech.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

I thank you for the intervention Mr. Murillo Martinez. I give the floor to Mr. Cali Tzay followed by Mr. Avtonomov.

Mr. Cali Tzay

Thank you Chairman. I too would like to join my colleagues in thanking you the distinguished delegation of Japan for the replies and the reply to my question about seven members of the panel discussing the policy for the Ainu. This reply will help me to understand the situation.

Since there are seven might it not be more feasible for an Ainu delegation on a parity basis so that this panel could really discuss the policy needed by all of the Ainu people; of course reflecting the willingness of the Prime Minister. Of course we’ve heard they’re going to listen to the Ainu but perhaps then the panel should have a parity representation of the Ainu people.

With regard to Okinawa, I greatly respect the opinion of the delegation but I note the study by the Ecuadorian expert Mr. Jose Martinez_____on the situation of indigenous peoples in the world. He noted that one of the forms whereby an indigenous population can define itself as such is self definition. But he also said that indigenous peoples are those which existed which were in place before colonialization or the formation of current states. As far as I understand, the Okinawan has its own culture and language and idiosyncrasies. So the opinion of that expert would be that since Japan gave its support to the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples it would be of course recommendable, and I respectfully I say this, that the Okinawa people also be recognized as an indigenous people. I repeat, I believe they have a different language, a language which is different from Japanese.

And I’d also like to say that I’ve received information concerning the policy of retirement. There is a law specifically referring to this we were told that in the legislation there is a particular gap because Korean citizens because of their nationality are not taken account of in this policy that is neither elderly nor disabled.

I recall an expression I learned in the US “a crack in the law can be small that nobody can notice, but also can be so big that a caterpillar tractor can pass through.” So I think these gaps in legislation may be not be noted by some people or anybody, but also may result in a large group not receiving the necessary benefits so I think that the government of Japan could probably resolve this gap in the legislation with regard to this particular issue. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I thank once again the distinguished delegation of Japan.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Mr. Cali Tzay for your remarks, and Mr. Avtonomov you have the floor now.

Mr. Avtonomov

Thank you for giving me the floor. Firstly, I’d like to apologize for not being here for the whole process of replies to questions because I have responsibilities as rapporteur on another country so I do apologize for this. I just wanted once again to welcome the delegation and I wanted to say good morning and say that in Japanese as well. I listened to the replies to questions, I heard them in Japanese, of course that doesn’t happen very often in this room, it was very interesting, and there were replies to questions that I raised yesterday. And I did hear some replies to those. I just wanted to make a few details clearer.

Of course we know the position with respect to the Burakumin group, nevertheless there was a partial answer to what I asked about registration of families. We know that there are difficult problems here. Because overcoming traditional stereotypes will be complicated in any country and Japan is no exception. No country is an exception. And we are well aware that basically this is related to the origin of such peoples not only their parents but their grandparents and so on,___these groups, and that’s what the discrimination arises from. Now I heard the answer about registration of families. I wasn’t actually asking for a change in the procedure on registration of families because I know that this is a rather long established system and has its advantages. The question of registration is not a question that we have to discuss here. Registration is not something that we are seeking to change. It has great significance for ensuring that people’s rights are enforced. But I did listen with interest to the fact that the new legislation on personal data and of course you shouldn’t close off access, somehow reduces access of all people universally to such data.

I therefore would like to ask whether there’s any…if there is a change in access to personal data, whether this has affected the Burakumin people, and whether discrimination with respect to these people is related let’s say to certain prejudices and stereotypes with employers. I would like to have more information about this, and it may not of course, not be conscious, sometimes people are not aware when they discriminate against someone, so as I say it may not be conscious. So I would like to know whether the situation of these people, the Burakumin, has changed following the change in legislation concerning access to personal data and if there are any positive moves forward with regard to reducing these problems. I think possibly, there needs to be further consideration as to how the access to data be arranged. It would be very interesting to hear whether then there is any additional information on this. If there isn’t any information available right now, perhaps it would be interesting to have that in the next periodic report. Thank you very much.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Mr. Avtonomov. I would just like to interject a comment here. This arises from our discussions this morning, and that concerns indigenous people. You have stated that the Ainu people are the only one whom you recognize as the indigenous people. My understanding, my strict understanding of the situation would be that the Japanese people themselves are an indigenous people because ((Mr. Ueda: “Yes, of course.”)) I think they were there for as long as the Ainu but perhaps because of special circumstances they were isolated and underprivileged so we have of course Mr. Thornberry is our expert on the indigenous people and Mr. Cali Tzay, so this is I suppose the Japanese people are as indigenous as the Ainu and…because if you think in terms of time and continuity. So this is the only comment that I wish to make.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairperson. There are additional questions raised by members of the Committee and while our staffs are preparing sort of answers, possible answers to you, I will make a sort of general comment.

Of course there is no clear definition of indigenous people even in the UN Declaration or the UN resolution, so it’s difficult for us to identify or how can I say, define indigenous people as Mr. Chairperson stated. Different from the situation in Australia and New Zealand and the United States where indigenous people used to be there and then outsider came later. Our history is different, our history is different. That is true. I mean whether our ancestors come from southern China or from Siberia or from Polynesia we don’t know. From Africa maybe, we don’t know. There might be a sort of first wave arriving, and then second wave arriving, and then third wave arriving, all mixed and we now, we are Japanese. The Ainu, we recognized as an indigenous people because definitely they have their own culture, history, different from our, I mean so-called Japanese nationals.

But Okinawan people are Japanese. I mean, it’s difficult to identify, it’s difficult for you to identify say the people from Provence and the people from Ile-de-France. How do you identify themselves? The Okinawan people have a very of course a rich unique culture but their language of course, strong, how can I say, very probably a group of Japanese language, in broad sense they are Japanese language, I mean in comparison with say, Chinese or Korean or Taiwanese, they are Japanese language. Maybe, there are of course many many different, how can I say, theories and academic studies, but broadly speaking, people living in Okinawa are Japanese, in broad sense, so that’s the reason why are not identify them as indigenous people. Of course they have a sort of sometimes different history from mainland parts, and they had suffered heavily during World War II, they need economic development, so central government and prefectural government provided a great deal of assistance to Okinawa people to raise up their living standards, that sort of things, yes, we nurture the Okinawan culture, for example when the G8 summit was held in Okinawa, G8 leaders all enjoyed very beautiful culture of Okinawa as you know. Now, I’ll ask my deputy and other staff to answer as much as possible to your additional questions. Thank you.

(?) (Japanese government delegation; ?)

Well, there were some questions with regard to having consultations. Well, several or some members raised a question with regard to the possibility of having consultations with other groups, groups other than Ainu people. Now I’d like to respond to that. In formulating this the periodic report, in February 2006, through the website of the Ministry we asked for the submission of comments in written form, and in March 2006 targeting NGO groups we had an formal hearing, and in July 2006 and August 2007, we invited members of the community to organize a meeting to exchange views. In March 2006 there was an informal hearing as I mentioned. 16 NGO groups were represented and seven ministries were represented. And we had the opportunity of free discussion and exchange of views on the formulation of the periodic report. And in the first meeting in July 2007, about 60 people came to this meeting and also the seven ministries that were represented, and in the second meeting about 40 people attended and six government agencies were represented in that second meeting, therefore, through the website we asked for comments to be presented to us.


(?) (Japanese government delegation; Cabinet Secretariat)

The Cabinet Secretariat will respond. On the Ainu question, first of all, as to the membership of the Council for promoting the Ainu policy there are 14 members in total of which there are five Ainu people. Of the 14 of which two are the chief cabinet secretary and assistant to the prime minister so these two are politicians. So apart from those two politicians there’ll be 12, and of the 12, five are Ainu people. Now, under this Council there are two working groups. Of the six members, for both three are of Ainu people or representatives of the Ainu Association, so for the Council for the Promotion of Ainu Policy the 5 out of 12 – so there is not exactly parity – but we have five Ainu people participating. And the other members other than Ainu are academics who are well-versed on Ainu policies as well as representatives of the local governments in the districts where the Ainu people are residing. So____in fact, we will be able to duly hear the views of the Ainu people and the related persons. Next, on the indigenous people. Ainu people have been recognized as indigenous people. One thing is in Hokkaido in the Northern areas they are residing from the old times. The other factor is that Ainu language included there are distinct cultures and the traditions had been preserved and maintained by the Ainu people. So those are the factors in determining that they are to be recognized as indigenous people. Thank you.

(?) (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)

Next, the Korean residents. The pension issues involving Korean residents. The Ministry of Health will respond. First of all, with regard to the pension scheme, there is no nationality clause, therefore, the ___ program covers foreign nationals as well. However, in the past, before 1981 there was a nationality clause in place, and in 1982 and nationality clause was terminated, and on that occasion this regulation is to be applied in the future. Therefore at that point in time, the foreign nationals or the Koreans with the age of 84 and those handicapped people at the age of 48, they were not covered in the national pension scheme. As a result of that, they are taking a hard time and that is____, therefore welfare services should be applied, provided to that population and based on the discussion at the Diet level we would like to continue to look into this matter.

Next, on Buraku people, and the interpretation of descent. As for the interpretation of descent, in relation to the interpretation of the language as to the content of the government periodic report some of the members have said that it is not necessarily a satisfactory answer being given. But what we would like to say is, in the review of the periodic report from the Japanese government on the Dowa__question, this is not a question of descent, or this is not the question to be handled by the ICERD. If we are taken that position that we would not be reporting because of the positions, but that is not our position. For the specific aspects during the review, we have been always trying to engage in a constructive manner for dialogue, and this is more important, so I hope that we can continue with such a dialogue going forward. In any case, for ICERD based upon the spirit as mentioned in the preamble of the ICERD for the Dowa question, any kind of discrimination including the Dowa discrimination should never happen; that is always our position. In relation to this the Ministry of Justice would like to respond to the question of the family register and the general measures vis-à-vis the Dowa people. Please.

Ms. Aono (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Justice)

My name Aono with the Ministry of Justice. And there was a reference to the revised family register law in my comment, and I skip the background information. Therefore I just would like to make an additional comment that may overlap what I have just mentioned. In 2007, before the revision of the family register law, the professional organizations transferred the documents they received onto third parties and there were some illegal acts involved in such illegal actions were reported. And in order to prevent such_____application and a request and for the protection of individual and personal information, and in order to respond to such a situation, the family registration law was revised. And the requirement for making requests was made stricter. Identification of the person requesting a person, and the stricter punishment was put into the law against those who violate the law. And in practice as well, the actions are taken so that this law can be carried out properly. And my colleague will make an additional comment.

Mr. Ogawa (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Justice)

My name is Ogawa from the Ministry of Justice. Mr. Diaconu and Mr. De Gouttes, I believe the intent of your questions are on the Dowa question that not necessarily the present measures may not be satisfactory or adequate enough that may be included in your questions so allow me to give some supplementary explanation. Earlier on, Ms. Shino from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already explained. Under the Ministry of Justice human rights organs for the human rights issues including the Dowa question for the human rights counseling as well as human rights encouragement we have taken remedial measures, relief measures. With that said, however, as for the measures of the government is not limited to these alone. In the list of questions paragraph 4, the government of Japan has given a response which alludes to the following. The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, and other relevant ministries are competent in the different categories of administration and under their own competence various measures are undertaken. For example, earlier, Mr. Avtonomov has pointed out that for the employers, awareness of the Dowa question may be problematic. Now, at the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, for employment, in the employment screening done by the business corporations, the basic human rights of the applicants are being respected. And to prevent any discrimination over employment, the ability of the applicants are to be ____and the fair screening should be made for employment. And guidance and education are given to employers to make this a reality. Based upon the spirit as given in the preamble of the ICERD, for any discrimination including the Dowa question, in order to create a society without any discrimination is something that we are always striving to aim for. Thank you.

Mr. Otani (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Justice)

Next, the criminal procedure in relation to racially motivated acts. My name is Otani with the Ministry of Justice. Article 4 of the ICERD in relation to that racially motivated action there was some reference in the comments. With regard to that, as the official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I mentioned, I just would like to make an additional comment for clarification from the viewpoint of the Ministry of Justice. As was captured in a statement given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if the prime objective was motivated racially and the motive is considered malicious, therefore in the legal process, and if it is proved, in that case the judge, in the process of sentencing, will take that into consideration as an important factor. And such appropriate treatment is given in that regard. Thank you.

Lastly, to the question from Mr. Prosper, on the relationship with ICC and the genocide convention, unfortunately, we have come for the review of the ICERD, so we were not anticipating a satisfactory answer which would be fitting to such questions coming from their profound knowledge as held by the distinguished member, so I have to say that we have no knowledge over and above what we have already mentioned earlier. Thank you.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

As you know, my predecessor for ambassador for human rights was Mrs. Saiga, who became an ICC judge later on, but unfortunately she passed away, and succeeding her, a new lady judge from Japan is now in ICC…Ozaki-san, Ms. Ozaki is now in ICC.  You know, of course our sincere approach to this question.  Mr. Chairperson, thank you very much.  I think our side tried to answer questions raised by the members of the Committee so far as much as possible.  So this is…if I have something to say…I think I said so far, enough.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

I thank you very much for your responses and the fact that we have a little time is indicative of the to the point responses that the delegation gave us and I saw no evidence of filibustering or trying to drag the answers. So members had the opportunity to ask as many questions as they wished, and does somebody wish to speak, Madame Dah or Mr. De Gouttes? Mr. Lindgren, would you like to say something before I give the floor to our rapporteur for his preliminary summing up?

Mr. Lindgren

Thank you Mr. Chairman it’s just a point of clarification. Of course I appreciate very much all the replies that were given to us by the Japanese delegation. But my original doubt concerning the Burakumin still remains. What are the Burakumin. If they speak the same language, if they speak Japanese, if they don’t have religious origins, what makes them different from the average Japanese? This is just a question that I want to make. Thank you.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

There are no difference at all. No difference at all. They are us. Like us. I mean, we. We are the same. No difference at all. So you can’t identify. Unless you say I’m from Ile-de-France, I’m from Provence. And this he says.

Ms. Shino (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

I think this is something we mentioned in the previous examination that the Dowa policy, the council, came out with a report in 1965, and in that report the Dowa problems was the outcome of the class system that was borne out of the feudal system and it is a social problem. However, in recent years, with regard to the origin of the Buraku problems, there was a review of these problems being dated back to the Edo period, so it is rather difficult for us why the Buraku problem emerged, and who should be considered as a Burakumin or Buraku people. So the situation is very complicated, therefore, that was the comment that we made in the previous examination session, that we did not have more information that___provided to you at this point in time.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

I thank you for your responses. And I have two more requests from the floor. Mr. Diaconu, followed by Mr. De Gouttes.

Mr. Diaconu

Thank you Mr. Chairman. And I am sorry for taking the floor for the third time. I’m interested to know as much as possible and to see as much as possible progress from the part of the state party because Japan is a big country, is a developed country, and we are waiting from Japan a lot of positive developments in the Asian space and in the world as such. Now, our preoccupation in this committee and according to our convention is that each and every person is protected against racial discrimination. And each and every group is protected. And this is let’s say these are the words of our Convention.

Now, you are telling us that there are no difference between the Buraku and the others, but they say that there is a difference. They say to us and according to sources we have they say that they have a different culture and a different language. Let’s clarify this issue and the way to clarify this issue is through consultations with them, with their representatives. Mr. Ambassador, you are telling us that there is no difference between you and them. Looking at them you, cannot distinguish them, but it happens in many countries. You cannot distinguish them according to physical features to the way they look but when you look more precisely into their culture, into their language, into their traditions, you will find distinctions. We don’t want to create groups where there are no groups. We don’t want to defend dead cultures or dead languages. No. But we want to preserve whatever is of interest for a group for a significant group of people. And it seems there is a significant group of people which wants to preserve their culture and their traditions and their language. So this is important this is important for us, I think it should be important also for the country. It is your richness, it is part of your richness, as tradition, as culture, as history. This is our preoccupation, and I think that the lady from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs started giving us an interesting answer. She says the Buraku issue is a social problem. It comes from the feudal times. Okay. But that is what we want to hear about. It comes from the feudal times. Now, we want to know how much this social problem, coming from the caste system, has developed into an ethnic issue, into a differential group, culturally different group. How much remnants of that system of caste system are still in the Japanese society because if they are then you have to deal with them. And Japan has to deal with them under our convention. If this group is different you have to include it either as a minority group, either as an ethic group, or an indigenous group. You cannot say they do not exist. No, they are there. They are there, and they are citizens of Japan. So this is a comment that I wanted to make on this issue. This remains, I understand this remains an issue to be considered by the government and by ourselves, taking into account answers we could receive from the government on this issue, from all points of view, not only just, let’s see an interpretation of the text of article 1 and the travaux préparatoires, no. We want some data from the inside, from this group about this group of population. Thank you very much.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Mr. De Gouttes (mistake?), I’d just like to mention there is a distinction between caste and ethnicity. You have one ethnicity and in that ethnicity there may be several castes. Mr. De Gouttes, you have…

Mr. De Gouttes

Thank you Chairman. I am a French expert but not of Provence origin. And I think the delegation did remind us that all countries have problems, specific issues affecting their populations, and that’s quite clear. I don’t think any country is exempt from questions and problems about its population. And I think that’s what’s so valuable in having this sort of forum, having an open direct dialogue which shows differences in approach between one delegation and our committee. But we are not judges. We’ve said this often. We’re a cooperation and dialogue body. What we hope to do through considering states parties reports is to see evolution, to see changes, progress made, with a view to ensuring full compliance with our convention, and I think that’s the benefit of a committee such as ours to have a dialogue to ensure compliance with our convention. Thank you.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

My understanding of his Excellency’s intervention was that ethnically this group is Japanese, and this is the way I understood him, and in that spirit I took his intervention. So at this stage I would like to give the floor to our distinguished rapporteur who happens also to be… who has a very rich experience, he’s a scholar on indigenous people, so we can benefit from his summing up.

Mr. Thornberry

Thank you for kind words, chairman, and again I thank the delegation warmly for a generally interactive dialogue that you’ve provided a detailed account of your position in response to our many questions. And a large delegation came to visit the committee on this occasion which we are very grateful for. The remarks are personal. These are not necessarily shared by the whole committee though I will try to recall some of the consensus committee position on some matters. There was a huge range of issues raised.

And also in your responses today beginning with the question of the Ainu as an indigenous people which I think I said yesterday that recognition is the first step, there are many steps that must follow and certainly one of the key things in all of this process of engagement with indigenous rights and indeed with other groups is the question of participation and consultation.

The Okinawa situation was also raised and you’ve made your position very clear but nevertheless colleagues have proposed and urged a wider degree of consultation perhaps on this question without necessarily getting into technical arguments on description of status but certainly consultation with representatives would be welcome.

We had a lot of discussion on issues like education of minority groups and many issues were clarified, and discussions____of public schools and private schools. I must say that the public schools maybe we didn’t develop this point today, possibly demonstrate an insufficiently flexible curriculum in terms of ethnic diversity including for Japanese citizens, and this may of course encourage others to maintain systems outside the public school system. That’s just an impression that I have. But anyway, I think I’ve heard references today on the need for policy study and welcome this.

We’ve had discussions on education, Internet questions, article 4, the names issue, refugees, the question of the law on racial discrimination, and issues to deal with our convention including article 14 and amendment article 8. Those are just some of the issues.

And also the very interesting question raised by Mr. Prosper on the relationship between the Genocide Convention and the statute of the International Criminal Court. I did flag that one up yesterday but did not develop it as Mr. Prosper has done so very interestingly today.

These are the kind of things that will figure, I can’t speak for the committee in advance, but we will have to draw up our concluding observations on the basis of issues raised.

We have a certain broad agreement in some respects, including the importance of eliminating racial discrimination as far as humanly possible, and the importance of education against discrimination in this. We’ve had agreement also on the status of the Ainu, on the spirit of the convention, and I noticed a certain direction of movement as regards national human rights institution.

But certainly there are areas that the committee would probably recommend for further reflection. On the Buraku question, for example, we note your willingness to transcend the rather technical argument about the interpretation of the term descent in light of the spirit of the convention. We may not be in a position to agree on the interpretative matter, but we have our own position on that which has been developed in the committee over many years and is indeed acceptable to most states.

The nature of human rights education is something that perhaps we welcome the importance you give to education. We wonder sometimes and certainly I wonder if it has an adequate diversity component to what extent it includes the rights of specific groups. I’m not raising a whole lot of new questions now it’s just something that occurred to me.

It looks like we’re going to maintain respective differences on reservations, though the committee always invites states to seriously examine whether a reservation is needed and if possible minimize its scope or eliminate it. We note nevertheless that on issues like voting rights for foreigners, that certain matters are in progress. We disagree on this business about a law on racial discrimination, basically I think because you do not see a current necessity here, I’ll come to that in a moment, so we diverge I think even on issues to do with the names question and registration registers, we diverge on many issues.

But nevertheless, on some of the broader matters, there is at least a convergence of spirit if not necessarily in all of the details. In the committee’s view, the convention is something that has a fairly long reach, it reaches down, and this makes it difficult for states parties as I said yesterday it’s not simply about the state administration. It goes down to responsibility for the acts of persons, groups, and organizations and reaches deep down into social mores, including the conduct of private persons, and the committee has always insisted strongly that laws as such are not enough and there must be implementation to fulfill the obligations properly under the convention.

As colleagues have intimated I think very clearly there has always been care and concern for particular vulnerable groups, and although the convention does not use the term minority or indigenous people, inevitably, these are the groups that we have been concerned with a great deal because they are the natural focus of oppression. Majority populations or mainstream populations don’t necessarily have the need for the kinds of protection that minorities have, although in some cases there are issues about a majorities which have come before the committee.

And I think we always hope to unblock situations, to assist the state party to open thinking a little on these matters and discourage too much rigidity of positions based perhaps on legal considerations which might regard any intrusion of international standards as a kind of intrusion into domestic affairs. I think that kind of position, it is an exercise of sovereignty to ratify a convention like this, and it is not in any way a diminution of sovereignty and one would always hope state-by-state for a greater and broader embracing of letter and spirit of international norms bearing in mind the duty of this committee also which in a sense acts as a kind of ____of states and always has done to avoid the situation where states themselves get into mutual criticism so that is how I see the function of a committee like this.

The committee has taken very clear positions over the years I think I can at least say that on structural and substantial questions on respectful diversity of situations. Sometimes we are presented with a rather homogenizing approach for example to the idea of equality, but if there are different situations being treated by the same norm as it were, that’s not equality that’s inequality. One always has to have respect for history, tradition, culture, vulnerability, which makes a simple uniform application of norms not always appropriate, though of course we should always be aware of our commonalities as well as issues of diversity. We deal a lot with groups, and we privilege the notion of self definition. We argue for the need for laws against racial discrimination. We argue for control within the parameters of the convention of hate speech, we argue the need for remedies, and we argue the need for education which I think the state party clearly shares.

Education of groups including cultural and linguistic dimensions. Education, I think as Mr. Diaconu said yesterday, of the general population in matters to do with racial discrimination and tolerance and education of officials including those in this case perhaps in most regular contact in one way or another with non-Japanese. Now this is a large program for states, and of course we will look at evidence of responses when we come to your next report we will shorten the time lag I think by suggesting three or four issues for rather immediate follow-up.

If I can just give a couple of very broad points to conclude with, in the drafting of the convention, it was fairly clear and I have studied the travaux of the convention fairly extensively, there was a widespread feeling that racial discrimination applied only in a few places in the world. That it was not in fact a global phenomenon and truthfully it may also be the case that many states signed up to it on the supposition that it was never really going to affect them domestically. It would always be a matter of foreign policy. But I think the committee has demonstrated over the years that it is a global issue. It affects all states, of course in its details it has nuances of difference, but I think one of the functions of this committee and the convention is to see the commonalities so that we can actually see in what way the issues relate to the international norms and make appropriate recommendations on that basis.

Going back to what I said yesterday, and your response, I feel sometimes that if the international community had accepted the Japanese__at the time of the League of Nations we might have got to this realization a little bit earlier than we did… it’s a fairly recent understanding.

And in responding to the convention, just to conclude, that a number of steps, first of all, I think that awareness raising is very very important.

And a number of your responses today make the point that law is not needed in current circumstances. I think my immediate worry about that is that your information and statistical base in particular may not be entirely adequate to support that proposition. And I certainly think that the civil society will make its point clear, but that more study is required.

Education is also important and you have stressed education greatly, but again, if I may go back to the drafting of the convention, a number of countries insisted very strongly that education was the way forward. Others were equally determined to show that education itself was excellent but not enough and that the passing of laws itself has an educative value for the population. So following awareness raising then we get to re-organization in some cases quite drastic and basic legal structures and then to implementation in good faith of the convention.

All we can do a conclusion as to hope that the convention and the committee can assist in consolidation of process and direction and be a channel through which the good intentions of the state can flow. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you Mr. Thornberry. We have come to the end of our discussion, a most interesting discussion it was, on Japan, and I think we have learned from each other and the future generation is here with us and I’m sure that under their leadership in the years to come, we will make greater progress in understanding each other and this exchange will lead all of you to reflect on the great diversity in our world and yet the similarity that we are all humans and we all originated, they now tell us – the scientists – we originated from a very small region of Africa and spread all over the world, I found it difficult to believe but after I read about it in depth, I realized this is a fact, a scientific fact, so thank you very much, and Excellency, and thank you Mr. Rapporteur of course for your excellent summing up, and distinguished members for your rich questions. Excellency, I think if you would like to say something at this stage, I would like to give you the floor.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Thank you Mr. Chairperson and distinguished members of the committee, on behalf of the Japanese delegation I express sincere appreciation to your support and your very constructive comments. We will try to of course wait your final comment but in the meantime we will of course study and learn what you have said this occasion and of course if possible, we will try to take up your recommendations and try to sort of proceed farther to the future.

Taking this opportunity also, I’d like to express our appreciation to our NGO groups who attended, I mean who are present here, from Japan, together with as was explained by Ms. Shino, government side also of course appreciate their contribution, and we had a constructive consultations back home and we will have also continue this kind of consultations, exchange of views back home for the better implementation of this convention.

Once again, I’d like to express our sincere appreciation to all members of the committee and also the Secretariat staff who helped us very much.

And of course the interpreters who did a great job and also there are Japanese press present, and I think they will cover our activity to Japan and not only to Japan, but to all over the world, how we are working rigorously and how we are sort of effectively exchanged views.

In conclusion, I personally had a very good sort of a learning during this session. Thank you very much.

Mr. Kemal (Chairperson)

Thank you, Excellency Ueda, and that brings us to the conclusion of the session. Thank you very much, and to the delegation of Japan, those of you who are going across the ocean, I wish you a safe and happy journey and maybe we will see you at some later session. This meeting is concluded.

Mr. Ueda (Japanese government delegation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Thank you very much.


Committee members:

Nourredine Amir (Algeria); Alexei Avtonomov (Russian Federation); Jose Francisco Cali Tzay (Guatemala); Anastasia Crickley (Ireland); Fatima-Binta Victoire Dah (Burkina Faso); Régis de Gouttes (France); Ion Diaconu (Romania); Kokou Mawuena Ika Kana (Dieudonné) Ewomsan (Togo); Huang Yong’an (China); Anwar Kemal (Pakistan) (Chairperson); Dilip Lahiri (India); Gün Kut (Turkey); José Augusto Lindgren Alves (Brazil); Pastor Elias Murillo Martinez (Colombia); Chris Maina Peter (Tanzania); Pierre-Richard Prosper (United States); Walilakoye Saidou (Niger); and Patrick Thornberry (United Kingdom)

Japanese government delegation members:

Hideaki Ueda (Ambassador in charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, MOFA); Kenichi Suganuma (Ambassador, Permanent Mission to Japan to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva); Kazumi Akiyama (Councilor, Comprehensive Ainu Policy Department, Cabinet Secretariat); Akira Honda (Official, Comprehensive Ainu Policy Department, Cabinet Secretariat); Yumi Aono (Director, Office of International Affiars, Secretarial Division, MOJ); Junichiro Otani (Attorney, Criminal Affairs Bureau, MOF); Akira Ogawa (Human Rights Bureau, MOJ); Yukinori Ehara (Assistant to the Director, Human Rights Promotion Division, Human Rights Bureau, MOJ); Naomi Hirota (Section Chief, Office of International Affairs, Secretarial Division, MOJ); Yuki Yamaguchi (Official, International Affairs Division, Criminal Affairs Bureau, MOJ); Mitsuko Shino (Director, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, Foreign Policy Bureau, MOFA); Junko Irie (Attorney, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, Foreign Policy Bureau, MOFA); Shiho Yoshioka (Researcher, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, Foreign Policy Bureau, MOFA); Kanako Konishi (Official, International Affairs Division, MEXT); Junya Hoshida (Deputy Director, International Affairs Division, Minister’s Secretariat, MHLW); Akio Isomata (Minister, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva); Yuji Yamamoto (Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva); Akira Matsumoto (First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva); Mirai Maruo (Attache, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva)

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


Tangent: Dentistry in Canada, wow, what a difference!


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Hi Blog.  I didn’t do an update yesterday for a good reason — I was really quite overwhelmed in Edmonton.  Went to an excellent dentist on Tuesday, who saw a lot of work to be done and brought me back Wednesday and Thursday for three appointments of ultrasound and scaling (removal of buildup on teeth), one more appoint for x-rays (three, one that spins around your mouth) and some probing for cavities, one more for a periodontal check (I’m clear of it, but definitely have gingivitis), then two more appointments for replacement of fillings (four) and filling new cavities (five — one tooth was so bad in the back they had to remove about 60% of it above the gumline, since the decay had gone around an old filling and spread throughout underneath — I didn’t even have a toothache).  All manner of facial dams were constructed

and new types of novocaine, ones that don’t look like horse needles going in, were administered.  It wasn’t a comfortable experience, to be sure, but it wasn’t painful (I had a tooth pulled at age 7 or 8 — that set me on the straight and narrow when it comes to cleaning my teeth assiduously; five cavities at once were the first fillings I’ve had in about fifteen years.)  And all told, I spent about 9 and a half hours in the dentist chair.  Boy my mouth feels awful, but my teeth feel good (so good I think I’d rather take my food intravenously for awhile).

But why is this a issue?  Well, tangentially it is, since dentistry I consider to be a very lagging science in Japan (not ten years ago I had to search hard just to find a dentist in Sapporo who would wear gloves!  That’s something that sends tremors amongst my overseas dentists when I tell them).  Case in point:  Just look at the awful bridgework you see in old people around you (and full dentures are not at all uncommon — both my ex-parents in law had them).  Some of my students even today come to class with very inflamed sides of their mouth (some meat or seafood stuck in their teeth they just can’t dislodge with the ubiquitous toothpick), and when I recommend floss they say they’ve never even heard of it!

I’m told (and I can’t substantiate right now; Readers, douzo) that in Japan’s medical exam system, people get licensed for particular practices depending on their scores.  The people on the bottom go into dentistry.  That rings true to me, anyway.  My last teeth cleaning (in Japan) was about five years ago — and it was so bad (the doc wore gloves but a very stained smock) that they gave me an ultrasound (no scaling below the gums afterwards), then a flossing — and snapped the floss on what was left behind.  I told them to start again.  Cost 3000 yen all told.  Got what I paid for.  No doubt the black calculus that my dental hygienist scraped out (and proudly showed me a huge fleck of) was missed back then.  Ugh.

So, how are other people’s experiences with dentistry in Japan?  Anyone know a good periodontist — if dentistry in Japan even specializes that far?  Floor is open to discussion.  Arudou Debito in Edmonton

Taikibansei & Cabby on mixed experiences getting Permanent Residency depending on Immigration Office. What about other readers?


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Hi Blog.  Today I’d like to ask Readers about their experiences with various Immigration offices around Japan.  We had a discussion recently on the JALT PALE list about how they did on their Permanent Residency applications, and have concluded that how NJ are treated both interpersonally and applicationwise seems to depend on the Immigration office they apply at.

Two testimonials follow from Taikibansei and Cabby.  Immigration offices at Miyazaki, Morioka (and for me, Sapporo — story from 1996 here) seem to be very nice and liberal.  However, I’ve heard bad things about Tokyo (and Okayama below).  How about everyone else?   I think collecting information on would be a good idea so people have some idea where to apply (stories about applying for the most important visa, PR, most welcome).  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Taikibansei: Well, I went to Morioka Immigration for the first time yesterday to get my re-entry permit. Now, the building itself is a bit difficult to find–it’s in the parking lot behind several other, apparently more important (e.g., THEY have prominent signs…), buildings.

I stumbled up there (it’s on the second floor) at five minutes before 1 pm, walking right into the office — office hours begin at 1 pm. Now, in Fukui (at least 10-15 years ago), attempting to enter the immigration office early would have at best earned you a five-minute lecture from the cranky old guy that was in charge there; if you were from Thailand, the Philippines, etc., he would also have made you wait an extra hour or so as “punishment” (seen it happen).

The reaction in Morioka: BOTH guys jumped up with goofy grins and gave me a big “Irasshaimase!” This, quite frankly, threw me–I asked if this was indeed the immigration office, looking around for something to confirm. It was then that I noticed I was early. Bracing myself for the lecture (at least), I apologized profusely, telling them I would return in five minutes when they were officially open.

They would have nothing of it. “It’s only five minutes!” One told me that the day had been slow and that he was “chotto samishii” (they are pretty isolated there). He then asked, “What can we do for you? Do you want a visa-status change form? Do you want to apply for permanent residence?” Me: “Uh, no, I just need the form for multiple entry.” “Oh, only that.”

He gave me the form, then FOLLOWED me to the counter in back to HELP ME FILL IT OUT. Now, as I’m sure everyone here knows, the form is in Japanese and English–i.e., even if you don’t know Japanese, you can still fill out the form pretty easily. Well, the guy wouldn’t go away–worse, he started saying stuff like, “Do you like reimen? I know a great shop for reimen!” or, “Do you have cold like this in America? It gets really cold here at night” or, “You’re really tall, I bet you have many girlfriends!”

Despite his “help,” I finally managed to fill the darn thing out and give it to him. He processed it in five minutes, and I was gone–got a “Douzo mata irasshatte kudasaimase” as I was heading out the door. All and all, a bizarre experience–thought I’d stumbled into a snack bar!

I do think this is one of the best things about having access to an immigration office in a smaller town. Most immigration horror stories originate in big cities like Tokyo. Moreover, I’ve always wondered whether each office has the same limit (say, 100) on the number of permanent residencies they can process in a year. Tokyo, with its huge foreign population, would probably easily exceed that number by mid-year for most years. Miyazaki, on the other hand, would struggle most years to get to one third of that number.

This would explain the apparent difference in ease of getting PR. I mean, if there really is just one rule for everyone, then it should be just as difficult to get PR in Miyazaki as Tokyo. However, XXXX and his acquaintances apparently could not get PR there, while I know of nobody who has been rejected for PR in Miyazaki. (Know of three besides myself who applied while I was down there–including the husband in a foreigner-foreigner marriage–never a problem.) Heck, even shady characters such as myself got it!  Taikibansei


Cabby:  Not sure if the this actually matters. My experiences with Immigration since 1988 have been very mixed. When I moved to Okayama from Osaka my 3-year spousal visa was about to expire. I went to the local and at the time very small Immigration office and told them that I would like to apply for permanent residency. The bozo bureaucrat behind the counter did everything he could to discourage me. I told him that I qualified and there would be no harm in trying. He went so far as to say that the 3-year spousal visa that I had did not count since it was issued in Osaka. That was when I about hit the ceiling. He then said it would take at least six months and perhaps a year to get the visa, if it were granted, adding that I would not be able to leave the country during that time. “Are any family members in the U.S. ill? You should consider this before applying.” Well, not one to be deterred by officialdom, I applied anyway. Three weeks later I got a card in the mail asking me to come to the Immigration office to get my new visa, a PR.

The point I am trying to make is that this fool in the local office really had little if anything to do with the decision. That was made in Hiroshima, the regional office. I suspect that this is the case in many small locales. The paperwork gets sent to a regional center where the decision is made. I must add that in the past few years all the local officers I have had to deal with were closer in demeanor to the one who helped Taikibansei than the one who attempted to discourage me.  Cabby.


Japan Times on proposal to convert Itami Airport into “International Campus Freedom City”


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Hi Blog. Young-Turk Osaka Governor Hashimoto has been suggesting some interesting reforms recently, one of them, according to the Japan Times, is to close down Osaka Itami Airport (relocating all flights to KIX), and to use the land for creating an international campus, where international schools and universities would be located and the lingua franca English.

On the surface of it (regardless of the efficacy of essentially creating a Dejima for ideas and culture, nestled right next to Osaka proper), it’s an intriguing idea with great potential, and not one that in principle can oppose (what could a move like this hurt if successful, except the natural insular order of things, which does deserve some change).  It’s already incurring a lot of opposition from entrenched interests (read full article at JT site).  What do other Readers think?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Airport wars roil Kansai region
Osaka, Hyogo leaders clash over hub plans
The Japan Times Friday, Jan. 15, 2010

By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer
(pertinent excerpt)

Under [Osaka Gov] Hashimoto’s plan, Itami [Airport]’s 400 hectares would be turned into what he calls the International Campus Freedom City. Up to 20,000 people, including many foreigners, would live in the area, which would be home to international schools and universities. The common language would be English.

“To turn out talented workers of international stature, all elementary, junior high and high schools in the international free city will be instructed in English,” the plan reads.

“Along with international schools and universities, home-stays with resident foreigners will provide practical education to students and all signs in the city will be in English. Young people from around Japan who want to improve their English will gather, and it will become a tourist spot, with shops and tourist facilities reminding people of overseas,”

The governor envisions an influx of highly skilled foreign workers in certain sectors who would serve as language tutors to interested Japanese students.

“Along with attracting highly skilled foreigners who specialize in biotechnology, new energy and other strategic industries like cutting edge medicine, incentives such as reducing income and residency taxes for foreigners who offer home-stays to Japanese wishing to learn a foreign language in a native linguistic environment could be given,” the plan reads.

Ido also sees an international future for Itami, but one where foreigners arrive and go elsewhere, not live, work or serve as language tutors and tourist attractions…
Full article at

Sunday Tangent: Economist excerpt on being foreign


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Hi Blog.  In its Xmas Special of December 19, 2009, The Economist (London) had a long and thoughtful essay on what it’s like to be foreign, and how “it is becoming both easier and more difficult to experience the thrill of being an outsider”.

It opens with:

FOR the first time in history, across much of the world, to be foreign is a perfectly normal condition. It is no more distinctive than being tall, fat or left-handed. Nobody raises an eyebrow at a Frenchman in Berlin, a Zimbabwean in London, a Russian in Paris, a Chinese in New York.

The desire of so many people, given the chance, to live in countries other than their own makes nonsense of a long-established consensus in politics and philosophy that the human animal is best off at home. Philosophers, it is true, have rarely flourished in foreign parts: Kant spent his whole life in the city of Königsberg; Descartes went to Sweden and died of cold. But that is no justification for generalising philosophers’ conservatism to the whole of humanity.

Inter alia, it asserted:

The well-off, the artistic, the bored, the adventurous went abroad. (The broad masses went too, as empires, steamships and railways made travel cheaper and easier.) Foreignness was a means of escape—physical, psychological and moral. In another country you could flee easy categorisation by your education, your work, your class, your family, your accent, your politics. You could reinvent yourself, if only in your own mind. You were not caught up in the mundanities of the place you inhabited, any more than you wanted to be. You did not vote for the government, its problems were not your problems. You were irresponsible. Irresponsibility might seem to moralists an unsatisfactory condition for an adult, but in practice it can be a huge relief.

It even devoted more than a paragraph specifically to Japan’s offer of foreignness:

The most generally satisfying experience of foreignness—complete bafflement, but with no sense of rejection—probably comes still from time spent in Japan. To the foreigner Japan appears as a Disneyland-like nation in which everyone has a well-defined role to play, including the foreigner, whose job it is to be foreign. Everything works to facilitate this role-playing, including a towering language barrier. The Japanese believe their language to be so difficult that it counts as something of an impertinence for a foreigner to speak it. Religion and morality appear to be reassuringly far from the Christian, Islamic or Judaic norms. Worries that Japan might Westernise, culturally as well as economically, have been allayed by the growing influence of China. It is going to get more Asian, not less.

Even in Japan, however, foreigners have ceased to function as objects of veneration, study and occasionally consumption…

What do readers think about this model for “foreignness” in Japan.  That everyone has a role and for the NJ it is to be foreign, and we are impertinent to speak it?  etc.

The entire article of course is worth a read. See it at:

Being foreign

The others

Dec 17th 2009
From The Economist print edition

It is becoming both easier and more difficult to experience the thrill of being an outsider

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Query: What to do about J children being rude towards NJ adults?


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Hi Blog. Got a question from Reader Kimberly who wrote this to The Community yahoogroups list yesterday. About kids in Japan who are rude (if not unwittingly racist) towards NJ adults, and they are not cautioned or taught not to be so by surrounding J adults? What do other Readers think or do? Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Kimberly writes:

Hello everyone, I’ve been meaning to ask for some advice on this for awhile… how do you deal with it when you get asked something inappropriate or hear a discriminatory comment from a child too young to have any real malicious intent? As my own kids get older I’m finding more and more situations where a child just has to give a smart-alecky HARO! or ask if we’re going to commute to yochien by airplane… and I’m torn between not wanting to hurt the kid’s feelings when I KNOW a four year old probably isn’t trying to be mean, and wanting to teach them something because I may be the only one who ever tries. If they just imitate what their parents or TV tells them to do, the next generation won’t be any more open-minded than this one. :S

Twice in the past couple of weeks this kind of thing has happened, and I dont think I handled either very well. The first was at my son’s swim class, an older child getting dressed for the class after his “whispered” (loudly enough to be heard across the room) to his mom “Hey mom, that woman looks like an English-person (eigo no hito, not a person from England) but she’s speaking Japanese!” The mom shushed him and gave me an apologetic look… which is better I suppose than encouraging it, but she didn’t come back with “Skin color has nothing to do with what language(s) a person can or can’t speak,” so I kind of wish I’d said something…. but would it have been inappropriate to try to discipline someone else’s kid?

The second was at the community center over winter vacation, a girl probably about 7 or 8 years old asked “Did you come from a foreign country?” And I said “Nope, I came from [town where I live]” Probably a good smart-alecky comment for an older kid or adult who knows better… but I probably could have actually told the kid that that was an inappropriate question instead of just leaving her confused.

With adults I’m so used to ignoring the person completely, or coming back with “If you’re looking for English lessons, there’s an Aeon in Parco” or something…. that’s probably not the best approach with kids, since they’re still young enough to learn to be more colorblind. I don’t know… my son’s about to start yochien so I’m sure there will only be more opportunities, any suggestions on how to be a POSITIVE influence on these kids, not by teaching them English or the history of Halloween, but by giving them an example of a mixed family who’s just… a normal family after all?

Thanks in advice for any suggestions. 🙂 Kimberly

Andrew Smallacombe, fellow Reader, replies:

Great question, Kimberly.

My eldest (ethnic Japanese mother, Caucasian father) goes to a regular kindergarten, which means that I occassionally have to go there. Fortunately, she has responded to kids’ questions on my behalf – “Are you a foreigner?”
“No, he’s from Australia.”

I have chewed out little kids on occassion.

I remember back 5 or so years ago when I was still at Nova. A particularly obnoxious kid responded to my instructions with “urusai, gaijin!” (“shut up, foreigner!”). I chewed him out there and then, and followed up with the procedures in place. Nothing was made of it.

A little over a year ago I took a complete stranger to task.
Two young kids, I assume brother and sister, were approaching me as I was returning home. The little boy suddenly burst out repeatedly “Taiheiyo sensotte nani?” (“What’s the Pacific War?”)
I ignored him, and the girl told him to stop because it was rude. He told her that it didn’t matter because I was a gaijin.
I turned around and blasted him for being rude, making racist comments and assuming that I wouldn’t be able to understand him.
I immediately smiled to the girl and told her everything was alright, and she seemed fine.
In hindsight, I would have liked to have handled this better, but I’ve run out of patience for this kind of thing.

I put part of the blame for the trouble we experience now on TV. Have you seen some of the images of foreign nationals on kids TV programming? NHK Educational boasts cartoons featuring big-nosed foreigners who speak in weird accents. A current early-evening show aimed at primary school kids depicts caucasians as lazy slobs. Earlier incarnations (which I have mentioned on this site) have featured Westerners merely as the instruments of punishment for the losing team.

And teaching a class of 7 year-olds was torture when every utterance was greeted with Taka and Toshi’s “Obei ka?”, or a “Mr. James” impression.

Kids have trouble grasping certain concepts. Like that I might actually NOT live at the school or in another country. Or that I have been living here since before they were born. This is not their fault, nor is it inherently bad.

But to think that the respect they are expected to show adults is suddenly vetoed by my ethnicity, well, that’s another matter.

Other responses?

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

The most customized (and presumptuous) “email scam” letter I’ve received yet


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Hi Blog.  Bit of a tangent today, but not really.  I got this morning an email from somebody asking for help.  That’s not unusual (I get at least one a day, two on Sundays), and I do my best to accommodate, within reason, depending on the reasonableness of the request and my depth of knowledge about the problem raised.

But this is the Internet, and things can get kinda odd at times.  The requests I’ve tended to ignore are the ones asking me to abet an illegal activity (some people have friends who are going down for drugs and want me somehow to assist them; sorry, TS), asking for free legal advice (when I’m no lawyer), asking questions they could easily find either with a quick Google search or in our HANDBOOK (such as how long a Japanese visa is or what kinds of visas are out there), asking me how hard is it to naturalize (usually from high schoolers who are entranced by Japanese anime and have never even been to Japan), or even those who want me to write their college term papers for them (most cryptic question:  “Is Japanese a left-leaning or right-leaning language?  Why or why not?”  Huh?)

The ones I’ve regretted helping are those who are nuts (such as this one, who has a case with merit but can’t make his own case sound convincing; and another one whom I won’t mention by name but wasted an afternoon listening to; the latter later became a cellphone stalker when I dropped his case), or those who have anger management problems and go all ungrateful, such as this one.

But then, this morning, I got the most jarring one yet:

I hope you  receive my message? And is very urgent. I could barely think straight at this point. I had a trip here in  United Kingdom  on a mission. I am presently in [XXXXXXXXX] and I am having some difficulties. I misplaced my bag on my way to the hotel where other valuable things were kept along with my passport. I feel so ashamed because i am so stranded and idle.  I will like you to help me with a loan of 1800 Pounds to pay my hotel bills and also return back home. I will refund the money to you as soon as I get back,  I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively I currently have limited access to emails for now.

To quote Jon Stewart: “WHAT??!!”

Let’s take inventory.  This guy not only wants my time, he wants money.  He wants me to pay for the privilege of helping him.  I’ve seen all sorts of mass-mailed scams from Nigerian princes and the like, but this is the most customized (and presumptuous) of them all — taking advantage of’s charitable use of time to ask a perfect stranger (I’ve never met this person) for a loan.  Sorry Charlie.  Even if I had the time, I definitely do not have the money.  Or that much of a Pollyanna outlook towards people.

I’m glad to help when I can.  But it’s instances like these that make me wonder if I’ve been just a little too generous with my time, to the point where people think they can take this much advantage.  Overly harsh an assessment?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Proof positive that some people really do suck: JT responses to proposals for a Japanese immigration policy


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Hi Blog.  It’s times like these when I think human society really has a bottomless capacity for oozing disdain for and wishing ill-will upon others.  Get a load of these letters to the editor (including authors who won’t reveal their names, or don’t live in Japan anyway) responding acidulously to my Japan Times column earlier this month, where I made constructive proposals for making Japan a place more attractive for immigration.  (Many of these proposals were made not just by me, but also by former Immigration bureaucrat Sakanaka Hidenori; so much for their pat claim below of imposing my moral values).

None of these respondents appear to be immigrants, or have any expressed interest in investing in this society, yet they heap scorn upon those who might plan to.  I know paper will never refuse ink, but surely these people have more productive uses of their time then just scribbling poorly-researched and nasty screeds that help no-one.  The self-injuring, snake-eating-its-tail mentality seen in NJ vets of Japan is something worthy of study by psychologists, methinks.  Any takers?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times, Letters to the Editor Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009

Level playing field for immigrants: responses
A selection of readers’ responses to Debito Arudou’s Dec. 1 Just Be Cause article, which proposed policy changes to “make life easier for Japan’s residents, regardless of nationality”:

Get your fill and head off
I’m getting tired of listening to foreigners moaning on Japan. The answer is very simple: You don’t like it, leave it. Why do these people want to live in Japan at all costs if they don’t like the system? The world is big; go somewhere else. I’ve been in Japan for 4 years with my Japanese wife and now we have understood it’s time to move on for our future, and therefore go back to Europe. We all know Japan is a homogeneous country. It will never become a cosmopolitan society like the West. Who are we to change a deep-rooted, xenophobic culture where Japanese have been living for centuries? It’s much easier for Japanese to live in the West than for us to live in Japan. There are big Japanese communities in every Western country. Japan is not an expats’ resort by tradition. Foreigners come here either for marriage or overseas contracts, meaning it can be a beautiful place to live for a few years but not to settle permanently. My suggestion to all those disillusioned gaijin is to make the most of your stay in Japan and return home when you think you’ve had enough.


Takasaki, Gunma Pref.


Unwelcome, no matter what
This article implied that Japan is seeking to welcome foreigners, which is far from the case. I came here (unwillingly) under a Japanese scholarship, graduated here top of my class, work here, did volunteering to help in disaster relief . . . But everyday I wake up, I find myself in the same position: potential thief when I walk in a store; a potential terrorist when I enter a government building, even when I spend my time there volunteering; my neighbor keeping watch on me every day; unable to obtain a bank recommendation when I need it . . . In my case, I gave up on Japan and will (leave) with a bitter taste.



Homogeneity works well
Japan has been often criticized for its immigration policy, which does make it somewhat difficult for a non-Japanese (NJ) to obtain permanent residency or citizenship. I disagree that this policy has worked to Japan’s disadvantage in the global labor market. . . . (Arudou) says Japan needs a new immigration ministry that would decide clear public standards that would give immigrants what they want. It is not an obligation of the government to give immigrants what they want. The (role of the) ministry is to be sure that the immigrants who are allowed into Japan will obey the laws of Japan and not become wards of the state.

Also, I disagree with Arudou’s desire to have citizenship based on birth in Japan. Look at the U.S.: Illegal aliens come into the U.S. and have what is called an “anchor baby.” The baby is automatically a U.S. citizen, and his/her parents then become eligible for permanent residency and then citizenship. And the American taxpayer pays for their health care, housing, food stamps, education and more. They create their enclaves, demand bilingual classes, etcetera, and never learn English.

Japan has been very fortunate to have about 98 percent of its population (form) a homogeneous society, in which the people share a common language and culture. Of course there are local variances, but by and large the people speak one language, which helps to maintain a high level of literacy and an appreciation of a common culture, language and history. . . . Debito Arudou should abide by the laws of immigration of Japan, stop whining or simply find another place to live.


Bellevue, Wa.


Let Japan run its own shop
I am an American who lived in Japan for 4 years and find it pathetic how many people want to force Western ideologies onto Japan. Japan is its own country. Let them do as they please. At least they can control their immigration issues, unlike most European countries and the United States. I bemoan how my country, the United States, can’t tackle or has an unwillingness to tackle the issue. Japan has a right to keep the country as Japan sees fit. Forcing non-Japanese moral values on it to satisfy the short-term aging population issue is not in best interests of Japan.


Address withheld


GS on Michael Moore’s rights to complain about being fingerprinted at Japanese border


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Hi Blog.  I received this very thoughtful email from GS after Michael Moore’s visit to Japan, where he was perturbed by the border fingerprinting.  According to GS, he has every right to be.  Read on.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


December 14, 2009
Dear Debito-san,

Thank you for the heads-up I got on Mr. Michael Moore’s comments regarding fingerprinting.

As you know from our previous e-mail conversations, I am concerned about some aspects regarding the safety of fingerprint verification in general and J-VIS in particular.

Following-up on your article, I have taken the liberty of writing a long message to the website feedback form on Mr. Moore’s website, summarizing my concerns. Please find below a copy of my writing. I hope you find it useful.


“Dear Sir, Madam,

Through the blog of Mr. Arudou Debito (, I’ve read part of Mr. Moore’s interview in Japan, in which he reported his fingerprinting experiences at the border (see Though through this web form my message probably gets to the inbox of a webmaster, I hope you may find my response interesting enough to patch through to him. I would like to provide him with some hopefully interesting food for thought about fingerprinting in general, and the J-VIS (Japanese border check) system in particular.

Mr. Moore apparently got the hostile response that if he refused, he would be deported back to the United States on his question why he would have to be fingerprinted. I guess a good introduction to my story would be to point his attention to Article 4 of the Japanese “Act on the Protection of Personal Information Held by Administrative Organs” (see, elements in Japanese writing have been deleted but can be seen in the original):

“Article 4 When an Administrative Organ directly acquires Personal Information on an Individual Concerned that is recorded in a document (including a record made by an electronic method, a magnetic method, or any other method not recognizable to human senses [referred to as an “Electromagnetic Record” in Articles 24 and 55]) from the said Individual Concerned, the Administrative Organ shall clearly indicate the Purpose of Use to the Individual Concerned in advance, except in the following cases:
(i) Where the acquisition of Personal Information is urgently required for the protection of the life, body, or property of an individual
(ii) Where clear indication of the Purpose of Use to the Individual Concerned is likely to cause harm to the life, body, property, or other rights or interests of the Individual Concerned or a third party
(iii) Where clear indication of the Purpose of Use to the Individual Concerned is likely to cause impediments to the proper execution of the affairs or business of state organs, Incorporated Administrative Agencies, etc. (which means incorporated administrative agencies prescribed in Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Act on the Protection of Personal Information Held by Incorporated Administrative Agencies, etc. [Act No. 59 of 2003; hereinafter referred to as the “IAA Personal Information Protection Act” ]; the same shall apply hereinafter), local public entities, or Local Incorporated Administrative Agencies (which means local incorporated administrative agencies prescribed in Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Local Incorporated Administrative Agencies Act [Act No. 118 of 2003]; the same shall apply hereinafter)
(iv) Where the Purpose of Use is found to be clear in light of the circumstances of the acquisition”

I am not a lawyer (disclaimer), but it would seem to me that when Mr. Moore asked “why?”, he made a lawful request under article 4, while the answer that if he wouldn’t, he would be deported, doesn’t appear to me to be in the spirit of this article. Not to mention that the Immigration Bureau, the responsible party in this scheme, states in their FAQ: “we will properly store and protect your data, according to the basic law for the protection of personal data, the Act for the Protection of Personal Information Retained by Administrative Institutions.” (, note by the way the spelling differences in the title…). Right……

Privacy laws generally have a common ancestor and a common purpose. In 1980, a workgroup within the OECD (,2987,en_2649_201185_1_1_1_1_1,00.html) published the “OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data” (,3343,en_2649_34255_1815186_1_1_1_1,00.html), with eight key principles that form the basis of privacy laws worldwide. Contrary to both the statements: “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” and “Big Brother is watching you”, these guidelines (roughly said) recognize the general legitimacy of using personal information, provided that such use is safe, sane and sensible.

Safe, sane and sensible… One is left to wonder about this when it comes to fingerprinting schemes worldwide… From what I understand, the key reason for implementing such schemes is the assumption that fingerprints provide a ‘silver bullet’ solution to identifying people, being unique, impossible to forge, and impossible to misidentify. However, by now it’s safe to say that fingerprinting schemes are not the ‘silver bullet’ hoped for, and that they are creating problems which might easily lead to grossly unfair treatment to individuals being unfortunate enough to become victims of such a problem.

Leaving all kinds of other problems aside, I would like to react to the assumption that fingerprints are impossible to forge first. One can find plenty of proof that fingerprints can be copied. The University of Yokohama ( has published it’s groundbreaking article on this now almost 8 years ago, the Chaos Computer Club in Germany (, and the Mythbusters ( have spectacularly shown that it is possible. But the proof of the pudding is that in fact at least one person has been caught in Japan after defeating the J-VIS system (among others: Some food for thought, the woman bought her fingerprints, so not only is it possible, but there are people out there making money on it. More food for thought in a few questions: Were the original prints from which the copies were made stolen? Were the copies registered as unreliable? And will the rightful owner get into trouble because someone else stole her/his fingerprints and did something unlawful? The answer is a triplicate: “We don’t know”. What we do know is that someone who is the victim of such identity theft is in for some serious trouble in those places where the assumption is still that it can’t be done…

The assumption that it’s impossible to misidentify people based on fingerprints is also incorrect. In this respect it may be the most interesting to follow the trail of the J-VIS devices.

On at least one of the airports, the devices used are from the company NEC. NEC is not very secretive about the tests proving the quality of it’s devices, they post links to the test results on their own website, with the headline NIST(= (US) National Institute for Standards and Technology)-Proven Accuracy ( But what is this accuracy?

Only the FpVTE2003 appears to test the kind of verification that is in use for J-VIS. On this, NEC says: “The FpVTE2003 was an international benchmark test of fingerprint matching, identification, and verification systems, conducted in the United States in 2003 under the control of one of the US’s most respected government authorities, the NIST.” So what does this test say? The Summary of Results ( says:

“The most accurate fingerprint system tested (NEC MST) using operational quality single fingerprints:
• 99.4% true accept rate @ 0.01% false accept rate
• 99.9% true accept rate @ 1.0% false accept rate”

It is good here to explain the technical language. In the context of US-VISIT or J-VIS, fingerprints are checked against a list of unwelcome people, while NIST uses the standard terms for checking against a list of authorized (= welcome) people. This creates confusing language, but it can be explained fairly easily. A True Accept in the spirit of the US-VISIT or J-VIS system means that an unwelcome person (say, Mr. X) shows up and is recognised because of a fingerprint match. A False Accept means that a welcome person (say, Mr. Michael Moore) shows up, but is incorrectly recognized as Mr. X because of a false fingerprint match.

At this point, I would like to entertain Mr. Moore with a little side step, to which I get back later. What would a False Accept Rate of 0.01% mean? That’s infinitely small, right? Well, the J-VIS system went into operation on November 20th, 2007. I don’t have day-by-day figures on the number of visitors, but I can tell that in the year from December 1st, 2007 to November 30th, 2008, 8,513,909 visitors were registered in Japan ( I would therefore expect 851 false alarms based on a False Accept Rate of 0.01%. It is not infinitely small.

So the question comes up: “Is fingerprint verification a form of Russian Roulette?” The answer is: “Not necessarily”. No system is perfect against theft or mistakes. But if the people running the system are well-trained and thorough, it is likely that they can spot and correct the problem before serious damage is done to the victim of either problem above. But for that to work and the people subjected to such a system to be safe, one principle is vital: Every person in the organization must have the capabilities of being able to take criticism, and also a healthy dose of self-criticism. That is never easy, and the more damage already done, the more difficult it becomes.

…And right at that point is where the comparison the officials from Japan’s Immigration Bureau made to Mr. Moore ends. One of the officials apparently told him: “But you do this in the United States, when we visit the United States.” True, they do undeniably verify fingerprints. They also undeniably verify and correct false alarms. In the words of Mr. Neil Latta, US-VISIT IDENT Program Manager at the time of writing of the following document ( “1:many Accuracy For a 2-finger Search Against a 6M Subject Database is 95% With a False Hit Rate of 0.08% (Exceeding US-Visit Requirements)”. And: “0.4% FAR Results in (0.4% x 100K Trxs/Day) = 400 Examiner Verifications”. Again in less technical terms, they verify false alarms, they know how many false alarms there are, and so on. Granted, given the reputation of ‘outstanding customer friendliness’ that Homeland Security has carved out for themselves, this is still likely to be a rather unpleasant experience, and there is almost certainly room for considerable improvement. But at the end of the day, here is the written proof that the Department of Homeland Security is capable of admitting mistakes.

Is this also the case on the Japanese borders? The answer is again: “We don’t know”. But in itself, this is an answer too. Just some food for thought, there’s nothing in the quoted FAQ, and the incident Mr. Moore had is not exactly the first one where the organization reacts with hostility to something that sounds remotely like criticism. It’s not exactly reassuring to have to depend for your own safety on the ability of an organisation to take (self-) criticism, while on less important details the same organisation shows a distinctive lack of that same ability.

And one detail gives more food for thought that is not very reassuring. Remember the 851 false alarms I would expect if there was a false accept rate of 0.01%? On November 29th, 2008, the Japanese Ministry of Justice (of which the Immigration Bureau is a part) made a press release stating that they had deported a total of 846 people based on fingerprint matches in the first year of operation ( That is only five off that number… Or differently put, 846 people is 0.00994% of 8,513,909 visitors. The difference with a false accept rate of 0.01% is only 0.00006%… Is this proof that there is a Russian Roulette situation? Certainly not. From the same sources we also have the numbers for South Koreans (297 people deported, total visitors – from both Koreas, admittedly leaving a margin for doubt: 2,483,288, percentage = 0.01196%), Chinese (90 people deported, total visitors 1,000,228, percentage = 0.008998), and Filipino’s (155 people deported, total visitors 82,473, percentage = 0.18%, way off the mark). But some food for thought: Out of four groups of visitors, only the smallest group is way off the mark. The other ones are groups of more than one million visitors. And the larger the group of visitors, the closer we get to the mark of 0.01%. That is a curious set of coincidences…

And yet more food for thought. With almost every other identifier and keys, from physical keys to credit cards to drivers’ licenses to passports, the reason we have them is that we can replace them when the legitimate user gets into trouble because something goes wrong. We would find it unacceptable to hear: “Sorry, we found out your car key / credit card / passport has been copied / isn’t accepted as well as it should be / doesn’t fit / …, but you can’t replace it, so you just have to live with the problem.” Why then do we accept that with fingerprints…?

I’m sorry for this long message. I hope it has been worthwhile reading though.

Kind Regards, GS”


And of course the kind regards are for you as well.


One NJ exchange student’s rotten experience as a J MOE-MEXT ryuugakusei


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.  What follows is a guest essay from a 3-year exchange student on the GOJ dime who has come to Japan to study and found it highly undesirable.  Others who have had similar experiences, please comment.  All names etc have been changed to protect the guilty.  If interested in getting in touch with the author, please contact me at and I’ll forward your enquiry.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



My name is Laura Petrescu, and I am a Monbukagakusho-MEXT scholarship grantee that has been living in Japan for almost three years. When I came here, I was expecting a high-quality academic environment and an overall positive experience. I was disappointed time and again by irregularities, double standards, absurd situations and blatant displays of racism.

Therefore, I thought I’d share my ryuugaku experience so far. I think that by getting the word out I’m giving prospective foreign students a chance to learn ‘other’ truth about living and studying in Japan. On the surface, things might look good – after all, who would say no to going to college for free? Still, there are many things that can turn an average ryuugaku experience into a complete disappointment and a waste of time.

A little background information:

I came to Japan in spring 2007. I spent my first year in Japan at the former Osaka University of Foreign Studies (currently, the Foreign Languages division of Osaka University). Here, myself and other foreign students studied Japanese and other tangent subjects.

At the beginning of our second year here, each of us was sent to a university (supposedly) of his or her choosing. Things went downhill for a lot of us afterward, and plenty of people have already given up their scholarships and returned home. Those of us who stayed are still dealing with the ups and downs of an inherenty flawed system that seems to care more about pretty numbers on a sheet of paper, and less about the overall well-being of each of us, as a person.

What follows are the ten major reasons that essentially ruined the whole “Study in Japan! Free forever!” thing for me.

#1. Double standards for Asian and non-Asian foreign students at OUFS
At the OUFS foreign students’ dorm, Asian student groups were allowed to get away with pretty much anything, from shooting fireworks indoors and setting a curtain on fire (subsequently leading to foreign students’ parties being banned on campus grounds) to using shower stalls as public restrooms and even cheating on tests. Several students displayed an increasingly reckless behavior and walked away with a mild warning and nothing more.

On a side note, the regular Monbukagakusho newsletter that gets sent to all foreign students mostly features Asians and information for Asians looking for jobs, etc. I think I’ve only seen a non-Asian interviewed once.

Back to OUFS, non-Asian students were harassed and ridiculed by teachers and dorm staff on several occasions. One particular incident comes to mind, where a white girl’s Japanese language abilities were ridiculed in class by none other than her teacher, to the point where she broke down crying. The Asian students in said class (two Koreans and two Singaporeans) watched and laughed. For the record, the girl had passed the JLPT-1 examination and was one of the best Japanese speakers I know.

Half a year later, Asian students had a barbecue. When non-Asians did the same thing one day later, the dorm supervisor called the campus guards and we were forced to “cease and desist” immediately. We asked why there was no problem if Asians did it, but if we did it, we were somehow in the wrong. Mid-conversation, he turned, said something unintelligible in English (even though we’d all been talking to him in Japanese the whole time) and stormed off.

Another time, due to a faulty English translation of a notice, almost all foreign students ended up locked out of their rooms. All rooms were scheduled for a fire alarm maintenance, and al of us were notified. The Japanese notice (which most of us couldn’t read at the time) added, “出かけるときは鍵を持って行ってください”. The English translation was, “Please keep your key.” Guess who got yelled at when gingerly trying to point out the mistake: a native English speaker, who was told by the dorm supervisor something along the lines of, “I studied in the US for 10 years, I know English!” and promptly dismissed. I got yelled at too, when I politely asked the supervisor to please let me in my own room.

#2. Pressure and “mind games” at OUFS
As far as “mind games” go, myself and another student were in dire straits for having missed some classes (although it was never made clear that attendance mattered, and in both our countries attendance does NOT count towards a grade). On a side note, I missed most of those classes due to medical reasons. The program supervisor set up a “trial” with the two of us, himself and another teacher, and spent an hour and a half making us believe that we’d screwed up irrevocably and we’d face grave consequences, possibly even failing the year and being deported straight away.

At the end of the meeting, he gave each of us a paper that said we renounced our scholarship benefits then and there. And all we had to do was to sign on the dotted line and that would be “better for us, right?”. Naturally, we both refused, much to the supervisor’s bafflement. Ironically enough, an Asian student had an even worse attendance record, but they never attempted to pressure him into giving up.

#3. Poor-quality teaching and evaluation at OUFS
Some teachers at OUFS were, in my humble opinion, hardly qualified to teach. One spent most of the class time talking about anything but what he was supposed to teach, and even going so far as to ask inappropriate questions, such as, “So, do you have a boyfriend yet?”. He’d skip from topic to topic, ramble for a bit, then move on to another topic before just as suddenly going back to supposed “teaching”.

Towards the end of the year, the same teacher called me and another student to his office and proceeded to tell us that, due to poor attendance, he would be “forced” to fail us both. He then asked us why we missed so many classes. I answered first. “You weren’t teaching anything”, I said. “And also, your class has nothing to do with my major. It’s boring. And I don’t care.” The other student said nothing… and in the end, we both passed. The bottom line is, nobody failed their first year at OUFS. The program was simply made that way.

Exams were a major pain for hard-working students. Students who couldn’t speak a lick Japanese scored top grades, while people who actually studied everything there was to study scored 80% or less. The reason? Exams always consisted of the simplest possible Japanese language questions, so that everyone would supposedy pass with flying colors. It was easy enough to lose sight of simple Kanji characters when you spent weeks drilling complicated ones into your head. To make things worse, classes moved at a pace too quick for anyone to actually understand everything, and revision time was basically limited to one or two pop quizzes a week, with new stuff to learn following straight after. The bottom line is, students who couldn’t speak a lick of Japanese got into top-level Japanese universities, while fluent speakers / writers had to settle for the “average” ones.
Besides the language itself, we were taught Economy, Culture, History and Politics in Japanese from day one, even though more than half of us had zero Japanese knowledge (our orientation guide specifically stated that no previous knowledge of the language is required – apparently, that changed from 2008). Our textbooks were in intermediate or advanced Japanese with plenty of technical terms. Some of the teachers didn’t even speak English, so they couldn’t help us understand things better, either.

#4. Disregard of personal university choices
Myself and another student with poorer grades than mine both opted for Osaka University as our first university of choice. Inexplicably, he got in, while I was sent to Tokyo ○○ University (third on my list). I had solid reasons to stay in Osaka (Osaka University had the exact course I wanted to major in, while the other one did not; and also my fiance of that time lived in Osaka with his family).

I went through every possible avenue to try and overturn the decision, but what chances would I have against a system that just doesn’t care? I wonder what was the point in making us write our “choice list” (入学希望大学リスト) in the first place, when it was clear that: a- “advanced” students were among the only ones who got into their university of choice, and b- the selection criteria were shady to say the least.

#5. Misinformation by Tokyo ○○ staff at orientation meeting
At a university orientation meeting (大学説明会) at OUFS, I asked the Tokyo ○○ representatives whether I’d be able to obtain a practice license if I completed a bachelor’s degree . The answer was, “Yes, definitely”. This is what made me include Tokyo ○○ on my options list to begin with. I only found out much, much later – after my entrance examination – that this was not the case, and I would need to also complete a masters’ course in order to get my license – maybe.

#6. Injustice at Tokyo ○○ and no intervention by university staff
This one still stings, even though it’s been more than a year and I’ve passed the class (courtesy of a much more understanding teacher) since. In my first year, my Information Technology (情報処理) teacher failed me, even though:

– My highschool major was Information Technology;

– I knew more about computers, operating systems, standard programs, programming languages and the Internet than anyone in that class, including the teacher;

– I had a good attendance record that was not in violation of university rules;

– I completed all my assignments on time, including my end-of-year presentation;

– I’ve been using computers since I was 10, and sitting through half a year of, “This is a computer. To turn it on, you press this button… no, not that one!” was a sheer nightmare.

The teacher came up with an extraordinary set of rules so he could fail me. I wrote to the teacher, then went to the Student Affairs division, then all the way to the head of my faculty — where I was promptly told that it was “his class, his rules”. The IT teacher even made an error while tallying attendance records (and I had proof). That was never even brought into discussion. In the end, I had an uncontrolled burst out (a sarcastic equivalent of “O rly?” in Japanese), for which I naturally had to apologize afterward. Nobody apologized for the “discomfort” this situation had caused me.

#7. Little to no support for “gakubu” foreign students
I’m a foreigner. I was only given one year to master the Japanese language so I could take courses in Japanese. Is that enough? With a complex language such as Japanese, definitely not. Sadly though, most courses were exclusively in Japanese, with tons of references, print-outs and projects in Japanese. Some teachers were very supportive, yes. But other teachers were not.

Some didn’t even allow the use of electronic dictionaries (電子辞書) at end-of-term examinations. While my listening and understanding (聴きとり) are on a fairly good level, academic language has never been my forte. One particular teacher didn’t want to give me the extra time I needed to finish my paper (I write very slowly), and consequently, instead of getting an A, as I should have, I got a D. I knew all the answers. I just didn’t have time to put everything on paper.
To put it bluntly, my grades sucked, and I gave it my all. At least in my first year. By the second year, I’d already earned myself the “honorable” status of being the perpetual “dumb kid”. In my country, I graduated high-school with full marks and was among the top 10 students in my promotion country-wide and with several national and international awards under my belt. Go figure.

#8. Inappropriate (and sometimes racist) student attitude; teachers do nothing
My first-ever group project at Tokyo ○○ was a four-people effort to do some research on a key Buddhist figure. After groups were made, one Japanese student exclaimed, “I can’t work with a ryuugakusei! You’ll just mess things up!”

In my second year, on a different project, I became the resident ghost: I’d speak, and the others would pretend they didn’t hear a thing. Once, I gave a suggestion and was met with silence. A few minutes later, a Japanese made the same suggestion and was granted the standard “Oooooh, you’re so SMART!” response. On the same group, I was told, “You Americans don’t understand how the Japanese think, so your opinion means nothing.” Excuse me? I’m [Eastern European]. And my opinion should weight the same as everyone else’s – if not more, considering I’ve seen the world, whilemost of these kids have lived their whole lives in their own little fairytale bubble.

#9. “If you’re sick, that’s unfortunate, but I don’t care.”
This one nearly had me in tears. I missed a class twice, both times for medical reasons. I let my teacher know and brought proof from the clinic. His response after the second time? “If you miss one more class, you’ll fail the course” – which, by the way, is compulsory. At the time of my second absence, I was a flu suspect and was expressly told to go and get myself tested ASAP, and do NOT, under any circumstances, set foot inside the campus (this was during the swine flu hysteria). Hypothetically speaking, if I had any kind of flu, this could have started an epidemic at school. Guess who would’ve gotten the blame later.

#10. “Me” vs. “them”
I’ve had plenty of cases where I’d try to strike a conversation at university, only to be met with the standard “Wa~i! It talks!” response. Nearly all the conversations I managed to have were the invariable “gaijin”-themed discussions: where I’m from, what things are like “over there”, why I came to Japan, etc., etc., interlaced with the typical “Sugo~i! Your Japanese is SO good!” (and variations). This thing dragged on even with people I’d known for months. It gets tiresome after a while. I was never a part of my class, per say; always left out of conversations, decision-making in projects, “nomikais”, etc. And I tried. I really did. It’s almost like there is an invisible wall between me and the rest of the students in my class.

To sum up…

Some people might say, “You knew what you were getting into when you came to Japan! And if you didn’t, all you had to do was research!”. I got most of my information from the Japanese embassy and from general advice websites by MEXT and JASSO. I had no idea what I was in for. That’s part of the reason I decided to write this open letter.

Yes, throughout these three years, I met some extraordinary people at both universities who genuinely tried to help. As an old [Eastern European] saying goes, “One flower doesn’t bring springtime.” It seems to me that foreign students are little more than pretty numbers on a paper as far as MEXT is concerned. (Oh, on that note, last year they cut down our scholarships in an effort to get even more foreign students into Japan, when our current scholarship was not enough to cover living expenses in certain areas to begin with – especially in Tokyo, where rent alone is sky-high. And they got away with it. Naturally.)

On the outside, I may not seem like a “serious” student as far as the Japanese standards go. The truth is, I’m already starting to give up. I realized that even though I did my best, I would never raise to the expectations of my university – especially where written papers and attendance are concerned. It still puzzles me how Japanese students can drag themselves to class even when they’re  so sick they can barely stand. I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. Doctor’s orders. (Of course, I have no paper to prove it, because my physician back home is not Japanese).


Scotchneat on Fuji TV show laying blind biological claims to intellectual Asian kids abroad


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.  Guest writing an essay for is Scotchneat, regarding how some Japanese media editorial policies bring in tribal tendencies no matter how tenuous the link to the tribe.  Read and consider.  Arudou Debito in Shizuoka
Re: Sho Timothy Yano
By Scotchneat

Yano siblings show what’s right with America and what’s wrong with Japan (Comment on Echika no Kagami Kokoro ni Kiku TV aired on Nov. 1, 2009 21:30-22:24エチカの鏡 ココロにキクTV 2009/11/ 1(日) 21:30~22:24)

There was a show on Sho Timothy Yano and his sister Sayuri on November 1. on Fuji TV. The two are child prodigies (; . The story of children of a multi-cultural family being free to achieve their goals in a supportive environment shows the positive side of America.  However, the spin that show put on the story is very indicative about Japan.

The focus of the story was a mother pushing her children to succeed with much detail of the early childhood education and dietary regime of the two children. The show also put great emphasis on the prejudice that the two were subject to in America based on their Asian heritage, although it seems that the “prejudice” amounted to teasing by their fellow students, and it was unclear whether that was due to Asian heritage or the fact of the great age difference with their peers. The show claimed that Japanese and Koreans often face prejudice in the US, although no real examples were given other than a dramatization showing poor Sho being picked on by some big white bullies.

It is always strange that Japanese will point out the prejudice that exists in America while completely ignoring or being ignorant of the situation in their own country. Here we have two children with a Japanese father and Korean mother. One can only the imagine the prejudice that they would face in Japan. Although any form of prejudice is wrong, it is clear that the Yano siblings are not facing institutionalized prejudice in work and educational opportunities that they would face in Japan. Perhaps this why the show tread so lightly on the subject. One is reminded of the classic, “And you are lynching Negroes” response to the criticisms of the old Soviet Union.

Ironically, it seems that the Japanese, based on my impressions from watching the TV show, would like to claim the Yano siblings as their own. They get to be “Japanese”, despite being born, raised and educated in the US and having a Korean mother (normally any of these factors would raise suspicions of not being properly Japanese) and not speaking Japanese (considered mandatory for citizenship).

Moreover, child prodigies in Japan are not allowed to enter university (aside from a few small experiments), ostensibly because they lack “maturity”. Anyone familiar with Japanese university students will find that quite ironic. However, as often is the case, appeals to logic and common sense are useless in the face of entrenched prejudicial thinking. Basically, allowing two children to attend university (even for purposes of auditing) goes against an engrained dislike of breaking with conformity in Japan.

Perhaps, if the Japanese could get past looking at diet and over ambitious teaching regimes for toddlers, they might see the value of respecting diversity and breaking out of insular thinking.


Brief bit on tonight’s Hatoyama-Obama press conference; discussion of Obama’s Japan visit


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Hi Blog.  Just a quick word, having watched the the 8:30-9:05 joint press conference tonight between PM Hatoyama and Pres Obama.

For those who did not see it, they focussed on issues that were of a larger geopolitical nature, including Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, North Korea, global warming, moving Guantanamo trials to the US, and, foremost, the need for maintaining the strength of the Japan-US Alliance and its positive effects on the wealth, security, and stability of East Asia as a region.

They took only one question each from the press corps (so each of them asked lots of questions).  The child abductions, the point most germane to at this time, did not come up.

I open this blog entry so that others can discuss what they thought about the press conference, as well as Obama’s Japan visit this time around in general.  Go for it.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Mutantfrog’s Joe Jones’s excellent discussion of rights and wrongs of divorce in Japan; causes stark conclusions for me


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Hi Blog.  I often stop by an excellent website run by some young-Turk commentators on Japan called Mutantfrog.  Full of insight and well-thought-out essays, one caught my eye a few weeks ago regarding what the Savoie Child Abduction Case has brought to the fore about divorce in Japan.  I won’t quote it in full (let’s give the hits to Mutantfrog), but here’s the link and an excerpt:

Here’s Joe’s conclusion:

I don’t have a wife or kids yet. Debito, who has written extensively about his own divorce and loss of children (a dreadfully sad story, but an excellent overview of how the system works here), chided me in a Facebook comment thread for daring to state my opinions while I lack skin in the game. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I respect Debito, who gave me, Roy and Curzon the privilege of hearing his story in person a good year before he made it public. But where I come from, having no skin in the game is called “objectivity,” and does not by any means disqualify an opinion.

For what it’s worth, I do have some skin in the game, as I am engaged to get married early next year. While I have given up on my farcical plans to transfer my kids to an offshore investment vehicle, I am still very cognizant that the law (even as I think its mechanics should work) may bite me in the rear someday if my marriage ever breaks down.

Sadly, a lot of the discussion surrounding these issues, whether regarding particular cases or the system in general, devolves into parental narcissism, envy and finger-pointing. The whole framework of marriage, divorce and custody is ultimately not about what Mom or Dad wants: it’s about protecting children and giving them a chance to inherit the world as capable individuals. So, as I see it, we have to approach it from that perspective regardless of which side we occupy on the wedding cake.

Of course.  So from a more neutral perspective, I conclude this:



Because if people marry and have kids, one parent will lose them, meaning all legal ties, custody rights, and visitation rights, in the event of a divorce.  This is not good for the children.

Japan has had marriage laws essentially unamended since 1898!  (See Fuess, Divorce in Japan)  Clearly this does not reflect a modern situation, and until this changes people should go Common-Law (also not an option in Japan), and make it clear to their representatives that Japan’s current legal situation is not family-friendly enough for them to tie the knot.

Some reforms necessary:

  1. Abolition of the Koseki Family Registration system (because that is what makes children property of one parent or the other, and puts NJ at a huge disadvantage).
  2. Recognize Visitation Rights (menkai ken) for both parents during separation and after divorce.
  3. Recognize Joint Custody (kyoudou kango ken) after divorce.
  4. Enforce the Hague Convention on Child Abductions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  5. Enforce overseas custody court decisions in Japanese courts.
  6. Recognize “Irreconcilable Differences” (seikaku no fuitchi) as grounds for divorce.  See why here.
  7. Shorten legal separation (bekkyo) times from the current benchmark of around five years to one or two.
  8. Stock the Mediation Councils (choutei) with real professionals and trained marriage counselors (not yuushikisha (“people with awareness”), who are essentially folks off the street with no standardized credentials).
  9. Strengthen Family Court powers to enforce contempt of court for perjury (lying is frequent in divorce proceedings and currently essentially unpunishable), and force police to enforce court orders involving restraining orders and domestic violence (Japanese police are disinclined to get involved in family disputes).

There are plenty more suggestions I’m sure readers could make, but chew on that for awhile, readers.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Tangent: Microsoft apologizes for photoshopping out black man from its Poland advertising. Contrast with McDonald’s Japan “Mr James”


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Hi Blog. Bit of a tangent but not really. Here’s what happens when another multinational apparently caters to “regional sensibilities” — this time Microsoft photoshopping out an African-American in one of its ads to cater to a Polish audience.

Contrast with “Mr James“. We see none of the cultural relativity that the whole McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” issue got (or even claims of “just-deserts” from certain parties). And Microsoft even apologizes — something McDonald’s Japan has steadfastly refused to do (and still runs the “Mr James” campaign to this day; fortunately it finishes shortly). Any theories behind the difference?

(One that comes to mind is that people are loath to criticize an apparently more esoteric and impenetrable culture, but I can poke holes in that one pretty easily — even the report below claims “Poland is ethnically homogeneous”.)

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Original source:

(site is now pay-only)

Archived at–Sparking-Race-Controversy.html


Microsoft Photoshops Out Diversity for Polish Ad, Sparking Race Controversy

The Globe and Mail, August 27, 2009 06:00 PM
by Jill Marcellus
Microsoft has apologized for replacing a black man’s head with that of a white man in a promotional photo on its Polish Web site, but concerns linger over diversity in advertising.
Sitting together and smiling over the slogan, “Empower your people with the IT tools they need,” an Asian man, an African-American man and a white woman harmoniously appear in a promotional photo on Microsoft’s U.S. Web site. When that same trio smiled over a translated slogan on the company’s Polish Web site, however, the black man’s head had been digitally exchanged for a younger white man’s face, reported BBC News.
Visual courtesy

The picture’s poor editing made the gaffe more embarrassing for Microsoft, since the white man’s head was simply perched atop the original African American’s body, with his distinctly black hand still intact.

Microsoft has already apologized and removed the offending photo, and a spokeswoman in Poland insisted that, “We are a multiracial company and there isn’t a chance any of us are racist,” according to The Times of London. She claimed that the photo’s editors had already left the company before the uproar arose.

While controversy often crops up when race meets Photoshop, other recent snafus have caught advertisers overplaying, not whitewashing, diversity. Researchers at Augsburg College found, Inside Higher Ed reported last year, that “more than 75 percent of colleges appeared to overrepresent black students in viewbooks,” sometimes with the help of Photoshop. Similarly, the official Toronto Fun Guide made headlines earlier this summer for itsdigitally diversified cover, which replaced a Latino father with a black man in a family picture, according to Allison Hanes of the Canadian paper National Post. Toronto officials insisted that it was an “inclusive” act, obeying a 2008 policy to “show diversity” in city publications.

These incidents fit into a larger movement toward “visual diversity” in advertising. By juxtaposing different racial groups in ads, advertisers hope to appeal to multiple audiences at once, MSNBC explained, while also “conveying a message that corporate America is not just ‘in touch,’ racially speaking, but inclusive.” According to Melanie Shreffler, editor of advertising newsletter Marketing to the Emerging Majorities, America’s shifting demographics dictate this trend. Shreffler told MSNBC that advertisers “aren’t turning out multicultural ads for the good of society,” but rather they “recognize there is money involved” in marketing to America’s rapidly expanding minority groups.

Microsoft’s blunder, rather than contradicting Shreffler’s analysis, may confirm it. Unlike America, where Microsoft displayed the multicultural photo intact, Poland is ethnically homogenous, with almost 97 percent of its people identifying as Polish, according to the C.I.A. World Factbook.

Earlier this month, BMW’s advertiser sparked its own racially-driven controversy when it excluded “urban” radio, traditionally associated with African-American audiences, as a market for its Mini Cooper advertisements, findingDulcinea reported. “No urban dictates,” defined by The Washington Times as a policy “issued by companies who associate urban listeners with a lifestyle that they are trying to avoid,” have been banned by the Federal Communications Commission.

Although the company apologized, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters insisted that the incident “raises the uncomfortable specter of a corporate culture that condones discriminatory practices.”

They are not the only ones to accuse the ad industry of a discriminatory culture, despite industry initiatives to promote diversity. The Madison Avenue Project, a collaboration launched earlier this year between the NAACP and civil rights law firm Mehri & Skalet, found that African Americans earn 20 percent less than whites in advertising, and that the gap between black and white employment in the ad industry is 38 percent greater than in the overall labor market.


Sakanaka Hidenori’s latest paper on assimilation of NJ now translated into English, full text


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Hi Blog. Sakanaka Hidenori, head of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute and author of Nyuukan Senki (his experiences within Japan’s Immigration Bureau), has just had his most recent paper translated into English. is proud to feature this paper downloadable in full here, with an excerpt immediately below.

Sakanaka-san has written for before, and his 2007 work, “A New Framework for Japan’s Immigration Policies” can be found here. He has taken great efforts to encourage immigration policy within Japan (his prognosis on “Big Japan vs. Small Japan” is worth considering).

Now for his latest, translated by Kalu Obuka. Excerpt, then full download. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Towards a Japanese-style Immigration Nation
Japan Immigration Policy Institute
Executive Director SAKANAKA Hidenori
Translated by Kalu Obuka

1 Policies towards non-Japanese in a shrinking society 9
2 Robots to the rescue? 11
3 Immigrants will save Japan 13
4 Getting revolutionary immigration policies on the political agenda 16
5 Envisioning a Japanese-style immigration policy 20
6 10 million immigrants: A strategy for building a new Japan 24
7 Immigration policies that develop human resources 30
8 Successful policies towards foreign students,
successful policies towards immigration 34
9 Corporate social responsibility 36
10 Revitalising Japanese farmland with 50,000 immigrants 39
11 Multiethnic societies are “spicy” societies 43
12 The demographic crisis: an opportunity to create a multiethnic nation 45
13 The development of social workers for immigrants is essential 49
14 Japanese language education and multiethnic education 51
15 The Japanese can create a multiethnic society 56
16 50 years later: An illustration of an immigrant nation 58

Full 64-page Word file from

As the population crisis deepens Japanese youth, perhaps due to increasing uncertainty about the future, are in a state of malaise. I hear that the number of Japanese who choose to study overseas has fallen. Indeed it certainly seems as though the number of young people with an interest in the world has dropped, while the number of those who choose to shut themselves up within Japan’s borders has risen. I wonder if in the age of population decline Japan is becoming an insular country.

What can be done to tackle the population crisis and offer hope for a bright future? I believe the answer to that question is to open the doors to immigrants, and entrust our younger generations with the dream of a multiethnic society. This ideal society will stir up the passions of young Japanese. Over several years, my desire to provide a national vision that could captivate young people from Japan, and across the world has culminated in this work. What is presented here is a concept for accepting ten million immigrants over the next fifty years, tackling the problems of our low fertility rate, and rapidly aging population by building a new nation with immigrants.

Should this concept be made a reality, we can expect the cooperation of an additional ten million young people, which ought to significantly ease the burden the aging of our population will place on those under thirty. Immigrants will be thought of as comrades by the birth decline generation, who would be forced to drastically adapt to our population crisis. Immigrants will not simply be brought in to rescue us from population crisis however, they are also the driving force that will change us from a country will high levels of homogeneity to a country rich with diversity.

What I most want to emphasise is that we must create a country that can give dreams to immigrants if we are to revive Japan by opening the doors to immigration. My vision has received support from elites in every field who are concerned about the fate of the nation and society. The Japan Immigration Policy Institute was formed as a base from which the work needed to achieve this vision could be carried out.

We are building a new Japan. Working towards a revolution similar to the Meiji Restoration. In order to be successful, this kind of project requires those in their twenties and thirties to rise to action, like Takasugi Shinsaku and Sakamoto Ryoma did during the Bakumatsu period (1853-1868). I am waiting for a Japanese generation X to open up a path to the future.

This book is an immigrant nation manifesto. It will discuss the process of forming Japanese-style immigration policy, and its future prospects, the synthesis of an immigrant nation, the specific mechanisms through which immigrants will be accepted, and a vision of the Japanese immigration nation of the future.

The people I most want to read this book are the immigrants who will work hand in hand with the younger generation to establish a multiethnic society. Should this booklet succeed in acting as a guiding light to a Japanese nation of immigrants, I would be overjoyed.

August 2009.

Sakanaka Hidenori
Executive Director Japan Immigration Policy Institute.


Full 64-page Word file from

Foreign on Savoie Case: US Govt advised father Chris to get children to Fukuoka Consulate! Plus lots more media.


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Hi Blog.  I’m through giving opinions on the Savoie Child Abduction Case (see my final word on that here).  However, there is plenty of press coming out related to this, and to the issue of Japan as safe haven for child abductions, that is worth your attention.  We have to be grateful to the Savoie Case for bringing that to light.  Pertinent articles follow (excerpts, then full text):

Particularly this bit from Foreign, courtesy of Matt D:

Another significant article on the Savoie case:
The U.S. Japan child-custody spat
Here’s something interesting:

“Even before Savoie traveled to Japan, he contacted the State Department’s Office for Citizen Services to ask for advice on how to get his children out of Japan. State Department officials advised Savoie that because a U.S. court had awarded him sole custody on Aug. 17, he could apply for new passports for the children if he could get them to the Fukuoka consulate.”

Well, that didn’t happen.

If true, this exposes a deeper grain of irresponsibility within the USG — advising its citizens one thing, and then washing their hands of it when they do precisely that.

More on Savoie:

American father mistreated in Japanese jail, attorney says

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) October 13, 2009 — An American father jailed in Tokyo has been harshly treated, his attorney said Monday, while Japanese authorities said he is getting “special” treatment.

Attorney Jeremy Morley, in a statement released Monday, said Christopher Savoie — accused of trying to kidnap his children after his ex-wife took them to Japan — is being held without trial, interrogated without an attorney present and denied needed medical treatment for high blood pressure.

Savoie has also been exposed to sleep deprivation, and denied private meetings with attorneys and phone calls to his wife, according to Morley, who said the way his client has been treated amounts to “torture.”…

Actually, it’s pretty much Standard Operating Procedure for Japanese police interrogations (which would be tantamount to torture in many societies; the UN has criticized Japan precisely for this, see here and here), especially when the police have a suspect who needs medicine they can withhold (see the Valentine Case here).

And according to the Associated Press, Savoie has just gotten his second round of ten days’ interrogation for the full 23.   The difference is that unlike the Japanese press (which has a very fickle cycle of news, particularly in regards to human rights), the longer the police hold him, the more the foreign press is going to zero in on his plight and explore how nasty and unaccountable the Japanese incarceration and interrogation system is.  Good for exposure, bad for Christopher Savoie.  He’s apparently considering a hunger strike, according to Nashville TN’s Newschannel 5.

Meanwhile, the Asahi (Oct 9, 2009) reports ex-wife Noriko Savoie complaining to prefectural police that she was “treated like a babysitter” in the US (as opposed to not having any contact whatsoever with your children, perfectly permissible here but generally impermissible there?), and for not getting enough money from her ex-husband in the divorce settlement (hey, three-quarters of a million bucks is far more than what anyone gets after divorces here, even for many celebrities!)

Kyung Lah on CNN continues reporting on the issue, this time on a different case:

U.S. divorcee’s Japanese custody heartache

CNN October 13, 2009

…Spencer has severe cerebral palsy and requires constant, 24-hour medical care.

In Japan, a country that lacks sufficient medical services for disabled children, the only person to care for Spencer is his father. Morrey says his wife left, overwhelmed by the strain of their son’s medical condition.

That would be pain beyond what most parents could imagine. But Spencer’s mother fled while pregnant with Morrey’s daughter, Amelia. In more than a year, Morrey says he has only seen his daughter four times…

Morrey, a native of Chicago and a U.S. citizen, was married to a Japanese woman with Brazilian citizenship. They divorced in a Japanese court.

Under U.S. law, Morrey would likely have joint custody of both children, and Brazil has already recognized him as the joint custodian of the children…

He is afraid that if he heads home for the U.S. with Spencer without that, he could be subject to international child abduction laws, and he also fears such a move could hurt his chances of getting the Japanese family court to give him joint custody of his daughter.

Morrey has been forced to quit work to care for Spencer. The financial strain of living off his credit cards is adding to the stress of caring for a disabled child alone in a foreign country…

This is a much cleaner case, except that somebody could argue that this divorce between an American and a Brazilian of Japanese descent is not a matter concerning Japan and the Hague Treaty.  Even then, the Morrey Case is grinding along in Japan’s Family Court and bankrupting him with the legal limbo.

Man, I’m glad I’m not a divorce lawyer.  Full text of articles excerpted above follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The U.S. Japan child-custody spat

Thu, 10/08/2009 – 12:04pm

While most recent news and commentary about Japan has understandably been focused on that country’s dramatic election results, the U.S. government has been quietly working on a parental-custody case that has become an irritant in the budding relationship between the new Japanese and American administrations.

State Department officials in Japan met yesterday with Christopher Savoie, an American citizen whose recent attempt to reassert custody of his children landed him in a Japanese prison under investigation for kidnapping.

The prospects are not good for Savoie. Local prosecutors in Fukuoka, the western Japanese prefecture where Savoie is being held, are nearing a deadline to decide what charges to bring against the Tennessee native, who traveled to Japan to take back the children his Japanese ex-wife Norikoabsconded with in August. He faces deportation at best, five years in a claustrophobic Japanese prison at worst, and the chances that the Japanese legal system will ever grant him rights to see, much less be a parent to, his 8-year-old son Isaac and 6-year-old daughter Rebecca are slim to none.

State Department officials have been intimately involved in the Savoie case, even before Savoie traveled to Japan, but their ability to sway local Japanese officials is negligible. They point to Japan’s cultural and legal aversion to cooperating at all on international child-abduction cases, while expressing very cautious hope that the new Japanese government might relax that country’s famously intransigent stance on such issues.

In interviews with The Cable, three State Department officials detailed the extensive set of interactions between the U.S. government and Savoie and the ongoing efforts to advocate for him and the dozens of other Americans fighting custody battles in Japan.

Savoie’s communication and coordination with State began shortly after Noriko left for Japan with the children on Aug. 13, never to return. A longtime former resident of Japan, he knew what he what was up against and tried to plan a trip to Japan and then return to the United States with the children.

Even before Savoie traveled to Japan, he contacted the State Department’s Office for Citizen Services to ask for advice on how to get his children out of Japan. State Department officials advised Savoie that because a U.S. court had awarded him sole custody on Aug. 17, he could apply for new passports for the children if he could get them to the Fukuoka consulate.

On Sept. 28, Savoie drove alongside his ex-wife and children while they were walking to school, forced the children into his car, and headed for the consulate. By the time he got there, his wife had alerted the local police, who arrested him on the spot and placed him under investigation for “kidnapping minors by force,” according to the officials.

U.S. consular officials met with Savoie the next day, gave him legal advice, and passed some messages back to his family in the States. Since then, State Department officials have brought up the Savoie case “at the highest levels” of their interactions with Japanese officials, including between the embassy in Tokyo and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, officials said, but to no avail.

In addition to working with Savoie’s Japanese and American lawyers, consular officials also approached Savoie’s ex-wife after yesterday’s meeting and asked for permission to visit the children to check on their welfare. She declined. The embassy plans to ask the Tokyo government to compel her to make the children available, officials said.

Multiple units within the State Department have some activity ongoing in the Savoie case, including the Office of Children’s Issues, the section of the Office of Citizen’s Services that overseas Asia cases, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the consulate in Fukuoka, and even the East Asian and Pacific Bureau in Washington.

But since Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which would have given jurisdiction to the American court system, there is little the U.S. government can do.

“Japan stands alone as the only G-7 country that is not a signatory to the convention,” said one official, adding that even if the country had signed it, local laws in Japan would still have to be altered to allow implementation.

There are 82 outstanding child abduction cases in Japan, and U.S. officials are constantly trying to press the Japanese to change their approach. “Every time there is a meeting the issues get raised,” one official said.

U.S. Amb. John Roos told reporters last week, “This is an important disagreement between our two countries.”

But the State Department has said it is not aware of any case where the Japanese courts have returned a child abducted to Japan to the United States. And besides, Japanese cultural and legal norms often result in custody being assigned to one parent only, usually the mother.

But State Department officials point to an interview new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama gave in July, where he said he supports signing the convention and giving fathers visitation rights.

“That issue affects not just foreign national fathers, but Japanese fathers as well. I believe in this change,” Hatoyama said.

Back in Washington, New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith has called onHatoyama to follow through with this promise. Supporters of Savoy staged asmall protest at the Japanese Embassy in Washington on Monday.

The view from Foggy Bottom is one of very guarded optimism.

“We have received communications from the Japanese government through the embassy in Washington that they are seriously looking at it … we are very hopeful,” one official said, adding, “At this point it’s wait and see.”



Christopher Savoie is in jail in Japan after trying to get back his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca.

Christopher Savoie is in jail in Japan after trying to get back his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca.

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) — An American father jailed in Tokyo has been harshly treated in the Japanese prison system, his attorney said Monday

Attorney Jeremy Morley, in a statement released Monday, said Christopher Savoie — accused of trying to kidnap his children after his ex-wife took them to Japan — is being held without trial, interrogated without an attorney present and denied needed medical treatment for high blood pressure.

Savoie has also been exposed to sleep deprivation, and denied private meetings with attorneys and phone calls to his wife, according to Morley, who said the way his client has been treated amounts to “torture.” He acknowledged that some of the claims are based on second-hand information from Savoie’s wife, Amy, saying she has communicated with people familiar with her husband’s case.

Japanese officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Savoie, 38, a Tennessee native and naturalized Japanese citizen, allegedly abducted his two children — 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — as his ex-wife walked them to school on September 28 in a rural town in southern Japan.

With the children, Savoie headed for the nearest U.S. consulate, in the city of Fukuoka, to try to obtain passports for them. Screaming at guards to let him in the compound, Savoie was steps away from the front gate but still standing on Japanese soil when he was arrested.

Savoie and his first wife, Noriko Savoie, were married for 14 years before their bitter divorce in January. The couple, both citizens of the United States and Japan, lived in Japan, but had moved to the United States before the divorce.

Noriko Savoie was given custody of the children and agreed to remain in the United States. Christopher Savoie had visitation rights. During the summer, she fled with the children to Japan, according to court documents. A U.S. court then granted Christopher Savoie sole custody.

Japanese law, however, recognizes Noriko Savoie as the primary custodian, regardless of the U.S. court order. The law there also follows a tradition of sole-custody divorces. When a couple splits, one parent typically makes a complete and life-long break from the children.

Complicating the matter further is the fact that the couple is still considered married in Japan because they never divorced there, police said Wednesday. And, Japanese authorities say, the children are Japanese and have Japanese passports.

By Kyung Lah
Decrease font
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U.S. divorcee’s Japanese custody heartache

OKAZAKI, Japan (CNN) — At Spencer Morrey’s home, there are two constant sounds: His dad, Craig, murmuring, “You’re okay, Spence. You’re okay, buddy,” and the sound of a machine clearing the toddler’s airway.

Both sounds come every few minutes, in between hugs, tears and kisses.

Spencer has severe cerebral palsy and requires constant, 24-hour medical care.

In Japan, a country that lacks sufficient medical services for disabled children, the only person to care for Spencer is his father. Morrey says his wife left, overwhelmed by the strain of their son’s medical condition.

That would be pain beyond what most parents could imagine. But Spencer’s mother fled while pregnant with Morrey’s daughter, Amelia. In more than a year, Morrey says he has only seen his daughter four times.

“She wouldn’t recognize me,” Morrey said, with Spencer propped on his lap. “She wouldn’t call me daddy. She’s just starting to talk now. But she’s not going to know who I am. I think she deserves my love. And I think she deserves to be with Spencer and Spencer deserves to be with her.”

Morrey, a native of Chicago and a U.S. citizen, was married to a Japanese woman with Brazilian citizenship. They divorced in a Japanese court.

Under U.S. law, Morrey would likely have joint custody of both children, and Brazil has already recognized him as the joint custodian of the children. What do you think about Spencer’s case? Have your say

But in Japan, where only one parent gets custody of a child in a divorce, the family courts have left the case in legal limbo for a year because they have not decided which parent legally has custody of the children. Typically, the parent with physical custody of a child retains custody.

Morrey has stayed in Japan the last year, trying to get the courts to recognize that he has joint custody of the children in Brazil (he has not yet applied for such custody under U.S. law).

He is afraid that if he heads home for the U.S. with Spencer without that, he could be subject to international child abduction laws, and he also fears such a move could hurt his chances of getting the Japanese family court to give him joint custody of his daughter.

Morrey has been forced to quit work to care for Spencer. The financial strain of living off his credit cards is adding to the stress of caring for a disabled child alone in a foreign country.

Despite his pleading with court mediators and repeated court filings claiming that joint custody is the law in both the U.S. and Brazil, Japan’s slow and antiquated family courts have let the case languish.

“Kids need both parents,” Morrey said. “Whether the parents are married or not is irrelevant in my mind. The Japanese courts, and I realize you’re going against years and years of cultural differences and everything else, but they don’t care about the welfare of the child.

“In Japan, it’s considered too messy. It’s too complicated. It deals with personal feelings so they don’t want to deal with it. So the best way is to not deal with it.”

CNN contacted Morrey’s ex-wife four times by telephone and once by fax. She declined to discuss the case.

The International Association for Parent and Child Reunion believes there are an estimated 100 American families in situations like Morrey’s in Japan and dozens involving those from Britain, France and Canada.

One of those cases is that of American Christopher Savoie.

Savoie, 38, a Tennessee native and naturalized Japanese citizen, was arrested on September 28 in Yanagawa, Japan, for attempting to abduct his two children, eight-year-old Isaac and six-year-old Rebecca.

Savoie drove his children to the nearest U.S. consulate in the city of Fukuoka to try and obtain passports for them.

Steps away from the front of the consulate, Japanese police arrested him. Savoie is now in jail, awaiting a decision by prosecutors on a possible indictment.

Savoie and his first wife, Noriko Savoie, were married for 14 years before their bitter divorce in January. According to court documents, she fled with the children to Japan in the summer. A U.S. court then gave Christopher Savoie sole custody of the children.

But Japanese law recognizes Noriko Savoie as the sole custodian, despite the U.S. order.

“It’s like a black hole,” Morrey said. “If you go through a divorce, there’s this joke. If you have an international marriage with a Japanese, don’t piss them off because you’ll never see your kids again.”

Not seeing his daughter Amelia again is what is keeping Morrey in Japan. He has been selling off everything he owns, trying to keep himself and Spencer afloat, hoping the Japanese court will bring him some legal connection to his child. He is stuck choosing between caring for his son, who needs the better resources of the U.S., and hoping to be a father to his daughter.

“How do you make that choice? It’s not — once you’re a dad, you’re always a dad.”


Custody extended for US man for snatching own kids

By MARI YAMAGUCHI (AP) – October 10, 2009

TOKYO — Japanese police said Friday that they are keeping an American man in custody for 10 more days before authorities decide whether to press charges against him for snatching his children from his ex-wife.

Christopher Savoie, of Franklin, Tenn., was arrested Sept. 28 after allegedly grabbing his two children, ages 8 and 6, from his Japanese ex-wife as they walked to school. He will remain held in city of Yanagawa where he was arrested, on the southern island of Kyushu, police official Kiyonori Tanaka said.

Savoie’s Japanese lawyer, Tadashi Yoshino, was not immediately available for comment.

“Obviously it’s a huge disappointment,” Savoie’s current wife, Amy Savoie, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “It’s a court system over there unlike what we have here, there’s no due process at all.”

Amy Savoie, who remains in Tennessee, said she considers the extra jail time to be a delay tactic on the part of Japanese authorities.

“They enable the children to reside with the Japanese native as long as possible, so they can say ‘Well, the children are here now and they have adjusted, so it would be disruptive to return them,'” she said. “So this is a delay tactic in order to keep the children in that country.”

The case is among a growing number of international custody disputes in Japan, which allows only one parent to be a custodian — almost always the mother. That leaves many divorced fathers without access to their children until they are grown up.

That stance has begun to raise concern abroad, following a recent spate of incidents involving Japanese mothers bringing their children back to their native land and refusing to let their foreign ex-husbands visit them.

The United States, Canada, Britain and France have urged Japan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The convention, signed by 80 countries, seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the appropriate courts and that the rights of access of both parents are protected.

Tokyo has argued that signing the convention may not protect Japanese women and their children from abusive foreign husbands, but this week Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said officials were reviewing the matter.

Tanaka said that Savoie’s Japanese ex-wife, Noriko Savoie, is staying with her Japanese parents in Yanagawa with the children, but they have refused to talk to the media.

The family lived in Japan beginning in 2001 and moved to the U.S. in 2008. The couple was divorced in Tennessee in January 2009. In August, Noriko secretly brought the children to Japan.

Savoie could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the crime of kidnapping minors. Tanaka said Savoie has told investigators that he was aware what he did was in violation to Japanese law.

U.S. Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor said Thursday that American officials have visited Savoie regularly since his arrest, and that he appeared “OK physically.”

Amy Savoie said she’s only been able to communicate with her husband through letters and U.S. consular officials, but that she has resisted the urge to go to Japan.

“I’ve thought about going, but I think right now I can do more good here,” she said. “The story is not just about Christopher. There are other families contacting me stating that Japan has treated them horrifically, too.”

Associated Press Writer Erik Schelzig contributed to this report from Nashville, Tenn.




朝日新聞 2009年10月9日3時16分






Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE on Savoie Child Abduction Case and Japan’s “Disappeared Dads”


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Here’s the JT version of my column with links to sources. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
The Japan Times, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009
Savoie case shines spotlight on Japan’s ‘disappeared dads’

Making international (and to a lesser extent, national) news recently has been the Savoie child abduction case. Briefly: After a couple divorced in America, ex-wife Noriko Savoie absconded with their children to Japan. Then ex-husband Christopher, who had been awarded custody in the U.S., came to Japan to take the kids back. On Sept. 28 he tried to get the children into the American Consulate in Fukuoka, but was barred entry and arrested by the Japanese police for kidnapping.

The case is messy (few divorces aren’t), and I haven’t space here to deal with the minutia (e.g. Christopher’s quick remarriage, Noriko’s $800,000 divorce award and ban on international travel, both parents’ dual U.S.-Japan citizenship , etc.). Please read up online.

So let’s go beyond that and focus on how this case highlights why Japan must make fundamental promises and reforms.

In Japan, divorce means that one side (usually the father) can lose all contact with the kids. Thanks to the koseki family registry system, Japan has no joint custody (because you can’t put a child on two people’s koseki). Meanwhile, visitation rights, even if mandated by family court, are unenforceable. This happens in Japan regardless of nationality. (I speak from personal experience: I too am divorced, and have zero contact with my children. I’ve seen one of my daughters only once over the past five years.)

Standard operating procedure is the three Ds: Divorced Daddy Disappears. Add an international dimension to the marriage and it’s stunningly difficult for a non-Japanese parent of either gender to gain child custody (as foreigners, by definition, don’t have a koseki). Add a transnational dimension and the kids are gone: Many left-behind parents overseas receive no communication whatsoever until the children become adults.

There is no recourse. Although Japan has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), it has not signed the Hague Convention on Child Abductions (the only holdout among the G7 developed countries). If brought to trial in Japan, our judges do not honor overseas court orders granting custody to the non-Japanese parent. In fact, according to the documentary “From the Shadows,” an estimated 300 such children are abducted to or within Japan each year, and none has ever been returned by Japanese authorities to a foreign parent.

Until now this issue received scant media attention. However, with the Savoie case, Japan has earned a worldwide reputation as a safe haven for abductions. This is, given the inhuman North Korean kidnappings of Japanese, an ironic position to be in.

Before we get relativistic, be advised there is no comity here. Although few (I know of none) foreigners have ever won repatriation rights or even custody in Japanese courts, the converse is not true in, for example, American courts. The U.S. recognizes the Hague-mandated concept of “habitual residence,” even if that doesn’t mean America. The most famous abduction-then-repatriation case involved Elian Gonzalez from Cuba.

According to court transcripts, Noriko Savoie did have a fair hearing abroad. The judge heard her out, believed her sworn testimony that she would not abduct the kids, and lifted the restraining order against her. She and the kids could travel to Japan briefly to explore their Japanese heritage.

Then Noriko broke her oath. And Christopher boarded a plane.

The point: Regardless of any extenuating circumstances in this messy affair, the lack of a post-divorce legal framework to prevent abductions, secure joint custody and guarantee visitation rights forced Christopher to take the law into his own hands.

Needless to say it’s the children that get hurt the most in this tug of war. If Japan’s policymakers would secure the right of the child to know both their parents and heritages, this nonsense would cease.

But as with all social problems left to fester, things are only getting worse. U.S. Congressman Chris Smith announced Sept. 29 that reported child abductions have increased “60 percent in the last three years.” No doubt contributing to this rise is the grapevine effect among expat Japanese — a quick Web search shows that all a potential abductor needs do is board a plane to Japan and they’re scot-free.

Injustice breeds drastic actions. How long before a vigilante parent takes the law so far that somebody gets injured or killed?

Japan wants to avoid a demographic nightmare as its population drops. International marriage is one solution. But this threat of abduction is now a prime deterrent to marrying any Japanese. One domestic spat with a threat to kidnap the kids and conjugal trust is permanently destroyed.

But just signing the Hague convention won’t fix things. Japan has, after all, inked umpteen international treaties (like the above-mentioned UNCRC), and ignores them by not enacting enforceable domestic laws. I don’t anticipate any exception here: Japan giving more parental rights to non-Japanese through treaties than they would their own citizens? Inconceivable.

What’s necessary is more radical: Abolish the koseki system so that legal ties can extend to both parents regardless of nationality after divorce. In addition, our authorities must create more professional domestic-dispute enforcement and mediation mechanisms (consider the farcical chotei pre-divorce process).

Inevitable problems arise in that complicated institution called marriage. Anyone, including Japanese, must have recourse, remedy and redress. Without it people will take matters into their own hands.

There are plenty of times when adults just won’t act like adults. But their children should not have to suffer for it.

Reforms are necessary not just to prevent future cases like the Savoies’; Japan also needs more secure family laws for its own long-suffering, disappeared Japanese parents.


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

BONUS STATISTICS, Courtesy of RedJoe the Lawyer:

In [Japan] divorces finalized in 2007, fathers got custody 15% of the time, while women got custody 81% of the time. So the system is clearly biased, but men win in a significant (if not fair) number of cases. Interestingly, men used to get custody more often than women. The sexes reached parity in the late 60s and women reached their current ~80% success rate around 2000. Stats are here:

US Census figures from 2004 (
58.3% of kids live with both married parents
29.5% live with their mother but not their father

4.7% live with their father but not their mother

Granted, a lot of single-mother families in the US are not formed by a divorce, but rather by the father being incarcerated. Still, that doesn’t account for a 25 percentage point difference across the whole population.


SOUR STRAWBERRIES Cinema Debut Oct 10th-30th every day, Cine Nouveau Osaka Kujo


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

Passing on this info.  (日本語のアナウンスメントは英語の下です。)Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are happy to announce that the critically acclaimed documentary “SOUR STRAWBERRIES – Japan’s hidden »guest workers«” will have its premier in a cinema in Japan at Osaka’s Ciné Nouveau in Kujo.

The first screening will be on Saturday, 10th October 2009 at 10:30 am. Director Tilman König will be present and happy to answer questions from 11:30 onwards.

The discussion will be held in Japanese. Questions in English and German will be answered as well.

“SOUR STRAWBERRIES – Japan’s hidden »Guest Workers«”, a movie by Tilman König and Daniel Kremers, G/J 2008, 56 min, color, 16:9. Original in German, Japanese, Chinese, English with English and Japanese Subtitles.

Everyday from October 10th to October 30th 2009

The film was supported by Stiftung “Menschenwürde und Arbeitswelt”, Berlin and CinemAbstruso, Leipzig.


“‘Sour Strawberries’ spotlights the plight of non-Japanese ‘trainees'” — Japan Times Online

“A must see!” – Kansai Scene








More media on the Savoie Case (CNN, CBS, Stars&Stripes, AP, BBC, Japan Times, local TV). What a mess.


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  As more information comes to light about the Savoie Case, I will admit for the record, in all intellectual honesty, that there are a number of circumstances that, as commenters point out, detract from supporting husband Christopher as a “poster child” for the push to get Japan to sign the Hague Convention.  But unfortunately divorces are messy things.  I’ll probably write an apologia (not an apology, look up the word) tomorrow on the case.  However, I’ve got to write a different article for the Japan Times tonight on Tokyo’s Olympic Bid (depending on which way it goes), so I’ll be diverting my attention from this issue shortly.

Meanwhile, here is more media, courtesy of the Children’s Rights Network Japan ( and lots and lots of friends.  Thank you all very much.  Feel free to add more in the Comments section.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

CNN’s Kyung Lah reports on her fifteen-minute interview with Christopher in jail (or, rather, the police incarceration center during investigation, of course).

Other video links on CNN, all visible from

  1. Kidnapping your own kids? 11:45’s Blogger Bunch discusses the dad who was arrested in Japan for kidnapping his own kids.
  2. Savoie Custody Battle 2:09  An American dad is jailed in Japan for trying to reclaim his children. CNN’s Kyung Lah reports. 2:09
  3. Dad Jailed in Japan.  5:37  Amy Savoie, whose husband is jailed in Japan over a custody dispute, speaks to CNN’s Kiran Chetry.
  4. Dad wants custody, gets jail 1:48 American Christopher Savoie is in jail in Japan because he tried to get his children back. CNN’s Kyung Lah reports.

CBS News weighs in, citing CNN:
October 1, 2009 11:33 AM
Christopher Savoie, Dad Jailed in Japan for Child Rescue, Speaks from Prison


It looks as though Christopher was ready to take a stand on this issue a priori, with a previous interview before he went to Japan and got arrested:

Nashville Tenn TV station NC5 Investigates:

Abducted to Japan, Oct 1, 2009

(excerpt) “If [Japan joins] the Hague Treaty, then it would also be good for Japanese people in this situation because we could come up with an amicable — or even unamicable — arrangement where legally both parents could be guaranteed some time with their kids,” Savoie said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department renewed its calls for Japan to sign the agreement after Savoie found himself locked up in a Japanese jail, accused of snatching his own children and making a run to the nearest U.S. Consulate.

“On this particular issue, the issue of abduction, we have different points of view,” said Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley.

It’s a plight shared by non-Japanese fathers around the globe.

“There are a lot of Japanese fathers who need the same treatment,” Savoie said, adding that it highlights how — in Japan — men in general are cut out of the parenting process in the case of divorce.

“I happen to have been brought up in this country and I can speak English and I can live here, but that’s not an option for all the other Japanese Dads — and they are in the same shoes as me,” he added. “They have no rights in their own country.”

Ironically, Savoie also holds Japanese citizenship — so he spoke as fellow countryman when he asked Japan to join the world in protecting families and signing the Hague Convention.

Plus video interview at


Hostile article to Christopher reports a friend saying that Noriko felt abused by courts (even though the court transcript indicates to me that the judge acted civilly towards her, and gave her the benefit of the doubt when dissolving the restraining order against her) and financially dependent on Christopher, even though it also reports that she received more than three-quarters of a million dollars from him for the divorce:

AP:  Friend: Japanese woman who took kids felt trapped
By TRAVIS LOLLER and ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press Writers
October 1, 2009
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – A friend says Noriko Savoie felt trapped — she was a Japanese citizen new to the U.S. whose American husband had just served her divorce papers (snip)

Noriko Savoie did not have court permission to bring the children to the country where they had spent most of their lives, and Christopher Savoie says he didn’t do anything wrong when he tried to get them back.

Court records and conversations with a friend, Miiko Crafton, make it clear that Noriko Savoie was hurt and angry from the divorce and chafing at the cultural differences.

She had no income when she moved to the U.S. in June 2008, divorce court filings show, and appears to have been totally dependent on Christopher Savoie, who was still legally her husband but was involved with another woman.

Crafton, a native of Japan who befriended Noriko Savoie during her short time in Tennessee, said her friend tried to get a divorce while the couple still lived in Japan, but her husband had refused and later persuaded her to move to the U.S. with the children.

“Everything was provided so she could begin a new lifestyle, but right after that he gave her divorce papers,” Crafton said. “So basically she was trapped.”

Although financially stable — she was awarded close to $800,000 in cash as well as other support in the divorce — Noriko Savoie was not free to return to Japan. She was given primary custody of the children, but her ex-husband was also awarded time with them.

She felt mistreated by the courts and emotionally abused by her ex-husband, Crafton said…


However: From the U.S State Department note on International Child Abduction-Japan:

… U.S. consular officers are prohibited by law from providing legal advice, taking custody of a child, forcing a child to be returned to the United States, providing assistance or refuge to parents attempting to violate local law…

Full document at:


CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper have each separately done programs on the arrest and the Japan abduction issue. Their videos have apparently not been posted yet (links welcome).

Japan Times article Oct 1, 2009:

Stars & Stripes, the US military’s daily newspaper:
notable excerpt:

“[Savoie] took the step that none of us have taken, but one that we’ve all thought about,” Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland said Tuesday from his home in Bethesda, Md.

Toland’s wife absconded with his daughter, Erika, from their home in Yokohama, Japan, in 2003 while he was stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base. She was not charged with child abduction and was able to prevent Toland from even visiting his daughter.

The U.S. and the international community for years have lobbied the Japanese government to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980. The treaty, which includes 81 countries as signatories, prevents parents from fleeing with their children to or within those countries to circumvent standing custody orders or before a court can determine custody.

“The problem has gotten so big that Japan is becoming known as a destination country for international parental kidnapping, even when no one in the family is of Japanese descent,” Smith wrote in a Sept. 24 letter to Hatoyama obtained by Stars and Stripes.

The Savoie case demonstrates not only the desperate measures parents can resort to, but also the hypocrisy of Japanese law, contend Toland and Paul Wong, an American attorney based in Tokyo who continues to fight for access to his daughter, Kaya.

“Japanese law says that parental [child] abduction is not a crime,” said Toland, whose daughter was taken by his in-laws after his Japanese wife died in 2005. “So it’s asinine that he’s being charged because he’s the biological father and his rights have not been terminated by a Japanese court.” (snip)

A spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said it is aware of the Savoie case and had not been asked by the U.S. to release Savoie.

Embassy officials in Tokyo and Fukuoka would not comment on whether those discussions would take place.

As of August, the State Department had identified 118 Japanese-American children who are living in Japan and cut off from their American parents.

UK’s BBC about Shane Clarke’s abduction case,
which coincides with Christopher’s arrest arrest:

All for now. Updates in real time at

And lots more stories on the Children’s Rights Network Japan website to show you why Savoie’s case is hardly unusual, although the actions leading to his arrest might be deemed to be:


Court Transcripts of Christopher vs. Noriko Savoie re child abduction


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Obviously since yesterday the Savoie Child Abduction Case has gotten a lot more complicated.  So let’s go to the primary source information:  the sworn testimonies of the parties to the case.

Now, divorces are generally nasty messy affairs with both sides at fault and deserving of criticism. But the fact is that wife Noriko Savoie negotiated in bad faith, broke her promises, abducted the children, and committed a criminal offense, and she should not be allowed to get away with it. Or else it just encourages other Japanese to take the kids and run (or threaten to) whenever there’s a domestic dispute. This situation as it stands will also remain a deterrent to people marrying Japanese, and is ultimately defeating of Japan’s intent to stem the demographic juggernaut that is Japan’s falling population.

Courtesy of David in yesterday’s comments (thanks), here are the last seventy pages of testimony in Tennessee court.


There was a restraining order against Noriko Savoie filed due to various threats from Noriko to abduct the children (page 94).

She promised in court under oath that she would not do that.

She obviously lied.

She came to the US willingly, knowing how things would turn out (i.e. divorce, not reconciliation):

(pg 121)
THE COURT: And she clearly understood that when she was
coming to the United States, she wasn’t coming
here to reconcile . And it was clear she came here knowing that
her husband was involved with another woman, and
she came here knowing that he wanted a divorce.

and a social worker testified that she was in fact acclimatizing to the US and would probably stay (pg 109).

Noriko even tried to use the allegation of husband Christopher’s Japanese citizenship (which looks like it may be true, although given the relatively amount of time Christopher was in Japan it was gleaned awfully quickly) against him to say that he had the same rights as a Japanese. Which he technically would (but not positively, when Japanese have so few rights between them regarding child custody and visitation following divorce anyway), but then again probably not (as the court admits, see below).

Court testimony excerpts follow, then further commentary from me:

I don’t have any plans to
return to Japan or move to Japan, I haven’t had
any plans to move to Japan since I entered the
final decree
. (page 80)

(page 88-89)
… you put in writing to him
February 12th that “it is very hard to watch the kids
become American and losing their Japanese identity . I
have tremendous fear for my children and myself . I’m
overwhelmed without a problem . Therefore, please
cooperate with me in order for us to stay here”?

A. Correct.

Q. The only way I can read that is that was a threat
to him ; that if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’m
going to take your children and you will never see them
again . You understand his fear?

A I do understand his fear; however —

Q. Well, what can you do today to alleviate that
fear ; what can you do, what can you say to Judge Martin,
what can you say to their father that assures us that
when you get to Japan —

A. Yes.

Q. — you will not let your parents and your friends
and your — as you said, all the people that came to the
airport, influence you to just stay there ; what
assurance do we have?

A. Yes, actually that’s why I brought this here .
First of all, I have never thought about taking children
away from their father, never . And — but based on
that —

Q. Well, let me ask you this — and I’ll ask the
questions, if you would — do you have plans to take
your children and move to Japan?

A . No, I don’t .

(pg 96-97)
NORIKO: Yes, I actually want to say because if you
talking about based on he has no authority in Japan,
however, he is Japanese citizen ; he is not — Hague
Convention has nothing to do with him, because that is
between American citizen and Japanese citizen .

THE COURT : Ms . Savoie, let me just say that
this kind of discussion concerns the Court . I
really don’t care what his rights are in Japan .
What I care about is ensuring that you don’t take
these children permanently to Japan .


THE COURT : You’ll never convince this Court
that this gentleman has the same rights that you
have in Japan to freely enforce the terms of this
order, because every bit of the law that I’ve
ever seen as mediator — and this case was
presented – and this case, by the way, was
discussed in mediation, so that’s not anything
new either .So for you to try to convince the Court now
that Dr . Savoie has the full ability to enforce a
foreign decree in Japan, is not going to be very
productive . That causes me concern that you
might have some intent to move that you said you
do not have . See what I’m saying?

THE WITNESS : Yes, Sir, I understand .

THE COURT: They’re inconsistent positions .
On the one hand you say, “I’m not moving, I’ve
made no plans to move, I intend to go on vacation
and return here and bring the children back
here”; on the other hand you’re saying, “but he
has full rights to enforce the decree in Japan .”
Well, if you have no intent to move, why do you —

THE WITNESS : Yes, Sir .

THE COURT: — try to convince the Court
that he has the full rights to enforce a foreign
decree in Japan . There’s no reason to try to go
there . You see what I’m saying?

(skip to page 100)

THE WITNESS : Yes . However, he won’t see
them again that — that part is that concern
before me that from a long time ago, like I said
I’ve never split children and father . I know how
important father is for children, and I am not
going to do that . I keep telling him I’m not
going to do that .

(skip to page 119-120)
I think Ms . Savoie understands that if she
elects to go to Japan and not return, she’s going
to lose her alimony, because the Court’s going to
pay it into court ; she’s going to have problems
with her child support ; she’s going to have
problems with her education fund ; she’s going to
be fighting her husband in the courts of Japan ;
and it just — it’s going to be a terrible mess
for her and the children if she pursues that, and
the Court has no reason to believe that she
doesn’t understand that or that she intends to
pursue that .

But on the other hand, obviously Dr . Savoie
is not convinced that his former wife is acting
with him in good faith . Frankly, I don’t know
that he will ever be convinced until time passes
and she’s made trips to Japan and she’s returned
from Japan, and the children seem to be
acclimating to the notion that they have two
cultures that form them ; one is a Japanese
culture and the other is an American culture, and
they’re part Japanese, they’re part American,
they have part Japanese heritage, they have part
American heritage, and they’re entitled to know
both heritages, they’re entitled to know
grandparents from their Japanese heritage .

And what she will do when she gets to Japan
and she’s under the pressure of her family and
friends to stay there and not return, remains to
be seen.

(pg 121)
THE COURT: And she clearly understood that when she was
coming to the United States, she wasn’t coming
here to reconcile . And it was clear she came here knowing that
her husband was involved with another woman, and
she came here knowing that he wanted a divorce .
(snip, pg 122)
And it’s clear to this Court that it’s in
the best interest of these children that these
children–and I’ll say it again–have a
relationship with their father, and that they
also understand their Japanese culture and
heritage, and it’s part of their makeup, and that
they unde, and their American culture and
heritage as part of their makeup .
So based on the limited issue that’s before
me, the Court’s going to dissolve the restraining

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  So the retraining order gets dissolved and Noriko breaks her sworn promises.  That is the background to the case.  Her current extraterritoriality notwithstanding, she broke the law, and now there’s an arrest warrant out on her.  That’s what occasioned Christopher taking the drastic actions that he did.

Now, speaking as a left-behind parent myself might be coloring my attitude towards this issue. But divorces are nearly always messy and fault can be found with both sides in mediations. And the fact remains that Noriko did what so many Japanese will do in these situations — abduct the children and claim Japan as a safe haven. Then the children are NEVER returned, and usually contact is completely broken off with the left-behind parent for the remainder of the childhood.

This is an untenable situation. And it must stop. For the sake of the children. This in my mind is undisputable. The children must be returned to Dr Savoie in order to discourage this sort of thing happening again. Anything else is just more encouragement for Japanese to abduct their children.

More media up on the case later today.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Otaru Onsens 10th Anniv #5: How the debate still rages on, article by TransPacific Radio


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

Hi Blog.  In their own commemorative-edition article, TransPacific Radio last night came out with a synopsis of how the Otaru Onsens Case is very much alive and well today as an issue, at least in terms of the NJ community and a few NJ pundits in particular (one of whom obsesses over it to the point of distraction and inaccuracy).  Excerpting TPR:

In the ten years since the case, much has changed and debate over Arudou’s goal and tactics continues apace. As with any heated issue (and human rights issues are always heated), the disagreements range from perfectly legitimate concerns to objections that are, to put it nicely, based on misinformation or incorrect assumptions.

It is no secret that Arudou has many critics (in the interest of disclosure, it is worth it to point out that while we here at TPR pull no punches with the man and feel it necessary to play Devil’s Advocate at the least, we do know him sociably and will say that, politics aside, he’s a likable guy – just exercise caution before bringing up the topic of Duran Duran.) It is also no secret that, for a variety of reasons, his most vocal critics are almost entirely non-Japanese.

Among the most high profile of those critics is Gregory Clark, whose column in the Japan Times gives him perhaps a wider audience than most other writers on the topic. On January 15th of this year, Clark wrote a risible and deeply disingenuous column for the paper headlined “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people”.

In the column, Clark tries to paint a picture of a contemptible rabble-rousing jerk that he very clearly hints is Arudou (it’s not. As far as we can tell, there is no such person as the one Clark is writing about.) Wondering at Clark’s vitriol and some of his more outlandish statements, this observer settled on the following paragraph:


TPR article continues here:
Have a read and a comment there if you like.  More TV media from the case blogged on tomorrow.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

OTARU ONSENS 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: Index of online study aids of media on the event


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Good morning Blog, and happy holidays to readers in Japan. This week I will continue a retrospective on the Otaru Onsens Case, with links to media I collected nearly a decade ago, charting the course of the debate, and how it went down a path that in fact ultimately encouraged people to discriminate. The full arc in my book JAPANESE ONLY, but here is a list of primary sources for your viewing pleasure.

If possible (my friend KM is also supposed to be on holiday, but he’s the one who has kindly converted my analog recordings into digital and YouTubed it), I will put up a link to each media every day, the first one this evening. There is also a DVD I can burn for those who wish to use this for educational purposes (contact me at

Here’s an outline of the media I have when I first offered this as a study aid three years ago.  After that, the playlist, courtesy KM, on YouTube.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



All TV shows in Japanese (no subtitles or dubbing) with amateur editing

By Arudou Debito (,

Total time:  2 hours 20 minutes.  Recorded on one VHS tape in 3X format.


1) TV ASAHI NEWS STATION on ANA BORTZ DECISION (Nationally broadcast October 12, 1999) (10 minutes).  National broadcast.  Describes the first court decision regarding racial discrimination in Japan, citing the UN CERD Treaty, and the fact that Japan has no law against racial discrimination.

2) HBC TV award-winning documentary on OTARU ONSENS CASE (Locally broadcast March 27, 2001) (1 hour 2 minutes).  Gives the most thorough rundown of the issue and expresses the issue from a more Japanese point of view (i.e. the issue less in terms of racism, more in terms of cultural differences).

3) TV ASAHI tabloid show “KOKO GA HEN DA YO NIHONJIN”, on exclusionism in Wakkanai, Monbetsu, and Otaru (Nationally broadcast Feb 28, 2001) (16 minutes).  Complete with brickbats for the Plaintiffs for filing suit from the screaming foreign panelists.  NB:  Panelists were apparently chosen depending on whether they had strong views about the case.  A special emphasis, according to media sources, was given foreigners who would oppose the lawsuit, as it would make for better television.

4) HBC NEWS (Locally broadcast March 27, 2001) on the OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT FIRST HEARING (3 minutes).  Otaru City claims impunity from CERD responsibilities due to local govt. status, while Yunohana Onsen tries to claim it was the victim in this case.

5) VARIOUS NEWS AGENCIES (Dosanko Wide, Hokkaido News, STV, and HBC) with various angles on OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT FILING (Locally broadcast February 1, 2001) (15 minutes total).  NB:  HBC contains the only public interview given by Defendant Yunohana Onsen owner Hashimoto Hiromitsu.  This interview was given live (the only way Hashimoto would agree to be interviewed, so that his comments would not be edited, according to reporter sources), where he states that he has never met us (of course; he always refused to meet us; the only time we would ever cross paths would be November 11, 2002, in the courtroom, when the Sapporo District Court came down in Plaintiffs’ favor).

6) UHB SUPER NEWS Beginning of the new year special on THE YEAR 2001 (Locally broadcast January 3, 2002) (15 minutes).  Discourse on the nature of internationalization.  Also brings in the spectre of foreign crime and terrorism, first brought up from April 2000 with the “Ishihara Sangokujin Speech”, and later used to justify further exclusionism towards foreigners.

7) NHK CLOSE UP GENDAI on FOREIGN CRIME (Nationally broadcast November 7, 2003) (26 minutes).  The fix is in:  Foreigners and the crimes they bring is now publicly portrayable as fearful, with no comparison whatsoever made to stats of crimes by Japanese (except those connected again with foreigners).  A PSA posing as a news special, to warn Japanese about foreigners and their specific methods of crime.

Apologies that there is no footage of the actual District Court Decision of November 11, 2002.

All details and transcripts of many of these and other shows are available for students and scholars in books:


●   ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽温泉入浴拒否問題と人種差別(単行本 明石書店2004年改訂版 ISBN: 4-7503-9011-9)

Ordering details at

Original documentation and articles in English and Japanese at

Other bilingual interviews and radio broadcasts/podcasts available at

More Japan Times articles on issues connected with rights of non-Japanese residents at

Thank you for your interest in this case and in this issue!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan

LA Times: “Charisma Man: An American geek is reborn in Japan”


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Hi Blog.  One of the most controversial characters I’ve ever seen come out of the NJ (Eikaiwa) community has been the character of “Charisma Man”, as described in the LA Times below.  Compare and contrast him with McDonald’s “Mr James”.  I won’t right now, but readers feel free.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo



Charisma Man: An American geek is reborn in Japan

The anime character is coming back from hiatus to his Calvin and Hobbes-type fantasy world in which he is super. But he has his own version of debilitating kryptonite.

By John M. Glionna September 1, 2009

Reporting from Tokyo

From his window seat in the Roppongi bar district, Neil Garscadden eyes an exotic street parade: the reggae-styled hipsters, the Nigerian nightclub hawkers, the soft-stepping geishas, the secretaries in miniskirts and impossibly heavy eye shadow.

The nuances of the scene, Garscadden insists, would be lost on a mere tourist.

This, he says, is a job for Charisma Man.

With his blue eyes, tousled blond hair and foreign passport, Charisma Man is a sake-sipping man about town, suavely negotiating the intricacies of Japanese culture. Women adore him. Men respect, even fear, him. Life in the East bends to his every whim.

“It’s great to be a Western guy in Asia,” he says. “I’ve got lots of money, chicks dig me — everybody respects me.”

Well, not everybody.

In this land of anime, Charisma Man is a comic strip character created in 1998 by Larry Rodney, a Canadian then teaching English in Nagoya, to lampoon what he saw as the absurd hubris of many Western men in Japan. Capitalizing on their novelty status, they prowled for cheap thrills, an easy paycheck and sex — not necessarily in that order. Many were slackers posing as teachers (a job for which they were underqualified) to continue the charade of their low-wattage celebrity.

Even with Charisma Man’s limited knowledge of Japanese language or culture, he nonetheless sees himself as a self-styled Superman — albeit with a debilitating kryptonite: Western Woman.

“She sees him as the loser he really is,” says Garscadden, who penned the comic strip after Rodney returned to Canada. “When she’s around, he reverts back into an average Joe Blow.”

After an eight-year run in an alternative expat magazine, the black-and-white five-panel monthly strip was discontinued in 2006.

But now Charisma Man is back.

Following their 2002 collection of the first four years of Charisma Man adventures, Rodney and Garscadden are teaming up to publish a book containing both old and new installments. And there’s even talk of a new monthly strip.

(They dismiss Charisma Man comics between 2002 and 2006, saying the writers took the character in an uncharismatic direction after Garscadden also left the picture.)

The reprise comes at a much different time than the 1990s heyday, when fewer Westerners living in Japan meant bigger egos for the ones who were there.

But Charisma Man still reigns supreme, the pair says.

“Part of his success comes from the fact that many Japanese women are frustrated by their choices — Japanese men who often are very conservative, old-fashioned and not very romantic,” says Rodney, 41, who now lives in Vancouver.

“And even after all these years, many still have a romanticized view of what Western men are all about.”

Stereotypical fantasy is a main theme of the comic strip. Charisma Man is like the boy in the Calvin and Hobbes comic whose stuffed tiger comes alive only when he’s alone.

In the presence of Japanese women, Our Hero is a muscular he-man. Readers only see his true loser self when Western Woman shares the frame. Likewise, the Japanese girls in Charisma Man’s arms are all Barbie-like — until someone else shows up. Then they’re often rather plump.

“I guess I spent too much time on trains without much else to think about,” Rodney says of his inspiration for Charisma Man. “Maybe I saw too many of these geeky social misfits living above their station in Japan. Something snapped.”

In the strip, Charisma Man hails from the planet Canada, where he works as a McDonald’s fry cook, scorned by the opposite sex.

In an early strip, he snags a job in Japan over a much more qualified Western Woman, leading his foil to seek revenge.

One favorite strip by Garscadden, a former editor at the now-defunct Alien magazine, which carried the series, features the character as Commander Charisma, a submarine captain who spots an approaching battleship just in time to save his crew.

The final frame shows Charisma Man at a bar with his cronies hiding from “the battleship”: Western Woman, who strides through the joint.

For years, Charisma Man ruled Tokyo, at least among expatriates.

“I found references to Charisma Man in academic journals dissecting cross-cultural aspects of Asian studies,” Rodney says. “Years after I moved back to Canada and forgot all about the character, I mentioned to some guy who used to live in Japan that I invented Charisma Man. He shook my hand like I was Mick Jagger.”

There were some critics. One reader of the 2002 collection complained that the entire strip was one joke repeated.

“I loved that,” Garscadden says, “because that’s exactly what Western Woman would say about Charisma Man.”

Garscadden, 43, from Dayton, Ohio, says he recently called Rodney about reviving the character: “I just said, it would be stupid to let this guy die.” Under the new arrangement, Rodney will write the strip and Garscadden will edit.

“I’m already thinking of new directions,” Rodney says. “There might be a new foil other than Western Woman — a new sexy Western Man who threatens to usurp Charisma Man’s powers.

“That would be his worst nightmare.”


Discussion: What do you think about special discounts for NJ?


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Hi Blog.  The Community yahoogroup has been having an interesting discussion about “positive discrimination”, where NJ actually get special treatment or discounts for being foreign.  What do readers of think about that?

Here are some posts from The Community developing the issue.  Comments?  Debito

Just wanted to pass along a very nice thing that happened today —
went out to a cafe here in Fukui with my family for lunch and was
surprised to find a sign in English at the register reading “10%
discount to all foreigners”.  Although the discount is nice, it’s even
nicer to see a shop going out of its way to open itself up to NJs,
especially in a conservative prefecture like Fukui.  It’s the first
time I’ve seen anything of the sort expressly written out as a sort of
store policy, so it was definitely a nice experience.  The food was
good, too.  😉

I doubt any other community members will ever get the chance to go
there, but just to give credit where it’s due, here is a link to the

Although the foreigner-friendly sentiment may be admirable, do people really approve of differential pricing depending on nationality?

That said, someone recently insisted on taking the tax off something I bought in a tourist-oriented shop in Kyoto, even though I was not taking it abroad. I didn’t complain too hard!

If I noticed a shop nearby that was giving discounts to foreigners and they had items I needed, I wouldn’t hesitate to go there.

It does however beg the question of how they define foreign and how
they determine foreignness. Would zainichi Koreans be included here,
and are they asking for ID or are they just basing it off appearances?
How about the likes of Debito and myself, [both naturalized citizens]?

I think your sympathy with the people who try to be foreigner friendly
is as well intentioned as the people who make those efforts.

To try and convey the feeling, instead of just the principle, of what
I’m talking about, I’d like to relate an anecdote.

There used to be a club in Roppongi called “Vanilla”. And they gave out
tickets that said:

“with this ticket, 1.000 yen/2d
Foreigners & Women use only”

As anyone who has gone clubbing in Roppongi, 1000 yen for two drinks and
admission is a pretty sweet deal.

So I showed up with some people, a mixed crowd of some Japanese, some
foreigners, some men, some women. Two of the men were non-Japanese Asians.

At first the women at the front counter would not accept the tickets
from the Asian men. But, as you suggested a person could do, they then
provided their “gaijin cards”.

And the women *still* checked with the managers to make sure it was all

The distinct feeling we got was that the idea of the foreigners discount
was that they had an image of what being a foreigner who goes to a club
is like. They wanted the kind of young and cool black American you might
see in a rap video, or a tragically hip white DJ-type you might see at a
rave in London.

In other words, yes, my friends could prove they were, in fact, foreign
and eligible for the discount.

But they sure didn’t feel great about having to confront the feeling
they got from the club, which could be described as “Oh… when we said
‘foreigners’, we didn’t mean *you*, but, I guess we have to let you in

I understand the sentiment here, but we accept ladies’ day at the cinema and
senior discounts or children’s discounts in a number of places.  I think any
effort to be foreigner-friendly (as opposed to foreigner-suspicious or
foreigner-hostile) should be accepted with the good will with which it was

If you are an Asian foreigner and want the good discount, you could flash
your alien registration card.  If you are a “foreign”-looking Japanese
national you could of course refuse the discount, but aren’t there times
when nice manners and accepting people’s attempts to be friendly trump
politics?  It might even be a funny teachable moment:  “I know I look
foreign, but I’m actually Japanese.  Can I still have the discount?  [LOL].”

I’m all for challenging rude and hostile treatment of foreigners (or
anyone), but I do fail to see what we gain by rejecting on “principle”
people’s attempts to reach out in kindness.

I think the reason senior and student discounts exist is because of the
general societal consensus that those people don’t have as much
disposable income as the working middle class. We respect that students
are working for future contribution, and seniors have given us past
contribution. So we cut them some slack.

With situations such as ladies night at clubs or movies, it’s marketing.
If the women come, the men will follow.

So the question then comes back to us as, do we want to be seen as
disadvantaged (like seniors with fixed incomes) or a marketing tool
(like women getting half price at a bar).

Personally, I think both of those perceptions keep us viewed as
separate. In the short term they are well intentioned and harmless in
any one specific case. But the more situations where foreigners get
privilege for being foreign will keep Japanese seeing us as some kind of

Yes, very well stated. That is really almost precisely the way I felt in reading about this. I’m sort of torn between, on one way, a desire to applaud somebody’s attempt to be kind, but at the same time concerned about the very fact that people of a different nationality are seen as either objects of discrimination or privilege. I understand the sort of “duty free” treatment of tourists, because there it is very much a question of purpose of travel rather than nationality, but when the store also gives special treatment to foreigners who are basically members of the Japanese community (in general, I watch Japanese politics more closely than American politics), then I think it requires some thinking.

TIME Magazine on McDonald’s “Mr James” Campaign


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Hi Blog.  The “Mr James” issue even made TIME Magazine a few days ago.  Starts off fine, then skates into the territory of Straw Men and Silly Arguments (“unclean”?  Even I said this argument was silly when asked about it over the phone).  The last paragraph (“The “cute and unthreatening” American who eagerly returns to Japan with his daughter and is driven by a hunger to eat the same burger he ate in his youth … is as much an affirmation of Japanese food by McDonald’s Japan as it is unbelievable and unrealistic as a narrative. That’s why it’s a commercial campaign.” Really?) I just don’t get, no matter how many times I read it, sorry.  If someone could reinterpret that paragraph for me, I would appreciate it.

Anyway, thanks for covering the issue, Ms Masters.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Not Everyone Is Lovin’ Japan’s New McDonald’s Mascot

TIME Magazine, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009,8599,1918246,00.html

Mr. James is lovin’ being back in Japan. The exuberantly geeky American mascot of McDonald’s Japan latest ad campaign oohs and aahs over fireworks. His smile beams from his cardboard cutouts outside McDonald’s establishments across the country.

But a growing number of non-Japanese who live in Japan are decidedly not lovin’ Mr. James. In a country known for its small foreign-born population — only 1.5% of 127 million — and restrictive immigration and naturalization policies, the new envoy for McDonald’s Japan is creating a stir among non-Japanese residents.

A doppelganger of Steve Carell’s 40-Year-Old Virgin with glasses, Mr. James is a character invented by Japanese advertising behemoth Dentsu and McDonald’s Japan for its new burger line — the “Nippon All Stars” — campaign. The purpose of the campaign, running Aug. 10 to Nov. 5, is to promote four burgers available only in Japan. On his blog, found on the McDonald’s Japan website, Mr. James describes himself as a 43-year-old Japanophile born in Ohio with a penchant for travel, who, when particularly excited, generously treats people he doesn’t even know. (That seems to be a plug for the $1,000 cash prizes for 1,000 people who submit photos of Mr. James or people imitating Mr. James.)

But elsewhere, Mr. James, dressed in his buttoned-up red polo shirt, tie and khakis, is seen as playing to Japan’s xenophobic tendencies. Annoyed expats have described the character as “white, dorky” and speaking “mangled Japanese.” The chair of The Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens’ Association of Japan, Arudo Debito — a naturalized Japanese citizen born David Aldwinckle — has officially protested the Mr. James campaign with a letter to McDonald’s Corporation headquarters in Illinois. Soon after the ads started to roll out, somebody set up an “I hate Mr. James” Facebook group, which now has 67 members.

Debito considers the characterization of “a clumsy sycophantic ‘nerd'” an embarrassment. “If this were in a different country, and we had a Japanese in a [summer kimono] and [wooden sandals] saying ‘Me like Mcflied lice, please eato,’ we’d have the same sort of anti-defamation league speaking out and saying this is disparaging to Asians or Japanese,” says Debito. He says the campaign’s portrayal of non-Japanese as “unquestioningly supportive and culturally ignorant” will only make life more difficult for foreigners in Japan.

On his blog, Mr. James posts travel plans — to places, such as Kyushu, where he visits McDonald’s restaurants — and ruminates about his favorite burgers. He bungles his attempts at written Japanese, and mispronounces words with a staccato-like butchering of the language. One online video shows him talking to himself while practicing from a phrasebook, proclaiming “horenso” (spinach) with a gesture. Mr. James has appeared in two commercials since the campaign began, in which he also mistakes words, for instance, yelling “tamago” (egg) in Japanese instead of a similar sounding word “tamaya”, which is shouted during fireworks.

McDonalds Japan spokesman Junichi Kawaminami says that there is no official response to criticism of the Mr. James campaign [UPDATE:  READ OFFICIAL RESPONSE HERE]. He does, however, explain the story of the character, which appears in the first commercial. “Mr. James’s daughter was determined to go to Japan and study and so he looked at maps and got excited to go with her,” says Kawaminami. “Once he found out that McDonald’s was offering the Tamago Double Mac, it became the deciding factor.” Why? It was on the McDonald’s Japan menu years ago and became Mr. James’s favorite when he was a student in Japan. That, says Kawaminami, is when Mr. James became a great fan of Japanese culture and food.

Some of the Mr. James criticism, however, seems a little thin. One comment on Facebook says that because Mr. James wears the same clothes everyday in August might suggest that foreigners are “unclean.” If we’re going to look at the clothing choices of fast food icons, it seems fair to point out that Ronald McDonald and Col. Sanders have been wearing their famous uniforms for half a century. There’s no doubt that the spectacle of the foreigner in Japan is an everyday occurrence in media. A foreigner’s response that he or she can use chopsticks or enjoys raw fish is met with smiles and amazement because — in some ways — affirmation of Japanese culture is stronger when it comes from outside, or is a non-Japanese perspective. But there is certainly no shortage of elegant, articulate Japanese-speaking foreigners in local media, from morning television programs to magazine advertisements for Japanese products.

The “cute and unthreatening” American who eagerly returns to Japan with his daughter and is driven by a hunger to eat the same burger he ate in his youth — basically a double Big Mac with an egg on it — is as much an affirmation of Japanese food by McDonald’s Japan as it is unbelievable and unrealistic as a narrative. That’s why it’s a commercial campaign. To protest Mr. James as a stereotype of a minority population in Japan because the Ohio-native fails to speak or write Japanese fluently, dresses like a nerd and blogs about burgers only ends up underscoring the fact that there really aren’t a lot of foreigners who fit the bill running around Japan. For most foreigners in Japan who know no one like that — and who only see a burger mascot — it begs the question: Where’s the beef?


SITYS: Japan Times confirms that 74-year-old tourist WAS indeed incarcerated for 10 days for carrying a pocket knife


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Hi Blog.  After a very nasty discussion on last month, regarding the validity of a story by Brian Hedge that a 74-year-old tourist was incarcerated for more than a week just for holding a pocket knife, the Japan Times has come through (The only media to bother — subscribe to the paper, everyone!  Who else you gonna call?) and confirmed that it actually did happen.

It sure would be nice for the anonymous nasties who raked people over the coals to capitulate now.  How ’bout it?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009
Tourist’s 10-day detention rapped
Lawyers say elderly American should never have been jailed for holding small pocketknife
By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer (excerpt)

It all started when an American tourist asked a police officer for directions to the Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

The Californian, 74, could never have imagined the officer would reply to his question with: “Do you have a knife?”

He could never have dreamed, either, that his possession of a pocketknife, which he calls a “customary personal item,” would be illegal in Japan and lead to 10 nights in detention, the man told The Japan Times during a recent interview.

“It was unpleasant and disappointing,” he said.

The actions by police, including asking the man if he was carrying a knife, are questionable, lawyers said.

In particular, they say 10 days in detention is problematic — although unfortunately in Japan not uncommon.

“I seriously doubt the man needed to be detained at all,” said lawyer Kazuharu Suga, who has been assigned to defend the American.
“Police should have confiscated the knife and released him after getting answers for why he came to Japan, where and how long he plans to stay in Japan and how he got the knife,” Suga said.

“Unfortunately, in cases like this, 10 days of detention is not unusual,” he said, adding that a foreigner could be held longer if police have linguistic trouble communicating with the suspect…

Rest of the article at:

The Japan Times Community Page ran a series of responses on Tuesday from readers, many outraged, by this treatment. Here they are:

One pocket knife, nine days’ lockup
Following are a selection of readers’ responses to the July 28 Hotline to Nagatacho column headlined “Pocket knife lands tourist, 74, in lockup.”
The Japan Times Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009


“Truly a horror story…”

Rest at


McDonald’s Japan CR Director Kawaminami Junichi responds to FRANCA


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

Hi Blog.  NPO FRANCA received this morning a response from McDonald’s Japan Director of Corporate Relations, a Mr Kawaminami Junichi, regarding our protest letters in English and Japanese on the “Mr James” sales campaign.

I appreciate him taking time to respond, but he toes the line he narrated to various world media stressing the lack of intention to offend, again without discussing any of the possible ill-effects to NJ residents from stereotyping.

He also only answered in English, wish is a bit of a disappointment.  I presume he doesn’t want the discussion to expand to the Japanese debate arenas.  Letter follows below.

Meanwhile, I have devoted my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to the “Mr James” phenomenon and what it might mean, with a historical context.  Out Tuesday, September 1, get a copy!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Reuters THE GREAT DEBATE column on how this election in Japan just might change everything


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Hi Blog. I was asked by Reuters to write a little something at the end of last month. This popped out in a little more than 45 minutes. Felt good, hope it reads well and rings true. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

06:58 August 25th, 2009

Japan: The election that might change everything
By: Arudou Debito
– Arudou Debito, is a columnist for the Japan Times, activist, blogger at, and Chair of the NPO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association. The opinions expressed are his own –

Japan’s famous mantra is that things don’t change much or very quickly. But I have a feeling that this approaching Lower House parliamentary election on August 30 just might prove that wrong.

But first some background. Japan has been ruled essentially by one party since the end of World War II — the Liberal Democrats (LDP). That’s longer than in any other liberal democracy, competing with other countries that have no other parties to choose from.

There are many theories as to why that happened. Some might insist that risk-averse Japanese weren’t ready to tamper with the status quo, when economic growth was running so smoothly between 1950 and 1990, and everyone was feeling prosperous.

But that theory breaks down when you realize that Japan is the only developed economy which actually SHRANK on average over the past twenty years. If prosperity breeds contentment, two decades is enough time to voters make the elected feel their winter of discontent.

I believe there just hasn’t been a viable opposition party until now. The previous #2 party for most of the postwar era, the Socialists, were essentially a one-issue group, holding just enough seats to block any revisions to Japan’s “Peace Constitution”. They succeeded. Our peacetime constitution has never been amended.

But the Socialists imploded in 1995 when their leader made a Faustian bargain to take power briefly from the LDP. Ineptitude and three decades of opposition politics soon tripped them up, and the LDP was back in power within a year.

Arising from the ashes, eventually, was the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which eventually convinced enough voters that it wasn’t going to similarly implode. It’s only taken 15 years and a lot of horse trading (and some years holding the basically powerless Upper House) before it proved itself a viable second party.

It really proved itself earlier this July, when it ambushed the LDP in the Tokyo Government elections. For the first time in 40 years, Japan’s largest city has the opposition in control. This is riding the wave of a shambolic LDP, with three disastrous (and unelected) prime ministers after the famously-charismatic Koizumi. The current PM, Aso, is essentially an oblivious political Brahmin, who has made it clear that his only claim to power is his personal sense of entitlement. Tellingly, he has refused to give up the LDP leadership even after the July ambush, and is driving his party into the ground.

It is now clear how deep the rot runs. A near-majority of people in the LDP hold “inherited seats”, meaning they are sons, daughters, or blood relatives of former Dietmembers — some for several unbroken generations. This degree of cosy entitlement has only encouraged more elitism, rot, and preservation of a status quo that is long run out of excuses for Japan’s relative lack of prosperity. The LDP are the party resisting change, and the only weapon they have left in their arsenal is that you can’t trust the opposition party because it’s never held the reins. But that fear by circular logic isn’t selling this time.

I think, as do most people, that we will have a change of government, with the DPJ taking power in September. Will it change anything, however?

It just might. The DPJ Manifesto (They were the party that started this earlier this decade. How revolutionary! Making your policies clear to the voter!) is already out and it’s saying some pretty ambitious things. Paying families sizable amounts to support their children. Making schools up to junior high free. Making our toll highways free. Breaking the stranglehold the bureaucrats have over our policymaking levers. And quite a bit more that is ambitious if not a bit vague. (But that’s quite normal.) According to my backdoor channels, there’s even the promise of the DPJ facing up to the task of dealing with Japan’s decreasing population by broaching that taboo topic (until after the election) — loosening up the borders to let more immigration happen! That would mean EVERYTHING changes!

Many of these may turn out to be merely political promises, of course. But they’re still better than anything the LDP has come up with, and the DPJ is setting the agenda for this election. Being in control of the debate is a good thing. And it has had the intended effect. Although a month is a long time in politics, I think at this time the attitude is, “Well, why not give the DPJ a try? Can they really do all that worse than the LDP are doing now?”

I am an American-born naturalized citizen of Japan. Have been for nearly a decade now. I’ve voted in several elections. This is the one I’m most looking forward to.

McDonald’s Japan “Mr James”: Reports of improvements


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Hi Blog.  I am hearing of improvements in the infamous and controversial katakana-speaking “gaijin” character “Mr James”, advertising McDonald’s hamburgers.  Just wanted to confirm with readers:

1) Peach reports the “katakana tray inserts” (meaning these):


are not being used anymore.   Visited a McDonald’s in Tennouji, Osaka today and discovered this.

2) Justin commented to

Submitted on 2009/08/19 at 9:54pm
One interesting note about the “Mr. James” ads: There aren’t any in the McDonalds across from Kamiyacho Station, just down the hill from the Hotel Okura. This is a gaijin-heavy area, with lots of us staying in the hotel or working in the offices nearby. If the “Mr. James” ads are so inoffensive, why is McDonalds Japan keeping them out of its restaurants in foreigner-heavy neighborhoods?

3) As has been reported in the SCMP and other media outlets, the “backstory” of this character has become more sophisticated, depicting him as a tourist from Ohio, not a resident of Japan, burgering his way through Japan’s burghers (dare him to come to Hokkaido!) and blogging his experiences.  Although this doesn’t excuse his being rendered in katakana.  For those wishing to give McD’s the benefit of the doubt (I don’t), one could argue that this man is just a Japan otaku, not the typical gaijin.  But you still got the huge billboards outside the restaurant with Mr James — you don’t even have to go inside the restaurant to get “Jamesed”, let alone take the trouble to visit online and get the backstory.  Collateral effects.

4) Mr James has suddenly become a quick study in Japanese.  His blog posts are no longer exclusively in katakana, although his Japanese remains a bit on the broken side (all the nouns are gaijinized in katakana) with nary a kanji to be seen.

Are others seeing these improvements?  And are there any more adjustments to report?

These are all evidence that McDonald’s Japan is taking complaints about this campaign seriously.  But I still say the campaign must be suspended entirely.  They may be trying to make him a character with more redeeming characteristics.  But he’s still, in my book, a gaijin — an epithet made flesh; that’s how he was designed, and now McDonald’s Japan, for better or worse, is saddled with him.  Get rid of this albatross.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

McDonalds Japan’s new creepy “Mr James” burger campaign, featuring katakana-speaking gaijin


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Hi Blog.  Here’s a campaign by one of the world’s largest multinational corporations, McDonald’s, promoting stereotypes in a way quite untoward in this day and age (and no doubt would raise hackles with anti-defamation leagues if McD’s tried it in, say, its country of origin).

The new NIPPON ALL STARS campaign (which seems to have kicked off a few days ago, on August 10, with its Tamago Double Mac), features a bespectacled, somewhat nerdy, gaijin speaking in broken katakana (i.e. accented) Japanese.  “Mr James” is his name (following the convention of forcing all Western foreigners to be called by their first names, as opposed to last name plus -san, proper etiquette).  And boy is he happy with Japan, with life, with the taste of Japanese-variety burgers at McDonalds.  Hell, they’re so good that even this nerdy-looking gaijin (full-body cardboard cutouts available at every McD’s) approves of them through his poor accented broken Japanese.

You even get a “James Tamaran Desu (“it’s so good I can’t stand it!”) Card” and a chance to win from a million dollar pool if you succumb to his sales pitch.  It’s more than a little creepy.

Here are some scans, taken of materials photographed and collected at McDonald’s Yodobashi Camera Sapporo August 13, 2009 (click on image to expand in browser):

From the food tray inserts:


From stickers on every table:


At every restaurant, a full-size cutout of “Mr James”:


Close up of the cutout:


Outdoors in Sapporo, so you don’t even have to go into the restaurant itself to see the image perpetuated (photo taken August 15, 2009)


As Submitter AP put it:


Subject: mcdonalds ads feature gaijin “MR. JAMES”


Hey, Debito, I often read your blog and bought your handguide as well. I really think living in Japan can be trying as a foreigner, and your efforts toward bringing overlooked issues to light and making things easier for all of us don’t go unnoticed!

I wanted to send you a picture I took…
I got hungry while wandering in BicCamera’s Osaka store, fell victim to a craving, and ended up eating at the McDonald’s there. On my tray I found this gem:;

They were able to find some sucker to gaijin himself up (who ends up to, of course, be American), and the captions show so well how Japanese people often see foreigners.

First, his Japanese is all katakana, as if he’s not speaking properly. His sentences are all short and simply-constructed. and last, he is practically in love with Japan. Convenient they found such a fellow!

Not sure if you’ve seen this anywhere, as I first noticed it yesterday because I’ve been abroad on holiday until last Friday. On the subway ride home, I saw another small window sticker with the same MR. JAMES caricature. I’m just shocked how the ad group at a giant corporation such as McDonald’s thinks this is okay! What do you make this campaign?

Thanks for your time, and thanks again for the time you put into these kinds of issues, AP


I think a strongly-worded letter from registered NPO FRANCA to McDonald’s USA HQ regarding the issues of stereotyping here would be warranted.  Hell, you think McD USA would start putting up a full-body “ching-chong-chinaman” with funny glasses and protruding teeth, saying “Me likee McFlied Lice”.  You think that would fly over there?  If not, it shouldn’t be allowed over here.  And I think you should make your displeasure known if you are so inclined at every McDonald’s you patronize (or not).

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, wishing this was happening in September so he could enjoy the summer.

The Economist Banyan column on the LDP’s terminal decline


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Hi Blog.  The election is approaching, and it looks as though we really will get a change in government, which may change everything.  I’m surprisingly hopeful at this juncture.  To open this discussion, here’s a column from last month’s Economist, a very thought-provoking one on what one-party politics (in that, Japan has effectively had one political party in power longer than some countries with only one political party!) has done to Japan as a society.

The most eyebrow-raising claim within is that Aso isn’t giving up his leadership to somebody else because of a “family honour” thing — between him and another political Brahmin, even if he is in the opposition party:  “The man who will bring the LDP’s rule to an end this summer is Hatoyama’s grandson, Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the DPJ. Family honour is demanding its due: for Shigeru Yoshida’s grandson, it is nobler to fall to Ichiro Hatoyama’s descendant than to succumb to mere LDP hoplites.” Do readers agree?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Banyan Column
End of the line for the LDP
Jul 16th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Japan has long been changing faster than its Liberal Democratic Party, which is now in terminal decline

HIS distraught colleagues cannot forgive Taro Aso for calling a general election on August 30th, following a dismal stint as prime minister. They accuse him of setting up the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) for a landslide victory, so bringing the long rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to an abrupt and ignominious end.

Yet the question is not why the LDP’s rule looks about to end soon. Rather it is how on earth the party managed to cling on to power for so long. A once-invincible party failed to adapt to wholesale changes in the social and economic model that it was set up to manage. If its 54-year rule really does come to a halt, that fact alone will confront both party and country with wrenching change and unprecedented uncertainty.

Few things more powerfully demonstrate the inbred character of LDP-dominated politics than its family background. Mr Aso’s grandfather, Shigeru Yoshida, was the great statesman of shattered Japan’s post-war reconstruction. Yoshida’s rule came to an end in 1954 when he was unseated as prime minister by his nemesis, Ichiro Hatoyama. The next year the two men joined forces and the Liberal Party merged with the Japan Democratic Party to form the Liberal Democratic Party, which has dominated Japan’s politics ever since. The man who will bring the LDP’s rule to an end this summer is Hatoyama’s grandson, Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the DPJ. Family honour is demanding its due: for Shigeru Yoshida’s grandson, it is nobler to fall to Ichiro Hatoyama’s descendant than to succumb to mere LDP hoplites. In any case, Mr Aso knows no one can save his party now.

That is because its history runs so deep. Old Hatoyama and Yoshida formed the LDP as a bulwark against resurgent socialist parties and the political system they devised seems expressly designed to resist change. The American occupiers had anyway pushed Japan in a conservative direction as early as 1948, when the risk of communist revolution in Japan and China—to say nothing of the Soviet threat—had come to be seen as a greater peril than militarism. The Korean war reinforced these priorities, while adding an economic dimension: the United States needed Japan’s economy to be humming again to help the war effort.

Thus developed Japan’s characteristic mix of anti-communist—even anti-civic—politics with state-directed development and policy set by bureaucrats. Yoshida founded the Ministry for International Trade and Industry, MITI, whose bureaucrats were famously powerful. Trust-busting efforts were quickly wound down after the second world war. Oligopolies—in the form of the former zaibatsu conglomerates—were supported, even if they had been implicated in Japanese aggression. A man accused of war crimes became a notable post-war prime minister and Yakuza gang bosses consorted with top politicians and helped put down left-wing protests. The political and bureaucratic system was solidly made and has lasted, like so many things in Japan. But its origins, and its effects on Japan, were ultimately rotten.

In some countries—Italy, say—incestuous politics is resented, mocked or circumvented by the rest of the country. During Japan’s boom years, it seemed to be delivering the goods. Outside the radical left, most Japanese were bought off by a social contract in which politicians, bureaucrats and big business arranged the country’s economic affairs. Businesses won preferential finance and in return offered “salarymen” job guarantees and the dream of a middle-class life. But the contract could be honoured only with high rates of growth, and the oil shocks of the early 1970s put paid to these.

Perhaps this might have been the end of the LDP, but political competition had been so stifled that there was nothing to take the party’s place. Instead, the crisis of the 1970s led to a steep rise in corruption. Factional competition within the party increased. Fund-raising skills came to the fore (in Japan, like America, politicians mostly finance their own campaigns). So did the ability to fund public works in rural areas that were still the LDP’s base. Corruption cemented local baronies and for a good while won votes. Even today the late Kakuei Tanaka, an astonishingly corrupt prime minister, is more often praised than cursed.

The beginning of the end

A 19th-century Russian said that Europe’s democracies were moderated by corruption. Japan had corruption moderated by democracy. During the 1980s, the LDP managed to adapt itself somewhat to new political concerns, such as pollution and the success of issue-driven opposition figures in cities and prefectures. The party even lost power briefly in 1993 and, in 2001-06, a razzle-dazzle prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, seemed to be giving it a new lease on life.

But by the time Mr Koizumi came along, the tension had become intolerable between the change-resisting features of politics on the one hand, and the reality of profound economic and social upheaval on the other. Companies could no longer keep lifetime promises to workers yet the government failed to take over social-welfare obligations. Women wanted better work prospects yet ministers would refer to them as “breeding machines”. The demands of civic groups for more consumer protection were met grudgingly and late.

Now, the LDP has abandoned nearly all pretence at reform. Though the party has plenty of modernisers, many—notably the so-called Koizumi’s children—will be the first to be swept out on August 30th while the old guard may survive better because they have their own sources of funding and support. That the LDP is still so mired in the past shows both why its fall would be such an historic moment and why it would also be only the start of real change. The party was the keystone of a political system that has long been crumbling. To effect change means not just replacing the keystone but painstakingly rebuilding the arch.


On the cannibalistic NJ labor market in Japan: short essay


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Hi Blog. Felt inspired this morning by the pretty unproductive (if not downright nasty) comments Roy received to his post yesterday regarding his allegations of unfair treatment at the hands of a Japanese subsidiary of a US legal firm.


One tendency I’ve noticed in the NJ marketplace of ideas (the one inspired by the marketplace of labor everyone must experience; for without a job, you generally cannot even legally stay in Japan) is that people are not terribly helpful to one another. The responses to Roy’s post yesterday reconfirmed that.

He made the case that he received unfair, discriminatory treatment in the workplace as a NJ. However, respondents’ tone was often, “What did you expect?” They blamed it either on the state of the Japanese job market (where discrimination happens either to NJ in specific or across the board anyway), or blamed Roy himself — for being too trusting (as if it’s his fault for taking people at their word), or even for being too “combative” just because he was trying to pin people to their word.

Think about this dynamic, folks. This is counterproductive in a very serious way. In that, instead of trying to assist a person crying out for help, we’re assigning blame to him for being in that situation in the first place. Kinda like seeing somebody cross the street at a crosswalk, and getting hit by a car that promised to stop at crosswalks, then blaming him for being in the way of the car in the first place. He shouldn’t have left himself open for that. He shouldn’t have been a sucker to believe that a corporation would follow its own rules.

That’s the thing. Japan itself as a system doesn’t even have clear traffic rules. According to NHK about a month ago (I haven’t confirmed this for myself, so I haven’t written about this until now), Japan has not signed a single international labor treaty safeguarding the rights of workers. Laborers in this country are in a singular position in the developed-country labor market in that they have few rights (contracts defy what’s espoused in labor law and courts rule in the contractor’s favor regardless, labor arbitration councils make nonbinding rulings, even the right to equal salary despite gender is not backed up by punitive law). The only right they have is to unionize. And that requires cooperation amidst employees.

But instead of cooperation, we’re seeing (especially in the NJ labor market) the NJ refusing to help each other. They take the attitude of, “Well, it happened to me, I went through it. So should you.” or “It’s not your country anyway, so go home if you get a raw deal here.” or “It’s how the system works, it’s economics, politics, whatever.” Anything but preserving the dignity of the individual and saying, “That’s awful. I’ll spread the word that this place is to be avoided.”

Dignity is a hard concept to define (and most people find it too taxing to enforce, especially since they believe hard knocks is what toughened them up), but without it, humans revert to animalistic — even cannibalistic — tendencies very quickly. We eat our young. Yes, a hard knock or two will wizen people up from naivete. But too many hard knocks will just make them mean.

And this meanness permeates the NJ job market. “If something bad happened to you, it’s probably your fault. You were information poor and shouldn’t have been. You were culturally insensitive and brought it upon yourself. What did you expect? You shouldn’t have come to Japan in the first place.”

Why not try being more supportive and positive? I have tried to do my bit over the decades. The Blacklist of Japanese Universities. The Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants. Lessons I’ve learned to make sure people avoid the pitfalls I fell into, and make a better life here. Anyone can do that. Anyone should. Promote the dignity of the individual rather than the cannibalistic collective. Because whatever you put into the pool of communal experiences, be they supportively informative or negatively discouraging, will eventually come back to affect you and your life here in Japan with interest.

I suggest people go down the first path. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

NHK’s “Cool Japan” keeps their guest NJ commentators naive and ignorant


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Hi Blog. Anyone seen an NHK show called “Cool Japan”? It’s a 45-minute show on late Tuesdays and Saturdays. Here’s the writeup from its website, courtesy of JB:

COOL JAPAN – Discovering what makes Japan cool! COOL JAPAN is a term that describes the growing international interest in Japan. From the worlds of fashion, anime, architecture to cuisine, the cultural aspects of Japanese society that have long been left undiscovered are starting to make a strong impact on global trends. COOL JAPAN is a television show that illustrates the quickly changing Japanese culture and how it is perceived by the international community that have recently made Japan their home.

What gets my goat is:

We are looking for participants who have lived in Japan for less than one year to appear on the television show COOL JAPAN.
(「COOL JAPAN」では出演してくれる来日して1年未満の外国人の方を募集しています。)

And why pray tell is there a limitation on their NJ guests like this? I say they’re getting impressions from people who don’t know their ketsu from a doukutsu yet. Which means their guests about Japan don’t speak much, or any, Japanese. How throughly can you know Japan in less than a year, for crissakes? And their guests are mostly late-teens/early-twenties on top of that — with little to go on to comment about much at all. And they’re acting as cultural emissaries for “their own countries” and giving cross-cultural comparisons running on fumes? Sorry, that’s 3-Blind-Mice Ignorance. And it’s all by design. Through that one-year cap on experiences.

Why not issue a public call for commentators, who actually have some deeper experience living in Japan, to contribute to the debate? Because “cool” is as deep as we want to go. Great social science, NHK. And I believe it adds to the lore within the Japanese viewership (that is who will mostly be watching this program, natch) that our society is impenetrable to the unfortunate hapless foreigners. But that’s still not their fault — they’re starry-eyed newcomers who’ll say something positive about Japan because they still feel like they’re guests. Feel-good broadcast pap TV funded by Japan’s most entrusted TV network.

But then again I’m probably being a bit harsh. What do others who have seen the show think?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Teigaku Kyuufukin: Have you collected your 12,000 yen tax kickback yet?


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Hi Blog. Friend Olaf suggested to me yesterday that we ask readers of how things are going with their collecting the Supplementary Income Payment (teigaku kyuufukin), the Aso Administration’s answer to financial stimulus (where every adult gets 12,000 yen, plus 8000 yen for oldies and dependents). And yes, NJ residents get it too, so if you haven’t yet received word from your local government with forms (see below), get in touch with your local ward office or town hall and get your kickback.

I got mine a couple of weeks ago (the Sapporo City Govt sent everyone’s by registered mail — just try to imagine the costs incurred the taxpayer) and sent it in last week. Still haven’t been paid yet, but how are things going for everyone else? How do you plan to spend your loot?

I still say we could have had more universal stimulus at a lot less administrative cost if we had just given people a holiday, for however long, from the 5% consumption tax. But I’m not a policymaker; what do I know?

Friend Ben sent me his forms from Shibuya-ku. They did a decent job of making things multilingual. But as he wrote to The Community last May, his app was rejected. As he put it:

Got the rejection letter today, my application was rejected for two reasons:

1 – The name on bank account card copy doesn’t match your cash card.
2 – Didn’t supply the required identification

So I decided to visit the ward office, I had to pay 2 tax bills anyhow and it was located in the same building.

Paid the tax bills and ask where I could find the supplement payment office. People in the tax office on the 3rd floor had no idea where it was, they huddled around in a group of 6 people trying to figure out where this office was. One lady said, “oh it’s in the basement on the building, in the far other side of the building”. Three of the 6 people people started saying, oh, I never been there before.

So headed down to the B1 area, and sure enough in the most far corner of the building, there was this 100m2 office with 8 workers and a boss in the far corner in the back left. They had 6 chair type booths to handle inquiries.

Walked in the office and I was the only customer. This lady stands up and says in perfect English, may I help you? I showed her the rejection letter. She walks away to talk to the boss in the corner and them comes back.

The name written down as your bank details is in romaji, however the copy of the cash card you provided is in katakana.

my response – Yes, my legal name is in romaji, however they print katakana on the cash card. I think your cash card is the same situation. For example, your name is in kanji, did the bank print kanji on your cash card? She stops for a second and thinks, no my cash card has katakana. I said, there you go, me too, how strange…

So she runs off to the boss again and explains. Then she comes back, well that’s OK then, however the real problem is with the second issue, you didn’t provide a copy of your alien registration card. I said, I gave you a copy of my drivers license, that should be enough. I have lived 15+ years in Japan and I have never given a copy of my alien registration card.

She runs over to the boss again and now the boss and her are at the booth now. She continues to explain I need to prove if I am legally living in Japan to claim the 12,000 yen. So I offered to show my alien registration card, however they are not permitted to make a copy. The boss and the lady chit-chat away for 30 seconds and agree I can show my alien registration card only and this should clear up the paperwork.

That was it, in and out of that supplement payment office in 5 minutes. Had to do nothing, no corrections to the paperwork, no copy of my alien registration card, etc.

If you don’t want to give out a copy of your alien registration card, you will most likely have to visit your city/ward office. But the bank account thing was crazy, not sure what they were thinking.

How have others fared? Any other bureaucratic SNAFUs?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Anonymous re Scott Tucker, killed in a Tokyo bar by a man who got a suspended sentence.


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Hi Blog. I wrote here about Scott Tucker, a man who was killed in a bar by a DJ in 2008 who got off lightly in Japanese court.

Background article here:

And my Japan Times article last March about the emerging double standards of justice (a suspended sentence for a murder? Hard to envision happening for many NJ if the situations were reversed):

Here’s some background from the victim from a friend of his. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


About Scott Tucker…
By Anonymous, June 16, 2009

Hello Debito,

I have many friends who are permanent residents of Japan, and I suppose I came very close to being one of them myself, as I have a long and endearing relationship with the country–and like most permanent residents, had an emotional relationship with a Japanese National which was stronger, shall we say, than international bonds… I lived in Japan from infancy until I was six, and returned after college to work for many years in Tokyo. I applaud your site and your efforts, and wish you the very best in your ongoing pursuits.

I am writing about the unfortunate incident involving “Scott” Tucker, the American businessman who was killed in the Azabu club “Bull Ett” (Bullet) last year. I have read the many comments, and the attached links, and somehow I feel compelled to say a bit more on the subject–though certainly I do not claim to be an expert regarding what exactly took place at the club that night. What follows is my “read-between-the-lines” take on what likely happened, with regrets…

Scott Tucker was a multimillionaire. This simple fact doesn’t seem to percolate through the many official accounts of the incident; Scotty is portrayed as some disaffected gaijin who was inebriated and belligerent, wandered into some club, and accidentally received a fatal choke-hold from the concerned and threatened disk-jockey on duty at the time–hence the probationary sentence for murder… A few articles mention that Scotty owned the building next door to the club where the incident took place; they do not mention Tokyo city ordinances regarding noise, or the operation of commercial businesses, or discos, which create noise, after midnight in that particular neighborhood: that club was in Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo, the most expensive real estate, per square meter, in the world. If he had chosen, Scott could have lived on Park Avenue, New York, or along the Champs Elysees, in Paris. He could have lived anywhere he chose, but he chose Tokyo, because of the low crime rate and his affinity for Japan and its culture. His wife was one of the most famous jewelry designers in Japan. He spoke beautifully fluent Japanese–another fact not found in most accounts–and he was a great fan of music, with an exceptional singing voice and rather discerning, and eclectic, musical tastes. He was not some angry foreign English teacher who wandered into a club and got past the security bouncers; he was a property owner who had had enough of the club operating illegally next door to his property. This is a crucial detail: Tokyo city ordinance prohibits loud music and club function in that residential section of Azabu after midnight, as it is a residential neighborhood. The club was functioning “After Hours” in blatant violation of city ordinance–an ordinance which was neither enforced nor cited. Again, Scotty OWNED the building next door; he was not some yahoo foreigner wandering into a club looking for a fight. Take a moment to reflect on that, as most of you do not own anything in Japan, not to mention a building in Azabu; if you are lucky enough to own some crap mansion in Chiba, and the Takoyaki shop beneath you insists on entertaining drunk patrons headed for the first train, you have probably gone downstairs–at your wife’s behest–and said “Hey, fuck! It’s three o’clock in the morning! Close it down and shut up!”

On a classier, more expensive scale, Scotty was doing the same thing…

So, Scott comes home, after a night of Japanese-style drinking with his friends. His building is shaking from the sounds of a club operating illegally after-hours next door to him. He has a history with that club, and with the DJ (per written accounts), having asked, on several occasions, that they keep it down, as city ordinances dictated. So, he goes next door, feeling justified–which, quite frankly, he is (and I don’t suppose you’ll ever read that in any official account). He wants the people out of there, wants the music shut down, and wants some peace and quiet in his own building next door (again, which he OWNS). The DJ, who is on his midnight roll, sees Scott scattering the crowd and insisting people go home, gets pissed (and, by his own admission, having seen a tv program on choke-holds and special forces moves), leaves his Disk Jockey box, comes up behind Scott, kicks him in the groin (there is no clear account of him actually facing off with Scott, meaning it is likely he kicked him in the “Groin” from behind, got him in the chokehold from behind–the choke hold he recently he saw on tv–and accidentally broke Scott’s windpipe, or snapped his neck? (the original account said Scott’s neck was broken). I have been to so many Tokyo clubs it is not worth trying to recount; I am 6’1 and 240 pounds, and fit: I have ejected American marines and military personnel from clubs I like for behaving in a manner I didn’t like, clubs I considered my local favourites, where other foreigners were ruining my good time, or embarrassing me in front of my Japanese friends. I never, ever, in my wildest youthful belligerence, saw the wimpy disk jockey come out of his booth and take a personal stake in the ejection of a patron. Quite the contrary, frankly.

Now, this is why I’m writing this addendum. Clearly, I knew Scott Tucker. I knew him very well. I drank with him, Japanese-style, at least a hundred times. We drank beer, we ate very good sushi and drank sake; we drank expensive whiskey most foreigners couldn’t, or wouldn’t afford–in keep bottles at very nice, exclusive clubs and snacks in central Tokyo. I never, ever, ever, saw Scott Tucker get belligerent. I never saw him get argumentative, even after polishing off a full bottle, with my help, of pricey Japanese whiskey. The implication that somehow, because of his drunkenness, he was threatening enough to pose a danger to a 154-pound disk jockey is so absurd that it leaves me livid. If I were there, and I were tanked up, and the disk jockey decided to come down and take charge of things, it would make sense. I am not a diplomat: when I’m drunk and unhappy and things are waxing ridiculous, I will throw a few people around. But Scotty, no. No, I’m sorry. Whatever the official account, he was a diplomat. Again, I never saw him belligerent, ever, and I knew him for many, many, years. This is what bothers me about the whole “Official” account; it is simply not accurate, and is stilted towards character assassination and implication that is wholly unjustified and clearly driven by agenda. To think that someone can get a probationary sentence for what amounts to ‘sucker-punching’ a neighbor to death just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t surprise me–as I say, I spent the better part of my life in Japan, and I never assumed for a moment that justice would err in my favour were I to be caught out for an indiscretion–but I feel compelled to to say something on Scotty’s behalf.

I feel compelled for this reason: were a wealthy Japanese property owner from Azabu, with a famous, elegant wife, to go into a club next door, a club operating in violation of city ordinance, and get into a row with the owners, or the disk jockey, and be killed–and were that disk jockey to be a non-Japanese–the media would have a field day with it. And were the non-Japanese disk jockey–an American, or a Brit, or an African– to claim he had asphyxiated the wealthy Japanese neighbor out of fear or his own life–he would be hung from the highest tree in Japan, on national tv, as a murderer, and a fiend, and a crazed violent foreign interloper. But if it’s just a guy who blindsided Scotty, by all means, give him a suspended probationary sentence. A simple self-defense accident. The whole thing is kawaii-soo. And, in fact, as I sit here in California, thinking about Scott Tucker, my old friend, the whole incident is indeed Kawaii soo.

When you click on a Quicktime video and watch it in Japan, you are clicking on Scott Tucker; he pioneered that app. in Japan. If you have a serious internal medical problem, and must receive surgery for it in Japan, it is possible your life will be saved by Scott Tucker–he developed distance software for medical applications, so that a qualified surgeon–rather than the hereditary fool with lax training who is cutting you open in Saitama–can supervise in real-time from abroad, and oversee the procedure with modern surgical techniques. Please do not forget that a 154-pound disk jockey, with a baddass attitude and a few Chimpira behind him, skirting the local and ineffectual police, put an end to any other innovations my talented and gentle friend, who loved Japan, might ever develop. That is who Scott Tucker was, that is what was lost when Mr. disk jockey got his suspended sentence. Hell, it’s almost a Bob Dylan song, and no one would laugh louder at the absurdity of it all than Richard Scott Tucker. He had a good sense of humor, most of all. And I will miss him.

Zannen na kotodeshita, Scotty San, kawaii soo to omoo… Ma, shoganaii, yo ne? Shoganaii…


Follow-up: More on fingerprinting, tracking people electronically, and RFID technology


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

Hi Blog.  Update Three this week.  I put out an article three weeks ago that sparked some controversy, about the prospects of the new Gaijin Cards with IC Chips within them being used to track people and ferret out the foreigners with more effectiveness than ever before.  I was accused of scaremongering by some, but oh well.

As a followup, here are some responses and links to germane articles from cyberspace, pointing out how my prognostications may in fact be grounded in reality.  Along with a critique at the very bottom from friend Jon Heese, Tsukuba City Assemblyman, of that controversial article.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hi Debito:

Saw these two articles and thought I’d pass them along so that you’re up to date with what nonsense the DHS is up to these days:

Homeland Security to scan fingerprints of travelers exiting the US,homeland-security-to-scan-fingerprints-of-travellers-exiting-the-us.aspx

Be sure to read the part about the RFID ‘gaijin’ card.

Cancer patient held at airport for missing fingerprint

Welcome to America, Mr. Tan! Sheesh!  -JK


Japanese university to track attendance with iPhone

As a college student I frequently didn’t go to class when I overslept, when I didn’t feel like it, or heck, when it was Friday. I’m imagining that Japanese students are the same. That’s why Aoyama Gakuin University‘s new plan to keep its students in line is pretty freakin’ clever—possibly even bordering on devious.

Reuters, this June all of the university’s 550 students, and some staff in one unnamed department, will receive a free iPhone 3G. Instead of teachers taking attendance, students are asked to input their ID number into an iPhone app—and to discourage fraud, this app apparently has GPS location data and monitors which Internet router students use.

Of course, knowing the lengths students will go to in order to avoid attending class, it wouldn’t be too surprising to find they’d discovered a way around the system. If only they devoted that much time to their schoolwork.

Further the university apparently is going to also be providing video podcasts of lectures, something American universities have been doing for years. No word yet on if they’re going to be making AGU’s material available on iTunes U.



Debito, feel free to use this in the comments section or just for yourself. As you please. -jon heese

Quoting Debito’s controversial article three weeks ago:

Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.

It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?

God, Debito, you sure do go on. There are plenty of products available to block remote scanning. Googling “rfid protection” got me the link below.

Personally, I’m rather pissed at the lemming-like acceptance of very dodgy tech in a normally tech-savvy country. There is a company in California which makes a RFID card which has a break in the circuit between the chip and the antenna. Pressing a small bubble in the corner of the card completes the circuit but only when you want the info to be read.

Some Canadian provinces have put their implementation of chips on drivers licenses on hold until the privacy issues are properly dealt with. Why are the provinces even trying to force their citizenry to accept RFID’s in their driving licenses? Why goodness, it’s because the US of F-ing A is forcing them to! So if yer gonna clamp on your tinfoil hat, direct your ire towards the source of the problem, not the Japanese who have been cajoled into this by big brother. And BTW, my new drivers license also has a chip. So it’s not just the poor NJ’s who are being put at risk. This is a much bigger issue than a few foreigners getting screwed over.

RFID’s are small potatoes. As far as tracking, though, you are not gripping your hat tight enough. I would point out that your cell phone is actually much better to track you than a chip. An RFID reader is only really useful within 10 feet. Cell phones know where you are at all times. Anyone with the right access can pinpoint you anywhere in the world.

I would also point out that it’s also a great remote listening device. The NSA may have the ability to turn on your microphone without you even knowing it and broadcast anything being said. And turning your phone off may not be enough. Not even taking out the battery! Phones already have built in batteries which normally only provide juice to preserve your data, like the clock and address book, etc. However, there is no reason to not believe that such internal batteries could just as easily power the microphone for short periods. So grab your foil hat tight and wrap your curls in triple layers for extra protection.

Come again? Pass the law, and then we’ll decide law enforcement procedures? This blind faith is precisely what leads to human rights abuses.

I’m with you on this one. However when it comes to abuses, Japan is still a tamago. Just listen to a few NPR podcasts to get a feel of what it’s like “out there.” 怖いよ!

Still, did you expect the leopard to change its spots? Put immigration policy in the hands of the police and they will do just that police, under a far-removed centralized regime trained to see people as potential criminals.

Though the police have a central control, most cops are of the prefectural variety. Not nearly as ominous as you make out.

Why stop at bugging the gaijin? Why not just sew gold stars on their lapels and be done with it?

This is over the top. Shame on you! Besides, it’s not like us Pilsbury dough boys even need stars to be spotted in a crowd.

Fortunately, a policy this egregious has fomented its own protest, even within a general public that usually cares little about the livelihoods of foreigners. Major newspapers are covering the issue, for a change. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants the bill watered down, vowing to block it until after the next general election.

Japan just gets curiouser and curiouser. I am so looking forward to voting in this coming election. But don’t expect the RFID issue to go away. The USA won’t let them.


DIJ Tokyo Symposium 2009: Japan’s Demographic Science overtaken by anti-immigration politics


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog.  I’ve been in Tokyo the past couple of days attending a symposium sponsored by the German Institute of Japanese Studies (DIJ), which has, as always, provided much food for thought.

This year’s theme is “Imploding Populations:  Global and Local Challenges of Demographic Change“, and I’ve seen presentations on health care, migration (both internal and external), geriatric treatment in the media, retirement options, and the like.  Good stuff, if a little tangental to what I research.

How it dovetails with is how the conclusions shared by all — that Japan needs to do something now about its demography — are studiously being ignored by the Japanese scientific representatives in attendance.

June 2’s series of talks by Japanese researchers was particularly enlightening.  Everyone concluded that Japan is facing a demographic juggernaut, given its aging society with low birthrate, depopulating countryside, and ever more populating cities.  Japan is not only greying, but also losing its economic prowess.

Yet these conclusions suddenly become null once you bring in the topic of immigration.

One speaker, a Mr Takahashi Shigesato, rendered in the program as “deputy director general at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research” (kokuritsu shakai hoshou – jinkou mondai kenkyuujo fuku shochou — a big cheese), so glibly skipped over the issue that I just had to raise my hand at the end for a question.

Sez I:  “Thanks for your presentation.  You mention the entry of foreigners into Japan as an option only briefly in your presentation.  You also use the term ‘gaikokujin roudouryoku jinkou no katsuyou‘ (active use of the foreign working labor population) without any mention of the word ‘immigration’ (imin).  Why this rhetoric?”

Mr Takahashi gave a noncommittal answer, citing that Japan is (now suddenly) a crowded place, that immigration was not an option for our country, and that inflows must be strictly controlled for fear of overpopulation.  A follow-up with him one-on-one got him claiming there is “no national consensus” (he used the word in English) on the issue.  When I asked him whether or not this was a vicious circle (as in, no discussion of the issue means no possible consensus), he dodged.  When I asked him if this term was a loaded one, one political instead of scientific regarding demography, he begged off replying further.

This dodging also happened with every other Japanese speaker on the issue (one other person in the audience raised the same question with a second speaker, and he gave a begrudging acknowledgement that foreigners might be necessary for Japan’s future — although he himself couldn’t envision it).

This does not give me hope for the future.  There is a definite “deer in the headlights” attitude happening here, where we know that Japan’s population will drop no matter what (Mr Takahashi even extrapolated in his powerpoint that Japanese would go extinct by the year 3000).  Yet extinction is still preferable to letting in people to stay.  This is why I’m having trouble seeing any public policy (from the health-care givers from Indonesia and the Philippines on down) as anything more than a revolving-door labor exploitation effort:  offering the promise of a life in Japan in exchange for intensive labor, revocable after a few years either due to the vicissitudes of world economics, or if you don’t pass some kind of arbitrary and difficult test that even natives would find challenging.

It also does not give me hope for this branch of Japanese science.  As a doctor of demographics (a fiery researcher  to whom I could really relate) stated in a later conversation with me that day:

“Demographics is the study of population changes:  births, deaths, inflows and outflows.  How can the Japanese demographers ignore inflows, even the possibility of them, in their assessments?”

Because once again, science is being riddled with politics.  Immigration is another one of those issues which one must not mention by name.  Especially if you want to be a member of a national government thinktank.


Trans-Pacific Radio’s Live Seijigiri June 4 7:30 PM Shibuya Pink Cow


Hi Blog.  Friends Ken and Garrett are organizing an event that is sure to inform if not entertain.  If you’ve ever listened to their podcasts (I do), you’ll know what I mean.  One week from now.  Come see them live.  I’ll try to attend myself.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Seijigiri live near the Budokan! Thursday June 4th at 7:30pm!
Posted by Ken Worsley at 1:45 pm on Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We are very excited to announce that the first live edition of Seijigiri will take place at the Pink Cow in Shibuya on Thursday, June 4 from about 7:30 p.m. This is part of the Pink Cow’s ongoing Pink Cow Connections, a series of networking events organized by Anthony Blick.

The event will open with a presentation on Trans-Pacific Radio, followed by the live Seijigiri. After that, there will be a special announcement and demonstration of TPR’s most recent project.

The live show itself will involve Garrett, Ken and the audience. The essential concept is that Seijigiri and the audience will have no barrier between them, and the show will be an interactive event.

We hope to see all of our listeners on Thursday June 4 and look forward to doing the show with you!  Bring your friends!

Ken and Garrett
Here’s the link for more info.


Thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi TV Tackle on NJ issues


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Just a few thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi program “TV Tackle”.

It was, in a word, disappointing.

Maybe that’s par for the course in a 55-minute (minus commercials) show edited for content, and it did try to take on some serious issues.

Eight commentators participated: three academics — a Korean, a Brazilian, and a Chinese — plus two media pundits and three politicians — LDP’s Kouno Taro, plus Koumeito, and DPJ. All people of Asian background (save an overlong and as incomprehensible as ever commentary from Koko Ga Hen TV show bomb-thrower Zomahoun Rufin), all reasonably informed, but all clipped for airtime before much of substance came out.

The show had four segments: 1) the new Gaijin Cards with IC Chips, 2) The historical issue of the Zainichis and other Permanent Residents and their right to vote in local elections, 3) the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, and 4) the new Tourism Agency and the new tightening of Immigration controls (fingerprinting etc.)

The show gave good backgrounds on the issues (lots of data, historical facts), but what the panelists did with the show was what disappointed.

1) The IC Gaijin Cards was far too short, and fumbled the issue when talking about why NJ have to carry cards 24/7 or face arrest and criminal charges. Nikkei Brazilian Angelo Ishi showed his card for the cameras (thanks; surprisingly few Japanese know NJ have to carry them, or even have them), but there was not enough reportage on why these cards are so controversial (heavy fines and jail time, for example), and why the new cards are even more so (potential remote tracking of IC Chips and and heavier penalties for delayed reporting of changes of status). Even the DPJ rep there admitted he had no problems with the Cards, despite the official party line of opposing them. So much for the debate. Where’s Tanaka Hiroshi when we need him?

There was a decent bit on the Calderon Noriko Case, fortunately, but the hardliners held sway: If her parents hadn’t come in on someone else’s passport, then maybe they could have stayed here together as a family. End of debate.

2) We then got bogged down in the historical issues of the Zainichi Koreans, and how historically they’ve been here for generations yet have no right to vote. Kouno Taro disappointed by saying that if you want the right to vote, naturalize. Even though, as we’ve said time and time again (and I have to him directly), the process is not all that easy and is quite arbitrary. It is not a kirifuda. This segment wound up a waste of time with the Korean academic getting hot under the collar and appearing to talk too much.

3) The best bit was on the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, where just about everyone there agreed that bribing workers to go home was a national disgrace. Kouno again took a hard line and said that we shouldn’t have imported people because they were Nikkei, but rather because they speak Japanese well (as if people working this hard in factories could have done much about it; you want perfection before entry?). Angelo Ishi got in good points that Japanese companies actually went overseas to RECRUIT Nikkei, with all sorts of false promises about income and conditions, and others pointed out that Japan’s special ties with Nikkei overseas actually did choose people based upon blood and little else. It was portrayed rightfully as a failed policy, but hands were wrung about how to keep the NJ here, sigh.

4) Last bit was on tourism and the fingerprinting issue. Much fearmongering about the Koreans in particular and their ability to come over without visas, and one case of falsified fingerprints was portrayed as the evils of Koreans, not as flaws in the system. No mention at all was made of how it’s NOT MERELY TOURISTS being fingerprinted, but EVERY NJ WHO IS NOT A ZAINICHI.  And that includes Regular Permanent Residents, who too have to suffer the humiliation of being treated like tourists and suspected terrorists.

Therein was the great flaw in the program. Nobody was there who could represent the “Newcomers”. No naturalized Japanese. No non-Asian Permanent Residents. Nobody who could give a perspective (except Angelo, and he did well, but he’s halfway in The Club anyway) of somebody that has been a pure outsider both by race and by face, and show the cameras that Japan is in fact changing with these new kinds of people who are here to stay as immigrants.

Pity. The show meant well. But it fell back into old hackneyed paradigms with few eyes opened.

This synopsis has been written over the 20 minutes since the show ended, all from memory. If people find segments of this show on YouTube, please send this blog entry a link. Keeps me honest. Thanks.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Kirk Masden resuscitates debate on TV Asahi show KokoGaHen


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog.  Happy Saturday.  Word from Kirk Masden at The Community, regarding a dead but not forgotten controversial TV show called “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Nihonjin”.  Keyboard’s his:


Hi Community!

I posted a critique of Koko ga hen da yo (particularly one of the opening sequences they used) on YouTube:

It’s getting a stronger response than anything I’ve posted to YouTube thus far.  Much of the commentary is negative but the first three ratings it received were five stars.  Since then somebody who hates my  view of the show gave it a low rating so now the average is four  stars.  People seem to either love my critique or hate it — not much middle ground so far.

At any rate, if you’re interested in this show, please have a look —  and feel free to tell others with an interest in media critique about  it. Kirk



Thanks Kirk.  I watched the YouTube entry last night and was very intrigued by it, especially given our own experience being on the show, re the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit:

Transcript of the show at:

and my positive critique of the show in retrospect:
(page down to essay 8 )

I was also impressed with Kirk’s flawless accentless spoken Japanese, as always.  Gnash.



Hi everyone!

In regard to the timing of my post . . .

Actually, I’m posting to YouTube now because I didn’t have the
technical know-how to do so when I first recorded the show and started
showing parts of it in my comparative culture class.  I was
particularly bothered by the opening but lacked the ability to slow it
down appropriately to give people a chance to think about it.  Since
then, I’ve learned a bit more about video editing and so when I was
going through some old VHS tapes and found the Koko ga hen da yo
video, I could resist the temptation to make that kind of critique I
had been meaning to make for years.

What was interesting to me was the immediacy of the response.  There
must be a significant number of people who periodically search for
segments of that show on YouTube because my little video was found
immediately by a significant number of people.  Those who have rated
my critique on the five-star scale have, for the most part, been quite
generous but those who first found it and wrote comments were
decidedly negative.  I guess that had been searching for more videos
of their favorite show and didn’t appreciate negative comments about it.

So, in short, the show has been off the air for a long time but there
still seem to be a lot of people want to watch it on the web.  Kirk


What do others think?  Debito


Calderon Case: Two protesters against right-wing demo arrested, supporters group established


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Here’s a mail I got from The Community. Arudou Debito


This is an email I got through a left mailing list which describes a ‘Foreigner Expulsion’ demonstration that happened in Saitama, which passed right by the elementary school of the Philipino Calderon family whose case has recently come to national attention.

Apparently a ‘kyuuenkai’ (support group) has been set up for two people arrested protesting against the demo.

Here is their blog:

Here’s an example of the debate going on with the rightists.

More on this issue from FG:

—– Original Message —–
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 10:56 PM
Subject: [parkfw-info][02797] FW:「外国人追い出しデモ」に抗議した2名が逮捕!]














銀行振込 みずほ銀行 早稲田支店 店番068 普 2223022
タノ シンイチ


Japan Times on the Calderon Noriko Case: “The Battle for Japan’s Future”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog.  David McNeill of the Japan Times makes an interesting point about the Calderon Noriko Case, where the parents of a Japan-born Philippine adolescent were forcibly repatriated for overstaying, but the adolescent is allowed to remain in Japan without her parents on a tenuous one-year visa.  It’s become an ideological tug-of-war between liberals (who want more humanistic immigration policies) and conservatives (who don’t want to encourage illegal-alien copycatting, and, yes, do resort to “purity of Japan” invective), in an inevitable and very necessary debate about Japan’s future.

The question that hasn’t been asked yet is, would these conservative protesters (see YouTube video of their nasty demonstration here, courtesy of Japan Probe) have the balls to do this to a 13-year-old girl if she were Japanese?  Somehow I doubt it.  I think they’re expecting to get away with their (in my view heartless) invective just because Noriko’s foreign.

Anyway, an excerpt of the JT article follows.  More on this issue from FG: 

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Tuesday, April 14, 2009





‘A battle for Japan’s future’

Calderon case fallout will linger long after parents’ departure, writes David McNeill

Despite being Japan’s most densely populated area, Warabi rarely causes a blip on the national media radar.

News photo
Fiery rhetoric: Makoto Sakurai tells nationalists in Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, on Sunday to send Noriko Calderon “back to the Philippines.” DAVID MCNEILL PHOTOS

Set in a rusting corner of Saitama Prefecture, the city has two minor recent claims to fame: a communist mayor and the 13-year-old daughter of illegal Filipino immigrants.

An odd place perhaps for two groups with radically different visions of Japan to take to the streets, but this is where neo-nationalists and liberal opponents could be found slugging it out last weekend.

On one side, a party of nationalists crammed into a small park and listened to ringleader Makoto Sakurai, a rising new-right star who turns out for protests in a three-piece suit and watch chain.

“People in other countries are looking at this case very carefully,” Sakurai told the crowd to cheers of “Send illegal foreigners home!” “They see that we are a soft touch. If we allow this girl to stay, many more will come. It’s totally unacceptable.”…

Walking behind a van blasting out high-decibel venom at the local government, the Hinomaru-waving protesters filed noisily past Noriko’s junior high school. “Shame on Filipinos,” shouted one middle-aged man who held a sign saying: “Kick out the Calderons.” Takehiro Tanaka said they would be back every month until Noriko was put on a plane to Manila. “We can’t allow her to stay or foreigners will exploit our softness. It sends the wrong message to other countries.”…

Last month, the family’s six-month legal battle ended when Justice Minister Eisuke Mori gave Noriko a one-year special residence permit, allowing her to live with her aunt and continue school in this city. Her parents, Arlan and Sarah, who came to Japan in the early 1990s on false passports, were sent back to the Philippines on Monday…

Read the rest of the article at:

See the protest for yourself on YouTube at:


Friend requests advice on how to approach JHS PTA, regarding repainting rundown school


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to my friend in the Hokkaido outback, who is asking us for feedback about how to approach his local junior high school and help create a more positive learning environment for his child. Those with experience or advice, please let us know? Arudou Debito in Sapporo, less outback


I’m looking for advice here. I went to my child’s JHS today for about the 4th time in the last year. Again I was struck and depressed by how dingy it looked. It got me to thinking that the kids don’t take pride in the place and this leads to and has led to a lot of serious problems.

I came home and wrote the following and am wondering if it or I can do any good. Can I translate this and say this, to the School and Principal? to the School Board?, to the Mayor?, publicly to the PTA at their general meeting in 2 weeks? Is it too rude? Could you say it more diplomatically? How? Would you? Could you? Does it have a chance of succeeding?


Please feel free to comment on any one of the paragraphs numbered below.

1. I am sorry to have to mention this and possibly I am sorry to use this sort of strong and possibly rude language. In English it is okay in Japanese I don’t know and most people prefer to keep quiet because they don’t want the reputation of being “noisy”

2. Last year when I heard that some students here did not respect this building and were damaging things my initial reaction was “why is anybody surprised?” In my opinion any damage here will not make this building look any worse than it does.

3. I don’t think you could find a school in the entire country of Canada whose walls and ceilings looked as bad as this school. This place is dingy. The sarcastic comment that most Canadian parents would make in this case would be:

4. Does anybody here in authority know what paint is?…It comes in tins and 20 liter pails…It costs about 500,000yen per ton…It is quickly put on by brush, roller, or spray…It is great for making buildings look fresh and bright and clean. 2 of the buildings I went to school in were over 60 years old. They didn’t look this bad because they were repainted at least every 10 years.

5. In my opinion the walls and ceilings in this school need cleaning, patching and a new paint job! If this happened a great number of students would take more pride in this building. Most of them would treat it with much greater respect. There would be massive group disapproval of any one deliberately or accidentally causing damage. It would pay off in much higher student morale and thus effort towards listening to teachers, paying attention in class, and caring about what is taught and trying to learn.

6. I don’t think this was a problem for any of the parents or teachers in this room when you went to school. You were much closer in time to when coming to school meant sacrifices. Maybe your parents or grandparents couldn’t go to school. Maybe someone in their family skipped meals so they or someone else in their family could go to school.

7. Another thing is that maybe when you went to school the buildings were much newer and looked much better.

I am also quite sure that almost all of your homes look better than this school and that none of you would be happy living in a house that looked like this school without trying very hard to make it look better.

8. It would also pay off in much higher teacher morale. Teachers would find their days less stressful and if student morale improved they would of course be much happier.

9. I think that the PTA should make the effort to start the ball rolling to paint this school. We should try to do this for the teachers who teach here, our children who spend so much time in class and clubs and for the children that come after them when they graduate. We should try even if we have to raise the money for paint, and volunteer a lot to help out in preparing the walls for paint and doing the cleanup. IMO it would show our children and their teachers how much we care about the value of education.


10. Towards this goal here is 20,000 yen.


Audience reactions to documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES roadshow March 21-April 1


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

Hi Blog.  I was asked a few days ago in the Comments Section to give you an update on how the documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES Spring Tour was going.  I’m in Okayama at the moment, fresh out of two screenings (one more to go, in Kumamoto), and a couple of hours in an internet cafe getting mentally prepared for an evening of partying, so here you go.   A quick summary:

First, the executive summary at the very top.  The response to this movie, about Japan’s hidden NJ migrant workers, has been remarkable.  I have never sold so many DVDs and books ever on a tour (we sold out so fast — you can buy your own copies by clicking on the avatars above — that I had to have my stocks replenished twice on the road by post).  Sixty DVDs and 40 books sold later, I think it’s prudent to plan yet another tour.  I’ll be working down at Nagoya University the second week of September, so that takes care of the airfare costs to and from Hokkaido.  For places that missed me this time, how about planning something late August/early September?  If you’d like to schedule an event, please contact me at

Now for some tour highlights (directors Koenig and Kremers, please feel free to comment or answer questions if you’re reading this):

The first showing was at Second Harvest Japan, a very nice public service provided by Charles McJilton and company to provide homeless people with food that supermarkets decide not to sell.  A capacity crowd (eating, you guessed it, leftover strawberries beyond the supermarket sell-by date) asked poignant questions about why the film covered the Trainees and Nikkei workers so well but didn’t mention those being human trafficked on “Entertainer” visas.  I didn’t have the answer (I’m a promoter, Jim, not a producer or a director), but Patricia Aliperti, a scholar of human trafficking in Japan who serendipitously happened to be in attendance, gave us a firsthand account of how Japan was listed as a Tier-Two Human Trafficker by the US State Dept in 2004, promised to abolish its state-sponsored sexual slavery, reduced the number of NJ visa-ed women in the water trades on this visa by about 75%, then neglected to abolish the visa status completely.   Seems to me within character. 

One attendee of the first screening offered her thoughts here.

Other screnings were equally well-attended, with Amnesty International at Ben’s Cafe Takadanobaba pulling in at least 50 viewers and the Blarney Stone in Osaka pulling in close to the same.  Smaller screenings in Tsukuba and Shiga had interested commentary from viewers asking about how the directors came to choose this subject, and why it took itinerant Germans to finally produce a movie of outstanding quality about this issue.  The Nagoya University Labor Union screening was so full of Nikkei (as was the Okayama screening) that we decided the lingua franca for the Q&A would be Japanese language, and everyone, however haltingly for some, put their thoughts into Japanese. 

Further sundry thoughts:  Two Nikkei participants in the Okayama screening had lost their jobs at the end of January, were on unemployment, and were thinking they would probably have to return to Brazil when the dole money ran out in three months.  I made sure they got a free copy of the DVD and of the HANDBOOK to show around, if that would help.  Participants were nearly unanimous in both the power and necessity of labor unions to inform and enforce labor rights.   The audience’s outrage was palpable over the GOJ’s negligence at inviting all these people here, neglecting the schooling of both them (the Okayama Nikkei, for example, worked 11 hours a day, six days a week, and had no time to study Japanese) and their children, and telling them to go home now that they “weren’t necessary”.  After all their time spent here paying taxes, living here for years if not decades, and saving Japanese industry from being priced out of the market.

Rumor has it the GOJ has advised Hello Work to consider three Japanese for every non-Japanese applicant.  It’s unconfirmed, but if true, that means nationality once again has become a job qualification, one should think in violation of Labor Standards Law.

Moreover, 2HJ’s Charles also told us that visa overstayers in Japan are actually being issued with Gaijin Cards from local governments (yes, stating that they are overstaying).  That’s why they’re centralizing the Gaijin Card system behind the new Zairyuu Cards, to remove the local government’s discretion in these matters (so much for chihou bunken, then!).  I’ll have more information later on in the blog after some confirmations.

In sum, SOUR STRAWBERRIES may be a testiment to the last days of Japan’s internationalized industrial prowess, as people are being turfed out because no matter how many years and how much contribution, they don’t belong.  Have to wait and see.  But to me it’s clear the GOJ is still not getting beyond seeing NJ as work units as opposed to workers and people.  Especially in these times of economic hardship.  I’m seeing it for myself as the movie tours. 

Call me out for another movie tour by the end of the summer.  I might by then be able to get FROM THE SHADOWS movie about child abductions after divorce as well.  Arudou Debito in Okayama