My SNA Visible Minorities column 56: Addressing Japan’s Child Abduction Problem (on the recent bill passed to allow joint custody after divorce (May 27, 2024)

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest SNA column.  There are mixed feelings from many people hurt by the Koseki System, but I hold the view that the new law allowing for Joint Custody after divorce is a step in the right direction.  Read on and see what you think.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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ADDRESSING JAPAN’S CHILD ABDUCTION PROBLEM
By Debito Arudou, Ph.D., Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities column 56, May 27, 2024

Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/05/27/visible-minorities-addressing-japans-child-abduction-problem/

It has been one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets.  It has shattered lives and caused enormous international embarrassment to Japan’s reputation as a nation of laws.  It has caused untold misery to countless children and families worldwide.  And amongst all the G7 “developed” nations, it only happens like this in Japan.  

I’m talking about Japan’s issues with child custody and access after divorce.  

Japan has something called the Family Registry (koseki) system.  It serves the important purposes of not only conferring Japanese citizenship, it also prioritizes the family unit over the individual.  A throwback system unamended for more than a century, the Family Registry has a major bug:  If you get divorced, the bureaucracy forces the couple as a registered family unit to cleave back into two unconnected individuals with completely severed family ties. 

The problem is that children are likewise forced into one severed family registry or another,  This means they lose all legal ties with one parent, and that parent (usually the father) has not rights of joint custody or child visitation.  

This means that divorce in Japan completely disappears a “Left Behind Parent’ (LBP) from a child’s life.

This invisibility is enforced by the rest of society too.  For example, if you want to visit your child’s school and find out how they’re getting along, the school will turn you away as a stranger.  Or if you want to say hello to your child at home or on the street, your ex can call the police and have you arrested as a stalker.  Even in extreme cases where the custodial parent dies or abandons the children, grandparents have adopted the kids (since the kids are still legally registered to that family unit) and shut out the LBP all over again!  Despite this, LBP are obligated to pay child support.  So essentially the system is there to punish you for ever getting divorced, since you lose everything and can’t even pay to play.

This cruel system affects everyone in Japan, Japanese citizen or not (as former Prime Minister and LBP Junichiro Koizumi can attest).  But it hits international divorces especially hard.  If you are, say, a foreign resident with a Spouse Visa you void your status to live and work in Japan.  Then on top of that you get specially targeted by two evil narratives.  

One is of course the racial profiling that happens when your ex siccs the police on you, and you get the regular third degree for existing while foreign in Japan.  The other is a conviction that foreigners are naturally violent and prone to spousal or child abuse.  Yes, people actually believe (and are repeatedly told by mass media and even the Japanese government) that despite all the bullying in Japan that goes on at home, school, and the workplace, foreigners are the ones who beat their children because of automatically presumed “cultural differences.”

Your rights are even fewer if you marry a Japanese and live overseas.  Umpteen cases have been recorded of illegal child abductions (e.g., taking a child across an international border without the permission of both parents) by Japanese spouses fleeing to Japan.  Sometimes they are assisted by abduction guidebooks you can find on Amazon Japan.  Sometimes they have been actively abetted by the local Japanese consulate issuing them a new passport, in defiance of overseas court orders granting joint or sole custody to the Non-Japanese parent.  And when the LBP comes to Japan to enforce the court order in Japanese court, they get ruled against because “habitual residence” has already been established here.  She who dares, wins. 

Many a Non-Japanese LBP has been arrested, gone on hunger strike, or even committed suicide due to this nightmarish lack of rights.  And enough international arrest warrants on Japanese spouses have piqued the interest of foreign governments.  Finally, after decades of overseas government pressure (gaiatsu), Japan signed The Hague Convention on International Child Abductions in 2014, only a decade ago.  Unfortunately, Japan just caveated its way out of ever enforcing it.  

People filing claims under the Convention rarely got a Japanese court to side with them.  If the abduction took place many months ago, then “habitual residence” was established and that’s that.  Or there’s the common prejudice that a child naturally belongs more with their mother.  And one verbal claim of “child abuse” or “spousal violence” (which in Japan, according to some spokespeople, could include a raised voice, an angry look, or even a silent stare in an argument) is usually enough to close ranks.  Plus there’s the conceit that Japan’s population is decreasing, so there’s a demographic interest in stopping depopulation through repatriation.  We got our kid back, so that’s that.

This system has even inspired racism.  As I mentioned before, the Japanese mass media and government surveys have long had a white-hot curiosity about finding what causes conflict in any international marriage.  (Japanese men are pretty browned off about losing their women to foreigners—even though the majority of international marriages are Japanese men to foreign women—so there’s a smug satisfaction in knowing that foreign men aren’t perfect either.)  But a Foreign Ministry pamphlet in 2014, issued shortly after Japan signed the Convention, clearly reinforced the narrative that foreigners are violent through illustrations depicting a Caucasian father beating his child.  For good measure, the pamphlet also insinuated that Japanese can’t get a fair deal in a foreign court, and was clearly written working backward from a conclusion that the Convention disadvantaged Japanese.

Likewise, the most creative argument came from far-right propaganda network Sakura TV, which opined in 2018 that Japan’s signing the Hague Convention was just the judiciary trying to appease White people.  The Convention’s main goal was to empower White men playing around with women from “uncivilized” countries, who would then divorce them in favor of White women, and convert their foreign playthings into de facto babysitters of their offspring.  Therefore the Convention exists to ensure White cads still enjoy access to their bastard children!

But let’s return to reality and get to the good news occasioning this column.  First, full disclosure:  I too have been through a divorce in Japan and lost all contact with my children.  So have many of my friends and colleagues, Japanese and foreign.  I have argued before that nobody, Japanese or foreign, should get married under these conditions and have children, as it’s just too risky should the relationship sour.  I stand by that argument even today.  

But finally this May the Japanese Diet passed a law establishing joint custody.  Starting in 2026 and working retroactively, this law means that both parents will now, at least on paper, legally have a say in a child’s upbringing after divorce.  Unless both parents agree to sole custody, joint is presumed under Family Court proceedings.

Naturally, there will be caveats for accusations of domestic violence or child abuse.  But these have to be recognized by a court case-by-case as legitimate concerns.  It is the first change to Japan’s laws concerning parental authority in 77 years, and it will be revisited in five years to assess how well it’s working.

Not surprisingly, the response has been muted from my experienced colleagues.  Some, inured to decades of Japan’s bad-faith negotiations and policing, doubt the law will ever be properly enforced.  Signing the Convention didn’t work, so why should this?  After all, what Japanese court would ever willfully give priority to a foreigner over a Japanese in a dispute?  Or by now the law is too little, too late, as their children are all grown up and the damage is done for a lifetime.  An outcome that makes up for all the past cruelty and denial is simply impossible.  

Nevertheless, my take is that this new law is still good news.  It’s better to have it than not.  It can be pointed to as the law of the land, as opposed to a malleable norm that can be much more easily bent away from any LBP in any convoluted “he-said, she-said” dispute.

In principle, giving power to both parents over the well-being of a child is better than giving all power to one vindictive spouse.  It will at least allow the possibility of a child hearing both sides of a story, which is a valuable skill set for anyone in their formative years.  Moreover it will bring Japan back within international practices.  

It’s been pretty much determined by child psychologists that, on average, children need both parents in their life.  It’s about time the law in Japan reflected that.  The Japanese government has finally taken that step in the right direction.  Now let’s wait and see if it gets enforced in good faith.
ENDS

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My SNA Visible Minorities col 55: “From Dancing Monkey to Symbol of Hope”: Interview with Ibaraki Prefectural Assemblyman and naturalized Canadian-Japanese Jon Heese (May 2, 2024)

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest SNA column, where Jon Heese and I have yet another candid chat (previous ones here, here, and here) about politics in Japan — he as a politician, me as a columnist with a PoliSci background and a more adversarial relationship to power. Enjoy. I did. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

Visible Minorities: From Dancing Monkey to Symbol of Hope
Shingetsu News Agency, May 02, 2024, by Debito Arudou
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/05/02/visible-minorities-from-dancing-monkey-to-symbol-of-hope/

BIOJon Heese is becoming an old hand in Japanese politics, having served 13 years at various levels of government. He is presently one of five councilors representing Tsukuba (60 km NE of Tokyo) in the Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly—similar to a state or provincial legislature. After winning four terms at the city level, Mr. Heese leveled up in December, 2022. He is the first foreign-born politician to ever serve at the regional level.  He sat down for an interview with Debito Arudou for his Visible Minorities column in April 2024.

SNA:  Hi Jon.  Thanks for agreeing to yet another interview with me. 

Heese:  It’s the least I can do for my favorite rabble rouser.

SNA:  Let me open with an argument:  I make the case in one of my recent columns (https://www.debito.org/?p=17392) that we don’t see enough former Non-Japanese running for office because the Japanese government doesn’t want them to.  With no immigration policy, the GOJ doesn’t just encourage NJ to become voters and citizens, they make it hard to graduate up to Permanent Residency and citizenship.  Would you agree with that assessment?

Heese:  No immigration policy? Do you mean “no policy to import labor willy-nilly à la every western country?” The question is already loaded. As for policy to prevent naturalization, thereby enfranchisement, I do not see any active policies intending to keep NJ from getting citizenship. Overall I see their immigration policies as an attempt to ensure that only contributing foreigners are allowed to stay beyond the 90 day tourist visa by obtaining a longer visa. Many countries try to keep out deadbeats. Japan is no different. By deadbeats, I mean people who are only coming to take advantage of our rather generous social services.

SNA:  Hang on.  Point of order.  We’re still falling back on those boilerplate arguments we see in the chauvinistic media that some foreigners are freeloaders.  Not so.  Every person in Japan one way or another pays some form of tax, and we’ve had study after study showing that migrants and immigrants on balance contribute more to every society than they take out.  So let’s not resort to reflexive foreigner bashing “à la every Western Country”.  Now back to your point about naturalization.

Heese: Immigrants are by their nature successful. The poorest and sickest cannot afford the cost of the trip, whether to pay for flights, boats, or other forms of transportation. Migrants demonstrate their motivation just by reaching our borders. Unsurprisingly they work hard to continue in their successful ways or leave for greener pastures. My “à la every Western Country” comment is a reference to how much stricter Japan is to whom they give visas.

SNA:  And that’s kinda the point I’m making in my opening argument. 

Heese:  To continue, it’s been my observation that the highest bar for naturalization is Japan’s demand that new citizens give up their previous citizenship. Though I disagree with the government’s ban on dual citizenship, I believe the government, as representatives of the people, have the right to make the rules. Are their rules shortsighted? In my opinion, yes. Will they change those rules at some point? I believe they will. However, given that it’s actually easier to get citizenship than permanent residency, it’s not the government keeping people from voting, it’s the foreigners themselves that are keeping themselves from voting.

SNA:  Okay, spoken like a true Japanese politician.  Blame the foreigner for the rules that are set by the politicians and bureaucrats. 

Heese:  Would you have the foreigners setting their own rules…?

SNA:  Yes.  I think they should have some input into the process.  They know better what’s best for them.  Especially if they’ve leveled-up out of being foreign.  To circle back to my opening point, the government is trying not to let them level up.

Heese:  It is my understanding that only a few countries out there that allow non-citizens to vote. And those countries that do permit participation limit foreigners to local elections. I understand Japan’s logic but disagree with their fears of potential consequences.

SNA:  Granted, I also make the case that NJ have to take it upon themselves to stop being “guests” and enfranchise themselves.  You’ve advanced a similar argument (even to me when I considered running for office), only much more softly.  Have you encountered much “guestism”

Heese:  I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “guestism,” but I will assume you mean foreigners who see themselves as guests in spite of their very heavy investments in land and life in Japan.

SNA:  Yes, basically.  What of it then?

Heese:  I see guestism all the time. I have also seen quite an uptick in people taking citizenship. Back when you and I naturalized we were still outliers. That is no longer the case. I estimate that the experiences of those who have become Japanese has influenced the thinking of lifers. When I arrived in Japan in ‘91 it was years before I ever met a naturalized person. You may be the first one I ever talked to. Former Upper House Diet Member Tsurunen Marutei would likely have been the first I ever heard of. You can’t be what you can’t see. As more of us appeared, and, with the ability to share our experiences via social media, that we never had any issues getting through immigration, never felt pushback from our surrounding communities, indeed, life was really no different from pre to post naturalization, others took the plunge.

SNA:  Yes, but that was then and this is now.  I say there is a lot more pushback now.  It’s harder to get Permanent Residency because you need a 3-year visa to get it, and there are plenty of incentives—and examples—of people being stuck on perpetual one-year visas.  Then COVID really flipped the script, where even those who had graduated up to Permanent Residents suddenly realized that they were no better than any short-term visa holder.  They were, in the end, just garden-variety foreigners who couldn’t come back if they left.

Heese:  I would argue it’s much easier than when I first came in ’91 to get PR. My first experiences with PR lifers, they needed to have worked 10 (continuous) years or be married to a local to get their PR in 5 years. These days they are offering the same to desired workers after 3 years. Other workers only need 5 years. No Japanese family necessary. I would also point out it’s now easier to get citizenship. Back in our day we needed to have a Japanese spouse to get citizenship. No longer.

SNA:  Just a quick interruption, sorry.  That last bit is not actually true.  I know of a number of single people who managed to naturalize despite being dedicated bachelors or unsavory characters.  Delfo Zorzi or Nicola Zappetti, for example.  And again, back to PR:  Yes, the years are less on paper, but reaching the 3-year visa threshold is harder.  I will agree with you, however, that naturalization is easier than PR nowadays.  As long as you are willing to burn bridges with your country of origin, of course, and that’s no small thing.

Heese:  I was told specifically back then I needed to be married. However, the Japanese bureaucracy does, on occasion, make exceptions. When I make the case these days to lifers, I point to what happened during the COVID pandemic. When the first travel bans were enacted there were no restrictions on the Japanese themselves. Japanese all had the right to come back. Yes, it was shameful, but the mewlings of you and I were not going to influence the Immigration officials.

SNA:  Right.  But again, the rules are not set by the foreigners, so I think mewling is warranted here.  It was a border control policy grounded in racism, not immunological science.

Heese:  No counterargument on my part. As the memory of the pandemic fades I will fall back to my initial argument of, “You have too much invested here for you to have no right to return.” In principle I ask lifers if they honestly believe they’re going back to their “homeland.” If not, then why are they holding on to some privilege they’ll likely never use? In addition, even if they give up their previous citizenship, it’s been my understanding that reacquiring their previous citizenship is pretty easy and straightforward.

SNA:  Really?  Maybe in Canada, but I doubt other countries are so forgiving.  I’ve found that United States officials even view giving up US citizenship as an act of betrayal.

Heese:  I think Canada would be more a world model than the US. Much of Canadian immigration policy would be influenced by the British Commonwealth. Last I saw there were more than 50 countries in the Commonwealth. In any case, I ask what is really being risked by taking citizenship? Importantly, why are they risking their working life’s investment for a “maybe someday” idea?

SNA:  Okay, so to summarize, it’s clear that you’re very much on the side of the philosophy of “shit or get off the pot” when it comes to living in Japan as a Japanese citizen, even finding naturalization preferable to just taking out PR.  Again, COVID made that choice much clearer.  So how hard have you pushed people to naturalize and get elected?  What arguments have you made to them to do so?

Heese:  I would generally recommend PR before naturalization for people from developed countries. Immigrants from less developed societies likely have nothing to go back to so giving up their citizenship is not an issue.

Regarding my efforts to get others to run, there is one poor woman I’ve been hounding to run for city council for a decade already. By now it’s just a personal joke between us. She’ll never run but it wouldn’t surprise me if she naturalizes. I don’t understand why she hasn’t already. Different strokes, I guess.

SNA:  Definitely.  I too came this close to running for Sapporo City Council back in the day.

Heese:  Yes you did. And your decision gave me a lot to ponder on. What I have come to realize is people run for their own reasons. The candidates best suited to run don’t need a dumbass like me to push them. At best I can show them the ropes. Towards that end I’ve written a few blog posts, one with instructions on how to run an election, and another outlining what I actually did as a city councilor. I think I shared those sites already. If not, I’ll pass them along.

There is a link to the second post in the first.

Heese:  This year I’ve started a new project to log all my work activities at the prefecture, including travel times. You may have seen some of them on LinkedIn. As well as activities I try to liven my posts up with personal observations regarding the political system. People think politicians are the government. How naïve! I’m doing my best to show how much work and what the work involves. My job is not at all what people think it is.

SNA:  Well, spill the tea, Marie.  What exactly is your job?  Sell it to us, since you even hound people to run.

Heese:  Rather than just explaining my job, it will be useful to explain government. Understand that even after 15 years my views are still a work in progress.

SNA:  As they should be.  Politics is complicated.  Any official who thinks they have all the answers is self-delusional.  Please go on.

Heese:  The government is actually a symbiosis of elected and unelected officials. I’ll start with the unelected officials, commonly known as civil servants. Their role is to maintain the machine as well as come up with solutions to problems society encounters on our common journey. Maintenance looks automatic but small adjustments still need to be made.

SNA:  So you clearly fall into the camp of government exists in order to solve problems.  For the record, I agree, but remember I came of age during Reagan and Friedman’s “small government” era, where “government is not the solution to the problem; government IS the problem.”  And I’ve spent a lifetime realizing that good public policy is possible.  Japan convinced me of that.  Pity Japan, for its part, is too timid sometimes to solve problems because people fear taking responsibility for making mistakes or causing unintended consequences.  Instead they should better prepare the public in advance for what the potentially positive or negative consequences of a policy might be.  [Sighs]  Yeah, maybe I should have run for office after all…

Heese: Ha! I believe you should have. Serving would have been an eye-opening experience for you. As for public problems, a considerable amount of effort is made creating, distributing, and analyzing questionnaires. Walk-ins also make requests at the various service counters, keeping the civil service well informed of the needs and wants of the people. It is from these questionnaires that new policy is born.

SNA:  So you see policymaking in Japan as more bottom-up rather than top-down.  I think most observers of Japan might think the opposite.

Heese:  Yes, like everywhere the media poorly portrays how the sausage is really made. Generally the populace believe that civil servants are managed by the elected officials, thus the power lies with the politicians. I believe it’s the other way around. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to watch the BBC programs, “Yes, Minister,” and “Yes, Prime Minister,” their depiction of how government actually works is much closer to the truth than the media leads us to believe. If you haven’t watched it, it is MUST WATCH TV for anyone who wants to understand government. In my opinion it is the groups of unassuming civil servants who wield the greatest amount of collective power. Just as the CEO is the one who gets all the credit, it is more than likely the secretary that runs the ship.

SNA:  Then policymaking in Japan actually is top-down, yes?  Then why so many questionnaires?  Are we actually seeing an example of successful Marxist “Democratic Centralism,” where input is collected from below and channeled upwards, but once the decision is made from the top, people below must follow it since they have given their input?  Okay, sorry, I’ll stuff my PoliSci textbook back in my mouth and let you continue.

Heese:  As I said, it’s a symbiosis. My role, as elected representative of the people, is to act as the immune system. My duties in council are generally to shoot down any brick balloons some aspiring group of civil servants might try to float past the house. That bills seldom get shot down is due to a deep understanding by the civil service of what the people want.

SNA:  Okay, let me underscore this.  As a politician, you see yourself as actually protecting the people from the bureaucrats?

Heese:  Absolutely!!!!! One only needs to look at failing countries to see how terrible things can get when the bureaucracy or politicians capture the public purse. If the balance is off, look out!

My secondary job is to act as a mouthpiece for the people. I bring ideas and problems to the civil service they may not yet have been exposed to. However, I am also a teacher, in a sense. I find that I spend about 30% of conversations with citizens explaining how the system works. In addition, I listen to people’s issues and try to solve them by pointing them in the right direction, whether that’s toward the entry point of the government service they are looking for, or the company which will be able to handle their situation.

SNA:  I doubt most people see politicians in Japan, or anywhere for that manner, so positively.  Do you think most of your elected compadres have a similar view of themselves being a dedicated public servant?

Heese:  That is a very good question I’ll need to ask. I’m sure the topic will provide some interesting fodder. Ask me again in 6 months and I’ll spill what I learned.

How I personally approach the public relations part of the job is to engage as many people as I can on any given day. I try to be approachable. I can’t possibly know what people’s needs are beyond Maslow’s basics. And I’ll never know if they don’t tell me.

SNA:  Huh.  Well, that’s a bit strange to me.  In my dealings with Japanese politicians in the past, especially when I was trying to get legislation passed to outlaw racial discrimination and get “Japanese Only” signs down, I rarely saw them giving much more than a popcorn fart about listening to the people.  Perhaps it was the complexity of the issue.  Perhaps it was because people who look like me probably can’t vote so who cares?  But for the most part, if there wasn’t an election at hand, I found Japanese politicians at best noncommittal, at worst actively avoiding any chance to listen to folks like you say you do.  Are you an outlier?

Heese:  Of course I’m an outlier. To be blunt, I take the approach of being constantly in election mode. I don’t have an election machine I can just fire up nor can I assume I’ll get reelected simply because I’m an incumbent. I’ve seen too many cases of incumbents getting their walking papers to believe it can’t happen to me. In my case every vote is won at the individual level so I am required to be out and about.

I am, by nature, very curious. I am always happy to listen to what people do. In “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell mentions three kinds of people: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. I do my best to be a bit of all three but I know I am best suited to be a Connector. I don’t know enough about any given topic to be a Maven and my ideas aren’t well developed enough to be a Salesman. Hence, I spend a lot of time just trying to get to know people and introducing them to others who can help them.

SNA:  I plead guilty to being a Maven.

I can’t speak to your experiences with other politicians except to say that NJ needs are seldom a high priority, not because their needs aren’t important, but because there’s unlikely to be traction within the surrounding community. Your concerns regarding “Japanese Only” signage won’t be showing up in questionnaires either.

On the other hand, here in Tsukuba, where foreigners are plentiful and a vital part of the community, such a sign would only last a day or two before the Mayor’s office would come down like a ton of bricks on any business foolish enough to post one. On a few occasions I’ve been informed, for example, of a policy that a local gym, a chain, has implemented requiring members to be able to communicate in Japanese. Their argument is safety in case of an injury. Pure BS. The problem is invariably a new manager from outside Tsukuba thinks they can run their shop like they do in Butthole-shi. Have staff who speak English ya moron! Or train them in basic English. Easy enough in highly educated Tsukuba. I’ve spoken to the mayor about the issue and he was very attentive, requesting I pass on unresolved instances.

So, to summarize my job, I shoot down bad ideas, promote good ones, and introduce people to others with solutions to their problems. To be blunt, I love my job, but I also recognize that not everyone can do it. One needs a tough skin to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous allegations.

SNA:  I’ll say.  Again, I’m not sure I’d have the patience to put up with what I see you putting up with, just from the standpoint of shrugging off your how you’re treated occasionally as an outsider or an anomaly in the halls of power.  But that’s perhaps a topic for a future interview.  That’s really all the time we have for today.  I want to thank you for agreeing to another interview with me, Jon.  I look forward to slinging some arrows at you again next time. 

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Heese:  We all have our roles to play. At times I’m the dancing monkey. On other occasions I am the symbol of hope for newbies straight off the boat. I do my best to play my part well. Thanks for keeping me on my toes. I look forward to our next conversation. ENDS

======================
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Debito cited in article, “Japan is becoming more diverse. Will its government?” Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 2024. As are several other naturalized and elected Japanese citizens originating from Canada, Uzbekistan, Syria/Egypt, and Bolivia.

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Hi Blog.  What follows is an insightful article on how NJ are becoming Japanese to the point where they’re getting elected at the local level.  Meaning it’s possible.  This is, in Debito.org’s view, a good thing, because having diverse voices enfranchised in a democracy does matter at the policymaking level.  Groundwork for this article also inspired one of my recent SNA columns, where the reporter asked me if this was real evidence that fundamental changes were afoot.  The exchange went something like this:

Reporter:  “I think Heese, Orzugul, Inoue, and Sultan offer interesting insights into the shifting demographics of Japan.  But none of them are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino—the four groups who make up the most non-Japanese residents.  Do you think it is easier for certain types of Non-Japanese to gain power and acceptance in the country?”

Debito:  “I don’t know.  There is certainly a hierarchy of treatment based upon country of origin and skin color in Japan, especially in naturalization processes.  But certainly people of Chinese and Korean ancestry have been elected in the past.  Probably when other ethnic groups aren’t overworked, underpaid, and restricted to unstable visa statuses, we’ll see more of them naturalizing and running for office.”  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Japan is becoming more diverse. Will its government?
By Takehiko Kambayashi, Christian Science Monitor April 12, 2024.  Article with photos of the interviewed at:
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2024/0412/japan-immigrants-local-government
TOKYO, KAWAGUCHI, AND TSUKUBA, JAPAN

A former swimming instructor from Egypt is helping revive the sleepy mountain town of Shonai, Japan. About 200 miles away, a Canadian polyglot is singing the praises of Tsukuba city. And Orzugul Babakhodjaeva is standing onstage at a food festival outside Tokyo, decked in a traditional Uzbek dress, expressing her desire to “create a society where diversity is accepted.”

The first-term city councilor in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward – who does not use her family name, and campaigned simply as “Orzugul” – is one of a small but growing number of foreign-born local government members bringing fresh perspectives to an island nation long known for its homogeneity. These lawmakers are often multilingual and have rich international work experience. Their platforms have resonated with many Japanese voters, as well as with a growing population of non-Japanese residents.

The number of non-Japanese residents jumped 10.9% from 2022 to 2023, reaching a record 3.4 million, as the country struggles to address a chronic labor shortage driven by its aging population. Last year, 8,800 residents were naturalized as citizens, allowing them to vote in elections.

Shifting demographics are challenging Japan’s reputation as a homogeneous society – and creating unprecedented openings for immigrants to participate in local government.

Arudou Debito, author of the book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” says the election of immigrants to local government is “very important” for Japan’s democracy.

“Non-Japanese residents’ viewpoints are woefully unseen in Japanese society. They’re treated as ‘guests,’” explains Mr. Arudou, who is a U.S.-born naturalized citizen. “The fact that former non-Japanese residents are getting elected means they aren’t ‘guests,’ meaning Japanese society can trust immigrants with public policymaking power.”

Outsiders’ lens

About 30 miles northeast of Tokyo, first-term Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly member Heese Jon cuts a dapper figure as he drives a reporter around the city of Tsukuba, boasting about its 360 parks and its culinary delights. The city also hosts the University of Tsukuba, the headquarters of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and other leading institutes.

“We are sitting at the heart of Japanese research,” says the native Canadian from the driver’s seat of his electric vehicle.

About 12,700 non-Japanese residents from 144 countries live in Tsukuba, making up 5% of its population, nearly twice the national rate of 2.8%.

Before his victory in the 2022 assembly election, Mr. Heese had already served four terms as a Tsukuba city councilor and won the most votes for three straight elections. He credits his popularity to his passion for women’s issues and the environment, as well as to his fresh face.

“The incestuousness of the political scene is really stunning,” he says. Especially in smaller cities, politicians “are almost all related to each other.” On billboards displaying local candidates, he stands out.

“One thing they can say is, ‘This is not someone who can be bribed,’” he says.

Tsukuba resident Sciortino Atsuko, who is married to an immigrant, believes that local government needs to reflect the city’s diversity. She says Mr. Heese, being married to a Japanese woman and raising kids in Tsukuba, understands the experience of being in an interracial family.

“Jon has long supported a non-Japanese community here, and played a role as a bridge with the government,” she says. “When non-Japanese speakers were in trouble at shops or gyms, Jon was the one who helped them out. … Jon has brought the needs of the minority to the table.”

Mr. Heese, who speaks five languages, says his long-term goal is to “bring politicians from all over Japan to foreign countries and be their guide. They do not look beyond their communities very far.”

Bolivian-born Inoue Noemi, a fourth-term member of Tokyo’s Sumida City Council, agrees that Japan can be an inward-looking country. “We need to go global,” she says.

Ms. Inoue worked at Bolivia’s central bank and the United Nations Development Program before moving to Japan in the late 1990s with her husband, a former member of parliament.

Inoue Noemi, a fourth-term member of Tokyo’s Sumida City Council, is from Bolivia. When she first came to Japan in the 1990s, women’s low social status was “the most shocking issue,” she recalls.

Before her first stint in local government in 2011, Ms. Inoue founded the Japan-Latin America Friendship Association in Tokyo to develop cultural, social, and business relations overseas. She also taught Spanish and still sees language barriers as a big problem.

Non-Japanese residents often have trouble communicating with police and hospital staff, she says. When facing problems from bullying to domestic abuse, few know what to do or where to go. Such information is not readily available in their languages.

Back in 2021, Sultan Nour was seriously considering leaving the northern town of Shonai, where he’d moved five years prior to be closer to nature. Like many rural areas in Japan, Shonai had struggled with severe depopulation, and no longer had any pediatricians. Mr. Sultan, who was born in Syria and grew up in Egypt, had two small children to care for.

But then he stumbled upon news of an upcoming by-election for the Shonai Town Assembly, and decided to go for it. He won that race and the next one, securing reelection with the highest vote count of all the candidates.

“I have long wanted to contribute to society,” says Mr. Sultan, who had taught English, managed an Arabic restaurant, and worked for a construction company in Japan before running for local office. He also works as an Arabic interpreter for authorities.

Change came in December 2023: Thanks in large part to continued pressure from Mr. Sultan and other parents, Shonai’s main hospital now has a pediatrician four days a week.

It’s not the end of Mr. Sultan’s mission in Shonai.

Japan’s population is aging rapidly, and like other policymakers who face the daunting task of reinvigorating Japan’s rural towns, Mr. Sultan emphasizes the need to “put more efforts into child care support, measures for the falling birthrate, and job creation.”

Ms. Inoue sees immigrants as a key part of the solution – but they need support. “Japan needs to have good immigration law to support foreigners to find a job and live a decent life,” Ms. Inoue says. “Now foreigners come, but nobody wants to rent a house to them.”

Her comments echo the experience of Orzugul, who was rejected by 53 companies when she first arrived in Japan, mainly because she did not graduate from a Japanese university. Later, she found it almost impossible to rent an apartment or business space in Tokyo without her Japanese husband present.

Despite the discrimination she faced, “I love Japan deeply,” says Orzugul. “That’s why I cannot look the other way. I would like to help open up doors to those who seek opportunity in this country.”
ENDS

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.

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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column talks about how NJ do have the ability to get some political power in Japan.  It will of course mean some work on their part, but that’s inevitable for all minorities anywhere.  But the biggest obstacle, aside from the willful exclusion of NJ from the electorate, is the will to naturalize and run for office.  You can do it, and I believe it’s likely you’ll get in, since the Japanese electorate is really quite hungry for something different to choose from.  But you’ve gotta stop believing that you’re merely a “guest” in Japan in the first place.  Read on to see some examples of elected former NJ and take note.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Non-Japanese Residents claim political power despite obstacles
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column 54, March 31, 2024
Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/03/31/visible-minorities-non-japanese-residents-claim-political-power/

I teach Political Science at the university level.  In my first lecture every semester, I try to convince skeptical students why they should bother studying Political Science at all.

I argue that understanding how power flows through political structures will help students enfranchise themselves in a democratic system.  Because if they don’t, other people who understand the system better will use it to their advantage instead.

But this assumes one major fundamental:  that they can participate in the democratic system at all.  Fortunately, most of my students are citizens, so they can vote.  Given how abysmal youth voter turnout generally is, I consider it a major educational outcome if they bother to.  Persuading people that their vote matters is the bare minimum a civics class can accomplish.  

If I have the opportunity in higher-level classes to proselytize further, I encourage them to engage in community building, such as organizing into interest groups and consolidating power into voting blocs.  

My real converts consider running for local office, thereby embedding themselves within the very power structure itself.  Because political power, especially for minorities in any society, is rarely surrendered without a struggle.  We need more diverse views in office as demographics change the makeup of future majorities.  

That’s how democracy is supposed to work.  Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Japan’s Non-Japanese (NJ) Residents and Visible Minorities still have trouble grasping.  As a result, they are letting the Japanese government deprive them of their potential as a political force in Japan.

GETTING BEYOND THE “GUESTISM”

A lot of the issue is that, as I have written before, many of Japan’s minorities believe they really don’t have the ability—or even the right—to shape Japanese society.  They convince themselves that they are merely “guests” in Japan—not taxpayers and residents—and therefore have no say in how they’re treated by public policy.  

After all, they’re in Japan by choice, and if they don’t like the way things are, they should go “home.”  They’ve internalized the narrative that Japan is not “home” and foreigners don’t belong here.

This dehumanizing mantra is well-established and reinforced on a daily basis.  But less considered are the underlying political structures enforcing it.  It’s hard to have a stake in a society when it might be booting you out shortly.  

Official permission to work, i.e., visas, are generally only one to three years in duration, sometimes non-renewable, and often tethered to a specific job sponsor.  This means many NJ can’t change jobs without losing their visa and risking going to jail as overstayers.  Employers, of course, are happy with this situation, leveraging this vulnerability to abuse and exploit NJ workers even further.  Thus all the incentive structures are there to make NJ life in Japan temporary and miserable.

But consider one more disenfranchising mechanism:  The larger scheme to make sure NJ never coalesce into interest groups and voting blocs.  

In other societies, minorities, newcomers and immigrants cluster in like-minded regions where they can create communities.  Harlem.  Chinatowns.  The Navajo Nation.  Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, and Little Saigon.  The Dearborn Muslims.  New York’s Jewish communities.  The Polish Patches.  The Castro District.  The proposed states of Jefferson and Deseret.  And the majority-minority states of Hawaii, California, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, and soon Georgia.  

Once people reach a critical mass in a population, they can foster entire social movements, even elect representatives and become an unignorable political force.

PREVENTING RESIDENTS FROM BECOMING VOTERS

But Japan makes sure NJ never reach a critical mass.  Whenever we hear about, for example, Chinese buying up land in an area, out come the politicians stoking fear about Chinese becoming the local majority and “seceding from Japan.”  Essentially, the logic is that more foreigners means less Japan, and if NJ ever get power over Japanese, Japan is lost.  That’s especially visible when NJ are officially denied administrative roles in any public sector positions.

Then there’s simply getting rid of NJ Residents by not renewing visas en masse.  Clean house and ethnically cleanse.  The lost historical Iranian, Filipina, and Brazilian communities in Japan are testament to that. 

But even without a critical mass, power within a democracy is granted to people who can vote, so Japan makes sure NJ Residents never become part of the electorate.  

Japan still has no official immigration policy to encourage NJ Residents to become Japanese citizens.  Further, whenever Japan announces an expansion to any working visa program, politicians at even the highest levels of government are quick to clarify this does not mean these migrants will become immigrants.  The very word “immigrant” (as in a person) isn’t an established concept in Japanese policymaking circles.  

This situation seems unlikely to change, despite the recent resumed mass migration into Japan.  Japan’s NJ Registered Resident population reached a record high of 3.4 million in 2023, up more than 10% over the previous year.

Yet the government has made it more difficult over the past two decades to go from a one-year visa to a three, not to mention obtain Permanent Residency.

The numbers reflect this.  Although the largest group of NJ Residents are Permanent Residents, their numbers only grew about 3% in 2023.  

Then there’s the issue of actually taking out Japanese citizenship, as this author has.  Yet the number of people who have naturalized on average over the past decade is less than 1000 per year, and on a general downward trend.  

No wonder.  After years languishing in nasty jobs and jumping through so many visa hoops, getting Japanese citizenship is often a very arbitrary process, with applications rejected even for parking tickets and “cultural incongruities.”  There’s also favoritism shown to applicants from countries with richer economies and lighter skins.  Not to mention the identity sacrifice of forcing people to give up their birth nationality.

IMMIGRANT POWER AND POLITICIANS IN JAPAN

Consequently, the only NJ groups in Japan that have accrued any political power are the Zainichi generational “foreigners.”  They’re the Japan-born descents of the former citizens of empire, who have lived in Japan more than a century yet are still “foreigners.”  Also known as the “Oldcomers,” they have formed lobbying groups such as as Mindan, Mintoren, and Soren.  Then there are also historical and indigenous minority groups such as the Burakumin Liberation League and Utari Kyoukai.  They all have managed to move the needle on how minorities are portrayed in the media.  

But in terms of shifting real political power, there is no substitute for getting the vote and a seat at the policymaking table.  And that means overcoming it all to become a citizen and get elected to office.

That happens, even in Japan.  Perhaps the most visible case was Finland-born Tsurunen Marutei, who not only served in his local town council in Kanagawa Prefecture from 1992, he also served two terms in Japan’s national Diet from 2002 to 2013.

Others have since followed.  Decades ago US-born Anthony Bianchi and Canadian-born Jon Heese won back-to-back city council seats in Inuyama and Tsukuba respectively.  Bianchi has since retired, but Heese (whom I have interviewed for this column before) has since graduated up to a prefectural-level elected position.  

We have also seen incumbents such as Bolivian-born Noemi Inoue, elected in 2011 to the Sumida-ku Assembly; Syrian-born former Egyptian Sultan Nour, elected in 2021 to Shonai Town Assembly in Yamagata Prefecture; and Uzbekistan-born Babakhodjaeva Orzugul, elected to a seat in Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku Assembly in 2023. 

Notably, all of them won their seats quite easily, some even getting the highest number of votes of all candidates running, despite the fact that their fellow NJ Residents cannot vote for them.  Bravo.

A reporter recently asked me if this meant change in Japan was afoot.  

My answer was that yes, this is not something we’ve seen before, and Visible Minorities claiming the right (and the structural power) to be Japanese is a positive change.  I think anyone who wants to see the change has to be the change, and they’re doing that.

How did they win so handily?  My theory is that given Japan’s single-party democracy, I think the Japanese electorate are hungry for any hope of change.  Something different.  Newcomer Immigrant Japanese can be precisely that.  So for once, being seen as an outsider in Japan can be an advantage. 

This theory also holds when you consider the opposite example:  When Diet Member Tsurunen didn’t offer his constituents anything new beyond having blue eyes (seriously, that was his slogan), he got voted out.  They realized he was basically running more for himself than them.  So you really have to be the change, not just look it.

Finally, the reporter said, “I think Heese, Orzugul, Inoue, and Sultan offer interesting insights into the shifting demographics of Japan.  But none of them are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino—the four groups who make up the most non-Japanese residents.  Do you think it is easier for certain types of Non-Japanese to gain power and acceptance in the country?”

My answer was this:

“I don’t know.  There is certainly a hierarchy of treatment based upon country of origin and skin color in Japan, especially in naturalization processes.  But certainly people of Chinese and Korean ancestry have been elected in the past.  

“Probably when other ethnic groups aren’t overworked, underpaid, and restricted to unstable visa statuses, we’ll see more of them naturalizing and running for office.”

We’ll talk again with Jon Heese about running for office next column.

ENDS
======================
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Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. Debito.org makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.

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Hi Blog. First this article, then a comment:

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Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional
Yuri Kondo (center), the plaintiff of a dual nationality case, speaks during a news conference Wednesday in the city of Fukuoka after the Fukuoka District Court handed down a ruling on her case.
BY ANIKA OSAKI EXUM, The Japan Times, Dec 6, 2023
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/12/06/japan/crime-legal/dual-nationality-fukuoka-ruling/
Courtesy of lots of people, including Dave Spector
Discussion already underway on Debito.org in an earlier blog post Comments section here.

FUKUOKA – The Fukuoka District Court ruled Wednesday that Japan’s law that bans dual nationality is constitutional, rejecting an argument by a Japan-born plaintiff who lost her Japanese citizenship after she naturalized as an American.

Yuri Kondo, 76, had argued that the nationality law — which stipulates that Japanese nationals will lose their citizenship if they become a citizen of a foreign country — undermines fundamental human rights to pursue happiness, self-determination, and identity, as guaranteed under the Constitution.

While the nationality law was deemed constitutional, presiding Judge Fumitaka Hayashi said the wish of the individual who would lose their nationality should be considered as it is part of a person’s identity.

Hayashi also touched on the fact that since the nationality law was last revised in 1984, the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide, reflecting a change in global attitudes.

“It is worth considering allowing individuals to remain dual nationals and giving them a certain period of time to choose a nationality, as proposed by the plaintiffs,” said Hayashi.

Born and raised in Japan, Kondo spent nearly four decades working and raising a family in the United States. She became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

After traveling back and forth between her home countries with both nationalities for years, she was flagged as being a dual citizen in 2017 — first at a passport office in Tokyo, where her passport was confiscated and her application rejected, and then by airport immigration officials when they realized she was exiting Japan with an American passport that had no entrance stamp.

Today, Kondo only has an American passport. She hasn’t reapplied to renew her Japanese one, fearing it would be denied again. However, she still retains her Japanese family registry and she also hasn’t received any follow-ups from the government asking her to formally withdraw one of her nationalities.

Kondo returned in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained in Fukuoka ever since. She feared she might not be able to return to Japan if she left and now fears that she’ll face punishment for overstaying while her citizenship status remains in limbo.

During her time as a lawyer in the U.S., Kondo was consulted by many Japanese people living overseas facing similar situations. So, in hopes of advocating not only for herself but for many others too, she filed the lawsuit in 2022 questioning the constitutionality of the nationality law, its lack of procedure and the harm it’s caused to people who have Japanese roots.

After hearing the Fukuoka court’s ruling Wednesday, Kondo admitted she felt a bit deflated.

“In a way, I thought ‘Again?’” she said, referencing a recent ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the dismissal of another dual nationality case filed in Tokyo.

Kondo questioned the part of the ruling where it was stated that Japan permits the opportunity to choose a nationality. Many people — including those from whom she receives emails for consultation — are unaware that choosing another citizenship means they will automatically lose their Japanese citizenship, as in her case, she said.

Japanese law prohibits citizens from having more than one nationality after the age of 20. But when it comes to the requirements and enforcement surrounding those rules, the process is murky at best.

In September, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal on a separate dual nationality case, involving eight plaintiffs currently living in Europe, which questioned the law’s constitutionality.

The Supreme Court rejected the basis of the appeal, upholding the original district court dismissal of the case that stated the law works to prevent “friction” that could arise from having dual nationality. The lower court ruling also noted that Japan still allows the freedom to change nationality.

Lawyers, some of whom are also working on Kondo’s case, said that the Supreme Court’s dismissal didn’t include a sufficient rationale behind the decision and requested a retrial.

With the Fukuoka court ruling though, Kondo’s lawyers felt there was significant progress in the court’s choice of words, as it mentioned the significance of Japanese nationality being the basis of one’s human rights and identity.

“For the first time, (the ruling) clearly stated that an individual’s intention must be respected to the fullest extent possible if they were to lose their citizenship,” lawyer Teruo Naka said. “I believe this is tremendously significant and this verdict signals significant progress in certain areas.”

There are currently multiple ongoing lawsuits against the government concerning Japan’s dual nationality law. Other cases include one filed in Tokyo that involves a child who was stripped of Japanese citizenship after the child’s parents applied for the child’s British passport, and another in Kyoto by a Japanese person who obtained Canadian citizenship. ENDS
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COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Most arguments made by the Japanese Government dovetail around the idea that people will be somehow confused in terms of national allegiances if they have more than one nationality. For what if Japan went to war with the country you have a second passport for? Where would your allegiances lie?

Crafting public policy merely on the basis of hypotheticals is not the best way to make laws. As noted above in the article, the number of countries allowing dual nationality is in fact increasing (“the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide“), as more people around the world travel, resettle, immigrate, marry, and have multinational children as well as lives.  Forcing them to give up their other nationality is to force them to give up part of their identity — a completely unnecessary and moreover psychologically damaging move just for the sake of bureaucratic convenience.  And that’s before we get into issues of arbitrary enforceability, as discussed below.

The increase in diversity should be reflected in laws to accommodate reality.  Instead, we have pig-headed J politicians who can’t imagine a life beyond their own experiences (with the exception of the LDP’s Kouno Taro, who actually argued for dual nationality, albeit to coat the Kokutai in more glory, not for the sake of the individual’s identity) and refuse to legislate reality into reality.  And that feeds into a hidebound judiciary that claim they can only enforce the law as it’s written (even presiding Judge Hayashi above expressed regret at that).

To finish up, let me excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” on this topic.  It’ll make the case about why public policy is as stupid as it is as best I can.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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From Arudou, Debito, “Embedded Racism:  Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, 2nd Edition, pp 117-122, plus footnotes)

Legal Renunciation/Revocation of Japanese Citizenship and Wajin Privilege

Japan’s Nationality Law also allows for renunciation and unilateral revocation of citizenship, which may happen, for example, because dual nationality is not permitted. According to Articles 14 through 16, if a child has two nationalities, the child must have surrendered one of them with written proof to the Ministry of Justice by age 22). If not done promptly and correctly, the Law states that criminal penalties, including revocation of Japanese citizenship, can apply. Also, according to the Law, kokumin who take out (or choose) another citizenship must also declare it to the Government of Japan (GOJ) and renounce Japanese citizenship.[i]

            However, people who can claim blood ties to Japan’s Wajin majority enjoy significant privilege under the Nationality Law. Notwithstanding the entitlement-by-blood privileges that are the definition of a jus sanguinis system, Nikkei persons of Japanese descent get a faster track for obtaining nationality (Article 6), and even former citizens get special Wajin privileges after renunciation (Article 17, neither of which happen, for example, under United States’ nationality laws).[ii] Moreover, Wajin children of international marriages often keep dual nationality beyond the age of 22 due to unenforced regulations.[iii]

That said, the GOJ has been given more latitude in recent years to put Japan’s international children on legal tenterhooks: In 2015, the Supreme Court creatively interpreted Article 12 to allow the unilateral revocation of Japanese citizenship for clerical errors in cases where Japanese children were born overseas; and in 2021, a lower court ruled that citizens discovered with dual passports beyond the age of 22 can be stripped of their Japanese nationality at the GOJ’s discretion.[iv] Naturally, this incentivizes adults with international backgrounds to suppress their diversity in favor of Japan’s pure-blooded monoethnic narrative.[v]

An Example of Wajin Privilege and Politics under the Nationality Law: The Alberto and Aritomi Fujimori Cases

An instructive case of Wajin privilege under the Nationality Law is that of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori,[vi] born in Peru to two Japan-born émigré Wajin parents. Fujimori was reportedly a dual citizen of Japan and Peru due to his parents registering him in Kumamoto from within Peru as a child (more on Japan’s registry systems below). In 2000, after a decade in office laden with allegations of corruption and human rights abuses,[vii] Fujimori infamously resigned his presidency via a Tōkyō hotel room fax and declared himself a Japanese citizen. Despite holding public office overseas, in contravention of Nationality Law Article 16.2, Fujimori received a Japanese passport weeks later (when most applications can take a year or two to process).[viii] Then, despite international arrest warrants, Fujimori was not extradited, and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle with his fellow naturalized brother-in-law Aritomi[ix] in Tōkyō’s high society until 2005.[x] Although the media assigned cause to political connections, e.g., “favorit[ism] among conservative politicians… enamored with the idea of a man with Japanese ancestry reaching political heights abroad,”[xi] Fujimori’s case is nevertheless one of privilege.[xii] This is in contrast to scenarios under Japan’s nationality regime where even half-Wajin children caught in bureaucratic registration dilemmas (such as being born of one North Korean parent)[xiii]have been rendered stateless due to geopolitical conceits, with legal protections of no country.

Supreme Court 2008 Interpretation of the Nationality Law: Human Rights in Japan Predicated upon having Japanese Citizenship

Other recent developments have made clear that human and civil rights in Japan are connected to having Japanese citizenship. Japan’s Supreme Court, in a landmark decision in June 2008, declared unconstitutional a clause in Article 3 requiring acknowledgment of Wajin paternity through marriage. That is to say, enforcement of the Nationality Law could no longer deny Japanese nationality to a child of a non-citizen woman and a Wajin man who had been born out of wedlock (or else had not been properly registered before birth). The Supreme Court’s express legal reasoning behind declaring this situation unconstitutional was, inter alia, that a lack of Japanese nationality is the cause of discrimination, and that obtaining Japanese nationality is essential for basic human rights to be guaranteed in Japan.[xiv] This systematic linkage between rights and citizenship has also been reaffirmed in pinpoint examples, such as the GOJ’s biased Prime Ministerial Cabinet surveys of human rights in Japan;[xv] and, famously, a police prosecutor in Saga Prefecture bravely admitted in 2011, “We were taught that… foreigners have no human rights” when under police detention and interrogation.[xvi]

At this juncture, it is important to emphasize the embedded discourse behind the Supreme Court’s legal reasoning here: Human rights in Japan are not linked to being human; they are linked to holding Japanese citizenship.[xvii] That is the crux of this research. That means the process of granting, restricting, or denying citizenship to select people is the gatekeeping mechanism any nation-state has over the enforcement of civil and political rights and privileges. However, as will be described below, the systemic granting of special privileges to people with Wajin blood ties also embeds a racialized framework behind equal protection under the law. It is the essential ideology justifying a structurally unequal treatment of non-kokumin at all other levels of society.

Japan’s Nationality Law from an International Comparative Perspective: Becoming An Outlier

Although the gatekeeping mechanism of naturalization is available to any nation-state through its citizenship laws, Kashiwazaki (2000) offers a comparative perspective of structural inequality in Japan’s citizenship rules:

In the 1980s and 1990s, laws regulating nationality and citizenship were revised in immigrant-receiving countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, where nationality transmission was mainly based on jus sanguinis (by parentage). These revisions eased criteria for acquiring nationality by first-generation, long-term resident aliens as well as by the second and subsequent generations. Major types of legal administrative changes include introduction or expansion of the as-of-right acquisition of citizenship [i.e., Japan has no “as-of-right acquisition” system; anyone who was not attributed Japanese citizenship by birth must go through the process of naturalization]; double jus soli, by which the third generation obtains citizenship automatically; and toleration for dual nationality… [On the other hand], there is no unified, coherent policy that could be called the Japanese citizenship policy (436-7).

Kashiwazaki also cites five characteristics of how Japan is distinctive in restricting access to citizenship: 1) Jus sanguinisonly for nationality transmission, with no concession made for former “Commonwealth”-style colonial historical ties, 2) tight border control, 3) strict naturalization rules that only go through the Ministry of Justice, 4) a close relationship between nationality and family registry, and 5) restrictive access to Permanent Residency status (437-47).

Now that we have established the barriers to becoming a kokumin, let us proceed to the second hurdle for national membership as a national: how kokumin are officially registered as citizens, and, conversely, how non-citizens have been officially excluded as residents of Japan.

FOOTNOTES

[i] Independent researcher and translator William Wetherall disputes this research’s interpretation of “renunciation” on his website (www.wetherall.sakura.ne.jp/yoshabunko///nationality/Dual_nationality.html), writing as of 2017 that the converse, dual nationality, is “not forbidden, unpreventable, and tacitly permitted,” because the GOJ works under a “pragmatic recognition of its inability to force Japanese nationals to renounce other nationalities.” He disputes the GOJ’s power of revocation under the Nationality Law between the semantics of “abandoning” (hōki) versus “revoking” (ridatsu) versus “choosing” (sentaku) Japanese nationality. In other words, in Wetherall’s reading, as far as the GOJ is concerned, the only issue is the “choice” or “revocation” of Japanese nationality, not the “revocation” or “abandonment” of foreign nationalities, so the GOJ has no power to force dual nationals to “abandon” foreign and “choose” Japanese.

That said, the Nationality Law nevertheless officially demands the “choice” of Japanese nationality only, and does not allow citizens to “choose” other nationalities without (in principle) “losing” (sōshitsu) Japanese nationality. Parts of this law are backed up by criminal penalties for noncompliance (Article 20), direct permissions and punishment by the Minister of Justice (e.g., Article 16), and recent court decisions mentioned in this chapter further empowering the GOJ’s ability to punish dual citizenship holders. My read is that whether or not the GOJ chooses to enforce the Nationality Law remains at their discretion; as we shall see below in this chapter, Japan’s administrative branch has great extralegal power to “clarify” laws through ministerial directive (see also Asakawa ibid). This enables bureaucrats, acting on behalf of the Minister of Justice, to activate or strengthen formerly dormant sections of the law given the exigencies of current political policy.

[ii] United States Department of State, personal communications, January and March 2011.

[iii] Furthermore, under Nationality Law Article 2.3, babies born in Japan whose nationality is unknown, or whose parents are unknown, are by default Japanese nationals (which leads to a conundrum when Non-Wajin babies are left in hospital “baby hatches” for abandoned children; incidentally, this loophole is the only way Japanese citizenship may be acquired by jus soli. See “Foreign baby left at ‘baby hatch’.” Kyodo News, September 8, 2008; “Akachan pōsto ni gaikokujin no kodomo: Kumamoto-shi no Jikei Byōin.” [Foreign baby left in “baby hatch” at Kumamoto clinic], 47News.jp, September 8, 2008. Vaguely, the media determined the “foreignness” of the baby as due to the unknown parents reportedly being Zainichi. More at www.debito.org/?p=1900.

[iv] “Top court backs repeal of Japanese nationality due to parents’ lapse abroad.” Asahi Shinbun, March 11, 2015, at www.debito.org/?p=13144; “Court rules in favor of Japan’s ban on dual nationality.” Mainichi Shinbun, January 21, 2021, at www.debito.org/?p=16393.

[v] “Dual citizenship in Japan: A ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy leaves many in the dark.” Japan Times, feature undated, mid-2018.

[vi] Sources for this section include: “Ex-President Fujimori should face Justice.” Japan Today, July 16, 2001; “Fujimori dismisses Interpol notice.” Japan Times/Associated Press, March 30, 2003; “Fujimori gets Peru passport, eyes return.” Japan Times, September 15, 2005; “Japan ‘uncooperative’ in Fujimori probe.” Kyodo News, November 19, 2005; “Fujimori tied to $300,000 in ‘hidden’ bank account.” Kyodo News, November 30, 2005; “Ending Impunity: Pinochet’s involuntary legacy.” The Economist, December 13, 2006; “Ex-Peruvian President Fujimori asked to run in Japan elections.” Mainichi Daily News, June 19, 2007; “Editorial: Fujimori’s Candidacy.” Asahi Shinbun, July 12, 2007; “Diet seat eludes absentee Fujimori.” Kyodo News, July 31, 2007; “Fujimori returns to Peru to face trial.” Associated Press, September 23, 2007; “Fujimori convicted.” Associated Press, December 11, 2007; “Peru’s Fujimori gets 25 years for death squad.” Associated Press, April 8, 2009; Debito Arudou, “Fujimori gets his; Japan left shamed.” Japan Times, May 5, 2009.

[vii] See for example “Mass sterilisation scandal shocks Peru.”  BBC News, July 24, 2002; et al.

[viii] The GOJ expedited the process by claiming the “Master Nationality Rule”, an interpretation of Article 4 of 1930’s League of Nations Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws, where a state has the option to recognize a dual national as a sole national if it so chooses, as long as the person in question has the nationality of that state. The Japanese government chose to recognize only Fujimori’s “Japanese nationality,” based upon childhood family registration in Kumamoto from abroad, which is also in contravention of Japan’s Nationality Law. The GOJ also claimed that under the 1985 revision of the Nationality Law, which permitted citizenship to pass through the Japanese mother’s blood as well as the father’s, that children with multiple nationalities had until the end of 1986 to declare or forfeit Japanese nationality; those who declared nothing would be assumed to have retained Japanese nationality and forfeited all others. Since Fujimori had not declared either way, he was reportedly grandfathered in. See “The many faces of citizenship.” Japan Times, January 1, 2009. See also Anderson & Okuda (2003: 334-289). They conclude that Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship was legally binding, as he had never notified the Japanese government of his intent to give it up, and the Japanese government had declined to notify him that he had lost it.

[ix] Anderson & Okuda (2003: 310-8); see also “Fugitive Fujimori relative is shielded by Japan,” New York Times, July 19, 2001, regarding the case of Fujimori’s brother-in-law, and former Peruvian Ambassador to Japan, Victor Aritomi Shinto’s expedited naturalization into Japan. Although Anderson & Okuda conclude that Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship was not necessarily a politically-motivated move (albeit one of government “discretion” not to a priori notify Fujimori of his lost citizenship), since he legally retained it by not giving it up, the authors also conclude that Aritomi’s example was of dubious legal standing, since it was a naturalization procedure (not a latent holding of Japanese citizenship). Moreover, a) it took only six months, much less time than average, and b) it was awarded despite an outstanding international arrest warrant, in violation of the Nationality Law’s abovementioned requirement for “upright conduct.”

[x] See for example “Author Sono calls for racial segregation in op-ed piece.”  Japan Times, February 12, 2015, which mentions Sono opening her home to Fujimori. There is an even more curious epilogue to the Fujimori Case. Reportedly bored with his Tōkyō lifestyle (Sims, ibid), Fujimori renewed his Peruvian passport and flew to Chile in 2005 to stand for election in absentia in Peru, whereupon he was immediately put under arrest pending extradition. He lost the Peruvian election, but was able to run for election in Japan in absentia in 2007 (where he lost again). Then Chile extradited Fujimori to Peru, where he was ultimately sentenced to prison in 2009 for 29 years for human rights violations, including abuses of power, murder, and kidnapping. After being pardoned by the President of Peru in 2017, Peru’s Supreme Court reversed the pardon and put Fujimori back in prison in 2019.

[xi] Ibid, Associated Press, March 30, 2003.

[xii] This is not the only case of an alleged criminal facing extradition for criminal charges overseas taking refuge in Japan’s naturalization processes. Delfo Zorzi, aka Hagen Roi, despite accusations of neo-fascist terrorism and mass murder by the Italian judiciary for allegedly taking part in a massacre in Milan in 1969, was also granted Japanese citizenship even though government officials had been aware for years that he was a convicted criminal under extradition proceedings. The GOJ refused extradition, and Zorzi currently directs an import-export business in Aoyama, Tōkyō. See“Zorzi got citizenship despite criminal past”, Mainichi Daily News, June 2, 2000.

[xiii] “24 defectors from DPRK still stateless: Prejudice rife in Catch-22 situation”, Yomiuri Shinbun, June 13, 2007.

[xiv] “Top court says marriage requirement for nationality unconstitutional,” Kyodo News, June 4, 2008. See alsoIwasawa (1998: 303), and Bryant (1991-2). Bryant’s discussion of how the very definition of “Japanese citizenship” (official koseki family registration) creates discrimination towards children born out of wedlock or insufficiently registered is particularly informative.

[xv] More on this below, but the abovementioned Bureau of Human Rights survey asked leading questions casting doubt on foreigners’ grounds to have human rights, and consequently got responses indicating that a majority of the Japanese public “does not believe that foreigners should have the same human-rights protections as Japanese.” See “Human rights survey stinks: Government effort riddled with bias, bad science.” Japan Times, October 23, 2007.

[xvi] Debito Arudou, “For the sake of Japan’s future, foreigners deserve a fair shake”, Japan Times, December 6, 2011; Colin P.A. Jones, “Schizophrenic Constitution leaves foreigners’ rights mired in confusion”, Japan Times, November 1, 2011; “‘Yakuza to gaikokujin ni jinken wa nai to oshierareta’, moto kenji ga bakuro shita odoroku beki ‘shinjin kyōiku’ no jittai” [“We were taught that foreigners have no rights”: A former prosecutor confesses how new entrants are educated in surprising ways], Niconico News, May 23, 2011.

[xvii] Dōshisha Law School Professor Colin P.A. Jones (ibid) concurs: “[T]he Japanese Constitution speaks of defining equality and ‘fundamental human rights’ as being conditioned on nationality rather than being human.”

ENDS
======================
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My SNA VM column 51: “Being thankful despite adversity” (Nov 27, 2023), a think piece on how people survive terrible lives because the basic unit of survival is being part of a pair. And if you’re not in one in Japan, life is especially difficult.

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SNA VM 51 BEING THANKFUL DESPITE ADVERSITY
Subtitle:  We all know life can be tough, especially for people in Japan. But practicing being thankful, particularly if you can find someone to thank, isn’t just a matter of good fortune. Psychologically, the basic unit of survival is being part of a pair.

By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities Column 51, Nov 27, 2023
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/11/27/visible-minorities-being-thankful-despite-adversity/

Last week heralded American Thanksgiving, and with it some life lessons.

While I’m wary of transposing an American holiday on SNA’s overseas audience, I think any excuse to be reflective and thankful for what you have — and grateful for avoiding what ill could have befallen you — is a valuable life skill.

As they say, any excuse is a good one for a party, so likewise any excuse is good to be thankful. That means any day can be for thanksgiving. I choose today.

Life is full of big emotions, many of them caused by you, others the product of your being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and some are just the cards you were dealt from birth and environment.

We can put that down to bad luck or some godforsaken ordeal. Or we can rationalize about things that don’t kill you making you stronger, adversity building character, etc.

But I don’t believe in ordeals anymore. I’m 58. My character is pretty much built. Moreover I’ve seen, through elders turned bitter in their old age, that too much adversity just makes you mean.

So as I approach my sixties, one of my life projects is understanding the science and practice of happiness. Interim conclusion: I choose to be happy. To me that means being thankful for the people who carry you through the inevitable tribulations of life while you do the same for them.

The life hack is having another person — at least one — who wishes you well, has your best interests in mind, and is there to see what you see, reminding you that you’re not the only one going through all this.

There is some science here. A book called “Escape from Camp 14” describes a survivor’s account of escaping a North Korean concentration camp. It offered the following life lesson:

The protagonist at first accepted his harsh life in North Korea as his lot in society, even as he ended up interned for reasons beyond his control. But he didn’t seriously contemplate escape until a fellow prisoner said he would do it with him. Somebody else confirmed he wasn’t crazy for wanting out.

As “Escape from Camp 14” notes on page 84, “Their relationship echoed, in many ways, the bonds of trust and mutual protection that kept prisoners alive and sane in Nazi concentration camps. In those camps, researchers found, the ‘basic unit of survival’ was the pair, not the individual. (Emphasis mine.)

“‘It was in the pairs that the prisoners kept alive the semblance of humanity,’ concluded Elmer Luchterhand, a sociologist at Yale who interviewed fifty two concentration camp survivors shortly after liberation. Pairs stole food and clothing, exchanged small gifts and planned for the future. If one member of a pair fainted from hunger in front of an SS officer, the other would prop him up. […] Finally, the death of one member of a pair often doomed the other,” noting that Anne Frank, for example, “lost the will to live after the death of her sister.”

This example is obviously extreme, but it is instructive. It’s hard to imagine a greater sense of isolation than an entire state apparatus designed to destroy you.

Or in Japan’s case, consider a society designed to perpetually alienate you, say your thoughts and feelings are deviant or inapplicable, or remind you don’t belong here no matter what you do. Some accept it as their lot as a foreigner. Others leave for more accepting societies. But for those who stay in a polity predicated on finely tuned embedded racism, people do survive. The key is finding somebody to go through with it as a pair.

(You may of course argue that solitude in a secret world will also do. Plenty of Japanese malcontents and dropouts do exactly this. Known as the hikikomori, I don’t think they are a healthy model.)

That’s why I’m thankful for my life partner now. I had one before while in Japan. But Japanese society has a habit of driving couples apart through divisive role play.

The idealized family is where one person spends his waking moments absent from home making the money (the so-called “salary delivery vehicle”, or kyūryō unpansha), while the other devotes her life to running the home and raising a family (ryōsai kenbo). It doesn’t matter that your personality might not be into kids, into being a corporate drone, or into conspicuous consumption as a lifestyle. Even as Japan modernizes and diversifies, these slow-drip pressures over decades are palpable and unyielding.

I’ve been through a divorce in Japan and understand why it happened. When you realize that cultural and media tropes are steadily morphing your erstwhile partner into a stranger, and all the basic values you thought you shared (such as childrearing values, saving and spending habits, personal space and housekeeping, openness to new experiences, leisure activities and holiday celebrations, even physical intimacy into old age) turned out to be faux or fleeting, that’s very isolating.

At first you accept it as your lot. Until you realize just how unhappy you’ve become.

This can of course happen in any society. But given the high separation and divorce rates amongst my long-term friends in Japan (who, given Japan’s lack of psychological counseling for couples, were generally encouraged to seek solace elsewhere), I can’t but help feel that there’s a culturally based pathology at work.

There definitely is one when you want out. That’s when you get into how Japan’s divorce system deliberately forces contestations into acrimonious negotiations, killing parent-child relationships in the process. Your life partner has suddenly become your worst enemy who can legally steal the kids.

Some never escape this prison, stuck in a “separation under the same roof” (kateinai bekkyo) where they live together but never interact. Others succeed in getting out, but I’ve seen many survivors of Japanese divorces languish for years alone wondering what it was all for. They drift off into the mental illness of never trusting partners again: Once bitten, twice shy.

The ones who fully recover find friends — or better yet a new life partner — who tell them they were not nuts. Forged in the furnace of similar adversities, they create a constructive pair of individuals with fully formed characters. They escape from isolation with someone who actively cultivates the relationship: nurtures instead of blames, consults instead of shuns, understands instead of indulges, actively listens instead of merely dismissing as foreign.

If that means you escape an intolerant society together through relocation, so be it. You must prioritize getting into an environment that makes the two of you happy. Otherwise you just might spend your twilight years resentful, bitter and mean.

Not for me. I choose to exercise happiness, thankful for other people’s help — and for my current life partner in specific. May you find yours.

ENDS

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities Column 50, “Memory-holing the ‘Japanese Only’ signs” (Oct 31, 2023), where I conclude that, since racial discrimination is unconstitutional but not illegal in Japan, the most effective way to get “Japanese Only” signs down is to get the media and government involved. If they won’t help, you’re probably out of luck.

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Memory-holing the “Japanese Only” signs

Exclusionary businesses have a long history in Japan, and people seem to be forgetting it.  Here’s a reminder from somebody who has studied them more than anybody.

By Debito Arudou.  Shingetsu News Agency VM 50, October 31, 2023

News Item:  The Okinawa Times reported that an izakaya pub in Naha put up a sign saying, in a mix of English and Japanese, “Because our staff can only speak Japanese, Japanese Only (sorry).  We don’t allow customers from overseas to enter our bar.”  Once it made the news, the local government tourist agency intervened, and after some weeks and back and forth, the bar took the sign down.  

For this, my 50th column for SNA, I’d like to take the reader on a little nostalgia trip through a project I’ve been working on for a quarter century:  “Japanese Only” signs.  

I’ve investigated and interviewed hundreds of these exclusionary places, published and updated seven books on this issue in English and Japanese, and curated on Debito.org the “Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments” since 1999 to make sure this issue doesn’t get memory-holed.   

For it seems that memory-holing is happening.  A SoraNews24 article on the Naha Case didn’t do much research, claiming somehow that, “Bars with Japanese-customers-only policies aren’t unheard of in Japan, but they’re becoming increasingly uncommon in the modern age. Moreover, when you do come across such establishments, they’re generally dedicated bars.”  (Incorrect.  The highest incidents of exclusionary rules are in fact hotels.)  

Then we get to the public reaction to the news.  When I put it up on Debito.org, some readers were defensive as usual, basically ranging from the “self-othering” by the Guestists (quote:  “I understand why they do it. I’m not offended. It’s their business and country.”) to the Ostriches who prefer, in spite of decades of evidence to the contrary, to bury their head in the sand and pretend the problem simply doesn’t exist (quote:  “You are overdramatizing things.  It doesn’t say we do not allow foreigners.  Being to those places as long as you speak Japanese you can enter anywhere.  You have to see things from their perspective too you know.  They don’t wanna get in trouble because a tourist doesn’t read nor understand.  As simple as that.”)

But it’s not as simple as that.  “Japanese Only” signs in fact predate the massive tourist influx to Japan over the past decade and thus cannot be blamed on them.  Yes, signs have popped up here and there since foreigners were allowed back in after the pandemic, but the earliest signs I’ve been able to verify started in 1992, when public baths in the city of Kofu put up signs refusing foreigners — particularly foreign women imported during the Bubble Era to work as bar hostesses and in the sex trades — due to the contemporary fear of AIDS (which of course was linked to foreigners).  Fortunately, once the Kofu Case hit national news, the city health department intervened, demanded the bathhouses cease excluding, and educated the public about how AIDS is actually transmitted (i.e., not through shared bathwater or bathhouse).

But then it bubbled up again in Otaru, a seaport in Hokkaido, when in 1993 “Japanese Only” signs went up in a couple of public baths ostensibly to bar Russian sailors shipping in seafood from former Soviet waters.  However this time local media and government ignored the situation, because they knew the locals have a “thing” about about Russians.  

After WWII, many Japanese who lived in wartime-occupied Sakhalin and the Kuriles were forcibly repatriated by international agreements, and most emigrated to Hokkaido in general and Otaru in specific.  Memories are long in a defeated people, so they ate the Russians’ seafood but drew the line at “smelly, scary, and drunk Russkies” (their words) sharing their public baths.  And up stayed the exclusionary signs for years.

How on earth can this happen?  Because in Japan, “Japanese Only” rules are unconstitutional but not illegal.  

Unconstitutional because discrimination by race is explicitly barred under the Constitution of Japan (Article 14).  Not illegal because Japan is the only developed democratic country without any law in its civil or criminal code specifically banning racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu).

And it shows.  Compare what would happen if a business open to the public put up a “no foreigners” sign in other developed democratic countries.  Civil rights laws would kick in and the local civil rights division would probably get their their business license suspended.  Media would also make an issue of it.  There might even be boycotts, spray paint, and broken windows.

Not in Japan.  Quite the opposite, actually.  When we took up the abovementioned Otaru Case in 1999, we actually had people and opinion leaders rallying on the side of the exclusionary establishments.  They made sophistic arguments claiming that unique Japanese culture must be protected from allegedly illiterate, ignorant, and rampaging foreigners.  (A column explicitly titled “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people” even appeared in The Japan Times.)  Or that businesses could exclude anyone anytime for anything.  (Try making that argument to the Burakumin, for example, and see how far you get.)  One establishment mentioned that their patrons have bad WWII memories (to which we replied, “What about German customers?”)

But it wasn’t just offhand, ill-considered comments.  The government was even complicit back then.  The Potemkin department for overseeing discriminatory issues in Japan, the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights (which has only advisory, not punitive powers), actually coached the Otaru City Government in writing NOT to do anything about their “Japanese Only” bathhouses — because, they argued, it would legally carry no penalty!

And that’s only talking about the discrimination that’s clearly signposted.  Now consider, for example, renting an apartment in Japan or trying to get a job at the “Hello Work” unemployment agency.  Racist landlords and corporate practices are so normal that explicitly stating “no foreign applicants” in their descriptions is perfectly acceptable. 

This is all really funny, because Japan signed a United Nations treaty in 1995 (the CERD) in which it promised to take all effective measures to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.  As the Naha Case proves nearly 30 years later, Japan was just going through the motions of a “developed country,” signing treaties without any intention to enforce them.

So why not just go elsewhere and spend your money at a place that won’t exclude you?  Because the problem with leaving “Japanese Only” signs up is that covert discrimination in Japan becomes overt.  Racism becomes an option for any bigot who obviously need fear no penalty.  

History bears this out.  After the Otaru Case made national and international news after 1999, exclusionary signs and rules spread nationwide across industries.  This included bars, discos, internet cafes, restaurants, stores and shops, hotels, realtors, schools, and even hospitals.  It goes without saying, but these industries have a fundamental impact on a minimum standard of living.  It’s not just a matter of getting a drink in a bar.  If there’s ever even the possibility that you can’t shop, stay, reside, receive an education, or get medical treatment, you’re in trouble.

So if you leave discrimination alone, it not only spreads — it mutates.  Consider the most elaborate exclusionary sign I ever saw:  “Chinese and naturalized citizens, war orphans, and children with mixed Chinese blood are absolutely refused entry.  Only pure-blooded Japanese males only.”  That’s grounded in some mighty specific prejudices.  

But why do these places exclude in the first place?  In my interviews over more than a decade, their standpoints range from, “Foreign customers were disruptive to my business” to “I personally hate foreigners.”  Some who thought their prejudice through a bit more cite an apparently exclusive clientele that want their dining or bathing experience to be “foreigner-free.”  Even those who never dealt with a foreign customer cited rumor to claim that something bad might happen, so the signs were a preventative measure.  

All point to a pretty simple logic:  If foreigners are let in, they’ll go bankrupt because Japanese customers will stay away.  (Even though plenty of these places went under anyway despite their exclusionary policies.  So maybe it wasn’t the foreigners after all.)  

But here’s the most insidious thing:  enforcement.  To the gatekeepers, a “foreigner” can be determined on sight.  This happened in practice when people who didn’t “look Japanese” enough were still refused entry even after they showed proof of Japanese citizenship.  That means they excluded by race, not nationality.  “Japanese Only” signs exclude Japanese too.

So you see, the “Japanese Only” sign in Naha was nothing new or all that simple.  What’s new is that the Okinawa media and the local government played a role in getting it down.  

After decades of thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that seems to be the best route.  

With the Otaru Case, we tried everything else.  We spent more than a year negotiating with the exclusionary businesses, the local, regional, and national governments, and the general public.  Then we spent much money and many years in Civil Court trying to get one place to open their doors and one government to take responsibility for their years of negligence.  I even took the Otaru Case to Japan’s Supreme Court in 2005, which stunningly denied cert because it somehow “didn’t involve any Constitutional issues.”  At least the courts formally acknowledged that “Japanese Only” signs are in fact “racial discrimination.”  But that was a lot of energy spent on one bathhouse.  Now try doing that for all the other places that exclude foreigners.

As the Naha Case shows, the most effective way to get an exclusionary sign down is to get it in the media and make the government fear an impact on local tourism.  In a society where issues of human rights perpetually take a back seat to business ethics (which, in any society, would happily make money selling poison to the public as long as there’s no law to stop them), you really have few other reliable or effective options in Japan.  

Sad to say, but it’s as simple as that.

ENDS

======================
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My SNA VM 49: Be Mindful About Cultural Education (Sept 25, 2023), on how teaching people about Japan can backfire if the regular stereotyping found in language education isn’t carefully considered

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Hi Blog. Here’s my latest column.  Enjoy. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

CULTURAL EDUCATION MUST BE DONE MINDFULLY
Japan’s internationalization is inevitable. So is teaching Japan’s future generations of diversity. If done wrong, educating about Japanese culture and society could do more harm than good.
By Debito Arudou, Ph.D., SNA Visible Minorities column 49, Sept 25, 2023

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/09/25/japans-internationalization-is-inevitable-so-is-teaching-japans-future-generations-of-diversity-if-done-wrong-educating-about-japanese-culture-and-society-could-do-more-harm-than/

Like it or not, Japan’s internationalization is happening.  There are fewer Japanese and more foreigners than ever.  In 2022, the population of Japanese citizens dropped below the 125 million mark for the first time in Japan’s modern era, while the registered Non-Japanese (NJ) population reached a record high at over 3 million, or 2.4% of the total population.

That can only grow.  Even if the NJ population numerically stayed the same as it is now, its percentage of the total population will still rise due to Japan’s below-replacement birthrates.  But the NJ population will not stay the same — the economics of Japan’s aging labor force is reaching the point where officials see the writing on the wall.  According to a recent Kyodo News survey, a whopping 86% of Japan’s municipalities want more NJ workers to do the jobs and save their senescent cities from extinction. 

All of these figures do not, of course, include all the multicultural and multiethnic children already in Japan with diverse identities and backgrounds — routinely ignored because Japan’s Census does not measure for ethnicity. So if anything, Japan’s internationalization is grossly underestimated.

TEACH THE CHILDREN WELL

The front line of this trend is Japan’s education system, where the children of immigrants make an immediate and urgent impact on society. This is not news. For more than a quarter century, local governments have begged for enhanced services to help their residents with language and acculturation barriers assimilate into their schools and communities. The national government has basically ignored them.

But we are seeing some progress. Multilingual manuals about local customs and rules have long been issued by governments and civil society, including some helpful training videos to help explain elementary school rules and cultural practices in simpler Japanese. A good example was produced by students at Wakayama University and featured in the Mainichi last year.

This is highly laudable. But a point of caution: This isn’t just a matter of telling all Newcomers to “Do as the Romans do.” Without mindful production of teaching materials grounded in solid social science, cultural education could have the opposite effect: Solidifying stereotypes, entrenching prejudice, and making the perceived newcomer feel like a perpetually subordinated outsider.

Consider some bad habits that are the default mode:

One is systemic — the tendency towards stereotyping within language teaching itself. I recall my French language textbooks introducing “French things” (petit pan, grande pan, etc.) as something all French people ate. No mention, say, of couscous, or other ethnic but Francophone cuisines. Or for that matter of other Francophone people. All French people in my textbooks were white, which simply didn’t reflect reality.

To the untrained eye, that meant that whatever doesn’t fit a textbook image of “Frenchness” wasn’t seen as “French.” It put up artificial walls between peoples simply out of habit or convenience. That’s because basic language training necessarily tends to overgeneralize about societies and boil them down to foundational language. But resorting to prototype omits developments in society, such as cultural diversity from international migration.

That’s why we need trained eyes to avoids stereotyping. Let social scientists, not just linguists or untrained do-gooders, also have input into the learning process.

But there are also some bad habits that are intrinsic to Japan, easily seen when even the most educated people teach Japanese culture…

BEWARE “UNIQUE JAPAN”

Consider the narrative focus on “Japanese uniqueness,” as in, “only Japan has this,” for just about anything worthy of portraying as “Japanese.”  For example, I’ve seen educational materials claiming that enjoying four seasons and eating octopus are “uniquely Japanese.”.  Calamari, anyone?

One problem with the “uniqueness trope” is that it prioritizes differences over similarities.  This is the natural outcome of humanities as a field seeing culture as a constellation of contrasts.  Anything not remarkable or dramatic enough to cause “culture shock” doesn’t seem to be all that worthy of study.

Yet no matter what, people are far more similar than they are different (start with the fact that we are carbon-based mammals and work up).  And by portraying even the most mundane things (such as using chopsticks, taking off your shoes at the doorway, or sorting your garbage) as some kind of cultural minefield only serves to make study of other societies unduly formidable and anal-retentive.  

So focus on practical goals.  Give them the right words to accomplish the tasks and things will flow from there.

The other problem with fixating on difference to the point of “uniqueness” is that it encourages ascription and exclusion.  Anything deviating from the portrayed image of “Japaneseness” automatically becomes “foreign.”  

Consider the political outcomes of this.  Let’s say you have a suggestion for how things could be done better, but alas, you’re a foreigner?  Too bad.  It won’t work in Japan because we are unique and not like any other foreign country and we do things differently.  Foreign things must automatically be different or they wouldn’t be foreign.  

But what if a Japanese suggests the same thing?  Well, we can’t accept that either.  Obviously it’s still not the norm, because if it were, you wouldn’t be suggesting a change.  

Either way, the door is slammed on social change.  Eliminating the possibility of any cultural overlap reinforces the “us versus them” mindset and feeds directly into social othering, all of which are counterproductive to societies evolving.

“WE JAPANESE”

Another problem is portraying Japan as a monolith.  Guidebooks on Japan tend to represent it as a one-size-fits-all experience, and that “Japanese behavior” is predictable down to topic sentences without exception:  “We Japanese think or behave this way.”  Switch on the TV (especially NHK World) and you’ll see that narrative reinforced daily.  

That’s just stereotyping all over again, and it ignores all the regional differences that plainly exist once you get to know Japan as individuals, regions, dialects, and local mores.

Whenever I get asked to say something about Japan, especially by people who want to go there and experience it for themselves (which I always heartily encourage), I always add the caveat that, “Your mileage may vary, depending on how you’re perceived.”  If I were shorter, darker-haired or -skinned, female or non-binary, younger or older etc., my experience of interactions with Japanese society would differ.  

Teaching people about life in Japan has to incorporate the inevitability of diversity and exception.  There are just so many Japans out there.

The knock-on ill-effect of portraying all Japanese as being a certain way (including physical appearance) means that those who aren’t are not “real Japanese.”  

This feeds directly into teaching the students and future residents of Japan that in the end they don’t really belong here.  Even if they learn the rules, they never be part of the group that makes the rules.  

Why do you think so few of the Non-Japanese on Caregiver Visas who underwent Japan’s very difficult nursing program stayed on afterwards?  Because they were only trained to work, not belong to the guild that trained them, or ever assimilate and become Japanese.

“YOU FOREIGNERS”

One final problem to be aware of is that teachers and students should not assume the mantle of what I call “Cultural Ambassadors.”  Being told that “Japan is this way” and “How is it in your society?”  As if they as individuals could possibly represent whole societies with any real accuracy.  After all, being an ambassador takes very specific training in social science, including diplomacy, cultural representation, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

The problem with untrained “do-gooders” indulging in cultural education, and “culture vultures” trying to be helpful and “taking foreigners under their wing,” is that they’re generally not mindful of what they’re doing.  They’re often not trying to be a friend on your terms.  They’re often studying you like an animal in a zoo or a protozoan in a Petri dish, treating you like a pet or a means to an end.  

How many failed relationships and marriages have resulted from people glomming onto you because they were “Gaijin Groupies”?  They liked you as in idea more than you as an individual.

Let’s not let cultural education at the compulsory education level fall into these bad habits.

SO WHAT DO DO?

A lot of the tweaks are simple.  Make sure that language generalizing about Japan allows for exceptions.  “Some Japanese… most Japanese… almost all Japanese.”  

But some educational materials must show some awareness of the politics of inclusivity.  Make sure that people of diversity are also included in textbook perceptions of the Self, as a part of Japanese society.  That if they learn the rules and assimilate, that they too can have a role in being part of the process of rule creation.

Also, be aware that there are always politics behind any cultural training.  Make sure that the “How-Tos” don’t overstep their bounds.  Focus on the rules and how to follow them, and avoid going beyond that to demand people give up their power and become obedient “Model Minorities.”  

How to do that?  See them as individuals here for good trying to learn the ropes.  Help them become residents of Japan, if not colleagues and friends.  Don’t treat them something temporary, as if they are a rare bird with remarkable plumage that magically alighted on your windowsill, here only for an instant and gone tomorrow.  

Simply put, show some real empathy.  What would you want to know if you were moving into a new society and trying to fit in?  Treat Newcomers and neophytes as you would like to be treated.  Sounds obvious to say, but all sorts of bad habits get in the way.

ENDS

======================
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Kyodo: “Japanese population falls in all 47 prefectures for first time”. Actually, untrue, even according to the article itself. Once again, Japan’s exclusionary population tallies are only for “Japanese nationals”, not all people living in Japan

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Hi Blog.  One thing keeping me from commenting more frequently is the pressure I put on myself to write an essay before getting to the news article in question.  I’m going to do less of that in future; just briefly commenting and then getting to the article/issue in question.

The point of this post is to demonstrate some more Embedded Racism that is normalized in Japan’s media and public policy. In its official population tallies, Japan will only count “Japanese nationals” as actual people living in Japan.  Foreigners are mentioned in the Kyodo News article below, yes, but look how things are worded in it.  I’ve underlined the questionable bits.

Again, this is normal in Japan’s population tallies, even after more than 10 years since the local registry reforms began including foreign residents on its juuminhyou Registry Certificates.  It’s a highly questionable practice in terms of accurate demographics and social science, not to mention disrespectful of all the contributions foreign residents make.

Debito.org says that anyone registered as a resident in Japan should get counted as a part of the population of Japan.  No walls or caveats.  Little reforms like these can start now to normalize no distinctions and cost no tax money.  It’s just a matter of considering NJ as fellow human beings living lives in Japan like everyone else.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Japanese population falls in all 47 prefectures for first time

The population of Japanese nationals fell 801,000 in 2022 from a year earlier to 122,423,038, marking the largest drop since the survey began in 1968, government data showed Wednesday.

Japan Times/Kyodo News, July 26, 2023

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/07/26/national/japan-population-fall/

The population of Japanese nationals fell 801,000 in 2022 from a year earlier to 122,423,038, marking the largest drop since the survey began in 1968, government data showed Wednesday. | BLOOMBERG
KYODO

The population of Japanese nationals fell 801,000 in 2022 from a year earlier to 122,423,038, marking the largest drop and the first time all 47 prefectures have seen a decline since the survey began in 1968, government data showed Wednesday.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, Japan’s population, including foreign residents, stood at 125,416,877, down around 511,000 from a year earlier, according to a demographics survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The trend indicates an urgent need for Japan to develop measures to address the declining birthrate and improve employment opportunities for youth and women in regional areas. [NB:  Not immigration.]

While Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has called for implementing “unprecedented” measures to boost the birthrate in a last-ditch effort to arrest population decline by 2030, doubts persist about whether such initiatives, which are mostly extensions of existing policies, will be effective.

Japanese nationals declined for the 14th consecutive year in 2022, with a record low of 772,000 births in Japan significantly exceeded by a record high 1.57 million deaths.

Nationals working or studying abroad accounted for a decline of around 7,000 of the population.

The number of Japanese nationals in Okinawa, which had been an outlier the previous year, shrank for first time since comparable data was made available in 1973, the data showed.

The foreign population rose for the first time in three years by around 289,000 to 2,993,839 in the reporting year, as the relaxation of strict COVID-19 border controls facilitated the return of international students and technical interns. [NB: Temporary people, not residents.]

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates that foreign nationals will make up 10% of the population by 2070, with some local governments already engaged in efforts to attract professional talent from Asia.

By prefecture, only Tokyo saw an overall population increase due to the high influx of foreigners to the capital, while Akita Prefecture saw the largest population decrease at 1.65%.

[Note original Kyodo headline saying all prefecture populations fell.  Again, foreigners don’t count.]

Among municipalities, 92.4% saw a decrease in the population of Japanese nationals, while 7.6% experienced an increase.

Those age 14 and under accounted for 11.82% of the Japanese population, falling by 0.18 percentage point from the previous year, while people age 65 and over increased by 0.15 point to 29.15%.

The working population, or people between 15 and 64, rose by 0.03 point to 59.03% of the overall population.

ENDS
======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities column 47: “The Reverse Culture Shock of Leaving Japan” (July 25, 2023), with some pointers on how to resettle and reassimilate overseas despite all the things you might miss about Japan

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The Reverse Culture Shock of Leaving Japan

Caption: It’s tough to leave Japan when there’s so much to like and miss. But there’s also things to like and miss elsewhere, so it’s a matter of being self-aware about what you like.

By Debito Arudou.  Shingetsu News Agency, July 25, 2023.

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/07/24/reverse-culture-shock-of-leaving-japan/.

SNA Editor Michael Penn is now doing SNA from the United States. Inspired by his big move, my previous column was about my leaving Japan in middle age, where I suggested readers decide whether or not to be a lifer in Japan by age 40. Accordingly, this column will talk about establishing a new life outside Japan.

I’ll open with a big caveat: These are my thoughts as a White guy born in America who spent a quarter century in Japan, half of it as a naturalized Japanese citizen, who eventually moved back. Readers returning to a different country of birth, or moving to a different third country altogether, may of course have different experiences. In my personal and anecdotal observations below, I’ll try to generalize enough for everyone but ground them in culturally specific examples. Keep the appropriate pinches of salt handy.

Soft Landings?

The biggest culture shock I felt after Japan was right after I arrived overseas. In the United States, for example, many big airport hubs are dirty, run-down, and relatively unpredictable compared to their Japanese counterparts. The waiting areas in particular feel like bus stations. Facilities are sometimes ill-maintained, instructions to your connecting flights or ground transit often monolingual and poorly signposted, ground staff often inattentive and inaccessible, and the food… well, it’s “airport food,” enough said. I quickly missed Japan’s clean, efficient, and plentiful public transportation that follows a schedule, and the restaurant fare that actually looks like the picture on the menu.

My theory is that Japan does travel hubs better because its international reputation is at stake. You can’t let the Gaijin tourists go home with a sour image of us! So signs are multilingual, maps are clear, and ground staff at least take pains to wave you in the right direction. In contrast, the US government seems relatively indifferent to tourists: “You’re obviously here because we are #1 and do things better than anybody—so no need to try harder to impress you.”

This initial culture shock starts fading once you’ve had a good night sleep and enjoy a few familiar things: Larger hotel rooms. Comfort foods like a thick steak with A1 Sauce or a spiral-cut ham hock. An apple pie that actually has more than one apple in it. Supermarkets full of cereals, dozens of flavors of canned soups, bulk goods, and cheap rice and vegetables. News media that is an absorbing read not just because it’s in your native language, but because the topics are interesting! Procuring a car so you can merge into society like everyone else.

But things will still grate for awhile: Being forced to tip. Dirty public restrooms that seem to be the norm, not the exception. Bureaucrats who seem to have little personal dedication to a job well done. Political discourse more concerned with riling you up than with solving problems. The din of people on cellphones or kids having public meltdowns that you can’t shut out because they’re speaking in your native tongue. And the biggest worry: Getting sick or injured and having to deal with American healthcare! It’s worse with family in tow, listening to their grumbles about future uncertainties and cultural differences and feeling helpless to offer quick fixes. During this purgatory period of constant irritability, the grass will always seem greener elsewhere.

Things Settle Down as You Settle Down

It takes months, but resettlement does happen. Things that you miss about Japan eventually get overwritten by new routines which you establish and things feel more like home.

Problem is, “home” will probably not be as you remember.

For me, after a quarter-century away, my country of birth had moved on and I felt like a foreigner here too. I had trouble pronouncing “ciabatta,” “pilates,” or the fast-food chain “Chipotle.” I had never watched cultural touchstones like Friends or Seinfeld, and was about twenty seasons behind on The Simpsons. I still can’t tell the difference between Techno, House, and Hip-Hop. I still say “Waikiki,” “karaoke” and “tiramisu” with a Japanese accent. And nothing in English quite captures the communally cathartic convenience of muttering Japanese words like baka! and mendokusai!

But that dislocation is softened when you rediscover things you really appreciate because you were so long without them: aspirin; dishwashers and in-sink garbage disposals; clothes washers and dryers that actually do their jobs; apartments that have real kitchens and balconies you can actually sit out on; houses with yards; trees that are allowed to grow without being culled like bonsai by the city government; full weekends without work; relaxed summers; week-long vacations without guilt; freeways that are actually free; speed limits that aren’t enforced by beeping speedometers in your car; traffic lights that sense when cars are waiting; right-on-red rules at intersections; beaches that don’t close down at particular times of the year just because it’s tradition; and the freedom of road trips.

Eventually it dawns on you why Japan never quite felt like “home”: the constant reminders of your outsider status; feeling constantly watched because you stand out; old ladies approaching you in the supermarket to peer into your shopping basket; obnoxious schoolchildren shouting English at you from the safety of a group; some businesses and rental agencies refusing you service just because the manager or landlord has a “thing” about foreigners.

That’s just what happened to me, but society as a whole just seemed to behave wrongheadedly at time.

People kept falling for those media-generated scares leading to egg and butter shortages every few years. Friends realized that their marriages were running aground because their partner was suddenly preaching the virtues of “sexless couples.” There is the frustration of never being able to have a “clearing the air” conversation because the default is to “put a lid on smelly things.” Annoying too is the “bureaucrats know best” of Japan’s “nanny-state” not only producing a shrugging, apathetic shikata ga nai public, but also dismissing any suggestion for how things might be done better. If you get an answer at all, it will most likely be a glib “there is no precedent for it, and besides this is Japan and you’re a foreigner.”

Ultimately, I realized my biggest issue in Japan was the relative lack of life choices. For example, in the United States and many other societies, if you wish to live in a more liberal environment, you can move to a liberal city. You can find “your people” and partake in self-sufficient communities celebrating alternative lifestyles, with voting blocs to match.

In Japan, however, the top-down structure of government and the ascription pressures of Japanese culture mean deviations from the norm are flattened, disenfranchised, and made secretive. It’s the “nail sticking out getting hammered down” and all that.

That’s why secret worlds abound in Japan. They are wonderful to partake in but they never become mainstream or normal. By definition, they’re secret. You can only inhabit them on a temporary basis. Then, at daybreak, you have to get serious and get back to work.

This goes double for foreigners and people who look “foreign.” For them to feel part of a community in Japan, they have to resort to a foreign enclave where by definition they do not belong.

The Lessons Learned

I believe the trick to straddling cultures is to inhabit what you like. I realized that there are a small number of things about Japan which I really like, but a large number of little things in Japan that I simply could not stand. On the other hand, there are a small number of things in the United States that I simply cannot stand, but a lot more little things I like. Of the two, the latter provides me with a lifestyle more attuned to my tastes.

Again, your own preferences may vary, but in any case be self-aware about what you like, and choose to partake in the best elements of each society and culture. Fly between cultures when you need to.

I enjoy Japan because I don’t need a car, a menu, or a can of pepper spray to enjoy it. I enjoy the United States because I can be left alone.

Ultimately, that’s the problem with being an international traveler. No matter where you are, you’re aware that nowhere by itself is perfectly suited to your needs. Something is always better someplace else. You know because you’ve experienced it. So that’s why you go where you can enjoy yourself until you get your fill.

As Michael Penn settles into his new lifestyle in a rural American town, may he use his knowledge of what he likes in Japan and America to fit in and flit between.

Archived at SNA at

https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/07/24/reverse-culture-shock-of-leaving-japan/

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 46: “Visible Minorities: Departing Japan at Middle Age” (May 15, 2023)

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Hi Blog. My latest column offers a frank assessment of living your life out in Japan as an immigrant. It of course can be done, but most of you will find that even after decades swimming against the current in terms of legal status and social acceptance, you will get no commensurate reward after all your efforts.  In fact, I found that life opportunities dwindle as you age in Japan, and you get locked into a dreary, impoverished lifestyle like most other elderly here. If you think you can avoid this situation, power to you, but I suggest you make your decision to stay permanently or not by age 40.  Good luck.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: Departing Japan at Middle Age
MAY 15, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/05/15/visible-minorities-departing-japan-at-middle-age/

SNA (Tokyo) — As you have probably have heard, SNA President Michael Penn will be moving his operations overseas. He’s leaving Japan. At his age, that’s probably a good idea. I speak from experience.

I came to Japan during the “Bubble Years” of the 1980s, when Japan was ascendant upon the world stage and buying everything in sight. Money orgiastically sloshed around the economy.

Finding work was pretty easy. Lots of Japanese companies were trying to “internationalize” by hiring token foreign staff who were looking for an international experience. Or, if being a corporate drone wasn’t your thing, you could teach English for about US$100 an hour. It was one great big party. I came over, fell in love with the language and a girl, and decided to make a go of it here.

It was a pretty good go. I lived in Japan for 24 years, married and had kids, became tenured faculty at a university, bought land, built a house, and learned the language and culture well enough to write books in Japanese and take out Japanese citizenship. In terms of trying to assimilate into Japan, I don’t think there’s a lot more I could have done. I was an ideal immigrant.

But then, like Michael, I too left Japan. That’s both a pity and, in my case, an inevitability.

Japan should be trying harder to keep people like us. It really doesn’t. The longer you’re in Japan, the more your opportunities dwindle.

Opportunities Denied

Let’s first talk about the natural obstacles to people staying on, starting with how difficult it is to keep a visa.

Unless you marry (and stay married to) a Japanese, it’s quite difficult for foreigners to control their own professional lives in Japan. Becoming a salaryman is one thing, where you can work until you drop, but promotion is tougher for foreigners, and they are the first ones laid off in any economic downturn. Moreover, the types of jobs you can take are mostly “foreigner” jobs in certain industries.

So how about starting your own business in Japan? It can happen, and there are a few successful entrepreneurs. But I’ve seen many, many more failures. Some were dragged down by onerous requirements such as expensive shareholder investment and being forced to hire Japanese staff. Others got tripped up either by mandarin rigmarole that is designed more for the bureaucrats’ convenience than yours, or by pedantic officials who are out to get you, finding any mistake in your paperwork so they can reflexively revert to the “culture of no.”

You’re better off establishing a headquarters overseas and setting up a branch in Japan than registering a company in Japan proper. But if you do that, suspicion is triggered in the Immigration Bureau and you face even more visa rigmarole.

That’s all before we get to how Japan has toughened up its visa requirements over the years.

Compared to when I first arrived, it’s harder to graduate from a three-month visa to a one-year; and so is getting a three-year and Permanent Residency, especially for people of color or from developing countries. The assumption is that people from poor countries are only in Japan for the money, not to positively contribute to Japanese society as a resident and taxpayer like everyone else.

In any case, the mandarins’ overall attitude is that foreigners must prove themselves worthy of the honor of staying in Japan. Japan’s graveyard of defunct visa statuses, discontinued because they had qualifications so ludicrous that few people applied, reflects that.

The clearest indication that Japan really doesn’t want us to stay is the lack of an official immigration policy, an official Ministry of Immigration, or other governmental organs at the national level to help foreigners become Japanese. Politicians have repeatedly said that they want foreigners to come work for awhile but not stay on. Take them at their word.

Nevertheless, You Persisted

But let’s say you have satisfied all these requirements and gained Permanent Residency or even Japanese citizenship. What do you get for after all that effort? Not enough.

You start realizing this when you hit middle age in Japan. Around 40 I could see where I had been and where I was heading, and it looked pretty bleak.

This is because I was seeing how old people actually lived in Japan. Yes, there are great networks for them to be active both physically and mentally, including mountain climbing, gateball, mahjong, or go boardgames. Japan’s medical system is very good, especially compared to, for example, the hellscape that is US healthcare. Of course there’s good food and drink to be had everywhere.

That might be satisfactory if you’re a Japanese old fart. As a foreign old fart, you’re stuck in treadmill conversations with people who have mostly lived for work and often don’t have many interests beyond it. If they are educated, they’ll often see you as a cultural curiosity to be studied, or as a basis of comparison to sharpen their predispositions informed by the “we Japanese” superiority complexes.

If you can psychologically handle a life where your friends are mostly insular and conservative, enjoy. If not, you’re going to be lonely.

Chances are you’re also going to be poor. The average payout for the Japanese pension, according to Reuters in 2019, is about 150,000 yen per month. That might cover rent and leave enough for a comfortable lifestyle in many of Japan’s dying countryside towns, but not in the major cities.

This should not have come as any surprise. Even during the Bubble Years Japan’s elderly were poor, and were being sent overseas to “silver zone” enclaves so their yen could go farther with the exchange rates.

But now that the value of the yen is dropping, that has all slipped away. Forget traveling much, especially overseas, unless you have additional savings or means of your own. It’s highly likely you’ll find yourself stuck in Japan.

This situation will not improve, because Japan has ignored its demographic issues for decades. All the way back in 2000, both the United Nations and the Japanese government agreed that Japan’s aging society would soon become top-heavy with geriatrics with not enough young taxpayers paying into the pension.

The proposed solution–then, as now–was immigration. Foreigners were going to save Japan. But, again, the Japanese government assiduously declined to take us.

Policymakers clung to homogeneous-society narratives and stopgap measures like the exploitative “trainee” visa system, and watched pension contributions per capita dwindle. What is their solution now that the warnings from nearly a quarter-century ago proved accurate? Raise the retirement age to the late 60s and pay out less pension. We’ll probably see Japan’s retirement age raised to 70 before too long.

By the time you want to retire, you’ll get a pittance, or might not be expected to retire at all.

Twilight Years in Japan

Let’s say you’ve done better future planning than the Japanese government did, and you can live your middle and late age comfortably anywhere you wish. Why not spend your later middle age and twilight years in Japan?

Because, as I said above, the longer you’re in Japan the more your opportunities dwindle.

Let’s start with dealing with the inevitable “midlife crisis.” It’s highly likely your current job has become boring or gone sour. Often the younger workers aren’t happy with having a foreign senpai above them, and won’t treat you with the dignity and respect that was required of you when you were lower on the totem pole. Changing a job in Japan is culturally frowned upon. You’ll lose both salary and seniority. You’ll probably have to take what you can get, like everyone else.

Eventually all that’s left is the “make-work” jobs for seniors. Can you imagine wearing a uniform and flagging people past traffic cones? Sure, it’s nice to supplement your income and get out of the house, but it’s probably going to be boring at best, humiliating and a soft target for bullying at worst. Again, people aren’t going to forget that you’re a foreigner.

The fact is that geriatrics in Japan are expected to be impoverished, housebound, and satisfied with monotonous days full of television, drinking, and gateball. Sure, you might have your “forever home,” but you’re expected to die in it. You won’t get much money if you try to resell your house or other equity and expect to live on the proceeds, as only the land is worth anything. You can’t, for example, buy an RV and live the nomadic life of retirees on pensions in Western societies. You can only live like you’re expected to live.

Personally, I couldn’t take this encroaching monotony. Around the time I turned 45, I realized that the main reason I had loved life in Japan was the adventures–the curious and weird things that happened around me daily. But the more familiar I became with Japan, the adventures largely evaporated.

After more than twenty years in Japan, every day became Groundhog Day. I could sleepwalk through most conversations. I had to find diversions to alleviate the boredom; they no longer found me.

The fact is, unless a brick had fallen from the sky and brained me, I could predict what was going to happen from the morning when I woke up to the moment I went to bed. So I decided to leave.

What Happens If You Leave Japan?

Leaving Japan is also made into something difficult. You’re constantly reminded that if you ever depart for good, you’ll lose everything and have to start from zero, especially professionally.

A very sad discovery is that your Japan experiences don’t count for much in other countries, given that now China is the Asian regional power. Even if Japan had retained its luster, there were always people overseas with Japanese roots competing for your Japan-specialist job, and got it by arguing bald-facedly that foreigners can’t know as much as Japanese with “real Japanese blood.” The Japanese Only attitudes you see in Japan’s hiring practices are exported worldwide.

If you have a family in tow, it’s even tougher to leave. They’re especially scared by the Japanese media constantly rattling on about how dangerous life is overseas. If your kids are still in the Japanese school system, they’ll begrudge being uprooted too. They know that if they ever return to Japan, they’ll never be considered “Japanese” enough because they haven’t passed through the Japanese education system.

Coming to Japan was always a carefully baited hook–if you get past all the obstacles, you’ll find yourself trapped in a society where you’re not allowed to truly belong, yet are constantly expected to try.

Yet some people do leave, sometimes permanently, sometimes not.

People like Japan specialists Alex Kerr and Donald Keene regularly split their time between Japan and overseas. Authors Haruki Murakami lives permanently in Honolulu and Marie “spark joy” Kondo lives in Los Angeles.

Even famed Tale of Genji translator Edward G. Seidensticker departed Japan back in 1962, signing off with, “The Japanese are just like other people. They work hard to support their–but no. They are not like other people. They are infinitely more clannish, insular, parochial, and one owes it to one’s sense of self-respect to retain a feeling of outrage at the insularity. To have this sense of outrage go dull is to lose one’s will to communicate and that, I think, is death. So I am going home.”

Eventually Seidensticker went back on these words, living his life on both sides of the Pacific, dying in Tokyo in 2007 at age 86.

I too spend extended periods in Japan and am much happier (and prosperous) by having a foot in two countries. I can pick and choose the best of both societies when I want, and I think I’ve earned that option.

But I had to make a choice: I wouldn’t have been able to do that with Japan as my home base. Having a “totalization agreement” for both my pension systems helps too. I’m having to catch up with my pension contributions in my new tax home, but fortunately the opportunities are here for me to do so.

So if you’re thinking about staying in Japan permanently, I suggest you make the final decision by age 40. After that, you’ll be stuck in a rut in Japan. Then if you change your mind, you’re probably not going to make an easy transition back to your home country, as your friends and family themselves retire and die off. Fair warning.

Godspeed, Michael Penn. May you and SNA prosper more in another society than Japan would let you. ENDS

======================
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My latest SNA Visible Minorities column 44: “Interview with Jon Heese: Life Lessons from a Naturalized Japanese Politician”, March 20, 2023

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Hi Blog My latest SNA VM column 44, which came out today, is an interview with Jon Heese (pronounced Hayes), a naturalized Canadian-Japanese and elected Tsukuba City Councillor of twelve years. A Caucasian Visible Minority of Japan, Heese has long been advocating that other Non-Japanese Residents naturalize and run for office in Japan like he did.

This interview took me more than a decade to secure, as I first invited Jon to interview back in the early 2010s. This time he contacted ME for the interview, so I felt less guilty about serving up some non-softball questions. Excerpt:

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

Debito Arudou: Hi Jon. Please introduce yourself as you’d like to be seen by your voting and non-voting public.

Jon Heese: Obviously I would like them to see me as a combination of Brad Pitt and Nelson Mandela. But I would be satisfied if they only see me as someone who is doing his best. I’m left of center on social issues and a fiscally conservative social democrat. This means freedom for people to be who they are within the structures of society. Businesses should also be free to function within a social structure. And I underline social. Businesses function within society. They are not entities unto themselves. It is the community that is educating their workers, building their infrastructure, and protecting their property. Businesses need to pay their taxes and stop trying to privatize profits while socializing risks. Fundamentally, governments should be in the business of regulating, not competing with legitimate businesses…

Debito Arudou: Woah, woah, woah. I asked how you wanted us to see you, and you’re starting to give us us your personal philosophy of government. Okay, but I was asking more: “Where are you from, and what do you do?” Let’s back up a sec and get into that.

Jon Heese: Silly me. As a good politician I’ll blame someone else for my misunderstanding. Okay. So, who am I. I’m a small town boy from Wymark, Saskatchewan, Canada, population 175. If you’ve ever seen Dances with Wolves, that’s pretty much what the area looks like. I’m from a family of eleven kids (six adopted). My family moved around a lot due to my father’s career as a Mennonite preacher. I spent about two years as a kid in central Kansas, and after high school I went to Europe for two years to see a bit of the world. I then attended the University of Regina and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education. In 1991 I landed in Narita looking for one of those sweet English teaching jobs I’d heard so much about. I got a bunch of crap jobs, but they paid the bills. Eventually I ended up in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, a city about 60 kilometers north of Tokyo with a population of about 150,000 at the time. Eventually I understood that students didn’t really want to learn English so much as have an hour of entertainment with one of them movie star types. In the end I lasted about six years in the English biz. By ‘97 I was burned/bummed out and could already see the writing on the wall. The Bubble was bursting. Pay was in decline and finding students was getting harder. Besides which, after six years I had hardly learned any Japanese. I knew I needed to find a job where I would be forced to speak Japanese. I opened a bar and ran that for seven years. Then I opened an import company to supply the many foreign researchers in Tsukuba and rewrite papers for the Japanese researchers. I also did a bunch of acting for TV and movies. Eventually I got into politics at the city level.

Full interview at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2023/03/20/life-lessons-from-a-naturalized-japanese-politician/

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My SNA column 41: “Celebrating Christmas as a Compromise” (Dec 27, 2022), about what to do when people say you shouldn’t celebrate regular traditions you hold dear because they’re “not Japanese”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Let me say it upfront:  If you’re celebrating December customs such as Christmas, then I hope you had a Merry (and unobstructed) Christmas and a Happy New Year.  If your Christmas was in fact obstructed in some way by people who claim that “Christmas is not Japanese” or “Christmas is something you should outgrow” (as happened to a friend of mine recently), my end-year SNA column is for you:

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Visible Minorities: Celebrating Christmas as a Compromise

SNA (Tokyo) — A long-term Non-Japanese resident friend, married with a Japanese husband and adult kids, recently told me about a new development in their relationship: Christmas was no longer to be celebrated in their household.

Their children were all grown and didn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore; so no more presents or any big dinner to celebrate the day. They would allow her only a tree.

Why this sudden change of heart? To her surprise, all this time Christmas had been regarded by the family as a nuisance, a cultural imposition on them. Now it was time to grow out of it.

It raises a fundamental issue that someday comes up within any intercultural relationship: How much culture do you give up for the sake of compromise?  

I argue that Japan’s “unique” culture narrative (and therefore its lack of commonality with anything “foreign”, by definition) can often create sudden, long-term culture shocks.  Because people here can see any accommodation of “foreign” culture as an identity sacrifice, a denial of “Japaneseness”, this can kill relationships, and I offer advice on what to do about it.  

Article at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/12/27/visible-minorities-celebrating-christmas-as-a-compromise/

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

Thanks for reading!  Seasons Greetings to all Debito.org Readers and beyond!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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My SNA Column 39: Visible Minorities: “Never Forget Japan’s Racist Covid Policies” (Oct 24, 2022), where I ask you to seriously reconsider devoting your life to a place that could revoke your legal status at any time

mytest

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Visible Minorities: Never Forget Japan’s Racist Covid Policies
SHINGETSU NEWS AGENCY, OCT 24, 2022 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/10/24/visible-minorities-never-forget-japans-racist-covid-policies/

SNA (Tokyo) — This month Japan finally lifted its Covid restrictions and reopened its borders to tourists. Well, whoop-de-doo.

For now, foreigners will no longer suffer entry caps, or go through extra procedures just because they’re foreign, such as being sequestered in foreigner-only floors of hotels with tour-minders so they don’t wander off and contaminate the rest of Japan.

Never mind that Japanese entrants, barely subjected to these strictures put on foreigners, had all this time predictably infected Japan quite freely.

Remember how this whole thing started back in 2020, when cases were found in Yokohama Port aboard a luxury liner called the Diamond Princess? It soon became mired in Japan’s bureaucratic politics, the ship’s patients counted by no country as part of their Covid case total. This was the bellwether for Japan’s future Covid border policies of incompetence and racism…

Rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/10/24/visible-minorities-never-forget-japans-racist-covid-policies/

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 33: “Why Progressives keep losing” (short answer: because they alienate their own allies), April 18, 2022

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Hi Blog.  My most recent SNA column is a think-pied about how the Left keeps losing out to the Right. Because working with the Left is like herding cats.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: Why Progressives Keep Losing

Shingetsu News Agency, April 18, 2022

SNA (Tokyo) — Shingetsu News Agency President Michael Penn wrote about my previous column:

“Debito found a way to provoke them again, and I must say that I don’t understand the way a lot of people think these days. Those who read the article and interacted with what was written tended to say on social media that they largely agreed with it. But there was a more vocal cohort who, not really disagreeing with any specific arguments made, were outraged on the basis that Debito, a white man, had dared to give any advice to Naomi Osaka. Apparently, we are now supposed to live self-contained within our own little tribal identities, and universal humanity is no longer recognized as sufficient grounds to express an opinion, even for a news columnist whose job is to comment on public affairs.”

There’s a lesson here.

Yale historian Timothy Snyder said recently in a television interview, “The Left loses for the right reasons; the Right wins for the wrong reasons.”

One of the reasons why the Left, particularly the Progressives who have not enjoyed much power worldwide for more than a century, keeps losing is because of their fractiousness.

Just as soon as they gain an advantage or start making headway in the policy arena, they lose focus and begin turning on themselves. They alienate natural allies because they are not ideologically pure enough, or worse yet, as seen above, the wrong skin color.

Granted, the Left has always had a tougher time mobilizing people than the Right. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, the Left wants leaders they can fall in love with, while the Right wants leaders they can fall in line with.

Let’s unpack that. Voices from the Left are discordant and diverse, and expectations are high and sometimes uncompromising. It’s also a lot tougher for a Leftist leader to gain and sustain the “love” of their supporters since, no matter what else happens, there will always be winners and losers with every decision they make.

But for Rightists, it’s a lot easier to “fall in line” behind an ideological camp whose basic organizing principle is money (and the shameless acquisition of it). And once they gain enough of it, money in itself not only buys power, but also, oddly enough, credibility. […] Sadly, that’s why the Right understands power better…

But that’s Right vs. Left. Now let’s talk about Left vs. Left, and how they undermine themselves…

Read whole column at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/04/18/visible-minorities-why-progressives-keep-losing/ 

======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities column 32: “On the Naomi Osaka Heckling” at Indian Wells tournament (March 21, 2022)

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Hi Blog. This semester has been an extremely busy one, so I haven’t had much time to blog. All my writing energies are being devoted to creating lectures. Sorry. Anyway, here’s my latest SNA column. Debito Arudou, PhD

////////////////////////////////
Shingetsu News Agency
Visible Minorities: On the Naomi Osaka Heckling
MAR 21, 2022 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/03/21/visible-minorities-on-naomi-osaka-heckling/

SNA (Tokyo) — At a recent tournament in Indian Wells, California, Japan tennis champion Naomi Osaka was heckled by some troll in the audience who shouted out “you suck!” while she was playing on court.

That reduced Osaka to tears. She asked the referee if she could address the crowd, then asked to have the troll ejected. Both requests were denied, and play resumed. Osaka then lost in straight sets.

In post-game comments, Osaka tearfully noted the distraction and compared her situation to a 2001 incident where Venus and Serena Williams faced crowd abuse, again at Indian Wells. The Williamses boycotted the venue for more than a decade after that.

Fortunately, this time Osaka’s heckler was the outlier. The audience at the venue, fellow players afterwards, media and internet chatter were overwhelmingly supportive of her.

Still, others noted that Osaka needs to develop a thicker skin.

I’m afraid I agree.

Osaka has been around on this circuit for quite a while. She’s now 24, and obviously has the talent to be world champion. Now the question is, given the choices she’s made, does she have the mettle to maintain it?

Osaka has been around on this circuit for quite a while.  She’s now 24, and obviously has the talent to be world champion.  Now the question is, does she have the mettle to maintain it?

Remember, these are the choices she made:  As I’ve written before in a Japan Times column, “Warning to Naomi Osaka:  Playing for Japan can seriously shorten your career” (September 19, 2018), she chose to represent Japan, a country with a long history of putting grueling (sometimes fatal) pressure on its athletes.  They’re expected to put their country first and their personal best a distant second.

And it’s further complicated by the fact that Osaka is a Visible Minority in Japan, moreover living the preponderance of her life in America and remaining unproficient in Japanese.  

That means, like for so many Visible Minorities in Japan, her foreignness is tolerated as long as she keeps winning.  Put simply:  If she wins, her Japanese half is celebrated.  If she loses, her Non-Japanese half is to blame.  

And she’s not winning.  She’s skipped tournaments due to mental health issues and underperformed in the recent ones she’s attended.  Despite having the honor of lighting the Olympic flame in Tokyo 2021, she only made it to the third round in the tennis event.  Currently she’s dropped to 78th in the world rankings.

That is all tragic, especially since her Japanese sponsors will someday start questioning their money’s worth, as she’s the highest paid female athlete in history.  She’s also used her status (rightly) to visibly advocate for minority causes in America, including BLM (but notably, not for fellow Visible Minorities in Japan; she even ironically dismissed racism in Japan as merely a matter of “a few bad apples”).  

But here’s the point:  What is Osaka’s goal?

If she wishes to settle for the celebrity status of “famous for being famous,” then mission accomplished.  Tennis or no tennis, she can continue to attend her gala events and model for magazine covers and advocate for her causes.  Those are her life choices, so power to her.

But if she wishes to remain a tennis champ, especially one representing and compensated by Japan, she’s going to have to develop some focus.

No matter what, there will be detractors.  That’s the hazard of being a public figure, especially as a Japanese athlete.  And her championing off-court issues like human rights attracts even more detractors.  

I speak from some experience here.  While I am by no means an athlete and cannot claim to be a world champion at anything, I too have fought for human rights causes in Japan.  I’ve kept a sustained public campaign against racial discrimination in Japan for decades, writing several books and garnering domestic and international media attention against “Japanese Only” signs and rules.  We took our case all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court and made it clear to the world, despite all the denialists, that racial discrimination is an embedded, systemic reality in Japan.

That too brings forth detractors who think that pointing out something shameful in Japan is shameful in itself.  As do the trolls of the Global Far Right, who hold up Japan as their model ethnostate, and from them I get death threats on a weekly basis.

But my goal has always been straightforward:  Get a national law passed against racial discrimination in Japan with criminal penalties.  It might not happen in my lifetime, but that remains my focus and I pay the trolls no heed.

As should Osaka.  At some point in time she’s going to have to stop letting hecklers take her power away.  This is that point in time.

Look, if it’s a matter of unfairness in the rules, or something that targets her because of things she cannot change (such as her racial and ethnic background), by all means, protest that.  Racism should never be tolerated.

But a matter of a generic “You suck!”, while unpleasant and undeserved, is something people her age should have learned to deal with by now.  

Bullies will always exist, and you’ll probably encounter them outside of Indian Wells.  Showing them that they have the power to affect you like that only emboldens them further.  Reclaim that power by showing them you’re stronger than they are.  Be unfazed.  Otherwise you will appear to lack the mettle to stay champion, and they, not you, will accomplish their goals.

Yes, it’s Indian Wells’ job to create a comfortable and level playing field for athletes, and they should have taken responsibility for that.  It’s our job as the general public to make sure those conditions are in fact enforced and to support our favorite athletes.  If Indian Wells isn’t going to cooperate, then yes, boycott the place.  

But it’s still the athlete’s job to train both physically and mentally and play their personal best.  

So do your best, Naomi Osaka.  Enforce what you can, tune out what you can’t.  That’s what champions do.  That’s the path you chose, and to a certain degree these detractors come with it.  

As you might say, dismiss them in your mind as just “a few bad apples.”

ENDS

======================
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Good 2018 JT article on Japanese Nationality Law. Upshot: Don’t give up NJ citizenship after naturalizing into Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  While doing some research for my upcoming SNA end-year column, I found this interesting article from 2018 that deserves highlighting.  An important estimated statistic follows about the possible number of dual nationals in Japan (close to one million).  And also the fact that those dual nationals in Japan are probably under no credible threat of losing one citizenship.

International couples with dual national children in Japan, take note:  Do not let your children sacrifice one side of their identity merely for the sake of bureaucratic convenience, especially when they don’t have to.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

(PS:  Note how little the debate has progressed since dual nationality in Japan was proposed back in 2009!)

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

What does Japan’s Nationality Act really mean for its dual citizens?
Subtitle: Given the present “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude of the Justice Ministry, it would be highly unusual if Naomi Osaka was forced to relinquish her U.S. citizenship at the age of 22. 
BY CORY BAIRD AND SAKURA MURAKAMI
The Japan Times, Sep 19, 2018 (excerpt)
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/09/19/how-tos/japans-nationality-act-really-mean-dual-citizens/

How many Japanese citizens hold multiple nationalities?

The Justice Ministry confirmed to The Japan Times in April that some 890,000 are in a position to be dual nationals, according to data from local municipalities from the years 1985 to 2016. This number includes those who have declared or forfeited Japanese citizenship, as well as those that are assumed to have multiple nationalities based on their birthright.

Has anyone been stripped of their dual nationality by the Japanese government?

There have been no reported instances of dual nationals by birth having their citizenship revoked.

In April, the Justice Ministry confirmed to The Japan Times that the justice minister had never issued a warning to a dual citizen by birth to decide upon one nationality, meaning that no such dual national has ever been stripped of their Japanese citizenship under Article 15 of the Nationality Act.

This lack of enforcement is a fact that Okuda says is often overlooked.

“For athletes like Naomi Osaka, the newspapers write under the impression that she must choose a nationality,” he said, “but many people do not know that (the Justice Ministry) has never warned people (for not declaring one nationality), although in the past the Justice Ministry has reportedly mailed the children from international marriages a notification about the obligation to declare one nationality.”

However, for those who have naturalized to other countries, there have been a few reported cases of citizens being stripped of their Japanese passport.

The Nationality Act states that Japanese citizens who naturalize to a foreign country will automatically lose their Japanese nationality upon obtaining foreign citizenship.

Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/09/19/how-tos/japans-nationality-act-really-mean-dual-citizens/ 

======================
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Debito’s SECOND EDITION of “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, 2022), fully revised and updated, now on sale

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Hi Blog. The new SECOND EDITION of “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books, 2022), completely revised and updated with 100 extra pages of new material, is now on sale.

Information site outlining what’s new, with excerpts and reviews, and how to get your copy at a discount at

https://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html

(Or you can download a flyer, take it to your library, have them order the book, and then borrow it for free at EmbeddedRacism2ndEdFlyer)

Read a sample of the book on Amazon here.

Front Cover:

Full cover with reviews:

Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

Mainichi Editorial: Foreign workers would also serve roles as consumers, taxpayers. Bravo. It needs to be said by somebody in the Wajin media

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I just uncovered this post sitting in my Drafts folder for the past couple of years.  It is eminently sensible and needs to be said by somebody in the Wajin Media, not just here repeatedly on Debito.org. Let’s put it up.  As submitter JK says:

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

The article below is a nice change: imagining 外国人 as not just 労働者 but also 消費者 and 納税者.

Of course it would have been great if the article had gone a bit further (i.e. 可能な日本人としての役割), but baby steps I guess? –JK

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

Editorial: Foreign workers would also serve roles as consumers, taxpayers
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20181109/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

November 9, 2018, Mainichi Shinbun

Important viewpoints are apparently lacking in discussions on accepting more foreign workers to Japan. The discourse treats foreigners only as a “workforce” to alleviate labor shortages, and fails to shed light on a variety of other roles they can play.

Boosting the workforce is a vital challenge for the Japanese economy. Seeking people from overseas when labor-saving measures alone are not enough is a natural response to the reality.

But foreigners working in Japan can contribute more than labor to Japanese society. This point should not be overlooked.

First of all, they are also consumers.

The rapid depopulation of the Japanese workforce, which forms the core of household consumption, can cause national demand to shrink and drag down economic growth.

Greater use of artificial intelligence (AI) may ease labor shortages to a certain extent, but AIs do not eat or drive cars.

Foreign workers will push up housing and educational spending, like Japanese households do, when they live in Japan with their family members for longer periods of time.

Moreover, their wide-ranging needs can be expected to create new products and services and even lead to new jobs.

Another important role that foreigners can play is paying taxes. They pay income tax when they work, and they shoulder the consumption tax as Japanese do in the course of their daily lives.

A look at the United States gives insight in the situation. According to the New American Economy, a multipartisan organization studying and making proposals on immigration issues, the combined disposable income of people who came from overseas topped almost 100 trillion yen in 2014, making up for 14.3 percent of total households in America. The ratio was higher than the percentage of people born outside the U.S. at 13.2 percent.

This population group pays some 37 trillion yen in federal, state and local taxes. This amount is as large as the combined revenue from Japan’s income and consumption taxes in fiscal 2017.

We should discuss which choice we want to make — hiring young single workers on an ad hoc basis, or inviting long-term settlers with family members to increase their income and spending.

If we choose the second option, we need to make necessary preparations, and make corresponding commitments. This means exploring ways to benefit both foreign workers and the Japanese economy.

Japanese version

就労外国人 多面的な役割 消費者、納税者としても
http://mainichi.jp/articles/20181109/ddm/005/070/030000c
社説
就労外国人 多面的な役割 消費者、納税者としても
毎日新聞2018年11月9日 東京朝刊

外国人労働者の受け入れ拡大に関する議論には、重要な視点が欠けているようだ。外国人を人手不足対策の「労働力」としてしか語らず、それ以外のさまざまな役割にあまり光を当てていない。

もちろん日本経済にとって、労働者の補充は喫緊の課題だ。省力化を徹底してもなお足りない人員を国外に求めるのは、自然な流れだろう。

しかし、国内に生活の拠点を置いて働く外国出身者は、労働力以上のものを日本経済にもたらす。この点を軽視すべきでない。

まず、消費者としての役割だ。

消費活動の中心でもある現役世代の人口急減は、需要の縮小につながり、経済成長の足かせとなる。

人工知能(AI)の活用で人手不足をある程度和らげることができたとしても、AIは外食をしたり、電車に乗ったりはしない。

外国人労働者が家族とともに長く日本で生活することになれば、日本人の世帯と同じように住宅や教育関連の消費も増えるだろう。

さらに彼らの多様なニーズに対応した商品やサービスが生まれたり、それが雇用の創出につながったりすることも期待できそうだ。

もう一つの主な貢献として、納税者の役割がある。働けば所得税を納めるし、生活の中で消費税も我々と同じように負担する。

米国の場合をみてみよう。移民問題の研究や提言を行っている超党派団体、ニュー・アメリカン・エコノミー(NAE)によると、外国出身者の世帯の可処分所得は2014年時点で約100兆円にのぼり、米国の全世帯の14・3%を占めた。全人口に占める外国出身者の比率、13・2%を上回る。

納税者としては、連邦政府向けと州政府など地方行政向けを合わせ、約37兆円の貢献をしている。昨年度の日本の所得税と消費税の税収を合わせた額に匹敵する規模だ。

若手の単身者を頭数として場当たり的に利用しようという発想と、家族を伴う定住者に所得を増やしてもらおうという発想のいずれを取るか、議論すべきである。

後者を選ぶのなら、そのための準備と覚悟が必要になる。外国人労働者と日本経済の双方が得をする道を模索する、ということだ。

ENDS

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

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Kyodo: “300 people per day re-entering Japan breaking COVID self-quarantine”. But NJ report Govt incompetence, which punishes them disproportionately.

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Hi Blog. Government incompetence is nothing new. There’s not much you can do when the expectation is one-way: The Man demands a promise from you, with punishments if you don’t comply, but if The Man doesn’t keep his promises, too bad, since there’s often no punishment for the Powers That Be.

That’s what’s happening under Japan’s new “self-quarantine” rules. Kyodo News reports that “up to 300 people per day are breaking the self-quarantine”. People, regardless of nationality. What is NOT evenly enforced regardless of nationality is the punishment.

As Kyodo notes, ‘The health ministry, which has asked for people to honor their pledge, has warned that penalties for noncompliance include publicly revealing names or, in the case of a foreign national, revocation of their status of residence and deportation.”

That’s very different. Especially since people are reporting to Magdalena Osumi of the Japan Times (see below) that there has been no follow-up from the government when it comes to helping people keep their pledge (and some confusion about how the rules are supposed to work). So if the GOJ messes things up and you’re a citizen, uh, your name gets made public. Big whoop. But if you’re NJ, through no fault of your own, you get deported.  Your life in Japan is over.

As Debito.org has predicted might happen, this new Covid “Self-Quarantine” regime has become yet another means to ethnically-cleanse Japan of its foreigners. As if revolving-door visas and insecure job statuses aren’t enough.

And of course, the Kyodo article neither questions the disproportionality of the punishment or reports on the incompetence of the government.

What follows is the Kyodo article. After that, a request from Magdalena Osumi for information about the government incompetence for an upcoming article. Read on if you have something to share with her. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

Up to 300 people per day breaking self-quarantine pledge in Japan

KYODO NEWS – May 1, 2021, Courtesy of Magdalena Osumi at the Return to Japan Support Group
https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/05/7e132ca7447a-up-to-300-people-per-day-breaking-self-quarantine-pledge-in-japan.html

Up to around 300 people every day, who had pledged to self-isolate upon arrival into Japan as part of measures to contain the novel coronavirus, could not be confirmed to be in their quarantine location or were found to be some distance away, the health ministry and a contracted medical service firm said Saturday.

The daily checkups have been conducted as part of strengthened border control measures since the end of March to keep imported cases of the coronavirus at bay and target all arrivals into the country for a 14-day period.

But with the whereabouts of some people unable to be confirmed during the period, the ministry is now considering having private security companies pay visits to quarantine locations if the person cannot be reached for more than three days.

According to the ministry and the medical service company supporting the quarantine operation, an average of 24,000 people needed to be accounted for on a daily basis during a 14-day self-quarantine period.

Of that number, around 200 to 300 people every day could not be confirmed to be in their pledged quarantine locations, with 70 percent failing to report their whereabouts to authorities and 30 percent found to be away from the locations.

A health ministry official has called on people not to rely too heavily on the results from tests conducted when they entered the country, as it is possible to get a false negative result during an incubation period.

“We want people to properly see through their quarantine,” the official said.

Japan now requires all arrivals into the country to provide COVID-19 negative test results taken within 72 hours of departure and be retested at the time of entry. Even if the results are negative, people are asked to pledge they will self-quarantine for 14 days in their home, a hotel or another facility.

People are also asked to install a location tracking app called OEL upon arrival, with notification messages requesting location information and health status sent on a daily basis during the quarantine period.

Those who fail to report their whereabouts are contacted individually via a Skype video call or other methods.

The health ministry, which has asked for people to honor their pledge, has warned that penalties for noncompliance include publicly revealing names or, in the case of a foreign national, revocation of their status of residence and deportation.
ENDS
//////////////////////////////////

MAGDALENA OSUMI SAYS: Hello. Regarding this article about people breaking quarantine rules in Japan, I know that many people have had problems with applications they’re supposed to install after entering Japan, or haven’t received passwords to log in. I understand that’s one of the reasons why people are blamed for breaking the self-isolation rules and the pledge.

I would like to write about it for The Japan Times. Is there anyone who has experienced such problems with any of the tracking applications or had problems with reporting on their health condition and whereabouts during the 14-day quarantine period, and could share their experience with me? It will be greatly appreciated.

Magdalena’s JT email: magdalena.osumi@japantimes.co.jp

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

Responses (anonymized and excerpted in places)

LACK OF OFFICIAL FOLLOWUP:

AB: Today is day 15 for me and I never received an OEL email and password. No Skype call. No WhatsApp call. No messages. All I did was the daily health update automated email.

CD: My [spouse] and I finished our quarantine never having received the OEL password, or a Skype call. We did receive the health questionnaire and reported our health daily.

EF: I never received a phone call from anyone.

GH: The thing that surprised me the most were the people that they stationed at Narita airport that were supposed to check that all these applications were installed. They were clearly not from the quarantine department or any other government agency. They were non native Japanese speakers and one of them had trouble conversing in Japanese at all. One Japanese man was getting very upset because he couldn’t understand how to install the applications on his phone. In my case, the person responsible couldn’t remember how to check if my location tracking was set up properly and made a mistake. Everything starts at the airport. I imagine some of the problems you are looking into happen because the apps aren’t set up right in the first place.

MO: They are understaffed so they had to get some help from somewhere else but it doesn’t seem to be organized well. I’ll keep that in mind.

CONFUSION ABOUT THE SYSTEM

IJ: I don’t know how they get that 300 number, for example I used OEL to check in at the quarantine hotel, and then check in again at home after 3 days. There’s a large distance in between, am I count as one of those 300?

KL: there r two “buttons” on the app, one to report a place of stay, which is used once u arrive at the place of quarantine, and another button for subsequent location check ins. If you have to change the place of quarantine, you need to click on the button reporting your new place of stay.

MN: However, the OEL alert only directs you to the I’m Here button. There were no instructions about checking in at the new location so I assumed pressing the I’m Here button will suffice, also assuming that the location will automatically be updated. I got a Skype call on my 4th day asking me to check in at my new location.

OP: Another vote for the two buttons being quite confusing — I kept pressing the “check in” button for three days instead of the “i’m here” – as the screens look almost exactly the same (same coloring and design) and “check in” could absolutely be interpreted as something along the lines of “daily check-in.” It feels like there are many ways to make an error here because of unclear app design.

QR: As for me, it didnt work a freakin single time

ST: IMO, all the written forms allude to the fact we are allowed [to go outside and exercise]. But apparently not. I was prepared to not leave my house, but then I read my forms saying we are allowed out if necessary and we must wear a mask and not catch public transport.

UV: i just spoke to a lady from immigration and going out to get food is ok, as it is a necessity. Provided you don’t go too far from where you are staying and practice safe measures i.e. mask and social distancing, you should be ok. Going on walks I would probably say are not ok though.

WX: no, it’s not ok. The pledge you signed specifically states that you must stay at home or risk deportation or a 10 million yen fine. If you get caught, the defense of a “random, unnamed person at immigration said it was ok” isn’t really going to cut it. And the more people that think they’re entitled to break the rules, the tougher the rules are going to get for everyone.

YZ: I think this is so typical of Japanese nuanced messaging… I am in [not Tokyo] at the moment and we have been told since the end of last year to avoid all unnecessary and non-urgent trips out of the city….. ‘if we can help it’. I have adhered to this, yet many of my colleagues have been attending conference or business meetings all over Japan! Am considering a trip back [overseas], but will have to quarantine in Tokyo since no private transport option possible. I can do 14 days in a hotel but not 14 without exercise and fresh air – wiling to go for a walk at 5am with a mask on!

ZA: It’s a possible 1 million fine, not 10. The only actual penalty currently is making your name public. The wording specifically says:

For 14 days after arrival in Japan, (1) I must stay at home or the accommodation listed in 2. below. I must consult the public health center and Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants in advance when I need to change my accommodations due to unavoidable circumstances. (2) I must not have contact with anyone who I do not live with. (3) I must not use public transportation (trains, buses, cabs/taxies, domestic flights, etc.) for 14 days after entering Japan.

https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/100168885.pdf

However, I would advise people to abide by the spirit as much as possible.

This is the Japanese of the pledge:
入国後 14 日間、①自宅又は宿泊場所など下記(2)に記載する住所で待機すること。なお、やむを得ない理由により待機場所を変更する必要が生じた場合は、自宅又は宿泊施設を管轄する保健所及び入国者健康管理センターに事前相談すること。②他者との接触を行わないこと。③公共交通機関(不特定多数が利用する電車、バス、タクシー、国内線の飛行機等)を使用しないこと。
It’s the same as the English. No public transit or taxis, must reside in the same place unless unavoidable, no contact with other people.

According to many people I have spoken to both online and in person have stated that immigration officials at the airport and by phone have expressly stated that they can go out during quarantine. This is exactly why people are confused. This information is not in the official pledge travelers are required to sign. My suggestion for your report is to contact the immigration authorities directly and find out the truth. Print that in the newspaper so everyone, Japanese and gaijin are aware of the rules and one group doesn’t get blamed for the continued spread of the virus. The problem is with immigration and their hypocrisy.

ENDS

======================
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“Tired Panda” on how rural tax authorities specialize in targeting foreign taxpayers for audit. And Japan aims to be Asia’s #1 financial hub? Hah.

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

Hi Blog. In the wake of treating Non-Japanese Residents like they’re riddled with extra Covid contagion, here’s yet another example of how Non-Japanese taxpayers are treated with extra suspicion — with bored tax auditors even in the most rural areas of Japan dedicated to ferreting out rank-and-file sneaky foreigners’ assets and earnings socked away overseas. Courtesy of Debito.org Reader “Tired Panda”, edited and reproduced here with permission.

According to numerous sources, “Japan has explicitly stated its goal is to make Tokyo the number one financial city in Asia… Japanese officials see an opportunity to lure the Asian headquarters of global financial firms to Tokyo as Hong Kong struggles under new scrutiny from Beijing.” In a business climate like the one being described by “Tired Panda” below, who wound up giving up Permanent Residency status after being zapped by local tax authorities, this seems unlikely to happen in Japan.

Any Readers out there who can help this person out? Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

///////////////////////////////////////////
From: “Tired Panda”
Subject: Foreign taxation accountants in Japan
Date: January 2, 2021
To: debito@debito.org

Hi Debito,

Firstly, thank you for the tireless work you have done over the years to uncover the systemic racism in Japan and demystify many of the baffling issues ever present for a non-Japanese living in Japan.

I arrived on these shores in 199X, and after leaving the JET program, I went on to do various gigs and also teach in some of the Universities around the [Katainaka Prefecture] area.

In 201X, I joined a Japanese company, under the umbrella of a global company, and still work there to this day, now as a contracted employee. My salary has never increased and I have never received a bonus.

However, my beef is not with the contract (that’s a separate issue), it is with the ever increasing harassment by the [Katainaka Prefecture] Tax department.

I have scoured your columns to look for information on the “exit tax” which came into effect in July 2020, and also for any links to taxation experts.

Of course, there are the giants like KPMG and Price-Waterhouse Coopers, but they are geared more to the highly paid CEOs and other foreign workers whose taxation is more of a corporate nature.

It started with my tax accountant in [Katainaka Prefecture], who I have used for several years, suddenly asking me to declare my worldly assets, including how many mountains I owned. Being unaware of any such requirement, I was stunned by this and resisted but my accountant said just roughly write it down and as long as it’s under 5,000,000 you’ll be OK. Just sign it.

The tax department audited me a couple of years ago covering a period of 5 years. They have two young recruits whose full-time job is to concentrate on foreigners. They speak no English. They produced figures suggesting I had been evading taxes over this time and the amount of tax payable. They would not say what shares or investments were the source of the income and I had no way of disputing any figures. I’m aware that tax losses can be carried over to offset gains but they would not recognize this for my foreign investments, saying something about a “blue paper”. I made a start on trying to track everything over the years, but gave up when it became evident that unless something was in the format they required, such as a statement from Monex Japan, they would not accept it. They also slapped a penalty on each of the year’s taxes, compounding over the five year period. It became obvious that it was futile and I paid a substantial amount.

I thought this was the end of that horrifically stressful saga and I would make sure to try and do everything required and account for everything down to the last cent. I decided to revoke my permanent residency as I can’t see myself living indefinitely in this country which is forever tightening the tax noose in an effort to pay for the aging population. With the sponsorship of my company and using the new points system I changed to “Highly Skilled Professional (i) (b)” status.

I recently received an email from my accountant saying that the [Katainaka Prefecture] tax department is asking if I actually had more than 5,000,000 yen when I signed the statement over 5 years ago. I have ignored this.

I remember seeing that with the visa status I have, I do not need to declare foreign income. I don’t remember where I saw that, but I have no doubt that my current tax accountant is blissfully unaware of the implications of my current visa. I advised him for his information but received no response. The last communication was a relaying of the question from the [Katainaka Prefecture] Tax Office.

So, after that long-winded explanation, my question is; are you able to direct me to an English speaking tax accountant… who would be able to correctly lodge a tax return for me and offer advice? As I mentioned, the international tax specialists mentioned above are quite exorbitant, so I’m looking for a smaller scale accountant firm.

Thanks again and kind regards, “Tired Panda”
///////////////////////////////////////////
ENDS
======================
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My SNA Visible Minorities 15: “New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist”, on how they are actually a natural outcome of Japan’s bullying bureaucracy (Oct. 19, 2020)

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

Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” column 15.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

=========================
Visible Minorities: New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist
OCT 19, 2020 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/10/19/visible-minorities-new-covid-foreign-resident-re-entry-rules-still-racist/

SNA (Tokyo) — Sometime during your life in Japan, you will probably feel a chilling attitude in Japan’s bureaucracy: as a foreign resident, you don’t really matter. To Japan’s policymakers, you’re at best an existence to be tolerated, at worst an unpredictable element that needs constant policing.

You’ll see it in things like Japan’s special foreign registry systems, or the “Gaijin Cards” that must be carried 24-7 and leave you vulnerable to random street ID checks by racist cops.

But you might not have realized until recently the most dehumanizing tenet of all: That foreigners should have no legal expectation to belong here.

Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that Japan’s foreign residents have no “right of sojourn,” i.e., to leave Japan temporarily and expect to return. (Japan Times columnist Colin Jones called it a “reverse Hotel California”–you can leave any time you like, but can never check back in.)

That means that even if you invested your entire life in Japan, married a Japanese, had children, paid taxes, bought property, started a business, and even achieved Permanent Residency (which by definition should be a legitimate claim to reside here forever), nothing you did matters. You cross the border, you’re out.

Hypothetically, if push comes to shove, a Permanent Resident will have the same status as any foreign tourist at the border.

Well, that hypothetical came true last April when, due to Covid, Japan decided to bar all foreigners from re-entering Japan–even though Japanese could still return and merely quarantine. No other developed country does this, and there is no science indicating that Japanese passports offer enhanced epidemiological protection. It was purely arbitrary.

So foreign residents found themselves stranded overseas apart from their Japanese families, or watched helplessly from Japan as their overseas kith and kin died. This heartless and explicit racism attracted significant international attention, so from October 1, Japan announced it would open its borders to foreign residents under certain conditions.

But it turns out that, realistically, these conditions are still a ban…. By arbitrarily creating a tight 72-hour hour window requiring special paperwork unattuned to the realities of Covid testing overseas (especially when the test is meaningless if you get infected on the plane), Japan’s bureaucrats merely deflected international criticism from its regular racism by replacing it with new, improved racism.

Read the entire article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/10/19/visible-minorities-new-covid-foreign-resident-re-entry-rules-still-racist/

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Reuters: Tennis star Osaka Naomi “a Jesse Owens of Japan”. I don’t think the comparison is apt, yet. She should also speak out for Japan’s Visible Minorities.

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Hi Blog.  A recent article in Reuters portrays Japanese-Haitian-American tennis star Osaka Naomi as “a Jesse Owens of Japan”. Article first, then my comment:

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Osaka ‘a Jesse Owens of Japan’ for racial injustice stand
Reuters, September 12, 2020 By Jack Tarrant

Courtesy https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-race-japan-tennis-osaka-featur-idUSKBN2630F4

TOKYO (Reuters) – Naomi Osaka has been the dominant storyline of the 2020 U.S. Open, both for on-court performances that mean she will be playing in Saturday’s final and for her vocal support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Before each match, Osaka has worn a mask bearing the name of a different Black American in a powerful symbol of her support for the fight against racial injustice in the United States.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, may represent Japan but she lives in Los Angeles and has joined several BLM protests across the country this year.

Although her focus has been on racial injustice over the last few months, the 23-year-old has long been a symbol for change in Japan.

Osaka is one of the country’s most recognised personalities and has become the face of a changing Japan coming to terms with challenges to its self-image as a racially homogenous society.

Baye McNeil, a prominent Japan-based African-American author and activist, sees Osaka as the next in a line of great Black athlete activists such as boxer Muhammad Ali and sprinter Jesse Owens.

“Muhammad Ali… put his career on the line in order to protest things that he thought were unjust or just wrong. And I think Naomi is on that path,” McNeil told Reuters from Yokohama.

“She is joining a community that has a history, has a legacy, going all the way back beyond Jesse Owens. In fact, what she is doing is very in line with Jesse Owens. Not necessarily for her impact on America but on Japan.

“I kind of think of her as a Jesse Owens of Japan.”

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE

McNeil, who moved to Japan 16 years ago, believes Osaka and other biracial athletes like basketball player Rui Hachimura and Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish can be catalysts for change just by competing.

“It doesn’t even require them to say anything, you just look at them and say ‘Oh my God, this is a Black woman representing Japan,’” he said.

“This is something Japan has never faced before and I am not sure how exactly they are going to resolve this, or how they are going to modify the narrative, but some modification is required.”

Jaime Smith, who helped organise June’s BLM protest in Tokyo, thinks many Japanese people do not see Osaka’s activism as relating to their own country.

“They see it from the viewpoint that she is a Black American woman, even though she’s half Japanese, and she is speaking out about an American problem, so I still think there’s some wilful ignorance there,” Smith told Reuters.

“That’s … the kind of mindset we are trying to change.”

Smith, who moved from the U.S. to Japan three years ago, sees Osaka as the perfect person to push through this change.

“She is at a point where she is huge worldwide and people can’t help but listen to her,” she said.

“I think this is the perfect time to do what she is doing.”

JAPANESE SPONSORS

Following her 2018 U.S. Open triumph, Osaka attracted a large number of sponsors, many of them big Japanese brands, and became the world’s highest paid female athlete, according to Forbes.

These sponsors have not always been supportive of Osaka’s campaigning against racial injustice, however.

A report in Japanese newspaper Mainichi on Friday [see below] cited unnamed sources at one of her sponsors as criticising her BLM stance, saying they would prefer her to concentrate on tennis.

If some in Japan are struggling to come to terms with Osaka’s activism, this was not apparent at Tokyo’s Godai tennis club on Saturday morning.

“With the face masks, I perceive a kind of determination that she is facing her matches with these thoughts,” said Chika Hyodo.

“I think she is trying to fulfil the role she was given as an athlete and I feel awesome about it. I support her.”

Osaka was a hot topic of conversation at the club as the younger members had their weekly lessons and there was no sign that her activism was having any impact on her popularity.

“She is a Japanese, strong female tennis player,” said 10-year-old Ai Uemura.

“I think it’s great that she entertains people.”
ENDS
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COMMENT FROM DEBITO: What a way to end an article: With an interview with a ten-year-old and some unqualified stranger at some tennis club, as somehow representative of “Japan’s reaction”. That’s some lazy research and poor social science there, Reuters.

Now, as far as Osaka’s activism is concerned, I support the fact that she is bringing to light racial injustice, and is willing to take a stand in public to do so.

However, remember that this is a stand against racial injustice in another country. Not in Japan. This is an easier target because a) Japan has long taught about racism in other countries (particularly America’s) as part of a narrative that racism “happens elsewhere, not here”, so this unfortunately plays into Japan’s grander deflection strategy; and b) this protest doesn’t imperil her sponsorship in Japan, where her money is coming from.

Yet racism, as this blog and my research have covered for more than a quarter century, is alive and “practiced undisturbed” (according to the United Nations) in Japan. That’s worth protesting. So is racism in America, of course. But there are plenty of high-profile voices involved in that already. What is sorely needed is someone standing up for the equal and nondiscriminative treatment of, for example, Japan’s Visible Minorities (a group Osaka herself is a member of).

Others have tried, such as VM Japanese beauty queens Miyamoto Ariana and Yoshikawa Priyanka, and their careers in Japan suffered as a result. Osaka Naomi, as Debito.org has argued before, has a stronger immunity card to criticize Japan (as long as she keeps winning) if she so chooses.

It’s still unclear she will ever choose to. The last big opportunity she had, when her sponsor Nissin “whitewashed” her in one of their ads, she declined to make an issue of. (Imagine the reaction, however, if an American advertiser had done something so stupid.) That’s an enormous disappointment, but indicative of her priorities. And a bit ironic in light of how Japanese society treated her multiethnic family.

Finally, comparisons with Jesse Owens and Muhammad Ali? I’ll let others who are more qualified to shape that narrative speak more to that. But just consider Jesse Owens’ history: a person who protested the segregation and lack of sponsorship he received in his home country of America (to the point of repeatedly, and poignantly, pointing out that Hitler acknowledged his achievements more than President Roosevelt did).  However, his legacy has been portrayed more in my history books as a counternarrative to White Supremacism in Nazi Germany. That in itself, of course, is very welcome, but it’s not quite the whole story.

As for Muhammad Ali, there’s a lot to unpack there because he did so much, but remember that he was suspended from boxing during the best years of his career for protesting the Vietnam War and refusing to be drafted. Again, protesting racial injustice in his country of sponsorship. That’s real sacrifice and heroism.

My point is that the more one tries to apply their cases to Osaka’s case, the more inapt the comparisons become. Being in a position of “it doesn’t even require them to say anything” is not what happened in either Owens’ or Ali’s case.  Especially when you consider that Owens’ and Ali’s protests were more directed towards their country of sponsorship. That’s not what Osaka is doing here.

Again, I praise Osaka Naomi for taking a public stance against racism in the United States. But let’s keep things in perspective, and not let praise become unqualified gush.

And let me suggest she speak out on behalf of her fellow Visible Minorities in Japan too.  Not just dismiss racism in Japan as an issue of “a few bad apples” (which can be — and has been — applied to any society as an excuse for racist behavior). Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

The Mainichi article cited by Reuters above:

Japanese sponsors of tennis star Naomi Osaka not 100% on board with anti-racism actions
September 11, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200911/p2a/00m/0na/023000c

TOKYO — The anti-racism stance taken by tennis player Naomi Osaka on the courts of the U.S. Open has drawn widespread attention from the public and elicited differing responses from her sponsors in Japan and elsewhere.

Starting with her first match, Osaka entered the court wearing a black mask with the name of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed at the hands of police, on it as a call for an end to racial discrimination.

“I don’t think she needed to do that while she’s fighting her way to the top. If possible, we’d like her to attract more attention with her tennis skills,” said a source linked to a Japanese corporate sponsor of Osaka’s. “She’s taken on a leadership role as a Black person, and what she’s doing is great as a human being, but whether that will help raise the value of a corporate brand is another thing. There hasn’t been any impact in particular, but it’s not something we’re openly happy about.”

Another source linked to a different Japanese corporate sponsor said, “I think it’s wrong to bring the issue of racial discrimination and her trade, tennis, together.”

Meanwhile, one of her other sponsors, an American corporation, has reacted very differently. A person involved with the company said that in the U.S., it’s riskier not to say you take a stand against racial discrimination, because if you don’t say anything, you could be seen as being accepting it. They said that there are a lot of companies that uphold diversity and inclusion and also agree to help stop discrimination as part of their corporate principles.

After Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in late August, NBA teams boycotted games in protest of the incident, and MLB games were postponed due to players refusing to play. Naomi Osaka announced she was withdrawing from the Western & Southern Open semifinals — a qualifier for the U.S. Open — in protest. Soon thereafter, the tournament decided to postpone the match by a day in solidarity with the protesters, and Osaka decided she would play the next day, sending a strong message to the world.

In the NBA, where the majority of players are Black, actions taken to demand an end to racial discrimination are not uncommon. An official from a management company that has a contract with a Black NBA player explained that the top athletes have the strongest awareness that they must take the initiative to act as a representative of the Black community. And Black children, they said, dream of getting into the NBA, watching those top-tier athletes.

There are some compromises that Osaka, who was born to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, and grew up in the U.S. since she was three, is not willing to make.

“If I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction,” she wrote in her now-famous tweet.

Osaka arrived at the U.S. Open with seven masks, one for each round of the tournament, and each emblazoned with the name of a Black person who had been a victim of police violence. She’s worn six now.

What drives Osaka is her hope that people will get to know the victims better, and do what she can to prevent younger people from suffering from racial injustice.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Asatsuma, Sports News Department)

Japanese Version
なおみの人種差別抗議に国内外で温度差 スポンサーの微妙な事情
毎日新聞2020年9月11日 (excerpt)
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20200910/k00/00m/050/300000c
テニスの全米オープン女子シングルスで、人種差別への抗議を続ける大坂なおみ(22)=日清食品=の行動が、大きな反響を呼んでいる。1回戦から黒人差別による被害者の名前が書かれた黒いマスクをつけてコートに入場し、差別撤廃へのメッセージを発信しているが、大坂を支援する国内外のスポンサー企業では受け止め方に温度差がある。その事情とは?【浅妻博之】

「上まで勝ち上がっている時にやらなくてもね。できればテニスのプレーでもっと目立ってほしいんですけど……」。そう話すのは大坂を支援する日本企業の関係者だ。「黒人代表としてリーダーシップをとって、人間的にも素晴らしい行為だとは思うが、それで企業のブランド価値が上がるかといえば別問題。特に影響があるわけではないが、手放しでは喜べない」と複雑な心境を打ち明けた。また別のスポンサー企業関係者からは「人種差別の問題と本業のテニスを一緒にするのは違うのでは」との声も聞こえてきた。

一方でスポンサーの一つである米国系企業の反応は違う。この…
Full article at https://mainichi.jp/articles/20200910/k00/00m/050/300000c

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Debito interviewed by Shingetsu News Agency’s “Speakeasy” forum: “Japan’s Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus”, Apr 27, 2020

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

Hi Blog.  In lieu of a longer blog entry, here’s an interview I had with the Shingetsu News Agency, in one of their “Speakeasys” (25 minutes):

I’m making the case that the GOJ could be doing a much worse job taking care of their NJ Residents, but that’s because people have been vigilant about potential human rights abuses. It could very easily revert to racist and exclusionary habits if systems get overloaded or panic hits. Also, I argue that it’s also incumbent upon NJ Residents themselves to step out of their “Guestism” mentalities and claim their due as taxpayers and residents.

(If you haven’t become a supporter of this important (and solitary) venue for independent journalism in Japan, please do. $2 a month gets you access to all articles, including my “Visible Minorities” columns. It’s a worthy venture.)  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Kyoto Nakagyou-ku issues comic book on local street safety to grade schoolers, created by Kyoto Seika Univ & Kyoto International Manga Museum, portraying “foreigners” as unintelligible ill-mannered tourists!

mytest

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Hi Blog. As I recently said in an interview with the Shingetsu News Agency, people who live in Japan (including NJ Residents) have to speak up if they feel they are being unfairly treated or depicted in public.  And they do, sometimes with success.

Consider the case of RJO below, who writes that he saw a Kyoto Government comic book (ironically, scripted and edited by Kyoto Seika University, in conjunction with the Kyoto International Manga Museum! ) issued to local grade-school children about traffic safety (a concern in Kyoto for commuting kids). Amidst other concerns, the booklet veered off on a tangent to target and alienate “foreigners” (not to mention Visible Minorities) as loud, ill-mannered loiterers and litterers.

That’s the NJ Community’s only appearance in the comic — as guests (not Residents).  Of course, according to eyewitness reports (and personal experience), this is in spite of ill-mannered loud littering Japanese around Kyoto as well.  (Those kind of manners, you see, are exogenous to Japan.  Even an elementary school student knows that.  Now!)

The good news is that RJO and a friend took this up on Facebook, then directly with the City Government. Within hours the downloadable link to this booklet disappeared!

Turning the keyboard over to RJO now to tell his story. Good job, you two. Again, if you live here as a Resident, you have to make yourself known as one sometimes. Demand non-differential treatment. And definitely demand not to be alienated in a primary school setting! Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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To: debito@debito.org
From: RJO
Date: April 26, 2020

Dear Debito, I am a French national living in Kyoto, Japan for 12 years now. I have a Japanese wife and two daughters.

My older daughter is studying at Kyoto International French School (LFIK), but she is allowed to attend classes at our local elementary school, one of the few in Kyoto where the head of school accepts students from international schools during the holidays.

We did not attend the school’s “nyûgakushi” (annual opening ceremonies), but managed to meet the teacher and grab some documents.

I noticed later, at home, that they had given us a booklet about “street safety”. The reason why is because downtown Kyoto is not very safe for children. No sidewalk, narrow streets, “nagara unten” from both cars and cycles, tobacco, etc…

[“Taking Back the Streets: A city where people can enjoy walking” produced by the Kyoto City “Nakagyou-ku Traffic Problems Project Meeting” Issued March 2020. Publisher details follow.  Click to expand in browser.]

Scripted and edited by the Kyoto Seika University (Kyoto International Manga Museum Jigyou Sokushin Shitsu)

Anyway, I started reading it, and found a depiction of Non-Japanese tourists, namely how they loiter and throw rubbish around. The young Japanese protagonists of the manga are all distressed, and go “Oh, such bad manners. I wish I could tell them something in English.”

[Right side bottom left quadrant shows racialized people making loud “Wai” noises.  The girl below says, “Boy, there are a lot of tourists here!”  The grandmother agrees.  Then the top left has unintelligible foreigners that are commented on for eating while walking, then throwing their garbage down a drain to the kids’ immense shock.  Just before the kids almost get hit by a car, they say, “What awful manners.  What would I say to them to caution them?” “Uh… in English!?  Uh, I dunno.  As you said, in English, where to start?”  Translations by Debito. Click to expand in browser.  The entire booklet can be read here as a PDF: Toori-no-fukken]

And I’m like, “What!?”

The thing is, “ill-mannered foreign tourists” are often in the news and in public communications. But actually I see lots more “local” people with bad manners everyday, and I tell them directly: “Koko wa tabako dame desu yo”, “Nagara unten yamete kudasai”, etc. I’m brave, I don’t care, and I show my daughter that you have to stand up for yourself.

So the authorities have made a booklet about street safety in Kyoto, a very relevant issue, but the only time Non-Japanese people appear in it, they are depicted as having bad manners.

Again, what’s the booklet about? Street safety.

If they want to bring in Non-Japanese people for some reason, they should show all kind of Non-Japanese people, not just the ill-mannered, loitering people. Or not just focus on the bad manners of “foreigners”. It’s a very bad association.

Plus, remember that this booklet is handed out to elementary school children. So they’ll see that depiction, the frustration of the child protagonist, and how “English-speaking people” don’t respect the rules and stuff.

Mixed-roots children (like my daughter) are part of Japanese society. They go to elementary school like everybody else. Some of them speak English, but not all do.

When my daughter used to go to a Japanese kindergarten (before the French school), I was often greeted by groups of kids shouting “Eigo no hito da!” while pointing their finger at me.

It was unsettling. I let their teachers know that, but they just said, “They’re kids, they don’t know any better.” So I said, “I know, it’s your job to teach them. I’ll be happy if they just say ‘konnichiwa’, like they do with everyone else.” (It worked, in the end.)

The street safety booklet reminded me of that, and I put a few pictures of it up on FB with English and Japanese comments.

A Japanese FB friend with English ancestry named Mariko picked up on it immediately, shared it with others, and called the City Office.

The City Office actually took everything off their website the next day (the booklet was downloadable) and promised to recall the booklet.

[Here’s the original link, and a screen capture of how it appeared on Facebook:]

https://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/digitalbook/page/0000000899.html 

It had just been published in March. They had just started giving it out and showing it in a few places.

I feel bad for the street safety campaign, but I’m happy with the result. We (Non-Japanese) are not outsiders, strangers, or just “ill-mannered tourists”. We live here. We understand Japanese. We also have to stand up for our kids.

Mariko made a good example of that. She wrote later on FB how her own kids were next to her the whole time she tried to reach the City hall. She said, “They need to see how we can defend ourselves. A phone call can change things.” She’s active against all kind of injustices.

I also believe in action. I sent letters to Combini chains to ask them to remove ashtrays close to my daughter’s kindergarten. I called the City services to urge them to put “no tobacco” signs in public parks where kids go. When I ride my daughter to school, we frequently have troubles with taxi drivers that break the speed limit or ignore the stop signs. I take picture of their plate and contact their company. I also go to the kôban to ask them to patrol the streets where such incidents happen frequently. That kind of thing. It’s not much, but I often get positive results.

I believe that many people, Japanese and Non-Japanese alike, feel the same about all of these issues (from street safety and tobacco control to racial discrimination), but they don’t think they can make a change. I think they can, we can.

Thank you Debito for your advice, and for sharing the story. Sincerely, RJO.

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Calling Debito.org Readers: How is life for you in COVID Japan?

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Hi Blog.  Instead of me writing an essay, this time I’d like to hear how life during pandemic is going in Japan from you.

After all, I can talk all I like about what officialdom is up to, but in the end, we are a community, and hearing about how government policy and civil society affects Debito.org Readers is just as important.

Let me open the floor for discussion in the Comments Section by asking a few prompt questions:

1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy, especially when compared with what’s being put into effect in other countries (such as official calls at the local level for social distancing, the state of emergency in several prefectures, etc.)?  How would you gauge their effectiveness?

2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet?  How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbors?

3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic?  Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)?  Is there any resistance to working from home?  If so, what and why?

4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of?  Any pet theories as to why?

5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic?  Are things better, worse, or basically the same?

6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?

Again, these are just prompts.  Answer as many questions as you like.  Or tell us something else about COVID Life in Japan if you’re inspired.  And if you’re not in Japan, please tell us where you are and what’s going on around you, too (and if you can, compare it with Japan).  Of course, in all cases, be comfortably vague about your whereabouts.

Thanks.  We’re looking forward to your stories.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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DF on Chugoku bank unlawfully demanding to check NJ customers’ visa stay durations and photocopy their Gaijin Cards, or face discontinuation of service

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Hi Blog.  From time to time Debito.org gets sent information from NJ residents being harassed by Japanese officialdom and businesses for the most basic things.  Such as checking into a hotel or using a bank.  Or being treated as objects of mistrust in official “Blame Games”.  Or being demanded unnecessary steps just to live their daily lives or conduct regular business. It encourages racial profiling even further, in addition to what you already have at Japan’s hotels and other public accommodation, police instant ID checkpoints, and tax agencies.  (See here too).

Such as the following case below, where Chugoku Bank is demanding a Visa Check in order to maintain (not open; maintain) a bank account.  (In their words, “we have elected to confirm the period of stay for customers whose period of stay and other details have not been confirmed”  Meaning their nosying into somebody’s visa status is not even under the pretense of some legal requirement.)  And of course, in this era of identity theft that even foreign governments warn you against, Chugoku Bank wants to make a photocopy of the person’s ID, it turns out, for no reason whatsoever but reflex.

As “immigrants are not to be trusted” mindsets proliferate around democracies worldwide, remember where many of them take their cues from:  Japan.  PM Abe, remember, is “Trump before Trump“, and even Abe had his antecedents.  Another milepost on the march towards normalized ethnostatism worldwide.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

From: DF
Subject: Being made to show my gaijin card to my bank
Date: December 12, 2019
To: “debito@debito.org”

Hi Debito,

I recently got the attached postcard from my bank. It says that I have to go in and verify that I am in the country legally to keep using my bank account.

(click on image to expand in your browser)

I went in today and they wanted to make a photocopy of my card. Is this legal? They claimed that they are doing so at the request of the government, which I’m sure is true, and that they need a copy for “filing”, which I am not sure is true.

I told them that the card can usually only be requested by a police officer or an immigration agent. I finally relented only after they explained that they also photocopy other customer’s driver’s licenses. I offered my driver’s license, but they declined. I noticed that other than my visa status (PR), there is really no info on there that they don’t already have.

Who is in the right here, legally?

You may use my story on your site, there must be other people getting this kind of notice from their banks. Initials DF is fine.

Do you know of the specific law that states who may or may not request or copy a zairyuu card? I tried to look, but didn’t find it.

I want to email Chugoku Bank’s head office and try to get them to change their policy at all of the banks, not just my branch. I also want my photocopy returned to me.

I don’t begrudge the workers at the branch, the teller tried to make a copy, I stopped her and she said that the postcard mentioned a copy. We looked at it together and it doesn’t say anything about a copy. She immediately bailed out to a higher authority and I saw that man make a phone call. He then called me over to a private side booth to talk to me. Everybody was professional and polite, but they were just given the wrong information.

If I can quote the law to them and get a reply, I can give a follow-up for your blog.

Thank you for your assistance, DF

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

From Debito:  Hi DF. You are still in the right, legally.  The thing is, the laws I have (the Gaitouhou) pertain to the old Gaijin Card, which is very clear who can inspect the Gaijin Card.  Only police, Immigration Officials, and MOJ representatives.

“The Foreign Registry Law, Section 13, Clause 2. Foreigners, when asked to show their Gaijin Cards by immigration investigation officials (as outlined in separate laws), police, coast guard, or any other national or local public official or group empowered by the Ministry of Justice as part of the execution of their duties, must show.” https://www.debito.org/instantcheckpoints2.html

Now that the Gaitouhou is no more, I’m not sure what the new laws are.  I can’t seem to find them either.  I’ve asked around, but gotten no response.  I’m not a lawyer, so it’s time for the legal experts to weigh in, as they have done (in our favor) in terms of ID checks of NJ residents of Japan at hotels.

Sincerely, Debito

======================
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Senaiho “Hair Police” School Bullying Case Update 4: Civil lawsuit launched against school bullies, gaining traction with other international couples

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Hi Blog.  Here’s the latest update from NJ resident Senaiho (previous updates three, two, and one here), whose daughter was not only bullied by school peers, but also had her hair forcibly cut by schoolteachers in public, causing her so much PTSD that she dropped out of school.  This is yet another incident of Japan’s institutionalized school bullying of children of color that Debito.org has long called “the Hair Police“. Bullying is rife in Japanese education, but when it’s ignored (or even perpetuated) by officialdom, this feeling of powerlessness will leave children (particularly those NJ children with diverse physical features targeted for “standing out“) and their families scarred for life.  (As discussed at length in book “Embedded Racism“, pg. 154-5.)

The difference now is that Senaiho has launched an actual civil court case.  Over more than a year now Senaiho has tried other channels, such as taking it before school authorities and asking for criminal investigations, and all they have gotten is stonewalling and official coverup.  So now he’s suing the bullies themselves.  Let’s see what precedent this is going to set.  Given that others are now standing up against insanely intrusive Japanese school conformity rules (“burakku kousoku”, including warmer clothes in winter, freedom of assembly or travel, and even the color of their underwear!), this may be a landmark case.  Meanwhile, Senaiho offers an update with a newspaper clip below.

Well done, Senaiho. Stay the course!  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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

From: Senaiho
Subject: Brief update
Date: February 7, 2020
To: debito@debito.org

Hello Debito,
Included is an attachment from the Yamanashi Nichi Nichi Shinbun 2/5/2020 shot of an article that just gives an announcement of our case in the court, so I won’t bother to translate it all. It does state that the parents of the bullying perpetrators say in documents filed in the suit, that they think bringing awareness of N.J. and prejudice/bullying of these people should be the job of the schools, not theirs as parents. I think the school will argue that is the job of the parents, and not the schools. Passing the buck.

What I can say in addition to the article is that while we have a mountain of documents that the school and city officials provided according to the freedom of information request we made, there are glaring gaps in these documents — so much extensive redaction made that they become almost worthless. What we hope to do through this suit is use the power of the court to force the school officials and city office to provide us with complete files of information regarding us. This should include the names of the co-conspirators that engaged in the bullying, who hopefully can be brought into this suit at a later date.

There is also the option of reopening the criminal case with the prosecutors office if we find additional evidence. We have three years to do this.

We have also been contacted by several people from various parts of the country asking for advice on what they should do in their own bullying/futokou cases. Our impression is that children of international and mixed marriage couples suffer disproportionately at the hands of bullies, and school officials which is no surprise to you I am sure, but they also tend to suffer more because of a lack of support and isolation in getting information they need. There is also a great variety of policies that various school systems have around the country which makes it more confusing.

Thanks again for everything. Sincerely, Senaiho

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

The article:


======================
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“Gaikokujin Shimin”: Kawaguchi City Mayor Okunoki (kinda) answers a query about the racialized application of this term that officially makes Japanese into “foreigners” (UPDATED)

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Hi Blog. As we’ve talked at length before (it even topped my annual JT Top Ten Human Rights Issues for 2019), city governments have been using a racialized definition of local residents, namely “Gaikokujin Shimin“, that officially classifies even naturalized Japanese citizens, Japanese children with foreign roots, or anyone with connections to a foreign land as “foreigners”. Submitter ABC below offers a letter sent to the Kawaguchi City Government asking for clarification of the uses and effects of this official term. Thankfully, Kawaguchi City Mayor Okunoki Nobuo answered Submitter ABC.  I enclose the query, Okunoki’s answer, and my attempt at a translation of the answer, below.

I’ll comment on the contents afterwards.

SUBMITTER ABC’S LETTER (reproduced here with permission):
//////////////////////////////////
From: ABC
Subject: A letter to and response from Kawaguchi mayor Okunoki
Date: January 30, 2020
To: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>
Hi Debito,

I wrote some posts in the comments section for “The annual Top Ten for 2019 of human rights issues as they affected NJ residents in Japan” upon seeing that the article mentioned Kawaguchi as using 外国人市民 like other municipalities. As a resident, this didn’t sit well with me and I wrote a letter to the mayor. I received a response today so I’d like to share what I sent (via snail mail) and what I received.

I’ve redacted certain sections and text for privacy reasons.
Sincerely, ABC

PDF: Letter to Mayor Okunoki 0113 redact (click on link to download)
//////////////////////////////////

MAYOR OKUNOKI’S ANSWER (click to expand in browser):

TRANSLATION BY DEBITO (WITH CORRECTIONS COURTESY OF DEBITO.ORG READER LOVERLAKKUMA IN THE COMMENT SECTION)
================================
(Basic official opening greeting)
Thank you very much for sending your opinion as a Letter to the Mayor. I will answer your questions below.

First, why does the “Kawaguchi City Vision for Coexistence with Multiculturalism” have the definition of “Gaikokujin Shimin: Not only foreigners who are local residents, but also includes residents who have taken Japanese citizenship, and residents who have cultural backgrounds in foreign countries”? It has that definition because even if someone has naturalized and taken Japanese citizenship, it is assumed (soutei) that they might still require some assistance in regards to multicultural coexistence.  Please understand that this doesn’t mean our city has any intention of forcefully framing (gouin ni minasu) people who have taken Japanese citizenship as foreigners.

Second, why did the “Kawaguchi City Vision for Coexistence with Multiculturalism Ver. 2.0” delete that definition? While we were promoting multicultural coexistence based upon our “Revised Kawaguchi City Aims for Coexistence with Multiculturalism”, we were formulating our “Kawaguchi City Vision for Coexistence with Multiculturalism Ver. 2.0”. This does not mean that we revised the definition, but rather that we came to the conclusion (toraeta) that our efforts to support foreign residents — including naturalized people — had progressed enough (tsuchikawareta) to gain public understanding for those who may need support, so there was no need for further clarification of that definition.

For the third question “Under what concepts and framings is the city taking the initiatives toward foreign residents living in Kawaguchi City (short-term and/or long-term)?”:  We are engaging in promotion of our multicultural co-existence by reframing the previous concept of “foreign residents,” from “recipients of support” (shien no taisho) to “providers of support” (shien suru gawa) in the “The Kawaguchi City’s Vision for Multicultural Co-existence Ver 2.0.”.  This extols (utau) the vision of a city where people can participate positively in city planning (machi zukuri).

Fourth, how is Kawaguchi City envisioning the future for foreigners (and the descendants of children of international marriages)? Our city presumes that in future the number of foreigners will continue to increase. We want these people to serve as leaders in local community for any public need such as fire drills. We are seeking our goal by incorporating foreign perspectives, regardless of nationality, for the successful building community that all residents in our city can live peacefully and securely. We look forward to your understanding and cooperation.

January 29, 2020. OKUNOKI Nobuo, Kawaguchi City Mayor

PS: The people in charge of this matter are in the Cooperative Promotional Section of the city government. Yoroshiku.

ENDS
================================

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:

Y’know, I think Mayor Okunuki has his heart in the right place.  I think he’s genuinely trying to assist people of diversity live peaceful lives in his district like any other person.

However, any discussion of how problematic it is to use the term “Gaikokujin Shimin“, i.e., grouping together people as “foreigners” regardless of nationality or legal status (based upon an explicit presumption that some people who have taken the trouble to naturalize still want to be treated as foreign), has been obscured in pat Bureaucratic Japanese sloganeering.

All this talk linking “multicultural coexistence” to “machi zukuri” (as if it wouldn’t happen anyway without the need to officially differentiate between people by assumed “foreignness”) doesn’t progress beyond the “sekkyokuteki” boilerplate, or the mutual-appreciation society of “let’s be nice to foreigners” that still manages to offset people with any foreign connections as somehow “different” and “worthy of special attention”.  It’s as if Neanderthals still exist, and we’re still pondering policy on to integrate them into our Real-Human community.

Calling them “Gaikokujin Shimin” doesn’t help.  It’s precisely the problem, actually, as the tool of offsetting.  And just saying that the “definition has no forceful intent to presume that naturalized citizens etc. are foreigners” doesn’t make it so.

In sum, I think this is one of the best examples in favor of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, about how language and the very words we use constrict cognition and world views.  The fact that Japanese bureaucrats cannot under any circumstances step out of their linguistic bubbles, and consider what it’s like as a minority in Japan dealing with the embedded racism of Japanese policymaking, is demonstrated very well here.   Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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My Japan Times JBC 118: “Remain calm when stopped by the police”, on what to do if stopped by Japanese police for an Instant ID Checkpoint, Jan 20, 2020

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Hi Blog.  I’ve written about this many times before, but the JT commissioned me to write up this quick sidebar to a separate article about Japan police racial profiling on a NJ student of color (who has been cited on Debito.org before).

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no failsafe method that will work in all situations, given the enormous power of policing agencies in Japan.  However, submitting to unlawful and racialized enforcement of the law is not something Debito.org can abide.  So here goes.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Remain calm when stopped by the police in Japan
BY DEBITO ARUDOU, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, JAN 20, 2020
Courtesy https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2020/01/20/issues/remain-calm-when-stopped-police-japan/
justbecauseicon.jpg

Visible minorities in Japan are in a tough spot in a country where the police have a lot of arbitrary power and few enforceable checks (as we’ve been witnessing recently with the Carlos Ghosn case). As a result, we are facing two decades of police-promoted narratives of “the foreigner” as a visa overstayer and criminal.

What follows is my advice on what to do if you face a sudden ID check on the street — that is, assuming you don’t want to simply surrender your zairyū kādo (residence card) and eventually get on with your day. This is just a brief outline, you can find more details online at debito.org/whattodoif.html.

  1. Ask why you are being stopped: Ask if this is a “shokumu shitsumon” (police questioning of personal details). If yes, the law requires probable cause that a crime has been or is about to be committed, and the display of POLICE ID upon your request. If it is not, ask if you may leave.
  2. Ask to see their ID: “Sumimasen. Keisatsu techō o misete kudasai” will do. Write it down and/or take a picture of it. This will no doubt agitate, but without this record there is no personal accountability.
  3. Use your phone (or ask a friend) to start recording: You do not need consent and, even if done surreptitiously, a recording is admissible in court. They will tell you to put the phone away, but at least leave the audio on. No recording may result in a “he-said, she-said” outcome and nobody is likely to believe your side. It may also preemptively temper the cops’ behavior somewhat, but there’s no guarantee it won’t go the other way.
  4. Ask if compliance is optional (nin’i desu ka): If they ask to go through your backpack, pockets and wallet, you have the option to refuse the search without a warrant (reijō). Try: “Reijō ga nakereba, kekkō desu.” (“Without a warrant, no thank you.”)
  5. Above all, remain calm and polite, and never raise your voice: That can be difficult when surrounded by a phalanx of suspicious cops. But, as in other societies, the threshold of “resisting arrest” in Japan is arbitrary, and a judge will take the police officer’s word over yours in custody.

Arm yourself with the requisite vocabulary. Demonstrating some fluency with your statutory rights will also act as a natural check on abuses. Cops around the world take advantage of the ignorance of their targets, so if you come off as informed and confident, things might go smoother.

There’s no surefire means of getting out of an ID check (except perhaps getting your own personal chief of police to vouch for you except perhaps getting your own personal chief of police to vouch for you), but doing a few of these things might help you feel less powerless afterward. Good luck.

ENDS

======================
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My Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities col 3: “Racial Profiling at Japanese Hotel Check-Ins”, October 23, 2019 (full text)

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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column 3 is now up. And here is a link to sources for claims within the article. Enjoy. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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

Visible Minorities Column 3
Racial Profiling at Japanese Hotel Check-Ins
Shingetsu News Agency OCT 23, 2019, by DEBITO ARUDOU
Courtesy http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2019/10/23/racial-profiling-at-japanese-hotel-check-ins/

SNA (Tokyo) — It’s dehumanizing to be denied service somewhere, not for what you did, but for who you are, and to realize that discrimination is real.

In Japan, your first experience might be with your apartment search—realtors may deny you a home simply because “the landlord doesn’t like foreigners.”

Sadly, there’s little you can do: racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan, even in 2019. You could report what happened to the Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Bureau (which will generally do nothing), or take them to court where you’re at the mercy of a judge susceptible to narratives of “foreigners are different/difficult, so refusing them is okay,” which is known legally as “rational discrimination.” Still, you will need a place right away to call home.

Eventually, after getting an interlocutor to negotiate or an employer to vouch for you, you find one. You’ll forget about what happened. Something like this doesn’t happen every day, right?

But it may occur the next time you want a hotel room. Given the tourism boom and hosted international sports events, racial profiling and discrimination have become widespread in Japan’s hoteling industry. This is particularly insidious because it’s not just the occasional bigoted landlord calling the shots; this time it’s the Japanese police.

It begins when you arrive at a hotel and try to check in. Clerks are trained to demand a passport from any customer who “looks foreign” as a precondition for service. This includes Non-Japanese Residents of Japan, even though Non-Japanese Residents are not required to carry their passport, and even though the law says hotels cannot do it.

Explicitly stated in laws related to hotel management is that if you are a Japanese or a Non-Japanese with an address in Japan, you merely enter your name, address, contact details, and occupation into the guest book. No ID is necessary.

If you are a tourist with no address in Japan, however, the law is different. In that case, you must display your passport to the hotel clerk, have your passport number taken down, and (under some prefectural ordinances) have your passport photocopied in case the local police want to see it.

Overseas governments discourage such practices. The Canadian government, for example, makes it clear: “Never give out personal information from your passport or your passport application unless you’re sure it is for a trusted organization or individual. This includes photocopies. You take all responsibility for giving information in your passport to a third party.” So if you check in and become a victim of identity theft, that’s your own responsibility.

But here’s where hotel practices get racialized: Some require “all foreign guests,” regardless of residency, to display ID.

People who refuse to comply can be, under some prefectural ordinances, denied entry into the hotel, and sometimes the police are to be called. And how do clerks tell who a “foreign guest” is? If they have a foreign-looking face or name, of course. Hence the racial profiling at check-in.

But what happens to residents, Japanese children of international marriages, and foreign-looking citizens, such as myself, who brave the harassment and inform them of the actual letter of the law? Clerks will then claim the local police are demanding all foreign guests produce ID. Sometimes they even pull out a handy-dandy multilingual poster produced by those police saying as much. Nevertheless, that’s not what the law says.

I’ve been following this issue since 2005, when I encountered my first hotel ID checkpoint while attending a conference. After more than a decade of these shenanigans (and official confirmations from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, local police agencies retracting erroneous posters, and even the US Embassy that ID checks only apply to overseas tourists), it’s clear that the Japanese police are deliberately making up law to enlist hotels in their racial profiling.

Why do the police keep lying? Because, according to their posters, they’re looking for terrorists. (Naturally, Japanese cannot be terrorists, never mind Aum Shinrikyo or the Japanese Red Army.)

So here’s the bottom line: If you live in Japan with a Japanese address, you check in like any other Japanese citizen. You should only need to write your name and contact details in the guest book and get your key. No ID is necessary.

But since the Japanese police prioritize their power over actually following the law, it’s likely your protest about being treated like a terrorist will fall on deaf ears.

In fact, the cops have doubled-down. For example, the Shizuoka police recently issued yet another poster making up a rule that everyone must show their passport. (As if that’s going to apply to Japanese guests?)

Most people, tired at the end of a day, are probably not in the mood to fight the casual racial profiling at the hotel counter, or deal with a phalanx of paranoid cops. Claiming your legal rights might mean that you lose your room for the night, or at worst mean you enjoy a couple of weeks of hospitality at the local police detention center.

The ultimate solution is for some brave soul to suffer these indignities and to sue the hotel and police for damages, and to make it clear that this practice is not grounded in statute.

This is what happens when you encourage multitudes of overseas tourists come to a place like Japan, a society hobbled by strong xenophobic narratives and a weak system of checks on police power, without preparing the legal and social groundwork. Even after all these years, Japan’s officials and law enforcement still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that some people who look like tourists actually live here. Once again, Japan’s Visible Minorities get snagged in the dragnet. Unlawfully.

ENDS

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

NB: If you want to do something to stop this happening to you, download a file substantiating that you don’t have to show any ID as a resident of Japan here: https://www.debito.org/newhotelpassportlaw.jpg

=====================
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Last word on NJ hotel passport checks (thanks to a lawyer): It’s as Debito.org has said for more than a decade: NJ Residents are exempt from showing any ID.

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Hi Blog.  With the influx of sports tourism (Rugby in 2019, Olympics in 2020), the National Police Agency (as reported before for years on Debito.org) has been erroneously telling hotels to demand passports and ID from all “foreigners”, including NJ Residents of Japan with addresses in Japan.

The Japanese police have been told for more than a decade now (even by the US Embassy!) that this is not lawful.  NJ Residents are exempt from passport AND ID checks after indicating their residency in the hotel Guest Book.

(And if you want to carry a file substantiating that you don’t have to show any ID as a resident of Japan, download it from here: https://www.debito.org/newhotelpassportlaw.jpg)

So the police have become misleadingly legalistic, as Debito.org Reader Mamoru reports.  He sends along this poster from the Shizuoka Police that lays out the letter of the law as follows:

Courtesy https://www.pref.shizuoka.jp/police/kurashi/gokyoryoku/documents/syukuhakusya.pdf (now dead link)

Here they are making clear in the introduction that they are asking for hotel managers to target foreigners without addresses in Japan, and ask for their passport numbers (the justification proffered: incidents of overseas terrorism, of course, since apparently there are no Japanese terrorists).

Even visually (the green bits), the Shizuoka Police are saying that there are two tracks grouped together:  1) Japanese (Nihonjin) and Resident Foreigners (Zainichi/Zaijuu Gaikokukjin), who have to note (kisai) their name, address, and occupation (under the Hotel Management Law Art. 6); and 2) non-resident Foreigners (Rainichi Gaikokujin/Kokugai Zaijuu), who have to reveal their nationality and passport number under additional Regulation 4.2 (more on this below).

HOWEVER,

Then the yellow bit says that all parties have to have a RELIABLE (kakujitsu) entry for their data.

For Japanese and NJ Residents, this means that the hotels must put into effect an identity check (mimoto kakunin) (although it notes that if they have a copy of the passport then data entry (kisai) is not necessary, which is suss since most Japanese guests would not be carrying a passport).

But unlike other entries, this is not grounded in any law mentioned in the flyer, making this even more suss.

Especially since the final yellow bubble asks for “cooperation” (kyouryoku) with the police in case they want to inspect the Guest Book (shukuhakusha meibo); note that “cooperation” in practice means the police merely asking nicely, because the police don’t have the force of law to compel.  (It also asterisks that if there is a copy of the passport it is not necessary to write it down.)

As grounding in legal writ, the poster here does cite a “Notification” (tsuuchi) from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare that enables police inspection of the Guest Book. But as the below-mentioned Fukuoka Now website (citing a Japanese lawyer) states, these ministerial “directives” are “not laws and are therefore not legally binding, however, they are in practice extremely important as administrative bodies, who execute/enforce laws, follow these internal notifications until the law is clarified by amendment or a judge denied a specific interpretation at court.”

The point is still this is not grounded in actual law.  Hence the request for “cooperation”.  But any hotelier not a legal scholar will no doubt interpret these “weasel words” as a requirement to ask guests for ID.

What’s misleading in these yellow sections is whether or not ALL people regardless of nationality have to show ID (they don’t; they didn’t before, and there’s no law cited now to say that they do).  But in practice, hoteliers will interpret this to mean that all “foreigners” will have to show ID, and the regular unwillingness to inconvenience “regular” Japanese customers will mean that Japanese won’t.

Finally, in the magenta balloons the Shizuoka Police mention that if the person asked for ID refuses to cooperate, then the hotel has the obligation to refuse that person accommodation.  The law cited is not the Hotel Management Law, but a local Shizuoka Prefectural Ordinance (jourei) governing hotels.

In sum, the Shizuoka Police are reinforcing the status quo with weasel words asking for “cooperation” when law doesn’t require.

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

On a second page, the Shizuoka Police also cite various bits of the laws as substantiation:

Bits of this are backed up by an article at Fukuoka Now (courtesy of Debito.org Reader MR), which cites not only the letter of the law but also a lawyer opining:

(Courtesy https://www.fukuoka-now.com/en/can-hotels-take-a-photocopy-of-my-id/, current as of May 14, 2019):

旅館業法施行規則 [4]
第四条の二
3 法第六条第一項の厚生労働省令で定める事項は、宿泊者の氏名、住所及び職業のほか、次に掲げる事項とする。
一 宿泊者が日本国内に住所を有しない外国人であるときは、その国籍及び旅券番号
二 その他都道府県知事が必要と認める事項

Ordinance for Enforcement of the Inns and Hotels Act [5]
Article 4-2
(3) The matters provided for by the Order of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare set out in the Act shall be the following, in addition to the name, address, and occupation of the guests.
(i) The nationality and passport number if the guest is a foreign national who does not possess an address in Japan; and
(ii) Other matters that prefectural governors find necessary.

旅館業法施行規則 [4]
第四条の二
3 法第六条第一項の厚生労働省令で定める事項は、宿泊者の氏名、住所及び職業のほか、次に掲げる事項とする。
一 宿泊者が日本国内に住所を有しない外国人であるときは、その国籍及び旅券番号
二 その他都道府県知事が必要と認める事項

Ordinance for Enforcement of the Inns and Hotels Act [5]
Article 4-2
(3) The matters provided for by the Order of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare set out in the Act shall be the following, in addition to the name, address, and occupation of the guests.
(i) The nationality and passport number if the guest is a foreign national who does not possess an address in Japan; and
(ii) Other matters that prefectural governors find necessary.

(All translations certified by Fukuoka Attorney Miyake Atsushi of Miyake Law, Apr. 2019.)

The Skinny:

At a bare minimum, this Shizuoka Police poster confirms that there are two separate tracks at check-in:  One for Foreign Tourists, and another one for ALL Residents of Japan regardless of nationality (Japanese and NJ):

Foreign Tourists with no address in Japan must show ID, meaning a passport.  Some places will require, as per local ordinance, that passport to be photocopied.

(I will let various governments continue to criticize the potential dangers of this practice, including fraud and identity theft:  The Canadian Government, for example, explicitly says, “You take all responsibility for giving information in your passport to a third party.”

But there is still nowhere in the law that requires NJ Residents of Japan to show any ID after writing down their details in the hotel Guest Book.

And the fact that even this police poster is being intentionally confusing and misleading about the letter of the law, even when the law (or ministerial directive) is being selectively cited, indicates once again how the Japanese Police are continuing their SOP to bend the law and encourage hotels to racially profile their “foreign” guests.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

=====================
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Fujisankei-owned Japan Today posts article on “What to do if stopped by J police” for Rugby World Cup visitors, after consulting with Debito.org. Then does not acknowledge Debito.org and leaves out valuable advice

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader JDG had this to say about a recent article in Japan Today:

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

JDG:  Right wing Sankei owned Japan Today put out this ‘what to do if you get stopped by the police in Japan’ article for the Rugby World Cup.

https://japantoday.com/category/features/lifestyle/What-to-do-if-you-are-stopped-by-the-police-in-Japan

Half the article about having fun and getting travel insurance, the other half about complying with all police requests because, y’know, cultural differences.

Failure to blindly comply with police stop requests will be ‘escalating the situation’ and grounds for arrest because, y’know, cultural differences.

What about police discrimination and your rights? ‘Don’t believe all the hoopla you read online’.

Basically article’s advice is;
If stopped by Japanese police, do as you are told.

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

For the record, the article is archived below.

COMMENT:  Well, interestingly enough, Japan Today consulted with Debito.org before doing the article.  And then it made no mention of Debito.org or its advice therein.  Here’s the exchange:

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

From: Jeff Richards <jeff@japantoday.com>
Subject: Journalist Asking about Any Updates on “What to Do if Stopped by Police in Japan”
Date: September 8, 2019 at 11:08:36 PM
To: debito@debito.org
Hello Dr. Arudou,
My name is Jeff Richards and I’m an editor for Japan Today.
I’m currently putting together a piece on “What to Do if Stopped by the Police in Japan” as primer for both residents and tourists alike visiting for the upcoming Rugby World Cup (and by extension the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and other large-scale sporting and entertainment events).
I have been using your website as a resource in this regard (and have since I arrived in Japan over a decade ago… ). I was wondering if you had done any updates on this topic (on your website either as a post or in one of your many news columns):
I realize that most of the posts on your site dealing with the police, unwarranted checkpoints, unlawful ID checks by hotel/train staff etc. seem to relate to the former “Gaikokijin Torokushou” but I was wondering if there have been any significant changes to the law with the advent of the Residence Card? Or would these same laws still apply with just a terminology change?
My goal with the article is purely to provide facts to readers about what they are required to have on them (passport or residence card), what they are legally bound to do and what they are entitled to ask before submitting to a check and their rights. It is really a “just the facts, ma’am” type of piece. I wold like to have readers informed of what they should know about these types of situations — especially since more people are a little more reticent about Japanese police and due process since the recent Carlos Ghosn detention shining a spotlight on how the justice system here is stacked against them.
Any insight or updates from you would be appreciated and if you have any other outside sources I might contact or read that would be very welcome, too.
I hope all is well and I look forward to reading any upcoming articles for the Shingetsu News Agency.
Kindest regards,
~Jeff Richards
Jeff W, Richards
Editor
4F 1-8-1 Higashi Azabu IS Bldg.,
1-8-1 Higashi Azabu, Minato-ku, Japan 106-0044

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

Well, I was happy to oblige, so here was my response:

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

From: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>
Subject: Re: Journalist Asking about Any Updates on “What to Do if Stopped by Police in Japan”
Date: September 11, 2019 at 7:38:42 PM
To: Jeff Richards <jeff@japantoday.com>

Dear Mr. Richards,

Thank you for your email, and I apologize for my late response.  Please find my answers below in your text:

 

On Sep 8, 2019, at 11:08 PM, Jeff Richards <jeff@japantoday.com> wrote:
Hello Dr. Arudou,
My name is Jeff Richards and I’m an editor for Japan Today.
I’m currently putting together a piece on “What to Do if Stopped by the Police in Japan” as primer for both residents and tourists alike visiting for the upcoming Rugby World Cup (and by extension the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and other large-scale sporting and entertainment events).

Excellent.  This sounds very helpful.  I will be happy to point to it on Debito.org when it comes out.

 

I have been using your website as a resource in this regard (and have since I arrived in Japan over a decade ago… ). I was wondering if you had done any updates on this topic (on your website either as a post or in one of your many news columns):
I realize that most of the posts on your site dealing with the police, unwarranted checkpoints, unlawful ID checks by hotel/train staff etc. seem to relate to the former “Gaikokijin Torokushou” but I was wondering if there have been any significant changes to the law with the advent of the Residence Card? Or would these same laws still apply with just a terminology change?

I haven’t updated the site in a while, as you know, but I have found that the systems in place are largely unchanged.

As for the Gaikokujin Tourokushou issue, there have NOT been any significant changes with the advent of the Zairyuu Card.  In fact, things have gotten a bit worse, as police don’t always believe the new Gaijin Card will suffice for visa kakunin purposes, and instead ask for passports more often on street ID checkpoints (which is what the Zairyuu Card is supposed to act as a substitute for).  In any case, the Zairyuu Card is basically the Gaijin Card Part Deux.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  As you put it, it’s just a terminology change as far as police enforcement and racial profiling is concerned.

 

My goal with the article is purely to provide facts to readers about what they are required to have on them (passport or residence card), what they are legally bound to do and what they are entitled to ask before submitting to a check and their rights. It is really a “just the facts, ma’am” type of piece. I wold like to have readers informed of what they should know about these types of situations — especially since more people are a little more reticent about Japanese police and due process since the recent Carlos Ghosn detention shining a spotlight on how the justice system here is stacked against them.

That sounds good.  And people are surely right to feel targeted after the Ghosn Case.  Because they are.  As you saw from recent articles, Ghosn’s peers just got the axe for similar misdeeds but Ghosn got sent to jail.

 

Any insight or updates from you would be appreciated and if you have any other outside sources I might contact or read that would be very welcome, too.

How about these?

Scroll through these and see what catches your eye.

 

I hope all is well and I look forward to reading any upcoming articles for the Shingetsu News Agency.

My next one comes out in a few days.  Enjoy.

Sincerely, Debito

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

I then received no response, acknowledgment, or thanks for this email, so I refowarded the mail with a message:

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

From: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>
Subject: Fwd: Journalist Asking about Any Updates on “What to Do if Stopped by Police in Japan”
Date: September 17, 2019 at 2:30:12 PM
To: Jeff Richards <jeff@japantoday.com>
Hi Mr Richards.  Just checking to see if you got this.  Sincerely, Debito

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

Then Mr. Richards responded:

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

From: Jeff Richards <jeff@japantoday.com>
Subject: Re: Journalist Asking about Any Updates on “What to Do if Stopped by Police in Japan”
Date: September 18, 2019 at 12:50:42 AM
To: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>

Hi Debito,

Yes, thank you so much for getting back to me and sorry for not doing the same. Apologies.
Your information has been very useful. It’s seems pretty cut-and-dried (regardless of personal opinions on the police’s reasoning or racial bias) but I did just want to give people a very good idea of what will indeed happen if you are stopped by the keisatsu (either just letting you continue on or taking you “downtown” depending on how important it is for people to be outraged).
I ended up taking all of my “opinion” out of it and just presented what will happen and your rights — and how to just make it go smoothly so you can get on to enjoying the rugby. If people really are incensed, probably best to make a complaint later — unless it’s truly egregious. Our readers can discuss it in the comments.
I believe we’ll be publishing the story tomorrow night ahead of the first Rugby World Cup game on Friday.
Thanks again for getting back to me. I’d love to be able to contact you again on other matters involving foreigners in Japan for future stories (I’m planning to one on if you happen to get injured or have an accident and a follow up on if you are unfortunate enough to be detained by the police in Japan).
Regards,
~Jeff
Jeff W, Richards
Editor
4F 1-8-1 Higashi Azabu IS Bldg.,
1-8-1 Higashi Azabu, Minato-ku, Japan 106-0044
Tel: +81 3-5561-7755

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

Then the article came out, and as noted, there was no mention of Debito.org or any of the information therein. So I asked about it.

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

From: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>
Subject: Re: Journalist Asking about Any Updates on “What to Do if Stopped by Police in Japan”
Date: September 22, 2019 at 10:29:47 AM
To: Jeff Richards <jeff@japantoday.com>

Hello Jeff,

Thanks for the article.  But if the information on Debito.org was so useful, why wasn’t it cited anywhere in the article, even as a potential information site like the others?  Please explain.  Thank you.
Sincerely, Debito

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

I received no response from Mr. Richards for three days. So I drew some conclusions, and told him so:

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

From: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>
Subject: Please respond within 48 hours. Re: Journalist Asking about Any Updates on “What to Do if Stopped by Police in Japan”
Date: September 25, 2019 at 10:02:44 AM 
To: Jeff Richards <jeff@japantoday.com>

Hello Jeff again.  I didn’t receive a response from you, so here’s my interpretation of what happened:

1) You wrote up an article that had your “opinions” in it, and some of them were based upon information you found on Debito.org.
2) As you are owned by Fujisankei, you were told by your bosses to remove that information, and all references to Debito.org.  (We can’t have foreigners in Japan knowing their rights, after all.)
If so, I find this overall trend in media complicity in disempowering NJ to be most distressing, as I noted in my Shingetsu News Agency articles that you say below you have seen.
That is precisely a Debito.org issue, which I will be going public with (including our correspondence, since it was not private, and you were writing expressly in your public capacity as an Editor at Japan Today) in 48 hours from this time stamp.
If you would like to clarify the record or my interpretation beforehand, I am inviting you to respond within that 48 hours.
Sincerely, Debito

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

Mr. Richards responded soon afterwards:

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

From: Jeff Richards <jeff@gplusmedia.com>
Subject: Re: Please respond within 48 hours. Re: Journalist Asking about Any Updates on “What to Do if Stopped by Police in Japan”
Date: September 26, 2019 at 1:09:53 AM PDT
To: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>

Hi Debito,

Wow. Well, those are some rather unexpected and confrontational email replies.
I’m not sure what I did to warrant that type of reaction or what in fact you were expecting from me.
The article I wrote is for the benefit of people visiting Japan for the RWC (and residents who might be interested). There is no sway over my editorial by higher ups at Fuji at all.
My article steers clear of my “opinions” to keep it as objective as possible without editorializing on the matter since it is not an opinion piece, per se.
While your website has information on it that can be useful, so, too, do the official sites for Japan Customs, the National Police Agency, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Immigration Services Agency of Japan as well the information I received from embassy officials that I interviewed.
One of the reasons I originally reached out was to find out if you had any actual new content on debito.org that updated some of the older stuff (the links in your original reply direct to articles well over 10 years old). To be fair, some other official Japanese sites (mostly ward and prefectural) contain info that isn’t that much more up-to-date, so I didn’t use those links, either.
Is there a personal quote from you or reference to your website content that perhaps I didn’t attribute? If so, please let me know and I’m more than happy to rectify.
Regards,
~Jeff

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

FINAL COMMENT:  I didn’t respond further to Mr. Richards.  I acknowledge his courteous inquiries at the beginning, and appreciate his efforts to find out the most current information; I also acknowledge that his article is very helpful for the most part.

However, I felt things were certainly different when it came down to reporting any information that might let people know their rights in Japan.  Because, after all, foreigners aren’t supposed to have any rights, according to the Japanese Police, and that’s generally the line that much of the “foreigner-friendly” media basically maintains — just do as you’re told like a good “guest” and all will go well.  Until it doesn’t, of course.

Racial profiling in Japan is Standard Operating Procedure for the Japanese police, and that should be acknowledged somewhere, not simply worked around or removed as a matter of “opinion”.

I remain unswayed in my belief that the inconvenient truths that Debito.org has always offered were not something a media outlet like this was keen on publishing.  And I believe that this is because it is owned by the right-wing Fujisankei group, which has substantially changed the tone of the once foreigner-owned Japan Today.

For the record, shortly after its founding two decades ago, Japan Today’s NJ editors invited me to write columns for them.  I did in fact write eighteen over the course of two years (until they stopped paying me as promised, which is why I quit and went to The Japan Times).  That was then.  Now, I strongly doubt Japan Today would ever publish information found in my columns again.  What I’m saying is simply not what “gaijin-handling” (i.e., putting forth a positive image of Japan under all circumstances) Japan-owned and -managed outlets want published.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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

The current text of the Japan Today article, for the record:

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

Lifestyle

What to do if you are stopped by the police in Japan

148 Comments

By Jeff W Richards

This year — for the first time in its 32-year history — the Rugby World Cup will be held in Asia. On Nov 2, 2019, the International Stadium Yokohama in Japan will become just the seventh stadium ever to host the final of the world’s third-largest sporting event.

While a fantastic time is expected to be had by all involved: hosts, teams and fans; that’s not to say some cultural scrums won’t form. The arrest and detention of Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn last year has shone an international spotlight on Japan’s justice system. This could have some people worried.

Japan is — for the most part — a forward-thinking, modern democracy. It’s justice system, however, still relies on solitary confinement, forced confessions and apologies (with financial compensation to “victims”) for its verdicts. The most worrying aspect of criminal justice in Japan is its detention system (suspects can be held for up to 23 days without being charged) and its bias against non-Japanese detainees.

Stating this is not meant to scare people. Your experience at the World Cup and other events will probably be as fun and enjoyable as you expect, or even more so — whether in Tokyo, Yokohama or farther-flung Kyushu. The locals want you to come and to enjoy yourself at the matches as well as learn and experience the delights of their city and region — police included

But differences in culture and behavior exist. For example, it may be completely normal in your home country — fellas! — to relieve yourself outside, in an alley or on the side of building, whereas here the keisatsu (police) may stop you for defacing private property or indecent exposure. From even minor encounters, major troubles can occur.

This is a no-nonsense guide to what you should do if you are stopped by the police in Japan, prefaced with some common-sense advice to prevent any problems before they might occur.

Before you come

A word to those arriving from overseas: before you leave for Japan, do your research.

Read up online. Visit the website of your embassy in Japan and read its travel advisories. Here they will post relevant information and updates on everything from extreme weather forecasts, natural disasters, pertinent crime reports and lists of prohibited goods you might inadvertently pack.

Websites and resources to check out before you leave:

Purchase travel insurance. When I asked representatives at the British Embassy in Tokyo about their recommendations for Brits coming to Japan, this was No. 1 on their list — and it applies to visitors from all countries. If an accident should occur, Japanese hospitals and clinics do not accept foreign medical insurance. We will have more on this in a second installment of this series for visitors to Japan.

To avoid any hassles before you pass Japanese customs at the airport, find out what medications (if any) from your home country might be illegal in Japan. You could encounter problems with pharmaceuticals as mundane as over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief (anything with codeine is prohibited) or certain allergy medications (pseudoephedrine is also illegal). If you do find an OTC medication you use is listed — don’t bring it. There will be a suitable alternative readily available here — and it won’t cause you grief should be stopped by the police and searched.

If you do require specific medication, make sure to bring the prescription with you and don’t bring more than a 30-day supply. And even if you do have a prescription, Jiminy Christmas, do not bring any medicine containing opium, cannabis, amphetamines, methamphetamines and certain medicines for treating attention deficit disorders (such as Adderall, Vyvanse and Dexedrine) as these are strictly prohibited.

If you’re already concerned about what might happen if you’re stopped by the police in Japan — do yourself a favor: Don’t get detained before you even clear customs.

Before you go out to an event

Make sure you have the proper identification on you when you go out for the day. You will be asked for it if you are stopped by authorities.

For tourists, this means that you must carry your passport with you at all times. Failure to do so could result in more than embarrassment — it could mean detention by the police (as proper ID will be the first thing they ask for) and a fine of up to ¥200,000 (U.S.$1,850) may ensue. “Proper ID” in this case does not constitute your driver’s license from back home.

Also, carry the name and contact info for your accommodations. If you’re staying at a hotel, grab a business card (with Japanese and English on it) from the front desk. This is not just to give to peace officers, but it can help you return safely as cab drivers or people you stop to ask for directions may not speak English.

If you’re a resident of Japan — and you should know this — you need to carry your zairyu, or Japanese Residence Card, with you at all times. Any immigration or law enforcement officers in the course of their uniformed duties can ask for it and — by law — you need to have it on your person at all times. Not doing so carries a fine of ¥200,000.

If you get stopped

During the Rugby World Cup, understand that there will be an increased police presence across the country, especially around match venues and fan zones.

“During the rugby, we are expecting people to be stopped or arrested for boisterous behavior considered minor in the UK or at least in [other] rugby countries,” says Marion Auclair, consular sporting liaison officer for the British Embassy in Tokyo. “That can get you detained for up to 23 days in Japan.” Nudity — like we mentioned above about answering “when nature calls” — is one of those behaviors.

Is it possible you may be stopped simply because you’re a foreigner? Absolutely.

Is there any reason for you to be unduly worried about it? I would say no.

By and large — especially at an international sporting event — police are deployed to assist the public, keep the peace and look for anything suspicious or unfamiliar. Foreigners quite often tick the “unfamiliar” box. They’ll ask you some questions about where you’re from, what you’re doing in Japan and where you might be coming from (or going to). I mean, it depends on how morally outraged you’d like to be about the situation. Contrary to the discussion board hoopla you’ll find online, there is no need to get your back up. This is not #blacklivesmatter. Nobody is going to shoot you because of the color of your skin. In fact, the police in Japan rarely use their firearms.

You are, however, in danger of causing yourself and your companions more trouble than it’s worth should you decide to escalate the situation — and the perception of “escalation” in Japan is quite different than it might be in the West. Here, even raising your voice can be interpreted by Japanese police as noncompliance or obstruction. It’s why you’ll often see Japanese citizens stopped by law enforcement stand perfectly still during an encounter all the while speaking in a non-hysterical voice. The cops as well. No sudden moves. No surprises. Nobody goes to jail.

Raise your voice indignantly, though, and you risk being seen as obstructing police duties. Reason enough for them to ask for your identification, search your person and even ask if you’d like to come “downtown” to the koban (police box). You do not want to do this.

The police in Japan have every legal right to stop you and ask to see your ID. You, in turn, have the right ask them why you’re being stopped. Best to politely pose the question and then submit to their request when they tell you the reason. They’ll note your registration card or passport information, ask you a few more questions and — most likely — you’ll be on your way.

A quick note if the situation does escalate and you find yourself being detained. It’s important to know that in Japan you do not get to make a phone call. By international convention — assuming your country has signed this bilateral agreement (not all have) — if you are held by the police in Japan, they will inform the consular department of your embassy about your arrest.

The British Embassy, for example, would then send the detainee a prisoner pack with a list of lawyers and check if they want a consular visit.

“If so, we automatically visit,” says Auclair. “Then we assess together what kind of assistance [the embassy] can provide to them.”

To avoid this in the first place — use your common sense.

“Because I think fundamentally everybody knows the things that are illegal, right?” says Emma Hickinbotham, the British Embassy’s head of media, communications and marketing. “That you shouldn’t smuggle drugs. That you shouldn’t steal things. Those things — they’re universal. It’s more the nuances of the cultural differences. That is, you might not get arrested but [the situation] could potentially escalate and if you don’t speak the language — maybe in Tokyo it’s different — but out in some of the regions where the rugby is being played, if the local police don’t speak English and they are asking you nicely to put your clothes back on or whatever, it might be [a good idea]. If you don’t understand anything they’re saying, then you might respond and if you’re being too loud, they might misunderstand that as aggression. So, it’s really trying to stop any of those kinds of misunderstandings happening where people may end up getting in trouble for very minor things that are just avoidable.”

To put it in perspective, while many people of all nationalities are stopped daily in Japan, the number of foreigners arrested is significantly small.

So how many UK citizens are arrested or detained in Japan in a year? “I would say about 50,” says Auclair.

Auclair adds something all embassy staff and Japanese people are likely thinking. “We want people to have fun, in the end. We actually want them to enjoy the rugby because we also are very excited about the rugby. [Laughs] You know, we are rugby fans ourselves, so it’s more about: ‘Yeah, just pay attention.’ Have some common sense. Maybe don’t moon in public, that might not be as well received as in the UK.”

For more information on being culturally aware, Auclair and Hickinbotham suggest visiting the UK government’s advisory page with tips for fans traveling to the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

The more you know before you head out to enjoy a match — whether live at a stadium, in a fan zone with friends or gathered in a bar with strangers — the better time you will have and the less chance of having a bad experience with the police.

Most of it, though, is just common sense — like not urinating on private property or mooning people in public.

ENDS

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

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. Debito Arudou (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  September 19, 1999 was a watershed day in my life, when my family, friends, and I visited the “Japanese Only” Otaru public baths and exposed discrimination in Japan incontrovertibly as racial in nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

=====================
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My Japan Times JBC 115: “Know your rights when checking in at an Airbnb” (Apr 17, 2019)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s and excerpt of my latest Japan Times Just Be Cause Column 115, on NJ check in at hotels and Airbnb.  Reports to Debito.org are already coming in that police are willfully misinterpreting the law, so be prepared if necessary to produce the law and stand your ground.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE

Know your rights when checking in at an Airbnb
BY DEBITO ARUDOU, 
THE JAPAN TIMES, APR 17, 2019

Last year, the government passed a law covering minpaku, which is when people rent out space on their properties to travelers (a la Airbnb). The law is part of an effort to regulate accommodations amid a tourism boom ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

One issue for non-Japanese travelers, though, has been whether they must show ID such as a passports at check-in.

For hotels, which fall under the Hotel Business Law, the regulation has always been this: For any adult, Japanese or non-Japanese, who has an address in Japan, ID is not required. You just write your contact details in the guest registry. However, for guests who don’t reside in this country, displaying ID (i.e., your passport) is required.

Seems straightforward so far, right? But as has been reported several times over more than 10 years of this column, the police (and occasionally the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) have confused things. Some hotels have been instructed that all “foreign guests” must show ID, specifically their passports…

Rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2019/04/17/issues/know-rights-checking-airbnb/

More information at https://www.debito.org/?p=15559.

=============================
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Senaiho Update 2: School Bullying in Yamanashi JHS: How people who file complaints for official harassment get harassed back.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Here’s a second update from “Senaiho”, who has given Debito.org important updates (previous ones here and here) about overzealous enforcers of school rules in Japan’s compulsory education system acting as what Debito.org has long called “the Hair Police“. This phenomenon particularly affects NJ and Japanese of diverse backgrounds, who are forced by officials to dye and/or straighten their naturally “Non-Asian” hair just to attend school.

Bullying is rife in Japanese education, but when it’s ignored (or even perpetuated) by officialdom, this feeling of powerlessness will leave children (particularly those NJ children with diverse physical features targeted for “standing out“) and their families scarred for life.  (As discussed at length in book “Embedded Racism“, pg. 154-5.)  As reported on Debito.org at the beginning of this year, after months of playing by the rules established by the local Board of Education, Senaiho finally lodged a formal criminal complaint against his daughter’s school officials, and it’s smoking out hidden documents.

The update is that The BOE is simply engaging in obfuscation and coverup. After attracting some (domestic) press attention (which didn’t itself cover the racial-discrimination aspect of this happening to a child of international background, for having the wrong natural hair color/texture), the local government has decided (as you can see below) to investigate not the case (to prevent something like this from ever happening again to another student), but rather how not to get sued. Official transcripts are also indicating testimonies grounded in rumor, not fact, without direct input from the victimized family.  And for good measure, we now have the time-worn bureaucratic tactic of smothering claimants with documents to consume all their free time. All while Senaiho is attempting to take this out of local lackluster investigative hands and into criminal court, by filing a criminal complaint.

The interesting news is that according to a recent article in Japan Today (full text after Senaiho’s dispatches) is that forcible hair cutting like this is seen as (generally distasteful) corporal punishment (taibatsu) elsewhere (in conservative Yamaguchi Prefecture of all places, home constituency of PM Abe).  In that case, apologies were forced by the students, top-down pressure put on the teacher to reform, and the teacher being relieved of some of his duties.  Let’s keep an eye on Senaiho’s case, for if his criminal complaint succeeds, it will be a template for others on how to take cases of abusive teachers out of the hands of evasive, “see-no-evil” Boards of Education, and protect diverse children from the cookie-cutter conformity of Japan’s JHSs and SHSs.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

/////////////////////////////////////////
From: Senaiho
Subject: officials meeting transcripts
Date: March 25, 2019
To: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>
Hello Debito,

On the way to the prosecutors office yesterday we picked up a copy of all the documents the city office has concerning us. We made the disclosure request about a month ago. We have gone over most of it and I can report to you and your readers about the contents.

I have to begin by saying that we are only allowed to see documents that relate to us directly, so in the picture I sent, you can see we have the minutes of meetings between elected officials and heads of departments and their staff. Everything that does not relate to us is redacted, however if you hold the copies under a strong light, it is readable. I won t dwell on any of that for now. What I can say without a scientific survey, is that about 90% of the discussion about us in these meetings discussed how to avoid being sued. There was never anything discussed about how to make things right, or how to do anything properly, it was all a discussion on how to avoid, confuse, delay, and obfuscate. There was a small discussion on who might be personally responsible if a suit occurred, and the impression I got was they were all out to minimize their own personal responsibility by shifting the blame to some other department or person other than themselves. There was some discussion on the effect of the mass media, again trying to strategize a way to make themselves look better in some light. The remainder of the discussion was about a rumor some official had heard from someone in our neighborhood that we requested the teacher to cut our daughter’s hair and that we were in fact glad that they cut it. How ludicrous! We now know who the source of this non fact is.

Since some of these comments were made by elected officials, we have the right to demand clarification from these officials on the exact meaning of some of their statements which we will soon do.

So anyone who has ever wondered what these well paid officials do with some of their employed hours, now you know. Senaiho

/////////////////////////////////////////
From: Senaiho
Subject: council meeting transcripts
Date: March 27, 2019
To: Debito Arudou <debito@debito.org>

Hello Debito,
We got another major data dump from the city office yesterday and are trying to sort through that now so have several balls to juggle. I think this might be a little difficult for your readers to grasp, so I will try to explain what these meeting transcripts are about and the issues we have with it.

1. There is an elected official on the town council by the name of Takei Toshihisa, you can find his name in the documents. He states several times in meetings that he has heard a “rumor” that he keeps repeating that my wife gave permission to the teacher and in fact asked her to cut our daughters hair. This is an outright lie. At first they tried the narrative that my daughter gave permission to the teacher to cut her hair, but now they are trying to make my wife the trouble maker by supposedly asking the teacher to cut our daughters hair. This is the tactic of shifting the blame from the perpetrator, i.e. the teacher and trying to place the focus of the cause of the trouble onto the victims, or in other words blame the victim for the accident. This was the strategy from the beginning by the B. of E. and the town council member is just following that line.

2. This town council member also tries to change the language of the incident and insists on downgrading the title of it from a “school accident” to something less serious, like “school incident”. By doing this he thinks it will lessen the seriousness and their liability in case they are sued. Just calling something by what it is not, will make it go away or lessen the impact of it. Here he shows that he has no understanding of what his job is as a member of the town council. Their job is oversight of the functions of the city government. When the B. of E. was not doing their jobs and following the law we petitioned the town council to oversee them and make them do it. You can see by these transcripts they are in fact not doing it.

3. Its not in these transcripts, but another member of the town council who happens to support our cause told us that she heard from this Takei san regarding us as people; “These people are a problem.” I suppose he has some deep seated hatred of mixed marriages and their offspring residing in “his” town. We plan on filing a complaint petition about what he says and the job he is doing which is our right as a citizen. I hope more people will do the same in their area.

If our case is taken up by the prosecutor it will be because of the fact that we have mountains of evidence showing what we claim. As you may know most cases get dismissed because of a lack of evidence. We started collecting it from the day we suspected our daughter was being bullied. We have recordings, pictures, statements from witnesses, documents, many bytes of stuff all on google drive. Without it we would be nowhere today. I cant stress this enough. Senaiho
/////////////////////////////////////////

Japan Today article:

High school teacher in hot water after forcibly giving male student a buzz cut
Apr. 4, 2019, courtesy of JDG
By Koh Ruide, SoraNews24 TOKYO
https://japantoday.com/category/national/high-school-teacher-in-hot-water-after-forcibly-giving-male-student-a-buzz-cut#comments

Not too long ago, teachers from a Japanese school made media headlines when they went to the extreme of cutting off 44 students’ hair for not meeting the dress code. And it appears a similar incident has happened again, this time in Kudamatsu Technical High School in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

In late autumn last year, a male teacher in his forties allegedly grabbed an electric hair clipper and gave one of his first-year male students a buzz cut, causing the boy take a leave of absence from school shortly after.

When approached by the principal in December, the teacher claimed he did it because his hair was too long.

But it seemed the problem ran deeper, as the educator had often hurled verbal abuse at his homeroom class, calling them “morons”, “idiots” and “stupid”, earning him a stern reprimand from the principal. When classes resumed in January after the New Year holidays, the teacher’s personality had apparently changed for the better, an improvement the principal thought not important to warrant reporting to the local Board of Education.

But all 40 pupils of that class and their parents had not forgotten that the educator forcibly cut someone’s hair, and furiously launched a petition to the board in February this year calling for his disciplinary dismissal.

In an effort to appease them, a meeting between school, Board of Education, students and parents was held on March 15, where the teacher officially apologized for his mistakes.

“Forcibly cutting students’ hair amounts to corporal punishment,” a board spokesman said firmly.

The educator’s role has now been shifted from homeroom teacher to assistant teacher, away from tasks that involve student-teacher interactions. “The current situation is still under investigation, and we will consider the feelings of the parents and students with regards to the teacher’s future,” said the principal.

“I deeply regret that it has come to this. I failed to report to the Board of Education because I thought the issue was solved with the teacher correcting his behavior, but I should have done so,” the principal apologized.

Source: Nikkan Sports via My Game News Flash

ENDS
/////////////////////////////////////////

Nikkan Sports original article, courtesy of AnonymousOG:

教諭が生徒の髪を丸刈り 保護者らが懲戒免職を嘆願
[2019年3月25日 日刊スポーツ]
https://www.nikkansports.com/general/nikkan/news/201903250000810.html

山口県立下松工業高の40代の男性教諭が昨年秋、担任するクラスの1年生の男子生徒の髪が長いからとバリカンで頭を丸刈りにした上、「病院に行け」などと乱暴な言動をしたことに端を発し、クラスの生徒40人全員と保護者が2月、同県教育委員会に同教諭を懲戒免職にするよう嘆願書を出していたことが25日、分かった。同校は嘆願書を提出されるまで、教育委員会に事態を報告していなかった。

男性教諭は18年秋、当該男子生徒の頭をバリカンで丸刈りにした上「病院に行け」などと言い、その後、生徒は同12月に学校を休んだという。高橋等校長(57)は、日刊スポーツの取材に「バリカンで生徒の髪を切ったのは事実。教諭からも『髪が長いから切りました』と報告があった」と認めた。その上で「生徒が休んだ理由の1つに(バリカンで髪を切ったことが)あるかもしれない」と語った。

県教委の関係者も、嘆願書が提出された事実を認めた上で「一般論として、了承を得ずに髪を無理矢理切ったなら体罰」と言及した。それを受け、高橋校長は「なぜ切ったかは現状はっきりしておらず、県教委が生徒にヒアリングを行っています」と、当該教諭が生徒の了承を得て髪を切ったか否かは調査中だとした。

当該教諭には、以前から生徒に「ボケ」「アホ」「バカ」などと乱暴な言動を浴びせるという情報が学校に寄せられていたという。そのため、高橋校長は18年12月に当該教諭に対し「事実か分からないが、もし子どもたちにそういうことを言っているなら改めなければならない。(クラス)全体がいる中で『病院に行け』などという言葉はいけない」などと指導したという。

その後、今年1月に入り、同教諭の生徒指導が「人が変わったくらい」(同校長)改善されたように見えたため、教育委員会へ一連の事態について報告しなかったが、2月に嘆願書が出された。学校側は15日に教育委員会同席の上で生徒、保護者と分けて説明会を行い、教諭は謝罪したという。高橋校長は「子どもたちにとって12月までの言動、考えが変わったのだろうか? と疑問があったのでは」と説明した。

同教諭は嘆願書の提出後に担任を外れ、生徒に関わらない業務をしており、ホームルームなどは副担任が対応しているという。高橋校長は、同教諭を来年度、担任から外すことを検討していることを明かし「今の状況だと難しいと判断している。生徒、保護者の気持ちを踏まえて配慮する」と説明した。

その上で「学校が、こういう状況になっていること自体、大変申し訳ない。私が見て(教諭の生徒指導が)変わったと思い、県教委に報告しなかったが、昨年12月の段階で報告すべきだった」と謝罪した。
ENDS

==================================
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MC on new Minpaku Law and NJ check-ins: Govt. telling AirBnB hostels that “foreign guests” must have passports photocopied etc. Yet not in actual text of the Minpaku Law. Or any law.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It seems the GOJ is up to its old tricks:  Reinterpreting the law to pick on “foreigners” again.  This was seen previously on Debito.org to encourage racial profiling at hotel check-ins, and now with the new Minpaku Law affecting AirBnB-style private homes opened for public accommodation (minshuku), it’s more of the same.  Read on from Debito.org Reader MC:

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

From: MC
Subject: An experience with the new minpaku law that might interest your readers
Date: February 11, 2019
To: debito@debito.org

Hi Debito,

This might interest you and your readers. Feel free to post it if you think it might be appropriate. Sorry for the length, but it’s a bit of a complicated story.

I had an experience recently that raises a new aspect of the recurrent hotel registration problems that some people have. I have to admit I’ve rarely had problems at Japanese hotels, and on the few occasions I’ve been asked for ID, my polite refusal (aided by Debito’s very useful legal information -thanks Debito) has always been accepted. However the recent experience was a little different.

I was catching an early flight from Kansai, too early for the trains from home, so I decided to stay the previous night at a minpaku close to the airport, PLUS 9 Station Inn in Izumi Otsu, booked through booking dot com. They emailed information before check-in, among which they said “This is a staff-less guest house. You have to get your key at the accommodation and check in yourself.” No problem. The instructions for getting the key were clear. A later email, though, told me that there was an ipad in reception, and could we please scan and send copies of our passports, or in the case of Japanese people, driving licences (no mention of resident foreigners). Obviously realising that not everyone carries a driving licence, they asked for people without photo ID to photograph themselves on the iPad and upload the photo.

It was close to our departure day, and not having time to argue and possibly be asked to find somewhere else, I decided to simply ignore this. Arriving there, we retrieved the key from the key box, and stay went fine, with no contact from the company to ask why we hadn’t checked in through the iPad.

Afterwards I wrote to them with an explanation of the problematic nature of their system in regards to Non-Japanese customers. I also put a similar comment on their booking dot com page. First, they had no right to ask for photographs of anyone, resident or not, Japanese or not. The idea of requiring guests to upload a scan of a driving licence or passport, or even just a face shot, is just asking for identity theft, and is certainly illegal.

I explained the law on this as follows:  The Japan Hotel Laws are quite clear on this: If the guest is NOT a resident of Japan you DO have the right to ask for a passport number (not a copy of the passport). But if the guest IS a resident of Japan, on the other hand, whatever the nationality, they have no responsibility to provide any kind of copy of an official document or any photograph. It’s a gross invasion of privacy.”

They replied, saying that the new Minpaku Law of 2018 allowed for online check-in, and required photographic ID. The former is true, but I didn’t think the latter was. However, I checked out the wording at the Minpaku system portal on the MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) site, and it looks to me as though there is some cause for worry.

I’m not sure whether these pages quote the actual law, or whether they are simply guidance for owners regarding the effects of the law.  The main MLIT portal site is here: http://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/minpaku/business/host/responsibility01.html
(The page links to an English translation, but only of part of this section.)

[Ed:  For the record, the MLIT portal page is a reinterpretation of the legal writ in plain language.  For example, one of the main subject headers from MLIT is(1)本人確認の方法, or “Method for Confirming Identity”. Yet nowhere in the actual text of the law did I find the word “本人確認”.  To check for yourself, here’s the actual text of the Minpaku Law in Japanese, word-searchable here online and here as a .txt file.]

Section 4 of the MLIT reinterpreted version deals with the requirement on minpaku owners to keep a register and to be able to provide it to the police on request. There’s no ambiguity in the first paragraph. Owners have to keep a record of the name, address, occupation and dates of stay for all guests. If the guests do not have a Japanese address, the owner also needs to record the nationality and passport number. All good so far.

Part (1) of this section, though, is a bit more worrying. First (A and B) it says that a photograph of the guest’s face or passport should be clearly confirmed to be accurate, and that this photograph should be identifiable as having been taken at or close to the premises. It suggests that a video phone or tablet in the minshuku could be used for this. There’s no mention here of Japan residency. Or of what sort of ID would be suitable for ALL guests (not just foreign guests), since not all guests carry passports.

上記の措置は、対面又は対面と同等の手段として以下のいずれも満たすICT(情報通信技術)を活用した方法等により行われる必要があります。
A 宿泊者の顔及び旅券が画像により鮮明に確認できること。
B 当該画像が住宅宿泊事業者や住宅宿泊管理業者の営業所等、届出住宅内又は届出住宅の近傍から発信されていることが確認できること。

Then (Part (1), 2) is where it seems to require, or at least suggest, photographing the passports of non-resident foreigners. (Here it does specifically mention residence.) It even suggests that this photograph can be submitted as an alternative to filling in the guest register columns relating to nationality and passport number. (Part (1), 3) says that in cases where the guest refuses to provide a copy of their passport, they should be told that this is a government requirement, and if they still refuse it is possible that they do not have the passport on them, and therefore the police should be informed. 

住宅宿泊事業者等は以下の内容に従って本人確認を行う必要があります。
1 宿泊者に対し、宿泊者名簿への正確な記載を働きかけること。
2 日本国内に住所を有しない外国人宿泊者に関しては、宿泊者名簿の国籍及び旅券番号欄への記載を徹底し、旅券の呈示を求めるとともに、旅券の写しを宿泊者名簿とともに保存すること。なお、旅券の写しの保存により、当該宿泊者に関する宿泊者名簿の氏名、国籍及び旅券番号の欄への記載を代替することもできます。
3 営業者の求めにも関わらず、当該宿泊者が旅券の呈示を拒否する場合は、当該措置が国の指導によるものであることを説明して呈示を求め、さらに拒否する場合には、当該宿泊者は旅券不携帯の可能性があるものとして、最寄りの警察署に連絡する等適切な対応を行うこと。

[Ed:  Which means that if a NJ resident of Japan (who is not required to carry a passport; that’s why Gaijin Cards exist) shows up without a passport, under these directives he’s likely to have the cops called on him by careless or overzealous clerks.  And as the Carlos Ghosn Case shows quite plainly, you do not want to be detained for questioning by the Japanese police.

[Moreover, after doing a word search of the actual text of the law, I CANNOT find the word 本人確認, or the words passport パスポート/旅券 or even photo/image 写真/画像.  What section of the Minpaku Law (or of any law — the Japanese police have lied about the nonexistent photocopying requirement before) is the MLIT-reinterpreted version referring to?]

MLIT’s official English translation of the law is:

Private lodging business operators need to verify identity according to the following contents:
1. Keep an accurate record of guests on the guest list.
2. For foreign guests who do not have an address in Japan, accurately record the name, nationality and passport number in the appropriate column for each guest, request that each guest present their passport and save copies of each passport together with the guest list. By saving a copy of the passport, you can accurately record the name, nationality and passport number on the guest list.
3. If a foreign guest who does not have an address in Japan refuses to present their passport despite the request of the private lodging business operator, explain that the measures are based on national government regulations. If the guest continues to refuse, and there is the possibility that the guest is not carrying a passport, take the appropriate action such as contacting the nearest police station.

More worryingly, there is a link from this page to a model of a guest register. It’s here: http://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/minpaku/business/system/regular_report.html

The model has a list of categories that need to be filled in: name, date etc. The last two are ‘nationality’ and ‘passport number’. Under ‘passport number’, it clearly says “If the nationality is other than Japanese, passport number must be entered.” There’s nothing, though to say a) that Japanese nationality does not need to be recorded, and b) that neither does nationality for foreigners with Japanese addresses.

[Ed:  As MC notes, this is misleading. In the opening part of Section 4 of the MLIT-reinterpreted version, it says, as is proper, that “lodgers that are foreigners without addresses in Japan need to give nationality and passport number”: 宿泊者が国内に住所を有しない外国人であるときは、その国籍及び旅券番号.  So why is this not continuously pointed out in this section?  Again, as before, this encourages racial profiling of all guests who look “foreign”.]

So there are several inconsistencies here. On the one hand the guidance (if that’s what it is) confirms the requirement of the hotel law to date, namely that passport numbers (not copies) are required from non-resident foreigners, and only from them. On the other hand since they clearly want to allow for places to operate without any check-in staff, the distinction between providing a passport number and providing a copy of the passport, and the distinction between resident and non-resident gets blurred, and it’s easy to see how owners trying to keep up with this legislation will not be too conscientious about it.

I haven’t yet replied to the minshuku about this. I’d appreciate any advice, or any information anyone has about the new law, that I might have missed or misinterpreted.

Sincerely, MC

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

COMMENT:  Interestingly enough, and on the plus side, there’s a special section in the Minpaku Law that specifically says that minpaku accommodations must aim for the comfort and convenience of “foreign tourists”.  Clearly, none of these damned refusals of NJ reservations on the grounds of “we only have futons, not Western-style beds” or “we don’t speak any foreign languages” (as has happened to me on various occasions, even when I’m speaking Japanese).

外国人観光旅客である宿泊者の快適性及び利便性の確保

第七条 住宅宿泊事業者は、外国人観光旅客である宿泊者に対し、届出住宅の設備の使用方法に関する外国語を用いた案内、移動のための交通手段に関する外国語を用いた情報提供その他の外国人観光旅客である宿泊者の快適性及び利便性の確保を図るために必要な措置であって国土交通省令で定める者を講じなければならない。

Now, on the MLIT plain-language site, this is reinterpreted more clearly as follows:

住宅宿泊事業者は、外国人観光旅客である宿泊者の快適性及び利便性の確保を図るために必要な措置として、以下のことを宿泊者に対して講じる必要があります。
(1)外国語を用いて、届出住宅の設備の使用方法に関する案内をすること
(2)外国語を用いて、移動のための交通手段に関する情報を提供すること
(3)外国語を用いて、火災、地震その他の災害が発生した場合における通報連絡先に関する案内をすること
(4)外国人観光旅客である宿泊者の快適性及び利便性の確保を図るために必要な措置

Boldface added to item (3) because it includes information from a different clause (such as the one just before it on disaster information):

第六条 住宅宿泊事業者は、届出住宅について、非常用照明器具の設置、避難経路の表示その他の火災その他の災害が発生した場合における宿泊者の安全の確保を図るために必要な措置であって国土交通省令で定めるものを講じなければならない。

which says nothing about rendering it in a foreign language.  Commonsensibly, this would be nice to do.  But portraying translation as something required by law is another stretch.

So this seems to be a freewheeling interpretation of the law being made by MLIT (as keeps happening by Japanese officialdom, particularly the Japanese police, over-interpreting the law for their convenience to target foreigners).  Again, I’m not sure where MLIT is getting the bit about passport numbers (and by extension and hotel interpretation, passport copies and mugshots).

But where is this going?  Towards more rigmarole, policing, and official harassment of NJ-resident customers who just want to get a berth for the night.  And I have been hearing (thanks SC) of other Japan-lifers now finding it harder to check-in while foreign.

Bottom line:  The new Minpaku Law hasn’t fundamentally changed anything in regards to NJ resident customers.  You are still not required to show ID, passport, or photo if you have an address in Japan.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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

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Senaiho on criminal complaint against Jr High School “Hair Police” in Yamanashi

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Hi Blog. We are still hearing about Japan’s overzealous enforcers of Japan school rules, particularly when it comes to hairstyles, in what Debito.org has long called the “Hair Police“. This phenomenon particularly affects NJ and Japanese of diverse backgrounds, who are forced by officials to dye and/or straighten their naturally “Non-Asian” hair just to attend school and get a compulsory education.

Bullying is rife in Japanese education, but when it’s ignored (or even perpetuated) by officialdom, this feeling of powerlessness will leave children (particularly those NJ children targeted for “standing out“) and their families scarred for life.  (As discussed at length in book “Embedded Racism“, pg. 154-5.)

It’s happened in Yamanashi to Debito.org Submitter Senaiho, who after many months of fruitless investigation has lodged a formal criminal complaint against his daughter’s school officials.  Read on for his report.  This issue has appeared in about 45 articles in Japanese media.  Here’s hoping this blog entry helps attract attention from the English-language media too.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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December 17, 2018
By Y&D Senaiho

Everyone’s child is unique, at least most parents think and rightly so. All children are all unique in their own way. We felt no different when our fourth child was born. A beautiful baby girl who took the most honored place among three older brothers and we were constantly filled with joy as we watched her grow into a young woman. Little did we suspect after putting three boys through the difficult early-teen years of middle school in Japan, what we were going to experience when our little bundle of joy began her middle school enterprise.

Her first year of middle school began pretty much as her elementary school years in the Japanese public educational system finished, she would wake up every day more or less eager and looking forward to the days activities of classes, meals, meeting and playing with friends, and she would come home in the late afternoon bubbling with stories of the days events and happenings. We began to notice a dramatic change when she was no longer looking forward to going to school, or would leave reluctantly with a dire look on her face. Inquires about what was wrong only got short answers: “Nothing” or ominous silence.

We finally discovered the reason for her distress from her home room teacher. The cause was that she was being teased by a group of female classmates on account of her “Gaijin smell” or what we later came to know as “body odor”. I put it down to active hormones caused by puberty. Being the child of an Asian and western marriage, there was the scientific fact that she most likely has a larger than average (for Japan) number of sweat glands that secrete the proteins that causes body odor. No big deal, I thought, nothing a little deodorant would t fix, right! How naive I was.

We requested and got a C.A.R.E. package from my mother in the US in short order, filled with a wide assortment of feminine deodorants and fresheners. Along with these, daily baths, regular changes of underwear, and any other regimen we could think of, we tried. I have to say I never noticed any remarkable body odor in her presence, just the usual teen aroma that wasn’t any more or less fragrant than some of the odors I have noticed while teaching large groups of university pupils, and early adults. Our efforts were apparently not sufficient enough to relieve the offense of those in her class who were so nauseated. The teasing and complaints apparently continued for several months and into my daughter’s second year of middle school. She became less and less careful about things in general, and began showing signs of depression. Professional counseling seemed to help a little, but didn’t alleviate the root cause; Bullying for being a smelly half-gaijin!

Things seemed to have gotten out of control about the middle of the first semester of her second year, in order to try to reduce the teasing, her teacher decided that she needed to have her hair cut. We made an attempt in the evening of that day’s request by the teacher, but the next day on arriving to school my daughter’s haircut was deemed insufficient. The teachers decided to take matters into their own hands and decided to cut her hair in full view of other students and without our consent or even contacting us to ask permission.

That evening our daughter came home so traumatized that all I can say is that she has not been to school since that event. It was hard for me to understand how having ones hair cut could be so traumatic, but combined with all the other harassment that had been going on up till that point, it seemed to be the last straw. This was when the big cultural divide between the Japanese school system and my upbringing in the American school system came into full raging view. I vividly remember being in the third grade of elementary school and for some reason one day decided I wasn’t going to go to school anymore. My mother who happened to be an elementary school teacher herself, told me about the wonderful Truant Officer who would pay us a visit and force me to go to school. “He might even put your father and me in jail if you don’t go to school” she said. I decided I really didn’t want to see my parents go to jail; it would affect meals, Christmas presents and so on, I reasoned thankfully. The next day I reluctantly announced that for the good of all I will agree to return to school. I expected the same outcome with my daughters truancy. How could anybody just refuse to go to school? ‘This will not continue’ I remember thinking, after all it is “compulsory education” right? How wrong I was.

When my daughter’s absence went from a few days to several weeks I became alarmed. I got quite an education on where the burden of an education lies within Japanese society. Suffice it to say that it seems the entire burden is on the legal guardians of the child as to what constitutes an acceptable educational environment as far as the school system is concerned. On the other hand there are all kinds of educational laws on the books as to what and how the school system in obligated to make a safe and acceptable learning environment, especially with regard to compulsory education up through middle school. Cutting a child’s hair is not acceptable, as is allowing an environment of bullying and/or harassment, physical or mental. We spent the next year and six months trying to get the school to accept the responsibility for the trauma my daughter has suffered and to make a safe environment for her to return to her studies. All to no avail. Not only would they not even consider our issues, they branded us “Monster Parents” and tried to ignore that they had any responsibility whatsoever. However according to Guidebook of School Dispute Resolution by Kamiuchi Satoru, pg 216-217, The legal responsibilities of compulsory education in Japan are:

There shall be:

1. No provision of reasonable consideration based on developmental disability support law, disability discrimination prevention law

2. No response to bullying, contrary to the ordinance such as bullying prevention measure promotion law, Yamanashi city bullying countermeasure contact council, etc.

3. No School accident judgment incompatible and not pursuant to the “Ministry of Education, Culture, Administration” guidelines on response to school accidents.

What this legalese means in real life, is that the onus is legally completely on the school to make it safe and secure for every student to attend, including making any accommodations for special needs like attention deficit disorder, special training, or bullying awareness, really anything that would hinder any student from being able to participate in their education. In actuality, at least as far as the school system in our part of Yamanashi is concerned, they are still operating according to pre-Meiji era standards of education. According to Sakata Takashi (School Legal Mind: p. 3) This system assumed that the parents, neighborhood, and school would work together informally to solve any disputes. In fact, what has happened is that Japanese society has changed, within the past couple decades or so, so quickly and completely that Japanese compulsory education has failed to catch up. In fact modern Japan with the collapse of the economic bubble and dramatic decline in the number of child bearing couples finds itself at odds with an educational system stuck in the past. Parents are bucking heads with school officials demanding more and better legal responsibility and dispute formal resolution on the part of the schools their children attend.

For the parents of children born and/or being raised in Japan, who come into educational issues with school officials, this will require a willingness to choose a more legalistic route in settling disputes with school officials and even on occasion, parents of classmates. Changes come to all eventually, even Japanese education.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Satoru Kamiuchi, “Guidebook Of School Dispute Resolution” (Nihon Kajo Publishing, 2016) 216-217.
Takashi Sato, “School Legal Mind,” (Gakuji Publishing 2015) Introduction.

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

Update January 9, 2019

Since writing this article in the spring of last year, there have been several developments in our case. At the end of 2017, we submitted a petition to the Yamanashi board of education requesting they do an investigation into the bullying, and reasons for the trauma experienced by our daughter. As a result of this experience she has been absent for almost the entire last two years of her middle school education.

Over the course of 2017 with the help of our local Ombudsman, we managed to collect over 1500 signatures requesting that the school board do an internal investigation into the causes and responsibilities of the incidents regarding our daughter. The school board agreed to do an investigation. At the end of 2018 after reports of monthly meetings of the school board (in which we were not allowed to participate), we were informed that the results of this investigation completely exonerated the teachers and any public officials of any misdeeds or responsibility regarding the treatment of our daughter. It was all our fault as incompetent parents that our daughter was bullied and suffered such trauma that she was not able to attend school. Shame on us. We have requested to see a copy of this report, but have been informed that will not be allowed. The reason given is that it contains the names of private individuals involved whose privacy must be protected. Bullspit! We tried to be civil and it got us nowhere.

As of January 8, 2019, we have filed with the Yamanashi Pref. Police a criminal complaint naming the school principal and three teachers as defendants. Later that afternoon we also held a press conference. As of this writing articles regarding our case have appeared in several newspapers across the country. Since it is still early in the criminal case, I am sure there will be many developments over the next several weeks and months. I will strive to keep you informed as these occur.Y&D Senaiho
ENDS

(January 8, 2019, Yamanashi Nichi Nichi Shinbun.  Click on image to expand in browser.)

===========================
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SendaiBen on “Anytime Fitness” Sports Gym Gaijin Carding him, and how he got them to stoppit

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Here’s an instructive post from Debito.org Reader and Contributor SendaiBen.  He was told (like so many people are) that he had to surrender his Zairyuu “Gaijin Card” in order to register for service.  But as he (and many other veterans of this silliness) know, you only have to present it when asked by a member of Japan’s policing or Immigration officials to do so.  Otherwise, any form of ID (such as a Japanese driver license) that works for Japanese should work for NJ too.  

But some companies don’t know or don’t care, so they push NJ around.  Here’s how SendaiBen successfully pushed back, in the case of a sports gym (a notorious business sector towards NJ members) called Anytime Fitness.  And so can you.  Follow his footsteps.  Dr. Debito Arudou (still getting used to the new WordPress format, so please pardon some formatting creakiness).

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

To: Debito.org
Date: November 24, 2018
From: SendaiBen

A few of my friends joined Anytime Fitness recently. They are a gym franchise that allows 24-hour access via a key card and have decent facilities and reasonable fees. They are expanding rapidly in Japan.

I went to check them out with my wife. There were a lot of things I liked, including the fact that you can work out in your street shoes (so no need to bring special shoes just for the gym), the fact they had two squat racks (very rare in Sendai), and the reasonable fees and ability to use other Anytime Fitness gyms in Japan and worldwide.

As we were going through the explanation of how to join, the guy showing us around said that my wife would need ID and her bank card to sign up, and (after confirming I was not a Japanese national — which was a nice touch, I thought) said I would need my ID, zairyu card, and bank card.

My wife gasped slightly (she knew what was coming).

I asked whether I could sign up with my driver’s license instead, and the guy said no, foreign nationals needed to provide their zairyu card.

We left soon after that without signing up. I was a bit put out as I don’t like it when companies make up unnecessary discriminatory rules. It’s not the most important thing in the world, but I think it is important to push back in these situations to prevent this kind of thing from spreading.

I went home and sent an email to the Anytime Fitness main office. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get it checked, so it is in my fairly poor Japanese:


It basically says ‘I went into the local Anytime Fitness today and was told I need to present a zairyu card as well as other ID to sign up. I presume the staff member I talked to is working off your manual, so didn’t want to argue with them. I have three questions:
Is it actually necessary for me to present my zairyu card (cannot sign up with driver’s license)?
If it is true what is the reason? A zairyu card is an important document that can only be demanded by the police or immigration. It contains important personal information.
If it is true for what purpose will you use this personal information and how will it be managed?

I got a reply back the next day that was basically a cut and paste: we’re sorry you had an unpleasant experience and the local branch will be in touch to explain:


I replied saying that my questions were not about how the branch handled things but rather regarding their policies for signing up for membership. I then got the following the next day:

Basically it says that in order to sign up for membership you need to have one form of ID from the list (driving license, passport, health card, zairyu card, copy of jyuminhyo, my number card) and your bank card. Some bank accounts can’t be used (this actually happened to me, they were unable to use my Shinsei account so I used another one instead).

I then got an email from the gym itself:

This basically says that ‘it is not absolutely necessary to present the zairyu card’ but they use it to check the names of people that break the rules so that they can’t sign up for membership after they have been kicked out.

Of course this doesn’t make much sense as they could use a driver’s license to do the same thing, eh? 😉

I then emailed back asking if I could sign up with just my driver’s licence after all:

And got this reply shortly afterwards:

This very short email says ‘yes, you can sign up with your driver’s license’ (and doesn’t say, but I guess includes the sentiment ‘please don’t send me any more emails’).

Today I went back to the gym to sign up. I talked to a different guy and not once did the zairyu thing come up (although I noticed the first guy was in the office so presumably was instructing his colleague not to trigger the argumentative customer). I filled in some forms, showed my driving license, scanned my bank card (Shinsei didn’t work so used a different one), got my key, worked out, and went home.

Hopefully in the future they will be more careful how they phrase things. I have heard from friends in other areas of Japan that they have also run into the zairyu card thing with Anytime Fitness, so hopefully this post will give some ideas of how to push back in a calm and constructive fashion.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting the gym to back down, so I am kind of impressed with how they dealt with the situation. Obviously it would have been better if they had just taken my driver’s license in the first place, but failing that listening to my complaint and changing their stance was the best outcome I could have hoped for.

It seems more and more companies are becoming aware of the zairyu card, not just as another form of acceptable ID, but sometimes as the only form of ID they will accept from non-Japanese citizens. I personally believe that is unacceptable, so will continue to push back in this way to prevent it from spreading. I don’t want to be asked for my zairyu card by random companies as I go about my daily life. — SendaiBen

=====================
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Excellent Japan Times feature on dual citizenship in Japan: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy leaves many in the dark

mytest

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Hi Blog. This lengthy feature from The Japan Times conducts original research on dual nationality in Japan, and gives vital insights into the game of legal chicken played by the Japanese Government to get people to forfeit their dual nationality (and by extension, part of their identity), all for mere allegiance to the fiction that Japan is monocultural and homogeneous. This suppression of diversity must stop, but few are taking notice. That is, until recently, when it’s become clear that “Japan-Claiming” of diverse Japanese such as Osaka Naomi helps with the other thing the insecure Japanese Government craves: respect and recognition for excellence on the world stage.

That’s why it’s worth revisiting this older JT article below.  The takeaway is this: As the JT has also recently reported, there is no real penalty from the Japanese Government for not surrendering your non-Japanese nationality:  “There have been no reported instances of dual nationals by birth having their citizenship revoked.” So as Debito.org has always advised: Declare Japanese nationality and quietly keep renewing your foreign passport. The foreign government will not tell the Japanese authorities (it’s none of their business), and the Japanese authorities cannot strip you of a foreign nationality (or even confiscate a foreign passport–it’s the property of the foreign government). Only you can give one up. So don’t. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Dual citizenship in Japan
A “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy leaves many in the dark
By Sakura Murakami and Cory Baird
The Japan Times, Feature, Undated, Mid-2018
Start from http://features.japantimes.co.jp/dualcitizenship/

INTRO: Seeking elusive answers to a big question

Forfeiting your citizenship might seem like a strange way to better connect with your country, but Hana Dethlefsen was compelled to make such a decision after getting caught up in the complicated legal web of Japan’s Nationality Act.

“I had to give up my Japanese nationality in order to qualify for the JET Programme, which I did at age 21. My understanding was that I would have to give it up at age 22 anyway, so giving it up one year earlier wouldn’t have made a difference,” Dethlefsen said. JET is a state-sponsored program that invites non-Japanese college graduates to work mainly as language teachers at local schools.

“(But) in my discussions with other half-Japanese friends, I’ve come to understand that we all have different understandings of what is acceptable,” said Dethlefsen, who now has German and Canadian citizenship.

Confusion about the legality of holding dual nationalities stems from the opaqueness of the law and the difficulties surrounding its enforcement, causing some to forfeit one of their nationalities while others live in fear of a day when they are forced to choose between their citizenship, identity and family ties.

The nationality law officially obliges those who have multiple citizenships by birthright to choose one by the age of 22.

But in fact, possibly hundreds of thousands have maintained multiple nationalities and to date the government has never cracked down on any of them.

In response to questions over the number of dual nationals, the Justice Ministry confirmed to The Japan Times that some 890,000 people were or are in a position to have dual nationality. This figure is based on official family registries maintained by local municipalities between 1985 and 2016, and includes people who have declared or forfeited Japanese citizenship, as well as people assumed to have multiple nationalities based on their birthright.

“If I were forced to decide which citizenship to retain and which citizenship to relinquish, I would view it as which culture and which nation am I to abandon.”

According to a survey conducted by The Japan Times of 1,449 people with dual nationalities, 76.8 percent maintain dual citizenship while 23.2 percent decided to forfeit one of their passports.

The same survey showed that 39.5 percent of multiple passport holders “always” switch passports depending on the country they enter, while 37.3 percent “sometimes” switch passports.

With the government’s official position becoming more divorced from a globalizing society where a large number of people maintain dual nationalities, many have to rely on word-of-mouth for information on what they see as an important, life-changing decision regarding their citizenship.

“We had received different information about what is and isn’t acceptable, and therefore, some of us had dual nationality and some of us had given up our Japanese citizenship when we came of age,” Dethlefsen said.

May, who declined to give her real name for this article, citing privacy concerns, has both Japanese and Australian citizenship. She told The Japan Times that years ago when she was unsure about what to do with her dual nationalities, she often relied on internet forums and social media websites such as Mixi to connect with others in similar situations.

“We would talk about what we would do with our dual citizenship, we would try to give each other anecdotal advice. This is still the same now. These topics come up all the time and nobody knows the answer,” she said.

“When I renewed my passport most recently — two years ago — I had a massive meltdown because there was a new section where I had to report whether I had dual nationality. I bawled my eyes out. … I was worried I would have to give up one of my citizenships,” she continued.

“We had received different information about what is and isn’t acceptable, and therefore, some of us had dual nationality and some of us had given up our Japanese citizenship when we came of age.”
Like May, many dual citizens are surprised to see that passport renewal forms include a section regarding dual nationality. This is in order to confirm whether the applicant has naturalized as a citizen of another country, which under the law would automatically mean the revocation of their Japanese passport, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

But having multiple passports does not mean that the ministry won’t issue a Japanese passport, the official added, since the Foreign Ministry does not track dual citizens.

While the murkiness over the law has left those with multiple nationalities anxious about their status and has prompted many to take steps to hide it, many dual nationals spoke of experiences that seem to indicate the government has been quick to look the other way when it comes to enforcing the law.

“I remember I once stupidly handed in the wrong passport — my American one instead of my Japanese one — at the immigration desk for Japanese passports,” Chris, who also requested anonymity when talking to The Japan Times, said of an experience when entering Japan.

“There was a moment of panic but the Japanese immigration agent just said, ‘No sir, the other passport.’ I handed in my Japanese passport and he took it, stamped it, and let me pass. … It was as if he had experienced this kind of situation multiple times, and saw this particular episode as a nonissue,” he said.

Yet, there appear to be some cases where dual nationals have experienced pressure from local government officials to choose between one of their nationalities.

That was the case for James, who requested he be identified by his first name only. During a visit to his local government office, he was informed, much to his surprise, that he also was a Japanese national. Since James had already registered as a foreign resident at the same local government office, it was obvious to the local officials that he, in fact, possessed multiple nationalities.

When he decided to register as a Japanese citizen, the local city officials appeared to be agitated by the decision.

“Because I was already registered as a foreigner, it caused quite a stir at the city office. … An employee told me that I needed to turn in my American passport to the city office and sign a document saying that I give up my American citizenship,” James recalled.

“I said that I’m not comfortable doing that (giving up my American citizenship), and that I’d like to consult a lawyer familiar with this type of issue. … (The official) said that I was just unwilling to do things that were inconvenient. I left after that, feeling pretty bad about the experience.”

“I strongly connect with my Japanese heritage, but I don’t feel welcomed by Japan. Having to choose a nationality at age 22 was the first formal instance of feeling as though I was ‘not Japanese enough.’ ”

One factor behind the confusion over the law is that it fails to specify any penalties against dual nationals who do not pick a nationality. It instead only states that the justice minister reserves the right to “warn” them to choose a nationality. If a dual national does not make a choice within a month of receiving the warning, their Japanese nationality is automatically revoked.

However, this right to warn such nationals under the 1985 revision of the nationality law has never been exercised, a Justice Ministry official confirmed earlier this month, partly because the act of tracking down citizens with multiple nationalities and encouraging them to make a choice would be a bureaucratic nightmare.

“We actually cannot be sure about who has multiple nationalities,” Kei Kurayoshi, then the ministry official in charge of nationality issues, told a parliamentary session in 2008.

“Given that uncertainty, sending reminders to those we just happen to know have multiple nationalities by chance is a questionable practice,” Kurayoshi said. “There are a lot of opinions about this, but we have not sent out any reminders due to such reasons.”

That is not to say that the law itself is completely ineffective, because in theory Japanese citizenship could be revoked if a dual national does not make a choice. Its very existence serves as a threat, said Yasuhiro Okuda, a law professor at Chuo University who specializes in the Nationality Act.

Even if it may be only on paper and not in practice, the official stance that one can have just a single citizenship sends a powerful message to those with multiple nationalities.

“I strongly connect with my Japanese heritage, but I don’t feel welcomed by Japan. Having to choose a nationality at age 22 was the first formal instance of feeling as though I was ‘not Japanese enough,’ ” Dethlefsen said.

This sentiment was echoed by Chris.

“If I were forced to decide which citizenship to retain and which citizenship to relinquish, I would view it as which culture and which nation am I to abandon,” he said. “I think of that decision as emotionally charged.”

Michiko, who asked to be identified only by her first name, was born to a Japanese mother and a German father but never lived here and only received her Japanese passport at the age of 22 on a visit to Japan. She was unaware of the intricacies of having dual nationalities in Japan, yet she could tell that something didn’t feel quite right when her mother took her to the local municipality to get her first Japanese passport.

“When we got the passport in Japan at the local city hall, it didn’t feel legal to me,” she said. “It felt a little weird. I never researched it or anything … but I just had this feeling that it was illegal to have a second passport.

This climate of fear is creating a vicious cycle of negativity, said Teru Sasaki, professor of sociology at Aomori Public University.

“For some, nationality is the final stronghold of the Japanese identity. The very notion of dual nationality challenges that and creates fear for those who are unfamiliar with the concept,” said Sasaki.

Regardless of whether dual nationality is tacitly approved or not, “the idea of single nationality also tied in with, and reinforced, the Japanese postwar belief in a pure, homogeneous nation-state,” said Atsushi Kondo, a professor at Meijo University in Nagoya. “The wording of the current law shows a very strong hope in maintaining that ideal.”

“For some, nationality is the final stronghold of the Japanese identity. The very notion of dual nationality challenges that and creates fear for those who are unfamiliar with the concept.”
Sasaki noted that this climate of fear became especially prominent during last year’s media frenzy over whether Renho, who at the time was leader of the Democratic Party, held both Japanese and Taiwanese citizenship.

“The recent public backlash over whether Renho had dual nationality created an atmosphere of fear for the individual,” he said.

As multiple citizens languish under this cloud of uncertainty, any hopes of spurring momentum on the issue within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been lost in the wake of the Renho furor. In addition to the already entrenched beliefs about identity, this lack of political momentum has contributed to the inertia surrounding the law.

“The question of nationality is an issue of great significance to nationalists, as well as some politicians,” said Kondo, who expressed his skepticism that any changes to the nationality law would come about.

He added that Renho’s case is an example of the reluctance to change the political climate, saying that “Some politicians made a big fuss about the possibility that she was a dual national, despite the fact that none of the facts were confirmed.”

Even politicians once in favor of changing the law appear to be avoiding commenting on what has become a politically charged issue.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono — who was once a vocal champion of changing the law and even published a proposal that allowed dual citizenship under certain conditions — has taken a noticeably softer stance on the issue.

When asked earlier this month by The Japan Times whether the Nationality Act was outdated, Kono was curt in his answer, refusing to champion a cause he once served.

“You should ask the Justice Ministry,” he said.

Rest at http://features.japantimes.co.jp/dualcitizenship/

==================================
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TJ on “Doing a Debito”: Gaijin Carded at Nagoya Airport and Airport Comfort Inn

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Every now and again I hear from people how Debito.org has been helpful in dealing with daily life in Japan.  Here’s one such example.  After more than twenty years of the Debito.org Archive, and ten years of the Debito.org Blog, things like this make it all worth it.  Thanks for writing in, TJ.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

To: debito@debito.org
From: TJ
Date: August 12, 2018
Subject: Well, I put on my Debito hat today!

I’m an American married to a Japanese, and we’re on an adventure doing standby flights from Japan to overseas. However, unluckily we got bumped at Nagoya Airport. So we checked into a Comfort Inn at the airport in my (Japanese) spouse’s name.

He filled out the card for our twin room. But the receptionist looked at me and said that she needed to photocopy my passport. But I know from Debito.org that she doesn’t have the legal obligation to photocopy my passport, or even see any ID, when I have a Japanese address as a Japanese resident, and I told her so. So she said she needed to copy my “Gaijin Card”, or Zairyuu Residence Card.

I gave her a chotto matte kudasai… and dug out that nifty Japanese paper you posted on Debito.org years ago and I held it up to her to read, showing her the letter of the law that says that ID is only required for tourists, not for residents of Japan, including foreign residents.

(https://www.debito.org/whatif-id-check.doc
from https://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#checkpoints)

Another receptionist came over to investigate, and I repeated that I live in Japan permanently. Basically, the other woman’s attitude was since my Japanese spouse was with me, I didn’t have to hand any ID to be photocopied. Because I’m “one of the good ones”. Not a win, but I don’t think she expected me to stand my ground the way I did.

I cannot understand why they need my most intimate and personal information photocopied. What is done with it later? How is it disposed of? It seems like a waste of paper, toner, etc., and because of identity theft, it makes me really nervous.

So… fresh off this experience, we went out to dinner at Nagoya Airport. The hotel is connected so we went back over. My spouse popped into a shop to get toiletries and I sat down in a public chair to wait.

A security guard — I wasn’t sure if he was a police officer, but my spouse later thinks he was — came up and said he was randomly checking passengers’ passports.

Well, I answered in fluent Japanese, which I think he did not expect and threw him off. I explained I am staying at a hotel at the airport and am with a friend who is in the shop over there and we are having dinner. I didn’t have a passport, so I flashed my Zairyuu Residence Card.

But that wasn’t enough. He said he needed me to remove it from my wallet so he could make a written “memo”.

Now, I’m a pretty easygoing person. But at this point my aggressive alter ego, I call him “Pinky”, came out and refused to comply. Pinky told him he was targeting only foreigners, and that wasn’t right, even from a legal standpoint. And at that point my spouse walked up, but could see Pinky had taken over and stepped back to let us handle it.

The security guard eventually backed down, but again, I know it’s because a Japanese was with me. He tried to compliment my Japanese but Pinky wasn’t having it. Pinky told him that I have lived in Japan longer than he has. He was some 20 year old kid who has a tin badge and hat, and thinks he can boss people around and invade their privacy without just cause.

So, I went over to a comment box for Nagoya Airport and wrote a lengthy complaint. It probably won’t even get read, but it made me feel better. The point is, thousands of other people, including foreigners were in the vestibule, and I was basically getting targeted for “sitting while being a foreigner.” So much for kokusaika ahead of the Olympics. Geez. Not very welcoming.

These instances immediately took me back to the time some years ago when we invited you to speak at our university, and how you handled that hotel clerk who Gaijin-carded you. You knew the law and your ground. So did I. And Pinky.

Debito-sensei, arigato! — TJ.

==========================
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My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 112: “What about we stop it with the ‘whataboutism’?” (July 16, 2018)

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JAPAN TIMES JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 112
justbecauseicon.jpg

THE JAPAN TIMES JUL 15, 2018
ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
What about we stop it with the ‘whataboutism’?
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/07/15/issues/what-about-we-stop-it-with-the-whataboutism/

These are troubling times for human rights activists.

For 27 years I’ve been writing about civil, political and human rights for non-Japanese (NJ) and other minorities in Japan. And I’ve never been more confused.

Not least because the United States, the putative paragon of human rights, has been flouting them.

Remember, this is a country so cocksure about its own record that its State Department offers annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” for each United Nations member.

Yet President Donald Trump has been undermining international norms of law, justice and society — and with the glee of a super-villain.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, recently we’ve seen U.S. leadership abrogate numerous treaties, erode well-established security and trade regimes (such as NATO and the G7), cozy up to the world’s most authoritarian regimes and mimic their tactics, invoke the language of white nationalism to dehumanize minorities, and foment a culture of fear, loathing and vindictive reprisal towards anyone not in their ideological camp.

Speaking of camps, who would have ever imagined that the U.S. would put foreign children in cages? Create “tender-age” internment centers for toddlers separated from their families at the border? Force 3-year-olds to represent themselves in American immigration courts?

Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for undocumented migration and asylum seekers is so cruel that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced it as “unconscionable” and “illegal” under international law.

Hours later, the U.S. petulantly withdrew from the Human Rights Council, of which it had been a charter member since 1947.

In Just Be Cause’s view, the worst thing about these rapid-fire shocks to the system is not the confusion but the distraction. Presidential historian Jon Meacham, author of “The Soul of America,” pointed out how Trump “owns our mind space” in what he calls “the world’s longest hostage siege.” We are prisoners of a self-promoting celebrity so adept at managing news cycles that he sucks the oxygen from other issues.

So this is where we arrive at the big question of this column: How can JBC focus on human rights in Japan given the distractions in America?…

Read the rest of the column at:
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/07/15/issues/what-about-we-stop-it-with-the-whataboutism/

================================
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Good news: Japan’s National Pension scheme lowers minimum qualification time from 25 years to 10!

mytest

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Hi Blog. Good news. Until now, if you wanted to qualify for any retirement payout under the Japanese National Pension System (Nenkin), you had to contribute 300 months, or 25 years, of your salary in Japan.

This was an enormously high hurdle for many NJ residents, who would pay in but not always elect to stay the bulk of their working life in Japan. That meant that aside from getting back a maximum of three years’ worth of contributions upon request (see also here), you’d effectively lose your retirement investment as an enormous exit tax.  (Incidentally, that was one of the quiet incentives for the racist Nikkei South American Returnee Worker “repatriation bribes” from the government back in 2009 — take the airplane fare home, leave behind your accrued pension.  Big win for Japan’s government coffers.)

It made it so that the longer you stayed in Japan, the more of a pension prisoner you became, since if you left the country to work elsewhere, you’d lose, because you hadn’t paid into pension schemes in other countries and wouldn’t qualify.

Totalization Agreements (where countries agree that years worked in Country B count towards working in Country A as well) have eased that burden somewhat. But now the threshold for qualifying at all in Japan has fortunately been reduced.  From 25 to 10 years, as of August 2017. Hurrah.

Now still remaining is the issue that the number of Japanese pensioners is increasing due to Japan’s demographically aging society, meaning that by the time you retire you’ll be receiving a smaller piece of the overall pension pie (to the levels where pensioners will live in penury; Japan is already above the OECD average poverty rate (pg. 75). And the minimum retirement age will likely be further increased to make it harder to retire younger. But at least you don’t have to invest most of your working life in Japan just to get something back.  Thus, Japan is becoming more aligned with international norms.  Good.

Much more information from the OECD on this issue at http://www.oecd.org/pensions/public-pensions/OECDPensionsAtAGlance2013.pdf. Dr. Debito Arudou

===========================
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One more Bucket List item removed: Meeting Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran; here’s my playlist

mytest

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Hi Blog. Coming out of Debito.org’s Summer Vacation briefly with some good news:

Long-time readers of Debito.org know what a deep appreciation I have for ’80s band Duran Duran — which is still putting out good albums chock full of good music (see below), and touring to full arenas. I was at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu tonight to catch them (for the second time, the first back in Canandaigua NY on June 26, 1987). Good seats, great setlist. This was their first time playing in Honolulu (they cancelled a previous date in 1994 due to lead singer Simon Le Bon losing his voice), and as the last stop on their current tour (they spent a few days recuperating on-island), they put on an excellent show to a rapt crowd.

And, I’m proud to say, thanks to mutual friend GB, I got a backstage pass. And met and briefly chatted with Simon Le Bon. As they say, pictures or it didn’t happen:

I’m going to treasure this memory for a lifetime, as I have been following DD assiduously since 1982. Thanks GB. And thanks Simon.

As for people who still think Duran Duran peaked in the mid-1980s, I challenge you to listen to my iPod’s “Damn Good Duran Duran” playlist. (And in terms of musicality, I also challenge you to listen to John Taylor’s bass line on the song “Rio” as an isolated track, and tell me it doesn’t rank up there with Geddy Lee or Tina Weymouth.)

Here’s the playlist, songs in the order I play them. You can find them on YouTube if not on iTunes:

  1. Last Chance on the Stairway
  2. Serious
  3. A View to a Kill
  4. Late Bar (2010 Remastered Version, from the Deluxe Version of their first eponymous album)
  5. Too Late Marlene
  6. My Own Way (Night Version)
  7. Khanada
  8. Come Undone
  9. Breath after Breath
  10. Point of No Return
  11. Land
  12. The Flame (as Arcadia)
  13. What Happens Tomorrow
  14. Reach Up for the Sunrise (Ferry Corsten Dub Mix)
  15. Girls on Film (16 Millimeter Mix)
  16. Only in Dreams
  17. Box Full o’ Honey
  18. Winter Marches On
  19. All You Need is Now
  20. First Impression
  21. Do You Believe in Shame?
  22. Anyone Out There?
  23. Late Bar (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, 17 December 1981)
  24. New Religion
  25. Before the Rain
  26. Still Breathing
  27. The Chauffeur
  28. Ordinary World
  29. The Man Who Stole a Leopard
  30. Watching the Detectives
  31. Is There Something I Should Know?
  32. Last Night in the City
  33. Playing With Uranium
  34. Be My Icon
  35. Shadows On Your Side
  36. Crystal Ship
  37. Michael You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For
  38. El Diablo (as Arcadia)
  39. Lady Ice (as Arcadia)
  40. The Universe Alone

Very few of these were chart material.  Many are deep album cuts, very rewarding to fans.  But at 3 hours 15 minutes you have a lot of good stuff from a band you’ve probably thought was merely fashion and hair.  Give them a listen.  And maybe you’ll know why I’m such a devoted fan after nearly 40 years of their existence (and 52 years of mine).  Dr. Debito Arudou

=========================================
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Tangent: NPR: journalist Tom Ricks and how Western society operates best when it assumes an objective reality, and values facts over opinions

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Hi Blog. Tangent today on something that made me think.  I was listening to NPR the other day when I heard the following segment from NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross: “Churchill, Orwell And The Fight Against Totalitarianism”, dated May 22, 2017.  Gross interviewed Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks, who said the writings of Winston Churchill and George Orwell still resonate today, and who discussed the caliber of the generals serving in the Trump administration.  Ricks, the author of the new book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom”, and writer of the blog The Best Defense for Foreign Policy magazine, had this to say at the very end of the interview.  Gross sets up the question:

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

GROSS: I want to quote something that you write in your book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom.” And again, this is a book – it’s a kind of dual biography and looking at how their political views evolved and how it was reflected in their writing and their hatred of both fascism and Stalinism.

So you write (reading aloud) “the fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.”

So I’d like you to talk to how that reflects on Churchill and Orwell and how that reflects today.

RICKS: That’s the last line in the book. And if – I’m glad you read it because if there’s anything I have to say I learned from this experience of reading and re-reading thousands upon thousands of words by Churchill and Orwell over the last three and half years, it’s that. That’s my conclusion – that this is the essence of Western society and, at its best, how Western society operates.

And it’s – you can really reduce it to a formula. First of all, you need to have principles. You need to stand by those principles and remember them. Second, you need to look at reality to observe facts and not just have opinions and to say, what are the facts of the matter? Third, you need to act upon those facts according to your principles.

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

COMMENT:  The point of this exchange was to conclude with how this fact-based (as opposed to opinion-based) dynamic has broken down over time, especially in current American politics.  And having lived in a society for an extended period where the search for the truth is less important than understanding power, and the existence of an objective reality is constantly doubted if not outright dismissed, I think it’s a good idea to keep this segment in mind on a personal level.  Periodically renew your commitment to fact-based inquiry towards an objective reality, and undertake decision-making with the flexibility to change your mind when presented with the facts.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

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Asahi: Joe Kurosu MD on ineffectually low doses of medicine for NJ patients and bureaucratic intransigence

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Hi Blog. In our previous blog entry, Debito.org Reader StrepThroat brought up the issue of Japanese medical prescription doses being too low to be effectual for some larger patients, particularly larger NJ patients used to larger doses overseas. Some respondents recommended taking double the dose and going to the doctor again for refill of the prescription, while others self-medicated with overseas supplements, and still others mentioned falling through the system entirely (particularly when it came to painkillers).

Joe Kurosu MD, who runs a clinic in Shimokitazawa, adds to this discussion in a January 2010 series of opinion pieces in the Asahi Shinbun, by saying:

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

Asahi:  “For reasons that are unclear, however, the indicated maximum dose is often significantly lower than that which is standard in other parts of the world. Difference in physical frame and incidents of side effects are some of the purported reasons, but a scientifically convincing basis is lacking.

“A significant number of resident foreign nationals currently receive health care through the Japanese national health insurance system, but are ill-served because of these dosage standards.

“The maximum daily doses indicated on package inserts of standard medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, for example, are one-quarter to one-half of the standard doses in other countries for the identical drug. […]

“In any case, if the government requires foreign nationals to join the [National Health Insurance] system, it must be willing to provide services appropriate to that population. If this is not possible, then buying in the system should be voluntary […] I urge the government and relevant authorities to return autonomy to the physicians so the medications can be prescribed appropriately for the patient, whether or foreign or Japanese, based on science and clinical judgment, rather than [mechanically applying the dosage levels indicated on the package inserts].”
//////////////////////////////////////////

Here are scans of Dr. Kurosu’s articles in English and Japanese, courtesy of Dr. Kurosu himself (pctclinic.com) and RJ.

PDF versions here (click on link):
Kurosu2
KurosuArticleJP

There was another question as to whether Japanese medical testers screen for Japanese as an ethnicity (or “race”) when it comes to clinical trials.  Well, yes they do — as demonstrated here in Hawaii when I saw an ad in our campus newspaper back in 2012 calling for “Japanese” people to volunteer for a series of clinical trials “to help Japanese people”, sponsored by Covance.  I inquired (as a Japanese citizen), but was told that they were only interested in “ethnic Japanese” (including those who didn’t have Japanese citizenship, but had “Japanese blood”).  Oh well.  Missed out on my body mass.

Many thanks to everyone for helping make Debito.org a valuable resource and forum. Dr. Debito Arudou

=============================
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Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a nice write-up about a group called the Asian People’s Friendship Society, which is doing a very important thing:  Helping NJ help each other.  Up until now, we’ve generally had Japanese helping NJ assimilate into Japan, even though, however well-intentioned Wajin are, many if not most have little idea what it’s like to be a foreigner in Japan, or understand practically what it’s like to become a member of society when they always have been one.  Now this group is having longer-term NJ help shorter-term NJ learn the ropes.  It’s far better than the alternative frequently found in many NJ tribes, particularly the elite ones that enjoy Wajin Privilege, of oldcomers cutting newbies no slack — because apparently nobody ever cut the oldcomers any.  Fine, but that’s not helpful at all.  Let’s hope groups like the APFS break that vicious circle, and enable NJ to control their own agenda and thus their own lives in Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Group drawing on long-term foreign residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
by Tomohiro Osaki, Staff Writer
The Japan Times, Jan 10, 2017 (excerpt)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/group-drawing-long-term-foreign-residents-help-newcomers-navigate-life-japan/

Foreign residents in Japan may be at a disadvantage in some ways, but they are by no means powerless nor on their own, says Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Asian People’s Friendship Society (APFS).

In a recently launched program series, the organization is nurturing a new group of volunteers it calls “foreign community leaders” who will assist fellow non-Japanese trying to navigate life amid a different and foreign culture.

“Long-term foreign residents have incredible know-how on how to get by in their everyday lives in Japan,” says Jotaro Kato, the head of APFS. “I want people to know that there are foreigners out there who can speak perfect Japanese” and who can provide guidance if needed.

Targeting long-term foreign residents with a high level of proficiency in the Japanese language, the 30-year-old organization is spearheading the project to groom such veterans so they can help newcomers overcome a variety of everyday obstacles, such as dealing with language barriers, cultural differences and visa conundrums.

For its part, APFS has organized a series of lectures and workshops that are currently taking place every other Saturday in a community hall in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, in which experts from many different fields discuss topics important to foreign residents. The issues covered include visa problems, labor laws, the welfare system and translation problems. […]

Particularly thought-provoking, she said, was a lecture on Japanese school education, which taught the class that the government essentially discriminates against foreign pupils by not making their enrollment compulsory, but merely “allowing” them to go to public school on a voluntary basis.

“This is the root of many problems, I think,” she said.

Further details are available at http://www.apfs.jp/

Full JT article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/group-drawing-long-term-foreign-residents-help-newcomers-navigate-life-japan/
========================

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Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  First have a read of this article, and then I’ll comment:

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

Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business
BY LOUISE GEORGE KITTAKA
The Japan Times Community Page, DEC 4, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/12/04/how-tos/riding-foreign-jr-kyushu-can-costly-business/

The last column of the year starts off with a problem regarding buying JR train tickets in Kyushu. Reader A writes:

I thought you might be interested in this issue that I encountered when using an automatic ticket machine in Hakata Station, Fukuoka.

Because I don’t read Japanese so well, I changed the machine to English language. As I went through the menu I could not select the “nimai-kippu” (two tickets of the same type) option, which offers a discount. The only options I had were two individual tickets — if I recall correctly the price difference was ¥2,000. I canceled the sale and went to the counter and had a conversation with the clerk, who confirmed that once English is selected, the cheaper two-ticket option wouldn’t be offered.

I was thinking how many hundreds of thousands of yen have been taken from people simply because they select English and don’t happen to know about the cheaper ticket options. My wife actually emailed JR Kyushu, but just got back a standard, “Thank you for your email.”

I spoke to a representative in JR Kyushu’s PR department. After some investigation, he confirmed that this situation still exists with some of the ticket machines once the foreign language option button (for English, Korean and Chinese) is pressed. It seems that there are two types of ticket machines, and while it isn’t a problem for the “two-ticket option” for shorter distances (kin-kyori), it does affect those for machines for longer distances (shitei kenbai). As our reader pointed out, this could result in non-Japanese customers paying quite a bit more if they purchase tickets through the machine.

“While JR Kyushu isn’t in a position to change the machines immediately, we will take this opportunity to discuss the situation and see how we can improve things for our foreign customers,” said the rep. He thanked the reader and Lifelines for bringing the problem to the department’s attention.

Has anyone encountered a similar problem with JR tickets in other parts of Japan? JR Kyushu’s spokesperson said it is possible the same situation could be happening in other areas, too.

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

COMMENT:  Two things:  One is that we have proof positive in a national newspaper of separate pricing schemes based upon language.  And this at one of Japan’s flagship companies (Japan Railways), no less.  Consider the parallels:  A restaurant with menus with cheaper prices for customers if they can read Chinese (something frowned upon as discrimination elsewhere).  Or travel agencies that reserve cheaper plane tickets for Japanese citizens only (see here too). Japan’s train network in Kyushu is filtering customers by language ability and charging Japanese-illiterates a premium.  This must stop, obviously, because it’s discriminatory.

And this is a great example to bring up point two:  How people still defend the practice, no matter what.  I waited a few days to post this, and sure enough, the Japan Times article predictably collected a few comments from guestists and denialists.  They decried anyone calling this practice “racist” (even though it is, under modern definitions of racial discrimination being a process of differentiation, othering, and subordination).  They instead went to the extreme of calling the decriers “racist”, or conversely the practice of selling discounted train fares to foreign tourists “racist” (actually, they can be sold to Japanese-citizen tourists as well as long as they don’t live in Japan), despite all the government campaigns to promote foreign tourism these days.

The point to stress is Japan’s subtle racism is particularly devious because of its plausible deniability.  People will seize on any excuse to justify discriminatory treatment.  Want equal rights or treatment in Japan?  Become a Japanese citizen.  Want equal access to cheaper train fares?  Learn Japanese.  You see, discrimination is the fault of those being discriminated against — because they didn’t take every measure to evade the discrimination.  Its an acceptance of a differentiated and othered status, used to justify the subordination — which deflects discussion of why this discriminatory system exists in the first place.

Why can’t customers just be treated as customers, and their money for access be valued the same way, regardless of their language ability? Well, I’ll tell you why.  Because to JR, it’s not a matter of fairness or equality.  It’s a combination of setsuyaku and mendokusai.  Making discounts multilingual would be costly, and then there’s the factor of profiteering from the extra fares.  The incentive system is clear:  Why pay more for a system that brings in less revenue?  And besides, the foreigners won’t realize it (because foreigners obviously don’t read Japanese), won’t complain (because they’re so powerless, with no voice in Japan except, ahem, the Japan Times), or they aren’t organized in numbers big enough for a meaningful boycott (plus, as seen above, anyone calling for organized action will be called racist even by their own side).

This is one reason why discrimination is so hard to get rid of in Japan.  It’s subtle enough at times for people to naysay it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Onur, our local watchdog on Japan’s hotel policies towards “foreign guests”, has submitted another report, this time on hotels in Fukuoka.  The last case he submitted exposed how police in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, were deliberately lying about the law to create notices requiring the racial profiling of all “foreigners” at hotel check ins.  Now in Fukuoka the same thing is happening, only worse:  Fukuoka Prefectural Police are creating erroneous signs in the name of local government authorities without the knowledge of those local authorities!

This is odious.  Given the recent Debito.org report about racist check-ins at Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho, Tokyo (done according to the hotel itself “to provide safety for our guests“, whatever that means), and the fact that I uncovered this unlawful practice more than ten years ago in my Japan Times columns (“Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005; “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” JBC, July 6, 2010), it seems the problem is nationwide and systemic.  Our police forces continue to enlist the public in their racial profiling of “foreigners” (whether or not they are tourists or residents of Japan), whether or not the law or the local authorities permit them to. (It doesn’t.)

Read on for Onur’s latest.  Well done.   Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Date: Nov. 17, 2016
From: Onur
Hello Dr. Debito,

I am Onur, who sent the poster that Ibaraki Police distributed to the Hotels. I had a similar experience in Fukuoka. I stayed in S.B Hotel Hamanomachi. I saw the attached poster on the reception desk. I asked permission and took a photo it. It clearly says that they ask every foreigner to present his/her passport.

20161030_175006b

However, I just wrote my Japanese address to guest registration form during check-in and the reception did not ask me to show a passport or a card. The check-in was smooth.

Later I stayed in Hotel New Gaea Hakata-Eki Minami. The reception asked my passport. I said I don’t carry it. Then they asked my residence card. I don’t have to show it but I showed my residence card to reassure them. Then the receptionist took my card and went to another room without saying anything. I was shocked. I asked what are you doing? He said he is copying my residence card. I said no. According to the law as I am a foreigner with an address in Japan, no copying is necessary. Then the receptionist was shocked when I said no. He did not say anything and gave my card back to me.

I decided to solve this problem by contacting the people in charge. At the bottom of the poster, it is written “Health Center in Fukuoka Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefectural Police”. Therefore, first, I went to Central Health Center (中央保健所) in Fukuoka City. I talked with the person in charge for the hotels. He was very friendly and helpful. I showed the poster in the first hotel and told the incident in the second hotel. He said that even though the poster says “Health Center in Fukuoka Prefecture” at the bottom of the poster, the poster is not prepared by the health center and he has never seen this poster before. He said the information in the poster is definitely wrong and the poster may have been prepared by the hotel. He said they will contact to those two hotels and warn them.

Then I went to Fukuoka Prefectural Police Headquarters. I showed the poster and asked to talk with the officer in charge. As the prefectural headquarters is very big, it took a long time to find out the officer in charge. Three officers came. They were friendly and willing to solve the problem. First I showed the poster. They accepted that the police printed the poster and distributed to the all hotels in Fukuoka prefecture. I showed the official announcement of the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry at https://www.city.shinjuku.lg.jp/content/000062471.pdf and said that their poster is clearly different. They were very surprised. It seems that they did not know the details of the hotel law and regulations well. They could not understand what is wrong in their poster. I gave a long speech about the law and the guidelines of the ministry. They finally understood the problem and apologized. They said they will check it in detail and fix the poster.

A few days later I got a phone call from the police. They apologized again. They said they will print a new poster, but it may take a long time to replace all the posters in the prefecture. They said they will ask the hotels to check only the residence card without copying it to verify the address, if the foreigner guest says he has an address in Japan. I said it is wrong again. I said “I called the ministry and they told me that there is no need to check the residence card or passport if a foreigner says he is living in Japan and writes the Japanese address to check-in form. Please call the ministry for the details and follow their guidelines exactly”. Later the Central Health Center in Fukuoka called me. They said they talked with those two hotels and also the police headquarters and warned them about following the rules. They said please call us if you experience such a problem again.

In short, if you experience such a problem in a hotel, I think the best way to solve is to contact the local Health Center, which is the local authority over the hotels, and also the police headquarters if they are involved.

Best Regards,
Onur
ENDS

===========

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

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

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

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

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

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

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