J Times: Ogata Sadako on J refugee policy


Hi Blog. Revealing interview of a person trained to be diplomatic at all times… Debito in Sapporo


Sadako Ogata was the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from 1991-2001, and has been President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) since 2003. Here, she talks frankly to The Japan Times about Japan’s attitudes to those who flee their homelands and seek sanctuary on these shores.

Diplomat rues Tokyo’s ‘lack of humanity’ to asylum-seekers
The Japan Times: Sunday, July 8, 2007

Courtesy of Matt Dioguardi

Are there signs of progress in the grim situation facing asylum-seekers in Japan?

From 1979-89, when the Indochina refugee issue was hot [after the Vietnam War], there was a lot of energy and effort focused on refugees and resettling them in Japan. In 1979, I was asked to lead a mission to the Thai-Cambodian border. It was the first time I saw a massive refugee outflow and presence. At that time Japan pledged to provide half the funding for the UNHCR Indochina refugee program. That was the first big step Japan took toward helping the Indochina refugees. In addition, Japan agreed to accept an initial 500 refugees for resettlement, and in the next year the number went up to 10,000.

In the early 1980s, Japan’s economy was rising and it faced rising expectations for shouldering some of the burdens — and it lived up to those expectations. It would be interesting to examine the outcomes for the Indochina refugees. I think there are some good stories there that would reassure the public about the consequences of accepting refugees.

In 1981, Japan also became a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees, but then the numbers of refugees accepted went way down. Japan’s approach to refugees under the Convention has been very reserved. This may come back to haunt Japan if there is a crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Will other countries help with resettling large numbers of North Korean refugees — or only provide financial assistance?

Critics argue that Japan is guilty of checkbook diplomacy — contributing significant funding but accepting so few refugees. Is this a fair assessment?

Yes, that is accurate to a degree, but at the same time there were not that many asylum-seekers landing in Japan after the Indochina crisis. Since Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention in 1989 by the military regime in Myanmar, there has been an increase in Burmese asylum-seekers — and more recently from Afghanistan — but it has not been a massive outflow. Individual cases are considered and there the Japanese tendency for a meticulous judicial approach, asking for complete documentation that most refugees don’t have, came to dominate refugee reception policies. It has been a very legalistic approach showing no humanitarian sense to those who had to flee.

Is that changing?

Every year I would come and lobby Justice Ministry officials about their policy toward refugees, but I don’t think there was that much progress. Maybe I should have worked harder on Japan, but I was so busy with millions of people globally, whereas in Japan they were only trickling in. Maybe I should have been more firm. I don’t think it was just checkbook diplomacy — there were also lots of Japanese volunteers who came to help with the refugees, and efforts by NGOs, maybe not on a large scale, but still significant.

In terms of asylum, Japan has not been the best humanitarian country. Japan is not a refugee power in global terms — refugees go where they know they will be received and can find support. From Japanese officials’ perspective, the fewer that came the better. The government thinks of this as taigan no kaji (fire on the opposite riverbank), in the sense that it is not an immediate crisis situation facing Japan.

What are the diplomatic costs of Japan’s restrictive policy toward refugees?

The costs, unfortunately, are not so high. Everywhere the door is closing against refugees. Look at the United States and Europe — the commitment to helping refugees is fading, and that means that Japan will not suffer much criticism for its policy. So I don’t think that Japan’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council will be harmed by its poor record on refugees.

Are government policies and attitudes improving?

Groups of lawyers have been very devoted to helping asylum-seekers and have exposed weaknesses in the legal system regarding asylum-seekers. At least they made some changes and expanded the appeal process and brought in some outsiders including some NGO people to hear the appeals. So in that sense there has been a slight improvement. And now they have added a category of humanitarian consideration (asylum-seekers who are not recognized as Convention refugees but are still allowed to stay in the country). There are more cases of asylum-seekers being awarded humanitarian status than refugee status.

Within JICA [the Japan International Cooperation Agency] a group was organized to help Ali Jane, an ethnic Hazara from Afghanistan, and (it) published a book — “Mother I Am Still Alive” — and my colleagues actually found his mother. There are good stories of real humanitarian consideration. Not everybody is cruel, but the legal process is less than what I would like to see.

The Justice Ministry says it doesn’t want to get ahead of public attitudes, and the Japanese people are not ready for an influx of refugees.

They are very strict. In my discussions with them there is rarely any reference to humanitarian considerations.

What is the logic of Japan’s exclusionary policy?

This is a very bureaucratic country. Bureaucrats think they know what is best and act in the name of the people. NPOs have a much freer way of thinking and promote closer contact with people of other countries. Things are opening up a bit. However, there is still the myth of one race and homogeneity, even though it is slowly fading. Globalization is slowly undermining these wrong assumptions.

Isn’t there a disconnect between the demographic time bomb and attitudes toward refugees?

Japan’s need for foreign labor is changing the context of the debate over migrants. And civil society is also playing a role. If we leave it to the natural flow of asylum-seekers, they won’t come to Japan unless there is a huge crisis on the Korean Peninsula — but we need foreign labor and a more open society.

Should the UNHCR think of more resettlement efforts like those with the Indochinese refugees?

Yes. Japan had a good experience with the Indochinese refugees and accepted more than 10,000 in the end. Perhaps it would help if Japan worked with UNHCR and set up a quota and opened up the country to bring some people out for resettlement. The U.S. had a quota of over 100,000, which came down to 80,000 during my tenure, and under the Bush administration it has become much smaller. But there are currently negotiations about giving asylum to Bhutanese in Nepal and/or Karens out of Myanmar who are in border camps in Thailand. There is screening going on. The question is whether Japan might also participate in this resettlement project and respond to this humanitarian crisis in Asian countries. Some kind of resettlement program seems likely, and discussion between the UNHCR and the Japanese government is ongoing. I expect this will start on a small scale.

What are the prospects for Japan accepting more refugees?

Prolonged recession has undermined the context for reception of foreigners, and Japan has a poor record on integrating foreign workers properly. It is hard for the public, media and government to differentiate between the mixture of refugees, economic migrants and criminals seeking entry. And very often there are those who blame crime on illegal foreign people. There are plenty of Japanese committing crimes but foreigners are easy targets. And we have more than 300,000 Brazilians of Japanese origin and their situation has not been very good. The problem is that Japan has had an open approach to receiving many foreigners, for example “entertainers,” rather than refugees . . . but keeping people out doesn’t always assure your security.

The Japanese government has been reluctant to criticize Myanmar, but in the last 10 years the largest number of asylum-seekers gaining refugee status have been from Myanmar. By recognizing them as refugees, is the government acknowledging that the military junta is repressive and that these people are being persecuted?

It is a very repressive regime and a political signal is being sent. There are historical reasons for Japan’s sympathy for the Burmese dating back to World War II — and especially since the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.

How could the UNHCR be more effective resettling refugees in Japan?

Of all international agencies here, the UNHCR is the only one that has to deal primarily with the Justice Ministry, and it should maintain good and close working relations with that ministry. The UNHCR advocates for non-nationals, while the Justice Ministry sees its role as protecting Japanese nationals, and this collides with humanitarian considerations. It’s not just Japan, the UNHCR has had similar problems in Europe. Germany was the country I visited most frequently because they received a lot of refugees, and there were many problems. This is the job of the UNHCR, but it doesn’t have to be confrontational. Emphasizing and improving legal procedures, while bringing humanitarian considerations into the discussion, is most effective. This is the role of the UNHCR.

How do you regard the Refugee Film Festival?

It is one of the better efforts of the UNHCR in awareness raising. It certainly touches a lot of people and reaches out to those who did not have much knowledge of, or interest in, refugee issues. I was especially touched by the film “Live and Become.”

Any final thoughts?

The Justice Ministry’s strict policies are not the whole story. There are other government officials who are concerned and trying to improve things, and lawyers and NGOs are also working toward creating better conditions. The time is coming when the Justice Ministry becomes fully involved to solve refugee problems in proper and humane ways.


Two weeks after our interview, Dr. Ogata’s staff informed me that she was infuriated and deeply disappointed by the June 11 decision of Justice Minister Jinen Nagase to ignore a Tokyo High Court ruling recognizing the refugee status of the Afghan asylum-seeker Ali Jane. She and her staff at JICA had taken a personal interest in the plight of this ethnic Hazara who narrowly avoided deportation from the Ushiku Detention Center in Ibaraki Prefecture. Freshmen JICA staff, hearing about this story from a lawyer who participated in their orientation program, researched Ali Jane’s history and published a book that went into three printings, selling some 21,000 copies. Five years ago, he applied for refugee status, but was turned down by the Justice Ministry. He then pursued his case in the courts and seemingly prevailed in the appeal process. However, Justice Minister Nagase decided against granting him refugee status and instead awarded him a special status visa, apparently because he is married to a Japanese woman.

The Japan Times: Sunday, July 8, 2007


J Times column on Hair Police and NJ educational underclass


Hi Blog. Yesterday (July 17, 2007) the Japan Times Community Page published my 36th column, on the “Hair Police” in Japan’s schools, and how they are part of the forces in Japan interfering with NJ education.

I’ve just put up a “Director’s Cut” version on my regular website, with links to sources. That can be found at:


UPDATE: It’s available at the Japan Times site at

Have a read! Debito


Schools single out foreign roots
International kids suffering under archaic rules

The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Column 36 for the Japan Times Community Page
“Director’s Cut” with links to sources
Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070717zg.html
PDF scan of the article courtesy Ben Goodyear at https://www.debito.org/JTHairPolice071707.pdf

Since 1990, when Japan started allowing factories to easily import foreign labor, the number of registered non-Japanese (NJ) residents has nearly doubled to more than 2 million. [SOURCE]

Many migrant workers have become immigrants: staying on, marrying, and having children.

Some have faced illegal work conditions, according to the domestic press: incarceration, physical and emotional duress, even child labor and virtual slavery. [SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2, SOURCE 3, SOURCE 4] Policymakers at the highest levels are currently debating solutions. [SOURCE]

Good. But less attention has gone to the children of these immigrants, particularly their schooling. This is a crisis in the making for Japan.

The bellwether of any country’s internationalization is the altered composition of the school population. Many of Japan’s immigrant children are becoming an underclass, deprived of an education for being born different than the putative “Japanese standard.”




Dealing with the ‘follicle enforcers’
Following is some advice on what to do if your child gets nabbed by the school “hair police.”

1. Support your child. Reassure him/her that he/she is as “normal” as anyone else.

2. Seek an understanding with teachers and the principal. Point out that variation is normal. There are plenty of Japanese with naturally lighter, curly hair.

3. Get written proof from your previous school that your child’s hair color or texture is natural.

4. Raise this issue with the Classroom Committee of Representatives (“gakkyuu iinkai”) and/or the local Board of Education (“kyoiku iinkai”). With all the attention on “ijime,” or bullying, these days, the board may be sensitive to your concerns.

5. Be firm. Dyeing hair is neither good for your child’s mental or physical health.

6. If compromise is impossible, consider changing schools (“tenkou”). Your child deserves a nurturing educational environment, not alienated by perceived “differences” on a daily basis. (D.A.)


Full article at:

Valentine Lawsuit: NPA denies medical treatment to suspect, Tokyo Dist. Court rules testimony invalid due to witness being African



Report by ARUDOU Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, https://www.debito.org
Freely forwardable
Released July 15, 2007

Japan Times Community Page article, August 14, 2007, on this case, entitled “Abuse, racism, lost evidence deny justice in Valentine Case”, available here.

This post is organized thusly:

SUMMARY: According to court records, on December 9, 2003, UC Valentine, a Nigerian citizen working in Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo, was questioned by plain-clothes police on suspicion of violating laws forbidding the distribution of hand-held billets to passersby. Eventually a scuffle ensued in a narrow alley, where a melee of police and touts wound up with an injured Valentine being pinned to the ground by several police. Plaintiff Valentine claims that he was assaulted while being restrained, by a cop who repeatedly kicked Valentine’s leg so hard that it broke below the knee. The police claim that Valentine injured himself, running away and crashing knee-first into an elevated bar sign attached to the alley wall. In any case, Valentine was apprehended and interrogated for ten days, denied hospitalization or adequate medical treatment for the interim. Consequently, his leg injury became so medically traumatized that it required complex hospital operations. To this day Valentine remains physically impaired and in constant pain. In 2005, Valentine sued the NPA for damages and hospital bills totaling 42,937,800 yen in Tokyo District Court, but lost his case on March 29, 2007. Inter alia, the court ruled that not only was a doctor’s expert testimony about Plaintiff’s crippling injuries merely “a sense, not based upon rational grounds”, but also that a witness’s testimony was inadmissible because he is African. Clearly there is an emerging pattern of differing standards for non-Japanese claimants in Japanese courts.

The case is currently on appeal in the Tokyo High Court. First hearing on Tuesday, July 17, 2007, Tokyo Koutou Saibansho 8F, Rm 808, 1:30PM. Attend if you want.

Heisei 17 (wa) Dai 17658, Tokyo District Court, Civil Court Dai 44-Bu
Defendant: Tokyo Municipal Government (Tokyo-to), Governor ISHIHARA Shintaro et al.

Tokyo District Court decision full text in Japanese at
NPA’s fishy photo testimony of what happened at
Plaintiff Valentine’s testimony in English


WHY THIS CASE MATTERS: Setting aside any “he-said, she-said” doubts about different recall of the facts of the case, both parties agree that Valentine was detained in police custody for ten days without hospitalization. This caused his medical condition to worsen to the point of debilitation. This was not, however, seen by the judiciary as something the police should take any responsibility for.

As far as Debito.org goes, from a judicial standpoint this case is also of great concern due to differing standards for evidence based upon nationality. The judge, when dismissing the case, actually goes so far as to say (page 19) that testimony of a witness for Valentine (who vouches for his version on the police breaking his leg) cannot be trusted because it is “from the Black Community”. To quote:

“In light of the fact that the witness has been acquainted with the Plaintiff , visiting him in hospital after his leg was broken, and is a friend of quite some closeness, and the fact that they associated with each other within the Black Community in Kabukichou, witness Francis’s testimony as an eyewitness account is not something we can see as having objectivity, and as such cannot possibly believe.”

“shounin wa, juuzen kara genkoku to menshiki ga ari, honken kossetsu go mo genkoku o byouin wo mimatteiru nado kanari shitashii koto ga ukagatteiru yuujin de ari, kabukichou no kokujin no komyunitei no nakama de atta koto tou o terasu to, shounin Furanshisu no kyoujutsu wa, mokugeki shougen to shite kyakkansei o yuusuru mono to wa iezu, kono mama shinyou suru toutei dekinai”

Hm, try disqualifying a person’s testimony because he’s a member of a Black Community (not to mention because he is a friend who visits the Plaintiff in hospital), and see how that gets you in the judiciary of most of the world’s other developed countries. Moreover, the accounts of other police officers are not similarly called into doubt for having too much closeness in their own “community”.

I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Check out the cracked judge in the McGowan Case of 2006, where the Plaintiff (an African-American) was refused entry by an eyeglass shop expressly because the shopkeep “hates black people”. There, Osaka District Court Judge Saga Yoshifumi ruled against the gaijin there too. Inter alia, McGowan and his Japanese wife’s eyewitness accounts were deemed insufficient due to an alleged language barrier. Full details on that case (starting with a Japan Times article) at

In this case, presiding Judge Sugiyama et al go one better, and say that because they are black they are thick as thieves…

It’s one of the reasons we are seeing cases of suspects escaping overseas because they believe they’re going to get a raw deal in a Japanese court due to their foreignness.

I have no sympathy for wanted criminals, of course, but neither the McGowan nor the Valentine Cases are criminal cases. And still they got raw deals–court defeats. Due to a different set of judicial standards applied to foreigners than to Japanese. Adding these cases to the collection.


(based upon the court decision and with Valentine’s claims)

On December 9, 2003, UC Valentine (born 1972 and married to a Japanese from 2002) was working his shift as a show club distributing pamphlets to potential clients. In the early evening, he was approached by two plain-clothes officers who appeared to Valentine to be customers (Valentine asserts that they did not identify themselves as police until a melee ensued).

Minutes later, in a narrow alleyway close to the show club, other members of the Black Community shouted repeatedly to Valentine, “Leave them!”, apparently aware that they were either police or yakuza. What happens next depends on the side of the courtroom you’re sitting, but in any case, due either to panic (Valentine) or guilt (police), Valentine fled, then found himself being restrained by three cops on the ground in the alleyway. He was arrested on suspicion of violating the Entertainment and Amusement Trades Control Act (Fuueihou) Art. 22 Sec. 1 for distributing nightlife pamphlets on the street.

Somewhere in this scuffle Valentine’s right leg was broken below the knee. Valentine’s version (as was his eyewitness’s, unfortunately Black) is that a police officer named Tanabu kicked him several times in the knee, even while the former was being restrained by two other cops. The cops say (in photo-reenacted evidence shown to me in person by Valentine and his wife on April 26, 2007, and scanned at Debito.org at https://www.debito.org/valentinelawsuit.html#kneebash) that when Valentine fled, he crashed into a metal sign (jutting out in a triangle from the wall) knee first, breaking his leg.


What’s fishy about this story is when you look at the photograph, the sign is actually on a wall 23 cms high, with a sidewalk below it showing a raised curb and two steps. Valentine was nimble enough to avoid tripping over three steps, but somehow not nimble enough to avoid the sign. When you consider that this happened on a December 9 around 8PM, when the sign is likely to be lit and the steps in shadow, it is odd that the more visible object is the thing Valentine allegedly crashed into.

Also odd is that if he crashed into the sign knee-first, it should have broken his knee, not the bone below his knee. However, the police apparently confiscated Valentine’s pants for analysis, and after some time finally returned them with no report on whether or not there were traces of footprint.

Valentine was held in police custody between December 9 and 19, 2003, and, despite being put into a cast, given no access to a hospital. According to his testimony (https://www.debito.org/valentinelawsuit.html#etestimony), he claims that police interrogation involved quid pro quos–access to painkillers and his wife in exchange for signing documents, one a statement stating inter alia that the police did not injure him. On Day 10 of his interrogation, once the clause about injury was eliminated, Valentine signed and was turned over to Immigration, who called an ambulance and hospitalized him at Ebara Byouin, Tokyo, immediately. His leg was apparently busted up so badly (a case the doctor who treated him, whose testimony was entered into the court record (page 17 (i)), said he had never seen the likes of before) that it required rib bone transferal to the area at great time and expense.

Situations like these in Japanese custody have come under fire in 2007 by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. See



In addition to dismissing the eyewitness testimony due to being members of the wrong ethnic community, the decision makes two singularly interesting points, also indicative of this court’s odd standards of evidence:

1) In order for a foreigner to sue the State of Japan, the foreigner’s home country laws must also cover a Japanese in the same situation in that country (page 13 3.1 (1)). I’m not a lawyer, but I would have thought that Japan’s laws apply to everyone equally, including foreign residents, regardless of their country of origin. Fortunately, the judges rule that Valentine’s Nigerian citizenship does not void his ability to sue the State.

2) Despite acknowledging the expertise of Valentine’s examining doctor at Ebara Byouin, the judges dismiss their medical testimony as merely “a sense” (kankaku teki), not “rational grounds” (gouriteki na konkyou–page 17 (i)). The judges even decide (in their somehow professional medical opinion, on page 15 u (a)) that Valentine’s leg didn’t get that much worse while in custody. Then they even judge on their own recognizance (page 16 item e) that Valentine’s bones are strong–so he must have run into that sign pretty hard to hurt himself. After all, shoes, they say, inflict “pinpoint injuries”, and Tanabu’s “rubber shoes” wouldn’t cause the injuries that Valentine suffered (page 16 a (a)). Shoes are apparently incapable of stomping from the heel, I guess.



There are other fine points, such as who did what to whom with what, and whether people were running slow or fast, but never mind. The point still remains that Valentine was crippled due to a sustained lack of medical attention, and what kept him from that were the Kabukichou Police.

The responsibility for this is not discussed adequately in the decision (judges assert that an X-ray, a cast, disinfection, and draining blood from the joints performed on the first day of incarceration were somehow medically sufficient (page 22 3 (1) i (a) onwards)–even were the best that could be done in a non-life-threatening situation given the fact that he was in custody. Therefore nothing illegal happened. Regardless of the fact that Valentine still wound up crippled, for reasons his doctor says was due to prolonged medical inattention.

Even if Valentine had not been crippled by the police (instead, say, stabbed in the leg by a criminal), would these dangerously temporary measures still be legal? Quite probably. Which means the NPA’s clear negligence for the welfare of the incarcerated, plus the judiciary’s unwillingness to force them to take responsibility when something goes wrong, is damning evidence of the unaccountability within Japan’s criminal justice system.

Couple that with a court willing to use any pretext possible to discount the victim’s standpoint, including overruling doctors and dismissing testimony by nationality, and you have a police force which, increasingly clearly, can deal with foreigners any way they like with impunity.

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
July 15, 2007

US State Dept and YouTube on Japan’s Int’l Child Abduction


Hi Blog. Two things I’ll combine into one blog post, since it’s right on the heels of the Colin Jones law journal article.

First, excellent video by Eric Kalmus on the irony of Japan’s child abductions (in the face of all the international rules against this, not to mention the political capital gained by the GOJ over the DPRK abductions of Japanese) after the breakdown of international marriages. Courtesy of YouTube:


But more importantly, the US State Department has included on its site a warning re Japan’s negligence regarding divorce, child custody, and abduction.

We’re getting through, on an international level. A series of referential links follows the State Department entry (so skip the minutiae and page down to the bottom if you want more beef). Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Original at:
(NB: Live links within original article are not included below)

Travel Warnings | Travel Public Announcements | Travel Information by Country
Saturday July 14, 2007

International Parental Child Abduction: Japan

DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

Japan is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Japanese civil law stresses that in cases where custody cannot be reached by agreement between the parents, the Japanese Family Court will resolve the issue based on the best interests of the child. However, compliance with Family Court rulings is essentially voluntary, which renders any ruling unenforceable unless both parents agree.

The Civil Affairs Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Justice states that, in general, redress in child custody cases is sought through habeas corpus proceedings in the court. There is no preferential treatment based on nationality or gender. Although visitation rights for non-custodial parents are not expressly stipulated in the Japanese Civil Code, court judgments often provide visitation rights for non-custodial parents.

In practical terms, however, in cases of international parental child abduction, foreign parents are greatly disadvantaged in Japanese courts, both in terms of obtaining the return of children to the United States, and in achieving any kind of enforceable visitation rights in Japan. The Department of State is not aware of any case in which a child taken from the United States by one parent has been ordered returned to the United States by Japanese courts, even when the left-behind parent has a United States custody decree. In the past, Japanese police have been reluctant to get involved in custody disputes or to enforce custody decrees issued by Japanese courts.

In order to bring a custody issue before the Family Court, the left-behind parent will require the assistance of a Japanese attorney. A parent holding a custody decree issued in U.S. courts must retain local Japanese counsel to apply to the Japanese courts for recognition and enforcement of the U.S. decree.

Lists of Japanese attorneys and other information are available on the web at http://www.tokyoacs.com or from the Office of Children”s Issues at the address shown below. Links to the web sites of our other consulates in Japan can also be found at this web site.

U.S. consular officers are prohibited by law from providing legal advice, taking custody of a child, forcing a child to be returned to the United States, providing assistance or refuge to parents attempting to violate local law, or initiating or attempting to influence child custody proceedings in foreign courts. They generally cannot obtain civil documents (such as marriage registrations and family registers) on behalf of a parent, although an attorney can.

The American Embassy in Tokyo and the Consulates in Naha, Osaka-Kobe, Sapporo, Fukuoka and Nagoya are able to provide other valuable assistance to left-behind parents, however, including visits to determine the welfare of children. If a child is in danger or if there is evident abuse, consular officers will request assistance from the local authorities in safeguarding the child”s welfare.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In view of the difficulties involved in seeking the return of children from Japan to the United States, it is of the greatest importance that all appropriate preventive legal measures be taken in the United States if there is a possibility that a child may be abducted to Japan.


For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention , at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org. Contact the country officer in the Office of Children”s Issues for specific information.

New Law on Passport Applications for Minors:

On July 2, 2001, the Department of State began implementation of the new law regarding the passport applications for minor U.S. citizens under age 14. Under this new law, a person applying for a U.S. passport for a child under 14 must demonstrate that both parents consent to the issuance of a passport to the child or that the applying parent has sole custody of the child. The law covers passport applications made at domestic U.S. passport agencies in the U.S. and at U.S. consular offices abroad. The purpose of the new requirement that both parents’ consent be demonstrated is to lessen the possibility that a U.S. passport might be used in the course of an international child abduction.

Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP):

Separate from the two-parent signature requirement for U.S. passport issuance, parents may also request that their children’s names be entered in the U.S. passport name-check system, also known as CPIAP. A parent or legal guardian can be notified by the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues before a passport is issued to his/her minor child. The parent, legal guardian or the court of competent jurisdiction must submit a written request for entry of a child’s name into the Passport Issuance Alert Program to the Office of Children’s Issues. The CPIAP also provides denial of passport issuance if appropriate court orders are on file with the Office of Children’s Issues. Although this system can be used to alert a parent or court when an application for a U.S. passport has been executed on behalf of a minor, it cannot be used to track the use of a passport. If there is a possibility that your child has another nationality you may want to contact the appropriate embassy or consulate directly to inquire about the possibility of denial of that country’s passport. There is no requirement that foreign embassies adhere to U.S. regulations regarding issuance and denial of passports. For more information contact the office of Children’s Issues at 202-736-9090. General passport information is also available on the Office of Children’s Issues home page on the Internet at children’s_issues.html.

The State Department has general information about welfare/whereabouts visits, hiring a foreign attorney, service of process, enforcement of child support orders, and the international enforcement of judgments, which may supplement the country-specific information provided in this flier. In addition, the State Department publishes Consular Information Sheets (CIS’s) for every country in the world, providing information such as location of the U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political situations, and crime reports. If a situation in a country poses a specific threat to the safety and security of American citizens that is not addressed in the CIS for that country, the Department of State may issue a Public Announcement alerting U.S. citizens to local security situations. If conditions in a country are sufficiently serious, the State Department may issue a Travel Warning that recommends U.S. citizens avoid traveling to that country. These documents are available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov or by calling the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services at (202) 647-5225. Many of these documents can also be obtained by automatic fax back by calling (202) 647-3000 from your fax machine.

Address Information – Correspondence and documents can be submitted to:

By FEDEX, DHL, Express Mail, etc.

Office of Children”s Issues
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520-2818
Phone: (202) 736-9090
Fax: (202) 312-9743

By Regular Mail*

Office of Children”s Issues
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520-2818
Phone: (202) 736-9090
Fax: (202) 312-9743

(*–As of February 2002, the State Department is experiencing considerable delays of at least three to four weeks in the delivery of regular mail due to mandated irradiation against harmful substances. We strongly recommend that important correspondence be sent by courier such as FEDEX, DHL, Express Mail, etc. to ensure prompt delivery.)

Tel: 1-888-407-4747 (Recorded Information, access to officers) or (202) 736-9090
Fax: (202) 312-9743
Internet: children”s_issues.html

Toll Free Hotline: Overseas Citizens Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA/OCS) has established a toll free hotline for the general public at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444. Persons seeking information or assistance, in case of emergency, outside of these hours, including on weekends or holidays should call 1-202-647-5225.

The OCS hotline can answer general inquiries regarding international parental child abduction and will forward calls to the appropriate Country Officer. For specific information and other services available to the searching parent, please call the Office of Children’s Issues public phone number at 1-202-736-9090 during normal working hours.

Complete original at:





Crnjapan’s Mark Smith:”Protest Against Japanese Postdivorce Child Abductions” in Portland, Oregon

Metropolis Magazine on J int’l child abductions

CRNJapan’s Mark Smith with linked articles on J divorce int’l child abductions



Asian Pacific Law Journal on Japan as haven for parental child abduction.


Hi Blog. I included this as part of my previous newsletter on Japan’s judiciary, but it warrants a blog entry all its own. Don’t want it to get buried.

From Mark at Children’s Rights Network Japan. Debito


I would like to tell everyone about a new law journal article about Japanese family law that is now available. It’s written by a law professor in Japan who himself has been through the family court system all the way up to the Supreme Court.

First sentence: “Japan is a haven for parental child abduction.”

Need I say more? If you are married to a Japanese partner and have children, its a must read, even at 100 pages. Look for it here:


Colin P.A. Jones
Asian Pacific Law and Policy Journal
University of Hawaii
Volume 8, Issue 2, Spring 2007.

Happy Reading.


J Times on labor abuses at Gregory Clark’s Akita International University


Hi Blog. More labor abuses coming out at Gregory Clark‘s Akita International University (he’s vice president, after all; see his nice welcoming message to the world here). As catalogued yesterday in the Japan Times Community Page. Article also includes some lessons about what you can do about employers of this ilk.

Suggest you stay away from this place if you are looking for a job. More about AIU’s shenanigans at the BLACKLIST OF JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES, with the following entry:

NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Akita International University (Private)
LOCATION: 193-2 Okutsubakidai, Yuwa, Tsubakigawa, Akita-City, Akita

EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Despite wanting PhDs (or the equivalent) for faculty, AIU offers 3-year contracted positions with no mention of any possibility of tenure, plus a heavy workload (10 to 15 hours per week, which means the latter amounts to 10 koma class periods), a four-month probationary period, no retirement pay, and job evaluations of allegedly questionable aims. In other words, conditions that are in no visible way different from any other gaijin-contracting “non-international university” in Japan. Except for the lack of retirement pay.

SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Job advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education, dated September 2, 2006. http://chronicle.com/jobs/id.php?id=0000469416-01 (click here to read text if previous link is obsolete). Other unofficial sources of dissent available on the Chronicle’s forums (links may obsolesce, and their contents are completely independent of the Blacklist) at http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?topic=28632.0

Now for the expose in the Japan Times. Debito in Sapporo


Wronged employees seek redress through mediation
Prefectural labor boards offer cheap alternative to suing in work disputes
Special to The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Imagine you feel wronged by your employer and find simply sharing your work woes with friends and chat groups inadequate. You want compensation and acknowledgment that your employer acted unjustly.

Suing is not your only option. Prefectural labor boards may hear your case and bring your employer in for reconciliation.

A few years ago I was given a pay cut at my last university for political reasons. I had asked the university president, in a one-page private letter, to consider replacing the Hinomaru Japanese flag flying in front of the university with an Earth flag, partly because the university was always squawking about how international they are, and partly because faculty were invited to share any ideas and concerns with our “open-minded” president. So when he told me the reasons for a 10-percent pay cut included my opposition to the Iraq war, and the “flag letter,” and ended my evaluation meeting wagging his finger saying, “You should love the Japanese flag,” I was shocked, but didn’t know where to turn. Suing seemed a long shot.

Two years later this same president made a dramatic declaration to the faculty, informing us that none of our renewable contracts would be renewed. Instead, we would have to reapply and fight for our jobs via open recruitment.

However, what we didn’t know then was that the directors and several favored faculty members had been “blown kisses” — promised jobs and told to keep the fact secret. When the dust settled, 12 faculty members had just reason to seek compensation for breach of contract, out of whom 10 banded together — all nonunion foreigners — to speak with a local union rep.

Foreigners tend to scatter after losing their jobs, and we were no exception. Of the 10, only three planned to remain in Japan, making legal action even more impractical. And, while unemployed, who would have the resources for legal fees? Thus, I looked at speaking with the union rep more as a counseling session, to have someone knowledgeable listen and give a viewpoint, and perhaps sympathize. Some of the “winners” at my university, for example, implied there had been no breach of contract. Were we exaggerating the injustice?

After listening carefully, however, the union representative flatly stated, “That’s illegal.” Then, even more encouragingly, he told us about a course of action that didn’t involve any lawyers or fees at all: Meetings with a prefectural labor board that could lead to “assen,” meaning mediation or reconciliation.

The first step, which could not be skipped despite the futility of it, was to hold direct talks with the university. It was decided, with the help of the union and labor board, to submit a “yokyu isharyo” (demand or request for compensation) for 5 million yen per person for financial damages endured due to breach of contract.

Then, three dismissed faculty members and two union representatives met with four university staff. When they denied there was any connection between evaluation and renewal — a key point of our dispute — we learned what an uphill struggle we faced.

At the same time, we had concurrently been meeting with the prefectural labor board, because they realized time was limited until we’d have to move from the area. After the university refused to pay at our second meeting — which was predictable — the labor board heard more details. For example, when one faculty member with a doctorate in a Japan-specific field and glowing evaluations asked for the reason for her dismissal/nonrenewal, she was told by the president, “You’ve been in Japan too long.”

The board, in addition to hearing such testimony, also read documents, from contracts to memos, that belied the university’s claims, and led them to decide there was just cause to pursue “assen.”

Four respected members of the community — a corporation president, a university professor, a labor representative, and the head, a lawyer — served as judges to hear both sides of our dispute and suggest a compromise.

A key point to note about the process is that it’s not binding. At any point either party can simply withdraw. That being said, the labor board informed us that the mediators succeeded in solving 80 percent of the labor disputes they heard. Furthermore, the labor rep noted that a university is under tremendous pressure to comply with the decision of an independent third party — especially since the authority behind the mediation process was, in our case, the prefecture, which had bankrolled the university when it opened.

The mediation process is designed to avoid huge winners and losers, so we knew from the start that receiving 5 million yen per person was highly unlikely. At the same time, the mediation process saved us time and money: while court cases may cost millions of yen in lawyer’s fees, and drag on for years, our mediation would last just a couple of months, and cost nothing save transportation to hearings. Furthermore, while all 10 members were encouraged to attend hearings, attendance was not required.

Thus, we dropped any demand for lost salary, which the courts might grant, and aimed for “just” 5 million yen per person. More importantly, we wanted a decision which indicated our university had acted inappropriately, in an effort to curb dictator-like management styles, give some power to dismissed faculty, and yes, receive financial compensation.

By the third hearing, it was clear that we would be awarded a settlement figure, which we, and the university, could accept or refuse. We were also told negotiations would end there, and both sides had a take-it-or-leave-it option.

The 10 of us felt vindicated by the decision, that the university acted improperly and should indeed pay compensation that ranged from 1 million yen to 1.7 million yen per person, depending on whether the person had secured employment yet.

Yes, some felt the figure was low, because it didn’t even fully cover their moving expenses. Still, 1 million yen or more per person — 13 million yen in total — clearly indicated the university’s culpability. And we had understood the limitations of the process from the start. With such a small amount, we felt confident the university would pay. After all, the total of over 13 million yen equaled just about half of the university president’s remuneration for one year.

For the three faculty who had received pay cuts due to the corrupted evaluation process, the mediators did not have the power to ask that we be compensated. However, the decided settlement amount would at least recover salary I lost for my flag letter and opposition to the Iraq war — or so it seemed.

Unfortunately, our result was destined to fall in the 20 percent of unresolved cases, because the university refused to pay even that amount. As the labor rep had explained on more than one occasion, the process doesn’t have any means to force employers to fulfill obligations. Still, even in the absence of compensation, vindication of our position made “assen” worthwhile.

The labor rep also explained another option in addition to “assen” or legal action. In 2006, Japan created a labor disputes system (“rodo shinpan seido”) so disgruntled workers could get a hearing with minimal cost and minimal delay. A judge decides the case after meeting no more than three times with one labor rep and a company rep.

Thus, the worker avoids not only lawyer fees, but a protracted court case that may otherwise drag on for years. And, as opposed to “assen,” unscrupulous employers don’t have a right to refuse or withdraw. Both parties can, however, appeal, all the way to the Supreme Court.

Our group didn’t have the option to use this new labor court because it only hears cases for individuals, not groups. Most who utilize this new system are labor union members — but some, like ourselves, join a union only after having a workplace dispute.

Thus, in this era of short term contracts, temporary jobs, and political shifts to the right, workers, foreign or otherwise, should remember they have rights and their employer has responsibilities. Unions, which only exist due to the support of their members, can point workers the way to “assen” mediation, a special labor disputes court, and, if those time and money saving options fail, can provide a union lawyer and sue the most unscrupulous of employers.

The writer of this article was obliged to use a pseudonym. Send comments and story ideas to:community@japantimes.co.jp

Asahi Editorial: Tanaka Hiroshi on treatment of NJ workers


Hello Blog. Here’s one of the most important writers regarding NJ issues (particularly the Zainichi), Tanaka Hiroshi, getting an article in the most prominent public Op-Ed column in the Japanese press (although I can’t find the Japanese version of it anywhere–little help?).

Good. Again, it’s what we’ve been saying all along. More voices the merrier. Debito in Sapporo

POINT OF VIEW/ Hiroshi Tanaka: Japan must open its arms to foreign workers

Courtesy of Hans ter Horst

Japan, with its aging workforce, is facing a serious labor shortage that can only be solved by bringing in foreign workers. Even so, the country’s laws do not safeguard the human rights of these guest trainees and interns.

The government is attempting to change this situation, but in my view, its efforts lack focus.

Three arms of the government are making separate moves in this area.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare wants to treat foreign trainees as interns, so Japanese labor laws will cover them.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry proposes strengthening the screening process and penalties for maltreatment of foreign trainees and interns to improve working conditions and prevent human rights violations.

And Justice Minister Jinen Nagase seeks to establish a system whereby foreign workers can work only a maximum of three years.

To begin with, it is ridiculous to have three branches of government working separately to solve the same problem. This will only result in a tug of war over control.

What needs to be done is to establish a central policy office within the Prime Minister’s Office or the Cabinet Office, with its leader reporting directly to the prime minister.

In reality, there is a wide gap between how Japan deals with its foreign workers and the principles stated in official policy.

With the Japanese labor force in decline, the economy cannot be maintained without an influx of foreign labor. Despite this fact, the government is sticking with an outdated policy that limits the entry of unskilled foreign workers on grounds the practice could lead harm job security for Japanese workers.

At the same time, however, the government opened a back door into the job market, offering a fast track to visas for foreigners of Japanese descent and trainee and technical internship programs for foreigners.

These two loopholes enable unskilled foreigners to work in Japan. To date, about 350,000 foreigners of Japanese descent have come to Japan from Brazil, Peru and elsewhere to work in the automotive industry. Many are employed by subcontractors to the major automakers and other parts makers.

Instead of dealing squarely with them, the government has stuck with its “deceptive” policies. As a result, there are no protections in place to guarantee their human rights and labor rights. Since foreign workers are usually hired by brokers and dispatched indirectly, many employers fail to provide them with proper social insurance coverage.

Some workers even are illegally forced to hand over their passports to their employers, and others have been cheated of due wages. Such mistreatment has been reported in case after case, but nothing is done to prevent it.

I am working to resolve the educational problems faced by the children of foreign workers in Japan. Despite the rise in numbers of children attending Brazilian schools in Japan, these schools remain unaccredited. As such, they receive no government subsidies.

When revisions to the Fundamental Law of Education were discussed last year, not a word was heard about the right of immigrant children to an education or the government’s obligation to guarantee that education.

The government must squarely face these problems and create sincere policies to make the lives of our guest workers better.

Since the Japanese population is declining, the government needs to come out and make clear that we do need and value foreign workers. Once that is recognized, the government should examine which areas are lacking and estimate how many workers we need. It also should pass legislation to enable immigrants who complete Japanese-language training programs and vocational training courses to enter the workforce as full-fledged workers.

Some people worry that too many foreign workers would lead to lower wages for Japanese workers or steal jobs away.

If a foreign worker is more competent or better trained than a Japanese, then naturally they will get hired first.

But to assume that a foreigner should work for less than a Japanese is outright discrimination. And as long as the principle of “equal pay for equal work” is observed, the situation will not adversely affect the labor market.

The government’s passive attitude toward foreign workers shows how it remains unable to shake off its insular, Cold-War era mindset, one that pits people of one nation against another merely because they hold a certain citizenship.

This thinking leads us to set Japanese apart from foreigners.

We must accept people from other countries as “residents” and create a system to encourage them to participate in our society. Giving foreign residents the right to vote in local elections would be a step in the right direction.

For that, we need a system that encourages foreigners to settle in Japan, instead of one that treats them as temporary labor.

Japan needs to abandon its selfish attitudes and open up its closed society with firmly rooted policies.

* * *

Hiroshi Tanaka is professor specializing in the history of Japan-Asia relations at Kyoto’s Ryukoku University and a representative of a citizens’ group that works to support schools for foreign residents in Japan.(IHT/Asahi: July 3,2007)

JTs on rackets for immigrant workers, runaway Trainees


Hi Blog. More information on how Japan exploits NJ labor for its own purposes. First Japan Today on how trainees are trying to get the hell out of a bad situation, then the Japan Times with more on these government-sponsored rackets.

Some important stats below. Probably still not enough for the academics to accept somehow “empirically” there’s a real problem out there, but heads tend to remain in the sand as long as possible on these things (especially to those for whom “problems” are not a matter of existence, but of degree; everything counts in large amounts, you see).

More on what I’ve said about this issue in the past here and here. Debito in Sapporo


Nearly 10,000 foreigners disappear from job training sites in Japan 2002-2006
Monday, July 2, 2007 at 05:00 EDT

Courtesy Mark Mino-Thompson of The Community

TOKYO — A total of 9,607 foreigners, mostly Asians, ran away from job training sites in Japan between 2002 and 2006 in an apparent attempt to look for better working conditions elsewhere, according to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau.

The situation shows that the Japanese system of accepting foreigners to train as skilled workers has become mostly a ceremonial affair and, in reality, is just a mechanism for foreigners to work on lower wages.

The figures compiled by the bureau based on reports from those which accepted trainees showed that Chinese workers topped all other nationalities with 4,521 disappearing from training sites. The number accounted for 47.06% of the total.

Vietnamese were second with 2,674 or 27.83% and Indonesians third with 1,610 or 16.76%.

Runaway trainees totaled 1,376 in 2002, soared to 2,304 in 2003 and amounted to 2,201 in 2006. Former trainees illegally remaining in Japan totaled 3,333 as of Jan 1 this year. All others who disappeared earlier were said to have left Japan.

Some said that the situation that has resulted from foreigners escaping from their training places demonstrates that the flow of non-Japanese workers wishing to earn money in Japan has reached the level beyond the control of the trainee system which originally had called for Japan to offer foreigners three-years job training assistance.

They also said Japan is being pressed to make a clear-cut decision on whether it is ready to formally accept unskilled workers from foreign countries.

It has become a daily scene for foreign trainees working at town factories or on fishing boats across Japan, a fact that they have become a workforce that serves the need of Japan and that the domestic industry cannot operate without them.

However, there are no well-defined stipulations concerning trainees’ wages and rights because they are not considered workers for the first year after entering Japan. Their stay in Japan is limited to three years, including the period they spend undergoing hands-on experience.

About 26,000 trainees have gone to Japan as trainees since 1993 under Indonesian government supervision and 1,775 of them ran away from their training sites while 1,577 others returned home without completing training. The largest number of runaway trainees was seen when 53 of 76 trainees who left Indonesia on July 8, 2002 disappeared.

Indonesian government officials said trouble with Japanese hosts who accepted them for training may have been the biggest reason for their disappearance.

A sense of alienation between the reality confronting trainees and the system that allowed them to be in Japan has led to a number of incidents recently.

Police unmasked a case in Okayama Prefecture involving a group of Indonesians who allegedly smuggled themselves into Japan using fictitious names and seeking a long-term stay as trainees. Some other trainees filed suits with courts in Aomori and Aichi prefectures seeking unpaid wages.

Such cases do not remain mere individual problems since the flow of workers is connected to economic globalization aimed at eliminating barriers between nations that shun human movement.

As a trading nation, Japan is trying to press ahead with the conclusion of free trade agreements with Asian countries and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and to earn profits by exporting tariff free goods, including high performance industrial products.

On the other hand, it is natural for a country like the Philippines, which cannot manufacture industrial products strong enough to compete with made-in-Japan goods, to send something that it does have an edge in over Japan.

In fact, the two countries are planning to open the path for Philippine nurses to work in Japan based on an economic partnership agreement. (Kyodo News)

Immigrant workers in Japan caught in a real racket
The Japan Times Sunday, July 1, 2007

Courtesy Ron Beaubien of The Community

The debate over whether Japan should allow foreign workers in to make up for current and future labor shortages is dominated by the so-called foreign trainee program, which is overseen by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO). The program is itself the subject of a debate, which boils down to the age-old Japanese dynamic of honne vs. tatemae.

The tatemae (given reason) of the program is to bring workers from developing countries to Japan to learn Japanese techniques that they can later put to use back home. The honne (real reason) of the program is to legally let small and medium Japanese companies import cheap labor. According to a recent series of articles in the Asahi Shimbun, the Japanese public for the most part still buys the tatemae explanation, even though the media has been reporting for years that many foreign trainees come to Japan for the express purpose of making money.

As with most controversies that don’t touch directly on the lives of average people, the only related news that makes an impression is the sensational kind. In August of last year, a 27-year-old Chinese worker killed an official of a Chiba training center. The details of the case, which is now being heard at Chiba District Court, point to a much more complex situation than that which the media originally reported.

The defendant was a plumber in China who made the equivalent of 7,500 yen a month, and his purpose in coming to Japan was to earn a lot of money in a short time. However, because of trainee program rules, he wasn’t able to work and earn as much as he hoped, and he went on strike, demanding that he be allowed to work overtime at the pig farm where he’d been placed. The official in charge of the training center that brought him to Japan responded by trying to have him deported. In a fit of anger, the worker killed the official and injured two others.

According to his lawyers, in order to come to Japan to “receive training,” the defendant had borrowed more than 1 million yen in order to pay the security deposit, transportation costs, and various non-refundable fees associated with the assignment. He thought he could pay back the debt quickly by working overtime, but according to JITCO regulations a trainee is not classified as a worker for the first year. Since normal labor laws do not apply to foreign trainees until the second year (when they become “interns”), they can be paid less than the minimum wage.

Most people believe that potential trainees pay their fees to brokers in China, and they do. But according to the Asahi, the worker on trial paid his fees to the Chiba training center, which has set up its own dispatch company in China to recruit trainees. Though such a system turns the training center into a broker at best and a trafficker at worst, there is no specific JITCO rule that says dispatch companies cannot profit from trainees.

For tatemae purposes, businesses cannot directly request foreign workers from JITCO. They must go through local organizations, which are usually trade or industry associations. Each of these groups pay JITCO 100,000 yen a year, while each member company pays 50,000 yen a year. In a June 1 article, the Mainichi Shimbun reported that 925 such organizations comprising 9,857 companies paid these fees to JITCO in 2001. By 2005 the numbers had increased to 1,493 groups and more than 17,000 companies. JITCO’s revenues for 2006 topped 1.2 billion yen, which is why its budget from the government has been steadily decreasing.

The Mainichi contends that as JITCO has become more self-sufficient, it has taken on the culture of a private company. Some industry officials told the newspaper that as more associations join, JITCO feels it has to treat them as “customers,” which means JITCO is more likely to look the other way with regard to common illegal practices such as confiscating trainee passports and 14-hour work days. One employer said appreciatively that JITCO calls him beforehand to tell him when they are coming for a surprise inspection.

JITCO has even set up an insurance system with 11 major companies that brings in about 100 million yen annually. Workers pay premiums of 27-37,000 yen a year. The average “allowance” for first-year trainees is 66,000 yen a month.

A racket by any other name wouldn’t smell as sweet. JITCO was originally the brainchild of five different government ministries that have filled its staff with retired bureaucrats ever since. Three of these ministries seem to have realized that the program’s real raison d’e^tre has become too obvious. The justice ministry wants to get rid of the trainee system and allow foreign workers into Japan for limited periods, while the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the health ministry want to keep the system and merely give it a tweak.

Missing from the debate are the workers themselves. The irony is that there are foreign trainees who join the program because they really want to acquire skills, but most of them end up performing manual labor on farms or in factories. Regardless of their intentions, the workers always lose. If they want to earn a lot of money, the system denies them the opportunity to do so; and if they want to come to learn a skill, the system is not equipped to do that, either.

For balance, the Asahi interviewed the director of a sewing industry association in Hiroshima that receives trainees. He says his program genuinely transfers skills to developing countries, but he also insists that the foreign trainee system is “indispensable” to small Japanese companies. Without it, these companies would be forced to move overseas. It sounds like a threat, but what’s the difference between using cheap foreign workers in Japan and using them in a foreign country? The difference is that in Japan you can make more money off of them.

The Japan Times: Sunday, July 1, 2007

“Beware of foreigners” leaflets in Ikuno-ku, Osaka


Hi Blog. This has come up on The Community Mailing List:

Jon writes:
A friend of mine found this on a car in Ikunoku and said there were plenty of them around. Anyone in Osaka want to help me do something about this?

(NB: For those who find the flyer hard to read:
(Images of Illegal overstayers, long-nosed fraudulent grooms, passport forgers, and illegal workers: All including blondies, of course.)
THESE DAYS WHERE FOREIGN CRIME IS RISING FAST [Even though, according to the Mainichi Feb 07, it’s dropping. So is, according to Immigration, foreign overstaying.]

I found at http://www.ikuno.or.jp/1_1.htm that this flyer is being distributed by the Ikuno Sangyoukai.
名称 社団法人 生野産業会
会長 三宅 一嘉
所在地 〒544-0004 大阪市生野区巽北1丁目21番23号
電話番号 06-6757-2551
FAX番号 06-6754-2186

Declan adds:
For what it is worth, practically every chamber of commerce in the
country had meetings this month with regards to foreign employees.

My chamber held a meeting June 8th

I didn’t attend because I was overseas at the time, but as far as I know
there were no harebrained schemes for leafletting cars on the streets.

I don’t see any point in counter leaflets. Perhaps a better approach
might just be to write a letter to the sangyoukai asking for them to
refrain from littering, and to suggest that instead of distributing
leaflets, that they ensure that all of the companies in their membership
are in fact checking the bona fides of any foreigners in their employment,
and that the hotels/accommodation sector of their membership
aren’t demanding passport copies from Japan residents etc. Something
conciliatory and practical is usually the best way to start a dialogue.

Dave suggests:
The clear first step in doing anything about this is to call the number
on the leaflet and get some information.

The main information to get is to find out who exactly within the
chamber of commerce is the project leader for this, who is their public
representative, and that sort of thing.

Then, if possible, initiate a meeting or a phone call where the matter
can be formally discussed. Find out why they are doing this now, what
their concerns are, how this all came about.

During that meeting or phone call, see if you can point out where
they’ve given into fears and departed from facts, and see how much they
can be swayed.

At all steps, record the conversations.

Whether or not anything further can or should be done will be very clear
once all those kinds of facts are in.

You’d be surprised at how far some dialogue can go. A lot of the people
behind these things aren’t deliberately rejecting facts about foreign
crime, they’re just blissfully ignorant. A polite discussion with a
foreigner who has his facts straight can make a big impression.

The ideal candidate for this task is someone who can communicate well in
Japanese and can be in Osaka to really talk to these people.

Readers of Debito.org who would like to try their hand at a little activism are encouraged to investigate this further. Tell us how things go in the Comments section of this Blog? Debito in Sapporo


I know this will probably sound obvious, butsome of my concerns
regarding the leaflets are:

– They are directed at employers. Passport forgery and bogus
marriages, while illegal, are not something a potential employer can
or should police. Any revised posters should not mention the other
two offenses at all. They should merely remind employers that hiring
foreign workers with inappropriate visa status is illegal and to
check this status.

– The caricatures are racist and would be more appropriate in World
War II propeganda. It also implies that all foreign nationals are
physically distinguishable from the Japanese poplulation, and
furthermore hints that those with illegal status are readily
identifiable. Lose them in any reprints.

-Again, as the leaflets are aimed at employers, statements
of “rapidly rising foreigner crime” are irrelevant, not to mention
highly questionable. Lose them.

Essentially, if it is necessary to alert businesses to the fact that
hiring foreign workers without the correct visa status is a criminal
act, fine. Just don’t try to use perceptions of crime by foreign
nationals as justification.




Asahi: Shizuoka Pref residents block Brazilian from buying land


Hi Blog. Another one of these “get a load of this” situations…

A local residents’ association, citing fears of crime and foreigners fleeing the country after committing them, worked together to block a realtor from doing his job as intermediary for a house purchase by a 3rd-generation Nikkei Brazilian man in the (appropriately named) Nagamizo area of Iwata City, Shizuoka.

The MOJ’s Bureau of Human Rights as usual showed its ineffectuality by saying the NJ purchaser was in the right, even had his human rights violated, but had no way to set things right with any enforcement mechanisms. (See another example of this BOHR ineffectuality on Debito.org)

So the residents kick him out, and continue to man the barricades against any more foreigners. Nice work. Wonder what would happen if this happened to Japanese in other countries? The Japanese press would have a field day vilifying the town and making the excluded Japanese into victims, the GOJ MOFA would lodge formal complaints, tourism from Japan there would decrease… is not too much a stretch of the imagination. The shoe’s never on the other foot here, it seems. Debito in Sapporo

Racism surfaces over bid by foreigner to buy land, settle


FUKUROI, Shizuoka Prefecture– Fearful that they would be inviting crime to their neighborhood, residents blocked an attempt by a Japanese-Brazilian man to buy land on which to build a house.

The local regional legal affairs bureau said their actions constituted a “violation of human rights” and told the parties involved that if a similar situation occurred in the future they should handle it better.

In the end, the man was forced to purchase property elsewhere.

The 30-year-old factory worker had his heart set on purchasing a 200-square-meter plot through a realtor in the nearby city of Iwata in April last year, said sources familiar with the matter.

The third-generation Japanese-Brazilian had planned to build a detached house on the plot in the Nagamizo district of Fukuroi.

But before he could sign the contract, a group of local residents who are members of the Nagamizo community association raised objections to the purchase after they learned from the realtor that the buyer was of Brazilian ancestry.

The group, which at the time comprised 12 households, notified the real estate company of its intention to stop the man from moving in, the sources said.

One resident, citing a perception that Brazilians are prone to committing crimes, said, “I feared that something might happen.” The woman alluded to a number of reports about Brazilians fleeing Japan to avoid prosecution for crimes committed in Japan.

An official with the civil liberties division of the Shizuoka Legal Affairs Bureau, a regional branch of the Justice Ministry, refused to discuss the case, citing the need for confidentiality.

But the official noted that in general the approval of neighborhood residents is not necessary for a real estate transaction.

“As long as the seller and the buyer agree on the terms, the deal goes through, regardless of opposition from local residents,” he said.

In the end, the Japanese-Brazilian was unable to buy the land because the realtor failed to fulfill its obligation to act as an intermediary. The man took his case to the Fukuroi branch of the Shizuoka Legal Affairs Bureau in May last year, contending that a “violation of human rights” had occurred.

The bureau agreed with the man after studying the case and talked to the community association group and the president of the real estate company about ending local opposition to the man’s quest to build a home. The meeting took place some time before June 6 this year, the sources said.

The Shizuoka Legal Affairs Bureau official said that even if the residents and the realtor had committed what the bureau deemed to be a violation of human rights, there were no provisions to punish the parties.

“The bureau’s function is to educate the public about human rights issues by pointing out what constitute violations of human rights,” the official said.

The head of the Nagamizo community association stated bluntly that non-Japanese are not welcome in the neighborhood. “Honestly speaking, we don’t want (Brazilians) to move into the neighborhood if possible,” the person said. “We need to think about how we should deal with similar situations if a Brazilian wants to buy a plot of land here in the future.”

The Japanese-Brazilian acknowledges that the overall image of Brazilians is not good, but he urged people to look at them individually.

“I hold down a job and I am able to speak Japanese,” he said. “Although I had planned to meet those residents in person, I was told ‘not to bother.'”

The man bought a 160-square meter land in a different section of the city and built a house on it.(IHT/Asahi: June 29,2007)




人権侵害:ブラジル人引っ越し「拒否は不適切」 法務局、自治会班長に説示/静岡




毎日新聞 2007年6月29日

念のために、もう一つの記事を。有道 出人

袋井の自治会がブラジル人転居反対 土地購入を断念





UPDATE June 27: My week speaking in Tokyo and facing the madding crowds


UPDATE JUNE 27, 2007

Hello Blog. I’ve left you fallow for a week now, my apologies. I’ve just come through what is probably my busiest speaking schedule yet. I gave what amounted to six speeches in as many days, all of them brand new, with Powerpoint presentations in two languages. Phew.

Backing up a bit on the timeline, I have had an incredible June, in the sense that there was no letup. From my mind-blowing trip to the USA and my Cornell 20th Reunion, where I discovered that bullying can become trans-generational (https://www.debito.org/homecoming2007.html), to coming home with jetlag only to be smacked by a car while riding my bicycle to work (https://www.debito.org/?p=453 –finding myself still able to cycle and walk but not climb stairs unassisted for awhile), I’ve had to deal not only with hospitals and insurance companies, but also deadlines that were constantly nipping at my heels. Finish one speech, start preparing another. Every day for about a week.


Early on Tuesday morning June 19, I finally started the paper I would be delivering on Friday and Saturday at Waseda University and the 2007 Asian Studies Conference Japan. Topic? Immigration’s effects on Japan, and how lack of governmental oversight has created Frankenstein’s Monster in the labor market. By Tuesday evening, I had pounded out seventeen pages with footnotes and references, and by Wednesday night I was on my third draft and 19th concluding page. I was still writing it on the plane down to Tokyo the next day, and by Thursday evening the fourth and final draft was finished (see it at https://www.debito.org/ASCJPaper2007.doc). I forwent catching up on any Internet or blogging, getting started on my concomitant Powerpoint presentation right away before any sleep (speeches I do nowadays are never only just reading from a printed document anymore; I find using Powerpoint to create visuals from the computer, instead of the Mind’s Eye or the OHP, to be very effective. Sadly, this means my workload is doubled.) Staying with friends Leisa and Stephen Nagy, I found myself striking a decent (but slightly worried) balance between being social, and wondering if I hadn’t taken outdone myself by saying “yes” to everyone who asked me to speak on this trip.


So Friday morning June 20, I went to Waseda early and used the graduate student facilities to pound out my Powerpoint in four hours (see it here at https://www.debito.org/japansmulticulturalfuture.ppt). I gave my speech to several grad students (even the American Embassy showed, thanks), and found that the presentation (with questions from the audience during) stretched what had to be a 20-minute talk into well over an hour (which earned tuts from timekeeper Stephen). A couple of grad students said I lacked data (naturally, the Powerpoint is a capsule summary; I suggested they download and read my whole paper), and one asked what percentage of Non-Japanese workers have working conditions as bad as I was citing from the newspapers.

I answered that it’s not a matter of degree–what percentage of exploitation and slavery by nationality would be the proper threshold for saying the system needs improvement? 1%? 5%? 20%? And anyway, we’ll never get reliable stats on this topic when many workers, legal or illegal, won’t come forward to bad-mouth their bosses or get deported. It’s like trying to guestimmate the amount of rape or DV in a society. To me it’s a red herring anyway, since horrible work conditions, even child labor and slavery, being inflicted upon even one laborer in Japan is too many. It’s illegal, too, but poorly enforced–both created then left to forge its own cruel realities by our government.

Anyway, yes, I didn’t have that data, and I could sense the glee in the grad students’ eyes. Gosh, they got me, the big bad speaker who for some reason needed to be shown he’s not all that smart or impregnable, without discussing the problems brought up. Such is one weak spot of academia. Not only does the “dispassionate view” that the academic must take suck the humanity out of issues of human rights, but also the trauma inflicted upon the researcher, suffering constant supervisor and peer vetting of theses in the name of “rigor”, creates a pecking order of nitpicking questions and data for data’s sake. After all, in an arena like this, it’s always seen as better to have data than not, right?, even when it’s irrelevant. “I don’t know” (rather than the consideration of “it doesn’t matter”) in a forum like this becomes an unforgivable weakness.

Then, ironies upon ironies, right afterwards I went to a series of lectures at Waseda on “Cool Japan”. There we had people discussing the intricacies of candles on the heads of certain manga characters, and musings on how Pokemon creates a self-actualizing world for children. Culture vulture stuff, nonrigorous hooey, but received with heavy-lidded adulation out of politeness. Lousy Powerpoint too. Left early.


Saturday June 23 was the Asian Studies Conference Japan at Meiji Gakuin University, and quite frankly, I found few papers all that interesting (and even fewer papers available for reading–made me wonder why I tried so hard to get my paper done on time). Some stuff on disaffected youth made me think, but nothing made me blink. And I used some of the time in droning presentations to whittle down my upcoming Powerpoint presentation to its bare essentials. Our roundtable (which had been gratefully preserved by people despite having one of our panelists drop out) had the torture of doing five papers in a two-hour period; each person got 24 minutes including Q&A. Stephen clocked in at 21 minutes with his interesting presentation on the official openness of local governments in different Tokyo Wards towards NJ residents (Adachi-ku sounded pretty progressive, whereas Shinjuku-ku ironically didn’t care–in fact was disinclined to see foreign residents as much more than a potential source of crime). Then I stampeded through my 35 slides and clocked in at 23 minutes just. We had a full house, no questions about data or lack thereof. Probably no time, alas.

Evening was spent catching up with old friends Ken, Garrett, and Alby from Transpacific Radio (http://www.transpacificradio.com –I’ve asked them if they’ll let me read the news sometime), plus newfound friend Aly who surfaced from the Internet to tell me about his woes getting stopped by the police all the time in Saitama (it’s getting worse; the cops apparently target foreigners more than the increasing number of shops with “JAPANESE ONLY” signs…). Stayed out too late and had one beer too many.


Sunday June 24 was even busier, if you can believe it. First thing in the morning (as in 9AM, running all the way to deserted downtown Tokyo), I met an Italian journalist (a lovely former fashionista named Stefania with a lovelier accent) who interviewed me for more than three hours for a 5000-word article on activism in Japan. Then taxied back to the ASCJ Conference, since I had been specially invited to attend a post-lunch talk by Nikkei Americans and Canadians about their feelings returning “home” to Japan.

Humph. With even less “rigor” (but good media), we had talks of what I call the genre of feel-good “baachan essays” (or conversely whiney ponderings about defeated expectations–i.e a “Japan don’t treat me right, despite” sort of thing). A love-in for those genetically-admitted, we received a talk about the narratives of older Japanese Americans and Canadians in the Kansai (which, since there were no narrative samples taken from younger women, or from any men at all “because they would disrupt the flow of information”, essentially became a survey of nattering older housewives shooting fish in a barrel). When I asked about if there were any plans to include the no doubt fascinating narratives of Nikkei Brazilians etc. (their factory schedules and language barriers notwithstanding), the answer was no, since, it was claimed, the study of Nikkei North Americans is far more underresearched. This surprising claim was based upon the fact that the Nikkei North Americans had fought or been betrayed by Japan in WWII, adversely influencing research of them. Aha. When the last speaker even asserted that Nikkei should being a White person to Japanese restaurants to get better service, I said, “It cuts both ways. There’s no science here.”

This confirmed a number of things I have been mulling over about these so-called Nikkei “returnees” (kibei) to Japan: How they seem to forget that their ancestors generally left Japan for perfectly good reasons, often because they didn’t fit in economically or socially. And they expect to come back and fit in now? I think it’s best to come here with no expectations or any trump cards due to genetics and make do as individuals, not Nikkei. But I’m sure they wouldn’t agree. To them it’s somehow some matter of birthright. Ah well. Enjoy the questionable social science from identity navel gazing and defeated expectations. It makes for exclusive ideological love-ins all over again, which happen to be just as exclusive as they feel they are facing in Japanese society.

Then in the late afternoon I carted my monolithic suitcase (full of books and T-shirts, https://www.debito.org/tshirts.html) through the subways (surprisingly unbarrier-free; I really feel sorry for people in wheelchairs), and found my way out to Tokai University, out in Odawara, an hour west of Tokyo. Hosts Charles and Yuki Kowalski had invited me out for two speeches care of their E-J translation ESP Classes in the International Studies Department. I had fortunately pounded out an 8-pager on “What is a Japanese?” shortly before I went to America weeks ago. I couldn’t even remember what I wrote, but as soon as we finished our home-cooked meal and some homeopathic remedy for my aching bike leg (it worked, actually–my leg hasn’t hurt since!), I went off to a deserted stay-over teacher’s dorm (I felt like I was walking the halls of the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING, expecting to find twins behind every corner), was given two nights in a lovely old corner room with big windows overlooking trees, and got started on my Tokai speech Powerpoint (see it at https://www.debito.org/tokaispeech062507.doc)


Rising early the next morning (5AM), Monday, June 25, I put the finishing touches on a few visuals, was escorted at 9:30AM into a full classroom of perhaps 150 students, and asked to read my speech in English (without the E-J translation department there to help). I looked at the list of keywords carefully prepared by several teachers (who had done a hell of a lot of groundwork for my speeches–with classroom exercises on Japan’s internationalization, their opinions on who qualifies as a Japanese, and Japan’s future), and saw a full small-print page with words that were second-nature to me by now, but challenging to even advanced non-native speakers. Oops. Wound up paraphrasing the hard stuff, throwing in translations for difficult concepts, and finishing my talk early to power the rest of the presentation with Q&A. Anything to keep people from falling asleep. They didn’t. The questions came easily and quickly, and people of all langauge levels seemed to enjoy the conversation about Japan’s future.

But that’s not all. Later on in the afternoon, we were seated in a 500-seat auditorium with our ten translators, all raring to go, dreading the Q&A, but doing just fine on the prepared statements. I had prepared even more Powerpoint visuals in the interim (see the full version at https://www.debito.org/tokai062507.ppt), and we had a grand old time–especially since the hall had actually filled to 600 souls!, containing the crowded tension and interest when jokes come up and the speaker gets a little bombastic with his points.

But the questions were hell for the interpreters. One asked, “What do you think is the definition of ‘country’?” (as in nation–kuni). Another asked if my demand for Japan’s Census to measure for ethnicity was not a form of privacy invasion, even discrimination. Still another asked if I objected to the word “haafu” for international children (going instead for “double”), then how do Nikkei fit in? Having interpreters was lucky for me–their time taken to interpret gave me time to consider my answer, but when my answer go too tough to translate, I wound up giving my full ideas in fast Japanese like SNL’s Subliminal Man–to quite a few laughs. In the end, we had a wonderful time, and an audience, according to the ESP coordinators, more numerous, engaged, and thoughtful about the topic at hand than any other guest speech they had ever hosted.

Much merriment followed that evening over beers with the interpreters (two of them were actually Chinese, with excellent Japanese skills and even higher tolerance for alcohol), so much so I realized I had stayed out too late again and drunk too much. And I hadn’t even started my Powerpoint presentation for my last speech to be given in less than 24 hours. The problem was this time it was entirely in Japanese…


Rising even earlier (4AM) on Tuesday, June 26, I set to work. Major publisher Shogakukan in Jinbochou, Tokyo, had invited me as part of their guest lecturer series for raising the awareness of their writers, inviting minorities and interest groups to give their perspectives on the mass media. They asked me to speak on a dream topic–“Language that Japanese don’t notice is discriminatory”–and believe you me I had a lot I’ve wanted to say.

So much so, however, that my Powerpoint slides kept growing and growing. By 9AM I had finished a first draft of 45 slides. On the train back to Tokyo I started getting more ideas, and by the time I camped out for two hours at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Library, I had put together 51 slides (see them all here at https://www.debito.org/shougakukan062607.ppt), proofreading and checking text animations just once more with 30 minutes to go. Grabbed a sandwich and a cab, sailed into Shogakukan (in my daze I remembered that I had tried to sell them both my novel MS in 1994 (excerpts at https://www.debito.org/publications.html#FICTIONAL), and my children’s comic book two years ago (more on that later sometime)), and with T minus ten I was hooked up and let fly. It was not the first time I’ve finished my Powerpoint presentation less than an hour before I gave it, but it was the first time I’d ever done it without any help from a native speaker. And from what I was told afterwards, the Japanese was just fine.

I won’t get into what I said here, as this essay is long enough, (read the Powerpoint–maybe I’ll get around to translating it some day), but two hours later I was back on the street, having accomplished my goals completely. I headed back to the FCCJ, had a big dinner of comfort food (nachos and fish and chips, washed down with Grolsch), and attended a compelling Book Break by Roland Kelts (http://www.fccj.or.jp/~fccjyod2/node/2272), author of “JAPANAMERICA: How Japanese Pop Culture has invaded the US”, who very articulately spelled out how manga and anime are influencing both American society and international print media. And in passing he described how Pokemon really affects kids, without lapsing into jargon or faffing about with personal impressions. Well done. We exchanged books (or actually, he’ll send me a copy of his later), and someday I might even get around to reviewing it for Debito.org.

Then friend and Amnesty International Group 78 Coordinator Chris Pitts (http://www.aig78.org), gave me a room to crash in in West Tokyo, and we stayed up nursing beverages until the wee hours. I was up this morning at 5AM to beat the morning rush hour and catch my 9:50 flight back to Sapporo. Then I taught a class, writing this up before and after.   I’m going to leave the keyboard now and sleep, thank you very much…


Again, I don’t think I’ve been this busy since grad school. Well, okay, once or twice since then. I can see that my daily grind of one paper per day back then was indeed good training. I’ll be down again in Tokyo in late July for yet another speech–if more don’t pop up like dandelions like what happened this trip. Keep you posted.

Returning to my regular blog schedule, I hope. Sorry for the hiatus. Arudou Debito back in Sapporo, Japan

MOJ Website on fingerprinting/photos at Immigration from Nov 2007 (UPDATED)


Hi Blog. Lovely bit of Japanicana at the GOJ online TV network. Except that as well as being kinda weird and laughably amusing, it’s deadly serious about targeting foreigners as potential terrorists.

Friend just sent me a link to a new site talking about the new Immigration procedures coming into effect in November 2007, which will involve taking fingerprints and photographing of all “foreign visitors” crossing the border into Japan.


This will, however, not be restricted to “foreign visitors”. It will be applied to everyone BUT (quoting the website):

1. Persons under the age of 16
2. Special status permanent residents
[presumably the Zainichi generational “foreigners”, which means regular-status permanent-resident immigrants are NOT exempt]
3. Those performing actions which would be performed [sic] by those with a status of residence, “diplomat” or “official government business”


Which means even people who are long-term residents will get fingerprinting reinstated, despite having it abolished after decades of protest in 1999 (See article with more details at https://www.debito.org/fingerprinting.html)

And this time, if you don’t comply, you can’t take it to court (like Kathy Morikawa and others did). You’re just refused entry at the border.

GOJ’s justification? Prevention of terrorism, and the “safety of foreign visitors”.

The video in English is a hoot too, wheeling out a few token foreigners of color hamming it up, and agreeing to have their privacy violated on suspicion of terrorism.

But the irony here is that all the terrorist activities that have happened so far in Japan (from Aum on down) have been Japanese.

The association of foreigners with terrorism (moreover apparently helping to save them from themselves) is pretty presumptuous.

Why are they doing this? Because they can. If the GOJ were really serious about combatting terrorism, they would fingerprint everybody. But they can’t. They tried this before years ago with widespread protest. Look what happened to the failed Juki-Net system with universal ID cards (it was even ruled unconstitutional in December 2006, see https://www.debito.org/?p=97

The GOJ info site on fingerprinting is at

Distressed about this? More on what you can do about it here:

Trace the arc of this policy proposal as it became law at:

Here comes the fear
Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents
Column 21 for the Japan Times Community page, MAY 24, 2005

LDP proposal to computer chip foreigners has great potential for abuse
By Arudou Debito
Column 26 for the Japan Times Community Page November 22, 2005

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

–UPDATE JULY 2, 2007

I decided to call around to a few places in Japan, specifically to
get the official word on what new immigration procedures will be
happening at airports starting in November. I called the Ministry
of Justice Immigration Division (General Affairs), Narita
Immigration and Japan’s Foreigner(?) Human Rights Bureau.

First off, not that I expected much from Houmushou, but I was able
to get the person answering the phone to confirm that all
foreigners, except Zainichi and government staff on offical business
will be photographed and printed each time they enter and exit
Japan. When I suggested that this procedure could be seen as
invasive to long-term visa holders and permanent residents (who have
already gone through an extensive vetting process by immigration) he
simply restated that all foreign guests would have to submit their
biometric data. Of course, I do understand that front-line
government staff have no power to comment on laws nor to change
them. I thanked him for his info and asked that please pass on my
concerns to his superiors.

Narita Immigration also confirmed the same information, although
they were slightly more sympathetic in tone of voice. I asked them
what the procedure would be for international families entering
Japan. Would they be forced to separate into foreigner and Japanese
lines at immigration or would they be able to enter together as is
currently. The woman explained to me that situations like this are
being debated within the department, but as far as the plan goes for
now, she believes that all foreigners will have to use the “foreign
national” line. She did add that front-line staff at Narita are
hoping to have one or more booths on the “Japanese National” side be
able to handle reentry permit holders. I also asked her a
hypothetical question about what were to happen if a permanent
resident visa holder with a valid re-entry permit were to refuse to
get printed and photographed. “They would be denied entry into
Japan.” she said.

Finally, after being given the number from the woman at Nartia
Immigration, I called a number of an organization dealing with human
rights for foreigners in japan. I spoke to a nice woman who was
well aware of the upcoming regulations. I asked her whether the
organization felt this legislation was a violation of human rights,
and if so, would they be writing some sort of report to the
government. She said that they really can’t make a statement about
something being a human rights violation until AFTER it has been put
into place. In other words, they’re adopting a wait-and-see
approach. She further added that if there comes a time in which
they feel these new procedures ARE infringing in foreigners human
rights, they will consider writing a report to that fact to the
Ministry of Justice. (although, by then millions of foreigners will
have their biometric data collected and stored on some huge, on-line
database that other government agencies will have access to).

Well, that’s where it stands at the moment. Any chance that we can
get the media to talk about this again before November? It seemed
from articles months ago and several Ministries were surprised and
concerned that this new policy was blanketing the entire non-
Zainichi foreign population. Perhaps there’s still hope for getting
this revised?

Mark Mino-Thompson


Jun 27 Sophia U Film Showing: “Refusing to Stand for the Kimigayo”


Hi Blog. Little something which might interest you. Debito back in Sapporo


From: David Slater
Subject: Film Showing at Sophia U: “Refusing to Stand for the Kimigayo” (June
Forwarded by Robert Aspinall

Institute for the Study of Social Justice at Sophia University
Invites you to a film screening:

AGAINST COERCION:Refusing to Stand for “Kimigayo”
(87 minutes/in Japanese with English subtitles)
Directors: Matsubara Akira and Sasaki Yumi (Video Press)
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Room L921, 9th Floor, Central Library
Yotsuya Campus, Sophia University
Free Admission

Since the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education issued
a decree to strictly enforce the hoisting of Hinomaru
and the singing of Kimigayo at school ceremonies in
2003, over 340 public school teachers in Tokyo have so
far faced disciplinary actions for “negligence of
duties.” Although the Tokyo Local Court ruled such
coercion unconstitutional in September 2006, the Tokyo
Metropolitan Board of Education took disciplinary
measures against a further 35 teachers in March 2007
and appealed to Tokyo High Court. The punitive
measures of the Tokyo Board of Education are
cumulative, and as a consequence, it looks quite
possible at this point that some teachers will face
dismissal in March 2008 –if they continue to refuse
to stand for Kimigayo.

Such developments are not limited to Tokyo public
schools, and are indeed of particular relevance to
those who are in teaching professions at school as
well as university levels. The new Law on National
Referenda that the Abe government enacted last month
contains a stipulation that prohibits teachers (and
public servants) to “utilize their positions” during
future campaigns on constitutional revisions –in
other words, a school teacher or university professor
who expresses a view that does not conform with the
government proposal may very well face similar
disciplinary measures for “negligence of duties.”

This documentary film follows the school teachers, and
their students, as the teachers refuse to stand for
Kimigayo and face pay-cut, suspension, and re-training
programs. The doors open at 17:00, and the movie
screening is followed by a Q&A session with Ms.
Kawarai Junko, who is currently suspended from her
position at a school for the disabled in Tokyo.

This event represents the first part of a program
entitled “Is Freedom in Danger?” organized by the
Institute for the Study of Social Justice, Sophia
University. It will be followed by a symposium on
October 11, where Prof. Takami Katsutoshi (Sophia Law
School) will speak on the subject of constitution and
freedom, Father Tani Daiji (Bishop of Saitama,
Catholic Church) on freedom of religion, and Koichi
Nakano (Sophia University) on the contemporary
politics of illiberalism (all in Japanese).





上智大学 中央図書館9階L921号室
(With English Subtitles)



「憲法と自由」 高見勝利・上智大学法科大学院教授
「信教の自由と政教分離」 谷大二・さいたま教区司教
「反自由の政治」 中野晃一・上智大学国際教養学部准教授

David H. Slater, Ph.D.
Faculty of Liberal Arts
Sophia University, Tokyo

U Chicago talk by Imai Noriaki


Hi Blog. Interesting talk here by Imai Noriaki, one of the group of Japanese who went to Iraq three years ago on their own for research and humanitarian work, and wound up getting kidnapped (and shown on J TV with knives to their throats) by Iraqi militants. They were released, but not after running the gauntlet of hostile J media and politicians, and in my view quite a setback for activists in Japan.

Why this is interesting is because Imai doesn’t really come off as strongly as he should in his talk. Granted, he was young then (18), and full of vim and will. But he doesn’t really make his case even today as to why it was important that he go, and how unfair the consequences were in Japan afterwards (I do it instead in my Japan Times article excerpted below). Could be a language barrier (I’ve met the guy personally in Sapporo, since he’s from there, and he’s got a good heart), but at root is his pichipichi idealism which needs a few more doses of the realities of debate in the 21st Century.

He does, however, offer his attempts to make himself heard (trying to answer the critics–even making his cellphone number available to the anonymous and often very abusive online community in Japan), and where they got him (nowhere, really).

I sympathize. I am no stranger to criticism–I receive it practically every day from people who nitpick or attack without daring to identify themselves, or take any responsiblity whatsoever for what they say. They are not in the debate to actually offer any possiblity of changing their own minds–just blowing off steam or criticizing for sport. And I’ve long since learned there’s practically no point in responding because they are beyond being reached (especially when I have made my views as clear as I can in the thousands of essays over fifteen years I’ve archived on Debito.org), so I for the most part just don’t answer. After all, there are lots of them and one of you, and there are only so many hours in a day. More on how I reached this conclusion myself in my book JAPANESE ONLY.

Anyway, have a listen. Arudou Debito in Upstate NY.


“Why I Went to Iraq…Three Years Later”

March 29, 2007
Noriaki Imai, student environmental and peace activist

At 18 years of age, Noriaki Imai traveled to Iraq to study the effects of depleted uranium on Iraqi children. While in Iraq, he was taken hostage and threatened to be killed unless Japan withdrew its troops from Iraq. Fortunately, he was released alive, but when he returned home to Japan, he faced enormous public criticism.

Two different audio and video formats at

Part of the Japan at Chicago Lecture Series: Celebrating Protest; sponsored by the Japan Committee of the Center for East Asian Studies, the Human Rights Program, the Center for International Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the Environmental Studies Program and Middle Eastern Studies Students Association.

Kidnap crisis poses a new risk
Japan’s outrage toward the former hostages in Iraq could result in bad public policy

By Debito Arudou, The Japan Times, May 11, 2004

When five Japanese were taken hostage in Iraq last month, huge public concern for their safe return quickly gave way to hostility and a campaign of vilification. A disastrous public appeal by the families of three of the hostages for the withdrawal of SDF troops from Iraq encouraged the government to take a tough line, and facilitated a media frenzy that sought to paint the hostages as reckless, naive and of dubious political affiliation.

However, a series of measures proposed by officials emboldened by the backlash and designed to prevent a repeat occurrence of the kidnap crisis may only have the effect of snuffing out Japan’s nascent volunteer movement…

Rest at https://www.debito.org/japantimes051104.html


Yomiuri: GOJ split over what to do about Trainee Visa abuses


Hi Blog. It’s becoming a hot issue at last: What to do about all the NJ labor coming over here and getting abused by unscrupulous employers and officials. The Yomiuri offers a good overview, then Matt Dioguardi offers an even better overview of the GOJ debate and proposals popping up there to fix the situation. Kinda. Debito in Sapporo


Govt split over foreign trainee program
Takeshi Kosaka, Masaharu Nomura and Soichiro Kuboniwa
Yomiuri Shimbun May 19, 2007


Government officials are engaged in a heated debate over an on-the-job training system for foreigners, which has been criticized by some as allowing employers to exploit foreign trainees as low-wage laborers.

Study panels established by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry recently proposed a review of the system, while Justice Minister Jinen Nagase on Tuesday said he personally believes a new system for accepting foreign manual laborers should be introduced to replace the current system.

Concerned ministries, eyeing a drastic review of the foreign trainee system, plan to hold discussions on the issue with a view toward revising relevant laws in an ordinary Diet session in 2009.

But the motivations for any review vary markedly among the ministries, and it is unclear how these differing views can be reconciled.

The current system is widely used, with the number of small and midsize companies taking advantage of it rising considerably since 1990 over concerns about labor shortages.

However, there have been numerous reports of unlawful or improper action by host companies, such as a refusal to pay overtime wages and withholding foreign trainees’ passports or bankbooks.

It has also been revealed that in some cases, foreign trainees had to pay large fees to brokering organizations in their home countries before leaving for Japan. As a result, many foreign trainees went missing after entering Japan, to work illegally.

The succession of problems prompted the ministries separately to discuss a possible review of the system.

For the first of the three years of on-the-job training under the scheme, foreign trainees are not legally considered employees, and are thus not covered by the Labor Standards Law, the Minimum Wage Law and other laws protecting workers.

The labor ministry’s panel on May 11 compiled a plan that would abolish the one-year training period, to allow the workers to be treated as employees for the whole period.

One senior ministry official noted, “Even if foreign trainees are forced to work under terrible conditions, labor laws don’t cover them during the trainee period, so we have no way of protecting them.”

But three days later, the METI panel issued a report that said the one-year trainee period should be maintained.

“Companies shoulder the cost of accommodating the foreign trainees and also provide Japanese language classes and work-safety training,” a ministry official said. “If they’re made employees from the start, it could actually create a situation whereby they are abused as low-wage laborers.”

The economy ministry believes the best way to prevent improper treatment of foreign trainees is to toughen penalties on host companies, and introduce some sort of certification for legitimate host firms.

The two ministries’ proposals have some points in common, such as proposing extending the permissible period of stay for trainees in Japan from the current three years to five.

However, there are also noticeable differences between the two ministries’ positions. These differences stem largely from the fact that the labor ministry wants to expand the coverage of labor laws, while the economy ministry wants to give due consideration to the small and midsize companies accepting foreign trainees.

The justice minister’s proposal is to abolish the current system and introduce a totally new one to allow the acceptance of a wider range of foreign workers for short periods. It would also in effect lift the ban on domestic firms accepting foreign manual laborers.

Nagase has instructed the Justice Ministry to examine his plan based on the following premises:

— The purpose of accepting foreign trainees or workers will change from “contributing to the transfer of job skills as part of international cooperation” to “contributing to securing the necessary workforce in Japan.”

— Atrocious working conditions and extremely low wages for foreign workers are unacceptable.

— Foreign trainees or workers are not allowed to reenter Japan with the same visa status, to prevent them from permanently settling in the nation.

Justice Ministry officials were generally positive toward the minister’s plan, with one senior official saying, “By withdrawing the official rationale of international contribution, the debates can be grounded in reality.”

But some in the labor and economy ministries were critical of the justice minister’s plan.

One official said, “It’s too drastic to say the system should be scrapped just because there is a discrepancy between the goal and the reality.” Another was concerned the plan would completely overturn the government’s policy of not accepting foreign manual laborers, while a third said, “The current system has been, to a certain degree, effective as part of the nation’s international contribution.”

But all three ministries agree that a revised or completely new system should include measures to crackdown on overstayers through tighter immigration controls, and improvements in managing foreign workers’ information.

Since February, the Justice Ministry has been considering integrating control and management of immigration-related data held by the central government with data on foreign nationals’ resident registration held by municipal governments, so that overstayers can be identified more easily.

The labor and economy ministries plan to proceed with discussions on possible changes to the system, while cautiously eyeing moves by the Justice Ministry.

(Yomiuri Shinbun May 19, 2007)


Now recently three ministries have stepped forward with a plan to save the day. These would be:

The Ministry of Justice
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

There would seem to be the three views, roughly something like this …

Justice Ministry: Let’s stop pretending this is a trainee program and just admit openly that it’s a guest worker program. Then let’s be very clear that we expect labor laws to apply to the guest workers just like anyone else. We’ll crack down on the abuses. However, let’s be very clear that after the guests have stayed for three years, they MUST leave and they certainly can NOT come back. We don’t want these poor low life scum ruining Japanese society and culture.

Labor Ministry: Let’s just reform the system a bit. Let’s throw out the Industrial Training Program and instead focus on the Technical Internship Program. And you know that clause we’ve got about labor law not applying for the first year, well, let’s go ahead and apply it. That should fix things up, well, you know, maybe a little. I mean, this whole system is pretty lucrative for us bureaucrats, so let’s not rock the boat too much.

Economics Ministry: Let’s not let go of the idea that Japan is trying to help other countries by training their people. So what if the program becomes near slave labor at times. Even if it’s not true that were helping other countries, it’s the thought that counts. Do you know how much trouble it’ll be for us MITI bureaucrats to deal with these other countries if we were OPENLY using and throwing away their workers? They would hate us. We can’t lose the important facade that we’re helping to develop poor countries. Why don’t we offer a certification program for those who want to abuse the trainees. It won’t mean dirt, but it’ll give us bureaucrats a bit more power and that’s not bad, right?…


Dietmember Hosaka critical of “thought screening” in new J jury system


Hi Blog. Excerpting an excellent article from Chris Salzberg at Global Voices Online on Japan’s upcoming jury system (from May 2009). He translates Lower House Dietmember Hosaka Nobuto‘s questioning of the Justice Minister et al regarding their proposed screening of applicant citizen jurors in the new and upcoming jury for criminal cases.

I don’t want to cut and paste in Chris’s entire blog entry, so see it here. But I will paste below his and his partner’s translation of Hosaka’s blog entry (Japanese original here or up at the abovementioned Chris blog link).

This is very important, since for once Japan’s judiciary is trying to open the sacerdotal system of judicial decisionmaking to more public input and scrutiny. And here they go all over again trying to screen jurors to make sure they are sympathetic towards (i.e. trusting of) the police. The police and prosecutors have enough power at their disposal to convict people (to the point of raising hackles at the UN Committee Against Torture) without proposing to stack the jury too.

Again, it’s best written up at Chris’s blog, so also take a look at that. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(Written by Chris Salzberg and Tokita Hanako)

…It is only against this backdrop of the chronic problem of forced confessions that Hosaka’s blog entry can really be understood. The blog entry is called “The hidden ‘trap’ of the citizen judge system: thought checking in citizen judge interviews“, and begins:

Yesterday, in the Lower House Committee on Judicial Affairs, I questioned [the government] for 40 minutes over a legal revision of criminal proceedings to institutionalize “Participation in the Judicial Action of Crime Victims”. In exchanges between the Supreme Court and the Justice Ministry, a state of affairs was revealed in which the legal system would be swayed from its foundation by a “wide range of views from a group of citizens chosen by drawing lots”, part of the [new] citizen judge system. When a police officer is called by the prosecution to testify as a witness, it is permissible to ask the citizen judge candidates and the court of justice: “Do you have trust in the investigation of this police officer?” If you answer: “No, I do not trust this police officer”, then the prosecutor can judge that “A fair trial cannot be guaranteed” and can instigate a procedure in which, without indicating any reasons, a maximum of 4 candidates can be disqualified.

The 6 members of the citizen judge system, acting as “representatives of the people”, under this filtering by the prosecution, becomes a group of only “well-intentioned citizens without any doubts about the police”; this in turn has a huge influence in court battles in which the prosecution argues with the defence over the “voluntariness of confessions” [extracted by the police]. The investigation has the authority to perform a “thought check” on these delegates of the citizen court system, chosen by “drawing lots”, related to issues such as their “degree of confidence in the police investigation” and their “view on the death penalty”, and, without stating any reason, can carry out a “challenge” procedure to eliminate up to 4 candidates. I am shocked that this scheme has been hidden. For the “bureaucracy”, this very convenient “well-intentioned citizen without doubts about the bureaucracy”, chosen from the entire population by drawing lots, is nothing more than a disguise under the name of “participation in the legal system”. If the three elements of the judicial community have concocted these “unacceptable questions” which could impinge on the freedom of thought and creed, we cannot ignore this. Below I have presented a tentative record [of the proceedings]. Starting next week, I will try to put the brakes on this reckless degeneration of justice. Please have a look at the exchange that took place in the Committee of Judicial Affairs, reproduced below.

The rest of the blog entry consists of the proceedings of the Diet session, translated here in their entirety:

There was an article in yesterday’s newspaper about the finalization of the essentials of a supreme court outline relating to procedures for the court of justice’s new citizen judge system. In this article, it was explained that the citizen judges would be questioned in an oral consultation or interview. In these consultations or interviews, “investigator testimony” — i.e. in cases in which the police officer (witness) is scheduled to testify — if there is an appeal by the person concerned (prosecution), then the presiding judge can ask: “Are there any circumstances in which you would be able to trust this investigation conducted by the police and others? Or, alternatively, are there any circumstances about which you do not have particular confidence?” In cases in which the answer is “no”, no further questions are asked [of the candidate citizen judge]. In cases in which the answer is “yes”, the citizen judge is asked: “What kind of circumstances are these?” Depending on the answer to this question, if necessary, the candidate citizen judge is then asked: “Do you think you can consider the contents of the police officer’s testimony and render a fair judgement?” The citizen is assessed on the basis of the existence or nonexistence of doubts about the fairness of the trial. What is the meaning of this? We are all acutely aware of the fact that there are cases, such as the Shibushi incident, in which police investigations have gone much too far. One of these citizen judge candidates might for example say: “Police investigations sometimes do things behind closed doors, so in this sense perhaps they go too far.” What is the intention of this questioning?

(Detective Superintendent of the Secretariat of the Supreme Court) Ogawa
I will answer the question. In cases in which there are arrangement procedures preceding the public trial, when it becomes known either that applications are being processed for an investigator witness, or that an investigator is scheduled to appear, in cases in which the party concerned has made a request, in order to assess whether or not there is any possibility that judgement about the “confidence in the verbal testimony of the investigator witness” will be dealt with in an unfair manner, we are right now considering questions indicated by the committee member (Hosaka) so that we can use it as one reference. In a practical sense, the court makes the decision, so how things will turn out, in concrete terms, is really a judgement to be made by the court.

I am asking this question to the Detective Superintendent of the Justice Ministry. In cases such as you just mentioned, in which the investigator appears as a witness, probably a confession has been made. However, what about cases in which, after the [confession], the person switches their position and issues a denial, and raises doubts about the voluntariness of the “recorded confession”? I believe that there are many cases of this kind. The court is asking questions: “Do you have trust in the investigation of the police officer?” If a candidate answers in an interview: “I have no trust at all. I think that it is strange, all these things going on behind closed doors recently,” then the investigator is able to challenge the candidacy of the citizen judge. Could this be a reason for disqualification?

(Someone from the ruling party [LDP] exclaims:
They can do that? Hosaka’s explanation to this ruling party member: “Yes, they can issue challenges. Without giving a reason, they can disqualify up to 4 candidates. How will the prosecution judge people who have doubts in their mind about the police officer?”)

(Detective Superintendent of the Secretariat of the Supreme Court) Ogawa
On the question of under what circumstances an investigator can, without indicating any reason, challenge [the candidacy of a citizen judge], we really haven’t done any concrete investigation on this. I think it is up to the judgement of the investigator in each individual case.

I request that the Minister of Justice share his thoughts on this. The citizen judges are chosen by drawing lots. From a list of registered voters in the Lower House elections. However, in this process, in cases in which [the candidate citizen judge] says: “I have a bit of trouble placing my trust in this police investigation”, the prosecution can declare that “We challenge [the candidacy of] this citizen judge”. The citizen judge may then be excluded. ……if citizen judges become the object of such challenges, I wonder if we can really say that this is a system which draws on an even distribution of representative views of people from the entire country? I am extremely concerned. What do you think about this situation?

Justice Minister Nagase
I remember that there were various views expressed when the citizen court system was being set up. “If this is in there, then won’t everybody be judged innocent?”, “No, everyone will be sentenced , right?”, I remember that there were arguments like this. The concerns that you are expressing now are I believe related to those earlier arguments. However, in the three branches of government, in an appropriate manner, we are working toward a citizen judge system that reflects the good sense of the average citizen, not some kind of legal debate in which people quibble over every insignificant detail.

My intention is not to quibble over every insignificant detail. What we have to debate about, in a broader sense, is the participation, in the court of justice, of the “victim” within the citizen judge system. As we now understand the meaning of the “challenge” [of candidates], I want to have a thorough debate on this issue.



ブロク読者の皆様おはようございます。有道 出人です。


「どれぐらい警察官を信じるのか」をチェックしてから陪審員として取り入れるかどうかを決心するようです。衆議院法務委員会で表面化したことを転送します。長勢法務大臣の返答も入っています。これはGlobal Voices OnlineのChris Salzbergさまからいただいたお知らせです。感謝いたします。

早速記載しますが、宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人

保坂展人衆議院議員 著
裁判員制度を問う / 2007年05月26日



保坂 昨日の新聞に裁判所の裁判員制度の手続きに関する最高裁規則の要綱がまとまったという記事が出ています。そこで、質問を裁判員について口頭諮問というか面接でするわけですが゛、この中に「捜査官証言」、つまり警察官等(※証人)が予定されている事件において、当事者の求めがあった場合(※検察側)、裁判長が口頭で「あなたは警察等の捜査が特に信用出来ると思う事情がありますか。あるいは、逆に特に信用出来ないという事情がありますか」と質問をし、「いいえ」と回答した場合は、何も質問しない。「はい」と回答した場合は、「それはどのような事情ですか」と質問する。その回答によって必要がある時には、「警察官等の証言の内容を検討して公平に判断することが出来ますか」と質問をし、不公平な裁判をするおそれの有無を判断する、とある。どういう意味ですかね。我々は志布志事件などで警察の捜査も行き過ぎがあるということを随分認識しています。たとえば裁判員の候補者がですね、「警察の捜査も時々、密室で行われているから行き過ぎがあるかもしれません」と言うかもしれません。どういう意図でこの設問があるのですか。

小川最高裁事務総局刑事局長 お答えします。公判前整理手続きをやっていく際に、捜査官証人が申請される、また予定される事件があるとわかりました時に、当事者の方から求めがあった場合に「捜査官証人の証言の信用性」について不公平な裁判をするおそれがあるかないかという点を判断をするために、今、委員の御指摘のような質問をさせていただく、ひとつの判断資料となろうかと思います。実際には、裁判体が判断されますから具体的どうなるかというのは裁判体の判断となります。

保坂 法務省刑事局長に聞きたいのですが、今のような捜査官が証人として出てくる場合には、おそらく自白はしている、しかし、その後に否認に転じて、「自白調書」の任意性に疑いがある場合、こういうことが多いんではないかと思います。裁判所が設問していますよね。「警察官の捜査等にどれだけ信用性を置いているかどうか」と。「私は全然信用していないんだ。最近は相当密室でおかしいと思う」と面接で言っていたら、検察官はこの裁判員候補者を忌避出来るんですね。忌避する理由になりますか。

(そんな事が出来るのか? と与党席からの声。「忌避出来るんですよ。理由を示さずに4人まで忌避出来るんです。警察官はどうかなあという人に対して検察側がどう判断するかどうか」と保坂議場の与党議員に説明)

小津法務省刑事局長  この件、検察官がどのような場合に理由を示さないで忌避するかどうかということは、私どもで何も具体的に検討しているわけではないわけで、個々の事件における検察官の判断ということになろうかと思います。

 保坂 法務大臣に感想を求めたいんですよ。裁判員というのはくじで選ばれるんですよね。衆議院選挙の有権者名簿で。しかし、その中で、「警察の捜査はちょっと私は信用出来ないですよ」と言った場合には、検察側から「この人、忌避」と出るかもしれない。……忌避の対象になってくると、本当に国民全体の意見を代表して、まんべんなく汲み上げた制度になるのかどうか、大変不安になってきたんですね。その点、どうですか。

長勢法務大臣 裁判員制度を創設する時、当時は色々な御意見があった事を思い出します。片一方は、「こんなのが入るとみんな無罪になってしまうんじゃないか」「いや、みんな重罪になってしまうんじゃないか」という議論があったことを思い出します。

保坂 重箱のスミをつつくような議論をしているつもりはありません。これは裁判で裁判員制度の中で「被害者」の方が参加されるというトータルなパッケージとしての議論をしなければならない。この「忌避」ということも今、わかってきたわけなので、トータルに議論したい。

保坂展人衆議院議員 著
裁判員制度を問う / 2007年05月27日



第三十三条  裁判員等選任手続は、公開しない。
2  裁判員等選任手続の指揮は、裁判長が行う。

第三十四条  裁判員等選任手続において、裁判長は、裁判員候補者が、職務従事予定期間において、第十三条に規定する者に該当するかどうか、第十四条の規定により裁判員となることができない者でないかどうか、第十五条第一項各号若しくは第二項各号若しくは第十七条各号に掲げる者に該当しないかどうか若しくは第十六条の規定により裁判員となることについて辞退の申立てがある場合において同条各号に掲げる者に該当するかどうか又は不公平な裁判をするおそれがないかどうかの判断をするため、必要な質問をすることができる。
2  陪席の裁判官、検察官、被告人又は弁護人は、裁判長に対し、前項の判断をするために必要と思料する質問を裁判長が裁判員候補者に対してすることを求めることができる。この場合において、裁判長は、相当と認めるときは、裁判員候補者に対して、当該求めに係る質問をするものとする。
3  裁判員候補者は、前二項の質問に対して正当な理由なく陳述を拒み、又は虚偽の陳述をしてはならない。
4  裁判所は、裁判員候補者が、職務従事予定期間において、第十三条に規定する者に該当しないと認めたとき、第十四条の規定により裁判員となることができない者であると認めたとき又は第十五条第一項各号若しくは第二項各号若しくは第十七条各号に掲げる者に該当すると認めたときは、検察官、被告人若しくは弁護人の請求により又は職権で、当該裁判員候補者について不選任の決定をしなければならない。裁判員候補者が不公平な裁判をするおそれがあると認めたときも、同様とする。













FT: UN Committee against Torture castigates Japan’s judiciary


Hello Blog. The Financial Times (London) reports that more bodies within the UN are joining the fray and pointing out Japan as not only a slacker in the human rights arenas, but also as sorely lacking in terms of checks and balances regarding the criminal procedure and the judiciary.

We’ve been saying things like this for years, glad to see it catching fire.

Pertinent UN Press Releases on this subject dated May 2007 are in the Comments section below the article (to save space), so do click on “Comments” at the very bottom if you are interested. Related article on how this pressure is starting to affect things (such as recording interrogations) blogged here.

The entire 11-page report being referred to in the FT article below is downloadable in MS Word format at

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


UN body attacks Japan’s justice system
By David Turner in Tokyo
Financial Times, May 23 2007

Courtesy of Ludwig Kanzler and Olaf Karthaus

A United Nations committee has castigated Japan’s criminal justice and prison system, listing a wide range of problems including the lack of an independent judiciary, an extremely low rate of acquittal and human rights abuses among detainees. The UN Committee Against Torture takes a broad interpretation of its brief, criticising the state’s physical treatment of citizens and the fairness of the justice system.

The report comes at an embarrassing time for Japan. The government has been trying to restore the country’s status as a nation with the moral and political authority of a world power, in addition to an economic powerhouse. Shinzo Abe has tried to accelerate this process since he became prime minister since last year, but with mixed results.

In an 11-page report completed last week, scarcely any part of the system escapes criticism. For example, it raises suspicions over a “disproportionately high number of convictions over acquittals”. There were only 63 acquittals in the year to March 2006, compared with 77,297 convictions, among criminal cases that had reached court, according to Japan’s Supreme Court.

In a version of the report released in Tokyo on Monday and described as “advanced unedited” [sic], the committee links the high conviction rate to the state’s emphasis on securing confessions before trial.

It cites fears about “the lack of means to verify the proper conduct of detainees while in police custody”, in particular “the absence of strict time limits for the duration of interrogations and the absence of mandatory presence of defence counsel”.

Parts of the law relating to inmates on death row “could amount to torture”, it says, criticising the “psychological strain imposed upon inmates and families” by the fact that “prisoners are notified of their execution only hours before it is due to take place”.

The committee also “is concerned about the insufficient level of independence of the judiciary”.

It attacks Japan’s dismissal of cases filed by “comfort women”, who were forced to work in military-run brothels during the war, on the grounds that the cases have passed the country’s statute of limitations.

The report, written after an 18-day session of the committee in Geneva, asks the Japanese government to consider a slew of measures, including “an immediate moratorium on executions”.

The committee issued its attack after receiving a report from the Japanese government on its efforts to prevent human rights abuses. All UN member states must submit such reports regularly, although the UN Committee scolds Japan for filing its report “over five years late”.

The committee’s findings are in line with complaints by human rights lawyers. But the report has attracted controversy within the UN.

Keiichi Aizawa, director of the Japan-based United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, told the Financial Times: “The treatment of offenders in Japan is fair.”

Japan’s Justice Ministry declined to comment on the report.


Click on “Comments” below to see UN Press Releases.

LAT: First recorded police confession OK as evidence


Hi Blog. I’ve talked numerous times on Debito.org (artery site here) about your rights when under “voluntary detention” and arrest by Japanese police. (Headline: As there is the presumption of guilt, you don’t have many at all, and those being interrogated will be under constant pressure to confess to something in lengthy tag-team police interrogations over the course of weeks.)

This is especially germane as the NPA’s tendency has been to target NJ for instant questioning, search, and even seizure while under suspicion for, say, cycling while foreign-looking.

However, the LA Times came out with an article with some good news–a recorded police interrogation admitted in court. Now let’s hope that with recent pressure from both popular culture (Suo Masayuki’s movie I JUST DIDN’T DO IT) and from overseas (the UN) results in more judicial oversight, and required recordings of all police interactions with suspects (with lawyers present as well). Don’t hold your breath, but still…

I’ll have something tomorrow blogged here on the UN’s Committee Against Torture, and their recent harsh words for Japan’s judicial system. Stay tuned. Debito in Sapporo

Case may shine light on Japanese interrogations
A suspect’s confession is admitted as court evidence. The move could pave the way for greater oversight of the country’s secretive investigation culture.
By Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 26, 2007

Courtesy of Jon Lenvik

TOKYO — For the first time, a DVD recording of a suspect confessing his crime to police was admitted as evidence in a Japanese court Friday, a move that could lead to stricter checks on the lengthy, secret police interrogations that defense lawyers say result in pressure on suspects to make false confessions.

Prosecutors and police have long resisted demands from human rights activists and lawyers to record their questioning of suspects, who can be held without charge for 23 days in special police cells with limited access to defense lawyers.

But a court case here may open the way for greater oversight of the confession-based investigation culture.

Prosecutors record interrogation sessions only in cases of their choosing, and it was they who introduced the recording played during a murder trial in Tokyo District Court on Friday. The prosecution was seeking to demonstrate the credibility of a confession by a man accused of plotting the killing in a scheme to acquire insurance money.

Prosecutors asked the court to admit the recording as evidence when the accused changed aspects of his story during testimony.

But even though the prosecutors’ move was aimed at bolstering their case, it may also serve as a precedent for those who claim they confessed under coercion to demand that recordings of their interrogations be played in court as well.

Last week, the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture amplified Japanese activists’ call for an end to the nation’s system of pretrial detention of suspects in police stations without access to lawyers.

The committee said Japanese prosecutors were overly dependent on extracting confessions through long periods of incarceration and unlimited time for questioning, an investigative method that has resulted in an almost 100% conviction rate for cases that go to trial.

The committee demanded the 23-day holding period be shortened to match standards in other countries. And it said interrogations should be monitored by independent observers as well as recorded, so courts can later judge whether confessions may have been obtained through coercion.

“The Japanese police should now admit that they cannot investigate people for 23 days in detention,” said Eiichi Kaido, a lawyer who has been active in the campaign by Japanese bar associations to reform the system. “No other countries have such a long detention period. The U.N. report means the Japanese legal system has to be amended.”

The Justice Ministry said only that it was studying the U.N. report, noting that its recommendations cut across several government jurisdictions.

“We will examine it in a prudent manner and, depending on the content, will respond to it appropriately,” said Hiroshi Kikuchi of the ministry’s Criminal Affairs Bureau.

The government has shown little inclination to radically overhaul a system that is defended by police and that attracts little criticism from the Japanese public or media. The U.N. review of the justice system was largely ignored by media here, despite its charge that the Japanese system fails to meet minimal international standards in many areas.

The U.N. report also takes issue with Japan’s treatment of death row prisoners, noting that they await execution in solitary confinement that in some cases has stretched more than 30 years. It says Japan should consider commuting death sentences when the execution has been extensively delayed.

And it criticizes the Japanese practice of notifying prisoners of their execution only hours before it takes place. The U.N. condemned “the unnecessary secrecy and arbitrariness surrounding the time of the execution,” saying the measure imposes a psychological strain on prisoners and their families “that could amount to torture.”


Naoko Nishiwaki of The Times’ Tokyo Bureau contributed to this report.

読売:授業の日本語わかりません 外国人の子供2万人


授業の日本語ワカリマセン 外国人の子供2万人
読売新聞 2007年5月21日 夕刊

指導教諭 大幅に不足

(2007年5月21日 読売新聞)

Fun Facts #5: Nat Geo on Japan’s Tsunami Charity


Hi Blog. I voice enough criticism of Japan on this space. Let’s also give praise where it is due.

According to the National Geographic Dec 2005, Japan’s record regarding keeping its international promises regarding tsunami relief has been excellent. In fact, it’s basically the only country which made (even superseded) enormous pledges of donations for victims of the big waves a couple of years ago.

Bravo, Japan! Shame on everyone else, especially the oil-rich countries–both in terms of pledge and fulfillment. Where’s the Muslim feeling of brotherhood when you need it? Debito


Asahi: Update on NJ Trainee Worker program: reform or abolition? (UPDATED)


Hi Blog. I’m heading down to Tokyo tomorrow to give a speech at a human-rights retreat for some major Japanese corporations (Kirin, Mitsubishi etc), so I’m not sure when’s the next time I’ll be online. But anyway, here’s an update on what the Japanese government is thinking about the much-abused “Trainee Visa” program for NJ workers (more on the abuses blogged here). Debito in Sapporo

ADDENDUM: Original memos from Nagase included below article, courtesy of an insider friend. (長勢法務大臣のメモ「外国人労働者受入れに関する検討の指示について」、平成19年5月15日付)原文は記事の下です。)


Nagase enters foreign-worker feud


Justice Minister Jinen Nagase proposed that Japan move to accept unskilled foreign workers, a “personal idea” that has startled bureaucrats and complicated debate on reforming a problem-ridden trainee-intern program.

Nagase’s proposal was broached on Tuesday amid a tug-of-war between the labor and industry ministries over their conflicting reform plans released over the past week on the foreign trainee-intern program.

The labor ministry wants to end unlawful labor practices associated with the program, while the industry ministry wants to help smaller companies that are having a tough time finding workers.

Nagase entered the fray Tuesday with a plan that called for the program’s abolition, rather than reform. The plan would, in effect, pave the way for unskilled workers to enter Japan under certain conditions.

Specifically, a limited number of foreigners will be allowed to work up to three years under the supervision of government-sanctioned entities. These workers should not stay after that period, and their wages and working conditions must be safeguarded, according to Nagase’s proposal.

The plan surprised mandarins of both the labor and industry ministries.

“We’ve never expected such a bold plan to come out,” one official said.

The government introduced the trainee-intern program in the early 1990s to help workers from developing countries learn industry skills here.

In their first year, they learn work skills as “trainees.” In the second and third years, they work as “interns” at companies under labor contracts.

Critics say, however, that companies are using them as low-wage workers to make up for labor shortages.

According to Justice Ministry figures, cases of unlawful practices involving foreign trainees and interns shot up to 229 in 2006, from 92 in 2003. In many cases, the foreigners worked overtime hours beyond the limits or were not paid in full.

Some of the workers have taken their problems to court.

To remedy the situation, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare proposed scrapping the “training” part of the program and integrating it into the internship part.

Under the current system, trainees are not subject to labor law protections, including minimum wages, which allowed businesses to exploit them.

But officials of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said the labor ministry’s plan would weaken the program’s intended purpose of technical transfers.

Instead, the industry ministry plans to beef up the program with tighter controls and penalties, and allow interns to work two additional years at small as well as major companies.

The labor ministry’s plan will allow an extension only at major firms.

Japan’s tightening labor market, which has hit smaller companies especially hard, is behind the calls for the program’s review.

In 2006, 41,000 foreign trainees went on to internships, a jump from 11,000 for 1999. Most of the employers were small companies.

To cope with the shortage of workers, business circles are calling on the government to lift the ban on unskilled foreign workers under certain conditions.

But the government has so far maintained its position to keep out unskilled workers for social security and other reasons. The labor ministry insists that accepting them could negatively affect wages and other working conditions for Japanese workers.

Related ministries reconfirmed this stance last June, but Nagase nonetheless came out with his proposal.

Hidenori Sakanaka, director at the nongovernmental Japan Immigration Policy Institute, welcomed Nagase’s idea and urged debate on the issue.

“The current system is an epitome of problems because foreigners are forced to work at low wages in the name of training or internship,” he said. “As Japan’s population shrinks, we need full debate with their (foreign workers’) settlement and permanent residence in view.”

(IHT/Asahi: May 17, 2007)


Asahi: Kurashiki hotel refuses foreigners


Hi Blog. This just came through this morning on the Asahi. They haven’t bothered to translate it for the IHT, so I will:


Translated by Arudou Debito. Thanks to about ten people for notifying me.
Original Japanese blogged at

KURASHIKI, Okayama Pref: In April, a Chinese man (45) living in Hiroshima was refused lodging in a Kurashiki business hotel. The reason given was that he was a foreigner.

According to Japan’s Hotel Management Law, refusals may only take place if there is a clear risk of infection from a patient, or the suspicion that illegal activities will occur, such as gambling [tobaku]. [sic]

The City Government of Kurashiki apologized for causing discomfort to the refused man. They added that they will redouble their efforts to ensure that every hotel in the area is informed not to refuse non-Japanese.

The Chinese man first went to a Kurashiki hotel on the evening of April 3, which was full, so management phoned around and found another hotel with rooms available.

Unfortunately, they were told by the management there that “we don’t allow foreigners to stay here”.

When the Chinese man went to the other hotel to find out more, he was told by the manager (70) that “our rule is to not give foreigners accommodation”, and was refused a room.

A few days later, a friend of the man contacted the Kurashiki Tourism Convention Bureau, which followed up on the issue. Kurashiki’s Desk for Promoting International Peace and Communication then called the Chinese man in late April to apologize, saying “We’re sorry for the discomfort caused you by our city, which is promoting itself as a a place for international tourism.”

The same bureau sent a letter of warning (chuui kanki) and guidance to its affiliated members dated May 7.

The Chinese man works in Japan and has no problems communicating in Japanese. He fumed, “This is outrageous. How would Japanese feel if the same thing happened to them? It must stop.”

The management of the hotel refusing foreigners, on the other hand, said, “We can’t deal with all the language issues regarding foreign lodgers, so that’s why we refuse them.” They indicated that they would continue doing so.

COMMENT: Not mentioned in the article is that the hotel in question is

(Kurashiki Miwa 1 chome 14-29, phone 086-423-2600), website http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~apoint/

I called the Kurashiki City Government (particularly the Kankou Convention Bureau, 086-421-0224, Mr Ono), and a few other places today to find out more about the case.

Finally calling the hotel, I talked to a Mr Kawakami, who said that they saw the error of their ways (thanks to administrative guidance from the city government), and would no longer be refusing foreign guests.

Good, but this is quite a U-turn, on the very day an Asahi article comes out saying that they would continue. Guess it remains to be seen. I have notified my friends in Kurashiki to keep an eye out.

In the end, thanks are owed the Kurashiki City Government (unusually; see other cases of government inaction in the face of clear and signposted racial discrimination archived at the ROGUES’ GALLERY OF EXCLUSIONARY ESTABLISHMENTS) for actually doing something about the problem.

They were, of course, legally bound to, since the Ryokan Gyouhou (Hotel Management Law) Article 5 requires hotels to keep their doors open to anyone, unless there is a health issue involving contagious disease, a clear and present endangerment of public morals, or because all rooms are full. (See Japanese original of the law here.) [No mention of “gambling” as one of the endangerments, despite what the Asahi article says above.]

Which is what makes hotels a relatively refusal-free haven for NJ in Japan (on the books, anyway). One of the issues brought forth in the Otaru Onsens Case was that the Otaru City Govt’s hands were tied because the bathhouses were private-sector, therefore outside of any legal control vis-a-vis discrimination. As I keep saying, racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan.

But hotels in particular are specifically-governed by a law preventing wanton refusals, including those based upon race or nationality. See more here.

Still, the law is only as good as those who enforce it. Tokyo Shinjuku-ku, for example, has a business hotel named TSUBAKURO (Tokyo Shinjuku-ku Hyakuninchou 1-15-33, Tel 03-3367-2896, website here.).

TSUBAKURO has been refusing foreigners for years (see their signs at https://www.debito.org/roguesgallery.html#Shinjuku) and have been called and visited a number of times (last time by Debito and friends in February 2005).

I have even told the local Hyakuninchou Police Box about this, shown them the law, and photos of the sign. They told me to take it up with the Shinjuku Police HQ. Great job, boys.

Meanwhile, the signs and exclusionary rules stay up at Tsukaburo. Anyone want to take this up with the authorities? (I’m too far away to make any visits to police HQ.)

In any case, thanks Kurashiki City Govt.! Arudou Debito in Sapporo

朝日:「外国人だから」と宿泊拒む 倉敷のビジネスホテル


ブロクの皆様こんばんは。有道 出人です。いつもお読みいただいてありがとうございました。


「外国人だから」と宿泊拒む 倉敷のビジネスホテル
朝日新聞 2007年05月17日06時53分









 本日午後、当局(倉敷市観光振興課、観光コンベンションビューロ(086-421-0224 小野氏)など)に電話して、結局ホテルの名前を聞きました:

 ビジネスホテル「アポイント」(倉敷市美和1丁目14−29, 086-423-2600)website http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~apoint/



 対照的な事例は東京都新宿区の「ビジネスホテル つばくろ」(東京都新宿区百人町1-15-33 Tel 03-3367-2896)は数年間「外国人お断り」をしています。私と友人は数回も(2005年2月は前回)「このポリシーはいかないですよ、旅館業法五条違法」と説明しても、支配人はそのままです。最近「(日本語話せる方はOK)」を書き加えたが、それでも違法行為です。(当ホテルの「外国人客お断り」の看板はこちらです。)しかし、近くの交番にこの件を通報しても、「新宿区警察署に言って」と盥回しました。結果は、放置のままです。

旅館業法 第五条
 営業者は、左の各号の一に該当する場合を除いて は、宿泊を拒んではならない。
一  宿泊しようとする者が伝染性の疾病にか かつていると明らかに認められるとき。
二  宿泊しようとする者がとばく、 その他の違法行為又は風紀を乱す行為をする虞があると認められるとき。
三  宿泊施設に余裕がないときその他都道府県が条例で定める事由があるとき。


 とにもかくにも、倉敷市へ感謝いたします。有道 出人


LA Times: More on forced police confessions


Hi Blog. Another in a series on how warped the judicial system here can get, with its overreliance on confession (as opposed to gathering evidence). To the point where we have a rare case of a former judge cracking and spilling his guts over a case, giving us some insight on how a panel of three judges could convict a person on circumstantial evidence. Pity the convicted has already spent 28 years in solitary confinement on death row…

Anyway, read on. Another good article. Debito in Sapporo

Japan urged to come clean on confessions
Police routinely torment suspects, say activists for a death row convict whose judge admits, 40 years later, that he erred.
By Bruce Wallace Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Courtesy of Larry G and Jon L

TOKYO — The physical evidence that implicated former pro boxer Iwao Hakamada in the stabbing deaths of a family of four on a summer night in 1966 was hardly conclusive.

The clothes prosecutors said he had worn during the killing did not fit him.

The murder weapon Hakamada allegedly used was, according to his lawyers, too small to make the wounds. And, they said, the door police claimed Hakamada used to enter and leave the victims’ house was locked.

But prosecutors had the most important piece of evidence they needed, enough for the three judges of the Shizuoka District Court to find Hakamada guilty and sentence him to death.

Hakamada’s confession.

It did not matter that Hakamada almost immediately retracted his admission and then testified during his trial that he had been beaten and threatened during extended interrogations over 22 days in a police detention cell, with no lawyer present. His signed admission of guilt has kept him in prison ever since, through failed appeals, still awaiting an execution that could come at any time.

Now his conviction is again under scrutiny, after the only surviving judge of the three-man panel that found him guilty — by consensus — broke four decades of silence to say he had always believed that Hakamada’s confession was coerced. The case is seen by analysts here as a stark illustration of the Japanese legal system’s addiction to acquiring convictions by confession.

“I knew right away that something was wrong with his confession,” said the former judge, Norimichi Kumamoto, after he finally went public with his belief that he had participated in sentencing an innocent man to die.

Kumamoto, 70, quit the bench six months after the 1968 trial, and says he has carried “hurt in his heart” over his role in sending Hakamada to death row.

“I have always regretted that I couldn’t persuade the chief judge” to acquit, he says. “He was older than me, and I thought that because he had experienced the war when freedoms were taken away or oppressed, that he would understand what had happened to Hakamada.

“But judges in Japan tended to be influenced by the media and social pressures, and the media were being very aggressive, describing [the accused] as an evil figure,” Kumamoto recalls. “And Japanese tend to believe that the prosecutors’ office, as an arm of the government, wouldn’t do anything intentionally wrong.”

Japanese courts deliberate in secret and verdicts are issued under all three names. (Japan does not have a jury system but plans to introduce a hybrid form of judges and juries in 2009.) Kumamoto kept his doubts about the boxer’s conviction to himself, maintaining silence even as Hakamada’s confession was cited as the reason for turning down his appeals and a bid for retrial.

When the ex-judge finally went public in March at a news conference in Tokyo, much of the subsequent media coverage attacked him for flouting a law prohibiting judges from disclosing deliberations.

Some, however, did welcome Kumamoto’s blistering indictment of the system’s reliance on confessions to maintain a conviction rate that exceeds 99% in criminal trials. Unlike American law, which gives suspects the right to have a lawyer present during questioning, Japan allows police to interrogate people without a lawyer for as many as 23 days before pressing charges or releasing them. They can then be rearrested, beginning another 23-day session.

‘Substitute prisons’

The suspects are kept in small holding cells known as daiyo kangoku, or “substitute prisons,” a setting that critics say allows police to coerce confessions to crimes they did not commit. The Japan Federation of Bar Assns. recently joined human rights groups in contending that holding suspects in such cramped conditions, with little or no contact with the outside world, “is a breeding ground of confession coercion and false accusations.”

“This type of interrogation causes heavy mental suffering to suspects and can be considered torture,” the lawyers group said.

Some judges have shown an increased willingness to question the methods used to acquire confessions. In February, a judge in western Japan reprimanded police and prosecutors for their handling of a case in which 12 defendants were eventually found not guilty of using beer and cash to buy votes in a local election.

Six of the suspects had confessed, but the judge ruled that they probably did so “to please the investigators, as they desperately wanted to be released.”

Police had arrested, released and rearrested some of the suspects — one defendant was held for a total of 395 days — and some said they had been told that unless they confessed, their children would be fired from their jobs. The bullying was so bad that one defendant tried to drown himself, but was rescued.

In two other high-profile cases this year, murder and rape convictions were overturned that had been based solely on confessions extracted under intense pressure.

In 2005, the government made slight modifications to the daiyo kangoku system, allowing video cameras to record questioning in select cases.

But the bar associations say the location of the interview is itself the problem: a holding cell where a suspect can be questioned at any time, for any length of time, without food, breaks or a lawyer.

“Even strong people can confess under those circumstances,” says Katsuhiko Nishijima, a Tokyo human rights lawyer who is at the forefront of the legal campaign to get Hakamada’s conviction overturned.

The greatest resistance to introducing new guidelines comes from the police, Nishijima said. “The police argue that videotaping interviews and allowing lawyers would destroy the necessary trust between police and the suspect,” he said.

Many here say the dependence on confessions is a cultural phenomenon in a country where even the best TV detectives are the ones who pull an admission from the crook in a dramatic interrogation scene rather than uncover evidence.

“The general public has trust in this confession system,” Nishijima says. “It’s in the Japanese DNA: There’s a belief that if you commit a crime, you should come clean and confess. When someone is arrested, the newspapers report that ‘police are now aggressively interrogating the suspect.’ And if he doesn’t confess, then the public are unhappy. ‘Ah, he’s still denying it,’ they say.”

That’s why the recent criminal trial of fallen Internet mogul Takafumi Horie for financial malfeasance was seen here as so extraordinary: The young businessman refused to confess during his incarceration. Other top executives at his firm quickly admitted guilt to investigators and agreed to testify against their boss. But Horie held out and, at his trial, made a rare not-guilty plea. He was convicted anyway.

Maintaining innocence

Since recanting his initial confession, Hakamada, too, has always denied any guilt. His lawyers say the onetime contender for Japan’s flyweight crown now refuses to see either family or his lawyers, his mental condition having deteriorated over 28 years in solitary confinement on death row. In Japan, death row inmates are not told when their sentences will be carried out and some have awaited execution for decades. The 99 inmates currently awaiting hanging live with the knowledge that their death will come with as little as a few minutes’ warning.

Working on Hakamada’s behalf, a team of lawyers and activists, which includes 12 former Japanese boxing champions, announced this week that they would petition the Supreme Court for a retrial. They are optimistic that the late-in-life admission by the judge who helped send him away can still free Hakamada, who is 71.

The former judge himself, aging and becoming weaker, says he is trying to right a wrong before it’s too late for both of them. Kumamoto saw himself as a rising star in the judiciary in the mid-1960s, working his way up the case ladder in Tokyo District Court. He had no compunctions about capital punishment, having presided over five death penalty convictions before Hakamada’s trial.

When he arrived in Shizuoka prefecture to hear the boxer’s trial, the media were clamoring for a conviction. But Kumamoto had also schooled himself in American case law, using Time magazine as a reference for U.S. Supreme Court cases of interest. He was particularly impressed by the Warren court of the 1950s and ’60s, lauding it for “its professionalism and its commitment to the rights of the accused.”

Listening to the evidence, Kumamoto says, he believed the boxer was innocent of the murder charges. Hakamada described in court how police pulled his hair and slapped him during interrogations that lasted more than 12 hours a day, and how he was forced to use a portable toilet in the room. He testified that police threatened to bring his mother and brothers in for questioning as well unless he confessed.

By the morning of the 21st day, he said, he was dizzy, feverish and wanted only to rest. Begging for a break, he offered to confess “in the afternoon” if they would just allow him to rest. Instead, the officers came back into the room with a document labeled “Confession” and berated him into signing. He told the court the document was never read to him.

“I wanted a silence and had a headache so just wrote down my name and put my head down on the table,” he testified. “They held my hand and took my fingerprint.”

‘Media pressure’

Although the interrogators testified that they did not use force to get the confession, Kumamoto says he was convinced at the time that it was unreliable. The retired judge says he had even drafted a thick “not guilty” ruling to be read in court when the other two judges insisted on a conviction and ordered him to rewrite the ruling.

“It was half because of the confession, half because of the media pressure,” Kumamoto explains.

He still can’t get Hakamada out of his mind. The images come to him in the late afternoons, he says: the way Hakamada confidently met the judges’ eyes when they entered the courtroom, convinced he was about to be set free. The way his body slumped and his head fell forward at the guilty verdict.

“I couldn’t hear the words that I had written being read out in court,” Kumamoto recalls, tears in his eyes. “I almost lost my mind.”

Kumamoto said he always hoped that a higher court would overturn the verdict. He never considered going public until now. Not after he left the judiciary when a senior judge suggested to him that such a liberal thinker would be happier and more productive as a lawyer or academic. Not during Hakamada’s appeals and pleas for retrials.

“There was no right time until now,” Kumamoto says, refusing to elaborate.

But he’s ready to meet Hakamada to apologize. “And I’ll stand as a witness for him in the Supreme Court, if this is possible,” he says.

“It’s getting late. It’s the last chance.”


Hisako Ueno of The Times’ Tokyo Bureau contributed to this report.

NYT on forced confessions by Japanese police


Hi Blog. Thanks to two friends for sending me this. Another good article from former hack and now serious journalist Norimitsu Onishi. Keep it up!

Japan’s interrogation techniques of 23 days’ incarceration with marathon inquests break down plenty of innocent people, as the article below demonstrates. A primer on the issue available at debito.org artery site at https://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#arrested


And it’s certainly an issue germane to this blog since Japanese police routinely engage in racial profiling and targeting foreigners–expressly in the name of “effective prevention of infectious diseases and terrorism”. It’s lucky that with Japan’s extremely high conviction rates (more than 99%) that these people got off. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Pressed by Police, Even Innocent Confess in Japan
THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 11, 2007


SHIBUSHI, Japan — The suspects in a vote-buying case in this small town in western Japan were subjected to repeated interrogations and, in several instances, months of pretrial detention. The police ordered one woman to shout her confession out a window and forced one man to stomp on the names of his loved ones.

In all, 13 men and women, ranging in age from their early 50s to mid-70s, were arrested and indicted. Six buckled and confessed to an elaborate scheme of buying votes with liquor, cash and catered parties. One man died during the trial — from the stress, the others said — and another tried to kill himself.

But all were acquitted this year in a local district court, which found that their confessions had been entirely fabricated. The presiding judge said the defendants had “made confessions in despair while going through marathon questioning.”

The Japanese authorities have long relied on confessions to take suspects to court, instead of building cases based on solid evidence. Human rights groups have criticized the practice for leading to abuses of due process and convictions of innocent people.

But in recent months developments in this case and two others have shown just how far the authorities will go in securing confessions. Calls for reforms in the criminal justice system have increased, even as Japan is to adopt a jury-style system in 2009 and is considering allowing victims and their relatives to question defendants in court.

In Saga Prefecture in March, a high court upheld the acquittal of a man who said he had been coerced into confessing to killing three women in the late 1980s. The court found that there was no evidence against the man other than the confession, which had been extracted from him after 17 days of interrogations that went on more than 10 hours a day.

In Toyama Prefecture the police acknowledged early this year that a taxi driver who had served almost three years in prison for rape and attempted rape in 2002 was innocent, after they found the real culprit. The driver said he had been browbeaten into affixing his fingerprint to a confession drawn up by the police after three days of interrogation.

“I Just Didn’t Do It,” a new documentary by Masayuki Suo, the director of “Shall We Dance?” has also raised popular awareness of coerced confessions. The documentary is based on the real-life story of a young man who was falsely accused of groping a teenage girl on the Tokyo subway and imprisoned for 14 months. It portrays how the authorities extract confessions, whether the accused are guilty or not.

“Traditionally in Japan, confessions have been known as the king of evidence,” said Kenzo Akiyama, a lawyer who is a former judge. “Especially if it’s a big case, even if the accused hasn’t done anything, the authorities will seek a confession through psychological torture.”

The law allows the police to detain suspects for up to 23 days without an indictment. Suspects have almost no contact with the outside world and are subject to constant interrogation, a practice that has long drawn criticism from organizations like the United Nations Human Rights Committee and Amnesty International.

Suspects are strongly pressed to plead guilty, on the premise that confession is the first step toward rehabilitation.

The conviction rate in Japanese criminal cases — 99.8 percent — cannot be compared directly with that of the United States, because there is no plea bargaining in Japan and prosecutors bring only those cases they are confident of winning. But experts say that in court, where acquittals are considered harmful to the careers of prosecutors and judges alike, there is a presumption of guilt.

In Tokyo, the National Police Agency acknowledged mistakes in the vote-buying case here in Shibushi but defended the system. “We do not think that this is the kind of thing that happens all the time,” said Yasuhiro Shirakawa of the agency’s Criminal Investigation Bureau.

“It is not only about confessions,” he added. “We always inspect whether there is corroborating evidence and whether what the suspects said is true or not.”

In Shibushi, the authorities have gone unpunished, as have those in the two other cases. In a written reply, the police said they had followed the law in their investigation but seriously took the verdict to heart.

It remains unclear what set off the investigation in 2003 of the campaign of a local politician, Shinichi Nakayama, who was elected for the first time to the local assembly that year, beating the protégé of a longtime power broker.

The police started by accusing Sachio Kawabata — whose wife, Junko, is the assemblyman’s cousin — of giving cases of beer to a construction company in return for votes. Mr. Kawabata said he had given the beer because the company had sent guests to an inn that he owned.

Mr. Kawabata soon found himself enduring nearly 15 hours of interrogation a day. Locked in a tiny room with an inspector who shouted and threatened, he refused to confess.

So on the third day, Mr. Kawabata recalled, the inspector scribbled the names of his family members on three pieces of paper. He added messages — “Grandpa, please hurry up and become an honest grandpa,” and “I don’t remember raising you to be this kind of person” — and told Mr. Kawabata to repent.

Drawing no confession after an hour, the inspector grabbed Mr. Kawabata by the ankles and made him trample on the pieces of paper.

“I was shocked,” recalled Mr. Kawabata, 61, who was hospitalized for two weeks from the stress of the interrogation. “Man, I thought, how far will the police go?”

Mr. Kawabata, who was never indicted, recently won a $5,000 judgment for mental anguish. Trampling the pieces of paper, it turned out, had its roots in a local feudal practice of ferreting out suspected Christians by forcing them to stomp on a cross.

The police then moved on to more potent alcohol. According to the trial’s verdict and interviews with 17 people interrogated by the authorities, the police concocted a description of events according to which the assemblyman spent $17,000 to buy votes with shochu, a popular distilled spirit, and gifts of cash.

One of the first to confess was Ichiko Fujimoto, 53, a former employee of the assemblyman. After a couple of days of interrogation she broke down and admitted not only to distributing shochu and cash to her neighbors, but also to giving four parties at her home to gather support for the assemblyman.

“It’s because they kept saying, ‘Confess, just confess,’ ” Ms. Fujimoto said in an interview at her home. “They wouldn’t listen to anything I said.”

Everything in her confession was made up, a court concluded. But it was enough for the police to start extracting confessions from others for supposedly receiving shochu and money at the parties. One neighbor, Toshihiro Futokoro, 58, began despairing on the third day of interrogation, even though he had yet to be formally arrested and was allowed to go home after each day’s questioning.

“They kept saying that everybody’s confessing, that there was nothing that I could do, no matter how hard I tried,” Mr. Futokoro said, adding, “I thought that nothing I said would ever convince them.”

At the end of the third day, Mr. Futokoro tried to kill himself by jumping into a river but was pulled out by a man out fishing. He then confessed.

Another man, Kunio Yamashita, 76, succumbed after a week of interrogation. The police told him that he was the lone holdout and that he could go home if he confessed. “I hadn’t done anything, but I confessed, and I told them I’d admit to whatever they said,” said Mr. Yamashita, who eventually spent three months in jail.

A woman, Eiko Hamano, 65, confessed after the police threatened to arrest her unless she cooperated. “They said that my grandson would be bullied at school, that my child would be fired from his company, that my whole family would suffer forever,” she recalled.

On the fourth day, feeling so sick that she could barely walk, Ms. Hamano confessed to accepting money. To prove that she had spent the money, the police told her to find a receipt for an $85 purchase, she said.

But when she presented the police an $85 receipt for adult diapers she had bought for her mother, they told her she was now confessing to having received $170 instead and needed a receipt for that amount. Luckily, she had just bought a sink for that amount.

“Now I can laugh about it,” said Ms. Hamano, who refused an order by the police to shout a confession out of a window. “But it was serious back then.”

Others never confessed, including the assemblyman, Mr. Nakayama, 61, who spent 395 days in jail, and his wife, Shigeko, 58, who spent 273 days.

The village postmaster, Tomeko Nagayama, 77, spent 186 days behind bars. She was held alone in a windowless cell that she was forced to clean every night after enduring a full day of interrogation.

The police said her refusal to confess was harming her family, she said. Her husband was sick and could not live alone; her daughter had to quit her job to take over the duties at the post office.

But Ms. Nagayama, a former schoolteacher, never once considered confessing.

“I felt I’d rather die,” she said. “This kind of thing just shouldn’t be tolerated in this world.”

Peace as a Global Language calls for submissions by May 31


Hi Blog. Friend Albie Sharpe asked me to pass this along to you. I submitted a proposal for four different talks this morning–we’ll just let them choose which one (or two, perhaps) they want. Debito in Sapporo


Call for Presentations

6th Annual Conference

Peace as a Global Language Conference

Cultivating Peace, in association with a Model United Nations ‘Imagine Peace’
Date: Saturday, October 27 – Sunday October 28.
Venue: Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. 6 Kasame-cho, Sakyo ku, Kyoto 615-8558.

Submissions related to education and research in the following areas are invited:
– peace, the environment, human rights and other global issues,
– intercultural communication, values, health, gender and media literacy,
– foreign language education focusing on global issues.

Presentations may be in English or Japanese, or bilingual. The following presentation formats are possible:
– panel discussion (50 110 minutes)
– workshop (50 minutes)
– research presentation (50 minutes)
– poster sessions (no limit)
– other (please specify clearly).

Presenters may be teachers, students, researchers, journalists, activists and others interested in education for a better world.

Submissions should be no more than 100 words, with a 30 word abstract, and accompanied by the following information:
– Name & contact details of each speaker
– Format (Please also indicate if you are willing to give a poster presentation instead of another format.)
– Presentation language (English, Japanese or bilingual)
– Equipment required (please be very specific)
– Preferred date of presentation (November 12 or 13)
Applications may be rejected if the information provided is insufficient.

Submissions should be sent by e-mail to: submissions@pgljapan.org

Submissions may also be sent by post to the following address:
Craig Smith, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies
6 Kasame-cho, Sakyo ku, Kyoto 615-8558

Deadline for Submissions: May 31, 2007

Notification of Decisions: On/around June 30, 2007 via e-mail

Please note: Our budget is very limited. We regret that we cannot provide funding for transport and other expenses. We do not provide guarantees or other documents for visa applications. We are unable to send volunteers to meet presenters at the airport or provide assistance with accommodation (although homestay might be available for a limited number of presenters applying from overseas). Those unable to meet the above requirements are discouraged from submitting proposals as it may result in somebody else losing the opportunity to present. Please be sure to let us know of any change in your details such as e-mail address.

Further information will be posted on our website soon: http://www.pgljapan.org


IPS: Xenophobia May Hamper Economic Growth


Hi Blog. Here’s another article outlining the social damage created by Japan’s close-to-a-decade (since April 2000, see my book JAPANESE ONLY) of media, police, and governmental targeting of NJ as agents of crime and social instability: Even when the press finally decides to turn down the heat, the public has a hard time getting over it.

More on the history of the GOJ’s anti-foreign campaigns starting from:



One more stat from the article below:

“On average, foreigners are paid around 15,000 US dollars annually, almost half the minimum considered necessary to live in this country.”

Hope to see this substantiated more fully elsewhere so we can cite it in future. That’s quite a bellwether wage differential.

Debito in Sapporo



Xenophobia May Hamper Economic Growth

By Suvendrini Kakuchi

Inter Press Service News Agency, May 8, 2007


Courtesy of Hans ter Horst

TOKYO, Apr 30 (IPS) – Junko Nakayama, 56, refuses to believe that the number of foreigners arrested for crimes is decreasing as per statistics released by the National Policy Agency.

”There are an increasing number of foreigners, mostly Asian, in the area where I live and they look menacing. I am now very nervous when I walk back home from the train station in the evening,” she says.

Nakayama, who works in an international company, is not alone. Surveys indicate that more Japanese — over 70 percent in a poll — believe that the influx of foreigners into Japan is posing a threat to the country’s famed domestic peace. The notion is fuelled, say activists, by sensationalism in the media over crimes committed by overseas workers.

Accepting foreign migrant workers and treating them equally has been a long simmering debate in Japan where pride in national homogeneity is deep-rooted.

Says Nobushita Yaegashi at Kalaba No Kai, a leading grass roots group helping foreign labour: �-?’Despite new steps to allow foreign workers into Japan, they are viewed as cheap labour not as individuals who have the right to settle down and make a life in Japan. This policy reveals Japan’s xenophobia and is represented in the media.”

The debate over foreigners and crime was highlighted in January when prosecutors in San Paulo, Brazil, charged Milton Noboru Higaki, a former Brazilian worker in Japan, with professional negligence in a hit-and-run case in 1999.

Higaki, a Brazilian of Japanese descent, fled to Brazil four days after the incident that killed a high school girl Mayumi Ochiai, then 16. Her parents then pursued Higaki in his home country in a case that hailed in Japan as a step forward in ensuring judicial accountability of foreigners. Brazil and Japan have no extradition accord and Brazil’s laws forbid the handover of its nationals to foreign countries.

In 2005, Chinese nationals topped the list of foreigners arrested for crime. Nikkei, or second and third generation, Brazilians came next. According to justice ministry figures there are 320,000 of Nikkei living in Japan, working mostly in factories.

�-?The Yomiuri’, Japan’s largest daily, commented on Feb. 17 in an editorial titled �-?Fleeing foreign criminals should be tried in Japan’, said �-?’crimes committed by foreign residents is a serious problem”. The editorial called for a “stringent stance by the Japanese authorities in not allowing foreign criminals to escape punishment.”

But Yasuko Morioka, a human rights attorney, says the media would have done better to focus on the lack of laws to protect foreigners’ rights in Japan. �-?’There is no doubt that provision for access to professional interpretation, documents in their native language, and a legal hearing that considers the rights of foreign foreign workers is largely lacking in Japan,” she explained to IPS.

Morioka said there is no attempt to link crimes committed by Japanese-Brazilian workers to the abuses they suffer — poor working conditions, denial of education for children due to language barriers, discrimination and gross state negligence.

Japan is an attractive labour market for Asian and Latin American overseas workers given the high value of the Japanese yen. On average, foreigners are paid around 15,000 US dollars annually, almost half the minimum considered necessary to live in this country.

Eagerly sought after by small manufacturing companies and farms for cheap labour, they are considered essential to stay competitive against rapid globalisation.

Activists also say Japanese employers easily get away without paying compensation or providing relief when foreign employees are injured during work on the grounds of the lack of documented visas or access to an established system where workers can report this abuse.

Indeed, Higaki was quoted in the media as saying the reason why he fled was because he feared ‘discrimination’ as a foreigner in Japanese courts.

”The charge is understandable,” said Morioka, who is lobbying hard, with the Japan Lawyers Association, for the government to pass legislation that will guarantee the right of foreigners to be treated equally in the host country.

Experts warn that resistance to accepting migrant workers on an equal basis in Japan can result in a host of social problems that can only be blamed on government policies.

According to Hidenori Sakanaka, a former justice ministry official, Japanese companies are desperate to take in foreign workers to make up for a drastic population decline that can only worsen in the coming years.

Japan needs immigrant workers because its own population is both aging and declining. In 2005, deaths outnumbered births by 10,000. From 2006 onwards, the population was projected to dwindle steadily with some projections saying that Japan’s population, currently standing at 127 million, could dwindle to around 100 million by 2050. (FIN/2007)


Gyaku Website: Accenture, JAPAN-VISIT, future Immig surveillance of NJ


Hello Blog. Got something very interesting to impart. In a new website entitled GYAKU, which offers in-depth reportage about lesser-known stories, we have the eye-opening story about the future of electronic surveillance of foreigners entering Japan.

I have reported in the past about how Japan’s new Immigration powers will now reinstate fingerprinting for all foreigners who cross Japan’s borders:

Mainichi Daily News, Dec 5, 2004: “Japan seeks foreigners’ fingerprints, photos, lists to fight terror”

Japan Times May 24, 2005: “Here comes the fear: Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents”

Japan Times November 22, 2005: “THE NEW “I C YOU” CARDS: LDP proposal to computer chip foreigners has great potential for abuse”

Even though Japan’s NJ residents have fought long and hard (and successfully, until the police took advantage of the fear of terrorism) to end fingerprinting as part of Immigration procedure.

So here’s how it’s playing out. According to GYAKU, company without a country (which to some constitutes a security risk in itself) ACCENTURE (which created the digital mug-shot and fingerprint scans seen at US Immigration nowadays) has not only acted as consultant to Japan’s upcoming version, but also has been awarded the contract to develop Japan’s system for a song. This means that Japan becomes the second country to institute one of these systems in the world, in a bid to get a toehold in Asia and profit from the fear of terrorism.

The issues involved, the political backrooming, and links to all the necessary documents to make the case for concern are available at

Here’s an excerpt from the article. Debito in Sapporo

Accenture, JAPAN-VISIT, and the mystery of the 100,000 yen bid
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
By gyaku (http://gyaku.jp/en/)

The story first came to light nearly one year ago, on April 21, 2006, during questioning at the House of Representatives Committee on Judicial Affairs in the Japanese National Diet. Hosaka Nobuto of the Japan Social Democratic Party, a former journalist active in educational issues and one of the leaders in the fight against wiretapping laws in Japan, launched a barrage of questions at government officials over revelations that a contract for a new biometric immigration system had been awarded to Accenture Japan Ltd., a corporation previously hired in the role of “advisor” for the same project. For many years a thorn in the side of the ruling party coalition, Hosaka in 2000 was ranked by the Japanese newspaper Asahi shimbun as the most active member of the House of Representatives, with a record 215 questions, a number that rose to over 400 by 2006 [1]. The questions Hosaka put to the government on April 21st were undoubtedly some of the most important of his career, and yet, now nearly a year later, the story that he fought hard to publicize has barely made a ripple in the Japanese media, and remains virtually unknown to the outside world.

The background to the story reads as follows: Accenture Japan Ltd., the Japanese branch of the consulting firm Accenture, active in the Japanese market as far back as 1962 but only incorporated in Japan in 1995, received in May 2004 a contract to draft a report investigating possibilities for reforming the legacy information system currently in use at the Japanese Immigration Bureau. The investigation was requested in the context of government plans, only later made public, to re-implement and modernize a certification system to fingerprint and photograph every foreigner over the age of 18 entering the country, replacing an earlier fingerprinting system abandoned in the year 2000 over privacy concerns after prolonged resistance from immigrant communities.

Earlier the same year, against the backdrop of a post-9/11 society anxious about the threat of vaguely-defined dark-skinned “terrorists”, the U.S. had begun taking fingerprints of foreigners with visas entering the U.S. at international airports and other major ports. A program entitled US-VISIT (Visitor and Immigrant Status Information Technology) was initiated in July of 2003 with the intention to secure nearly 7000 miles of borders along Mexico and Canada, including more than 300 land, air and sea ports [2]. Described as “the centerpiece of the United States government’s efforts to transform our nation’s border management and immigration systems”, planners envisioned “a continuum of biometrically-enhanced security measures that begins outside U.S. borders and continues through a visitor’s arrival in and departure from the United States” [3].


Read the rest of the article at:


Lunchtime Speech Mon Apr 23 at ICU, Mitaka, Tokyo


Hi Blog. Giving a speech at International Christian University (open to the public) in Mitaka, near Tokyo, next Monday. Details as follows. Debito


Institute of Asian Cultural Studies

-The Otaru Onsens Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Despite effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996, Japan still has no laws against racial discrimination. “JAPANESE ONLY” signs are appearing on places like shops, hotels and public bathhouses nationwide.

The speaker will talk about his activities against this sign-posted discrimination, including successful lawsuits against an exclusionary onsen, and another against the the City of Otaru that went all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court. He will also discuss what this trend means for Japan’s future, both as a society with an aging labor force and as a member of the international community.

Arudou Debito

Associate Professor at Hokkaido Information University
A human rights activist

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lunch Time (12:50 – 13:40)
East Room, ICU Cafeteria
大学食堂 イーストルーム

Lecture in English
Everyone interested is welcome!

Coffee, tea, and cookies will be served

Institute of Asian Cultural Studies
Tel: 0422-33-3179 Fax: 0422-33-3633 (本館255)
e-mail: asian@icu.ac.jp

Economist: UN Human Rights Council “adrift on human rights”


Hi Blog. I post on this topic because (follow the daisy chain):

1) As the new UN Human Rights Council does, given Japan’s shabby record on following human rights treaties

2) so Japan will do when it comes to Japan’s aspirations for a UN Security Council Seat…

3) which is really the only ace in the hole for putting pressure on Japan to finally pass a law against racial discrimination…

4) which Japan lacks, yet promised to establish all the way back in 1996 when it effected the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

I’ve been wanting to present the indicative Otaru Onsens Case to the HRC for some years now, but bureaucratic snafus, and warnings from my activist friends that doing so would probably be a disappointment, have kept me at bay. Meanwhile, these articles from The Economist keep coming out and offering bad news about the meetings I’ve missed.

Would be nice to believe that human rights, from the organization which has established some of the most important conventions and treaties in history, still matter in this day when rules seem grey, and even the most powerful country in the world dismisses long-standing international agreements as “outmoded” and “quaint”…

Debito in Sapporo
(Referential Links follow the article)


The United Nations
Jan 10th 2007
(From Economist.com, from link followed from article below)

Since its foundation in 1945 the United Nations has grown in remit and size. Its main job is keeping the peace, but its Security Council is forever hobbled by squabbling over membership and doubts about its legitimacy. When the UN acts, it often fails to provide its peacekeepers with adequate means. The organisation enjoys greater success raising living standards through its specialised agencies.

Kofi Annan, the UN’s secretary-general from 1997 to 2006, presided over an organisation accused of inefficiency and scandal and subject to constant attack from America’s legislators. George Bush opposed the UN’s plans for an international court and agreements on abortion and torture, and then invaded Iraq without its backing. Mr Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, may get on better with America—which would leave him with a host of other, institutional problems to face.




Human rights: Bad counsel
THE ECONOMIST Apr 4th 2007

“WE WANT a butterfly,” John Bolton, then America’s ambassador to the United Nations, said a year ago when explaining his country’s rejection of plans to replace the UN’s High Commission on Human Rights with a leaner and supposedly more credible Human Rights Council. “We don’t intend to put lipstick on a caterpillar and call it a success.” Mr Bolton, now in enforced retirement from the UN, may feel vindicated as the ludicrously painted creature creeps along, seemingly doomed never to metamorphose and take wing.

In its fourth regular session, which ended in Geneva on March 30th, the 47-member council again failed to address many egregious human-rights abuses around the world. Even in the case of Darfur, on which one of its own working groups had produced a damning report, it declined to criticise the Sudanese government directly for orchestrating the atrocities, limiting itself to an expression of “deep concern”. Indeed, in its nine months of life, the council has criticised only one country for human-rights violations, passing in its latest session its ninth resolution against Israel.

This obsession with bashing Israel and turning a blind eye to so much else has disappointed those who hoped that the new council might perform better than its predecessor. Now alarm is growing that its anti-Israel bias is going to be compounded by an excessive zeal to defend the good name of religions, and especially that of Islam, at the expense of free speech.

A new resolution, proposed by Pakistan, on the need to combat the “defamation of religions”, has drawn sharp criticism from watchdogs. Human Rights Watch pointed out that a focus on the protection of religions, rather than individuals, could be used to justify curbs upon free thought and conscience. Freedom House said the resolution was inimical to free speech and constituted “a perversion of the language and institutions hitherto used to protect human rights”.

The actual wording of most of the resolution is not in fact so objectionable. After voicing concern at “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human-rights violations”, it urges states to prohibit the dissemination of “racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement to racial and religious hatred, hostility or violence”. So far so good, perhaps. But it goes on to say that free expression should be exercised “with responsibility”, and may be limited in regard to “public health and morals”, and, worse still, “respect for religions and beliefs”.

There’s not much encouragement for future Voltaires in that. As a piece of advice on manners, the proposition that freedom of expression should be exercised responsibly may well be sound. As a principle on which to organise society, it is not. The right to free speech is not a right if it cannot be exercised irresponsibly and, so long as it does not promote violence, jinx trials, libel individuals without cause or, in rare circumstances, threaten national security, freely is how many feel it is best exercised. Mankind has long advanced in the slipstream of ruffled feathers: a society in which no one may cause offence is likely to moulder in unquestioning obedience to the rules of those in authority.

Of the 17 members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference on the council, all but one voted for the resolution, along with China, Russia and South Africa. Fourteen Western countries voted against, including all eight EU states, plus Japan, Ukraine and South Korea (home of the UN’s new secretary-general). Nine countries, all from the developing world, abstained.

A central task for the new council was supposed to be regular reviews of human rights in each of the UN’s 192 member states. But nine months since its founding, nothing has happened. A key test of whether the council would prove any better than its derided predecessor would be to get this “universal periodic review” under way, Louise Arbour, the UN’s respected High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Geneva meeting. The council has now given itself a year to establish such a mechanism.





(Note that Japan is now five years late on handing in its biennial report on human rights to the ICERD Committee…)

Washington Times on UN Diene visit, Ibuki, Gaijin Hanzai mag etc
Insular power poses unique issues on bias
Published March 9, 2007 Washington Times
By Takehiko Kambayashi

Japan Times: U.N. special rapporteur challenges Ibuki’s ‘homogenous’ claim
February 28, 2007

Transcript of Press Conference with United Nations Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene and Debito Arudou at Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan
Feb. 26th, 2007, 12:30 to 2PM

Endgame on GOJ push for UNSC seat?
Japan’s eyes still on UN seat
Asia Times January 3, 2007

“We support human rights!” Just don’t scratch the surface.
On how Japan finagled its way onto the newfound HRC, November 7, 2006

PLUS: ECONOMIST: Human Rights Council in Trouble (March 22, 2007)


Kyodo on LEE Soo Im, ethnic Korean-J activist and scholar


Now here’s something more in depth from the Japanese media. Thanks Kyodo.

I know Lee Sensei as she cites Debito.org in:
Lee, Soo im; Murphy-Shigematsu, Stephen; and Befu, Harumi, eds., “JAPAN’S DIVERSITY DILEMMAS”. iUniverse Inc. 2006. ISBN 0-595-36257-5. Two citations, in Chapter 4 (Murphy-Shigematsu, “Diverse Forms of Minority National Identities in Japan’s Multicultural Society”, pp. 75-99) and Chapter 5 (Lee, “The Cultural Exclusiveness of Ethnocentrism: Japan’s Treatment of Foreign Residents”, pp. 100-125).

Read on. Debito in Sapporo


FOCUS: Koreans’ struggle casts fresh light on Japanese immigration debate
NEW YORK, March 28 2007 KYODO NEWS

Thanks to Matt Dioguardi for notifying me.

Debates over whether or not to import more foreign workers have always been a thorny issue in Japan, but it came to bear an extra sense of urgency when the country’s total fertility rate dropped to a new record low of 1.25 in 2005.

While foreigners still comprise about 1 percent of Japan’s population, the number of new arrivals has been steadily rising, especially from South America and China.

As these newer immigrants struggle to settle into the Japanese society, the decades-old struggle of the zainichi, or the ethnic Koreans in Japan, has come into clearer focus, says Lee Soo Im, professor at Ryukoku University.

A third-generation ethnic Korean, Lee was born in 1953 in Osaka Prefecture. Like hundreds of thousands of their compatriots, Lee’s grandparents emigrated to Japan in 1921 after losing their farmlands following Japan’s colonization of Korea in 1910.

Her maternal grandfather had a job in Tokyo, but never returned after the massive 1923 Kanto Earthquake. Through various contacts, the family learned that he was among about 6,000 Koreans killed by vigilantes acting on rumors that Koreans were planning a riot.

At the end of World War II, Korean population in Japan totaled over 2 million, swelling through forced conscriptions to make up for labor shortages in the Japanese mainland.

For a few years after 1945, Koreans in Japan were still considered Japanese citizens. But their citizenship was revoked abruptly in 1952 as Japan regained independence that year.

Becoming foreigners in the country they have already settled in, Koreans in Japan faced enormous hurdles in the coming decades, denied a variety of rights including social welfare and national pension.

While Japan’s ratification of the 1982 refugee recognition treaty, which barred nationality-based discrimination, improved the situation to some extent, unspoken discrimination in jobs, bank loans, housing and marriages persisted.

Growing up in Osaka, home to a large ethnic Korean community in Japan, Lee said she had grown immune to racial slurs, including the neighborhood kids’ yelling at her, ”You stinking Korean!”

But Lee was unprepared for her first encounter with an ”institutional discrimination” when she was about to graduate from Kyoto’s renowned Doshisha University.

”My grades were good, and I wanted to work for a municipal bank…and the teacher said, ‘No, they won’t hire Koreans.”

”I lost all my hope. I graduated from my university in 1975 and decided to immigrate to this country (the United States),” Lee spoke recently at New York’s Korea Society.

Financing her tuition with money she saved by teaching English and mathematics in Japan, Lee taught English to immigrants’ children in the United States, majoring in teaching English as a second language at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at Boston State College.

”I got a lot of hope, and courage from these immigrants, especially Korean children. They were telling me, ‘Teacher, one day we want to be like you.”

While in the United States, Lee also met her Iranian husband and gave birth to a daughter in Boston. Having little desire of returning to Japan, the family was set to move to Iran, but the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 made this impossible.

Back in Japan, Lee decided to apply for Japanese citizenship to safeguard her family’s visa status. But the immigration office was not convinced that she would become the ”head of a family” under Japan’s quintessentially paternal family registry system.

”They didn’t even give me an application form,” Lee said.

Fortunately, demand for English teachers was growing at the time, and Lee managed to find a secure job as a general director at an English language institute.

Her career bloomed, but seeking a fresh challenge, Lee applied for a teaching post at Ryukoku and was hired by the university in 1996. The move opened up her world to the study of ethnic Koreans and a host of human rights issues ethnic minorities face around the world.

Regaining her confidence, Lee went back to the immigration office in 1999 to apply for citizenship. The office was initially reluctant, but gave in after she threatened legal action, Lee said.

Lee became a Japanese citizen in 2002. Unlike most Koreans who naturalize, however, she decided to retain her Korean name, a decision questioned by an official in the process.

”I was told, ‘Why don’t you become a pure Japanese? That way, you could avoid discrimination, and your life will be better off,”’ Lee said.

”I said no. I want to naturalize, of course, to make my status more established, but I want to naturalize to make my presence become more visible in the society.”

Growing up, Lee used a Japanese name and hid her ethnicity until she was 18, when she decided to receive a high school diploma in her Korean name after a long struggle over her identity.

”I have to be a living example, teaching the domestic internationalization to Japanese people,” Lee said.

Lee, who recently co-edited ”Japan’s Diversity Dilemmas: Ethnicity, Citizenship, and Education” to highlight issues surrounding the country’s immigrant population, says there are no such thing as pure Japanese. A homogenous Japan is a myth built upon foreigners forced to live ”invisibly,” she says.

While the Japanese perception toward Koreans got a lift in recent years thanks largely to the Korean pop culture, there is a backlash by nationalists, in addition to a move to reinstate patriotic education, a trend she is particularly concerned about.

Lee forecasts that the Japanese attitude toward immigrants will not change unless the situation ”really hits the bottom.” But she believes Japan can no longer expect foreigners to choose between assimilation and exclusion under the forces of globalization.

”I love Japan and fighting against the system is my way of showing patriotism to my country,” Lee said.

JT: Shiga governor backs antidiscrimination law


Hi Blog. This just turned up when I was searching my files for something else. A Japan Times article from last August I missed because I was doing one of my cycletreks. Better late than never:

There are indeed people in the government, particularly at the local level, who see sense and speak it: Japan needs a law to ban racial and other forms of discrimination. They are doing things in their own way which shouldn’t be overlooked:

Some local governments are abolishing the Nationality Clause”. Tottori Prefecture even passed its own anti-discrimination law (before it was UNpassed months later). Several city governments around Gifu and Shizuoka Prefectures themselves have been working since 2001 (starting from a signed declaration called the Hamamatsu Sengen) to get the national govenment to take specific measures to secure better systems re education, social security, and registration for their NJ residents. (I have heard some updates on this recently from a student doing his dissertation on this very subject. Should have a brief from him presently.)

Anyway, the JT article. Within it are the typical “chicken-and-egg” arguments which keep derailing the debate: Change society before changing the law. Sort of like asking rapists and stalkers nicely to desist their naughtiness before you pass a law against rape and stalking.

It’s ludicrous, but, I might add, historically not unique to Japan. Read some of the arguments raised in the Lincoln-Douglas Slavery Debates of 1858 or by the US South supporting segregation in the 1950s, and you’ll see remarkable similarities in the points raised by people on the wrong side of history. Debito in Sapporo


Shiga governor backs antidiscrimination law
The Japan Times Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer

Courtesy of The Community and Steve Silver

OSAKA — Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada said Wednesday [August 23, 2006] she generally supports the creation of a national law to ban racial discrimination.

“Yes, at first glance, I support such a law,” Kada said. “But Shiga Prefecture still needs more hard data on the condition of foreign residents before deciding what policies to support.”

In May, nearly 80 human rights groups around Japan, and the United Nations, urged the country to enact legislation to guarantee the rights of foreigners and to show people thinking of moving here that the government will protect their legal rights.

However, many people in the central government and business who are pushing for more foreign labor oppose legislating against discrimination. Some say it would be better to change the attitude of society to be more tolerant of foreigners.

Speaking at the Kansai Press Club, Kada, who last month became the nation’s fifth female governor, said her prefecture is lagging behind others in integrating non-Japanese, especially foreign laborers, into the community.

Shiga has about 30,000 foreigners, including about 14,000 Japanese- Brazilians. In the Kansai region, it has the largest ratio of foreign residents who have moved there in the last two decades to Japanese.

Many of them came to work in auto-parts factories.

“Compared with Gunma and Shizuoka prefectures, which also have large populations of Japanese-Brazilians, the debates and policy measures for integrating foreigners into the community have not advanced very far in Shiga,” she said.


Alex Kerr falls into “Guestism” arguments with unresearched comments


Hi Blog. I covered some of this material in a previous post on the blog. However, for the newsletter I did a significant rewrite last night, describing how flippant and unresearched comments from a noteworthy person (Alex Kerr) can cause problems for others (particularly through unscrupulous anonymous editors on places like Wikipedia). I don’t want this new version to be buried in a newsletter, so I repost it separately and delete the older version from the blog. Debito in Sapporo


Some time ago, Alex Kerr, author of DOGS AND DEMONS and LOST JAPAN (and a person I have great respect for), was asked in an interview with the Japan Times (Oct 25, 2005) about he thought about activists (and, er, about me in particular). He responded:

JT: In Dogs and Demons you argue that Japan has failed to internationalize. What do you think about the work of Debito Arudou and others to combat racial discrimination in Japan?

AK: Well, somebody has to do it. I’m glad that there is a whistle-blower out there. But, I am doubtful whether in the long run it really helps. One would hope that he could do it another way. He’s not doing it the Japanese way. He’s being very gaijin in his openly combative attitude, and usually in Japan that approach fails.

I fear that his activities might tend to just confirm conservative Japanese in their belief that gaijin are difficult to deal with.

That said, perhaps we who live here are slow to stick our necks out when we sense an injustice, and quick to self-censor in order to get along smoothly in our communities.

To me the most interesting aspect of Arudou Debito is that, in taking on Japanese citizenship, he has brought the dialogue inside Japan. His activities reveal the fact that gaijin and their gaijin ways are now a part of the fabric of Japan’s new society. A very small part of course, but a vocal and real part.

This sticks in my craw for two reasons: One is that Alex, who does incredible amounts of research for his books, seems ill-informed about the ways we have combatted racial discrimination. If he had read my book JAPANESE ONLY (and despite receiving a copy from me nearly two years ago, he wrote me last January that he still hadn’t read it), he might understand that ARE doing it the so-called “Japanese Way”. We took every channel and route available to us WITHIN the Japanese system, as I meticulously detail in the book. In fact, there are plenty of Japanese who do exactly what we do (and more), and don’t get slapped with a “gaijin” label. It is out of character for Alex to comment on something he hasn’t done thorough research on.

The other reason is that this quote has been lifted out of context and selectedly reproduced by the unscrupulous on places like Wikipedia:
Some critics question Arudou’s brand of conflict resolution: the judicial system. Alex Kerr, author of the best-selling Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan (ISBN 0-8090-3943-5), criticize such tactics as “too combative,” is doubtful “whether in the long run it really helps,” noting that “in Japan…[the combative] approach fails.” Acknowledging that “gaijin and their gaijin ways are now part of the fabric of Japan’s new society,” Kerr also notes that Arudou’s activities may “confirm conservative Japanese in their belief that gaijin are difficult to deal with.”[24]
The essence and thrust of Alex’s comment, which is in fact about two-thirds positive, is lost.

Anyhow, the reason I bring this up now is because Matt Dioguardi in a recent, thoughtful essay, grounds this phenomenon in historical context, from an angle I hadn’t considered before:

=========== MATT DIOGUARDI WRITES =================
As a foreign national who is making a life for himself in Japan, I’m personally concerned that remarks like his have a negative effect on me (as a so-called “gaijin”). Because regardless of what one may or may not think of Debito, unintentionally Kerr is commenting on all “gaijin”.

Compare this to C. Eric Lincoln’s vivid description of a “smart nigger” in Coming Through the Fire: Surviving Race and Place in America:

The smart nigger was likely to be everything the good nigger was not. Most likely he was educated above the norm considered sufficient for colored folks; whether he got it in school or some bigger fool than he had put it into his head, he had some dangerous notions. In either case, Mr. Martin said that the smart nigger was a pain in his own ass, and everybody else’s too. He wanted too much. He wanted his street paved, and he wanted it paved because he paid taxes rather than because his wife cooked for the judge. His house was painted and well kept and he didn’t waste his money on rattletrap cars. He didn’t “owe money downtown,” or “take up” advances on his pay every Monday morning. More than likely he had “been up North,” and he had a colored newspaper come to his house in the mail. The smart nigger paid his poll taxes, and he was mighty slow, it seemed to Mr. Dubbie Gee, to answer when somebody said “Boy!” He didn’t think that the bad nigger was funny, or that the good nigger could be trusted. Clearly, every smart nigger would bear watching. “They don’t last long,” Mr. Martin said, and he “flat out had no use for them.” He said that if he were colored he’d either kick a smart nigger’s ass down off his shoulders or keep away from him. A smart nigger, he said “is a damn fool hell-bent for trouble. And mark my words, he’s gon’ find it quicker’n a catfish can suck a chicken gut off a bent pin.”

Is Alex Kerr saying Debito is a “smart nigger”?

I’d like to note that Kerr should be more specific in his comments, because is it really the case that there are no non-“gaijin” doing the things that Debito does? Is he saying that when Japanese file lawsuits, this is a natural evolution of culture, but when Debito does it, it’s reinforcing the notion that “gaijin” have an “openly combative attitude”?

Is he saying the teachers who refuse to sing Kimigayo are acting like “gaijin”?

What exactly is the definitive way some one displays an “openly combative attitude”?

Moreover, what is the definitive “Japanese way”? And in what specific way is Debito not doing it?

It’s very disappointing to see some of Alex Kerr’s calibre engaging in Nihonjinron. He should know that there is nothing so destructive to Japan’s traditional local customs as Nihonjinron. Do I need to quote from his own books? Just like the centralization of construction standards begins to make all parks and all buildings look bleakly similar, the centralization of identity around the concept of “Japanese” in an essentialist sense is just as destructive to the development of a full personality.
=========== END MATT DIOGUARDI ==============

More at

The point is, I always find it amazing how easily people can fall right back into the “Guestist”-sounding paradigms of “nicely, nicely, don’t get too uppity, for it’s not ‘The Japanese Way'”. When in fact everything we have ever done has also been done by Japanese. I hope Alex gets around to reading my book (https://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html) and will offer more informed comments. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Economist: UN Human Rights Council in trouble


Hi Blog. Bad news from The Economist. I really have no comment at this juncture, as I don’t have enough information about the situation to draw conclusions, and don’t want to bend over backwards to paint an overly rosy picture. Debito


Human Rights and the UN
Great expectations
Hopes fade for a fairer UN policy on human rights
Mar 22nd 2007 | NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition


A LOT of optimism attended the birth of the UN Human Rights Council, created last year by a 170-4 vote of the General Assembly. Whereas the United States kept on the sidelines (and confirmed this month it would stay away), many Western states saw the new body as an improvement on the discredited Human Rights Commission it replaced.

But now some of the commission’s critics are fretting that the Geneva-based council may prove only a little better, or perhaps even worse, than its predecessor. What they are watching keenly is the council’s reaction to the massacres and humanitarian disaster in Darfur.

This month the council received a report on Darfur which did at least spell out some basic facts. It said the Sudanese government has aided janjaweed militias, “including in violations of human rights”. The council’s investigators had to glean this from refugees in Chad and elsewhere, as they were denied visas to visit Sudan. But the UN investigation managed to bring certain harsh truths to light: at least 200,000 are dead (many think the number is double that), the situation is getting worse not better, and the government is largely to blame.

Sadly, though, the full council is unlikely to draw the logical conclusion and hold Sudan’s rulers to account. That is partly because Muslim countries, along with various non-democracies with a soft spot for tyrants, hold a majority of the council’s 47 seats; between them they are shielding the Khartoum regime.

More surprisingly, countries such as South Africa and India are siding with Sudan. The best that can be expected is a weak EU-sponsored resolution that vows to monitor events and urges all parties to do their bit. That would leave Israel the only state to have been condemned by the council—eight times.

This sort of imbalance is all too reminiscent of the old commission. One much-vaunted improvement was a new universal-review system—under which every country’s record would be scrutinised from time to time. This would at least force human-rights abusers to answer some hard questions.

But it now looks clear that any follow-up to these inquiries will be feeble; and a group led by the Cubans wants to use the universal review as an excuse to get rid of the special rapporteurs who keep an eye on places such as Belarus, North Korea—and Cuba.

At best, the council is a declamatory body; real power lies with the Security Council in New York. But the mess in the UN’s top human-rights agency augurs ill for the reform of the UN as a whole.

Niigata Nippou: Joetsu City to abolish Nationality Clause


Hello Blog. Good news. Local newspaper Niigata Nippou reports that another city government, Jouetsu, intends to abolish the “Nationality Clause” (kokuseki joukou), the guideline, enforced by many local, regional, and national government agencies, that only citizens may hold administrative positions (kanrishoku) in the Japanese civil service.

Non-Japanese, even those born in Japan with Japanese as their first language (as generational diaspora of former citizens of empire–the Zainichis), have been systematically excluded from even qualifying to sit examinations for Japan’s bureaucracy. Moreover, the Supreme Court decided in 2005, in defiance of Article 14 barring discrimination, that excluding a Zainichi Korean named Chong Hyang Gyun from sitting her admin exam for the Tokyo Government was constitutional!

Proponents of the Nationality Clause say inter alia that it is for security reasons, as you apparently cannot allow untrustworthy foreigners (especially those apparently shifty North Koreans) to hold jobs in, for example, firefighting and civil-service food preparation. Hell, you can’t trust a foreigner with a fire ax and potential damage to our Japanese property (potential insurance problems and international incidents), and what if they poisoned us during a busy lunchtime and took over! Or if proponents can’t be bothered to overthink the situation, they just punt and say that if anyone seriously wants to become a bureaucrat, they should naturalize, as many other countries require nationality for their civil-service jobs.

Both of these types of arguments overgeneralize and misrepresent the situation, as opponents point out. Namely, that if Japan had nationality laws like its fellow developed countries, there wouldn’t be more than a quarter of a million “Zainichis” lying in legal limbo for five generations now–they would be citizens already and eligible to take the exams anyway.

So the Nationality Clause is being slowly been done away with in municipalities (except those with bunker mentalities towards internationalization, such as Tokyo Met). Here’s an example: Jouetsu City, on the Japan-Sea side in SW Niigata Prefecture. Bravo.

Translating the article from Niigata Nippou for the record. Referential websites follow the article. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Niigata Nippou March 28, 2007
(Japanese original) or

The City Government of Jouetsu made clear on March 27 its aims to completely abolish the Nationality Clause for its 2008 employee hires. Mayor Konoura Masayuki said as such during question time for the city’s March regular monthly meeting.

Jouetsu City removed the Nationality Clause for employment in the Arts and Child Care in 1995, and from Welfare employees in 2003. From 2008, it will remove the restriction from all city government employment, including civil engineers and construction.

As part of its General Plan for Human Rights, drawn up in 2002, Jouetsu had been condsidering abolishing this clause entirely. Mayor Konoura explained, “We wanted to take this up during 2007 entrance exams for employees.”

The City of Minami Uonuma in Niigata Prefecture also abolished the Nationality Clause for civil-service entrance exams in 2007. The City of Niigata has also indicated that it is considering a similar abolition.


ZNet February 4, 2005
More historical links (1995) from:
In her own words at Debito.org (Japanese):




ブロクの皆様こんにちは。有道 出人です。いつもお世話になっております。



By Arudou Debito
March 22, 2007





Phone: 048-964-8852





場所「CLUB サマ サマ」
住所 広島市中天地1ー2 広島代ビル3F
電話 082ー246ー2320



 「ご無沙汰しております。昨日、広島で人権講演の仕事があって(2007年3月 8日)、その前の日(7日)から入っていました。男性友人(いわゆる日本人)二人と食事をしてその次に広島の繁華街にあった紹介所を訪れました。紹介所で は「インドネシアの女性がいる店でも良いか」と聞かれて「良い」と返事をしました。しばらくすると、そのインドネシアの女性などがいる店【サマ サマ】の 従業員が来て私たちを案内してくれた。そしてお店の中に入りました。

 「入って座るやいなや奥の方から男性が走って来て「すみなせん、外人は駄目なん です」って言いました。私はたまたまパスポートを持っていたので「国籍は日本人なんですよ」って言いました。でも「見た目が外国人なので退室してくださ い」って言われました。そして店の外に出された後に、店の外に書いてあった看板を見せられました。そこには、外国人が断りと書いてあった。写真を取ろうと したときに邪魔されましたで少しぶれていますが、その写真も添付いたしました。いかがいたしましょう。」

帰化も効かないならば、帰化は無意味となるではないでしょうか。阻害された人に弁護士を推薦しましたが、もし直接取材などをしたければ、どうぞ私にご連絡下さい。debito@debito.org. 転送させていただいきます。



体臭がきつい 気性が激しい セックスがしつこい お金を持っていない





3月20日10時42分配信 読売新聞







宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人
March 22, 2007

Japan Times on need for anti-discrim laws


Hi Blog. Article from Japan Times on why Japan needs an anti-racial discrimination law. Speakin’ my language.

The GOJ says we don’t need laws against discrimination because the Constitution by itself provides adequate protection? Rubbish. Debito


Foreign labor need exposes dearth of rights
Despite clamor, government calls law against discrimination unnecessary
Thursday, March 15, 2007

By ERIC JOHNSTON, Staff writer

OSAKA — As the debate intensifies over allowing more foreign workers into Japan to make up for the coming labor shortage, human rights groups have recently stepped up efforts to push for a law against discrimination.

Yet despite calls from not only human rights nongovernmental organizations but also the United Nations for such a law, the central government says separate legislation is not needed because the Constitution provides sufficient protection against discrimination.

Japan’s population is expected to decline from the current 127 million to about 100 million by 2050. The working population, defined as those between the ages of 15 and 64, is expected to shrink from the current 66 million to about 44 million by that year, according to government statistics.

Government ministries as well as the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) have put forward proposals for bringing in foreign labor. The proposals focus on the need for tightly controlled immigration that focuses on foreigners with technological skills in specific sectors or industries.

Several proposals would also make some level of fluency in Japanese a prerequisite for being allowed to work in Japan.

Most of the proposals recognize the need for social assistance to foreign workers and their families in the form of language lessons and access to education for their children. But none addresses the issue of legal protection against acts of discrimination.

“You can’t talk about a truly effective policy for bringing in more foreign laborers without including the need for an antidiscrimination law that offers them legal protection once they settle in Japan,” said Masao Niwa, an Osaka-based human rights attorney and a leading advocate for such a law.

The U.N. agrees with Niwa. Last year, Doudou Diene, the U.N. special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, released a report on the situation in Japan that urged the government, at the highest levels, to officially and publicly recognize the existence of racism and xenophobia in Japanese society and to take specific legal actions to combat it.

“The Diet should as a matter of urgency proceed to the adoption of a national law against racism, discrimination and xenophobia,” the report said.

Last month, Diene visited Japan to follow up on his report and attended the inaugural meeting of a group of NGOs pushing for the elimination of racial discrimination in Japan. The meeting was led by Tokyo-based International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), which has a liaison office with the U.N. in Geneva and consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council.

The new network includes representatives from the descendents of the “buraku” feudal outcast class, Ainu, Okinawan, Korean and other minority communities, and one of its activities will be to lobby politicians and government officials.

In the coming months, it is expected to decide on the most effective way of getting out its message to politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders.

“The network will push for human rights legislation outlawing discriminatory acts against not only foreigners but also ethnic and social minorities. We’re also calling for an independent human rights commission. The current one, attached to the Justice Ministry, is not as effective as it needs to be,” said IMADR Secretary General Hideki Morihara.

The nearly 90 human rights groups nationwide that support an IMADR-drafted antidiscrimination bill know they face an uphill battle getting the legislation passed. Although some opposition party politicians, notably the Democratic Party of Japan’s Toru Matsuoka, an Upper House member and longtime IMADR supporter, are supportive, the ruling bloc is not.

Politicians and bureaucrats opposed to a law against discrimination often cite Article 14 of the Constitution as being sufficient legal protection. Part 1 of the article says “all people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin.”

Japan has also ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which forbid racial discrimination.

However, when Japanese officials cited Article 14 in their defense to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2000, the committee members expressed doubt that Japan’s current legal system offers adequate and equal protection against specific individual acts of discrimination.

“Court rulings in discrimination cases are often vague and contradictory. Rather than clearly rule what legal discrimination is or cite the international conventions that Japan has ratified, the courts prefer to simply declare certain behavior as being outside socially acceptable norms,” said lawyer Niwa.

Those opposed to antidiscrimination legislation, especially for current and future foreign workers in Japan, said that because there is no nationwide consensus on how to accept such workers and because Japanese attitudes toward foreigners are often ambivalent, it’s best to lay the social groundwork first.

“Rather than new laws, what we need first is a change in social attitudes toward foreigners,” Taro Kono said last July, when he was senior vice justice minister, not long after his ministry released a report on the future of foreign workers.

But Niwa argued that there is no time to waste.

“A change in social attitudes is needed. But you can’t first wait for society to change and then enact laws,” he said. “You have to do both concurrently.”
The Japan Times March 15, 2007

Excellent article on “Comfort Women” on Japan Focus


Hi Blog. Here’s a pretty much perfect article on the “Comfort Women” Issue at Japan Focus, which ties everything we need for this debate together: The USG and GOJ’s reaction to the issue, the UN’s reports, the background of the primary agents in the process of denial, and all contextualized within a comparison of Nazi Germany’s and Imperial Japan’s wartime behavior and postwar followup.

Japan’s “Comfort Women”: It’s time for the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word)
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
(Professor of Japanese History and Convenor of the Division of Pacific and Asian History in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University)
Japan Focus Article 780
Some select quotes:

Reading these remarks [from Abe and Aso regarding “coercion” and “facts”], I found myself imagining the international reaction to a German government which proposed that it had no historical responsibility for Nazi forced labour, on the grounds that this had not been “forcible in the narrow sense of the word”. I also found myself in particular imagining how the world might react if one of the German ministers most actively engaged in this denial happened (for example) to be called Krupp, and to be a direct descendant of the industrial dynasty of that name….

Many people were involved in the recruitment of “comfort women” – not only soldiers but also members of the Korean colonial police (working, of course, under Japanese command) and civilian brokers, who frequently used techniques of deception identical to those used by human traffickers today. Forced labour for mines and factories was recruited with the same mixture of outright violence, threats and false promises…

To summarise, then, not all “comfort women” were rounded up at gunpoint, but some were. Some were paid for “services”, though many were not. Not all “comfort stations” were directly managed by the military. None of this, however, negates the fact that large numbers of women were violently forced, coerced or tricked into situations in which they suffered horrible sexual violence whose consequences affected their entire lives. I doubt if many of those who, “suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds” have spent a great deal of time worrying whether these wounds were the result of coercion in the “broad” or the “narrow” sense of the word.

And none of this makes the Japanese system any different from the Nazi forced labour system…

In 1996, a Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a detailed report on the “comfort women” issue. Its conclusions are unequivocal:

“The Special Rapporteur is absolutely convinced that most of the women kept at the comfort stations were taken against their will, that the Japanese Imperial Army initiated, regulated and controlled the vast network of comfort stations, and that the Government of Japan is responsible for the comfort stations. In addition, the Government of Japan should be prepared to assume responsibility for what this implies under international law”. [11]

This denial [from members of the LDP] goes hand-in-hand with an insistence that those demanding justice for the “comfort women” are just a bunch of biased and ill-informed “Japan-bashers”. An article by journalist Komori Yoshihisa in the conservative Sankei newspaper, for example, reports that the US Congress resolution is “based on a complaint which presumes that all the comfort women were directly conscripted by the Japanese army, and that the statements by Kono and Murayama were not clear apologies.” [15]

Komori does not appear to have read the resolution with much attention…

What purpose do Abe’s and Aso’s denials serve? Certainly not the purpose of helping defeat the US Congressional resolution. Their statements have in fact seriously embarrassed those US Congress members who are opposed to the resolution. [18] The main strategy of these US opponents of Resolution 121 was the argument that Japanese government had already apologized adequately for the sufferings of the “comfort women”, and that there was no need to take the matter further. By their retreat from remorse, Abe and Aso have succeeded in neatly cutting the ground from beneath the feet of their closest US allies.

Well done that researcher! Debito in Sapporo

More on Ibuki “butter” Bunmei from Matt Dioguardi



On Feb 28, 2007, at 1:12 PM, Kirk Masden wrote:

I don’t know if Abe will be made to regret it but he should be.

Abe’s defense strikes me as more problematic than the original

gaff. Abe is equating homogeneity with getting along well. By this

logic, diversity (more foreigners in Japan, etc) leads to acrimony.

It also implies that whatever peace and good human relations have

characterized Japan thus far have been in spite of minorities such as

Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans, etc. This is a very problematic way for

Japan’s leader to defend a remark.

[Education Minister] Bunmei Ibuki’s comments continue to trouble me.

Some things to think about:

1. I’ve found at least two places where Ibuki specifically basically

says, “though there are exceptions such as the Ainu and the Zainichi

people, Japan is fundamentally, one ethnos, one culture, one ethnic

rulership, one language, one belief system” (As Kirk says above, this

is a very exclusivist attitude. He’s basically *excluding* the Ainu

and the Zainichi from participation in the successes of Japanese

rulership, culture, language, and beliefs.)

2. Ibuki also states in more than one place, practically like a

refrain, that because of the post-war constitution and Fundamental

Law of Education are western they emphasize rights over duty, private

over public. This is one reason why Japanese society is falling into

decadence. The examples given again and again are Livedoor and

Murakami funds. Ibuki will say, of course, rights and privacy are

very important, *but* … then he launchs into the problems they cause.

3. The solution suggested is to revise the constitution and the

Fundamental Law of Education to include more values of the Japanese


Has this not already happened somewhat? Article 2 of the Fundamental

Law of Education has been revised from what was previously an

emphasis on individuality and personal development, to a list of

values that perhaps are intended to reflect the values of the

Japanese ethnos.

So because there is a *perceived* majority, and the *perception* that

the *perceived* majority have certain supposedly *shared* values,

those values must now be imposed on *everyone*?

Good grief!

The one positive element here, is that I am gradually finding very

active and vocal Japanese citizens on the net who see through all

this nonsense. But so far not enough to stop the steamroller …

This is a really terrible price to have to pay for Koizumi’s economic


As far as Ibuki’s statements I’ve been blogging some of them here:






Matt Dioguardi


Rogues’ Gallery: 3 new exclusionary signs: Hiroshima & Koshigaya: “Pure-Blooded Japanese Only–No War Orphans”


Hello Blog. The Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments in Japan, with signs and policies restricting or forbidding “foreigners” entry, has just been updated on Debito.org.


Three new additions within the 13 cities and towns nationwide in Japan, in Hiroshima and Koshigaya, Saitama.

HIROSHIMA (two new signs):
Hiroshima-Shi Naka Tenchi 1-2, Hiroshima Dai Bldg 3F Ph: 082−246−2320


The sign is hard to see, but translating:


REPORT FROM THE PHOTOGRAPHER (A Southeast Asian naturalized Japanese citizen. Japanese original, translated by Arudou Debito):

“… I met with a guy friend (Japanese by birth), and went for dinner, then a night out on the town… We went inside SAMA SAMA and were shown to a table by the management.

“As soon as we had sat down, one of the male staff came up to us and said, “Excuse me, Gaijin are not allowed in here.” I just happened to have my passport on me and explained that I am in fact a Japanese. However, he replied, “You look foreign, so kindly leave.” After he kicked me out, he pointed to the sign outside with said exclusionary policy. When I tried to take a picture, the manager got in the way, so they’re a little shaky. Enclosed.”


Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Yagenbori 7-9. Sanwa Bld 2F

Click on thumbnail for larger image

Adjacent to local Hiroshima International Bar “El Barco”, this place restricts all US military personnel without Japanese or Foreign civilian friends. Report from the submitter:

“I don’t know when it was posted, but I discovered this sign (picture attached) on a club, Sumatra Tiger, adjacent to El Barco. Wouldn’t such a sign demand that all foreigners (at least, “American-looking” foreigners) present their gaijin cards as proof that they are civilians working in Japan, and not affiliated with the US military? And of course, I assume no private club has the right to make such a demand, only the koban or government officials.”

COMMENT FROM THE ROGUES’ GALLERY MODERATOR: I rather agree that a bar is not the best place to face drunk young military types, and can understand a certain degree of trepidation both from bar owner and client. However, this is a place which is restricting entry to non-Japanese, which falls under the purview of the Rogues’ Gallery. It is also important, as the submitter says, to see how this policy is actually enforced–and if all “foreigners” will be treated as “military” on appearance alone. Anyone want to drop by this place and find out?

Full details on both places at:


But here’s the worst sign I’ve ever seen:

2-3 Koshigaya, Koshigaya, Saitama
Phone: 048-964-8852


Click on photo for link to complete image

No joke.

Only pure-breeds? They’ve really thought this policy out to be as exclusive as possible.

Not even naturalized citizens? That deals me out too.

Now we’re separating customers specifically by blood? The signs are getting worse…

Full details at:

No doubt more to come. Thanks for the submissions, everyone. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Wash Times on UN Diene visit, Ibuki, Gaijin Hanzai etc


Hi Blog. Two nice articles on issues we’re covering on this blog: UN Rep Doudou Diene’s recent Japan visit and the forces working against Japan’s inevitable internationalization(including Ed Minister Ibuki’s comments, PM Abe’s support of Japan’s alleged homogeneity, and “Japanese Only” signs nationwide). Bravo. Thanks to the author for notifying me. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Insular power poses unique issues on bias
Published March 9, 2007 Washington Times
By Takehiko Kambayashi


Doudou Diene, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, who was in Tokyo last week, spoke with Takehiko Kambayashi of The Washington Times about racism and xenophobia in Japan. His report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission last year urged Japan to immediately adopt a law against racism, race discrimination and xenophobia.

Question: What made you investigate racism in Japan?

Answer: I was elected by the United Nations Human Rights Commission as a special rapporteur and given a mandate to investigate racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. I issue a yearly report on racism worldwide and investigate racism in different countries.

First, Japan is a global economic power, but the country is insular. This contradiction interested me, and I investigated racism in Japan. Japan’s population had been isolated for long [from the 1630s to the 1850s, under a national policy], but it is now becoming more multicultural and multiethnic. So I wanted to investigate how Japan is coping with this.

Second, I’ve come to Japan many times. I knew about the Burakumin, which made me interested. I visited Buraku communities. I spent a great amount of time with the people and looked at their situations and listened to them.

I also met the Ainu, [indigenous people living mostly on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island] and learned how they tried to save their identity and were facing different forms of discrimination. And finally, I realized the complexities among Japan, China and Korea. I also learned of the discrimination Koreans and Chinese suffered in Japan.

[Editor’s note: The Burakumin are not a racial minority but a castelike minority among the Japanese. They are recognized as descendents of an outcast population of the feudal days. According to the Buraku Liberation League, Japan has 6,000 Buraku communities with more than 3 million people.]

Q: Can you tell us how the issues of racism in Japan differ from those in other countries?

A: Each country has its own history, its own culture and dynamic population. It is difficult to compare.

In Japan, one of the deep roots of discrimination is history – not only the history of Japan but the history of the relationship between Japan and neighboring countries. It is in the context of this history that discrimination has been built up strongly. It is clear that the history of discrimination against the Burakumin and the Ainu has been profoundly related with the history of Japanese feudal society and Japan’s history.

It is also clear that discrimination against Koreans living in Japan is also the consequence of the history of Imperial Japan, the way Japan dominated their country with an ideology of cultural domination and contempt. History is a very important factor.

Q: So this is a challenge to Japan?

A: The challenge to Japan is the writing and teaching of history. The Ainu and the Burakumin are absent in national history. Their history, their culture, the process of the discrimination, the deep causes of the discrimination, all of these are absent in Japanese history.

Japanese history, as it’s taught in schools, is also silent about the way China and Korea profoundly influenced the construction of Japanese identity. China and Korea are considered to be the father and mother of Japan, in a way, in terms of language, culture and religion.

My recommendation is for Japan to agree with China, Korea and other countries in the region and start a joint drafting of the region’s history. I recommended that these countries call upon [the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] to coordinate.



Japanese confront differences
By Takehiko Kambayashi
THE WASHINGTON TIMES Published March 9, 2007


TOKYO–While Japan is becoming more multicultural and multiethnic, some say coping with it is still a daunting task. That is exemplified by recent comments by Japan’s Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki, critics say.

“Japan has been historically governed by the Yamato race [ethnic Japanese],” Mr. Ibuki told a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki late last month, adding that the country is “extremely homogeneous.”

However, international marriages in Japan increased from 27,727 in 1995 to 41,481 in 2005.

Mr. Ibuki, who describes himself on his Web site as an “internationally minded person acquainted with many foreign dignitaries,” shocked the Japanese with his comments and infuriated minorities like the Ainu indigenous people.

Yupo Abe, vice president of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, said he was astonished to hear Mr. Ibuki’s comments, adding that the head of Japan’s Education Ministry “lacks an understanding of history.”

Mr. Abe said the Ainu people had long lived in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, which makes up about 20 percent of the country’s land mass, but in 1869 Japan took away their land.

The stir created by Mr. Ibuki’s remarks coincided with a visit by Doudou Diene, the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance who wrote a report on Japan.

“I am surprised that these comments were made by the minister of education, whose function is to educate children, enlighten them and transmit values to them,” said Mr. Diene. “There is no such thing as a homogeneous society.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, said there was nothing wrong with Mr. Ibuki’s remarks.

“I think he was referring to the fact that we [the Japanese] have gotten along with each other fairly well so far,” he said. “I don’t see any specific problem with that.”

“Such words will only fuel doubts about Mr. Abe’s integrity as a national leader,” countered the Japan Times, an English-language daily, in an editorial.

Last year, Mr. Diene submitted his report on Japan to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and U.N. General Assembly, urging Japan to recognize the existence of racial discrimination and immediately adopt a law against it.

Some recent incidents seem to indicate the need for such a law.

Last month a sensational magazine titled “Secret Files of Foreigners’ Crimes” went on sale across the country with its cover screaming “Will we let gaijin [foreigners] lay waste to Japan?” and “Everyone will become a target of foreign crime in 2007!” [“Gaijin” is a loaded word that literally means “outsider.”] The magazine provoked outrage over its garish depictions of Chinese, Koreans, Iranians and U.S. servicemen.

A boycott movement prompted major convenience stores like Family Mart, 7-Eleven and others to pull the magazines off their shelves.

The magazine’s editor Shigeki Saka of Eichi Publishing was not apologetic. He said the magazine wanted to discuss crimes committed by foreigners and how to be prepared for them.

The Japanese press generally ignored the issue, said U.S.-born Debito Arudou, a Japanese citizen. “There’s a reason for that: It’s not something that people want to discuss when it comes to real, naked racism.”

Moreover, in a nation that aspires to a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, some businesses still display “Japanese Only” signs. In Koshigaya, a bedroom community of Tokyo, Eden, an “adult entertainment shop,” has posted a sign saying “Pure-Blooded Japanese Male Only,” and “Chinese and Naturalized people, Japanese war orphans left in China, people of mixed race with Chinese origin, Absolutely No Entry.”

A manager said the shop itself did not mean to discriminate against those at whom it pointed a finger, but its female staff members don’t want them.

Such “Japanese Only” signs can be seen across Japan, said Mr. Arudou, author of “Japanese Only.”

“It’s getting worse. It’s nationwide.”

” ‘Japanese Only’ signs are unconstitutional, but they are not illegal because there is no law to enforce the constitution,” Mr. Arudou said.

Ironically, since Japan’s current population of 127 million is expected to fall to below 100 million by 2050, some say more foreigners should be encouraged to live and work in Japan for the country’s own survival.


Terrie’s Take on Divorce in Japan


Hi Blog. Terrie’s Take offers a good summary of the issues pertaining to the growing body of information regarding divorce in Japan and the horrible aftermath, particularly when it comes to international relationships. And he too forecasts an uptick in the divorce rate come April–when pension scheme reforms come into place. Thanks to Scott W. for forwarding this. Debito in Sapporo


TERRIE’S TAKE TT-411 — divorce surge
By Terrie Lloyd. General Edition Sunday, March 4, 2007 Issue No. 411

It’s been a while since we wrote about divorce in Japan. However, an article
in the Daily Yomiuri several weeks back reminded us that this is one big
black hole in Japan and the law has not caught up with the changing social
realities. The article was the so-called “Troubleshooter” column, in which a
woman says that her 11-year old daughter is reluctant to see her divorced
Dad. The woman said that she was concerned that if the child didn’t see her
father (he wants to see her — unusual for a Japanese divorcee), she was
worried that he might be inclined to stop paying child maintenance.

To our surprise, the responding lawyer, a Ms. Doi, told the woman that she
needn’t worry. She said that even if the Dad couldn’t see his kid, he’d
still have to pay the child maintenance and education costs. Does she really
think he can be made to pay? Also, her comment that the child doesn’t need
to see her Dad if “she has started to become emotionally unstable because of
the burden [of seeing him]” reveals one of the major reasons why he probably
never will pay. Because he’s been marginalized.

Let’s look at some of the real-life issues involved in
divorce in Japan when it involves kids.

1. The lawyer, Ms. Doi, is being naiive in thinking the
husband can be made to continue paying child maintenance. According to some
statistics we’ve seen, only 20% of Japanese divorced Dads actually pay
maintenance. One reason for such a low rate of court compliance is that
Japan has no concept of shared custody, and so there is no sense for the
father of sharing responsibility for his off-spring. Indeed, the prevailing
view by lawyers and counsellors is that it is emotionally damaging for
children to see a divorced parent, since it makes them confused and upset.
Talk about a diametrically opposed view to the joint custody approach of
most other nations!

2. Another big reason why Dads don’t pay is that the Family
Law Courts are toothless and have no power to enforce
civil judgements, other than to allow the spouse to try to attach assets or
salary. But she has to find the Dad first, and neither the court nor the
police will help in this process. The simple fact of the matter is that a
determined Dad can easily shift cities and jobs, and his salary stays
intact. Alternatively, he can form a company with one other shareholder and
place the assets in that company, preventing her from attaching them since
they are no longer just his.

3. A third reason why Dads cut themselves off is “PAS”: Parental Alienation
Syndrome — something which is totally unknown here in Japan. Perhaps this
isn’t surprising, since PAS is only just starting to gain acceptance in the
USA and elsewhere. In the theory behind PAS, a child instinctivly latches on
to its caregiver and if it senses that the caregiver hates the divorced
parent, then the child will take on the same values even if he/she really
loves that parent deep down. We note that this is very similar to the
Stockholm Syndrome experienced by kidnap victims.

The problem of getting deadbeat Dads to pay up is not
unique to Japan. But in considering just why there are so
many deadbeats in this country, it is clear that the legal system offers no
opportunity for Dads to experience an on-going emotional bond and thus
support his children — kids who unfortunately have been encouraged to hate
his guts anyway. Shared custody, with guaranteed access by both parents
would go a long way to solving the problem of emotional detachment and
subsequent non-payment. But then that requires some social re-engineering —
something we probably won’t see in our lifetime.

The divorce rate in Japan is quite high, at about 40% of
the number of marriages. The peak for divorce was 290,000 people in 2002.
However, this dropped to 260,000 in 2005 and 235,000 in 2006 (annualized
figure drawn from Nov 2006 stats). Despite what you may think, the reason
for the falling divorce rate isn’t an improvement in marital relations nor
an improved economy. Rather, it’s due to a new divorce law which comes into
effect in April this year and which allows women to claim up to 50% of their
husband’s pension in the event of a split.

Until now, older women getting divorced have only been able
to get a share of the pension if the hubby approved. If he didn’t, as has
often been the case, then the best she could expect was a much smaller
hardship pension. The divorce statistics imply that there is a huge number
of stored up divorces waiting to be registered after April — potentially as
many as 55,000 more than normal. It should be interesting to see the effects
of both this surge AND the one that will inevitably come from the mass
retirement of the Dankai Sedai (Baby boomers) generation over the next 5

Then of course there is the thorny issue of legal child abduction by
Japanese escaping an international marriage. While the domestic media focus
on the abduction of Japanese nationals to North Korea, they make little
noise about the many abductions of kids of international marriages by
fleeing Japanese spouses. There are numerous documented cases, so numerous
in fact that some countries such as the USA consider Japan the second worst
haven for international child abduction.

The problem is that Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention in
respect to the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, although it
has adopted some of the other Hague Convention laws. Clearly this has been a
conscious choice by the government and our guess is that it is probably an
effort by the judiciary and political conservatives to maintain the current
status quo on societal attitudes and family law.

If you’d like to know more about the ugly side of
international divorce, especially where kids are involved, check out the
Child Rights Network at http://www.crnjapan.com/en/. If you’re wondering why
the focus seems to be on fathers at that page, it’s most likely because a
foreign father is the party least likely to be allowed to keep seeing the
children of a divorced marriage. Yes, there have been cases of foreign
mothers being separated from their kids, but these are much rarer…


http://www.japaninc.com/terries_take or,

NUGW “March in March” Sun Mar 11, Shibuya


Hi Blog. Passing this on from National Union of General Workers’ Louis Carlet, a close personal friend of mine and one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met.

I have attended the past two “March in March”es (they’re great fun), and recommend that you do too if you care about Immigration to Japan and your job security. Seriously. (I won’t be the surprise guest, mind you, not in Tokyo long enough this year…)

Bloggers, pass this information around! Debito in Setagaya.


Seven Days Left!

The union office was busy today as several members were busy building placards and mushirobata and preparing for next week’s March in March on Job Security and Equality for All. Chaining this email will really make a difference in getting the word out. Many people will come if only they know about it.Branches, we will have blank job security posters and markers so you can fill in the name of your workplace so come over to where we have it set up.

We are sending out a press release this evening to hundreds of press organizations. We know that Italian TV will be there and MTV Japan may be there as well. This looks like it will be the funnest and biggest march yet. We have performances, dances and music lined up as well as lots of speeches and a surprise guest.

During the march, please feel free to participate in the sphrehicall chanting if you can so we can raise our voice as one and get out voice heard. Also a reminder, if you are strong to come stand near me during the assembly so we can get you one of those 15 big mushiro bata tatami mats.

Place: Miyashita Koen Park (Shibuya)
Date: March 11 (Sun)
Time: 1pm-1:30pm (march should finish by 4pm)

You can see the map to Shibuya’s Miyashita Koen Park at:

See you at Miyashita Park in seven days!

Louis Carlet
Spring Solidarity for Foreign Workers
Steering Committee Member

NUGW Tokyo Nambu
Deputy General Secretary

3rd Annual March In March
March 11th 2007 from 1:30pm, Miyashita Park Shibuya Tokyo
Cellphone-friendly link: http://nambufwc.org/navi/march/march.html

NUGW Tokyo Nambu – Nambu FWC

Day-After Talks with the Government

Place: Lower House Dietmember Building = Shugiin Daiichi Giin Kaikan
(Take Marunouchi Line to Kokkai Gijidomae and take exit A1)
Date: March 12 (Mon)
Time: 9:30am (meet in the lobby at 9:20am to get pass)


Asahi Column: Tokyo JH school refuses education to NJ child


Hi Blog. What a shock for the parents, not to mention the child who is being refused Secondary Education in Tokyo just because she is foreign. Not to worry, as friend Matt noted elsewhere–I’m sure our Education Minister Mr Ibuki is hard at work on it, given his melting concern with human rights, bullying, etc. Thanks to the Asahi for providing a venue for exposure. Debito in Kurohime, Nagano.


POINT OF VIEW/ Daisuke Onuki: Fundamental flaw remains in education law

The people shall all be given equal opportunities of receiving education according to their ability, and they shall not be subject to educational discrimination on account of race, creed, sex, social status, economic position, or family origin. Thus, the Fundamental Law of Education guarantees the equal opportunity of education to all people of Japan.

However, it is necessary to note that the word “people” is the translation of the word “kokumin,” which literally means “nationals.”

Currently, the most important law on education in Japan, as well as the very Constitution, does not guarantee the right to education for children with foreign nationalities.

Our eldest daughter, who has only Brazilian nationality, was once denied entrance to a public junior high school in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, when trying to transfer from a school in Brazil at the age 15 in the ninth grade.

Officials said our daughter was a year older than the proper age for obligatory education. They explained that exceptions cannot be made because the obligatory education system does not apply to a child without Japanese nationality.

Our daughter started primary school at the age of 7 due to her special needs of having to learn both her mother’s and father’s tongues, rather than at 6, which is the usual age for Japanese children. She went to Brazil after attending school for three years in Japan and returned here at the age of 15.

“If the child is a Japanese who had reasons to be enrolled in a grade lower than the appropriate one, obviously he or she needs extra year(s) to finish his or her ‘obligatory education’ and will be granted an exception. However, obligatory education does not apply to you,” they said.

I certainly hope that such an outright denial to school is rare in this country. There are already too many children of foreign nationalities, perhaps numbering in the tens of thousands, who are dropping out or are not attending school.

Legally, the blame for foreign children staying out of school does not fall on any officials or on the parents for that matter. That is because there even does not exist credible statistics concerning the problem.

Both the prime minister and the education minister clarified in the Diet last spring that while the proposed revision of the Fundamental Law of Education does not refer specifically to foreigners, those who wish so will continue to be treated in the same way as Japanese concerning the right to obligatory education.

I understand those words as meaning that when the guardians do not seek education for a child with foreign nationality, it is not the government’s problem and that, when they do seek education for their children, the government will not take the responsibility to treat them according to their special needs.

The Diet approved the revised version of the Fundamental Law of Education on Dec. 15. The use of the word “kokumin” continues in the revised law.

I find it a “fundamental flaw” of the Fundamental Law of Education not to guarantee the right to education of all children residing in Japan.

Issue overshadowed

The Japanese don’t notice the difference unless it is pointed out by those who suffer from it. For myself, I needed a family member without Japanese nationality to notice this flaw.

The problem has not been sufficiently raised by either the conservatives or the liberals. The argument has been overshadowed by the heated debate over the inclusion of “nurturing patriotic attitudes” as a purpose of education in the revised law.

Two years ago, when the population of Japan started to decrease, the number of foreign nationals registered here surpassed 2 million. More than half are so-called newcomers who stay in Japan for the purpose of work. The number of people from Brazil, the country of origin of my wife and daughters, now exceeds 300,000.

They started coming to Japan when the immigration law was revised in 1990 to allow Japanese descendents to visit and live in Japan without restriction in the activities they may engage in. While the government, and society, of Japan are undecided about whether to accept unskilled foreign workers, Brazilians are the ones “experimentally” filling the needs for manpower in all corners of Japan.

Brazilians coming to Japan for work are called “seasonal workers” both in Japan and in Brazil. Quite contrary to the image of the term, and possibly contrary to their original intentions, Brazilian workers often end up staying for 10 or more years in Japan, bringing their families and bearing children here.

Those people are usually called “immigrants” in other countries–a word hardly used here. The immigrant children in Japan, at least those with Brazilian nationality, tend to suffer from difficulties at school.

A survey six years ago estimated that 3,000 Brazilian children between 6 and 15 in Japan had never been enrolled in school. More recent estimates indicate that more than 10,000 Brazilian children never entered school or dropped out.

Somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of Brazilian children are currently out of primary education. These figures do not include the 25 percent of children who go to expensive Brazilian schools that are not officially recognized as “schools” by the Japanese government.

Japan has enough problems with Japanese children dropping out. Official figures show that 3.3 percent of all ninth-grade students refuse to go to school.

Efforts to care for the dropouts and recluses in special programs, or “free schools,” are playing an increasingly important role. Some free schools have become officially recognized as “private schools” and have received government funding since 2005.

However, the 48 Brazilian schools in Japan that are officially recognized by the Brazilian government, and 50 or so that are not recognized, do not receive any private-school funding from the Japanese government.

The situation in which possibly tens of thousands of foreign children are out of school, mostly watching TV at home alone or roaming shopping malls with friends, must be recognized as “child neglect” on the part of society.

Neglecting the child’s right to education is one of the most aggressive threats to the physical, mental and social integrity of the individual. Children with Brazilian nationality have been three to five times more likely to be put in detention centers than the general population over the past six years. This situation has the making of a new form of “ethnic crisis” taking place right in front of our eyes.

In the bicultural family where our children grew up, the refusal to let our eldest daughter attend school was a blow to the effort to “nurture love” of the children for the Japanese culture and country.

I decided not to fight Setagaya Ward, and possibly worsen the situation, and instead chose to live in another city where our child was accepted at school.

How many Brazilian families would know how to handle a similar situation so that their children could continue to study in and to like this country?

A first step

In recent years, many European countries have seen a rise in extreme rightist movements. Our country should not wait for that to happen before taking serious actions.

Guaranteeing foreign children’s right to education in other education-related laws to be revised in the following years will be important steps to take. It has been 16 years since this problem started in Japan’s Brazilian community.

Another year lost in the childhoods of tens of thousands of immigrant children will require an incredible amount of work in the future to undo the damage done to the children, society–and the hopes to build a healthy internationalist Japan.

* * *

The author is an associate professor of international relations at Tokai University and a member of the Alliance for Multiculture Childhood.(IHT/Asahi: February 12,2007)

Ibuki & Abe on human rights & butter, plus reactions from media and UN


Hi All. Sorry to be slow on this issue, but for the record, let me blog a few articles and reactions on this issue without much time right now for comment (will include comments from others). Debito in Youga, Tokyo


Ibuki: Japan ‘extremely homogenous’
The Japan Times Feb 26, 2007


NAGASAKI (Kyodo) Education minister Bunmei Ibuki said Sunday that
Japan is an “extremely homogenous” country, a type of comment that in
the past has drawn criticism.

In 1986, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a
“homogenous race” nation and faced strong criticism, mainly from Ainu
indigenous people.

Speaking at a convention of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s
chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture, Ibuki said, “Japan has been
historically governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an
extremely homogenous country.

“In its long, multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the
Japanese all the way,” Ibuki said in a 40-minute speech on education
reform. Ibuki is minister of education, culture, sports, science and

QUICK COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Just like, “In it’s long, multifaceted history, America has been governed by the Americans all the way.”?

Or how about Japan’s postwar SCAP? Oh, that doesn’t count, I guess. The issue is too silly to dwell upon any further. Let’s get to what makes this more problematic:


Abe sees no problem in education minister calling
Japan ‘homogeneous’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday downplayed
criticisms over his education minister’s remarks a day
earlier and said there was nothing wrong with the
minister calling Japan an ”extremely homogenous”
”I think he was referring to the fact that we
(the Japanese public) have gotten along with each
other fairly well so far,” Abe said when asked to
comment on the remarks by education minister Bummei
Ibuki. ”I don’t see any specific problem with that.”
Abe, who has been hit by a series of gaffes by
members of his Cabinet recently, added, ”Of course
there have been battles in our history, as in the
Sengoku (warring states) era, but it was rare that one
side would completely wipe out their opponents, so I
believe we’ve cooperated well with each other through
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the
top government spokesman, also said he did not find
the remarks ”specifically problematic” but warned
that ”Cabinet ministers must be responsible for their
own words.”
Ibuki said Sunday at a convention of the ruling
Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki
Prefecture that ”Japan has been historically governed
by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely
homogenous country.”
Remarks regarding homogeneity have drawn
criticisms in the past, such as in 1986 when then
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone described Japan as a
nation with a ”homogenous race.” He faced strong
criticism mainly from Ainu indigenous people.
In his 40-minute speech on education reforms,
Ibuki, who is minister of education, culture, sports,
science and technology, also said, ”In its long,
multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the
Japanese all the way.”
Ibuki also issued a warning about paying too much
respect to human rights, illustrating his remark by
pointing out what happens if one eats too much butter.
”No matter how nutritious it is, if one ate only
butter every single day, one would get metabolic
syndrome,” he said. ”Human rights are important, but
if we respect them too much, Japanese society will end
up having human rights metabolic syndrome.”


Abe fine with ‘homogeneous’ remark
The Japan Times Feb 27, 2007

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday downplayed criticism of remarks
by his education minister the day before and said there was nothing
wrong with Bunmei Ibuki calling Japan an “extremely homogenous” country.

“I think he was referring to the fact that we (the Japanese public)
have gotten along with each other fairly well so far,” Abe said. “I
don’t see any specific problem with that.”

Ibuki said Sunday at a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s
chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture that “Japan has been historically
governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely
homogenous country.”

Remarks regarding homogeneity have drawn criticism in the past. For
instance, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone faced a strong backlash,
mainly from Ainu indigenous people, when in 1986 he described Japan
as a nation with a “homogenous race.”





Bunmei Ibuki’s comments were *worse* than I realized. If this isn’t
big news, in my opinion, it *should* be. If I have time I will blog
on this tomorrow. I hope others do as well.

The Japan Times articles did *not* report on other comments that
*did* get reported in the Japanese press. Searching around I did find
that some of these comments got reported in at least one English
newspaper, the Telegraph.

Ibuki makes comments that show on a fundamental basis he
misunderstands constitutional government.

He seems to view rights as entitlements sort of handed out by the
government. However, these rights can be overemphasized and to the
detriment of the minzoku.

Minzoku translates as folk, but it’s code words for *race*, as in
Yamato Minzoku.

Ibuki’s opinion is that rights should not be overemphasized at the
expense of the minzoku. And he explicitly identifies the Yamato Minzoku.

This is the *same* minzoku that so many Japanese lost their lives
over during WWII.

This is sort of like saying, yes, it’s nice to have rights, but don’t
forget that the heart and soul of Japan is the Yamato minzoku, our
homogenous race heritage.

This is really unbelievable and stunning. The fact that Abe does not
see a problem with these comments is also political miscalculation he
hopefully will suffer for.

Ibuki should resign and Abe should profusely apologize.

Because of the importance with which I see this issue, I’m posting
the entire Telegraph article:

Minister’s human rights rant shocks Japan
By Colin Joyce in Tokyo
Last Updated: 6:39am GMT 27/02/2007

Japan’s education minister has stunned the country with a gaffe-
strewn speech in which he claimed that too much emphasis has been
put on human rights.

Bunmei Ibuki, 69, also said that Western-style individualism is
damaging Japan, while he praised Japan’s racial homogeneity and
appeared to denigrate minorities.

Japanese newspapers reported yesterday that Mr Ibuki, a veteran
politician who worked at the Japanese embassy in London for four
years in the 1960s, implied in his speech in Nagasaki that problems
with Japan’s education policy stemmed from the fact that it was
imposed by the US occupation authorities after the Second World War.

“Japan has stressed the individual point of view too much,” he
said. He also argued that a society gorged on human rights was like
a person with an obesity-related illness.

“If you eat butter everyday you get metabolic syndrome. Human
rights are important but a society that over indulges in them will
get ‘human rights metabolic syndrome’,” he said.

The speech raises questions about Tokyo’s commitment to concepts
such as human rights and democracy, which Japanese commentators
note were brought to Japan by defeat in the war rather than created
independently by domestic reforms.

It is unclear whether Mr Ibuki’s choice of the word “butter” was
intentional or unfortunate, but it echoes an old disparaging
Japanese expression for Western ideas: “stinking of butter”.

The term came about because Westerners traditionally had a far
higher dairy content in their diet than Japanese and hence were
thought to smell of butter.

Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/02/27/wjapan27.xml


Here is a link to his comments in Japanese:

Some of his comments:
1. 人権だけを食べ過ぎれば、日本社会は人権メタボ
ningendake wo tabesugireba, nihonshakai wa ninken metaborikku shoukougun
“If we (eat) partake too much of human rights, our society will
degrade as the human body does when it partakes of unhealthy food.”

2. 権利と自由だけを振り回している社会はいずれだ
kenri to jiyuu dake wo furimawashite iru shakai wa irzure dame ni
naru. kore ga konnkai no kyouiku kihonn houkaisei no ichiban no pointo
“If we only brandish our desire for freedom and rights, then society
becomes useless. That is the number one point of our educational

The idea that there is some kind of trade off between rights and a
“good” society is completely misconstrued. A good society is one
where people have rights and those rights are protected, period.

If we allow that rights can be curbed at the needs of *society* we
introduce a random variable that can be interpreted however one wants
to interpret it. We *all* have different views on what a *good*
society would be. This is why we have democracy.

Moreover, Ibuki doesn’t seem to grasp that freedom in a political
sense *only* means freedom from (physical) coercion. The government
cannot grant freedom in any other sense of the word. We accept that
the government will have to use a limited amount of (physical)
coercion to carry out its job, this is why we recognized the
fundamental danger inherent in governmental power.

Shall we allow more government physical coercion in in order to
support the Yamato minzoku. This is absurd. And its coming from the
minister of education!

The primary function of government is not to create a utopian
society, be it the Yamato minzoku, or some extreme form of Islam or
Christianity. The *fundamental* function of government is to
*protect* our rights. Through the exercise of those rights, we might
be able to help society, physical coercion should not shape those

I’ll note that at least one politician has a nice come back to Ibuki.
Kiyomi Tsujimoto stated:
nihon wa ninken ishiki ga tarinai kuni da to kokusaiteki ni mirarete
iru. metaborikku dokoro ka eiyou busoku da.

“As from an international perspective Japan does not have enough of a
human rights sense of consciousness, I’d say as far as human rights
rather than having a human rights syndrome, we’re undernourished.”




Beating the Yamato drum
The Japan Times March 1, 2007


With health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa’s gaffe remark that women are “childbearing machines” still fresh in people’s memory, yet another Cabinet member has put his foot in his mouth. This time, education minister Bunmei Ibuki has voiced objectionable ideas on the general character of the Japanese state and human rights issues.

In his speech about “education resuscitation” in a meeting of a Liberal Democratic Party chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture, Mr. Ibuki said the Yamato race has ruled Japan throughout history and that Japan is an extremely homogeneous country. He also expressed the idea that there should be limits to the enhancement of human rights. Likening human rights to butter, he said, “However nutritious butter is, if one eats only butter every day, one acquires metabolic syndrome. Human rights are important. But if they are respected too much, Japanese society will end up with human rights metabolic syndrome.”

Mr. Ibuki’s comment is ideological. It is known that Japan’s ancient culture, the foundation of Japan’s present culture, was an amalgamation of various roots. No one single race formed Japanese culture. Referring to Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s remark in 1986 that Japan is a nation with a “homogeneous race,” Mr. Ibuki said, “I did not say homogeneous race.” Even so, his mentioning the homogeneous character of Japan shows he does not altogether accept Japanese society as a composite also of Korean, Chinese and other foreign residents as well as Japanese nationals who do not identify themselves as members of the Yamato race — Ainu people, for example.

His human rights comment is also troublesome. It is clear that Japan has many human rights problems that must be addressed. Mr. Ibuki should remember that various rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are the basis of a healthy democracy. Strangely, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended Mr. Ibuki, saying his statements are not problematic. Such words will only fuel doubts about Mr. Abe’s integrity as a national leader.


EDITORIAL/ Ibuki in the dark on rights
Asahi Shinbun 02/28/2007

Addressing at a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture on Sunday, education minister Bunmei Ibuki said: “If you eat only butter every day, you develop metabolic syndrome. If Japanese overindulge themselves on human rights, the nation will develop what I’d call ‘human rights metabolic syndrome.'”

Metabolic syndrome’s telltale symptom is abdominal obesity, which could cause strokes and other diseases. Ibuki used this medical case to voice his view that society will become “diseased” if human rights are overemphasized.

Speaking on the present and future of educational revival, he also asserted: “Any society that goes hog-wild for rights and freedoms is bound to fail eventually. For every right, there is obligation.”

Perhaps Ibuki wanted to point out the mistake of asserting one’s rights without accepting the obligations that go with them.

However, although “rights” and “human rights” can overlap each other in some areas, they are not completely interchangeable concepts.

The very fact that Ibuki coined the expression “human rights metabolic syndrome” revealed his insensitivity to human rights issues. Is there truly a glut of human rights in Japan today?

In the education world in which Ibuki has the top administrative responsibilities, suicides among bullied children continue because they are unable to cope with the torment.

Elderly people are increasingly becoming victims of abuse. There are also endless cases of domestic violence and threats from spouses. Foreigners and people with disabilities continue to face discrimination.

Last week, a Kagoshima District Court ruling condemned the persistent police practice of using heavy-handed interrogation tactics to force “confessions” out of crime suspects and making up investigation reports.

The situation in Japan is alarming not because of human rights excesses, but rather because there are too many human rights issues that are being ignored by our society.

The abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents constituted a grave violation of human rights. Therefore, the Japanese government submitted a United Nations resolution condemning Pyongyang’s violations of human rights. The resolution was adopted by the world body.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated in his policy speech last month that he would work closer with nations that share such basic values as freedom, democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of law. But what we don’t understand is that the same Abe sees “nothing wrong” with Ibuki’s comment.

Human rights issues are among the primary concerns of the world today. It is surely Japan’s role to continue upholding democracy and human rights in the fast-evolving international community and situation in Asia. Japan will be held in higher esteem only if it strives to become a “human rights nation” where every individual is respected as a person.

It is all the more regrettable that Ibuki, the very minister in charge of Japanese education and culture, has uttered remarks that revealed his lack of respect for human rights. The last thing we want the education minister to do is give the rest of the world the wrong message–that the Japanese people are quite satisfied with the present state of human rights.

Where human rights are concerned, Japan is nowhere near developing any disease from overindulging. It is still undernourished.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 27(IHT/Asahi: February 28,2007)

人権メタボ 文科相のひどい誤診だ


















J Times quotes UN’s Doudou Diene re Ibuki comments


Hi Blog. Writing this between speeches. Got Eric Johnston of the Japan Times on the phone yesterday to UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene for some exclusive responses about Education Minister Ibuki’s quotes (and PM Abe’s defense of them). Ibuki compared paying (too much?) attention to human rights to Metabolic Syndrome, like ingesting too much butter. Huh?

I’ve been slow on the uptake recently (I have averaged about two speeches a day this week), but I’ll add Ibuki’s comments later for the record to this blog with a link from here.

Anyway, glad we got Diene on the record giving this administration the criticism it deserves. I made sure to get Kyodo and Japan Times articles on Ibuki and Abe into his hands. (As well as the Gaijin Hanzai Mag, of course, which he promised will go into his next report.) Great timing by these fools in the Abe Administration all around.

Got a speech in an hour to the Roppongi Bar Association, so signing off here. Sorry to be so slow recently. Debito in Roppongi Hills.


U.N. special rapporteur challenges Ibuki’s ‘homogenous’ claim
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer


The U.N. special rapporteur on racism countered Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki’s claim over the weekend that Japan is a homogenous country.

“There is no such thing as pure blooded or a pure race. Where do the Ainu fit in to Japanese society? Or the Chinese and Koreans?” Doudou Diene, the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Japan Times.

“I am absolutely shocked at his remark. Here is the education minister, the person who in charge of educating Japan’s children about their history, saying something that is so outdated.”

Diene is in Tokyo to follow up on last year’s U.N. report on racial discrimination in Japan.

On Sunday, Ibuki told the Liberal Democratic Party’s Nagasaki chapter that Japan has been historically governed by the Yamato — Japanese — race and that Japan is an extremely homogenous country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday defended Ibuki’s comments, which have also drawn criticism from human rights groups.

Abe said he thought there was no problem with Ibuki’s remarks as he believed the education minister was referring to the fact that Japanese have gotten along with each other well so far.

The special rapporteur said Japanese, South Korean, and Chinese history scholars should work together through the United Nations to resolve historical issues.

By doing this, he said, not only historical tensions but also the deeper racism in East Asia that has led to those tensions can be addressed in an atmosphere free from domestic politics.

Diene said Ibuki’s remarks and Abe’s comments about them will likely be included in the new report he will submit to the U.N. later this year.


Amnesty lashes out
Kyodo News

Amnesty International Japan on Tuesday harshly attacked education minister Bunmei Ibuki for saying too much respect for human rights would give Japan “human rights metabolic syndrome.”

In a letter sent to Ibuki, Amnesty demanded he retract his remarks, saying they “ignore the human rights of citizens.”

“It is true that exercising rights carries with it obligations,” the human rights group said. “But it is states and governments which undertake obligations to guarantee citizens their rights.”

Through the remark, Ibuki has neglected his obligations and is trying to restrict human rights, Amnesty said.

The Japan Times: Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007

Transcript of FCCJ luncheon w. UN’s Doudou Diene, Feb 26, 2007 (UPDATED)


Transcript of Press Conference with United Nations Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene and Debito Arudou at Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan
Feb. 26th, 2007, 12:30 to 2PM

(photo with Doudou Diene and Kevin Dobbs courtesy Kevin)

Note: This is an unofficial transcript with some minor editing for repetition, taken from a recording of the event. It is not an official FCCJ transcript.

PIO: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. My name is Pio d’E,millia, and I’m moderating today. Let me introduce our guests for today’s professional luncheon.

On my right, are the uyoku, Debito Arudou, probably the first time in his life he has been called uyoku…

DEBITO: I’ve been called worse.

PIO: . . . but I’m sorry for this discrimination. And then Doudou Diene, who is the UN Rapporteur on Racism, Xenophobia and Racial Discrimination. I think it’s a good idea that we organized this without knowing that, because today, as some of you may have noticed from the wires, we have another, probably historical statement by the minister of the government, of Education, Mr. Ibuki, who stated in Nagasaki that, thanks to the homogeneous society, Japan “has always been governed by the same race.’’
Now, I think this is a good starting point for today’s debate, because I was going to ask Mr. Diene, who has a very hectic schedule this week. He’s under the invitation of several groups in Japan, namely IMADR, the bar association of Japan, the University of Osaka, and excuse me if I’ve forgotten any others. Anyway, he’s on a lecture tour. He has been invited as Rapporteur to talk on racism in Japan. But, he’s also back from two other reports that he just finished. One is about Italy, and the other is about Switzerland. So, since I see other Italian press here, I’m sure Mr. Diene will be happy to answer questions on the other side of Europe. I’m sure that we will find out we’re far from being an innocent society.

Anyway, without further ado, I will leave microphone to Arudou Debito, the very famous initiator of a historical suit called Otaru Onsen suit. I asked him to be very, very brief because, by now, everybody knows that issue and you can take nice bath in Otaru. Please update recent us on not only the issues of the onsens but that of the “Gaijin Hanzai Ura Files.’’ It’s a magazine I’ve here. It’s become a collector’s item, and is selling on E-bay for 40,000 yen. So, I’m sorry, if you didn’t get by now, you won’t get it any more, and I’m sure Arudou can explain what is behind this. Just for the record, the FCCJ Professional Activities Chairman did try to contact both the publisher and editor of this magazine. The editor seemed to be interested in coming here to make his case. He did an interview with Japan Today, but he was stopped from coming by the omnipotent publishers in Japan. So, he’s not here. Arudou, please try to fill in both sides and be very objective.

DEBITO: Hello everyone. It’s a pleasure to be back here. It’s always a pleasure. Thank you very much. First of all, I have a handout for everybody.
[DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE FCCJ HANDOUT AT https://www.debito.org/dienefccjhandout022607.doc]

It’s three pages, starting with the report to Special Rapporteur Dr. Doudou Diene, on his third trip to Japan, February 2007. These are the contents of a folder I’m going to be giving him, along with several articles and several books, including the Gaijin Hanzai file, of course. I’m not going to be focusing on this. This is for you to take home. There’s lots of information, too much to get into within 10 minutes.

So, let me go over the visuals. Take a look at the screen.
[DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE FCCJ POWERPOINT PRESENTATION AT https://www.debito.org/fccj022607.ppt]

Is anything changing? That’s what I was asked and I’m going to fill you in on a few things that might interest you. This is, for example, a Japanese Only sign in 2000. These things still exist in Japan. In fact, they’re spreading. And that’s what I’m going to make the case to you today.

All right, moving on. First of all, why does this matter? For one thing, 40,000 international marriages in Japan. In 2000, it was 30,000 marriages. It’s going up, and quite dramatically. And, children of these registered marriages do not show up as foreigners. Because they’re not foreigners, they’re Japanese citizens. Therefore, children of these marriages are coming into our society as Japanese, even though they might not necessarily look Japanese. That will make for a sea change in Japan’s future.

And, you’ll never see where they are because they are invisible statistically. Japan’s census bureau does not measure for ethnicity. If you write down your nationality, in my case “Japanese’’, there is no way for me to write that I am a Japanese with American roots. That’s a problem. You have to show ethnicity because Japan is diversifying. It is a fact, and one reason is international marriages.

And Japan needs foreigners. They are not here by accident. One reason: record low birthrates and record high lifetime expectancy. The United Nations now says Japan will soon have the largest percentage of elderly in the world. That’s old news. As of 2006, the Health Ministry says Japan’s population is actually decreasing, and will fall to 100 million in 50 years, actually 43 years. So, that means the number of foreigners who came in 2005 actually plugged the hole. We have a net annual of 50,000 foreigners per year influx. Now keep in mind that 50,000 for a minute because it’s important. Both the United Nations and the Obuchi Cabinet in 2000 said that Japan must import 600,000 workers per year.

How many are we now importing? 50,000, or less than 1/10th of what we need in order to maintain our current standard of living. That is a fact. Even our government acknowledges that. Japan is already importing workers to make up for the labor shortage and alleviate the hollowing out of domestic industries. We’re not going to let our factories go overseas. We’ll hire cheap workers, and give them trainee and researcher visas. One result of that is, between 1990 and 2007, we now have more than 300,000 Brazilians. They are now the third largest minority, and the numbers are increasing.

Given that there is this many foreigners here, more than 2 million total, without legal protections against discrimination, will foreigners want to stay in Japan and contribute? Japan’s government says we need them. So, help make it easy for them to stay. Well, let’s talk about problems with that. For example, and this isn’t a problem per say. This is Newsweek Japan from September of last year. All of these three people in the picture? They’re Japanese citizens, just like me. We are the future. Japan’s media is also talking about this as well. Look at that. Imin Rettou Nippon. Without foreigners, the Toyota system won’t work. This is the cover of Shukan Diamond, June 5th, 2004. Why is Toyota at number two in the world now? Foreigners. Cheap labor. Working for half the pay of their Japanese counterparts and no social benefits. However, Japan is the only major industrialized nation without any form of a law against racial discrimination.

And it shows. For example, the Otaru Onsens case. Pio said we all know it, so I’m going to skip it. Well, if you want information on it, here are my books, in English and in Japanese. And you can go to my website at debito.org for all the information you’ll ever need.

Let’s take a look at one case study. Who are these two here? Can I have a little bit of reaction here? An “awwww” Those are my kids, 10 years ago, maybe a little more. They were born and raised in Japan and are native speakers of Japanese and are Japanese citizens. Now look at this. They’re actually a little bit different-looking, aren’t they, even though they have the same parents –as far as I know! We went to one particular onsen in Otaru. What do you think happened? They said, “This one can’t come in.’’ Ha-ha-ha. Your daughter looks foreign. We’ll have to refuse her entry, even though she’s a Japanese citizen.

I’m summarizing the case to the bare fingertips, all the way down to the cuticles. That’s the best I can do in 10 minutes. We have another case here where I got Japanese citizenship in 2000. And there I am in front of the onsen. A nice big onsen, not a mom-and-pop place. I went back there on October 31st, and what do you think they said? Not “Take off your mask.’’ They said, “We accept that you have citizenship (I showed them proof)’’. But they said, “You don’t look Japanese, therefore in order to avoid misunderstandings, we’ll have to refuse you entry.’’

So, it’s no longer a matter of foreigner discrimination. It’s a matter of racial discrimination. They refused one of my daughters and they refused me. There’s a couple of signs there saying `Japanese Only’. Also, in Mombetsu, Wakkanai, there are signs, including in the middle of the mountains, where people say, “Russian sailors, this. . .’’ There are no Russian sailors in the middle of the mountains. Even in Sapporo. There are signs up in every language but Japanese for the 2002 World Cup. Those signs are still up today, except for the ones in Otaru. The moral of this tale is if you don’t have the legal means to stop this sort of thing, it spreads nationwide. Misawa. Akita. Tokyo. Saitama. . . here’s a few signs. Is the point becoming clear? Nagoya. Kyoto. Hamamatsu. Kurashiki. Hiroshima. Kitakyushu. Fukuoka. Okinawa. All of this information in on the website.

It’s getting worse, it’s nationwide. “Japanese Only’’ signs have been found at bathhouses, discos, stores, hotels, restaurants, karaoke lounges, pachinko parlors, ramen shops, barber shops, swimming pools, an eyeglass store, a sports store, and woman’s footbath establishment. Huh? “Japanese Women Only’’ They said they would not allow foreign women in because their feet are too big. (sounds of audience laughter) That is quote. “Because their feet are too big.’’ Give them a call, ask them.

Conclusions? It’s difficult to establish who is Japanese and who is not just by looking at their face. Which, as for “Japanese Only’’ signs, means let’s get out of the exclusivity thing. Things that happen to foreigners only affect foreigners? You’re wrong. Because of Japan’s internationalization, we’re going to have situations where even Japanese citizens get refused. A more profound conclusion is that “Japanese Only’’ signs are unconstitutional. They also violate international treaties, which Japan affected in 1996. They promised over 10 years ago to pass a law, but they never did.

These “Japanese Only’’ establishments are unconstitutional, but they are not illegal because there is no law to enforce the constitution. We took it to the streets and did what we could. The Hokkaido Shimbun agreed that refusing bathing was racial discrimination. We also took it to the courts. To summarize it, even the Supreme Court dismissed the case against the city of Otaru, saying it’s not involving any constitutional issues, which is ludicrous. It touches on article 14.

Here’s what everybody wants to know. We still have no form of law against racial discrimination in Japan. “Japanese Only’’ signs are still legal. We have official policy pushes against foreigners, and shadowy propaganda campaigns against any bill protecting their rights. For example, Shizuoka’ policy agency had a crime pamphlet in 2001. “Characteristics of Foreign Crime’’. It was put out by the police and distributed to shopkeepers. There were also NPA notices against foreign bag-snatchers and knifers. You can find such signs at bank ATMs and subways. You have a darkie guy speaking in katakana to a pure white Japanese, speaking in Japanese. So, the message is that foreigners are off-color and carry knives. These are put out by police.

Also, the NPA decided to deputize every hotel in Japan. How? If you take a look here. “Japanese legislation makes it mandatory that you, as a non-resident foreign guest, present your passport and have it photocopied. It says that all non-resident foreigners must show their passport. But the notice that the customers see is this one: “Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest for a passport.’’ That’s willful misinterpretation of the law. I’ve been asked for my passport even though I’m a Japanese citizen.

Now, we talked about this a minute ago. Here’s the Gaijin Underground Crime Files. It says on the cover that “everyone will be a target of foreign crime in 2007.’’ It further says, “Will we let gaijin lay waste to Japan?’’ That’s how foreigners are portrayed in this magazine. It is by Eichi Shuppan. Cheap. No advertising. The publisher is Mr. Joey H. Washington. Who is Joey H. Washington? I’ve asked, but have not gotten an answer. No advertising at all.

Who is funding this? We don’t know. There’s been no answer. Sold it in convenience stores nationwide. You can see the whole thing on-line for free at this address. Now, Pio is giving me the time thing. Gotta go. As far as the United Nations is concerned, it says that in the ICERD that “all dissemination of ideas on racial superiority, hatred, and incitement to racial discrimination shall be a declared offense punishable by law, including the financing thereof’’. A little bit more succinct is the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights which Japan affected in 1979. “Any advocacy, etc. etc.’

Moving on, let’s talk about incitement to hatred. . . “You bitches! Are gaijin really that good?’’ This is from the crime magazine. Is this a crime? Groping might be a crime, stalking might be a crime. But kissing on the street? It’s not crime. And here, they’re talking about male member size. This is not exactly friendly stuff. “Hey, nigger! Get your hands off that Japanese girl’s ass!’’ Then there is the manga, where a Chinese drowns a Japanese wife, and says, “right, that’s put paid to one of them. I wonder where they got the evidence that he smiled as he drowned this person? And to conclude it, the manga says, “Can they kill people this way, in a way that is unthinkable to Japanese? Is it just because they’re Chinese?’’ Is this encouraging brotherly love? How we doing on time, Pio? Let me cut it off there.

PIO: If you lose your job as a professor, you can go around the world and do presentations. You’re really good at presentations. Doudou Diene has been waiting for a long time. Thank you for your patience and please go ahead.

DIENE: Thank you very much. I will be brief. I very much enjoyed this encounter. Anytime I come to Tokyo, and I would like to share with you two points. One, my main observation worldwide and after my visit to Japan and my follow up visit, on the world scene, there are three points that are strongly indicated in my report. One is the increase of violence, violent acts and killings due to racism. . .[garbled] In Russia, I was there to investigate racism. People had been killed in the streets of Moscow. Second, and more serious, is what I call the democratization or legislation of racism which is expressed by two things. One, is the way the racist political platforms are slowly but deeply infiltrating the democratic system and political parties under the guise of debating illegal immigration, asylum seekers, and now terrorism. When you analyze the program of political parties in many countries, you will see the rhetorical concepts, views being banalized. But more serious than the concept of banalization, is that you’re now seeing more and more governments composed of democratic parties and extreme right parties. You have it in Denmark, Switzerland, and we’ll know by May if we have it in France.

But when you analyze it more carefully, you see that extreme right party leaders were getting into government, to the center of power, and occupying strategic posts like the Minister of Justice. They are then in a position to implement their agenda. We are witnessing this development. It is a very serious one.

More serious, but in the same dynamic, is the fact that extreme right parties are advocating a xenophobic agenda, and they are being elected because of this agenda, especially in regional parliaments. Berlin elected seven representatives of extreme right parties. In the European Parliament, the extreme right has enough seats to constitute a parliamentary group.

So, the point is democratization and banalization of racism and xenophobia. Third point is the emergence of development of the racism of the elites, especially the upper class, intellectual and political. We are seeing now more and more books and studies being published by intellectuals, like Samuel Huntingdon’s “Who are We?’’ The central point of the book was that the increasing presence of Latinos was a threat to America’s identity. You’re seeing more and more crude expressions of racism in publications by university publishers. But the racism of the elites is also expressed by the birth of uncontrolled sensitivities? One French author said Africans were undeveloped because of their penis size. He added that they should be sterilized. So, he has crossed two red lines. One is an old racial stereotype about Africans and sex, and bestiality of Africans. It was largely forgotten, but is being revived by people like this man. Why did he call for sterilization? Historically, this has been the first step to advocating genocide, because sterilization means elimination of a group. This opinion was expressed by a key member of the French public on television.

Another example, also in France, [garbled] a local politician said there were too many black people on the French national soccer team, and that there should be more white people. It was a member of the Socialist Party, not an extreme right-wing party that said this. I provide these examples to show that we are seeing these statements by a growing number of elites.

You may ask why. I think that from this racism of the elites, which is coming strongly. . . because of the banalization, the opening of the door, anti-Semitism and racism are now coming back, being legitimized, despite very strong opposition in Europe. My role is not to denounce or to only present a dark picture of racism worldwide but also to share with the international community and the UN General Assembly the attempts to understand why it is happening internationally. Here, I’m trying to get something more positive. Postive in the sense that I really believe it, behind the increase of violence and killings due to racism, this verbal increase in racism by the so-called elites, I think we are witnessing something deeper, which is one of the causes of what I call a crisis of identity. The fact that in Europe, Africa, and Japan, the national identity, as it was framed by the elites, as it was put into the Constitution, disseminated through education, appeared in literature, and then in the minds and psyche of people, the national identity in the form of a nation-state is no longer conformed to the multi-cultural dynamic of societies.

The societies are becoming more pluralistic, multicultural. This trend contradicts the national identity as it was once defined, and still being promoted. It is precisely this clash which is being politically used by extreme right wing groups, penetrating the programs of political parties, whenever the issue of foreigners is concerned, especially in the debates on immigration and asylum seekers and their integration.
Indeed, if you take the debates on immigration in many countries, it’s what I call and “integration strip-tease’’. It’s a strip-tease in the sense that what governments are asking is for foreign immigrants to “undress’’ at the border. To undress their cultural, religious, and ethnic specificity. This discourse is being discussed and put into law. One discussion we here in the EU is on Turkey. Fundamentally, the issue of identity is at the core of the development of racism. The way the elites and, indeed, societies themselves, are facing their multiculturalization. The refusal to accept this reality is one of the sources of racism. It expressed by the elites because they are the ones who construct national identities, and they feel threatened. Now, what is the dynamic behind it? This means that the combat against racism and violent acts associated with racism has to be linked to the construction of truly multicultural societies, democratic, interactive, multicultural, and equal.

This point leads me to Japan. As you know, my report was submitted to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly last November. Three points on this report. One, I think there were many interesting developments after my report. The issue of racism is now a key issue here in Japan. It has been for a while. But my report has contributed in a way to help the issue be discussed. Second, my report had a very important consequence, which I’ve been advocating in all countries I visited. This is the mobilization of civil society and human rights organizations on the issue of racism. Japan has been advancing the issue, I must say. Japan’s civil society has organized around my report and created a network of minority communities and human rights organizations, and are acting by helping victims of discrimination, publishing reports, and drawing the attention of the media.

For me, this is central. Combating racism is not the exclusive domain of government. Civil society has to be involved and a key actor. This is happening now in Japan. The last consequence of last November’s report on Japan is that the way my report was received by the Japanese government. As you know, the initial reaction was very negative. Indeed, the Foreign Ministry told me they were not happy.
One key point the Japanese government made to the Human Rights Council in Geneva was to say that I had gone beyond my mandate in touching upon the role of history in racism. I put it as one sample point. Racism does not come from the cosmos. Racism is a historical construction. You can retrace how racism was born and developed, and how it manifests itself. This means that history is a sin for which communities have been demonized and discriminated. So, I did make that point in my report, referring to both the internal discrimination in referring to Japanese communities like the buraku community and the Ainu, and it is indeed linked to Japanese history and society. And the racism against Koreans and Chinese is part of the history of Japan from which all this racism eminated.

One of my conclusions was, beyond calling for the adoption of national legislation against racism and all forms of discrimination, I did invite the Japanese government to cooperate with regional governments like China to start cooperating on a general history of the region. And I did propose in my report, and we’ve done this elsewhere, a group of international historians to develop a report. I said that by drafting this history, it will help touch on the deeper issue of racism and discrimination against Koreans, Chinese here. Japanese may also be discriminated elsewhere. The process may lead to a more profound re-encounter and reassessment of the old linkages and legacies. I pointed out that if you read Japanese history books, the picture given of the history of Japan, China, and Korea is that of the short-term. I did say that if the Japanese government decides to teach the longer-term histories of the relations of these countries, Japanese will remember that Korea and China are the mother and father of Japan, for language and religion, and whatever else. The Japanese make it original, something Japanese. But the deeper source is more profound and comes from China and Korea, but this is forgotten. I did say that if you teach this clearly, Japanese will realize this, and realize that discrimination is occurring against Koreans and Chinese.

There is something going on in the Japanese government, I think the fact that the accepted my visit was an indication that they place the human rights issue of some importance. It is never pleasant for a government to invite a special Rapporteur. You are considered a nuisance. But, they did invite me to come, so I came. This means that, somehow, they recognize there is an issue here. I take it that sense. So, on the historical issue, after having negatively reacted in Geneva last summer to my conclusions by saying I’d gone beyond my mandate with regards to bringing up historical issues, in November, at the UN, the Japanese delegates informed the UN that the process has started of contacts between Japanese, Chinese, and Korean historians. I say excellent. But my recommendation was that this process of drafting historical revisions to get to the deep root causes of these issues should be coordinated by UNESCO, as UNESCO has done it in the past. They can give it a more objective framework, and can eliminate the political tensions which may come from this process.

So, I think this is a demonstration that something is going on. Now, in conclusion, my visit to Japan is not a one-time, final act. It is a beginning of a process for which Japanese racism will be monitored as we monitor it other countries: Russia, or my own country, Senegal. Each and every year, I will come back to the situation in Japan as follow-up. I will inform the international community of whatever developments occur, negative or positive, to bring the issue to the attention of the United Nations where it can be discussed. Tonight, there is a debate at the Japanese Bar Association from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on racism. So, the mobilization of legal establishment to engage in the combat against racism is a fantastic step. I am now ready to answer any questions you might have. Thank you.

PIO: Thank you, and the next time you come to Japan, I hope you can meet with the Education minister, Ibuki.

DIENE: I do hope so. But I will quote him in my next report.

Q: Stefano XXXX, Italian Daily News [garbled] What were your findings in Europe and Italy, especially compared to Japan? For Debito, I have a question. There is no way to raise the interest of my foreign desk editor in the magazine you mentioned (Gaijin Hanzai File) because they will say, “Well, it’s not on the front page of the Yomiuri Shimbun’’. Why is it important to raise this issue, even if there are, in other countries, garbage press saying some bad things, especially in Europe?

DIENE: On Italy, I visited Italy in October. My demand to visit Italy dated from a year and a half ago when Berlisconi was Prime Minister. I was concerned of the policies I’d been informed of and wanted to check the reality with the new government. In my report, I formulated three recommendations and conclusions. One, racism is not a profound reality in Italy.

But, my second conclusion was that there was a dynamic of racism and xenophobia. There is no deeply-rooted racism. At least I did not find it in my investigations. But there is dynamic of racism caused by two developments. One is the legacy of the previous government. The government was composed of democratic parties and extreme right parties.

This agenda influenced the previous government’s policies towards immigration and was translated into law. That government, by their policies and programs, have created this dynamic. The second reason was that Italy was confronted in the past few years with a very dramatic migration and immigration process. You know, all of these boats coming from Africa, north and south. The dying of hundreds on the sea, and camps being established in Italy and Sicily, and these were shown in the media every day. Certainly, showing this in the media every day had an impact. Lastly, the political manipulation by the extreme right parties and Italy was also facing an identity crisis because the national identity of Italy is no longer framed to the process of multiculturalization. This created a tension. There is a dynamic. If it is not checked, racism will become rooted in Italy. So these are my main conclusions.

DEBITO: All right. I think the root of your question is, what is the peg for the Italian press? If it’s not on the cover of the Yomiuri, who cares? Well, why should you let the Yomiuri decide what you report in Italy? That seems illogical to me to begin with.

You’re looking for a peg? Here’s your peg: we got the book off the shelves. That book right there is a screed. You think it’s only going to affect non-Japanese? Well, it’s going to affect Japanese, too. We’re talking about the incipient racist reaction to Japan’s internationalizing society. That is news, and it’s not reported on enough. Look, the fact that we got the book off the shelves is pretty remarkable. I mean, as I wrote in my rebuttal to Mr. Saka when he said, “Hey, we just published this because it’s freedom of speech about a taboo subject’’. Wrong.

As I wrote here, it’s not like this is a fair fight. We don’t have an entire publishing house at our disposal with access to every convenience store in Japan so we can publish a rebuttal side-by-side. And the fact that the Japanese press has completely ignored this issue is indicative of how stacked the domestic debate is against us. You think the domestic press is going to go to bat for us and naturally restore balance to the national debate on foreign crime and on internationalization? The domestic press completely ignored this. There’s a reason for that. Real, naked racism is not something that people want to discuss. The fact that we actually stood up for ourselves and said, “Look, we might be foreigners but we do count. We do have money.’’ Myself, I said that, OK, I’m not a foreigner but this kind of thing is going to affect me, too.

And we’re going to exercise the only invaluable right we have in this country: the right where to spend our money. If you sell it at this place, we’re not going to buy anything at this place. Take it off your shelves. We actually took the book off the shelves, and said, “Look, it says `nigger’ here. Look, it shows Chinese killing people and smiling about it. This is gutter press. Do you really want to sell this sort of thing?’’ And they said, “No, we don’t really.’’ And every single place eventually took it off the shelves. This happened only because the strength of our conviction. The press didn’t shame anybody into doing that. We did that. That’s news, because we count now. We are not going to be ignored. We’re going to stand up for ourselves. And that, I think, is a peg.

PIO: The problem is the peg is now sold on e-bay for 40,000 yen. But, OK.

Q: My name is {garbled} I’m from the economic and political weekly of India. I have two questions, one for Dr. Diene and one for Mr. Arudou. For Dr. Diene: do you think your report will have any reprocussions on Japan entering the Security Council? Or should it have any reprocussions on Japan’s entry? Can a nation that practices racism so avidly be a member of the Security Council? For Mr. Arudou, I’ve followed your efforts. I believe the legal route is one route to go in attacking this problem. The other way is hitting them in the pocketbook. Japanese are great exporters of their tourist sites, and there is nothing like the Japanese tourist industry. How should we hit them there?

DEBITO: We meaning who?

Q: Us, and the press. Because I think that once you have frontally faced them through the press. There are a lot of cyberworkers from India who come here. I think we can do something by petitioning the Indian government through our journals and writings.

DIENE: On the first question. It was raised the last time I was here. I did say it was a very dangerous question for me to answer. The Japanese government is going to monitor my answer very closely. But I will give you my reading of it. I don’t think that the existence and the relative presence of racism should be one of the criteria for a country to get to the Security Council when racism is not an official policy or position of the government in question. Indeed, I did not say anywhere in my report that racism is the official policy of the [Japanese] government. This is contrary to South African apartheid. If the simple existence of racism was one of the criteria, the Security Council would be emptied. No country would be there. What should be part of the criteria is they way the Japanese government accepts the international rules of human rights and accepts the international instruments it has signed.

And I do think, indeed, that they are doing so because they accepted my visit. Some governments don’t. For example, I’m still waiting for the Indian government to accept my visit. I’ve been waiting for two years. They told me, “come’’ but don’t touch on the [garbled]. So, the fact that the Japanese government has accepted my visit is a very positive sign. And I do think that in the coming years they are going to implement some of my recommendations. I have no guns, armies or weapons of mass destructions to make them oblige.

But my reports keep going to Human Rights Council and General Assembly. I do think we are in the process of change. I don’t want to isolate, punish, or condemn any government. Racism is a deeply rooted reality in whatever form, whatever society. It exists everywhere. My role is to contribute to its recognition and the way it is being fought. I’m interested in cooperating with Japanese government and Japanese society in helping face these deeply rooted issues. Now, just before Arudou, you touch on something that is often forgotten when combating racism, the role of tourism. People don’t realize that tourism is the most fantastic dynamic of human encounter. Tourism, the way it is practiced now, is only on the economic dimension. It’s not helping promoting a deeper human encounter and interaction. I’ve been launching a program in UNESCO, my Silk Road. We are trying to develop a new concept of intercultural tourism. Tourism should promote a more profound knowledge.

DEBITO: Thank you. I almost got what I was looking for here right now on the Internet, but the connection in this room is a little slow. To answer the question about tourism. Why is the Japanese government doing the `Yokoso Japan’ tourism campaign? Because our exports aren’t doing so hot, and our imports aren’t doing so hot and we ought to do something about our economy. So, let’s bring in more tourists. Well, what are you doing to make it a bit more welcoming? That’s what they want. Well, what about those “Japanese Only’’ signs that are up? What about the fact that every time you check into a hotel you’re going to be treated like a criminal?

The Japanese embassy in Washington is telling foreigners they’ll have their passports checked when the check into a hotel for “effective control of infectious diseases and terrorism”(audience laughter). Now, infectious diseases? Japanese don’t carry infectious diseases, do they? Of course not. And terrorism? The biggest terrorist attacks we’ve had in this country have all been carried out by Japanese. There’s an air of hypocrisy in saying “come here, we’ll take your money. But we’re not going to welcome you in the same standard you’d be welcomed overseas.

DIENE: Just to contradict a little bit my friend Arudou. On the issue of passports and checking in at hotels. As an African, I travel quite a bit and in most of the countries I visited, I’ve been asked the same question. Not only at the border but also at the hotel. Since 9/11, it has become a general reality that a foreigner is suspect. When the foreigner is ethnically or religiously different, he is more suspect. This is the reality.

DEBITO: Just a caveat, though. As I said earlier, they are corrupting the law to say all foreigners must show their passports. That is against the law and should be pointed out. It’s happening in Japan to all foreigners.

PIO: I sympathize with you. Because even Italy checks with Italian citizens in hotels.

Q: My name is Lewis Carlet from the National Union of General Workers and I’d like to follow up on the gentleman from the Italian press about his comment that it’s not front-page news on the Yomiuri. I’d like to point out that, between January 30th and Feb. 6th, Asahi Shimbun ran a series called “Africans of Kabuki-cho’’. Several articles, though not quite as vicious as the magazine we saw up on the screen, portrayed stereotypical images of Africans as criminals, that they only marry Japanese for a visa, that they force young Japanese women into their bars. I’d like to give these articles to Doudou Diene and Debito for your reference.

Q: Yuri Nagano, freelance. I have a question for Dr. Diene. You’ve seen racism all around the world. How would you compare Japan against the United States? There’s a lot of hate crimes in the U.S., so if you could give me, in a nutshell, an idea of the differences. On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is Japan’s racism compared to other countries, especially compared to countries with genocide, where they are killing off people?

DIENE: My position is to avoid any comparisons. Because I learned that I am mandated on something that is very complex and each country has its own specificities. There is no possibility, now, when racism is not an official policy of any government, but it is a practice that is culturally rooted.

My reports have three purposes. One, it is a contribution to society. I put what I’m told by the governments and civil societies I meet with in my report and the governments are welcome to correct the report with regard to laws I got wrong. So, my report’s first objective is to mirror society, to say that this is what I’ve seen. Is it true? That’s for you to decide. The second dimension of my report in which we try to describe the policies of the government, what kind of laws have been approved and what kinds of mechanisms have been put in place to combat racism and to describe them as precisely as possible. And to describe what the communities told me.

Internationally, my reports are a comparison between governments. When a government elsewhere reads my report on Japan, they may find a practice that interests them. They are trying to frame their policy against racism. Internally, most of my reports are part of the public debate once they are published. Like in Brazil, I issued a critical report. Racism is deeply rooted in Brazil. I expressed the strong political will of the Brazilian government to combat the problem. So, I want to help the different countries share their practices. I cannot give a scale. I try to take each case on its own reality and complexity.

Q: [garbled] Sato, a stringer for German television. I have a question for Arudou-san. According to the front page of the magazine “Gaijin Hanzai Ura File’’, it seems to rather target Korean, Chinese, maybe Arabs and those faces. I can’t see any Caucasian, so-called “gaijin’’ in Japanese. I’m interested in learning who funded the magazine and if you’re investigation uncovered them. Who are they? Also, you are American and Caucasian. . .

DEBITO: No, I’m not. I’m Japanese.

PIO: Don’t give me more information for Mr. Diene! (nervous laughter from Sato)

Q: In appearance. You enjoy kind of reverse discrimination. Do you take it as discrimination also, or do you enjoy it?

DEBITO: I’m not sure what you mean. I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean by reverse discrimination in this situation.

Q: Well, Japanese people, I think, generally speaking, like Caucasians, so-called gaijin people.

DEBITO: Not the publishers of this magazine.

Q: Well, they have something of an inferiority complex, all very complex feelings. Sometimes, you are treated very specially. So, how do you deal with it?

PIO: She’s talking about two different types of approaches. One is against the sankokujin, as Ishihara Shintaro would say, and then the trendy gaijin.

DEBITO: Well, let’s start with “Gaijin Hanzai’’ There’s plenty of stuff in there about the so-called gaijin, or white people. That’s your definition. I don’t buy it, but even on the cover, you can see a white-looking guy. Before you comment on the contents, look at the contents please.

Now, about me getting special treatment as a Caucasian, I’m not really sure that’s the case. I generally live my life like anybody else in this society. I don’t pay attention to my own race except when it’s pointed out to me. And it is, of course, often pointed out to me. It happened yesterday when I was asked yesterday what country I was from. I said “Japan’’. That’s generally where the conversation stops because they think I’m a weirdo. But the point is still that I don’t really pay much attention to it and I don’t consider my status to be anything special, except that I’m a rare citizen. That’s the best way I can answer your question.

[ADDENDUM FROM DEBITO: In hindsight, I would have answered that even if there is differing treatment based upon race in Japan, there shouldn’t be. Race shouldn’t be an issue at all in human interaction. Also, the conversations I have about nationality with people do continue to flesh out that I am naturalized, and after that, we communicate as normal, with race or former nationality becoming a non-issue.]

Q: Bloomberg News. Mr. Diene, when you were talking about criteria for Japan entering the Security Council, you did make the distinction as to whether or not Japan has a policy of racism in the government or whether it just exists. But, just a question. How do you distinguish a pamphlet from the National Police Agency or the lack of a law outlawing discrimination, how can you distinguish that state of affairs with the government’s policy on racism? And just as a clarification. When you said that in Europe the racism comes in some way from immigration or globalization, does that also apply to Japan based on what you’ve seen?

DIENE: It’s a good question. What I meant by distinguishing government policy and social and cultural deep reality of racism in the society is to compare with the situation of South Africa’s apartheid when racism was officially advocated. Japan does not have that policy. It is true that in my work I have found institutions practicing racism. I denounce this in my reports. But whenever this reality is identified, the governments either deny it or recognize it and take steps to settle the issue. I have to look at my mandate in a long-term perspective. Getting out of racism is the permanent work of all governments.
Even the most democratic institutions have the reality of racism. Often, you find silence and invisibility contributing to racism. The invisibility factor is important to remember. In Sweden, you have five members of Parliament from immigrant community. The realities are different. I have not found any official policy of racism from the Japanese government. I’ve found many practices and manifestations, deep rooted in the history and culture of the country. It’s deep within the psyche of Japan.

Q: Edwin Karmol, Freelance. I don’t know if there are any Japanese journalists representing Japanese media here, but there weren’t any questions asked. It’s even more surprising that you don’t get front-page coverage.

DIENE: I must say that the issue was raised when I came, just a few months ago. I would have liked to have been invited by the Japanese press. But, at the end of my visit, I did meet the Japanese press at a university. There was a press conference and they came. Indeed, I had an interview from the Asahi Shimbun. But, certainly, I profoundly regret. I am not just down from the cosmos. I come based on the international convents a country has signed. Indeed, my work is ineffective if the society is not informed of my visit. If the media is not reflecting on my visit known. . . In other countries, the first thing I do –I did not do this in Japan –but I organize a press conference to say I’m here for this and this. So, the public will not. At the end of my visit, I have a press conference. And I do regret that here in Japan such coverage didn’t come. But I think it may come.

PIO: Have you ever asked, formally, the Nihon Shimbun Kyokai for a press conference?

DIENE: No, I usually don’t ask. I usually don’t ask. I let the media freely decide if they want to invite me.

PIO: Well, we can do a swap with the Kyokai. We’ll give them Diene and we can get Bush or Chirac. Thank you very much.


(photo with Doudou Diene and Kevin Dobbs courtesy Kevin–click on image to see whole photo, not just me. Sorry, could not create thumbnail)