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Hi Blog. Now that the clicks have died down on my latest Japan Times JBC column of January 28, 2019 (thanks for putting it in the Top Ten trending articles once again), what follows is the first final draft I submitted to the Japan Times for editing on December 29, 2018. I blog this version because a lot of information is lost (inevitably) as we cut the word count from 2800 to 1600 words. (I generally put everything in the first final draft, then cut it down to fit the page; that way we don’t overlook anything and have to backtrack.)
People have been asking what got cut (and yes, the original version mentions Michael Woodford and Jeff Kingston), so the piece below is quite a bit different from what appeared in the Japan Times here (meaning it shouldn’t draw away any readers from the JT version; in fact, it will probably spur more views from readers wanting to compare). Also, having links to sources matter, so here it all is, including my regular acerbic tone. Dr. Debito Arudou
A TOP TEN FOR 2018
By Debito Arudou, Japan Times Just Be Cause Column 114
To be published January 3, 2019
DRAFT SIX: VERSION WITH LINKS TO SOURCES INCLUDED
Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. Ranked in ascending order, these issues are bellwethers for how NJ in Japan may be treated in 2019 and beyond:
10) Fourth-Generation Japanese Brazilians snub new visa program
Last March, the Justice Ministry announced a new diaspora visa regime to attract back children of Brazilian-Japanese who had previously worked in Japan. The latter had been brought in from 1990 under a former preferential “Returnee Visa” regime, which essentially granted a form of permanent residency to NJ with Japanese bloodlines.
The Returnee program was so successful that by 2007, Brazilians had swelled to more than 300,000 residents, the third-largest NJ minority in Japan. Unfortunately, there was a big economic downturn in 2008. As Returnees lost their jobs, the government declined to assist them, even bribing them to “go home” (JBC Apr 7, 2009) and forfeit their visa, unemployment insurance, pensions, and other investments in Japan over a generation. They left in droves.
Fast forward ten years, and an unabashed government (facing a labor shortage exacerbated by the 2020 Olympics) now offers this reboot: Fourth-gen Nikkei, with sufficient Japanese language abilities, plus a secure job offer and family support already in Japan, can stay up to five years.
They expected a quota of 4000 workers would soon be filled. Except for one problem: This time they stayed away in droves. By the end of October, three months into the program, the Nikkei Shimbun reported there were exactly zero applicants.
So much for bloodlines. The word is out and the jig is up.
JBC Apr 7 2009 https://www.debito.org/?p=2930
9) Naomi Osaka’s victory at US Open Tennis.
Speaking of bloodlines, JBC wrote about American-Haitian-Japanese Naomi Osaka’s win last year (“Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing for Japan can seriously shorten your career,” Sep. 19) as a cautionary tale for anyone representing this country as an international athlete. However, as far as the Top Ten goes, her victory matters because it inspires discussion on a fundamental question: “What is a Japanese?”
Japanese society relentlessly polices a narrative of purity of identity. That means that some Japanese citizens, despite spending their lives in Japan, often get shunted to the “half” category if they don’t “look Japanese,” or relegated to “returnee children” status because their dispositions don’t “fit in” with the putative norm due to living overseas. Uniformity is a virtue and a requirement for equal treatment here. The “nail sticking up” and all that, you know.
Yet what happens to Japanese citizens who spend most of their life overseas, even take foreign citizenships, and publicly grumble about how they wouldn’t have been successful if they’d remained in Japan (as some Nobel laureates with Japanese roots have)? They’d get hammered down, right?
Not if they win big internationally. Suddenly, they’re “Japanese” with few or any asterisks. It’s a common phenomenon in racialized societies: “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.”
Naomi Osaka won big. May she continue to do so. But let’s see if she can follow in the footsteps of other diverse Japanese chosen to represent Japan, such as former Miss Japan beauty queens Ariana Miyamoto and Priyanka Yoshikawa (who as “halfs” also spoke out against racial discrimination in Japan; alas, their impact was minimized because they didn’t win big internationally).
In any case, the more successful diverse Japanese who can highlight the fallacies of Japan’s pure-blood narrative, the better.
8) Zainichi Korean wins hate speech lawsuit on grounds of “racial discrimination”.
The wheels of justice turn slowly in Japan, but sometimes in the right direction. Ms. Lee Sin Hae, a “Zainichi Special Permanent Resident” generational foreigner, was frequently defamed in public hate rallies by Zaitokukai, an anti-Korean hate group. She sued them in 2014 for hate speech, racial discrimination, and gender discrimination. She won in the District Court in 2016, the High Court in 2017, and shortly afterwards in the Supreme Court when they declined to review the case.
Ms. Lee’s case stands as yet another example of how Japan’s new hate speech laws have legally-actionable consequences. Others similarly defamed can now cite Lee’s precedent and (mildly) punish offenders. It’s also another case of discrimination against Japan’s minorities being classified as “racial,” not “ethnic” etc.
This matters because Japan is the only major developed country without a national law criminalizing racial discrimination. And it has officially argued to the United Nations that racism doesn’t happen enough here to justify having one. Lee’s case defies that lie.
Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=14973 “Officially argued”: https://www.debito.org/japanvsun.html (For context, do a word search for the following paragraph: “We do not recognize that the present situation of Japan is one in which discriminative acts cannot be effectively restrained by the existing legal system and in which explicit racial discriminative acts, which cannot be restrained by measures other than legislation, are conducted. Therefore, penalization of these acts is not considered necessary.”)
7) Setagaya-ku passes Anti-Discrimination Ordinance specifically against racial discrimination etc.
On that note, movements at the local level against racial discrimination are afoot. Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, one of Japan’s first municipalities to recognize same-sex marriages, passed an ordinance last March that will protect (after a fashion) racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities from discrimination and hate speech.
I say “after a fashion” because it, as usual, has no punishments for offenders. The best it can do is investigate claims from aggrieved residents, inform the mayor, and offer official evidence for future lawsuits.
But it’s a positive step because 1) we’ve had city governments (such as Tsukuba in 2010, home of a major international university) go in exactly the opposite direction, passing alarmist resolutions against suffrage for NJ permanent residents; and 2) we had a prefectural government (Tottori) pass an anti-discrimination ordinance in 2005, only to have it unpass it mere weeks later due to bigoted backlash.
That didn’t happen this time in Setagaya-ku. The ordinance stands. Baby steps in the right direction.
6) Immigration Bureau to be upgraded into Immigration Agency.
Last August, the government said that to deal with the record influx of foreign tourists and workers (more below), more manpower would be needed to administrate them. So as of April this year, the Nyukyoku Kanri Kyoku (“Country-Entrant Management Bureau”) is scheduled to become the Nyukoku Zairyu Kanri Cho (“Country-Entering Residency Management Agency”), with an extra 500 staff and an expanded budget.
Critics may (rightly) deride this move as merely a measure to tighten control over NJ, as the “Immigration Bureau” was a mistranslation in the first place. Japan has no official “immigration” policy to help newcomers become permanent residents or citizens, and the Bureau’s main role, as an extension of Japan’s law enforcement, has been to police NJ, not assist them. (After all, according to the Justice Ministry, 125 NJ workers have died under work-related conditions since 2010; where was the Bureau to prevent this?)
However, the fact remains that if Japan will ever get serious about its looming demographic disaster (where an aging society with record-low birthrates is shrinking its taxpaying workforce to the point of insolvency), it has to deal with the issue of importing workers to fill perpetual labor shortages. It has to come up with an immigration policy to make foreigners into permanent residents and citizens.
The only way that will happen is if the government establishes an organization to do so. An upgrade from a Bureau to an Agency is one step away from becoming an actual Ministry, separate from the mere policing mandate of the Justice Ministry.
Agency name change: https://www.sankei.com/politics/news/180828/plt1808280006-n1.html
125 NJ workers died: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/12/13/national/justice-ministry-reveals-174-foreign-technical-interns-japan-died-2010-2017/
5) Govt. to further centralize surveillance system of NJ.
Now, to acknowledge the naysayers, last year the government gave more power to the Justice Ministry to track NJ, in an effort to stop “visa overstayers” and keep an eye on tourists and temporary workers. This is on top of the other measures this decade, including the remotely-readable RFID-chipped Gaijin Card in 2012, proposing using NJ fingerprinting as currency in 2016 (in order to “enable the government to analyze the spending habits and patterns of foreign tourists;” yeah, sure), and facial recognition devices specifically targeting “foreigners” at the border from 2014.
This is the negative side of inviting NJ to visit as tourists or stay awhile as workers: Japan’s police forces get antsy about a perceived lack of control, and get increased budgets to curtail civil liberties.
Facial recognition: https://www.debito.org/?p=12306 and https://www.debito.org/?p=14539
On the positive side, however:
4) Tourism to Japan reaches record 30 million in 2018.
Admittedly, when the government launched its “Visit Japan” campaign in 2010, and cheerily projected a huge expansion of NJ tourism from single-digit millions to double- a decade ago, JBC was skeptical. Government surveys in 2008 indicated that 70% of hotels that had never had NJ guests didn’t want them anyway. And of the 400+ “Japanese Only” places I surveyed for my doctoral fieldwork, the vast majority were hotels—some even encouraged by government organs to refuse NJ entry (JBC, “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Jul 6, 2010)!
Times change, and now NJ tourism (mostly from Asia, chiefly China, South Korea, and Taiwan) has become a major economic driver. Local and national business sectors once pessimistic about the future are flush with cash. And by the 2020 Olympics, the tourist influx is projected to skyrocket to 40 million.
Naturally, this much flux has occasioned grumbling and ill-considered quick-fixes. We’ve had media gripes about Chinese spending and littering habits, a “Chinese Only” hotel in Sapporo, separate “foreigner” taxi stands at JR Kyoto Station (enforced by busybodies disregarding NJ language abilities), and even a “Japanese Only” tourist information booth in JR Beppu Station.
The worst fallout, however, is the new “Minpaku Law” passed last June. It adds bureaucratic layers to Airbnb home-sharing, and shores up the already stretched-thin hotel industry’s power over accommodation alternatives.
The government also resorted to coded xenophobia to promote the law. Citing “security” and “noise concerns,” Tokyo’s Chuo Ward indicated that letting “strangers” into apartments could be “unsafe.” Shibuya Ward only permitted Minpaku during school holidays, so “children won’t meet strangers” on the way to school. Not to be outdone, NHK Radio implied that ISIS terrorists might use home lodging as a base for terrorist attacks.
It’s one thing to be ungrateful for all the tourist money. It’s quite another to treat visitors as a threat after inviting them over. If not handled properly, the influx from the 2020 Olympics has the potential to empower Japan’s knee-jerk xenophobes even further.
2008 hotel survey: https://www.debito.org/?p=12306
“Visit Japan” and “new economic driver” stats: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/25/reference/tourism-emerges-new-economic-driver-japan/
Exclusionary hotels encouraged by govt. organs: https://www.debito.org/?p=1941 and JBC https://www.debito.org/?p=7145
Tourism Stats: https://www.tourism.jp/en/tourism-database/stats/inbound/#annual
Grumbling about tourist manners: https://www.debito.org/?s=Chinese+tourist and https://www.debito.org/?p=2301
Chinese Only hotel: https://www.debito.org/?p=6864
Minpaku xenophobia and ISIS: https://www.debito.org/?p=15051
3) Japan Times changes wording on controversial historical terms and topics.
Previously, JBC (July 6, 2015) noted how the Fuji-Sankei acquisition of news outlet Japan Today had shifted the English-language media landscape rightward politically, with articles becoming more assiduous in pointing out NJ misbehavior, yet muted in their criticism of Japan.
This was after the English-language arms of Japan’s major newspapers, including the Daily Yomiuri (now The Japan News), the Daily Mainichi, and the Asahi Evening News, had relegated their foreign staff away from investigative journalism into mere translation duties. Not to mention the chair of NHK, Katsuto Momii, stated publicly in 2016 that his TV network would not report on contentious subjects until the government has “an official stance” (effectively making NHK a government mouthpiece).
These “contentious subjects” included portrayals of historical events, like NJ forced into labor for wartime Japanese companies, and “Comfort Women” forced sexual services under Japanese military occupation.
Back then, JBC concluded that the JT is “the only sustainable venue left with investigative NJ journalists, NJ editors and independently-thinking Japanese writers, bravely critiquing current government policy without fretting about patriotism or positively promoting Japan’s image abroad.”
But last November, the JT, under new ownership since 2017, came out with a new editorial stance.
Stating that “Comfort Women” (already a direct translation of the official euphemism of ianfu) was potentially misleading, because their experiences “in different areas throughout the course of the war varied widely,” the JT would henceforth “refer to ‘comfort women’ as ‘women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will, to provide sex to Japanese soldiers’”. Likewise with the term “forced laborers,” which would now be rendered as “wartime laborers” because of varying recruiting patterns.
Aside from journalistic concerns about rendering these wordy terms in concise articles, it wasn’t hard for media pundits to portray this as a response to government pressure, already seen on Japanese media and overseas world history textbooks, to portray Japan’s past in a more exculpatory light. And with at least one government-critical columnist (Jeff Kingston) no longer writing for us, JBC now wonders if the JT remains the last one standing.
Sources: Govt. pressure on Japanese media: https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/27/the-silencing-of-japans-free-press-shinzo-abe-media/ and plenty more.
Govt. pressure on overseas history textbooks: https://www.debito.org/?s=history+textbook
2) Carlos Ghosn’s arrest.
The former CEO of Nissan and Mitsubishi motors (but remaining as CEO at Renault), Ghosn was arrested last November and indicted in December for inter alia allegedly underreporting his income for tax purposes. As of this writing, he remains in police custody for the 23-day cycles of interrogations and re-arrests, until he confesses to a crime.
This event has been well-reported elsewhere, so let’s focus on the JBC issues: Ghosn’s arrest shows how far you can fall if you’re foreign. Especially if you’re foreign.
One red flag was that the only two people arrested in this fiasco have been foreign: Ghosn and his associate, Greg Kelly. Kelly is now out on bail due to health concerns. But where are the others doing similar malfeasances? According to Reuters, Kobe Steel underreported income in 2008, 2011, and 2013, and committed data fraud for “nearly five decades.” Same with Toray and Ube Industries, Olympus, Takata, Mitsubishi Materials, Nissan, and Subaru.
Who’s been arrested? Nobody but those two foreigners.
And Japan’s judicial system has a separate track for NJ suspects, including harsher jurisprudence for NJs accused of crimes, lax jurisprudence for NJ victims of crimes, uneven language translation services, general denial of bail for NJ, an extra incarceration system for subsequent visa violations while in jail, and incarceration rates for NJs four times that for citizens. (See my book Embedded Racism, Ch. 6.)
Most indicative of separate and unequal treatment is that some of the accusations, which fall under a statute of limitations of seven years under the Companies Act, are still applicable. Prosecutors have argued that statutes do not apply to Ghosn because he spent time overseas. Apparently even the passage of time is different for foreigners, because the clock stops if they ever leave Japan!
It’s JBC’s view that this is a boardroom coup. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Ghosn was planning to oust a rival, Hiroto Saikawa, who has since taken Ghosn’s place as CEO. A similar thing happened to at Olympus in 2011, when CEO Michael Woodford broke ranks and came clean on boardroom grift. He was fired for not understanding “Japanese culture,” since that’s the easiest thing to pin on any foreigner.
But in Woodford’s case, he was fired, not arrested and subjected to Japan’s peculiar system of “hostage justice” police detention, where detainees are denied access to basic amenities (including sleep or lawyers) for weeks at a time, and interrogated until they crack and confess, with more than 99.9% conviction rates.
The good news is that finally overseas media is waking up to what Japan’s Federation of Bar Associations and the UN Committee Against Torture have respectively called “a breeding ground for false charges” and “tantamount to torture.” Funny thing is, if this had happened in China, we’d have had howls much sooner about the gross violations of Ghosn’s human rights.
Sources: Kelly health concerns: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/12/26/business/corporate-business/greg-kelly-close-aide-carlos-ghosn-denies-allegations-release-bail/
Kobe Steel Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kobe-steel-scandal-ceo/kobe-steel-admits-data-fraud-went-on-nearly-five-decades-ceo-to-quit-idUSKBN1GH2SM
Ghosn planned to replace CEO Saikawa https://www.wsj.com/articles/carlos-ghosn-planned-to-replace-nissan-ceo-before-his-arrest-1544348502
Olympus and Takata other issues https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-06/carlos-ghosn-s-arrest-and-the-backlash-to-japan-nissan
Statute of limitations does not apply. “Japan’s Companies Act has a statute of limitations of seven years. Prosecutors argue this does not apply due to the amount of time Ghosn has spent outside the country.”
Woodford Olympus: https://www.debito.org/?p=9576
World waking up: https://www.standard.co.uk/business/jim-armitage-carlos-ghosn-treatment-shines-harsh-light-on-justice-in-japan-a3998291.html
Tantamount to torture: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=2ahUKEwjW_7Pcp8XfAhV1GDQIHcSIDTEQFjAAegQICRAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdocstore.ohchr.org%2FSelfServices%2FFilesHandler.ashx%3Fenc%3D6QkG1d%252FPPRiCAqhKb7yhsmoIqL9rS46HZROnmdQS5bNEx%252FmMJfuTuMXK%252BwvAEjf9L%252FVjLz4qKQaJzXzwO5L9HgK1Q6dtH8fP8MDfu52LvR5McDW%252FSsgyo8lMOU8RgptX&usg=AOvVaw22H5dQMWcKYHizy8NNIuqY
Other irregularities noted in the JT by Glen Fukushima: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/12/20/commentary/japan-commentary/seven-questions-ghosn-nissan/
1) New immigration visa regime to expand nonskilled labor in Japan.
The event with the largest potential for impact on NJ residents in Japan would have to be the government’s passing of a new visa regime to officially allow unskilled workers (a departure from decades of policy) to make up for labor shortfalls in targeted industries, including nursing, food service, construction and maintenance, agriculture, and hotels.
It would allow people to stay for longer (up to five years), and even beyond that, if they qualify with secure job offers and language abilities, to the point of permanent residency. In theory, at least.
Disclaimers have been typical: Officials have denied that this is an “immigration policy,” sluicing off concerns that Japan will be overrun and undermined by hordes of NJ.
But this new visa regime matters because the government is clearly taking the inevitable measures to shore up its labor force against the abovementioned demographic crisis. To the tune of about 345,000 new workers. It’s an official step towards what we are seeing already in certain industries (like convenience stores in big cities), where NJ workers are no longer unusual.
Yes, the government may at any time decide to do a housecleaning by revoking these visas whenever NJ might reach a critical mass (as happened many times in the past). And it also has insufficiently addressed longstanding and widespread labor abuses in its Technical Trainee and Interns market. But the fact remains that bringing in proportionally more NJ, as the Japanese population shrinks, will make them less anomalous.
One way that minorities make themselves less threatening to a society is by normalizing themselves. Making people see NJ as co-workers, indispensable helpers, neighbors, maybe even friends. The cynical side of JBC thinks this is unlikely to happen. But it’s not going to happen without numbers, and that’s what this new visa regime is encouraging.
As evidence of change, the rigorous Pew Research Center last year surveyed several countries between about their attitudes towards international migration. One question, “In your opinion, should we allow more immigrants to move to our country, fewer immigrants, or about the same as we do now?” had positive responses from Japan that were the highest of any country surveyed—81% saying “more” or “the same.”
I was incredulous, especially since the word “immigration” (imin) has been a taboo term in Japan’s policy circles (JBC Nov 3, 2009). So I contacted Pew directly to ask how the question was rendered in Japanese. Sure enough, the question included “imin no suu” (immigration numbers).
This is something I had never seen before. And as such, changing policies as well as changing attitudes may result in sea changes towards NJ residents within our lifetimes.
Pew: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/10/many-worldwide-oppose-more-migration-both-into-and-out-of-their-countries/#more-309372 and https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-am-aca76f69-2982-4b0e-a36c-512c21841dc2.html?chunk=4&utm_term=emshare#story4
JBC Nov 3: https://www.debito.org/?p=4944
See also forwarded email from Pew below.
Bubbling under: Registered Foreign Residents reach new postwar record of 2.5 million. Alarmist government probe into “foreigner fraud” of Japan’s Health Insurance system reveals no wrongdoing (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/09/12/national/probe-abuse-health-insurance-foreigners-japan-stirs-claims-prejudice/). Fake rumors about NJ criminal behavior during Osaka quake officially dispelled by government (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/19/national/different-disaster-story-osaka-quake-prompts-online-hate-speech-targeting-foreigners/).
Former British Ambassador and Japan Times columnist Sir Hugh Cortazzi dies.
Source on Pew Question in original Japanese. Forwarding email exchange from Pew Research Center itself:
Begin forwarded message:
From: Pew Research Center <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Question about your recent Global Attitudes survey
Date: December 11, 2018
To: ” Debito A”
Thank you for reaching out. The original Japanese text is below:
Q52 In your opinion, should we allow more immigrants to move to our country, fewer immigrants, or about the same as we do now? Q52 日本に受け入れる移民の数を増やすべき、移民の数を減らすべき、または現状を維持すべき、のどれだと思われますか？
1 More 1.増やすべき
2 Fewer 2.減らすべき
3 About the same 3.現状を維持すべき
4 No immigrants at all (DO NOT READ) 4. 移民はまったくいない（読み上げない）
8 Don’t know (DO NOT READ) 8.わからない（読み上げない）
9 Refused (DO NOT READ) 9. 回答拒否（読み上げない）
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Best, [HT], Pew Research Center
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