SITYS: “See I Told You So” is a special category to herald the times that despite all the naysaying by critics, what was initially said on Debito.org was eventually proven to be right all along. Since the critics never capitulate, it becomes incumbent upon Debito.org to point that out ourselves.
Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (came out a few days later than usual, since there was no paper on January 2, on January 7, 2014).
Thanks to everyone once again for putting it in the most-read article for the day, once again. Here’s a version with links to sources. Arudou Debito
Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:
The Fukushima debacle has been covered better elsewhere, and assessments of its dangers and probable outcomes are for others to debate. Incontrovertible, however, is that international assistance and expertise (despite this being an international problem) have been rejected due to official xenophobia.
Last January, The New York Times quoted Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of the Environment Ministry and the man in charge of the cleanup, as saying that foreign technologies were somehow not applicable to Japan (“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example”), and that foreigners themselves were menacing (“If we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there”). Nishiyama resigned several months later, but Fukushima’s ongoing crisis continues to be divisively toxic both in fact and thought.
5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty
As the last holdout in the Group of Eight (G-8) nations yet to sign this important treaty governing the treatment of children after divorces, both houses of the Diet took the positive step in May and June (after years of formal nudging by a dozen countries, and a probable shove from U.S. President Barack Obama last February) of unanimously endorsing the convention, with ratification now possible in 2014.
As reported on previous Community pages, Japanese society condones (both in practice and by dint of its legal registration systems) single-parent families severing all contact with one parent after divorce. In the case of international divorces, add on linguistic and visa hurdles, as well as an unsympathetic family court system and a hostile domestic media (which frequently portrays abducting Japanese mothers as liberating themselves from violent foreign fathers).
Again, what’s missing in all this is, for example, any guarantee of a) equal protection under labor and civil law against discrimination, b) equal educational opportunities for their children, and c) an integration and settlement program ensuring that revolving-door visas and tenuous jobs do not continue forever. But the Abe administration has never made a formal immigration plan one of its policy “arrows”; and, with the bigger political priorities discussed below, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Meanwhile, people who discussed issues of discrimination in Japan constructively (such as American teacher Miki Dezaki, whose viral YouTube video on the subject cost him his job and resulted in him retreating to a Buddhist monastery for a year) were bullied and sent death threats, courtesy of Japan’s newly labeled legion of anonymous netto uyoku (Internet rightists).
This political camp, as JBC has argued in the past two annual Top 10 lists, is ascendant in Japan as the country swings further to the right. With impressive victories:
The state secrets law is an unfolding issue, but JBC shares the doomsayers’ view: It will underpin the effort to roll back Japan’s postwar democratic reforms and resurrect a prewar-style society governed by perpetual fear of reprisal, where people even in privileged positions will be forced to double-guess themselves into silence regarding substantiated criticism of The State (see the JT’s best article of the year, “The secret of keeping official secrets secret,” by Noriko Hama, Japanese Perspectives, Nov. 30).
After all, information is power, and whoever controls it can profoundly influence social outcomes. Moreover, this law expands “conspiracy” beyond act and into thought. Japan has a history of “thought police” (tokubetsu kōtō keisatsu) very effectively controlling the public in the name of “maintaining order.” This tradition will be resuscitated when the law comes into force in 2014.
In sum, 2013 saw the enfranchised elite consolidating their power further than has ever been seen in the postwar era, while Japan’s disenfranchised peoples, especially its NJ residents, slipped ever lower down the totem pole, becoming targets of suspicion, fear and loathing.
May this year be a healthy one for you and yours. ARUDOU, Debito
Hi Blog. You know things are really getting serious when the Old Grey Lady starts doomsaying. After a milder editorial last April, the NYT has broken the news about Japan’s Extreme (I think we can call it “extreme” without hyperbole) Rightward Swing in an editorial last month. And it does it without worrying about allegedly imperiling “The Relationship”, the typical excuse for pulling punches when it comes to criticism of Japan (e.g., avoid “racist Japan bashing”, and protect our closest ally, hitherto largest sales market outside of the USA, and most successful American-reconstructed Postwar country in Asia). The NYT now sees the “danger” (and calls it that). It’s time for people to start considering the PM Abe Administration as a regional security risk, and — Dare I say it? Yes I do — drawing up contingent strategies of containment as one would China.
This is where we’re heading in 2014. The longer the world averts one’s eyes to Abe’s true intentions over the next two years, the worse it will be for the Japanese, and for Japan’s neighbors. Arudou Debito
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month rammed through Parliament a state secrecy law that signals a fundamental alteration of the Japanese understanding of democracy. The law is vaguely worded and very broad, and it will allow government to make secret anything that it finds politically inconvenient. Government officials who leak secrets can be jailed for up to 10 years, and journalists who obtain information in an “inappropriate” manner or even seek information that they do not know is classified can be jailed for up to five years. The law covers national security issues, and it includes espionage and terrorism.
Just before the passage of the law, the secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, Shigeru Ishiba, likened those legally demonstrating against the state secrecy law to terrorists in his blog on Nov. 29. This callous disregard of freedom of speech greatly raised suspicion of what the Abe government really has in mind. The Japanese public clearly seems to fear that the law will infringe on press freedom and personal liberties. In a public opinion poll conducted by the Kyodo News Agency, 82 percent of respondents said that the law should be repealed or revised.
Mr. Abe is, however, arrogantly dismissive of the public’s concerns. “The law does not threaten ordinary life,” he said after the law’s passage. Showing an alarming ignorance of democracy, Gen Nakatani, a senior member of the Liberal Democratic Party, stated that “the affairs of government are distinct from the affairs of the people.”
The law is an integral part of Mr. Abe’s crusade to remake Japan into a “beautiful country,” which envisions expanded government power over the people and reduced protection for individual rights — a strong state supported by a patriotic people. His stated goal is to rewrite the nation’s Constitution, which was imposed by the United States Army during occupation seven decades ago.
The Liberal Democratic Party’s draft constitution, made public in April last year, deletes the existing article on the guarantee of fundamental human rights. It adds that the people must respect the national flag and national anthem. It states, “The people shall be aware that duties and obligations accompany freedoms and rights and shall never violate the public order and public interest.” It also says that the prime minister will have the power to declare a state of emergency and suspend ordinary law.
Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime.” Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a vision both anachronistic and dangerous.
PS: I am loath to quote this source, but even Fox News on New Years Eve turned on its ally: “Yet the visit to the [Yasukuni] Shrine makes many Americans think twice — wherein lies the real danger point in the Pacific — the crazy kid running North Korea, Chinese adventurism or a resurgence of the kind of nationalism that led Japan into war and conquest?”
Hello Blog. Some very significant things have happened in the two weeks since Debito.org got zapped and taken offline, and for the record we should cover them now since they warrant discussion.
My conclusions first: If you really want to “look on the bright side” of recent events, we could say “we live in interesting times”. Given the normally glacial pace of reforms in Japan, the Abe Administration is proceeding with incredible speed — which he can do, given LDP control over both houses of Parliament. It’s a pity that things are heading in the Rightist direction, dismantling the Postwar order of governance and the safeguards against Prewar fascism faster than the public or media can keep up.
Next up, as Debito.org Reader JJS sent me this morning:
///////////////////////////////////// Hi Debito. Glad to see you got control of your website back, though there may be lots still to do to secure it and prevent any further attacks. When you’re ready to start posting again, here are some juicy tidbits to chew on. With the passage of the Special State Secrets Bill, the Abe Administration is wasting no time making sure to A) start talking up Japan’s image as the “safest country in the world” while B) making sure to utilize the newly passed bill to start covering up any unsightly information from getting out about such things like nuclear powerplants, nuclear energy, etc. Finally, what will “cyber-terror” actually mean to this far right wing administration? Maybe your site may be included?? The next seven years leading up to the Olympics will be frightening to say the least.
Hi Blog. An attempted panacea to Japan’s lack of formal immigration policy floated many moons ago (and discussed here and here) was a “Points System” visa, here to bring “higher-skilled” workers (koudo jinzai). I critiqued it for its probable failure in the Japan Times here.
The failure has officially happened. Even the Justice Ministry admits below that the visa regime has attracted few people, and that, as Debito.org has reported before, is because its requirements are too strict.
But to me it’s no wonder it failed. It’s not merely (as alluded below) an issue of criteria, but rather institutionalized treatment of immigrants. We saw attitudes towards immigration last summer when ministries debated how immigrants should be treated, and cross-ministerial officials only weakly offered the same old hackneyed conclusions and lessons unlearned: Privilege granted to Nikkei with the right bloodlines, more attention devoted to how to police NJ than how to make them into Japanese citizens (with their civil and human rights protected), insufficient concern given for assimilation and assistance once NJ come to Japan, and almost no consultation with the NJ who are already in Japan making a life as to what assistance they might need.
A points-based preferential immigration system expected to attract 2,000 highly skilled foreign professionals to Japan annually accepted only 17 foreigners in its first 11 months, a dismal result that has prompted the government to review the criteria experts have blamed for the low number, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The system was adopted by the government last May to encourage skilled foreigners to take up residence in Japan and help boost Japanese economic growth. It gives these specialists privileges such as a shorter minimum-required period of stay for obtaining permanent residence.
Foreigners doing research at universities and other institutions, those with professional skills and corporate managers are eligible to use the system. They are given points in accordance with such criteria as academic credentials, professional and scholastic achievements and promised annual income.
For instance, a researcher with a doctorate who will work at an academic institution is awarded 30 points, while one with a master’s degree gets 20 points. Applicants who get at least 70 points in total are recognized as “highly skilled professionals” and can receive preferential immigration treatment including the right to acquire permanent residence within five years instead of the normal 10; permission for a spouse to work here; and permission to bring a parent to Japan to help look after the professional’s children.
However, only 17 foreigners were admitted to Japan under the point system between May 2012 and early April this year. This number rose to 434 when foreigners who were already in Japan and successfully applied for the system are added. The total includes 246 from China, 32 from the United States, 19 from India and 16 from South Korea.
In April and May, an expert panel at the Justice Ministry discussed reports that the current criteria were too strict.
One criticism was that the yearly income guideline was based on the salary of company workers, making it difficult for researchers at universities with lower yearly incomes to gain high points. Another was that only applicants with a yearly income of at least 10 million yen are allowed to have a parent accompany them to Japan.
After hearing these reports, the goverment began considering the easing of the criteria. Some possibilities include raising the points given for research papers submitted or patents obtained from the current ceiling of 15 points, shortening the minimum-required period of stay from five years to three for applying for permanent residence, and allowing foreigners on lower yearly incomes to bring an accompanying parent.
These issues will be worked out among the Justice, Foreign and Health, Labor and Welfare ministries, with the government planning to amend the system by year-end.
The government’s policy of increasing the number of foreigners to be admitted into Japan via the points system was specified in its growth strategy compiled in June.
“To help our country win in the global competition for excellent manpower, we’ll review the system and call on universities and companies to make better use of it,” said a senior official at the Justice Ministry, which is in charge of immigration control.
Hi Blog. It’s as predicted (if not encouraged) by Japan’s media: The rightist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), along with its coalition partner “Buddhist Party” Kōmeitō (KMT), won an outright majority in Japan’s Upper House.
Background for those who need it: Japan’s Diet (Parliament) is a bicameral legislature, with a more-powerful Lower House (House of Representatiaves) and a more rubber-stamping Upper House (House of Councillors) that can block Lower House legislation. The Upper House holds elections every three years (Councillors have 6-year terms, and half the Upper House — 121 seats — goes up for election at a time), and yesterday was the Upper House’s most recent election.
How enormous a victory was last December’s Lower-House election for Japan’s Right? It put 3/4 of all Lower House seats in the hands of ultraconservative parties — ones who were openly stating they favored the reinstatement of a Japanese military (not just the “Self Defense Forces”), a revision of Japan’s Constitution to remove Postwar sensibilities regarding individual rights, and a very ahistorical accounting for Japan’s Wartime responsibilities; they were also quite nakedly playing up external threats to sovereignty by niggling over disputed ocean specks with China and South Korea (see here and here). These trends were enough to cause alarm in even dispassionate scholars of Japan, but no matter — the DPJ was voted out.
These results are from Japan’s mainstream media, so there is nothing particularly specialist in these analyses. I will take screen captures from the Asahi Shinbun’s website at Asahi.com, dated Monday July 22, 2013, 2:15 AM JST, with all seats reporting in:
Here’s the makeup of how the seats went by prefectural electoral district:
EXPLANATION: Each box is a prefecture. Inside each box is a colored kanji representing one seat and, depending on the color, to which party it went. The navy blue ones are the LDP, the sky blue ones the coalition KMT. Red is the center-left DPJ, and within the fringe parties of note, the light green is the ultrarightist JRP and the orange is all-over-the-map-politically Your Party (Minna no Tō).
COMMENT: As you can see, almost every prefecture went LDP. Japan’s rightward shift is especially clear when you compare it to the distribution in the 2010 Upper House election:
and the 2007 Upper House election, which was quite decisively DPJ:
Now let’s look at how the Upper House looks in terms of seat distribution and assembly majority.
EXPLANATION: The uppermost grouping is the LDP/KMT coalition, denoting a total of 135 seats in the 242-seat Upper House. That gives them an absolute majority, as half the seats (visible in the horizontal bar chart) is 121. The 10 are unaffiliated and fringe parties, the 11 are the Japan Communist Party, and at 59 is the DPJ.
In the smaller greyer horizontal bar chart below the larger one, you can see the distribution of assembly seats before the election. Below that is a chart showing the seats distribution with this election (e.g., 65 for the LDP), plus the seats that were not up for election this time (e.g., 50 for the LDP), totaling the political power of 115 seats below that.
COMMENT: As denoted in the larger horizontal bar chart above, a 2/3 majority has been reached in the Upper House if one coalitions the JRP (at 9) and the Minna no Tō (at 18). This means a reform of Japan’s Constitution is now very possible if not probable.
Next, to see how much of a rout this election was for the DPJ, consider this bar chart for this election alone, not including seats that were not up for election this time:
EXPLANATION: The biggest seat getters were the LDP/KMT coalition at 76. They had 44 before this election. The other fringe parties, Minna no Tō (politically wild-card) went from 3 to 8, JRP (ultra rightist) went from 2 to 8, and JCP (leftist communist) went from 3 to 8. Clearly the biggest loser was the DPJ, which dropped from 44 to 17.
COMMENT: The Right is now clearly in control of the Upper House.
Next, Japan has a funny election system seen in other parliamentary democracies where the electorate votes for an individual candidate in a prefectural seat (senkyo-ku), and then votes for a second time for a political party (called hirei-ku, or Proportional Representation). So of the 121 seats up for grabs this time, 73 are for prefectural seats largely apportioned by local population numbers (i.e., larger population = more seats), while 48 are reserved for people who get votes on behalf of their party. So if people preferred an individual candidate but didn’t like their party, they could vote for the person and then a second time for a different political party. Here’s how those turned out:
At the top is the LDP again, which got 47 seats in electoral districts, and 18 seats from PR votes, total 65 seats of the 121 up for grabs, increasing their total seats in the Upper House from 84 to 115. You can do the same math for the other parties, which are, respectively, LDP coalition party KMT (sky blue, center-rightist), DPJ (red, center-leftist), Minna no Tō (orange, wild card), JRP (green, ultra-rightist), JCP (purple, leftist-communist), and other fringe parties in grey Seikatsu no Tō (political despoiler Ozawa Ichiro’s latest incarnation), Shamintō (leftist), Midori no Kaze (green leftist), Kaikaku (unknown leanings; did not field a candidate), Taichi (Suzuki Muneo’s demagogic party), the rest of the fringes, and the unaffiliateds.
COMMENT: Once again, the biggest winners were the LDP, the biggest losers the DPJ (which got as many as KMT and just one more than the ultrarightist JRP!)
1) XENOPHOBE SUZUKI NOBUYUKI GETS MORE THAN 1% OF TOKYO ELECTORATE
In the end, Suzuki came in tenth (out of twenty candidates), which is not too shabby considering how extremely nasty he is. As of this writing, 74,083 people in Tokyo voted for him. I find that decidedly scary.
2) TSURUNEN LOSES HIS SEAT. NOT EVEN CLOSE
Finland-born Tsurunen Marutei, the human chameleon who got his Diet seat for two terms, did little of import with it, and then promised to change even the color of his eyes, decisively lost in the PR vote.
For the DPJ, he came in thirteenth, gaining only 81,856 votes (not all that many more than Suzuki, and this is a nationwide vote!). This is below the threshold allowed for the total votes cast for the DPJ, which gave only seven candidates (those denoted by red roses) a seat.
CONCLUSION: I think Abe will now see this as vindication of his mandate, and we’ll see even more pushing of his rightest agenda to undo as many Postwar reforms as possible. Those will become very visible in the coming weeks. Vigilance.
Alright, that’s the bare bones of this election. Let’s open this up to Comments. Thanks for reading. Arudou Debito
With this comes the likelihood of first changes in the Postwar Constitution. Legal scholar Colin P.A. Jones of Doshisha University has already come out with articles in the Japan Times discussing the LDP’s proposed changes (see here and here). What I will do in this blog entry is scan and paste in the lecture notes (ten pages) from another legal scholar, Lawrence Repeta of Meiji University, who gave his analysis in a lecture at Temple University in Tokyo on May 23, 2013. It is less accessible than Colin’s newspaper articles but no less authoritative, so here it is, courtesy of CP (notes in the margins probably also by CP). Repeta similarly holds that we will see a shift in focus towards strengthening The State in the name of “public order”, and prioritizing the duties and obligations of the Japanese public rather than guaranteeing their rights as individuals.
In sum (I argue), we are seeing the return of Japanese as Imperial subjects rather than citizens, where rights and duties are granted from above rather than secured and guaranteed from below.
This is what’s coming, folks. Be prepared. Arudou Debito
Also enclosed in CP’s mailing was this curious note from senior Japan scholar Ronald Dore, which fixates on one particular debate held more than 20 years ago (along with snide asides at Japan’s Left), and even gets the former Tokyo Governor’s name wrong:
Well, now, in yet another episode of SITYS (“See I Told You So”), Asahi reports the “Points System” is going through similar “revisions” as the visa scams above due to a dearth of applications. As I thought would happen — the PS’s qualifying hurdles are simply too high.
Even if one assumes good faith in Japan’s policymakers (some of whom do see the slow-motion demographic disaster in progress due to crushing public debt unsupportable by a society that is shrinking and aging) who might want to treat “foreign laborers” as people, Japan’s bureaucrats are so paranoid about NJ somehow “abusing” the system that they make it practically impossible for anyone to ever “use” the system to their benefit. Again, the GOJ keep wanting “workers” and discover to their surprise later that they imported “people”, with livelihood needs beyond mere work hours converted into “the privilege of living in Japan”.
A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned.
In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced.
The program covers the following fields: research, engineering and management. Points are awarded on the basis of a person’s experience and capabilities.
An individual who receives a certain number of points can, for example, bring his or her parents to live in Japan or gain permission for a spouse to work, something that few foreign workers had been able to do until a year ago.
According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.
Foreign applicants have complained to immigration offices about the strict conditions, particularly one pertaining to income levels.
Shao Huaiyu, a renewable energy researcher at Kyushu University, applied at the recommendation of school officials soon after the system was introduced last May.
He was certified as highly competent after receiving 100 points out of a maximum 140 in the researcher division based on his doctor’s and patented inventions.
Shao planned to ask his parents to come from China and help raise two daughters, aged 2 and under 1 year old.
But his application was refused because of an additional condition that called for an annual income of 10 million yen ($106,000) or more.
“It is almost impossible for a university researcher in his or her 30s to earn 10 million yen,” Shao said. “By the time I can earn that much, my children will have grown up.”
The Justice Ministry plans to review the system. An Immigration Bureau official said the system has not been widely publicized overseas due to limited budgets.
Junichi Goto, a professor of labor economics at Keio University, is opposed to the planned review, saying looser conditions could jeopardize a ban on unskilled laborers.
He has also expressed concern that some foreigners could abuse the system by bringing their parents over simply to get advanced medical treatment under the nation’s universal health insurance system.
A similar point system has been introduced in Canada, New Zealand and other countries eager to accept skilled immigrants.
According to the Canadian Embassy, 90,000 to 110,000 engineers and their families enter the country each year.
Even among industrialized countries, Japan is regarded as exercising very strict control over immigration.
The Japanese program is intended to attract only those whose skills are needed in Japan, rather than increasing the number of foreign nationals working in this country by loosening the immigration control law.
Hi Blog. Here’s my latest publication, which came out last Sunday, elaborating more on the historical arc of Japan’s rightward swing I have already talked about journalistically in three recent Japan Times columns:
Here is how I see the build up to what came to fruition with PM Abe and his cadre’s reinstatement to power last December. Excerpt follows. Arudou Debito
////////////////////////////////////////////// The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013. Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance 日本の右傾化と鳥取県人権条例
By Arudou Debito
ABSTRACT Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.
This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.
Keywords: Japan, human rights, Tottori, racial discrimination, suffrage, minorities, Japanese politics, elections, xenophobia, right wing
As has been written elsewhere (cf. Arudou 2005; 2006a; 2006b et al.), Japan has no law in its Civil or Criminal Code specifically outlawing or punishing racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu). With respect to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (which Japan adopted in 1996), Japan has explicitly stated to the United Nations that it does not need such a law: “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.” (MOFA 2001: 5.1)
However, in 2005, a regional government, Tottori Prefecture northwest of Ōsaka, did pass a local ordinance (jōrei) explicitly punishing inter alia discrimination by race. What happened to that law shortly afterwards provides a cautionary tale, demonstrating how public fear of granting any power to Non-Japanese occasioned the ordinance to be rescinded shortly afterwards. This article describes the defeat of a similar bill on a national scale, the public reaction to Tottori’s ordinance and the series of events that led to its withdrawal. The aftermath led to the stigmatization of any liberalization favoring more rights for Non-Japanese.
Prelude: The Protection of Human Rights Bill debates of the mid-2000s
Throughout the 2000s, there was a movement to enforce the exclusionary parameters of Japanese citizenship by further reinforcing the status quo disenfranchising non-citizens. For example, one proposal that would have enfranchised non-citizens by giving them more rights was the Protection of Human Rights Bill (jinken yōgo hōan). It was an amalgamation of several proposals (including the Foreign Residents’ Basic Law (gaikokujin jūmin kihon hō)) that would have protected the rights of residents regardless of nationality, ethnic status, or social origin.
Hi Blog. I received this two days ago and am reposting (as is) with permission. The International Olympic Committee is currently in Japan considering Tokyo as a venue for the 2020 Summer Games. In light of recent events that point to clear examples of discrimination and advocacy of violence towards, for example, Koreans (see below), human rights groups in Japan are advocating that the IOC understand that these actions violate the Olympic Charter and choose their venue accordingly. Articles, photos, and letters follow from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren), Tanaka Hiroshi in the Mainichi Shinbun, and sources demonstrating that, for example, all GOJ educational subsidies for Korean ethnic schools have been eliminated as of 2013 from government budgets.
SITYS. This is yet but another example of Japan’s clear and dangerous swing to the Right under PM Abe. And granting an Olympics to this regime despite all of this merely legitimize these tendencies, demonstrating that Japan will be held to a different standard regarding discrimination. Wake up, IOC. Arudou Debito
Date: 2013/3/3Dear Sir/Madam,
I am … an activist against racism. I hope you to know about racism against resident Koreans, especially emergent crisis of Korean ethnic schools by the central and local governments’ oppression in Japan, even though the governments would invite the Olympic Games 2020 to Tokyo.
I’ve attached a letter to you below.
The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission arrived in Tokyo on last Friday and it is going to inspect Tokyo from 4th to 7th March.
It would be great honour if you handle this issue. All the best, [redacted]
Japan Network for the Institutionalization of Schools for Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities
Tokyo – a city which discriminates against Korean children January 2013
We hope to inform you that Tokyo is not an appropriate city for the Olympic Games based on the Fundamental Principals of the Olympics, especially that of anti-discrimination. The main reason for this is that the central and Tokyo governments officially discriminate against Korean children who attend Korean schools, which are key to maintaining the Korean communities in Japan.
Koreans in Japan are an ethnic minority who were forced to come to Japan under the Japanese colonial rule of Korea and settle there even after WWII. Throughout their enforced stay here they have faced various difficulties. After the liberation from the Japanese colonial rule, Koreans in Japan established their own ethnic schools in various places in Japan in order to maintain their own language and culture that had been deprived from them under the Japanese colonial rule.
Although the Japanese government has not recognized Korean schools as regular and official schools and has been imposing institutional discrimination upon them such as exclusion from a financial support scheme of the central government, the Korean community has been sustaining their schools on their own for more than 60 years. The total number of Korean schools in Japan is approximately 70, including kindergarten, primary to high schools, and university. Nearly 10,000 Korean children whose nationality is South Korean, North Korean and Japan are learning in those schools today, even though 80-90 % of Korean children attend Japanese schools.
The new Democratic Party administration proposed the plan of a so-called “Free High School Tuition” system in October 2009 as soon as it was established. The then plan intended not to collect tuition fees from students of public high schools in Japan and to supply students of private schools and minority schools authorized by local governments as “vocational school” including Korean schools with a subsidy of the amount equivalent to the tuition fee of public high schools.
In March 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about the approach of some politicians who had suggested the exclusion of Korean schools from the bill of “Free High School Tuition” due to the diplomatic issues between Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The reason for this concern was the discriminatory effects of such a policy. However, the policy was instigated in April 2010 and since then the central government has been discriminating against Korean school students. They have been excluded from this system for nearly three years, although students of 37 minority high schools including International schools, Chinese schools and Brazilian schools have been supplied with subsidies through this system.
On the other hand, all 27 prefectural governments where Korean schools are located accepted them as “vocational schools” and have been providing subsidies to Korean schools for decades, even though the central government requested prefectural governments to not accept them as any kind of schools in 1965.
However, the decision of the central government to exclude Korean schools from “Free High School Tuition” has led to the new discriminative situation in which five prefectural governments including Tokyo have stopped their subsidies to Korean schools. Tokyo had supplied financial aid to Korean schools for at least over 15 years. In 2009, it provided about 27,000,000Yen (190,000 Pound); however, Tokyo has stopped its subsidies to Korean schools since 2010 without providing a clear rationale.
In addition, the then Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro officially said that he would reconsider the accreditation of Korean schools in Tokyo as “vocational schools” in March 2012. If the accreditation of “vocational school” is revoked, it will cause extensive damages to Korean schools. For instance, Korean schools will become completely exempt from the “Free High School Tuition” system and there will be no possibility to receive any financial support from local governments. Furthermore, Korean schools will be forced to pay consumption tax for tuition fee.
In December 2012, as soon as the Liberal Democratic Party won the General Election and established its new government, it declared it would revise an ordinance in order to exclude Korean schools due to political tensions between Japan and North Korea, primarily the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
In January 2013, Korean schools and school children in Osaka and Aichi prefecture brought a lawsuit before the court, and Korean school children in Tokyo are preparing lawsuit concerning these discrimination.
Racism in Japan is generally increasing, encouraged by the racial discrimination by the central government. The number of demonstrations repeating hate speech against Non Japanese nationals, especially Korean, communities has been increasing in Japan (Annex1). The police are just gazing at the demos without restricting them because there is no anti-discrimination law nor hate speech legislation in Japan so that the demos has been unchecked.
List of Annexs
1, The images of demonstration by anti-Korean racists in Korean Town of Tokyo
2, The Statement of President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations objecting to exclusion of Korean Schools from applying Free High School tuition policy
3, The Article of The Mainichi Shimbun (23 February, 2013)
４, The situation of the cut of the subsidies to Korean schools from local governments in Japan
Annex 1: The Images of Demonstration by Anti-Korean Racists
Annex2: Statement of President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations objecting to exclusion of Korean Schools from applying Free High School tuition policy
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced a proposed amendment to ministerial ordinance on December 28th, 2012, which amends a part of enforcement regulations regarding free tuition for public high schools and subsidies for private high schools. As for the high schools where foreign students are enrolled such as international schools and ethnic schools, the current enforcement regulations define the subject for the policy as either high schools that are confirmed through its embassy to have curriculum equivalent to that of high schools in its native state, or high schools that are certified by international evaluation body, while the rest of the schools that are evaluated as having curriculum equivalent to that of Japanese high schools can be the recipient of the subsidies, whether or not Japan has diplomatic relations with its native state, after the minister of the MEXT designates each school individually. The proposed amendment is to delete the grounds for the individual designation.
Regarding the purpose of this revision, the minister of MEXT, Hakubun Shimomura, stated at the press conference on December 28th, 2012, that the proposed amendment is aimed at deleting the grounds for designating Korean schools because there is no progress to resolve the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) abduction of Japanese citizens, which makes it clear that this proposed amendment is aimed at excluding Korean Schools from applying the Free High School tuition policy.
As we stated in the “Statement on Subject High Schools of the Free Tuition Bill” on March 5th, 2010, the main purpose of this bill is “to contribute to the creation of equal educational opportunities by alleviating the financial burdens of high school education”, which is also demanded by Article 28 of Convention on the Rights of the Child. Considering the fact that Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as International Bill of Human Rights (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) guarantee the right to receive education with ethnic identity being maintained, the current ministerial ordinance which would include international schools and ethnic schools is in a right direction. Furthermore, it is revealed through the process of the deliberation on the bill that, as the Government’s collective view, the designation of high schools for foreign students should not be judged by diplomatic concern but should be judged objectively through educational perspective.
On contrary to that, this proposed amendment is to refuse to provide subsidies based on the grounds that there being no diplomatic relations between Japan and DPRK or no progress to resolve the DPRK’s abduction issue, either of which has nothing to do with the right of the child to receive education. It is a discriminative treatment which is prohibited by Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan.
Korean Schools in Japan completed applying for the designation based on the current bill legitimately by the end of November, 2011, this upcoming amendment is to extinguish the regulations considered as the grounds for applying and refuse the Korean Schools’ application retroactively after more than two years from the application, which poses serious doubt on its procedure.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations strongly urges that the proposed amendment be withdrawn whilst the review of the application from Korean schools be concluded promptly based on the current law and screening standard.
February 1st, 2013
Kenji Yamagishi, President
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
Annex3: The Article of The Mainichi Shimbun
Discrimination against Korean Schools need be reconsidered
Honorary Professor at Hitotsubashi University
24 February, 2013
Since the host city for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics games will be determined in September, the Governor of Tokyo Metropolitan, Naoki Inose, has started Bids for Olympics in earnest. Under such circumstances, would it be right for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Japanese Government to continue discriminating Korean Schools in Japan?
At the time of Nagoya bid for the 1988 Summer Olympics, Nagoya City had “Nationality Clause” for the employment of teachers at public school which has been open to foreigners in Tokyo or Osaka, thus preventing foreigners from applying. A nongovernment human right committee in Nagoya sent an English letter to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), urging IOC to consider the serious issue on human rights of Nagoya City and to be sufficiently concerned about the improvement of moral qualification in the Olympic Movement to determine the host city. It was Seoul that was chosen as the host city in September, 1981. Though it is uncertain whether or not the letter had anything to do with the decision, it must be remembered that discrimination is unforgivable matter in the international community.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government had previously been providing subsidies worth of 15,000 yen per a student to each of 27 schools for foreign students. However, the Metropolitan Government has stopped providing subsidies to Korean Schools alone since 2010 and not on the budget next year either. There has been no illegal act on the Korean Schools side. The education of the child should not be confounded with international affair.
So called “Free High School tuition law” was implemented in the same year 2010, which was applied not only to Japanese high schools but to vocational schools and high schools for foreign students as well. Students from each of 39 high schools, such as Brazilian Schools, Chinese Schools, (South) Korean Schools and International Schools were provided with subsidies equivalent to the tuition for the public high school.
Nevertheless, the decision over whether or not (North) Korean Schools would be applicable to the policy still remains unmade and students at Korean Schools have already graduated without ever receiving subsidies over the last two years.
Following the birth of Abe Cabinet, the Minster of the Ministry of Education, Culture, sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Hakubun Shimomura (aka Hirohumi Shimomura) amended the enforcement regulations of Free High School tuition law with the purpose of excluding Korean Schools alone from the policy because there is no progress to resolve Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens. The law’s main purpose is “alleviating the financial burdens of high school education” and “to contribute to the creation of equal education opportunities”. Doesn’t this amendment to the enforcement regulations go beyond the limitation of a delegated order?
UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed its concern about the exclusion of Korean Schools from Free High School tuition policy in the Concluding Observation in March, 2010, after reviewing the report submitted by Japanese Government and recommended Japan to consider acceding to the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (adopted in 1960, 100 signatories). The concern of CERD became realized by Abe Cabinet.
The report from Japanese Government to the UN Committee on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights is to be reviewed in coming April. List of Issues from the Committee says “Please provide information on the impact of the measures taken to address the persistent discrimination against children belonging to ethnic minorities and migrant families, in particular children of Korean origin”. Female students at Korean Schools used to go to school wearing chima jeogori, the traditional Korean form of dress. It’s been a long time since it became unseen in order to avoid harassment and assaults by heartless Japanese citizens.
Olympic Charter states “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” Discrimination against Korean School is incompatible with Olympics.
Discrimination against Korean Schools need be reconsidered.
Annex4: The situation of the cut of the subsidies to Korean schools from local governments in Japan ( 2009 – 2013 )
(start date of subsidy)
Total amount of subsidy
Total amount of subsidy
Total amount of subsidy
Total amount of subsidy
Total amount of subsidy
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Based on a survey by The Association of Korean Human Rights in Japan
All the currency unit is Japanese yen ( 1 euro≒123 yen, 1 dollar≒93 yen [as of 22 Feb 2013] )
Hi Blog. As part of a continuing series of how the Post-Fukushima Debacles have laid bare just how irredeemably broken Japan’s system is (see related articles here (item #2), here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), the NYT has just reported the latest on the Fukushima radiation cleanup effort. Within, we can witness a wonderful fusion of corruption, xenophobia, and unaccountable bureaucratic culture that have been symptomatic of why Japan as a society cannot not fix itself (see items #1-3). And this time, it’s a wonderful capsule summary of why foreign technology and assistance will lose out to featherbedded domestic interests (the Kensetsu Zoku, who are making a right mess of things). And how there’s no hope of it getting better since the corrupt corporatists who facilitated this system in the first place (LDP under Abe and co.) are back in power as of December with a fresh mandate. A choice excerpt from the NYT, very, very germane to the purview of Debito.org, follows:
NYT: Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.
“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”
(UPDATE: Original Japanese question and answer, courtesy of Hiroko Tabuchi (thanks!):
(Here’s a picture of Nishiyama Hidehiko to burn into your memory cells, courtesy of Reuters:)
This is an incredibly racist insult to all the NJ who were both there and who went up there to help the victims of the disasters at great time, expense, and risk to their health — without scaring people. I have two articles below the NYT from the WSJ which outline what a horrible little fellow this Nishiyama is, and how he keeps bouncing right back into power despite scandal within Japan’s unaccountable bureaucracy.
After that, I have some links to previous comments on this article. I originally put this up yesterday as an addendum to a previous blog entry, but the comments there (see most of them in context here) are worth archiving here because they express the appropriate amount of outrage. About a system that is, in the end, betraying everyone. Kudos to NYT reporter Hiroko Tabuchi for uncovering this. Arudou Debito
NARAHA, Japan — The decontamination crews at a deserted elementary school here are at the forefront of what Japan says is the most ambitious radiological cleanup the world has seen, one that promised to draw on cutting-edge technology from across the globe.
But much of the work at the Naraha-Minami Elementary School, about 12 miles away from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, tells another story. For eight hours a day, construction workers blast buildings with water, cut grass and shovel dirt and foliage into big black plastic bags — which, with nowhere to go, dot Naraha’s landscape like funeral mounds.
More than a year and a half since the nuclear crisis, much of Japan’s post-Fukushima cleanup remains primitive, slapdash and bereft of the cleanup methods lauded by government scientists as effective in removing harmful radioactive cesium from the environment.
Local businesses that responded to a government call to research and develop decontamination methods have found themselves largely left out. American and other foreign companies with proven expertise in environmental remediation, invited to Japan in June to show off their technologies, have similarly found little scope to participate.
Recent reports in the local media of cleanup crews dumping contaminated soil and leaves into rivers has focused attention on the sloppiness of the cleanup.
“What’s happening on the ground is a disgrace,” said Masafumi Shiga, president of Shiga Toso, a refurbishing company based in Iwaki, Fukushima. The company developed a more effective and safer way to remove cesium from concrete without using water, which could repollute the environment. “We’ve been ready to help for ages, but they say they’ve got their own way of cleaning up,” he said.
Shiga Toso’s technology was tested and identified by government scientists as “fit to deploy immediately,” but it has been used only at two small locations, including a concrete drain at the Naraha-Minami school.
Instead, both the central and local governments have handed over much of the 1 trillion yen decontamination effort to Japan’s largest construction companies. The politically connected companies have little radiological cleanup expertise and critics say they have cut corners to employ primitive — even potentially hazardous — techniques.
The construction companies have the great advantage of available manpower. Here in Naraha, about 1,500 cleanup workers are deployed every day to power-spray buildings, scrape soil off fields, and remove fallen leaves and undergrowth from forests and mountains, according to an official at the Maeda Corporation, which is in charge of the cleanup.
That number, the official said, will soon rise to 2,000, a large deployment rarely seen on even large-sale projects like dams and bridges.
The construction companies suggest new technologies may work, but are not necessarily cost-effective.
“In such a big undertaking, cost-effectiveness becomes very important,” said Takeshi Nishikawa, an executive based in Fukushima for the Kashima Corporation, Japan’s largest construction company. The company is in charge of the cleanup in the city of Tamura, a part of which lies within the 12-mile exclusion zone. “We bring skills and expertise to the project,” Mr. Nishikawa said.
Kashima also built the reactor buildings for all six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading some critics to question why control of the cleanup effort has been left to companies with deep ties to the nuclear industry.
Also worrying, industry experts say, are cleanup methods used by the construction companies that create loose contamination that can become airborne or enter the water.
At many sites, contaminated runoff from cleanup projects is not fully recovered and is being released into the environment, multiple people involved in the decontamination work said.
In addition, there are no concrete plans about storing the vast amounts of contaminated soil and foliage the cleanup is generating, which the environment ministry estimates will amount to at least 29 million cubic meters, or more than a billion cubic feet.
The contaminated dirt lies in bags on roadsides, in abandoned fields and on the coastline, where experts say they are at risk from high waves or another tsunami.
“This isn’t decontamination — it’s sweeping up dirt and leaves and absolutely irresponsible,” said Tomoya Yamauchi, an expert in radiation measurement at Kobe University who has been helping Fukushima communities test the effectiveness of various decontamination methods. “Japan has started up its big public works machine, and the cleanup has become an end in itself. It’s a way for the government to appear to be doing something for Fukushima.”
In some of the more heavily contaminated parts of Fukushima, which covers about 100 square miles, the central government aims to reduce radiation exposure levels to below 20 millisieverts a year by 2014, a level the government says is safe for the general public. But experts doubt whether this is achievable, especially with current cleanup methods.
After some recent bad press, the central government has promised to step up checks of the decontamination work. “We will not betray the trust of the local communities,” Shinji Inoue, the environment vice minister, said Monday.
There had been high hopes about the government’s disaster reconstruction plan. It was announced four months after the March 2011 disaster, which declared Japan would draw on the most advanced decontamination know-how possible.
But confusion over who would conduct and pay for the cleanup slowed the government response. It took nine months for the central government to decide that it would take charge of decontamination work in 11 of the heaviest-contaminated towns and cities in Fukushima, leaving the rest for local governments to handle.
In October, the state-backed research organization, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, announced that it was soliciting new decontamination technology from across the country.
By early November, the agency had identified 25 technologies that its own tests showed removed harmful cesium from the environment.
A new system to trap, filter and recycle contaminated runoff, developed by the local machinery maker Fukushima Komatsu Forklift, was one of technologies. But since then, the company has not been called on to participate in the state-led cleanup.
“For the big general contractors, it’s all about the bottom line,” said Masao Sakai, an executive at the company. “New technology is available to prevent harmful runoff, but they stick to the same old methods.”
The Japanese government also made an initial effort to contact foreign companies for decontamination support. It invited 32 companies from the United States that specialize in remediation technologies like strip-painting and waste minimization, to show off their expertise to Japanese government officials, experts and companies involved in the cleanup.
Opinions on the trip’s effectiveness vary among participants, but in the six months since, not a single foreign company has been employed in Japan’s cleanup, according to the trip’s participants and Japan’s Environment Ministry.
“Japan has a rich history in nuclear energy, but as you know, the U.S. has a much more diverse experience in dealing with the cleanup of very complicated nuclear processing facilities. We’ve been cleaning it up since World War II,” said Casey Bunker, a director at RJ Lee, a scientific consulting company based in Pennsylvania that took part in the visit.
“There was a little of, ‘Hey, bring your tools over and show us how it works.’ But they ultimately wanted to do it themselves, to fix things themselves,” Mr. Bunker said. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in a consultative relationship moving forward.”
Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.
“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”
Some local residents are losing faith in the decontamination effort.
“I thought Japan was a technologically advanced country. I thought we’d be able to clean up better than this,” said Yoshiko Suganami, a legal worker who was forced to abandon her home and office over two miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”
Most of the clients at Ms. Suganami’s new practice in Fukushima city are also nuclear refugees who have lost their jobs and homes and are trying to avert bankruptcy. She said few expect to ever return.
In Japan Rarity, Nuclear Spokesman Replaced After Affair Allegations
By Yuka Hayashi
Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2011, courtesy of JE
Over the past few months, the world has been rocked by revelations of powerful men caught in sex scandals: Arnold and Anthony Weiner, to name a few. Now Japan has its own version, which this week claimed the scalp of Hidehiko Nishiyama, Tokyo’s former chief nuclear spokesman.
Hidehiko Nishiyama was demoted from his role as the government’s chief nuclear spokesman on June 29 after rumors about an alleged affair with a young female employee unfurled.
Unlike the U.S., where online flirting costs politicians their jobs, the public in Japan is generally forgiving of powerful men involved in sex scandals. But not this time.
Mr. Nishiyama, a successful career bureaucrat at the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, was abruptly pushed out of his role Wednesday, less than a week after a news magazine reported an alleged affair between him and a younger female staffer at the ministry. While Mr. Nishiyama, 54, denied having a sexual relationship with the woman through a ministry spokesman, the colorful details reported in the article became a source of incessant gossip among the city’s elites.
Extra-marital affairs of politicians and business leaders are often viewed in Japan as they are in France – personal matters that should be left alone as long as they don’t interfere with their work — or dramatically offend people’s sensitivities. Some even consider such scandals as something the men should be proud of, as a sign of their power and personal charm.
Take Prime Minister Naoto Kan. In 1998, a news magazine reported his affair with a newscaster. He was called “You idiot!” by his wife, as he himself admitted, but suffered no lasting damage to his career. Paparazzi captured Goshi Hosono, a rising star of Mr. Kan’s ruling party, in a moment of passion with a TV reporter in 2006, but the 39-year-old married politician quickly put his career back on track; he just got appointed as Japan’s new nuclear minister on Monday.
Until recently, Mr. Nishiyama, who is married with two children, was known as a rising star within the ministry, but that hardly made him a public figure. That changed a few days after the March 11 disaster, when he was tapped to moderate the ministry’s daily briefings on the accident. With his articulate answers and knowledge of the power industry gained through his previous assignments, he became a familiar face on national television.
Mr. Nishiyama will now return to his pre-March 11 job in the ministry’s trade bureau, where his primary responsibility is to move Japan toward participating in a controversial regional trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“I apologize if (the report) gave the impression or invited concerns that I was not fully committed to my job” Mr. Nishiyama said last week. Yukio Edano, chief government spokesman, said Wednesday Mr. Nishiyama was relieved of his responsibility due to “concerns that (the scandal) would interfere with his duties.”
As the minister also overseeing the cleanup of the nuclear crisis, Mr. Hosono said the insensitive behavior exhibited by his staff ultimately falls on his shoulders. (He will continue to collect his Y1.3 million monthly income as a member of parliament).
Penalties were also imposed on the environment vice ministers, who will face a 20% pay cut for two months. Others involved have been transferred to other positions and given stern warnings.
The penalties come the day after Mr. Hosono revealed that an environment ministry employee threw soil with trace amounts of radiation away in a vacant lot near his home last week. The soil was sent to the ministry from a Fukushima resident, who had asked the ministry to get rid of the soil. Tests of the soil detected radiation of about 0.18 microsieverts per hour – a low level deemed safe.
Looking ever more haggard since becoming the central government’s captain in charge of the Fukushima Daiichi accident soon after March 11, Mr. Hosono said at a press conference Friday: “What is behind this is the feeling among Fukushima residents that the government has not been implementing its responsibility for handling contaminated soil and should be doing more. I do not think I will be able to gain understanding of people in Fukushima with something like this,” according to state broadcaster NHK.
Separately, the environment ministry has taken in a familiar face to help oversee the soil decontamination effort. Hidehiko Nishiyama, a former government nuclear spokesman disgraced by a sex scandal, has been named deputy chief of a special team for decontamination of Fukushima, set up within the ministry of environment, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Friday.
Mr. Nishiyama still remains an employee of the METI but will now be on lease to the environment ministry. The 54-year-old elite bureaucrat joined the ministry in 1980 after graduating from Tokyo University. Mr. Nishiyama wasn’t available for comment.
AB: Like the classic “gaijin skis won’t work on Japanese snow” absurdity van Wolferen (?) wrote about 20 years ago. Unbelievable this crappola is still going on. Only gonna get worse with LDP back in the saddle. To paraphrase de Tocqueville “a people gets the government it deserves”
CD: i wonder the extent to which this statement is a convenient misdirection. it’s much easier to spew out some xenophobic nonsense than to publicly admit that fukushima has been written off. i mean, the place was written off the moment they built the plants. but what japanese politician or bureaucrat is going to admit to that? much easier to say grandma and grandpa might get scared by gaijin.
AB: No one — at least no one IN JAPAN — is EVER going to admit this (even though it’s true). It’s like the same-old same-old — everyone afraid of being tarred with the “Hikokumin brush” and being called “defeatist” or a “dream-destroyer” (yume wo kowasu hito).
Same dynamic that kept everyone with half a brain enough to see what was going on otherwise silent as Imperial Japan lurched toward — then plunged into — a suicidal war in 1941.
EF: This is private life, [Nishiyama] does with his tin-tin whenever he wants. What concerns us is his racist profile and he attacking foreigners this way again after all foreigners have done for the victims in Fukushima because, at the time of the hard cleaning up, many foreigners were there removing the corpses along with the Japanese and no one seemed scared by our presence.
GH: [Nishiyama’s] comments are already noted on his Wikipedia page under 日本人論的・差別的発言.
IJ: Pathological racism. Just like how they couldn’t use the U.S. military’s rescue helicopters in Kobe. The Japanese air is different so the pilots might not have been able to fly in Japanese airspace… and the U.S. and French doctors might have scared the earthquake victims to death. But it was really the swiss search dogs that would have been the biggest problem. Japanese dog food is so different. LOL … What a frigging mess Japan is in. Gladder and gladder I voted with my feet years ago.
KL: So the local victims have to suffer because of the racism of the authorities?! But I guess the little people don’t matter…
MN: I know the real reason foreign companies were not invited to take part. I have a relative who works for a major general contractor (maybe even one mentioned in the article). He tells me that ALL (not some, ALL) of their business is carried out in cash for the single purpose of ensuring bribes go smoothly. Foreign companies are not above this. They just don’t know how to play the game.
JDG: Yet another microcosm for all that is wrong with Japan. If the J-public (especially the victims of the disaster) are going to persist in taking it lying down (and unlubricated!), then I can’t see much hope for the future.
GP: Instead, there are now armies of cheap laborers washing down buildings with water and scraping topsoil off schoolyards and dumping it in local rivers – simply spreading the contamination even further while they toil to line the coffers of companies with the juicy cleanup contracts – companies that just conveniently are linked to the nuclear industry. And this is a first world country?
The final comment from the environment ministry really said it all though. This almost reads like a sarcastic joke referencing the “Japan has different snow” tactics of yester-year, with a fine dash of xenophobia thrown in for good measure. Can’t have any nasty furriners scaring the oldies!! (Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that hundreds of foreigners if not thousands have already given their time, money and labor to cleanup and rebuild in Tohoku, and by all accounts their assistance was warmly welcomed).
JDG: ATTENTION APOLOGISTS!
Since you obsessively check this site, please read Debito’s post #23 and explain to me;
How this is simply one small isolated case of government and business collusion in corruption, and does by no means indicate that ‘Japan Inc.’ is broken?
How does this prove that the Fukushima situation is fully safe and under control, and being managed in a transparent fashion?
How does the following statement;’“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”’, prove that rather than racism being endemic in the heart of the Japanese state, I am simply an over sensitive moaner who can’t understand Japan’s unique culture?
How does this article prove that all Japan reporting is shoddy in nature, and biased unfairly against Japan?
How does this statement by a displaced Fukushima resident; ‘“It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”’ clearly reek of unfair and scientifically unsound anti-nuclear lobby alarmism?
By all means, please take this opportunity to show us all where we have being getting it so wrong for all these years in our criticism of Japan.
December 17, 2012 Re: Advice regarding discrimination at a hospital
Dear Sir, My name is Hilary. I am originally from Canada and I’ve been employed by the Town of Shikaoi in Tokachi, Hokkaido as an Assistant Language Teacher for the past four years.
Today, I was experiencing a problem with my foot; I thought I broke a toe over the weekend. I spoke with a Japanese Teacher of English with whom I work with and she offered to call a clinic in neighbouring Shintoku and accompany me to the clinic after school for treatment. She made the telephone call in Japanese and was advised of their location and hours of business and took down their information. Once we arrived there, she spoke with reception and a man (presumably a doctor) motioned to me, making the “batsu” gesture and said (in Japanese) that the clinic’s system doesn’t allow for the treatment of foreigners because of our inability to understand Japanese. I looked at my colleague for confirmation on what I heard and she looked completely dumbstruck.
She turned to me and asked if I understood what they said. I said yes and repeated what the man said back to her in English. Her mouth just hung open and she said “I’ve never heard of such a policy”. The man leaned into my colleague and asked her if I understood Japanese, to which I replied, yes I do. He then said that he would check with the attending physician but doubted that I could receive treatment.
As he went to talk with the attending physician, a receptionist said to my colleague that she (the receptionist) explained the clinic’s policy to my colleague over the phone. My colleague started to tear up as the man returned and said that I could not receive treatment from this clinic due to the reasons he already stated. At that time, the receptionist told the man that she did explain that to my colleague over the phone. My colleague asked the man what we should do and he gave us the telephone number of another hospital in a different town and advised us to go there. I gripped my colleague by the arm and simply said “let’s go”. As we walked out of the clinic, my colleague was very distraught and she said to me “they never told me that on the phone”. I said to her “of course they didn’t. The receptionist was lying”.
We returned to our hometown and went to our local hospital. I received very good care from an English speaking doctor who told us not to worry about the other hospital. However, I was advised by an independent friend that you would be the best person to contact over such a situation.
If needed, this is the clinic’s information:
Keira Orthopaedic Surgery (Seikei Geka Iin) けいら整形外科医院 13 Jominami 5 Chome Shintoku, Kamikawa District Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan 0156-69-5151
If you could advise me as to what, if anything, I should do, I would appreciate that very much. Best regards, Hilary
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: I called Keira Seikei Geika Iin first thing in the morning JST on December 18, 2012, and talked to a man who did not give his name. He apologetically confirmed that his institution does not take foreigners. The reason given was a language barrier, and that it might cause “inconvenience” (meiwaku). When asked if this did not constitute discrimination, the answer given was a mere repeat of the meiwaku excuse and apology. When asked about having an interpreter along to resolve any alleged language barrier, the answer became a mantra. I thanked him for his time and that was the end of the conversation.
Postscript: Hillary fortunately did not have a broken toe. It was chilblains. Wishing her a speedy recovery. Arudou Debito
Postpostscript: The information site for this clinic has links to a METI-sponsored organization for international medical tourism, through a banner saying, “We support foreign patients who wish to receive medical treatments in Japan.” Click here for more info.
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Hi Blog. It’s been said that people get the democracy that they deserve. Although unduly harsh, that rings true today, as the results of 2012’s election have absolutely routed the DPJ and placed the old-school LDP/Koumeitou alliance and the even older-school Ishihara Party, pardon, Japan Restoration Party (JRP) with a greater than 3/4 majority (LDP/KMT at 324, JRP 54) as a total in the 480-seat Lower House. (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This is well over the 320 votes necessary to override the Upper House’s vetoes, and essentially makes Japan’s bicameral legislature unicameral. This new parliamentary composition could very well squeeze out a revision to the Self-Defense Forces (calling it what it really is: a standing military that should be unconstitutional) as well as force a “revision of the pacifist American-made Japanese Constitution” out of this. More on this below.
The DPJ, for its part, was completely and utterly routed. It went from 230 seats in the Lower House to, as of this writing, a mere 57. Even in my home area of Hokkaido, a bellwether DPJ stronghold, the DPJ lost *ALL* their seats in their 12-district electoral system (with only two DPJ, including long-standing career politician Yokomichi — as a legacy vote due to his status as current Speaker of the Lower House and former Hokkaido Governor — squeaking by on the Proportional Representation vote). (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This meant that eight Cabinet members lost their seats (two of them, Public Safety’s Kodaira and Health and Welfare’s Mitsui, from Hokkaido), which is by far a Postwar record (the previous record was only three in the 1983 Nakasone Cabinet). (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12).
If one must search for the silver lining out of this election, it is that the far-right JRP didn’t pick up as many seats as was initially projected (100-150), but that was always just an optimistic guesstimate. And since both leaders of the LDP and the JRP have inchoate urges to mold a “beautiful Japan” in their image (read: more willful ignorance of history and nationalistic excess in the name of a more xenophobic nation-state), the real silver lining is that they have to come to grips with the unelected bureaucrats that are even more powerful and less accountable than they are.
What’s next? Here’s what the Japan Times says:
=================================== Both the LDP and the Japan Restoration Party are known for their hawkish attitude on constitutional issues. They call for revising the Constitution, including revision of the war-renouncing Article 9, and for exercising the right to collective self-defense.
The government’s traditional interpretation is that the Constitution prohibits Japan from exercising that right. If the right to collective self-defense is allowed to be exercised, Japan would be legally able to take military action to defend a nation with close ties with Japan if that nation is militarily attacked by a third party.
Attention must be paid to the fact that while a constitutional revision requires the support of two-thirds of the Diet members to initiate a national referendum on such a revision, changing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution related to the right to collective self-defense does not require such a procedure.
The LDP and other parties calling for the exercise of that right can enact a bill that will change the government’s traditional interpretation. Exercising the right to collective self-defense could open the way for putting Japanese nationals in harm’s way by involving Japan in military conflict not directly affecting it. This would violate Japan’s defense-only defense policy. Such a bill would completely gut the no-war principle of the Constitution.
The LDP calls for revising Article 9 to create a National Defense Force. Its draft revision states that the proposed NDF, under a specific law, can take part in international cooperative activities to help maintain peace and security in the international community — a concept that can be used to justify Japan’s participation in virtually any type of military mission abroad.
Even without revising the Constitution, the LDP may try to enact a bill to expand the Self-Defense Forces’ activities overseas. Given Japan’s military aggression in the Asia-Pacific region in the 1930s and ’40s, the LDP’s posture would arouse suspicions about Japan’s true intentions among neighboring and other countries, thus destroying the international community’s trust in Japan. It could also lead to a fierce arms race and destabilization of relations in East Asia, endangering Japan’s security.
Fine words. But who’s listening anymore? Certainly not Japan’s voters at this time. Keep an eye on what happens from now, folks, because I think that once the sake cups have been drained and hangovers recovered from, these people are going to get to work with a vengeance. Because for this generation of old-schoolers (such as Ishihara), there’s not much time left for the Wartime Generation to undo all the Postwar liberalizations of Japan that have helped make Japan rich without overt remilitarization and aggression. For these fans of a martial Japan, who only value, respect, and covet a world in terms of power and hierarchy, revenge will be sweet. For as I have written before (Japan Times Oct. 2, quoting Dr. M.G. Sheftall):
“As a historian, it’s discomfiting having anything smacking of wartime ideology making a comeback while men who committed atrocities for the Imperial Japanese military still live. While they deserve some sympathy for what they endured under an ideology they were unable to resist or reject, I don’t they deserve the satisfaction of leaving this mortal coil feeling that Japan’s war has been historically vindicated.”
I think that is what this election has been all about. It’s just a pity that so many bad things had to happen to the Japanese public over the past three years to cause them to overlook this hidden agenda. Arudou Debito
(As an aside, I have been told by at least one legal expert that spot checks are apparently no longer legally permitted, since the Foreign Registry Law has been abolished, but never mind — it’s still happening. In fact, I just heard word the other day that somebody who got zapped for a Gaijin Card check in Tokyo wasn’t carrying it, had to be escorted home for proof of valid visa, and after showing it was still slapped with a 200,000 yen fine. Waiting for final confirmation on that…)
Look, even the US Government acknowledges that their cards (in this case, my friends’ “Green Card” and Global Entry Card) need to be issued with Faraday Cage envelopes “to protect their privacy”. If these cards were not remotely trackable, why would the USG bother issuing them with the following instructions?
“Green Card” Faraday Envelope:
Global Entry Card Faraday Envelope:
Do you think the GOJ will ever issue a Faraday Envelope to NJ with their ZRKs? Nosiree. That would defeat the point of inserting the IC Chip in the first place. (For the record, taking off the tinfoil hat and wrapping it around your card protects your privacy — until you get remotely racially profiled, of course…)
Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. This story has hit a lot of newspapers worldwide. I’ll just blog the first article I saw, and other Debito.org Readers who find articles that cover points not mentioned here can add them to the Comments Section.
And more Japanese elites, as I am hearing through as-yet inconclusively-researched channels, are moving overseas to set up transplant Japanese communities away from this strangler-fig bureaucracy. More on that later if we get something conclusive. Arudou Debito
About a quarter of the US$148 billion budget for reconstruction after Japan’s March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster has been spent on unrelated projects, including subsidies for a contact lens factory and research whaling.
The findings of a government audit buttress complaints over shortcomings and delays in the reconstruction effort. More than half the budget is yet to be disbursed, stalled by indecision and bureaucracy, while nearly all of the 340,000 people evacuated from the disaster zone remain uncertain whether, when and how they will ever resettle.
Many of the non-reconstruction-related projects loaded into the 11.7 trillion yen budget were included on the pretext they might contribute to Japan’s economic revival, a strategy that the government now acknowledges was a mistake.
“It is true that the government has not done enough and has not done it adequately. We must listen to those who say the reconstruction should be the first priority,” Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in a speech to parliament on Monday.
He vowed that unrelated projects will be “strictly wrung out” of the budget.
But ensuring that funds go to their intended purpose might require an explicit change in the reconstruction spending law, which authorizes spending on such ambiguous purposes as creating eco-towns and supporting “employment measures.”
Among the unrelated projects benefiting from the reconstruction budgets are: road building in distant Okinawa; prison vocational training in other parts of Japan; subsidies for a contact lens factory in central Japan; renovations of government offices in Tokyo; aircraft and fighter pilot training, research and production of rare earths minerals, a semiconductor research project and even funding to support whaling, ostensibly for research, according to data from the government audit released last week.
A list of budget items and spending shows some 30 million yen went to promoting the Tokyo Sky Tree, a transmission tower that is the world’s tallest freestanding broadcast structure. Another 2.8 billion yen was requested by the Justice Ministry for a publicity campaign to “reassure the public” about the risks of big disasters.
Masahiro Matsumura, a politics professor at St. Andrews University in Osaka, Japan, said justifying such misuse by suggesting the benefits would “trickle down” to the disaster zone is typical of the political dysfunction that has hindered Japan’s efforts to break out of two decades of debilitating economic slump.
“This is a manifestation of government indifference to rehabilitation. They are very good at making excuses,” Matsumura told The Associated Press.
Near the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, which suffered the additional blow from the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, recovery work has barely begun.
More than 325,000 of the 340,000 people evacuated from the disaster zone or forced to flee the areas around the nuclear plant after the March 11, 2011, disaster remain homeless or away from their homes, according to the most recent figures available.
In Rikuzentakata, a fishing enclave where 1,800 people were killed or went missing as the tsunami scoured the harbor, rebuilding has yet to begin in earnest, says Takashi Kubota, who left a government job in Tokyo in May 2011 to become the town’s deputy mayor.
The tsunami destroyed 3,800 of Rikuzentakata’s 9,000 homes. The first priority, he says, has been finding land for rebuilding homes on higher ground. For now, most evacuees are housed, generally unhappily, in temporary shelters in school playgrounds and sports fields.
“I can sum it up in two words speed and flexibility that are lacking,” Kubota said. Showing a photo of the now non-existent downtown area, he said, “In 19 months, there have basically been no major changes. There is not one single new building yet.”
The government has pledged to spend 23 trillion yen over this decade on reconstruction and disaster prevention, 19 trillion yen of it within five years.
But more than half the reconstruction budget remains unspent, according to the government’s audit report.
The dithering is preventing the government, whose debt is already twice the size of the country’s GDP, from getting the most bang for every buck.
“You’ve got economic malaise and political as well. That’s just a recipe for disaster,” said Matthew Circosta, an economist with Moody’s Analytics in Sydney.
Part of the problem is the central government’s strategy of managing the reconstruction from Tokyo instead of delegating it to provincial governments. At the same time, the local governments lack the staff and expertise for such major rebuilding.
The government “thinks it has to be in the driver’s seat,” Jun Iio, a government adviser and professor at Tokyo University told a conference in Sendai. “Unfortunately the reconstruction process is long and only if the local residents can agree on a plan will they move ahead on reconstruction.”
“It is in this stage that creativity is needed for rebuilding,” he said.
Even Sendai, a regional capital of over 1 million people much better equipped than most coastal communities to deal with the disaster, still has mountains of rubble. Much of it is piled amid the bare foundations, barren fields and broken buildings of its oceanside suburb of Arahama.
Sendai quickly restored disrupted power, gas and water supplies and its tsunami-swamped airport. The area’s crumbled expressways and heavily damaged railway lines were repaired within weeks.
But farther north and south, ravaged coastal towns remain largely unoccupied.
More than 240 ports remain unbuilt; in many cases their harbors are treacherous with tsunami debris.
Like many working on the disaster, Yoshiaki Kawata of Kansai University worries that the slow progress on reconstruction will leave the region, traditionally one of Japan’s poorest, without a viable economy.
“There is almost no one on the streets,” he said in the tiny fishing hamlet of Ryoishi, where the sea rose 17 metres. “Building a new town will take many years.”
Even communities remain divided over how to rebuild. Moving residential areas to higher ground involves cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and complicated ownership issues. Each day of delay, meanwhile, raises the likelihood that residents will leave and that local businesses will fail to recover, says Itsunori Onodera, a lawmaker from the port town of Kesennuma, which lost more than 1,400 people in the disaster.
“Speed,” he says, is the thing most needed to get the region back on its feet. -AP
TOKYO — The utility behind Japan’s nuclear disaster acknowledged for the first time Friday that it could have avoided the crisis.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said in a statement that it had known safety improvements were needed before last year’s tsunami triggered three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but it had feared the political, economic and legal consequences of implementing them.
“When looking back on the accident, the problem was that preparations were not made in advance,” TEPCO’s internal reform task force, led by company President Naomi Hirose, said in the statement. “Could necessary measures have been taken with previous tsunami evaluations? It was possible to take action” by adopting more extensive safety measures, the task force said.
The task force said TEPCO had feared efforts to better protect nuclear facilities from severe accidents such as tsunamis would trigger anti-nuclear sentiment, interfere with operations or increase litigation risks. TEPCO could have mitigated the impact of the accident if it had diversified power and cooling systems by paying closer attention to international standards and recommendations, the statement said. TEPCO also should have trained employees with practical crisis management skills rather than conduct obligatory drills as a formality, it said.
The admissions mark a major reversal for the utility, which had defended its preparedness and crisis management since the March 2011 tsunami. The disaster knocked out power to the Fukushima plant, leading to the meltdowns, which forced massive evacuations and will take decades to clean up.
The statement was released after TEPCO held its first internal reform committee meeting, led by former U.S. nuclear regulatory chief Dale Klein. His five-member committee oversees the task force’s reform plans.
“It’s very important for TEPCO to recognize the needs to reform and the committee is very anxious to facilitate the reform necessary for TEPCO to become a world-class company,” Klein told a news conference. “The committee’s goal is to ensure that TEPCO develops practices and procedures so an accident like this will never happen again.”
The reform plans aim to use the lessons learned at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in northern Japan. The cash-strapped utility wants to restart that plant, but TEPCO officials denied the reform plans are aimed at improving public image to gain support for the plant’s resumption.
“The reforms are intended to improve our safety culture, and we have no intention to link it to a possibility of resuming the (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa) plant,” said Takafumi Anegawa, the TEPCO official in charge of nuclear asset management. “We don’t have any preconditions for our reforms.”
The Fukushima Daiichi plant has been substantially stabilized but is still running on makeshift equipment as workers continue their work to decommission the four damaged reactors, which could take several decades.
Additional safety measures have been installed at nuclear power plants nationwide since the accident under the government’s instructions, including enhancing seawalls, adding backup power and cooling water sources, and developing better crisis management training. But plant operators will be required to take further steps as a new nuclear regulatory authority launched in September steps up safety requirements.
Investigative reports compiled by the government and the parliament panels said collusion between the company and government regulators allowed lax supervision and allowed TEPCO to continue lagging behind in safety steps.
Despite records indicating a major tsunami had once hit off Japan’s northern coast, TEPCO took the most optimistic view of the risk and insisted that its 5.7-meter-high seawall was good enough. The tsunami that struck Fukushima Dai-ichi was more than twice that height.
The company had said in its own accident probe report in June that the tsunami could not be anticipated and that the company did the best it could to bring the critically damaged plant under control, although there were shortfalls that they had to review. TEPCO bitterly criticized what it said was excessive interference from the government and the prime minister’s office.
TEPCO’s Anegawa said the task force plans to compile by the end of the year recommendations “that would have saved us from the accident if we turn the clock back.”
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Hi Blog. While I still want to reserve the summer for cycling and outdoor non-blog stuff, one thing has to be said: Fukushima is a mess, just like we suspected it would be. More than five months later, the Japanese public still has insufficient information about what’s going on down there, and people are being slowly poisoned as radiation percolates through the food chain and begins to be picked up overseas. As I’ve said before, this is Japan’s long-burning tyreyard fire, and there is still no end to the crisis in sight.
But one other thing also has to be said. Back in March, when Debito.org merely had the audacity to raise some questions about the situation and the information we were getting, we were roundly criticized for being “alarmist”, “ignorant”, “wrong”, “reputation-damaging”, and even “racist”. One even said, “The greatest health effects of all nuclear incidents have been due to the anxiety that people like you are doing their best to ramp up. Thanks a lot for contributing to the problem.” That’s pretty bold — as if we were trying to instigate a panic and damage people’s health just because we wanted to know more information (which the nuclear industry worldwide keeps a lid on, down to the very science, to keep the public in the dark about their shenanigans and corruption).
Well, guess what critics — five months later, clearly YOU were wrong.
The Fukushima Crisis has exposed the inability of the GOJ (whether you mean politician or bureaucrat) to respond in a timely or safe manner, to follow the rules and safety standards (even changing safe radiation levels to suit political exigency), to show proper leadership or even adequate concern for its citizens in harm’s way, to release facts of the case so that people could make an informed decision, or to acknowledge there had even been a meltdown (something other observers knew based upon reasoned analysis of reactors’ output, but the GOJ would not admit), for months! The political culture which enables people in power in Japan to evade responsibility is now slowly poisoning Japanese society, if not eventually parts of the world, and that has to be addressed in the arena of public opinion.
Back in March, we at Debito.org did try to err on the side of caution and give some benefiting of the doubt (even shutting ourselves up when we had insufficient information). We wanted to wait and see how the cards fell. They clearly fell in favor of our original assertions that we were not being told the full story, and that things were far worse than was being let on. Now, critics, let’s have some honest capitulation on your part. You know who you are. It’s so easy to be a critic, but much harder to admit you’re wrong. Have the cojones to do that, especially about something as serious and society-changing as this.
Some referential articles follow, showing 1) the slow poisoning of children by Fukushima (NHK World), 2) how deep the institutional rot runs (NY Times), 3) more on the science of radioactivity and how seriously matters are not being taken (Japan Focus), and 4) the new attempts at spin-doctoring the situation, for starters. Knee-jerk defensive comments that do not reflect a careful reading of these references will not be approved. I think we’ve had quite enough knee-jerk-ism regarding this subject here already. Arudou Debito
(Debito.org Readers who wish to post more articles in the Comments Section, please do so with date, link, and pertinent excerpt if not entire article.)
More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search
Radiation effect on children’s thyroid glands
NHK World Sunday, August 14, 2011 02:16 +0900 (JST) http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/13_26.html Courtesy BCH A survey shows that a small amount of radioactive iodine has been detected in the thyroid glands of hundreds of children in Fukushima Prefecture.
The result was reported to a meeting of the Japan Pediatric Society in Tokyo on Saturday.
A group of researchers led by Hiroshima University professor Satoshi Tashiro tested 1,149 children in the prefecture for radiation in their thyroid glands in March following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive iodine was detected in about half of the children.
Tashiro says radiation in thyroid glands exceeding 100 millisieverts poses a threat to humans, but that the highest level in the survey was 35 millisieverts.
Tashiro says based on the result, it is unlikely that thyroid cancer will increase in the future, but that health checks must continue to prepare for any eventuality.
Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril
By NORIMITSU ONISHI and MARTIN FACKLER Published: August 8, 2011
FUKUSHIMA, Japan — The day after a giant tsunami set off the continuing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, thousands of residents at the nearby town of Namie gathered to evacuate.
Given no guidance from Tokyo, town officials led the residents north, believing that winter winds would be blowing south and carrying away any radioactive emissions. For three nights, while hydrogen explosions at four of the reactors spewed radiation into the air, they stayed in a district called Tsushima where the children played outside and some parents used water from a mountain stream to prepare rice.
The winds, in fact, had been blowing directly toward Tsushima — and town officials would learn two months later that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases had been showing just that.
But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japan’s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone — and acknowledge the accident’s severity.
“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. He and thousands from Namie now live in temporary housing in another town, Nihonmatsu. “We are extremely worried about internal exposure to radiation.”
The withholding of information, he said, was akin to “murder.”
In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.
Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.
“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.”
In an interview, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, dismissed accusations that political considerations had delayed the release of the early Speedi data. He said that they were not disclosed because they were incomplete and inaccurate, and that he was presented with the data for the first time only on March 23.
“And on that day, we made them public,” said Mr. Hosono, who was one of the prime minister’s closest advisers in the early days of the crisis before being named nuclear disaster minister. “As for before that, I myself am not sure. In the days before that, which were a matter of life and death for Japan as a nation, I wasn’t taking part in what was happening with Speedi.”
The computer forecasts were among many pieces of information the authorities initially withheld from the public.
Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months. For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren here in Fukushima.
The timing of many admissions — coming around late May and early June, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Japan and before Japan was scheduled to deliver a report on the accident at an I.A.E.A. conference — suggested to critics that Japan’s nuclear establishment was coming clean only because it could no longer hide the scope of the accident. On July 4, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, a group of nuclear scholars and industry executives, said, “It is extremely regrettable that this sort of important information was not released to the public until three months after the fact, and only then in materials for a conference overseas.”
The group added that the authorities had yet to disclose information like the water level and temperature inside reactor pressure vessels that would yield a fuller picture of the damage. Other experts have said the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, have yet to reveal plant data that could shed light on whether the reactors’ cooling systems were actually knocked out solely by the 45-foot-tall tsunami, as officials have maintained, or whether damage from the earthquake also played a role, a finding that could raise doubts about the safety of other nuclear plants in a nation as seismically active as Japan.
Government officials insist that they did not knowingly imperil the public.
“As a principle, the government has never acted in such a way as to sacrifice the public’s health or safety,” said Mr. Hosono, the nuclear disaster minister.
Here in the prefecture’s capital and elsewhere, workers are removing the surface soil from schoolyards contaminated with radioactive particles from the nuclear plant. Tens of thousands of children are being kept inside school buildings this hot summer, where some wear masks even though the windows are kept shut. Many will soon be wearing individual dosimeters to track their exposure to radiation.
At Elementary School No. 4 here, sixth graders were recently playing shogi and go, traditional board games, inside. Nao Miyabashi, 11, whose family fled here from Namie, said she was afraid of radiation. She tried not to get caught in the rain. She gargled and washed her hands as soon as she got home.
“I want to play outside,” she said.
About 45 percent of 1,080 children in three Fukushima communities surveyed in late March tested positive for thyroid exposure to radiation, according to a recent announcement by the government, which added that the levels were too low to warrant further examination. Many experts both in and outside Japan are questioning the government’s assessment, pointing out that in Chernobyl, most of those who went on to suffer from thyroid cancer were children living near that plant at the time of the accident.
Critics inside and outside the Kan administration argue that some of the exposure could have been prevented if officials had released the data sooner.
On the evening of March 15, Mr. Kan called Mr. Soramoto, who used to design nuclear plants for Toshiba, to ask for his help in managing the escalating crisis. Mr. Soramoto formed an impromptu advisory group, which included his former professor at the University of Tokyo, Toshiso Kosako, a top Japanese expert on radiation measurement.
Mr. Kosako, who studied the Soviet response to the Chernobyl crisis, said he was stunned at how little the leaders in the prime minister’s office knew about the resources available to them. He quickly advised the chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, to use Speedi, which used measurements of radioactive releases, as well as weather and topographical data, to predict where radioactive materials could travel after being released into the atmosphere.
Speedi had been designed in the 1980s to make forecasts of radiation dispersal that, according to the prime minister’s office’s own nuclear disaster manuals, were supposed to be made available at least to local officials and rescue workers in order to guide evacuees away from radioactive plumes.
And indeed, Speedi had been churning out maps and other data hourly since the first hours after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. But the Education Ministry had not provided the data to the prime minister’s office because, it said, the information was incomplete. The tsunami had knocked out sensors at the plant: without measurements of how much radiation was actually being released by the plant, they said, it was impossible to measure how far the radioactive plume was stretching.
“Without knowing the strength of the releases, there was no way we could take responsibility if evacuations were ordered,” said Keiji Miyamoto of the Education Ministry’s nuclear safety division, which administers Speedi.
The government had initially resorted to drawing rings around the plant, evacuating everyone within a radius of first 1.9 miles, then 6.2 miles and then 12.4 miles, widening the rings as the scale of the disaster became clearer.
But even with incomplete data, Mr. Kosako said he urged the government to use Speedi by making educated guesses as to the levels of radiation release, which would have still yielded usable maps to guide evacuation plans. In fact, the ministry had done precisely that, running simulations on Speedi’s computers of radiation releases. Some of the maps clearly showed a plume of nuclear contamination extending to the northwest of the plant, beyond the areas that were initially evacuated.
However, Mr. Kosako said, the prime minister’s office refused to release the results even after it was made aware of Speedi, because officials there did not want to take responsibility for costly evacuations if their estimates were later called into question.
A wider evacuation zone would have meant uprooting hundreds of thousands of people and finding places for them to live in an already crowded country. Particularly in the early days after the earthquake, roads were blocked and trains were not running. These considerations made the government desperate to limit evacuations beyond the 80,000 people already moved from areas around the plant, as well as to avoid compensation payments to still more evacuees, according to current and former officials interviewed.
Mr. Kosako said the top advisers to the prime minister repeatedly ignored his frantic requests to make the Speedi maps public, and he resigned in April over fears that children were being exposed to dangerous radiation levels.
Some advisers to the prime minister argue that the system was not that useful in predicting the radiation plume’s direction. Shunsuke Kondo, who heads the Atomic Energy Commission, an advisory body in the Cabinet Office, said that the maps Speedi produced in the first days were inconsistent, and changed several times a day depending on wind direction.
“Why release something if it was not useful?” said Mr. Kondo, also a retired professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo. “Someone on the ground in Fukushima, looking at which way the wind was blowing, would have known just as much.”
Mr. Kosako and others, however, say the Speedi maps would have been extremely useful in the hands of someone who knew how to sort through the system’s reams of data. He said the Speedi readings were so complex, and some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination so alarming, that three separate government agencies — the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission — passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results.
In interviews, officials at the ministry and the agency each pointed fingers, saying that the other agency was responsible for Speedi. The head of the commission declined to be interviewed.
Mr. Baba, the mayor of Namie, said that if the Speedi data had been made available sooner, townspeople would have naturally chosen to flee to safer areas. “But we didn’t have the information,” he said. “That’s frustrating.”
Evacuees now staying in temporary prefabricated homes in Nihonmatsu said that, believing they were safe in Tsushima, they took few precautions. Yoko Nozawa, 70, said that because of the lack of toilets, they resorted to pits in the ground, where doses of radiation were most likely higher.
“We were in the worst place, but didn’t know it,” Ms. Nozawa said. “Children were playing outside.”
A neighbor, Hiroyuki Oto, 31, said he was working at the plant for a Tepco subcontractor at the time of the earthquake and was now in temporary lodging with his wife and three young children, after also staying in Tsushima. “The effects might emerge only years from now,” he said of the exposure to radiation. “I’m worried about my kids.”
Seeds of Mistrust
Mr. Hosono, the minister charged with dealing with the nuclear crisis, has said that certain information, including the Speedi data, had been withheld for fear of “creating a panic.” In an interview, Mr. Hosono — who now holds nearly daily news conferences with Tepco officials and nuclear regulators — said that the government had “changed its thinking” and was trying to release information as fast as possible.
Critics, as well as the increasingly skeptical public, seem unconvinced. They compare the response to the Minamata case in the 1950s, a national scandal in which bureaucrats and industry officials colluded to protect economic growth by hiding the fact that a chemical factory was releasing mercury into Minamata Bay in western Japan. The mercury led to neurological illnesses in thousands of people living in the region and was captured in wrenching photographs of stricken victims.
“If they wanted to protect people, they had to release information immediately,” said Reiko Seki, a sociologist at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and an expert on the cover-up of the Minamata case. “Despite the experience with Minamata, they didn’t release Speedi.”
In Koriyama, a city about 40 miles west of the nuclear plant, a group of parents said they had stopped believing in government reassurances and recently did something unthinkable in a conservative, rural area: they sued. Though their suit seeks to force Koriyama to relocate their children to a safer area, their real aim is to challenge the nation’s handling of evacuations and the public health crisis.
After the nuclear disaster, the government raised the legal exposure limit to radiation from one to 20 millisieverts a year for people, including children — effectively allowing them to continue living in communities from which they would have been barred under the old standard. The limit was later scaled back to one millisievert per year, but applied only to children while they were inside school buildings.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, said the authorities were withholding information to deflect attention from the nuclear accident’s health consequences, which will become clear only years later.
“Because the effects don’t emerge immediately, they can claim later on that cigarettes or coffee caused the cancer,” he said.
The Japanese government is considering monitoring the long-term health of Fukushima residents and taking appropriate measures in the future, said Yasuhiro Sonoda, a lawmaker and parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office. The mayor of Koriyama, Masao Hara, said he did not believe that the government’s radiation standards were unsafe. He said it was “unrealistic” to evacuate the city’s 33,000 elementary and junior high school students.
But Koriyama went further than the government’s mandates, removing the surface soil from its schools before national directives and imposing tougher inspection standards than those set by the country’s education officials.
“The Japanese people, after all, have a high level of knowledge,” the mayor said, “so I think information should be disclosed correctly and quickly so that the people can make judgments, especially the people here in Fukushima.”
Radiation Effects on Health: Protect the Children of Fukushima
Kodama TatsuhikoProfessor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo Head, Radioisotope Center, the University of Tokyo
Talk at the July 27, 2011 meeting of the Committee on Welfare and Labor of the House of Representatives
…In that case, the total dose is not much of an issue; rather, the density of radiation in each individual is the focus. However, following the recent accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, 5 μSv within 100 kilometers and 0.5 μSv within 200 kilometers from the complex were recorded. And as all of you know now, radiation reached further beyond to affect Ashigara and Shizuoka tea leaves.When we examine radiation poisoning, we look at the entire amount. TEPCO and the government have never clearly reported on the total amount of radiation doses resulting from the Fukushima nuclear accident. When we calculate on the basis of the knowledge available at our Radioisotope Center, in terms of the quantity of heat, the equivalent of 29.6 Hiroshima a-bombs leaked. Converted to uranium, an amount equivalent to 20 Hiroshima a-bombs is estimated to have leaked.
What is further dreadful is that, according to what we know so far, when we compare the amount of radiation that remained after the a-bomb and that of radiation from the nuclear plant, that of the former goes down to one-thousandth after one year whereas radioactive contaminants of the latter are reduced to only one-tenth.
In other words, in thinking about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the first premise is that, as in the case of Chernobyl, an amount of radiation equivalent to tens of a-bombs was released and far greater contamination remains afterward compared with the a-bomb…
Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid
Deborah Dupre, Human Rights Examiner, August 22, 2011, Examiner.com, courtesy BCH (excerpt)
After “off-scale” radiation contamination at Fukushima was reported in early August, this weekend extremely excessive radiation contamination around Fukushima reported by the Ministry of Science and Education is forcing the Japanese government toward what New York Timestermed “long-term depopulation” with an announcement making the area officially uninhabitable for decades, as Japanese people, including radiation refugees, plead for global help to survive human right to health violations experienced since March when Japan’s ever worsening nuclear power plant catastrophe began.
The government is expected to make a formal announcement telling many of the radiation refugees that they will be prohibited from returning to their homes indefinitely according to several Japanese news reports over the weekend reported theNew York Times on Monday.
“Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.”
Fukushima area being uninhabited for decades is no surprise to many independent nuclear experts or lay persons aware that has been case for areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after its 1986 catastrophic accident. Today, an estimated five million people in the Ukraine suffer Chernobyl radiation deformities and cancer, many of whom were not born when that catastrophe began, according to a recent Australia CBS report. (See: “Fukushima now radiating everyone: ‘Unspeakable’ reality,” Dupré, August 16, 2011)
Examiner colleague, Alfred Lambremont reported in early July that, “Leuren Moret [MA, PhD (ABT)] released her court statement as expert witness in a lawsuit brought to force government officials to evacuate more than 350,000 children from the Fukushima area where they are being forcibly exposed by the government to lethal doses of radiation.”
The anticipated Japanese government relocation announcement would be the “first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant” reported The New York Times.
This forced depopulation issue is one that “scientists and some officials have been warning about for months” and criticized the government for not doing sooner. New York Times reports that:
“… evacuations have been a sensitive topic for the government, which has been criticized for being slow to admit the extent of the disaster and trying to limit the size of the areas affected, despite possible risks to public health. Until now, Tokyo had been saying it would lift the current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant early next year, when workers are expected to stabilize Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged nuclear reactors.”
U.S. involvement in nuclear genocide abroad and at home has been recorded by Leuren Moret who wrote in her Court statement:
“Instead of evacuation, the government gives the children (sick with radiation symptoms) film badges to measure the external exposure dose… another study group like U.S. govt. studies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims (they are still being studied), Iraq victims, Gaza victims. And the U.S. government did the same thing to Americans during 1300 nuclear bomb tests in the US.”
Radiation deniers foster nuclear industry
There have been Japanese government televised programs espousing Plutonium is good for humans.
After the Fukushima nuclear power plant catastrophe began, the nuclear industry urgently redoubled efforts to convince the world that nuclear radiation is safe and even more, “they are trying to say that radiation is actually good for us” according to Noel Wauchope.
“The whole idea of radiation is good for you is not new,” said Nuclear News editor Christina MacPherson in an email to Dupré. “It was pushed a few years back by Frenchman Bruno Comby with his ‘environmentalists for nuclear power’ campaign.”
Hi Blog. After a very nasty discussion on Debito.org last month, regarding the validity of a story by Brian Hedge that a 74-year-old tourist was incarcerated for more than a week just for holding a pocket knife, the Japan Times has come through (The only media to bother — subscribe to the paper, everyone! Who else you gonna call?) and confirmed that it actually did happen.
It sure would be nice for the anonymous nasties who raked people over the coals to capitulate now. How ’bout it? Arudou Debito in Sapporo
It all started when an American tourist asked a police officer for directions to the Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.
The Californian, 74, could never have imagined the officer would reply to his question with: “Do you have a knife?”
He could never have dreamed, either, that his possession of a pocketknife, which he calls a “customary personal item,” would be illegal in Japan and lead to 10 nights in detention, the man told The Japan Times during a recent interview.
“It was unpleasant and disappointing,” he said.
The actions by police, including asking the man if he was carrying a knife, are questionable, lawyers said.
In particular, they say 10 days in detention is problematic — although unfortunately in Japan not uncommon.
“I seriously doubt the man needed to be detained at all,” said lawyer Kazuharu Suga, who has been assigned to defend the American.
“Police should have confiscated the knife and released him after getting answers for why he came to Japan, where and how long he plans to stay in Japan and how he got the knife,” Suga said.
“Unfortunately, in cases like this, 10 days of detention is not unusual,” he said, adding that a foreigner could be held longer if police have linguistic trouble communicating with the suspect…
The Japan Times Community Page ran a series of responses on Tuesday from readers, many outraged, by this treatment. Here they are:
============================ One pocket knife, nine days’ lockup
Following are a selection of readers’ responses to the July 28 Hotline to Nagatacho column headlined “Pocket knife lands tourist, 74, in lockup.”
The Japan Times Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009
As a followup, here are some responses and links to germane articles from cyberspace, pointing out how my prognostications may in fact be grounded in reality. Along with a critique at the very bottom from friend Jon Heese, Tsukuba City Assemblyman, of that controversial article. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Saw these two articles and thought I’d pass them along so that you’re up to date with what nonsense the DHS is up to these days:
As a college student I frequently didn’t go to class when I overslept, when I didn’t feel like it, or heck, when it was Friday. I’m imagining that Japanese students are the same. That’s why Aoyama Gakuin University‘s new plan to keep its students in line is pretty freakin’ clever—possibly even bordering on devious.
Reuters, this June all of the university’s 550 students, and some staff in one unnamed department, will receive a free iPhone 3G. Instead of teachers taking attendance, students are asked to input their ID number into an iPhone app—and to discourage fraud, this app apparently has GPS location data and monitors which Internet router students use.
Of course, knowing the lengths students will go to in order to avoid attending class, it wouldn’t be too surprising to find they’d discovered a way around the system. If only they devoted that much time to their schoolwork.
Further the university apparently is going to also be providing video podcasts of lectures, something American universities have been doing for years. No word yet on if they’re going to be making AGU’s material available on iTunes U.
Debito, feel free to use this in the comments section or just for yourself. As you please. -jon heese
Quoting Debito’s controversial article three weeks ago:
Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.
It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?
God, Debito, you sure do go on. There are plenty of products available to block remote scanning. Googling “rfid protection” got me the link below.
Personally, I’m rather pissed at the lemming-like acceptance of very dodgy tech in a normally tech-savvy country. There is a company in California which makes a RFID card which has a break in the circuit between the chip and the antenna. Pressing a small bubble in the corner of the card completes the circuit but only when you want the info to be read.
Some Canadian provinces have put their implementation of chips on drivers licenses on hold until the privacy issues are properly dealt with. Why are the provinces even trying to force their citizenry to accept RFID’s in their driving licenses? Why goodness, it’s because the US of F-ing A is forcing them to! So if yer gonna clamp on your tinfoil hat, direct your ire towards the source of the problem, not the Japanese who have been cajoled into this by big brother. And BTW, my new drivers license also has a chip. So it’s not just the poor NJ’s who are being put at risk. This is a much bigger issue than a few foreigners getting screwed over.
RFID’s are small potatoes. As far as tracking, though, you are not gripping your hat tight enough. I would point out that your cell phone is actually much better to track you than a chip. An RFID reader is only really useful within 10 feet. Cell phones know where you are at all times. Anyone with the right access can pinpoint you anywhere in the world.
I would also point out that it’s also a great remote listening device. The NSA may have the ability to turn on your microphone without you even knowing it and broadcast anything being said. And turning your phone off may not be enough. Not even taking out the battery! Phones already have built in batteries which normally only provide juice to preserve your data, like the clock and address book, etc. However, there is no reason to not believe that such internal batteries could just as easily power the microphone for short periods. So grab your foil hat tight and wrap your curls in triple layers for extra protection.
Come again? Pass the law, and then we’ll decide law enforcement procedures? This blind faith is precisely what leads to human rights abuses.
I’m with you on this one. However when it comes to abuses, Japan is still a tamago. Just listen to a few NPR podcasts to get a feel of what it’s like “out there.” 怖いよ！
Still, did you expect the leopard to change its spots? Put immigration policy in the hands of the police and they will do just that police, under a far-removed centralized regime trained to see people as potential criminals.
Though the police have a central control, most cops are of the prefectural variety. Not nearly as ominous as you make out.
Why stop at bugging the gaijin? Why not just sew gold stars on their lapels and be done with it?
This is over the top. Shame on you! Besides, it’s not like us Pilsbury dough boys even need stars to be spotted in a crowd.
Fortunately, a policy this egregious has fomented its own protest, even within a general public that usually cares little about the livelihoods of foreigners. Major newspapers are covering the issue, for a change. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants the bill watered down, vowing to block it until after the next general election.
Japan just gets curiouser and curiouser. I am so looking forward to voting in this coming election. But don’t expect the RFID issue to go away. The USA won’t let them.
The Justice Ministry will begin research on how other countries employ satellite-based global positioning systems to locate people released from prison and to see if the systems work at discouraging repeat offenders.
Officials said they will not set the development of a similar system for Japan as the goal of the research, but said the move is likely to spark criticism among those who believe such surveillance violates human rights.
Countries including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Canada already use GPS-based monitoring systems to track some former prisoners, and the ministry is planning to learn by the end of fiscal 2010, or March 31, 2011, why they did so, the purpose of their use, who is being targeted, what devices are used, and how the systems operate.
Some countries use GPS to prevent sex offenders visiting specific locations, while others use the technology to ease overcrowding in prisons by releasing offenders tagged with the devices.
The use of GPS was included as an item for study in an action plan finalized at a meeting of Cabinet ministers concerning crime prevention in December.
Hi Blog. SITYS. See I told you so. As far back as 2000 (when this whole thing started, really–Check out Chapter Three of my book JAPANESE ONLY), I was saying that foreign crime was being artificially generated by policymakers in order to justify more budgetary outlay. Well, here’s an article on it from the Mainichi Daily News. Courtesy of Ben at The Community (thanks). Debito in Sapporo
=========================== Author dismisses government’s fear mongering myth of crime wave by foreigners
For years, people like Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara have been up in
arms about rising crime rates among foreigners and juveniles in Japan,
but one of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s public safety experts
has come out to say the claims are groundless, according to Sunday
Ishihara and his ilk have long laid the blame on foreigners for a
perceived worsening of public safety standards that has allowed the
powers that be to strengthen and crack down on non-Japanese and teens.
But Hiroshi Kubo, the former head of the Tokyo Metropolitan
Government’s Emergency Public Safety Task Force, says they’ve got it
“Put simply, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s public safety policy
involves telling people that public safety standards have worsened and
police groups need strengthening to protect the capital’s residents,”
Kubo tells Sunday Mainichi. “But I’ve realized there’s something
unnatural about this ‘worsening.'”
In his newly released book, Kubo goes through the statistical data
being used to justify taking a hard line on foreigners and kids and
argues that maybe it’s not quite all there. For instance, the growing
crime rate in Tokyo is based on reported crimes, not actual crime
cases. This means the count includes cases where people who have been
scared into believing their safety is under such a threat they contact
the police for any trifling matter only to be sent away with no action
And taking a look back over the past 40 years shows that violent
crimes by juveniles has actually declined. Current worries about how
youths are becoming more criminally inclined — and at a younger age
— sound like a recording of similar cries dating back to the ’60s.
Crimes by foreigners have long been highlighted, but there’s little to
suggest that Tokyo or Japan is in the midst of a violent crime spree.
In 2002, there were 102 non-Japanese arrested in Tokyo for violent
crimes including murder, armed robbery, arson and rape. The following
year, that number jumped to 156, fell back to 117 in 2004 and was just
84 in 2005. And the number of violent crimes foreigners are committing
in Tokyo is not a patch on the Japanese, who account for about 1,000
cases a year.
Kubo says authorities are merely fear mongering, taking statistics
that work in their favor and molding them to suit their purposes.
National Police Agency data is used the same way as authorities are
doing in Tokyo, spreading fear nationwide.
“There’s an underlying current of anxiety throughout society. People
have no idea what’s going to happen in the future, they’re worried
about employment and pay and declining living standards and somebody
who’s going to openly talk about the reason for their anxieties is
going to attract their interest,” the public safety expert tells
Sunday Mainichi. “Say somebody comes out and says ‘foreigners’ violent
crimes are all to blame’ then anxious people are going to go along
with that. And the national government, prefectural governments,
police and the media all jump on the bandwagon and believe what’s
being said.” (By Ryann Connell)