Tony Laszlo, “Administrator of NGO Issho Kikaku”, in Asahi “Money” Section for his wife’s “Darling wa Gaikokujin” series



Hi Blog.  I find it pretty amazing how myths persist. The media helps. Not only do we have “Darling wa Gaikokujin” cartoon character slash “Writer” Tony Laszlo appearing as himself (in one of the most frightening photos I’ve ever seen of him) in the “Money” Section of the Asahi (May 17, 2008), he still has the byline of “Administrator of NGO ISSHO Kikaku”. 

That’s odd for a number of reasons, but we’ll stick to the facts, that a) ISSHO Kikaku’s website (, containing years of work by other NJ activists, has been offline for 2 1/2 years, and has even recently mutated to plain gibberish (today’s download):

and then b) there is NO NGO registered as “ISSHO Kikaku” at websites recording NGOs registered in Japan.  I guess the reporter didn’t fact check before publication.

Never mind.  He’s being portrayed as a doting father.  Good, but that’s neither “Money” nor news.  And it may be the only thing factual in this Asahi article.  See it after the next paragraph.

Why do I have it in for this guy?  Because he’s a person who erases the historical record of NJ “Newcomers” in Japan, and threatens to sue people who want to maintain it.  Start here for substantiation.  More on the Blog about this character here.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Daily Yomiuri May 30 2008 reviews HANDBOOK positively



Hi Blog.  Here are some very nice words about HANDBOOK from the Daily Yomiuri.  Yowza!  Debito


Cradle-to-grave guide to the good and bad of life in Japan

You’ve gotten engaged? You’ve decided to start your own business? You’re going to have a baby?

Congratulations! But now what do you do?

You’ve lost your job? Your car has been stolen? You’re getting divorced?

Too bad. But now what do you do?

Live in one place long enough, and sooner or later you will experience a life-changing event there–good or bad, planned or sudden. If you are a foreign resident of the place where it occurs, having to navigate unfamiliar channels of officialdom can make things all the more stressful.

Authors Arudou Debito and Higuchi Akira saw a need and decided to fill it with their Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan (Akashi Shoten, 370 pp, 2,300 yen), published in March.

The book outlines the basic procedures to follow in each of the above scenarios plus many others, from how to give your newborn child a middle name (combine it and the first name into a single word on official forms with space for only first and last names) to how to plan your funeral (if you’re not having your body shipped overseas, prepare to be cremated).

Asked why they had written the book, Higuchi told The Daily Yomiuri last week: “It’s simple. Newcomers don’t have enough information in English. It’s not that easy to find that information in one book.”

Arudou, in another interview the same day, elaborated, saying: “I don’t think the government makes it very clear how people can make a stable life over here. They make it very clear how you can come here, not how you can stay here.”

The book is completely bilingual, with English on one page and the corresponding Japanese text–with hiragana pronunciation guides–on the facing page.

Higuchi, a certified administrative solicitor, explained how he and Arudou came to be writing partners. “I and Debito are in an association called the Hokkaido International Business Association,” he said. “We have meetings every other month, and about two years ago we had a meeting about changes to commercial law. I talked about commercial law and also related issues such as visas and business licenses. And Debito said, right after the meeting, ‘Why don’t we write a book?'”

Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen originally from the United States, was already a published author. His book Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan, traced the progress of an antidiscrimination lawsuit in which he was one of the plaintiffs.

Not surprisingly, the Handbook does contain a section on lawsuits. “Japan is thought of as a ‘non-litigious’ society where going to court is viewed as ‘un-Japanese.’ We do not agree,” the authors write. “In 1998 alone, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, there were 5,454,942 court cases in all levels of Japan’s justice system…People in Japan do sue. We recommend that readers view the Japanese judiciary system as just one more alternative for conflict resolution.”

The book covers the criminal justice system from two perspectives: that of victims wishing to report a crime and that of innocent people wrongly arrested. The authors write that they “assume that readers are not breaking any Japanese laws (if you are, then sorry, we cannot help you).”

Even for readers who never find themselves involved in a criminal case, these sections are educational. If you’ve ever read a news story about the “rearrest” of a person already in police custody, it is helpful to know–as the book explains–that one use of this legal maneuver is to prolong the period for which a suspect can be held for questioning.

There is a surprisingly specific section on what to do if you are asked to display an alien registration card. “Renting a DVD at a video store should not require proof of a valid Immigration visa,” the book states.

Asked why this is an issue, Higuchi explained: “Because on the card there is a lot of information, maybe too much information for average foreigners [to comfortably reveal]. Usually you just don’t want to show your workplace and household and everything…Whenever you can avoid it, you should use a drivers license or other identification.”

And of course, getting a drivers license is one of the other topics covered in the book.

Because the Handbook covers so many issues, it generally gives a bird’s-eye view of each one. Details of your situation may vary, but this little volume should get you off to a good start by recommending what forms to fill out, what government offices to visit and what authorities to consult for specific guidance.

Asked to characterize the reader feedback he has received so far, Arudou summed it up as: “Where has this book been all my life? It’s about bloody time.”

(May. 30, 2008)

Jornal Tudo Bem interview, May 9 2008 (Portuguese)



Hi Blog.  Interview I had last March (on the Todai Campus, cold, wet, rainy day with lots of luggage during the HANDBOOK Tour–I look better in the photo than I felt that morning) with Jornal Tudo Bem in Portuguese below. Translation by Andre follows below in the Comments Section.

Courtesy of the author, who apologized for using my old name.  Thanks for the article, Tudo Bem, and Andre for the translation.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Free Multilingual Legal Advice Hotline open Sunday June 1, 1-5PM, from Japan Law Foundation


Hi Blog.  Information courtesy of Kirill Konin at the United Nations…

I just received information about a hotline which will be open from 1 to 5pm on Sunday June 1st providing free legal advice to foreigners living in Japan. This is to test the demand for such a service in relation to research by the Japan Law Foundation being made by lawyers, NGOs and researchers on the necessity of starting a specialized law office/center for foreigners/refugees. Interpretation will be provided, in many languages.

If the hotline receives many calls, this will strengthen the case for such a service, which seems to be to be sorely needed.

If you also feel this could be an important service, please pass this information on.

For further information, please contact: Ms. Masako Suzuki on 03-5269-7773, at the  Executive Committee for Foreigners Legal Counseling (c/o ALT Law Firm)


Free Legal Telephone Counseling for Foreigners/Refugees

– By lawyers in different languages –

We, the Executive Committee for Foreigners Legal Counseling, have planned a one-day free legal telephone counseling for foreigners and refugees.  Such a nationwide free legal telephone counseling focused on foreigners/refugees by lawyers has never been held so far.  More than 10 lawyers will join this event and multilingual interpretation service will be provided.  This event is held in cooperation with the Center for Multilingual Multicultural Education and Research of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, the Catholic Tokyo International Center (CTIC), Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), and the House in Emergency of Love and Peace (HELP)

Up to now, specialized legal consultations for foreigners/refugees are available only in regions around big city areas. The purpose of this event is to make it possible for foreigners who have difficulty accessing legal consultation to consult with lawyers.

It would be highly appreciated if you can help us disseminate information regarding this significant event.  Please feel free to contact us at the following contact for any questions or further information.

This event has been planned in relation to the research of the Japan Law Foundation being made by lawyers, NGOs and researchers on the necessity of starting a specialized law office/center for foreigners/refugees, to cope with the rapid increase of the non-citizen population in Japan.

Date: Sunday June 1, 2008 13:00 – 17:00

Tel: 03-3547-0300

Languages Available: Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Russian, Indonesian, Burmese, Romanian and others.

Contact: Executive Committee for Foreigners Legal Counseling (c/o ALT Law Firm)

Tel:03-5269-7773 Fax:03-5312-4543


Nikkei Portuguese newspaper Jornal Tudo Bem: Partial Pensions denied NJ who don’t pay in full 24 years



Hi Blog.  Got this message from a friend, “Shinrin Woods”, who reads Portuguese (I don’t, sorry).  His translation of the points of an article (which you can find in its entirety at the bottom of the page):


Hi Debito,

The front page of weekly Portuguese-Language newspaper “Jornal Tudo Bem (EDITION 793 This week)”  points out to a quite disturbing issue facing many foreigners who want to collect retirement (Aposentadoria) benefits in Japan… The point is (below)

Shakai Hoken não garante aposentadoria

[Full article in Portuguese at the bottom of this blog entry.]

– If a Japanese “Citizen” pays for 25 years he gets all of it.

– If a Japanese “Citizen” pays for 24 years he gets a little bit less.

– If a Japanese “Citizen” pays for 10 years he gets less than half of it… Everything FAIR ENOUGH ! Deshou !


If a Gaijin “Citizen” pays for 25 years he gets all of it.

If a Gaijin “Citizen” pays for 24 years he gets NOTHING…

I have talked to some Japanese about it, but nobody could tell me if it is the reality or not. 

Do you know something about it ? 

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.


COMMENT:  I asked Administrative Solicitor, consultant on Immigration issues, and co-author of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS Akira Higuchi about this.  Here is his reply:


The nationality doesn’t matter if you live in Japan.  I.e. If you have paid for 25 + years, you will be entitled to kokumin nenkin regardless of nationality. If not, you will not be entitled, this is same for Japanese.

But there are complicated rules on how to count 25 years.

Plus there have been many changes to the laws and NJ couldn’t join the scheme in the past. I don’t know if the article is talking about this.

Also, if you are in Japan and reach 60 but haven’t paid for 25, you can keep paying the premium (nini kanyu) until you reach 70. This way you will be entitled to receive pension.


Thanks Akira.  I hope we can get a final clarification on this somehow–one would expect the media would double-check their data before putting something on the front page…  Arudou Debito





Shakai Hoken não garante aposentadoria

Mesmo fazendo a contribuição para o plano de previdência, brasileiros podem não receber o benefício como os japoneses

por Claudio Endo

Recentemente, muitos brasileiros estão sendo inscritos nos planos de seguro social e previdência da empresa (shakai hoken), por exigência das fábricas, e uma boa parte já contribui para o seguro nacional de saúde (kokumin kenko hoken), cuja administração é feita pelas prefeituras.

Com base nisso, é bom saber que os estrangeiros que planejam ficar definitivamente no Japão, de uma forma geral, não têm direito a receber a “aposentadoria incompleta”, benefício concedido para quem contribuiu por menos tempo que os 25 anos obrigatórios. Já os japoneses têm direito de receber essa aposentadoria.

Segundo o escritório do Shakai Hoken da região oeste, em Hamamatsu (Shizuoka), o que faz um japonês receber a aposentadoria incompleta é a validade do kara kikan (período vazio). Ou seja, o tempo que ele deixou de contribuir para a previdência social por algum motivo. No entanto, o kara kikan não se aplica ao estrangeiro no período em que ele viveu no Japão, ou que ainda vai viver, sem estar inscrito no shakai hoken ou kokumin kenko hoken.

Por exemplo, um brasileiro veio ao Japão com 20 anos e trabalhou outros 20 sem estar inscrito no seguro. Agora, aos 40, ele entra no shakai hoken e quando completar 65 anos terá contribuído por 25. Nesse caso, ele terá direito à aposentadoria, mas se nesse período de 25 anos a pessoa deixar de contribuir por algum tempo – que seja dez anos – por trabalhar em uma empresa que não oferecia o shakai hoken, perde o benefício sem ter nem mesmo direito aos 15 anos que pagou.

Leia mais na edição 793 do jornal Tudo Bem.




Japan Times Community Page May 28, 2008 on Permanent Residency: “Bad PR for Japan”



Arbitrary rulings equal bad PR

Article 44, May 27, 2008, Courtesy of
“Director’s Cut” with links to sources.
Getting to know Japan is hard work: a complicated language, cultural esoterica, mixed messages about prudent paths to take. People who find their way around and assimilate deserve kudos and respect.
News photo
Never enough?: Sayuki attended Japanese high school, graduated from Keio University, earned a Japanese teaching qualification, worked at Kyodo photo News and NHK, made TV programs and published books about Japan, lectured in Japanese studies in Singapore, and then became the first-ever white geisha. Despite having spent 15 years in Japan, her application for Permanent Residency was refused. KERRY RAFTIS PHOTO

And reward. The Japanese government should welcome them by granting Permanent Residency (“eijuken”). But recently people eminently qualified under PR guidelines are being rejected — even Japan’s first Caucasian geisha!

First, why PR? Well, try buying a house without it; most legitimate financial institutions (those run by individuals who still have pinkies) will not grant major loans.

Also, goodbye visa-renewal hassles, and you can take any kind of employment, change jobs, get divorced, etc., all without the risk of visa violation. PR is the next best thing to citizenship, without the identity sacrifice of giving up your native passport (since Japan doesn’t allow dual nationality).

Who qualifies? According to Immigration (, PR is a matter of time, visa tenure, and marital status.

In principle, people of moral fiber and legal solvency qualify after 10 years’ consecutive stay — half that if you are deemed to have “contributed to Japan.” For those with Japanese spouses or descendants (“Nikkei” Brazilians, for example), three to five consecutive years are traditionally sufficient.

That’s pretty long. The world’s most famous PR, the U.S. “green card,” only requires two years with an American spouse, three years’ continuous residency without. (Source: Section (I)8/(1)(A))

Still, record numbers of non-Japanese are applying. The population of immigrants with PR has increased about 15 percent annually since 2002. That means as of 2007, “newcomer” PRs probably outnumber the “Zainichi” Special PRs (the Japan-born “foreigners” of Korean, Chinese, etc. descent) for the first time in history.

At these growth rates, by 2010 Japan will have a million PRs of any nationality — close to half the registered non-Japanese population will be permitted to stay forever.

But I wonder if Japan’s mandarins now feel PRs have reached “carrying capacity” and have started throwing up more hurdles. Let’s triangulate from three examples this past month.

Jack Dawson (a pseudonym) is the head of an English department in Fukuoka, one of only a few NJ permanently employed at Japanese elementary schools. Having worked continuously in Japan for nine years, he has been married for six with a Japanese and sired two children.

Under PR guidelines, he should be a shoo-in. But Fukuoka Immigration told Dawson he didn’t qualify. “They said I needed to be here 10 years,” he says.

Mark Butler (also a pseudonym), an unmarried Ph.D candidate at Tokyo University, has worked for a Tokyo securities firm for 8 1/2 years. He’s been on a work visa for 9 1/2 years, after spending his initial six months here on a student visa.

“I want a mortgage,” said Mark, “but despite a lucrative job, seven banks refused me outright because I didn’t have PR. Some banks even told me to naturalize, just for a loan!

“So after 10 years, I asked Immigration if I qualified for PR. They said I’d probably get rejected because I’m six months short; when I changed my visa from student to work, the timer reset to zero. But they said I could still apply — a rejection now wouldn’t affect future PR applications.

“So I applied, and was rejected. They suggested I get married, change to a spouse visa, and wait three more years. But we can’t afford to keep renting!”

Mark stresses he’s not angry, and will reapply later this year.

But the case that takes the cake is Japan’s first Caucasian geisha.

Sayuki, a 15-year non-continuous resident of Japan, thought she qualified under “contributions to Japan.” Immigration’s Web site ( ) includes examples like awards “internationally evaluated as authoritative” (such as a Nobel Prize or an Olympic medal), domestic medals (such as the Order of Culture), or other activities helping Japan “through medical, educational and other vocational activities.” They also gave 38 examples of successful candidates ( ).

Sayuki hasn’t gotten her Nobel yet, but felt she had done plenty. Attending Japanese high school and university for 10 consecutive years (the first Caucasian woman accepted and the first to graduate as a regular student from Keio), she earned a teaching qualification in Japanese, and became a regular journalist at Kyodo News and NHK.

After making more than 10 television programs about Japan, publishing three academic books and lecturing in Japanese Studies at the National University of Singapore, Sayuki topped these achievements off by becoming a geisha. Hence the name.

Nevertheless, Immigration rejected Sayuki’s application, with the stock answer of, “Your actual achievements up to now cannot be acknowledged as sufficient for granting PR.” [Original Japanese is あなたのこれまでの在留実績からみて,永住を許可するに足りる相当の理由が認められません。]

It was a slap.

Don’t let your ‘visa clock’ reset

“Continuous residence in Japan” is crucial for upgrading your visa status or getting Permanent Residency. Stays of five to 10 years are meaningless if they are discontinuous.

If you go outside Japan for any length of time, you must get a Re-Entry Permit (“sai nyukoku kyoka”) beforehand. Without it, your “visa clock” will reset to zero.

Even if you already have PR, if you leave Japan without a valid REP (or it expires while overseas), you will lose your PR and have to start all over again.

More information in “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan” (Akashi Shoten Inc. 2008).

“The utter ridiculousness of me being rejected just because my fifteen years were nonconsecutive!” wrote an indignant Sayuki. “Whether or not I was here, I have been contributing to Japan since I was 22 years old. I was busy making television programs, lecturing and writing books on Japan overseas, and promoting Japanese culture to hundreds of students and academics worldwide.

“Then I became the first foreigner to represent Japan as a geisha, the most recognizable icon of Japaneseness. They wouldn’t take any of that into consideration.”

So maybe people shouldn’t bother learning Japan’s language and culture. Why not just put in the time, get married, and let inertia coast you through?

Because even that is no guarantee. PR requirements seem to depend on at which Immigration branch you apply, and which bureaucrat you talk to. Immigration’s English and Japanese Web sites even differ, according to respondents to the blog ( ). Some applicants wrote that they got PR after only three years, others were told they needed to have put in the better part of a decade — yet others closer to 20 years!

“Looks like Immigration bureaus have no standard procedure,” says Dawson. “It’s poor management by the government.”

Most ironic is that naturalization requires only five years’ continuous residence regardless of marital status. It’s arguably easier to qualify for citizenship than PR!

The point is that Immigration seems overly eager to reset the “visa clock,” as opposed to judging people on their individual merits and contributions. Sorry, but too much emphasis seems to be put on continuous residence and spouse. Life is often more complicated for those of us who aren’t bureaucrats.

In some ways, the PR regime appears to be anti-assimilative, especially when you consider the lack of transparency. For one, despite the deliberation process being supposedly case-by-case, the “rejection process” is anything but: The mandarins need not reveal their reasons for turning down an application. What’s to keep officials from denying PR because, say, they had a bad “bento” boxed lunch that day, or because your revenue stamp was stuck on crooked? We’d never know.

You can appeal the ruling but, according to Akira Higuchi, administrative solicitor and Immigration consultant, precedent won’t be on your side.

“One time the High Court ordered Immigration to reverse their rejection of a PR application. But that was partly because Immigration made a mistake collecting information. If you appeal but there were no mistakes, you must show PR guidelines are wrong or too inflexible. That’s extremely difficult to accomplish,” says Higuchi.

“You can contact Immigration lawyers (“bengoshi” or “gyosei shoshi”). An hour or so consultation shouldn’t cost too much, and they may come up with a better solution after examining your explanations/documents. But I suggest people just wait and reapply later. . . . There may be major changes to the PR regime next year.”

Whether Immigration is planning to ease or standardize the qualifications is unclear, but without more transparency, the results will be largely the same: We reject you — tough nuts.

Ultimately, this degree of arbitrary rigmarole puts Japan at a competitive disadvantage for attracting qualified, educated migrants. As the New York Times reported May 17, 2008, “Japan is running out of engineers,” adding that “Japan had 157,719 foreigners working in highly skilled professions in 2006, a far cry from the 7.8 million in the United States.”

Lots of newcomers not only know Japan, but also know stuff Japan needs. Must we require they devote up to an eighth of their life-span without a break, or else get married (the worst kind of “local content” requirement, and not a legal option for many; Japan does not recognize same-sex civil unions) before deigning to allow them to stay here securely?

Many of them might (and do) think twice about coming here at all.

Wise up, Immigration, and help Japan face its future. We need more people to stay on and pay into our aging society and groaning pension system.

Remember, non-Japanese do have a choice: They can either help bail the water from our listing ship, or bail out altogether.

Sayuki can be contacted via her Web site at Send comments and story ideas to

CNN: Narita Customs spike HK passenger’s bag with cannabis


Hi Blog.  I think this is perhaps the most ridiculous story on Japan I’ve heard this decade.

According to CNN, Narita Customs put a bag of marijuana in some visiting NJ’s bag to test their sniffer dogs.  Then they lose track of it!

Now just imagine if that innocent NJ was later caught with it.  We’re talking Nick Baker (finally sent back to the UK after 6 years in Japanese jail) and other NJ judicial hostages (who can never leave custody or be granted bail until they go through years of slow Japanese jurisprudence, even when judged innocent).

Of course, we make sure we cause meiwaku to none of our tribe (or to ourselves–think serious chances of a lawsuit from a native)–we use the Gaijin as Guinea Pig.  Yokoso Japan!  


Customs slip cannabis into passenger’s bag

CNN May 26, 2008 — Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)

Courtesy of Chad Edwards

(CNN) — A passenger who landed at Tokyo’s Narita airport over the weekend has ended up with a surprise souvenir courtesy of customs officials — a package of cannabis.

art.jpg Unsuspecting passenger returns cannabis after sniffer dog test botched at Narita 

Sniffer dogs failed to find the cannabis after it had been slipped into a passenger’s bag.

A customs official hid the package in a suitcase belonging to a passenger arriving from Hong Kong as part of an exercise for sniffer dogs on Sunday, reported.

However, staff then lost track of the drugs and suitcase during the exercise, a spokeswoman for Tokyo customs said.

Customs regulations specify that a training suitcase be used for such exercises, but the official had used passengers’ suitcases for similar purposes in the past, domestic media reported.

Tokyo customs has asked anyone who finds the package to return it. 


You dumb shits!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Economist obit on Mildred Loving, defeater of US anti-miscegenation laws



Hi Blog.  Here’s an interesting article on two people who just did what they did, but with conviction and perseverance, and managed to overturn a horrible legal situation in the US which I would find hard to believe ever existed in post-Meiji Japan (from Lafcadio Hearn’s marriage on down, to our credit!)–a legal ban on interracial relationships and marriage!  Read on–it’s hard to believe a lot of this happened within my lifetime!  Debito


Mildred Loving, law-changer, died on May 2nd, aged 68
May 15th 2008
From The Economist print edition

THEY loved each other. That must have been why they decided to get their marriage certificate framed and to hang it up in the bedroom of their house. There was little else in the bedroom, save the bed. Certainly nothing worth locking the front door for on a warm July night in 1958 in Central Point, Virginia. No one came this way, ten miles off the Richmond Turnpike into the dipping hills and the small, poor, scattered farmhouses, unless they had to. But Mildred Loving was suddenly woken to the crash of a door and a torch levelled in her eyes.

All the law enforcement of Caroline county stood round the bed: Sheriff Garnett Brooks, his deputy and the jailer, with guns at their belts. They might have caught them in the act. But as it was, the Lovings were asleep. All the men saw was her black head on the pillow, next to his.

She didn’t even think of it as a Negro head, especially. Her hair could easily set straight or wavy. That was because she had Indian blood, Cherokee from her father and Rappahannock from her mother, as well as black. All colours of people lived in Central Point, blacks with milky skin and whites with tight brown curls, who all passed the same days feeding chickens or smelling tobacco leaves drying, and who all had to use different counters from pure whites when they ate lunch in Bowling Green. They got along. If there was any race Mrs Loving considered herself, it was Indian, like Princess Pocahontas. And Pocahontas had married a white man.

The sheriff asked her husband: “What are you doing in bed with this lady?” Richard Loving didn’t answer. He never said much for himself, being just a country bricklayer with a single year of high school behind him. Mrs Loving had known him since she was 11 and he was 17, a gangly white boy who took her out for years and did the decent thing when he got her pregnant, by asking her to marry him. She thought he might have known that their marriage was illegal—a strange marriage, driving 80 miles to Washington, DC, to be married almost secretly by a pastor who wasn’t theirs, just picked out of the telephone book, and then driving back again. But they hadn’t talked about legalities. She felt lucky just to have him.

She told the sheriff, “I’m his wife.” And Mr Loving, roused at last, pointed to the framed certificate above the bed. “That’s no good here,” Sheriff Brooks said.

Mrs Loving had said the wrong thing. Had they just been going together, black and white, no one would have cared much. But they had formalised their love, and had the paperwork. This meant that under Virginia law they were cohabiting “against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth”. It was a felony for blacks and whites to marry, and another felony to leave Virginia to do so. Fifteen other states had similar laws. The Lovings had to get up and go to jail. “The Lord made sparrows and robins, not to mix with one another,” as Sheriff Brooks said later.

In separate cars
Faced with a year in jail or exile, they chose to go to Washington for 25 years. Mrs Loving hated it. She was “crying the blues all the time,” missing Central Point, despite the fact that they would slip back there in separate cars, first she and the children, then Richard, casually strolling from opposite directions to meet and embrace in the twilight. Only Sheriff Brooks cared that they were married, and they avoided him.

But Mrs Loving wanted to return for good. When the Civil Rights Act was being debated in 1963, she wrote to Robert Kennedy, the attorney-general, to ask whether the prospective law would make it easier for her to go home. He told her it wouldn’t, but that she should ask the American Civil Liberties Union to take on her case. Within a year or so, two clever New York lawyers were working free for the Lovings. By 1967 they had obtained a unanimous ruling from Earl Warren’s Supreme Court that marriage was “one of the basic civil rights of man”, which “cannot be infringed by the state”. The Lovings were free to go home and live together, in a new cinder-block house Richard built himself.

The constitutional arguments had meant nothing to them. Their chief lawyer, Bernard Cohen, had based his case in the end on the equal-rights clause of the 14th amendment, and was keen that the Lovings should listen to him speak. But they did not attend the hearings or read the decision. Richard merely urged Mr Cohen, “Tell the court I love my wife.” For Mildred, all that mattered was being able to walk down the street, in view of everyone, with her husband’s arm around her. It was very simple. If she had helped many others do the same, so much the better.

She had never been an activist, and never became one. When June 12th, the day of the ruling, was proclaimed “Loving Day” as an unofficial celebration of interracial couples—who still make up only 4% of marriages in America—she produced a statement, but she was never a public figure. She lived quietly in Caroline county, as before. Her widowhood was long, after Richard was killed in a car accident in 1975, but she never thought of replacing him. They loved each other.


More on America’s anti-miscegenation laws here.  Particularly surprising is the history back and forth within Louisiana regarding banning and unbanning interracial relations–including reinstatement of ban by American authorities in 1806 after the Louisiana Purchase!


Kyodo/Japan Today on Anthony Bianchi’s moves as Inuyama City Councilor



Hi Blog.  Old friend Anthony is showing great sustainability in his work as an elected town councilor–as the article below shows.  However, as commenters to Japan Today noted, the article neglects to mention one more factor in how difficult it is to be where he is today:  “Gives readers the wrong impression that any old Gaijin could do this if they want to. You have to become Japanese first!”  Anyway, good work, Bianchi-san.  Keep it up!  Debito in Sapporo


New Yorker, now councilman in Japan, aims to inspire American high schoolers
By Kevin Kuo
Kyodo/Japan Today, Undated, downloaded May 22, 2008
Courtesy of Dave Spector

Anthony Bianchi, a native New Yorker and current councilman in the rural Japanese city of Inuyama, recently hosted the first-ever Japan Day at his alma mater in Brooklyn, bringing with him some 30 students, local artists and craftsman from the Aichi Prefecture city as part of a cultural exchange program.

Widely known in Japan as the first North American councilman, the 49-year-old is currently serving out his fifth year in office in the central Japan city. But in his native Brooklyn he is mostly seen as an active alumnus of Xaverian High School with a penchant for promoting better Japan-U.S. relations.

‘‘The experience changed my life,’’ said Joe Giamboi, a senior who traveled to Japan last year. ‘‘It opened up the world to me.’’

The cultural exchange program, Building Bridges, aims to expose teens like Giamboi to the many aspects of contemporary and traditional Japan while also offering students an opportunity to showcase their musical talents to a foreign audience.

The program was established five years ago by Bianchi and Joe Loposky, Xaverian High’s music program director.

Since its inception, more than 100 Xaverian students have traveled to Japan to experience living with Japanese families, performing their repertoire of American tunes as well as opening up their perspectives on the world.

‘‘It’s more than just a home-stay program,’’ Loposky said. ‘‘Our boys are going over there to serve. They perform Jazz and Doowop, examples of American culture that Japanese over there may never have a chance to experience.’’

Building Bridges alternates trips annually, sending teens to Inuyama one year and then taking Inuyama residents to Xaverian the next.

This year the visitors from Inuyama City, a quaint locale of approximately 73,000 residents, showcased their talents and crafts for the program’s first-ever Japan Day festival.

The American students were offered chances to don traditional kimonos and watched a master craftsman bind the laces onto geta or traditional Japanese shoes.

They were also awestruck by Ouson Ito, who artfully combined her Japanese calligraphy with dramatic performance.

Ito, who began learning her trade at 6, drew the word ‘‘musubu’’ which means link or connection. She described how the original Chinese character consisted of two kanji, on the left a character representing string and on the right happiness.

She drew the character with the hope that Xaverian High School and Inuyama city would continue to maintain strong ties in the future.

The ties are already being established by other young students, such as Patrick Borja, a senior who thinks of Japan as another home. Though born in America, he has traveled to his parents’ native home in South America.

‘‘Japan has become my third home,’’ Borja said, explaining that ‘‘through the experience, I came back with greater confidence.’’

While Xaverian does not yet have a Japanese program, it is testing the waters with the hopes of setting up a teacher exchange between schools in Inuyama and Xaverian that would be mutually beneficial, Bianchi said.

Bianchi, whose first experience in Japan came through a home-stay program advertised in a newspaper, hopes that the program will encourage students to build international friendships.

‘‘If it weren’t for that home-stay experience in Japan, none of this would have happened,’’ Bianchi said, referring to his life in Japan. ‘‘I think it’s important for people to meet. I hope the relationships continue to develop and blossom.’’

The councilman smiled when asked about the similarities between his hometown in Brooklyn and his new home in Inuyama.

‘‘I liked Inuyama because it had a nostalgic feeling,’’ he said. ‘‘It was like an Italian household where they had three generations under one roof.’’ He said jokingly that one of the main differences between families in Inuyama and Brooklyn is that in Inuyama, ‘‘they don’t eat pasta.’’

Despite having distinct cultures, in both places he sensed a commonality in their deep respect for community.

The Building Bridges program, while not funded by Inuyama City, has benefited from Bianchi’s role as councilman. The city government has provided buses and the use of facilities which is sometimes ‘‘more helpful than money,’’ he said.

Before becoming a councilman, Bianchi worked first as an English teacher on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program and then spent eight years with Inuyama City’s Department of Education.

His move to the political arena was sparked by his desire to improve the city he had grown to love.

Although he doesn’t think of himself as a politician, Bianchi has had a significant impact on the image of Japan and Japanese politics both in his hometown of Brooklyn as well as in Japan.

One parent of a student who traveled to Japan last year said of Bianchi’s role as a councilman of Inuyama city, ‘‘I think it’s fantastic. I didn’t know an American could do that in Japan.’’

He hopes that his experience will encourage others to take more active roles in their local communities and governments.

‘‘Sometimes you think that you can’t change Japan because it’s this big monolithic thing.’’ he said. ‘‘To some people it represents change…I think it gives other Japanese the encouragement to do something…If you don’t like how the government is run, you can do something about it.’’

In his thick Brooklyn accent, the gregarious Bianchi repeated, ‘‘Hey… If I can do it you can do it.’’


Terrie’s Take 469: GOJ to sign Hague Convention on Child Abduction by 2010


Hi Blog. The GOJ recently told the United Nations Human Rights Council that it suddenly has an interest in upholding international treaty against child abductions. Witness:

Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Second session, Geneva, 5 – 19 May 2008
A/HRC/WG.6/2/L.10 14 May 2008
6. “Responding to various written questions submitted in advance, Japan stated its
willingness to cooperate with Special Rapporteurs, including arranging visits to the country
as time permits. Japan was also studying the relationship between the provisions of the
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture protocol and domestic legislation,
including on how the “visits” mentioned in the protocol will be carried out in practice. It
stated that it regards the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child
Abduction and the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, and
Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of
Children as effective tools for children’s rights and welfare, and will continue to study the
possible conclusion of the two conventions by giving due consideration to, inter alia, the
current social system, and the cultural situation of Japan.”

(More excerpts on here.)


Well, what a nice little article in ABC News and a bit of pressure from a couple of governments won’t do! As witnessed in this nice little roundup in Terrie’s Take from last weekend. Forwarding in its entirety. Bests, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, May 18, 2008 Issue No. 469 (excerpt)

Two weeks ago, the Japanese government made a notable announcement that may make Japan more compatible with the legal conventions used internationally, and will be of particular benefit to non-Japanese spouses of Japanese. The announcement was that by 2010, Japan would sign the the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international legal construct that attempts to deal with the thorny issue of court jurisdiction when children of international marriages are moved cross-border, often by a parent trying to thwart a court ruling in the previous jurisdiction.

Currently, Japan is known as a haven for disaffected Japanese spouses who, in getting divorced, abscond with their kids back to Japan. Once in Japan they can dare their foreign spouses to try getting the kids back — something that despite around 13,000 international divorces a year in Japan and more overseas, has NEVER happened.

The reason for this astounding statistic, that of zero repatriations of abducted children from international marriages after the kids have been abducted to Japan, is entirely to do with the attitudes of the Japanese judiciary and their wish to maintain 19th Century customs in the face of international pressure. Japan has ratified many parts of the Hague Convention treaties over the years, but in terms of repatriation of kids, they have been claiming for 20 years now to be “studying” the issue. That’s Japan-speak for “we’re not interested in making any changes”.

Our guess is that the recent announcement occurred after pressure from the USA and Canada, in particular. Things started to come to a head about 5 years ago, when fed up by repeating occurences of child abductions from both of those countries, and despite court decisions there for custody to go to the local parent, the consular staff of a number of these foreign embassies started holding annual summits to discuss the problem. These discussions escalated to pressure on foreign governmental agencies and politicians in some of Japan’s biggest trading partners — and finally someone spoke to the Japanese government at a sufficiently high enough level to get their attention.

The subject became especially sensitive when the Japanese were at the peak of their indignation over the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens several years ago, and were seeking international support. All the while, Japanese law allowed similar types of abductions here.

In case you’re not up on the state of play, there were 44,000 international marriages registered in Japan in 2006, and probably a good percentage of that number again of Japanese marrying overseas but not bothering to register back in Japan. The divorce rate within Japan is about 30%, and for Japanese living overseas (take the US as an example), it is typical of the local population, so more like 50%-60%. Thus there are a lot of international separations — many of which are not amicable.

But it’s when the kids are involved that things start getting really nasty. Usually in the case of a divorced international couple going to court overseas and after custody is awarded, if one of the parents fears a possible adbuction situation, the couple can be placed under a restraining order not to travel without the other spouse’s consent. The USA, Canada, Australia, and UK all do this. The kids’ passports will often be withheld as well. Unfortunately, there have been a number of cases where the Japanese spouse then “loses” the kids Japanese passports and applies to the local consulate for replacements — only to hop a flight back to Tokyo a few hours later, with the kids in tow.

Once in Japan, the jurisdiction suddenly falls to the Japanese courts, even if there is a foreign arrest warrant out for the absconding partner, and in several cases, even if there is an Interpol arrest warrant out. In Japan, there is no concept of joint custody, and the partner allowed to keep the kids is the one that has held them for the previous few months.

The courts’ opinion here is that kids need a stable environment, and the act of being the only guardian for a period of time, even if that guardian was in hiding, qualifies for this — unless the kids are under 5 years old, in which case they will typically be returned to the mother (if the father is the abscondee), or to the father if the mother has deceased. But not always. There are cases where the Japanese mother has died and the Japanese grandparents have kept the kids, instead of returning them to the foreign father. You can read more about this sad state of affairs at

You won’t believe that this kind of thing is still going on in a first-world country like Japan in the 21st century.

The Japanese court attitude thereby encourages Japanese spouses wanting to hang on to their kids to hightail it back to Japan and lie low for 6 months. Currently there has been no case, even after the Japanese Supreme Court has awarded rightful custody to the foreign parent, where that aggrieved foreign parent has been able to go get their kids back. The reason is quite simply that Japan doesn’t have a mechanism for properly enforcing civil suit judgments, and typically a breach of an order in a civil suit does not result in the offender being subject to a subsequent criminal suit.

Thus, the Hague Convention on child abduction provides a mechanism whereby if children are illegally removed from their country of habitual residence, they must be returned, and the jurisdiction for subsequent court decisions is taken out of the hands of the Japanese courts. This is the first step in making international court rulings involving kids, stick.

We believe that this is going to be a long and slow process, but once the treaty is signed and the first few cases start to be heard, either the kids involved will be returned or the parent trying to hang on to them will create an international brouhaha that will highlight to the world the lack of protection of rights for international parents here in Japan. Who knows, maybe this will start another process — that of allowing foreigners actually residing within Japan to also regain the simple right of access to their children after a divorce.

But in reality we think this level of change will take several more generations and a lot more foreigners living in Japan to achieve…

BLOG BIZ: Blog becomes’s main page, revamp



Hi Blog.  Some new things to report about the Blog: was first created in 1997 as an archive of my essays up to that point.  I never imagined back then that it would become a source of information on life and human rights in Japan.  And I never thought it would become a daily-updated project that would take up so much of my life.

Now with the Blog (created back in Summer 2006) becoming one of the most-accessed sites here, it’s time to make it the “main page” (i.e. the first thing people see when they click on, with links back to the traditional, hand-built text sites that have always been the mainstay.

The Blog has also been revamped to make updates easier, make the cover page easier to read in summary, and resolve some problems that over the past month made it inaccessible from time to time (causing Google to delist us for the time being; long story, but this was due to hidden text issues I was completely unaware of.  I’ve since reapplied for relisting, should be approved when Google gets through the mountain of sites in the same situation.)

I want to thank everyone for reading and contributing their thoughts to, and I hope that the issues and information raised here help people make a better life for themselves in Japan.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Bulgarian Kotooshuu wins first Sumo Tourney



Hi Blog.  Great news.  Kotooshuu, Bulgarian Sumo Wrestler, has finally won his first tournament, beating out both top-ranked Yokozuna earlier on this week to clinch the match a day before the final bouts tomorrow.

He becomes the seventh NJ (and the first Caucasian) to win after Hawaiians Takamiyama, Konishiki, Akebono, and Musashimaru, then Mongolians Asashouryuu and Hakuhou..  The last four wrestlers became Yokozuna in their own right.  Here’s hoping that Kotooshuu joins their ranks!  

Koto just has to win two tourneys in a row, IIRC.  Konishiki never made it to Yokozuna because he won a number of times but not in a row.  Thanks to Konishiki for forcing the Sumo Association to make this the clear qualification, to avoid charges of racism reported in the New York Times back in the day.

Deep and hearty congratulations!  

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

NYT on Japan’s dearth of NJ techies, scientists, and engineers



Hi Blog. I have an article coming out next Tuesday (Weds in the provinces) in the Japan Times Community Page section, on Permanent Residency and how tough and arbitrary it seems to be to get sometimes. I refer to the article below within it–since denying qualified (and trained) people PR definitely sets Japan at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis the international brain drain.

(NB: The article doesn’t talk about PR per se–just gives evidence that Japan needs people, once again. And this time not merely unskilled migrant work.)

Debito in Sapporo

High-Tech Japanese, Running Out of Engineers
New York Times May 17, 2008
Courtesy of James Bond

TOKYO — Japan is running out of engineers.

After years of fretting over coming shortages, the country is actually facing a dwindling number of young people entering engineering and technology-related fields.

Universities call it “rikei banare,” or “flight from science.” The decline is growing so drastic that industry has begun advertising campaigns intended to make engineering look sexy and cool, and companies are slowly starting to import foreign workers, or sending jobs to where the engineers are, in Vietnam and India.

It was engineering prowess that lifted this nation from postwar defeat to economic superpower. But according to educators, executives and young Japanese themselves, the young here are behaving more like Americans: choosing better-paying fields like finance and medicine, or more purely creative careers, like the arts, rather than following their salaryman fathers into the unglamorous world of manufacturing.

The problem did not catch Japan by surprise. The first signs of declining interest among the young in science and engineering appeared almost two decades ago, after Japan reached first-world living standards, and in recent years there has been a steady decline in the number of science and engineering students. But only now are Japanese companies starting to feel the real pinch.

By one ministry of internal affairs estimate, the digital technology industry here is already short almost half a million engineers.

Headhunters have begun poaching engineers midcareer with fat signing bonuses, a predatory practice once unheard-of in Japan’s less-cutthroat version of capitalism.

The problem is likely to worsen because Japan has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. “Japan is sitting on a demographic time bomb,” said Kazuhiro Asakawa, a professor of business at Keio University. “An explosion is going to take place. They see it coming, but no one is doing enough about it.”

The shortage is causing rising anxiety about Japan’s competitiveness. China turns out some 400,000 engineers every year, hoping to usurp Japan’s place one day as Asia’s greatest economic power.

Afraid of a hollowing-out of its vaunted technology industries, Japan has been scrambling to entice more of its younger citizens back into the sciences and engineering. But labor experts say the belated measures are limited and unlikely to fix the problem.

In the meantime, the country has slowly begun to accept more foreign engineers, but nowhere near the number that industry needs.

While ingrained xenophobia is partly to blame, companies say Japan’s language and closed corporate culture also create barriers so high that many foreign engineers simply refuse to come, even when they are recruited.

As a result, some companies are moving research jobs to India and Vietnam because they say it is easier than bringing non-Japanese employees here.

Japan’s biggest problem may be the attitudes of affluence. Some young Japanese, products of a rich society, unfamiliar with the postwar hardships many of their parents and grandparents knew, do not see the value in slaving over plans and numbers when they could make money, have more contact with other people or have more fun.

Since 1999, the number of undergraduates majoring in sciences and engineering has fallen 10 percent to 503,026, according to the education ministry. (Just 1.1 percent of those students were foreign students.) The number of students majoring in creative arts and health-related fields rose during that time, the ministry said.

Applications to the engineering program at Utsunomiya University, an hour north of Tokyo, have fallen one-third since 1999. Starting last year, the school has tried to attract students by adding practical instruction to its theory-laden curriculum. One addition was a class in making camera lenses, offered in partnership with Canon, which drew 70 students, twice the expected turnout, said Toyohiko Yatagai, head of the university’s center for optics research.

But engineering students see themselves as a vanishing breed. Masafumi Hikita, a 24-year-old electric engineering senior, said most of his former high school classmates chose college majors in economics to pursue “easier money” in finance and banking. In fact, friends and neighbors were surprised he picked a difficult field like engineering, he said, with a reputation for long hours.

Mr. Hikita and other engineering students say their dwindling numbers offer one benefit: they are a hot commodity among corporate recruiters. A labor ministry survey last year showed there were 4.5 job openings for every graduate specializing in fields like electronic machinery.

“We don’t need to find jobs,” said Kenta Yaegashi, 24, another electrical engineering senior. “They find us.” He said his father, also an engineer, was envious of the current sellers’ market, much less crowded than the packed field he faced 30 years ago. Even top manufacturers, who once had their pick of elite universities, say they now have to court talent. This means companies must adapt their recruiting pitches to appeal to changing social attitudes.

So, Nissan tells students they can advance their careers more quickly there than at more traditional Japanese companies. The carmaker emphasizes that it offers faster promotions, bigger pay raises and even “career coaches” to help young talent ascend the corporate ladder.

“Students today are more demanding and individualistic, like Westerners,” said Hitoshi Kawaguchi, senior vice president in charge of human resources at Nissan.

On the more offbeat side, an ad for the steel industry features a long-haired guitarist in spandex pants shouting, “Metal rocks!”

One source Japan has not yet fully tapped is foreign workers — unlike Silicon Valley, filled with specialists in information technology, or IT, from developing nations like India and China.

According to government statistics, Japan had 157,719 foreigners working in highly skilled professions in 2006, twice as many as a decade ago, but still a far cry from the 7.8 million in the United States. Britain has also been aggressively recruiting foreign engineers, as have Singapore and South Korea, labor experts say.

“Japan is losing out in the global market for top IT engineers,” said Anthony D’Costa, a professor at Copenhagen Business School, who has studied the migration of Indian engineers.

Companies are scrambling to change tactics now.

For instance, Kizou Tagomori, director of recruitment at Fujitsu, said the computer maker and its affiliates routinely fell about 10 percent shy of their annual hiring goal of 2,000 new employees. Fearing chronic shortages, the company has begun hiring foreigners to work in Japan.

Starting in 2003, Fujitsu began hiring about 30 foreigners a year, mostly other Asians who had graduated from Japanese universities. Initially, many managers were reluctant to accept them. Mr. Tagomori said they are now gaining acceptance.

Fujitsu’s 10 Indian employees in Japan won over some of their co-workers by organizing a cricket team, he said.

But Fujitsu remains an exception. In an economic ministry survey last year, 79 percent of Japanese companies say they either have no plans to hire foreign engineers or are undecided. The ministry said most managers still feared that foreigners would not be able to adapt to Japan’s language or corporate culture.

To combat these attitudes, the ministry began the Asian Talent Fund, a $30 million-a-year effort to offer Asian students Japanese language training and internships in order to help them find work here.

“If these students do well, they can change Japanese attitudes drastically,” said Go Takizawa, deputy director of the ministry’s human resource policy division.

Nonetheless, labor experts warn Japan may be doing too little, too late. They say the country has already gained a negative reputation as discriminating against foreign employees, with weak job guarantees and glass ceilings. Experts say Indian and other engineers will often opt for more open markets like the United States.

Indeed, a growing number of Japanese companies are having more success by building new research and development centers in countries with surpluses of engineers. Toyo Engineering, which designs chemical factories, said it and its affiliates now employ more engineers abroad — 3,000, mostly in India, Thailand and Malaysia — than in Japan, where they have 2,500 workers.

With corporate Japan still reluctant to accept foreigners, a half-dozen staffing companies have stepped into the breach by hiring Chinese and South Korean engineers to send to Japanese companies on a temporary basis. One of the biggest is Altech, which has set up training centers at two Chinese universities to recruit engineering students and train them in Japanese language and business customs. Of Altech’s roughly 2,400 engineers, 138 are Chinese, and the company plans to hire more at a rate of 200 per year.

One of the first it hired was He Xifen, a 27-year-old mechanical engineer from Qingdao University of Science and Technology who joined Altech two and a half years ago. She said her friends back home envy her because she works with advanced Japanese technology, and earns three or four times more than she would in China.

While Japanese clients appear uncertain at first about how to deal with foreigners, she said, they quickly catch on and she usually feels welcome.

“Foreign engineers are becoming accepted,” said Shigetaka Wako, a spokesman for Altech. “Japan is slowly realizing that its economy cannot continue without them.”

Wired Magazine on 2-Channel’s Nishimura Hiroyuki


Hi Blog. Here’s an excellent article on the Japanese internet, particularly 2-Channel and Nico Nico Douga. But as far as the Blog is concerned, here is the pertinent section to excerpt:
Meet Hiroyuki Nishimura, the Bad Boy of the Japanese Internet
By Lisa Katayama 05.19.08
Courtesy of the Author, Gene van Troyer, and Tim Hornyak
…His online fans may adore him, but 2channel is becoming increasingly controversial. There have been stalking incidents and suicide pacts supposedly planned through the site. (Nico Nico Douga is more supervised: Users must log in, there’s a six-page agreement, and Dwango responds to takedown notices.) Nishimura’s nonchalant response to complaints and libel suits probably doesn’t help. “I used to show up in court,” he says. “Then one day I overslept, and nothing happened. So I stopped going.”

Nishimura has lost about 50 lawsuits and owes millions of dollars in penalties, which he has no intention of paying. “If the verdict mandates deleting things, I’ll do it,” he says. “I just haven’t complied with demands to pay money. Would a cell phone carrier feel responsible when somebody receives a threatening phone call?”

Japan is just now having the debate about free speech online that roiled America a decade ago, but it seems to be reaching different conclusions. A government panel recently proposed to start regulating “influential widely read news-related sites in the same way that newspapers and broadcasting are regulated.” Many believe this move was triggered by outrage over 2channel.
Nishimura giggles at the prospect of a government crackdown. “Our lawmakers aren’t that dumb,” he says. “Besides, 2channel’s servers are in San Francisco.”…


COMMENT: I was one of the 50 lawsuiters mentioned above, winning against Nishimura on a charge of libel in Iwamizawa District Court in January 2006.

While the article focusses on quirky iconoclasm (Nishimura’s success despite being an indecorous “slacker”, especially in Japan), two things must be mentioned:

One is the fact that Nishimura is once again lying. Do a Google Search for “2ch”, アルドウィンクル (my former last name in katakana, which is how I was rendered in the problematic copy-pasted text), and イラク (the topic which I was alleged to have commented about), page down to the bottom to click and see duplicate results, and you’ll see that you get 1130 hits (as of May 23, 2008).アルドウィンクル+イラク&num=100&hl=en&safe=off&client=safari&rls=en&filter=0
This is a larger number than ever before, and you’ll see that most of the web addresses are “2ch” for 2-Channel. More than two years after the verdict was handed down, mandating that things be deleted, they clearly still haven’t. Sorry, folks, the slacker is a liar.

Not to mention a deadbeat. Like it or not, iconoclast or not, internet hero or pioneer or whatever, Nishimura must abide by this country’s laws (and their judicial interpretations). He has been ordered fifty times to pay damages (he is the sole public owner of the media, and a telephone call between two individuals is not the same kind of media in public scope or impact). He won’t. Simply taking advantage of the Japanese judiciary’s inability to convert civil suits into criminal ones through Contempt of Court does not further justify or lionize this person’s negligence. In the end, it’ll be easier to pass laws to hinder freedom of internet speech, the lynchpin of Nishimura’s existence, than to reform the judiciary–and that is precisely what looks to happen.

“Our lawmakers aren’t that dumb,” he might claim. Oh yes they are. And at the end of the day when the damage is done, the question will remain, “How could Nishimura have been that dumb?”

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

See full information on my unrequited libel lawsuit win against Nishimura and 2-Channel, January 2006, here.

Highlights of UN OHCHR Universal Periodic Review of Japan’s Human Rights Record, May 14, 2008



Hi Blog. Here’s what investigating countries at the United Nations are saying about Japan’s human rights record.

Full file at, or

First, some highlights of what the GOJ itself says it’s doing about following treaties and human rights standards, then other countries respond with a surprising degree of awareness. The biggest issues seem to be the death penalty, human trafficking, and rights for women (with historical issues brought up by neighboring Asian countries), but as far as is concerned, there is plenty of attention devoted to issues we’ve been raising all along. Even if Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene’s reports on racism in Japan are mostly being ignored by our government, they certainly are being read by members of the UN.

Do try to read parts of the UPR Report with a straight face, as that’s what our government is making a number of risible claims with. I offer links to sections on that are at odds with the GOJ’s claims. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Second session, Geneva, 5 – 19 May 2008
A/HRC/WG.6/2/L.10 14 May 2008
7. Japan attached great importance to human rights education, based on the conviction that in order for all people to enjoy human rights and live contented lives, each citizen must fulfil his or her responsibility to uphold the freedoms and rights guaranteed to them, and at the same time must correctly understand and respect other people’s human rights. It referred to initiatives taken. Regarding the human rights of foreign residents in Japan, it is responding to various needs by establishing Human Rights Counseling Offices for Foreign Nationals with interpretation services at some Legal Affairs Bureaus. It was explained that in March 2002, the Ministry of Justice submitted the Human Rights Bill to establish a new Human Rights Commission which was not completed because of the dissolution of the lower house in October 2003, and the Ministry of Justice continued to review the Bill. Japan explained, inter alia, that it has been striving to realize a society without any form of racial or ethnic discrimination and that in order to prevent such human rights violations it pursues the strict implementation of relevant domestic laws and promotes activities for raising public awareness.

[COUNTERARGUMENT regarding the efficacy of these oft-cited “Human Rights Counseling Offices” here:

8. …With regard to the police detention system, it was explained that the necessity of detention was strictly examined by the police, a prosecutor, and a judge in due order, and that a judge decides on its necessity and the placement of the detention for a maximum of 10 days. A prosecutor and a judge respectively review the necessity of the extension of the detention, and a judge order is also necessary for the extension, which cannot exceed 20 days in total. The Delegation stated that the substitute detention system was indispensable to carrying out prompt and effective investigations. At the police detention facilities, investigative officers were not allowed to control the treatment of detainees; detention operations were conducted by the detention division of the facility, which is not involved in investigations at all. The Delegation also explained that, regardless of the type of crime committed, detainees can have consultations with their lawyer at anytime and there is no official watch person during the meeting and no time limitation. Under the Penal and Detention Facilities Act, a new system has been introduced to make up a third party committee to inspect detention facilities and to state their opinions on the management of the facilities. In addition, a complaints mechanism has been developed in order to ensure the appropriate treatment of detainees…

[COUNTERARGUMENT regarding the underlined sections above:]

11. On the question of civil society cooperation in the process of drafting the national report, the Delegation indicated, inter alia, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted information on the UPR system and process on its website, and asked for opinions ofNGOs and ordinary citizens about the government report and that as a result, it received opinions from 11 NGOs and 214 ordinary citizens. Additionally, the Delegation stated that Japan
recognized that there was still room for improvement, and stated that in the international community, due to globalization and environmental changes, new challenges were being faced and that Japan will continue its contribution to achieve better results for the human rights in the international community, in close cooperation with the United Nations, regional communities, other national Governments, and civil society.

[COUNTERARGUMENT: Read what happened at one of their attempts to ask for opinions of civil society–they refused to calm right-wing agitators and brought the meeting to a close, never to open again:]

16. …Belgium also noted concerns about the prolonged detention in police stations’daiyo kangoku’, the high conviction rate and that several recent cases have indicated that forced confessions have been made, giving rise to regrettable judicial errors. Belgium recommended that in order to avoid the police and the judiciary putting excessive pressure on an accused person to confess: (i) there should be more systematic and intensive work to bring the risk of forced confession to the attention of the police, (ii) interrogation monitoring procedures should be reviewed, (iii) the use of prolonged police detention should be re-examined and (iv) the Criminal Code should be reviewed to ensure its conformity with article 15 of the Convention against Torture.


18. …It also noted that the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism has requested the Japanese Government to eliminate racial discrimination and xenophobia. China hoped that the Japanese Government will seriously address those concerns and adopt effective measures to implement the recommendations of those mechanisms.


19. …Canada referred to studies showing that an increase in international marriages has resulted in an increase in complex divorce and custody cases and noted that there is no formal mechanism to deal with international child custody cases. It recommended that Japan develop a mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed from or prevented from returning to their habitual place of residence, and also examine the possibility of acceding to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.


…[Canada also] referred to reports which indicate the prevalent use of prolonged detention of arrested persons, including detention after they appear before a court and up to the point of indictment and recommended that Japan institute mechanisms to enhance procedural guarantees for the detention of detainees.


21. …[The] United Kingdom recommended that Japan implement the relevant recommendations of the Committee against Torture with regard to external monitoring of police custody and that it ratify the Optional Protocol to CAT as soon as possible. It also recommended that Japan review the Daiyo Kangoku system in order to ensure that the detention procedure is consistent with its obligations under human rights law. It also wished to know whether the Government is intending to take further measures in response to the concerns raised on these issues in other reports provided for this review. It further recommended that civil society be fully involved in the follow-up process to the UPR at the national level.


28. Following the interventions, Japan noted that the Government pursues the goals of ensuring equal rights and opportunities for foreigners, respecting foreigners’ culture and values, and promoting mutual understanding to realize a society in which Japanese and foreigners can live together… Japan stressed its efforts, based on its Constitution and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to realize a society where there is no discrimination due to race, ethnic groups or others and its active work towards the elimination of racial discrimination in the United Nations and other forums. The Government noted that foreigners who wish to obtain Japanese nationality are not requested to change their names to Japanese names, and stated that foreigners can decide on their names on their own after naturalization…


33. …Brazil recommended that Japan consider adhering to the compliant procedures of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and that it ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It recommended that Japan consider establishing legislation defining and prohibiting discrimination in all forms and recommended that it consider a standing invitation to the special procedures.

34. …[Iran] strongly recommended that the Government adopt, as a matter of urgency, a national law against
racism, discrimination and xenophobia and set up an independent mechanism for investigating complaints ofhuman rights violations.

35. The United States of America expressed the hope that Japan’s commitment to democracy and the protection and promotion of human rights would serve as an example for others and wished to know what protections the Government has put in place to ensure that abuses do not occur in immigration detention centres. It also asked whether Japan will allow international monitors to examine the immigration detention centres and make recommendations to strengthen protections, and recommended that Japan permit international monitors to examine immigration centres.

36. …Germany also made reference to the concerns expressed by the Committee against Torture about the systematic use of the Daiyo Kangoku substitute prison system for the prolonged detention of arrested persons. It also noted that nongovernmental organizations had expressed concern regarding the non-regulation of the length of interrogations, restricted access of lawyers to their clients, and non-recording of sessions of interrogation.

40. Guatemala noted that racism and discrimination still exist in the Japanese society, indicating that the fight against all forms of discrimination and the protection of minorities, and especially vulnerable groups, required an appropriate legislative framework and therefore urged Japan to consider introducing a definition of discrimination in its criminal law. In the area ofprotection of the human rights of migrants and the fight against xenophobia, Guatemala noted the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism in favour of abolishing the system established by the Migration Office of the Ministry of Justice, calling upon citizens to proceed to anonymous denunciations on its website, of migrants suspected of being in an irregular situation, and recommended that it be abolished because this might constitute an incitation to racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.



46. …Regarding the question on immigration detention centres, the Government noted that due attention is paid to the human rights of the detainees, and the cases where officials were accused to have committed violence mostly happened coincidently in the course of those official’s controlling the violation ofthe rules in those facilities. Detainees can submit complaints against their treatment to the Minister of Justice. Additionally, to prevent violence at penitentiary institutions, Japan provides officers with education to promote necessary human rights protection measures, and establishes complaints mechanisms and inspection committees. Medical services are provided to prisoners by doctors, and prisoners are transferred to medical prisons to receive necessary medical treatment.



50. …According to the information of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, in Japan there are still cases of racial discrimination and xenophobia affecting national minorities, foreigners and migrants. Minorities are in a vulnerable economic and social situation with respect to employment, access to housing, marriage, pension coverage, access to health facilities and education and the State institutions. Russian Federation asked about steps taken to combat the manifestation of racial discrimination and xenophobia.


59. Japan stated that, in penal institutions, attention should be paid to helping inmates sentenced to the death penalty maintain emotional stability as well as to ensure secure custody. Inmates sentenced to death are notified of their execution on the day of the execution. Japan is concerned that inmates should become emotionally unstable and could suffer serious emotional distress if they are notified in advance of the exact date. For this reason, Japan believes that the current practice is inevitable. The Government did not have statistics on the number of death penalty sentences in 2007, and thus was unable to respond whether there was an increase since 1980 or not. With regard to calls for a moratorium on the death penalty, Japan considered that it would be very cruel to first give the expectation to the prisoners that they will not be executed, and later inform them that they will be executed. With regard to imprisonment without parole, Japan considered that this may be a cruel and problematic system that has the possibility to destroy the personal character of prisoners; therefore the introduction of such a system needs to be considered very carefully.

[COUNTERARGUMENT: Fascinating logic, not based upon any science. Not everyone agrees:]

…On the question of the high rate of convictions, the Government noted that this is the aggregated result of the judgements given by each court, and that the criminal procedures are based on the very thorough investigation, very restrictive indictment based on the investigation and the proper proving at the trial, thus it does not consider high conviction rates as abnormal.

[COUNTERARGUMENT: 99.9% CONVICTION RATES ARE “NOT ABNORMAL”? Again, not everyone agrees, including former NPA prosecutor and now Dietmember Kamei Shizuka:]

…While it acknowledged criticism against the substitute detention system, the Government noted that it makes various efforts to ensure appropriate treatment of the detainees. It also pointed out that the system does not discriminate between Japanese and foreign detainees.

[COUNTERARGUMENT: Except that foreigners cannot be released bail, and cannot be released under any circumstances even when declared innocent by a court, during the prosecution’s appeal. That’s discriminating between Japanese and foreign detainees.]

…Japan also noted operations of the substitute detention system continue to be improved. On the issue of the video-recording of interrogations, the Delegation stated that statements by the suspect is important in order to elucidate the truth in investigations and that the mandating to record all interrogation sometimes can hamper relations between the investigator and the criminal, and may serve to stop the suspect from telling the truth. Japan noted that a careful consideration is needed of the introduction of such monitoring and video-taping.

[COUNTERARGUMENT: Fascinating logic, again not based upon any science. Better not videotape or the suspect might lie? That reason was made up on the fly.]


6. Adapt national legislation to bring it into line with the principles of equality and non-discrimination. (Slovenia); Consider establishing legislation defining and prohibiting discrimination in all forms (Brazil); Consider introducing a definition of discrimination in its criminal law (Guatemala); Adopt, as a matter of urgency, a national law against racism, discrimination and xenophobia (Islamic Republic of Iran);

13. Ensure that the interrogation of detainees in police custody are systematically monitored and recorded and that the Code of Criminal Procedure is harmonized with article 15 of the Convention against Torture and article 14, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and uphold the right of defence to have access to all relevant materials (Algeria); (i) Work more systematically and intensively to bring the risk of forced confession to the attention of the police, (ii) review interrogation monitoring procedures, (iii) re-examine the use of prolonged police detention and (iv) review the Criminal Code to ensure its conformity with article 15 of the Convention against Torture, in order to avoid the police and judiciary putting excessive pressure on the accused to confess (Belgium); Institute mechanisms to enhance procedural guarantees for the detention of detainees (Canada); Review the Daiyo Kangoku system in order to ensure that the detention procedure is consistent with its obligations under human rights law and implement the Committee against Torture’s recommendation with regard to external monitoring ofpolice custody (United Kingdom);

16. Develop a mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children who have been wrongly removed from or prevented from returning to their habitual place of residence (Canada);

UN OHCHR Minority Update: Japan reviewed by Human Rights Council



Hi Blog. Here are two updates on Japan’s human rights behavior being considered for periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council. This is a new activity by the UN after the old Human Rights Commission was disbanded, accused for many years of having the world’s worst human-rights offenders as leaders, covering up their own abuses.

Now under this new organ with the same acronym, everyone is being subject to review once every four years. And according to the press releases below, Japan’s turn came last week. Forwarding primary-source documents to you. Pertinent sections underlined.

As it says below, you can also submit documents to the OHCHR if you want about human rights abuses in Japan. Five pages max, deadline July 14, 2008, by email (UPRsubmissions AT ohchr DOT org). Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Minority Update
N°12 – March-April 2008
United Nations
OHCHR Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Unit
Courtesy Ilona Klímová-Alexander
ialexander AT ohchr DOT org

Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
General Assembly Resolution 60/251, decided that the Human Rights Council (HRC) shall “undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments…”.

The first session of the UPR Working Group (UPR WG) of the HRC took place from 7-18 April 2008 and considered the human rights record of the following countries: Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Finland, United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Philippines, Algeria, Poland, Netherlands, South Africa, Czech Republic, and Argentina.

The second session of the UPR WG is taking place from 5-19 May 2008 and considers the human rights record of the following countries: Gabon, Ghana, Peru, Guatemala, Benin, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zambia, Japan, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, France, Tonga, Romania, and Mali.

The reports, as adopted by the UPR WG, as well as statements by States, are accessible at the UPR section of the Extranet at The meetings of the sessions can be viewed through the UN webcast, either live or archived (

OHCHR posts daily highlights of the sessions of the UPR WG, providing an overview of the interactive dialogues by listing the issues raised, and which are prepared for use by the media, i.e. they are not an official record. The daily highlights can be accessed at

In June 2008, at the eighth session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), the HRC plenary will adopt outcome documents on each country reviewed at the 1st and 2nd sessions of UPR WG. At the HRC plenary, one hour has been allotted for each country, during which NGOs have the possibility to make interventions (differently from the 3-hour country sessions at the WG on the UPR, where interventions are limited to States).

The third session of the UPR WG is scheduled from 1 to 12 December 2008 and will consider the following countries: Botswana, Bahamas, Burundi, Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Liechtenstein, Serbia, Turkmenistan, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Colombia, Uzbekistan, and Tuvalu.

NGOs, wishing to submit information for consideration and possible inclusion by OHCHR in a summary of stakeholders’ input for this UPR review, are invited to send their contributions. The deadline for submission of contributions by NGOs to the third session of the WG on the UPR has been set at 14 July 2008. Please note that the page limit for submissions is 5 pages when submitted by individual stakeholders, and 10 pages when submitted by large coalitions of stakeholders. More detailed reports may be attached for reference only. This information will be available on line for others to access. Submissions should be sent to the following email address: UPRsubmissions AT ohchr DOT org.

For more information see
Contact person: Erik Friberg efriberg AT


17 March to 7 April 2008 – CCPR
The Human Rights Committee (CCPR) held its 92nd session from 17 March to 7 April 2008 in New York. The following State party reports were examined during this session: Tunisia, Botswana, Republic of Macedonia, and Panama. The Committee expressed concern at the persisting problems faced by minorities in the Republic of Macedonia, such as police violence, lack of language support in judicial proceedings, inadequacy of educational opportunities and lack of a protective and non-discriminatory learning environment. The Country Report Task Forces considered and adopted a list of issues on reports submitted by Japan, France, Nicaragua and Ireland. Concluding observations and more information are available at:


How did things turn out? Here is the overview from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) group of the Human Rights Commission.

Again, this is only an overview. I’ll have the full review up here on Japan on this evening. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan’s review in the Working Group,
Friday 09 May 2008, Afternoon 2.30 pm– 5.30 pm
Overview of the Working Group session
Courtesy of and IMADR-JC
The Troika
The Troika was composed of representatives from France, Indonesia and Djibouti. Only France took the floor during the interactive dialogue, mentioning its membership in the Troika.
Presentation by Japan
Speaking time: 22 minutes
Speaker: H.E. Mr. Yoshitaka Akimoto, Ambassador in charge of UN Affairs, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of Japan

Recognition of problems and/or concerns: the delegation didn’t point out challenges or recognized concerns.

Achievements made: signature of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and is making efforts to ratify them; became party of the Rome Statute in the International Criminal Court (in October 2007); Basic Plan for the Promotion of Human Rights Education and Encouragement (2002); establishment of Human Rights Counseling Offices for Foreign Nationals; submission by the Minister of Justice of the Human Rights Bill to establish a new independent Human Right commission; access to the ICERD in 1995 and domestic laws for racial discrimination; adoption of the Second Basic Plan for gender Equality (2005); laws in 2005 and 2006 for improving the conditions of detainees; the Constitution emphasises respects for fundamental human rights;

Other issues: supports the view that human rights are a legitimate concern of the international community;

Answers to written questions: cooperation with Special Rapporteurs (Latvia); intention to ratify the Optional Protocol to CAT (UK); adherence to The Hague Convention on Child Abduction of 25 October 1980” and “The Convention Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children of 19 October 1996 (UK); existence and status of National Human Rights Organizations (UK); measures to eliminate racial discrimination; discrimination against women (including marriageable age); conditions of detention; police detention system; death penalty; participation of the civil society for the national report. Interactive dialogue

Number of countries that took the floor

42 States took the floor during the interactive dialogue: 26 members States of the Human Rights Council (the Philippines, Malaysia, China, Canada, UK, Egypt, France, Slovenia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, Republic of Korea, Guatemala, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Italy, Russian Federation, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Romania, Pakistan, Peru); 16 non-member States (Algeria, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Belgium, Tunisia, Luxemburg, Portugal, Poland, Albany, Islamic Republic of Iran, USA, Mauritania, Latvia, Turkey, Argentina, Slovakia, Vietnam).

Questions/issues raised

Indigenous Peoples – Algeria, Peru; Women’s rights – Portugal, Brazil, Pakistan; Violence against women – Algeria, Philippines (trafficking), China, Canada, Iran (domestic violence); gender equality – Portugal (stereotypes in labour market and political field), Slovenia, Iran (stereotypes); Discrimination against women – France, Slovenia (marriageable age), Germany (women from minorities), Azerbaijan, Romania; Trafficking in persons – Philippines, Canada, Netherlands (Slavery practice of comfort women during WWII), Jordan, Iran (prostitution and exploitation), Romania; Bullying in schools “ijime” – Philippines; Japanese Military Sexual Slavery – North Korea; Death Penalty – Belgium, Luxemburg, Mexico, Switzerland (moratorium), Portugal, Netherlands (training for judges), Brazil; Pre-trial and Detention conditions – Algeria (police custody), Canada, Iran (health care and torture in prison); Police stations “daiyo kangoku” – Algeria, Belgium, Malaysia, United Kingdom; Training in human rights of law enforcement officials – Canada, Tunisia; Rights to development – Egypt; Technique cooperation for developing countries – Tunisia; International human rights instruments – Algeria; Luxemburg; Albania, Mexico, Azerbaijan; Cooperation with Special Procedures – Latvia; Violations on the Internet – Poland; Rights of the Child – China (child abuse and child pornography), Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Italy (corporal punishment in school), Sri Lanka (National Youth Policy); Conscientious objection – Slovenia; National Human Rights Institution – Philippines, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Qatar; Migrants – Philippines, Brazil, USA (immigration detention centres), Azerbaijan (workers); Racial discrimination – North Korea (against Koreans), China, Brazil, Iran, South Korea, Guatemala; Torture – Brazil; Human Rights education – Ukraine; Old population – Vietnam, Mauritania (old workers); Minorities – Philippines, Peru; Refugees – Slovakia; Asylum seekers – Slovakia;


Conditions of detention

– Review the monitoring of interrogation of detainees to be in accordance with CAT and humanitarian law (Algeria, Belgium, UK)

– Institute procedural measures which protect detainees (Canada)

– Respect of the safeguard guaranty, including in death penalty case (Italy) NHRI

– Establishment of a NHRI in accordance with Paris Principles (Algeria, China, Canada, Qatar)

Human trafficking

– To take measures to deal with military sexual slavery (DPRK)

– To take measures against discrimination against Koreans (unemployment, obligation to change the name) (DPRK)

– Continue efforts in this regard (Canada)

Racial Discrimination

– Immediate measures (DPRK)

– Measures to implement the recommendations made by the SR (China)

– Measures for complaints procedures (France) Women’s rights

– Continuation of the measures for violence against women, including reparations (Canada)

– Measures for gender identity (Canada)

– Measures for comfort women during WWII (France, Republic of Korea)

Death Penalty

– Moratorium in order to abolish death penalty (UK, Luxemburg, Portugal, France, Albany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy)

Participation of civil society

– Integration of the civil society in the following of the report (UK) International Instruments

– Ratification of CAT (UK, Albania)

– Ratification of OP-CEDAW (Portugal, Mexico)

– Ratification of OP-CAT (Mexico, Brazil)

– Ratification of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Mexico)

– Ratification of International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (Peru)

– Adhere to the complaints procedures of CEDAW and CERD (Brazil)

– Visit of SR (Brazil)


– Permit international monitoring for immigration detention centres (USA) Indigenous People

– Review the land rights and other rights of the Ainu population and harmonize it with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Algeria)

– Make a dialogue with indigenous people (Guatemala)

Rights to development

– continue development assistance (Bangladesh)

– extend the efforts regarding to MDG’s (Bangladesh) Minorities

– Establishment of a independent body (Slovakia) Rights of the Child

– Develop a mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed from or prevented from returning to their habitual place of residence (Canada)

Sexual orientation

– Take measures to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation (Canada) Answers provided by Japan on questions/issues raised and recommendations Racial discrimination (Brazil); Trafficking in persons (Philippines, Canada); Bullying of children in schools (Philippines); Women’ rights; Relationship between North Korea and Japan (North Korea); Sexual orientation (Canada);

Second Round: Rights of the Child; Indigenous peoples (Guatemala); Monitoring of immigration detention centres; Investigation in penal institutions; Death penalty and moratorium; Refugees; National police agency; Immigration; Corporal punishment in schools (Italy).

Issues for follow-up

The delegation argued that it is ready to cooperate with Special Representatives, in order to visit the country. Besides, the Bill to establish a new Human Rights Commission is currently reviewed by the Ministry of Justice.

Pakistan asks for the measures taken for the inclusion of gender perspective in the following of UPR. Furthermore, Slovenia recommends the State to integrate the gender perspective in the following of the report.

States that made solely welcoming statements


Human Rights mentioned during the review but on which the delegation did not give a response

Rights to development (Bangladesh); Torture;

Speaking times Overall duration of the review: 2 hours and 41 minutes Of the State under Review – During its opening statement: 24 minutes – Overall speaking time employed to respond to other States’ questions during the interactive dialogue: 38 minutes – Concluding remarks: 1 minute

Disclaimer: note that this document only represents an overview with the aim of providing the list of issues that were raised during the discussion and should therefore not be quoted as an official document of the UPR process.

Yahoo News/AP: Newest “Yokoso Japan” rep: Hello Kitty!



Hi Blog. Guess what. Hello Kitty has joined author Alex Kerr as a Yokoso Japan Ambassador! She’s in good company.

Still, if I were a real grouch, I’d talk about felled trees (or wasted electrons) devoted to this story, and herald the fall of modern civilization. But I’m not that grouchy today, and like it or not, people have a weakness for cutsies, anime, dollies, fat beasts, stuffed animals, etc. (hell, Japan will even make honorary residents of them, instead of real live taxpaying foreigners). So the following story is within character.

But I wonder–given that she lives in London (yes!): Does Hello Kitty get fingerprinted every time she re-enters Japan? Or if she is actually a Japanese citizen, whether she faces ijime for being a kikoku shijou (or if she is an adult, she gets told she’s not Japanese enough since she lives overseas). Well, she’s got the perfect poker face–no mouth to frown with, or speak with to be judged on her Japanese language ability…

Okay, I’m getting overly grouchy 🙂 Enjoy the story. The tactics appear to be working–tourism to Japan continues to hit record levels. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Hello Kitty is named Japan tourism ambassador
By TOMOKO A. HOSAKA, Associated Press Writer
Mon May 19, 2008 Yahoo News/AP
Courtesy of Chad Edwards

Hello Kitty — Japan’s ubiquitous ambassador of cute — has built up an impressive resume over the years. Global marketing phenom. Fashion diva. Pop culture icon. Now the moonfaced feline can add “government envoy” to the list. The tourism ministry on Monday named Hello Kitty as its choice to represent the country in China and Hong Kong, two places where she is wildly popular among kids and young women.

Officials hope that tapping into that fan base will lead to a bigger flow of tourists into Japan, and closer toward their goal of attracting 10 million overseas visitors every year under the “Visit Japan” campaign.

Last year the number of foreign tourists traveling to Japan hit a record high of 8.35 million, up 60 percent since the government began the marketing effort in 2003.

Arrivals from China and Hong Kong, who accounted for 16.5 percent of visitors to Japan last year, are poised this year to become the second-largest group of tourists after South Koreans.

At a press conference, Sanrio Co. President Shintaro Tsuji called Hello Kitty’s new appointment “an honor” and pledged to “work hard to attract many visitors.”

Japan’s other goodwill tourism ambassadors include Korean singer Younha, Japanese actress Yoshino Kimura and Japanese pop/rock duo Puffy AmiYumi.

Although this is the first time the tourism ministry has tapped a fictional character for the role, the foreign ministry in March inaugurated blue robo-cat Doraemon as Japan’s “anime ambassador.”

Designed in 1974 by Sanrio, Hello Kitty first appeared on a plastic coin purse. Her image today has become one of the most powerful brands in the world, adorning some 50,000 products in 60 countries.

In China, Kitty-fever has already broken out.

A multi-million-dollar musical featuring Hello Kitty opened earlier this year in Beijing and is in the midst of a national tour. “Hello Kitty’s Dream Light Fantasy” is then scheduled to travel to Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. over its three-year run.

According to her official profile from Sanrio, Hello Kitty lives with her family in London. It does not mention how often she visits Japan.

Sayuki et al: People clearly qualifying for J Permanent Residency are being rejected by Immigration



Hi Blog. I have been receiving emails recently from people saying that the essential benchmark qualifications for Permanent Residency (eijuuken, or PR)–i.e. five years’ continuous residency if married to a Japanese, ten years’ continuous if not (aside from the obvious bits about law-abidingness and stable income)–don’t seem to be sufficient anymore, even in some cases where one would think candidates would be a shoo-in. Witness:

Dear David, I have just been to the Fukuoka Immigration center at Fukuoka Airport and was planning to submit my forms for Permanent Resident Status (永住権) after taking advice from your web page on this issue.

When I explained myself to the first staff member they said there was no way I would obtain this status because I have not been in Japan 10 years.

But I replied that I have lived in Japan over nine years, employed for all that time, married for six, two children who are Japanese nationals, and I am one of only a handful of people in Japan who has a permanent full-time position in an Elementary School.

I was passed onto another member of staff who told me to fill out some more forms for this application (which is fair enough) but I am seeking advice on this issue – espeically about application and marriage time – for they seemed not to understand the rule about five years of marriage to a Japanese national allows you to apply for Permanent Resident Status.

Any information, English or Japanese, which I could take down and show them on the date of my next meeting with them would be gratefully received.

According to HANDBOOK co-author Akira, Immigration says the requirements for PR are:

Guidelines for Permission for Permanent Residence

Legal requirements
(1) The person is of good conduct.
The person observes Japanese laws and his/her daily living as a resident does not invite any social criticism.
(2) The person has sufficient assets or ability to make an independent living.
The person does not financially depend on someone in the society in his daily life, and his/her assets or ability, etc. are assumed to continue to provide him/her with a stable base of livelihood into the future.
(3) The person’s permanent residence is regarded to be in accord with the interests of Japan.

In principle, the person has stayed in Japan for more than 10 years consecutively. It is also required that during his/her stay in Japan the person has had work permit or the status of residence for more than 5 years consecutively.

The person has been never sentenced to a fine or imprisonment. The person fulfills public duties such as tax payment.

The maximum period of stay allowed for the person with his/her current status of residence under Annexed Table 2 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is to be fully utilized.
There is no possibility that the person could do harm from the viewpoint of protection of public health.

※ The requirements (1) and (2) above do not apply to spouses and children of Japanese nationals, special permanent residents or permanent residents, and requirement (2) does not apply for those who have been recognized as refugees

Special requirements for 10-year residence in principle

(1) The person is a spouse of a Japanese national, special permanent resident or permanent resident, and has been in a real marital relationship for more than 3 years consecutively and has stayed in Japan more than 1 year consecutively. Or, the person is a true child of a Japanese national, special permanent resident or permanent resident, and has stayed in Japan more than 1 year consecutively.
(2) The person has stayed in Japan for more than 5 years consecutively with the status of long term resident.
(3) The person has been recognized as a refugee, and has stayed in Japan for more than 5 years consecutively after recognition.
(4) The person has been recognized to have made a contribution to Japan in diplomatic, social, economic, cultural or other fields, and has stayed in Japan for more than 5 years.
※ Please see “Guidelines for Contribution to Japan.”
[which are not linked from this site, and unavailable despite a MOJ website search; see them here in Japanese]
March 31, 2006, Immigration Bureau of Japan, The Ministry of Justice

Japanese original:

Would have thought the first case cited above would suffice. Same with this case I just heard about the other day:

Bad news on my PR application — I was turned down after half a year on a student visa and 9 1/2 years on the current work visa. They want me to get married, change to a spouse visa, and then wait three more years before trying again. I hate to wait that long — I want to get a mortgage and buy a home; we can’t afford to keep renting!

The above is from a graduate student at Japan’s top university, who got in after passing his entrance exams in Japanese!

But what really beats all is the fact that SAYUKI, Japan’s first NJ geisha (more on her here.) was also recently refused her PR! This despite:
1) A total of fifteen years in Japan, ten consecutive in high school and university
2) Attending Japanese high school
3) Being the first caucasian woman ever to be accepted and graduate as a normal student from Keio University
4) Probably the first NJ caucasian woman to get the teaching degree in Japan (kyoushoku katei)
5) Being the first to work in the Japanese life insurance industry (ippanshoku to shite)
6) Being employed at Kyodo Tsushi, Reuters, NHK etc as a journalist
7) Making more than ten television programmes about Japan
8) Publishing three academic books on Japan
9) Being a Lecturer in Japanese Studies at university (National Univ of Singapore)
10) Currently the first foreign woman ever to be accepted as a geisha.


She concludes that it was in fact easier to get into Keio! This despite guidelines (Article 2(4) above) saying that ten years need not be continuous if, “The person has been recognized to have made a contribution to Japan in diplomatic, social, economic, cultural or other fields (which she clearly has) and has stayed in Japan for more than 5 years” (which she has). So why refused? Unclear.

There is, however, an unusual right of appeal for PR applications (not for other visa statuses), within six months. A person in the know advised:

There are many lawyers (bengoshi or gyoseishoshi) in Tokyo who deal with immigration matters. How about consulting with them? Just one hour or so consultation shouldn’t cost much. They may come up with a better solution after thoroughly examining your explanations/documents.

There is a high court case in which the court ordered to cancel the immigration decision of “non-permission of permanent residency.” But this is (partly) because of Immigration’s fault in the factual finding phase, not because “the guideline” is prejudiced or irrational. So you (or your lawyer) will have to overturn this kind of judgement in court. Hiring a lawyer will take a lot of time and money, and most of all, it’s very difficult even for a specialist lawyer.

So a practical solution would be to wait for another couple of years and re-reapply IF you still can/want to extend your current visa for three more years.

The govenment is planning to change the law next year, and there may be major changes to permanent residency system.

Yeah great. But cripes, how many hoops must one jump through these days just to upgrade to PR? A Green Card in the US, for example, certainly doesn’t take this many years, and without PR in Japan, you can’t get home/car/etc. loans from financial institutions with pinkies, qualify for many credit cards, or, say, obtain the ability to divorce without the threat of visa violation. Also having Immigration demand that people marry or else (not everyone has that affectional preference; civil unions are not legal in Japan) is one of the worst kinds of “local-content requirements” for your working environment.

This much rigmarole from Immigration only puts Japan at a competitive disadvantage for attracting qualified, educated migrants to stay in Japan permanently. After this much dedication from them, then a slap in the face, many of them might think twice about staying on after all. Wise up, Immigration. You’re supposed to be helping Japan face it’s future.

Comments from others with successful (or not) experiences getting PR are welcome. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Call for Presentations, Peace as a Global Language Conference 7 Sept 27-8, Tokyo


Hi Blog. I’ve been to four of these PGLs, and they’re worth attending, if not presenting at. I will be. Forwarding FYI. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Call for Presentations
7th Annual Conference

Peace as a Global Language
September 27-28, 2008
Seisen University, Tokyo, Japan

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

Presentations may be in English or Japanese, or bilingual.

The following presentation formats are possible:
panel discussion (50 – 110 minutes)
workshop (50 minutes)
research presentation (50 minutes)
poster sessions (no limit)
other (please specify clearly).

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

Submissions should be no more than 100 words, with a 30 word abstract, and accompanied by the following information:

¬ Name & contact details of each speaker
¬ Format (Please also indicate if you are willing to give a poster presentation instead of another format.)
¬ Presentation language (English, Japanese or bilingual)
¬ Equipment required (please be very specific)
¬ Preferred date of presentation (September 27 or 28)

Applications may be rejected if the information provided is insufficient.
Submissions should be sent by e-mail to:
Submissions may also be sent by post to the following address:
Yasuko Shimojima, 1-14-C-102, Karabe, Narita-shi, Chiba 286-0036 Japan

Deadline for Submissions: June 27, 2008

Notification of Decisions: On/around July 18, 2008 via e-mail

Please note: Our budget is very limited. Presenters are normally required to pay the standard conference fee. We regret that we cannot provide funding for transport and other expenses. We do not provide guarantees or other documents for visa applications.

Reuters: UN’s Doudou Diene checking out racism in USA


Hi Blog. UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene, who has visited Japan three times in the past, called racism here “deep and profound”, and urged Japan to pass laws against racial discrimination, is now visiting the US for the same reason.

Good. Let’s see how the USG deals with his report (and let’s see how high up Diene gets meetings. Even Tokyo Gov. Ishihara found no time to meet Diene on any of this trips…). The GOJ essentially ignored Dr. Diene’s reports, alas.

More on Dr. Diene on the blog here. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

U.N. racism investigator to visit U.S. from Monday
Fri May 16, 2008 2:48pm EDT By Stephanie Nebehay
Courtesy of Pat O’Brien

GENEVA (Reuters) – A special U.N. human rights investigator will visit the United States this month to probe racism, an issue that has forced its way into the race to secure the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

The United Nations said Doudou Diene would meet federal and local officials, as well as lawmakers and judicial authorities during the May 19-June 6 visit.

“The special rapporteur will…gather first-hand information on issues related to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” a U.N. statement said on Friday.

His three-week visit, at U.S. government invitation, will cover eight cities — Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Omaha, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Race has become a central issue in the U.S. election cycle because Sen. Barack Obama, the frontrunner in the battle for the Democratic nomination battle, stands to become the country’s first African American president.

His campaign has increased turnout among black voters but has also turned off some white voters in a country with a history of slavery and racial segregation.

Diene, a Senegalese lawyer who has served in the independent post since 2002, will report his findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council next year.

However, the United Nations has almost no clout when it comes to U.S. domestic affairs and is widely perceived by many as interfering. The United States is not among the 47 member states of the Geneva-based forum, but has observer status.

In a report last year he said Islamophobia had grown worldwide since the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States, carried out by al-Qaeda militants.


A U.N. panel which examined the U.S. record on racial discrimination last March urged the United States to halt racial profiling of Americans of Arab, Muslim and South Asian descent and to ensure immigrants and non-nationals are not mistreated.

It also said America should impose a moratorium on the death penalty and stop sentencing young offenders to life in prison until it can root out racial bias from its justice system.

Racial minorities were more likely than whites to be sentenced to death or to life without parole as juveniles, according to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It monitors compliance with an international treaty which Washington ratified in 1994.

U.S. officials told the body, made up of 18 independent experts, that they were combating hate crimes such as displays of hangman’s nooses and police brutality against minorities.

Some 800 racially motivated incidents against people perceived to be Arab, Muslim, Sikh or South Asian had been investigated since the September 11 attacks, they said at the time.

Substantial progress had been made over the years in addressing disparities in housing, education, employment and health care, according to a U.S. report submitted to the talks.

(Additional reporting by Matt Bigg in Atlanta; Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Jon Boyle)




Table of Contents:
1) No bank accounts allowed at Mitsui Sumitomo for NJ without minimum six-month stays.
Okay at Japan Post Office, however.
2) Japan proposes language requirement for foreign long-term visas,
yet protests when Britain proposes the same.

3) Mainichi: MOJ overturns deportation order, allows NJ couple to stay with child in Japan.
4) Yomiuri: 80% of hospitals interested in employing foreign nurses.
5) Japan Times: Canada, U.S. nudge Japan to join child abduction resolution framework
(and it appears to have worked).

6) US State Dept Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2007, Japan
7) UN News recent articles on Human Rights Council
8) UN News: first group of 16 nations reviewed by HRC

9) Podcast April 5, 2008: My March 18 FCCJ Speech in full on Trans Pacific Radio
10) Japan Times Feb 16 Symposium, my question from the floor makes the paper
11) “WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS” stickers for businesses
now on sale at (Paypal OK)
12) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 3: “Activism vs Academia”

And finally…
13) Humor: Sankei Sports Pure-Ai Keitai dating service advertisement

By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan,
Daily Blog at
Freely Forwardable


1) No bank accounts allowed at Mitsui Sumitomo for NJ without minimum six-month stays.
Okay at Japan Post Office, however.

Situation where a J bank (Mitsui Sumitomo) suddenly refuses accounts to newcoming NJ due to potential money laundering problems. Solution: Open an account in the Postal Savings, pah! to unfriendly Japanese banks. More details from somebody who just went through this rigmarole…


2) Japan proposes language requirement for foreign long-term visas,
yet protests when Britain proposes the same.

Yes, you read that right. The GOJ wants to issue Japanese language tests for long-term NJ visa renewals, yet protests when Great Britain wants to do the same thing. Moral: We Japanese can treat our gaijin any way we like. But don’t you foreign countries dare do the same thing for members of Team Japan.


3) Mainichi: MOJ overturns deportation order, allows NJ couple to stay with child in Japan

Mainichi: “The Justice Ministry has decided to grant special residence permission to a Kurdish man, his Filipino wife and their 7-year-old daughter, overturning its earlier decision to deport the couple for overstaying their visas. The ministry’s move came after the Tokyo High Court suggested a settlement in the case in which the family’s request to nullify the ministry’s order to deport them had been turned down by the Tokyo District Court…”


4) Yomiuri: 80% of hospitals interested in employing foreign nurses

Yomiuri: “More than 80 percent of medium- or large-sized hospitals have indicated an interest in accepting foreign nurses, while about 40 percent are actually considering hiring such nurses, according to a survey by a research team at the Kyushu University Asia Center. Following bilateral economic partnership agreements signed between Japan and the Philippines and Indonesia, Japan likely will start accepting nurses and caregivers from those countries as early as this summer. “There were more hospitals that showed interest in accepting foreign nurses than we’d expected,” said Sadachika Kawaguchi, professor at University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan, who also was involved in the survey.”…


5) Japan Times: Canada, U.S. nudge Japan to join child abduction resolution framework

Japan Times:  “Canadian and the U.S. government officials and a law expert Friday urged Japan to join an international legal framework to resolve cross-border cases of child abduction by parents and others… The U.S. currently has 40 cases of international child abduction involving Japan, the third-largest after Mexico and India, said Kathleen Ruckman, deputy director of the U.S. State Department’s Children’s Issues Office…” Read more

It seems to have had an effect:

Japan to sign international parental abduction treaty

“Japan will sign a treaty obliging the government to return to the rightful parent children of broken international marriages who are wrongfully taken and kept in Japan, sources said Friday. The Justice Ministry will begin work to review current laws with an eye on meeting requirements under the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the sources said. The government plans to sign the treaty as early as in 2010…”


6) US State Dept Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2007, Japan

Although the US is certainly no paragon of human rights worldwide (what with torture, renditions, abuses under SOFA, denial of Habeas Corpus to non-citizens, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and the largest arms sales worldwide, to name but a few caveats under this administration), here is their annual report on human rights in Japan in full. For what it’s worth. Note how the situation of “Japanese Only” signs nationwide is no longer mentioned, like it was in previous reports. I guess the US State Department considers the situation resolved. I beg to differ. Read more…


7) UN News recent articles on Human Rights Council

Here are a gaggle of recent UN News articles on the Human Rights Council, the one which monitors countries (like Japan) on their human rights practices. Here’s hoping they’ll be coming down on Japan soon for it’s broken promises regarding establishing a law against racial discrimination…


8) UN News: First group of 16 nations reviewed by HRC

UN News: “The top United Nations human rights official warned that some States still do not recognize the existence of racism as a phenomenon. “National laws and measures to ensure its elimination in most countries are either inadequate or ineffective,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour. “As a result, vulnerable groups continue to suffer aggression while abusers enjoy impunity.” Like in Japan… Read more


9) Podcast April 5, 2008: My March 18 FCCJ Speech in full on Trans Pacific Radio

TPR News: “In this edition of the Podcast on Trans Pacific Radio, Arudou Debito has recorded his entire speech (a little more than an hour and a half), along with Q&A, given at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on March 18, 2008. This is the standard speech he gave during his recent three-week-long nationwide tour to promote HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN, so if you missed the tour, here’s your chance to see what he was on about. It’s not all about the book; he also talks about Japan’s lack of an immigration policy and issues of multiculturalization and Japan’s future.”


10) Japan Times Feb 16 Symposium, my question from the floor makes the paper

I have offered my opinion on how the Japan Times could improve its readership in the past on my blog (the JT is uniquely poised to offer something more independently, as a newspaper not controlled as a vanity project by the other Japanese newspapers, such as the doctrinaire Yomiuri, or a union-busting, closed-circuit Asahi. I’m hoping that it finally sinks in that the JT can most easily turn on a dime, and offer information not only for English-language readers, but also the immigrants who want to make a life in Japan and need essential information even when there’s no emergency like the (cited) Great Hanshin Earthquake. Read more


11) “WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS” stickers for businesses
now on sale at (Paypal OK)

Happy to announce, along with the sale of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS, another new program on to push back the night–and counteract the nationwide spread of JAPANESE ONLY signs on businesses: New signs that say “WE WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS”:

I am encouraging people to consider the fact that in many places in Japan, nationality (and physical appearance) does matter. That’s why they have exclusionary signs up, in violation of our constitution and international treaty. That deserves attention and action. One way is to demand the signs come down, by whatever means necessary. Another is to show that nationality is not a problem (which of course should be the default) by drawing attention to the issue at individual establishments–by showing that it is NOT a problem at this establishment.

When first made public last March, it became one of the most controversial proposals I’ve ever made. Clarification: The project is not intended to show anything about places that do not display the signs. It is a means to make people ask the question, “why do we need this sticker in the first place? are there places out there with say NJ are NOT okay?” And the answer is yes. These stickers are intended to draw attention to the issue of discrimination by race and nationality. It is another avenue where people who support the movement to eliminate discrimination can declare their support thusly in a positive manner.


12) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 3: “Activism vs Academia”

JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column 3: “So naturally, some academics have been rather skeptical when I claim racial discrimination here is growing in magnitude and scope. One even asserted at this forum that my online “naming and shaming” of discriminators ( is counterproductive that too much “attacking Japan” alienates potential allies. Again, I understand why never the twain. The academic observer, particularly in the social sciences, is bound by a “prime directive” not to interfere with their object of study when collecting data; plus there is an incumbent resistance to making value judgments (think of “cultural imperialism” etc.; to an anthropologist, I’m probably the Antichrist). In sum, academics observe societal or global “standards.” Activists, however, try to create or adjust them.” Read more…


And finally…
13) Humor: Sankei Sports Pure-Ai Keitai dating service advertisement

At the beginning of April, having gotten a book and a book tour out of the way, I had a hard time feeling like writing anything serious. So, so until that feeling passed I wrote for fun. Such as on this great advertisement from Sankei Sports Shinbun depicting two “case studies” of young marriageable people in their twenties, and the lives they lead until they get hooked up through this keitai dating service. It’s hilarious Japanicana, contrasting an essentially lonely and hopeless otaku salaryman with an anime-cute single woman with a surprisingly rich and whimsical life…


All for today. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan,
Daily Blog at

Japan Today: NJ suspect acquitted by J Court, yet still detained–for overstaying his visa due to denial of bail!


Hi Blog. Here’s another way to make sure you perpetually incarcerate any NJ suspected of any crime. Even if they’ve been acquitted in court, just keep them in detention (after all, NJ aren’t allowed bail in Japan) long enough, and then you can get them for overstaying their visa! “Hostage Justice’s” safety catch for NJ only. Comment from contributor Mark Mino-Thompson and then article follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Seems the British Govt. has more pull here than the Swiss. Same situation as before, yet this time around the court releases a man acquitted of suspected drug smuggling, despite prosecutors wanting him detained until they appeal. Of course, he still hasn’t been freed; he’s in a gaijin tank waiting to be deported, despite the sole reason of his “overstay” was due to being in the custody of Japanese police.


Court rejects prosecution request to detain Briton after acquittal
Japan Today/Kyodo News Friday 16th May, 07:15 AM JST

TOKYO –The Tokyo High Court rejected Thursday a request by prosecutors to detain a 54-year-old British man who has been acquitted by a district court of the charge of smuggling cannabis from South Africa into Japan. The court decided that ‘‘after reviewing the grounds for and records of the ruling, detention is unwarranted.’’ The Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office had sought the man’s detention to prevent him from being deported from Japan before appeal court proceedings can begin.

The man is being held by the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau for overstaying his legally permitted period in Japan. He was arrested in August last year on suspicion of carrying a suitcase containing about 9.7 kilograms of cannabis at Narita airport, east of Tokyo, after arriving from South Africa. On May 1, the Chiba District Court acquitted him, saying there remains reasonable doubt about whether he intentionally brought in a suitcase containing cannabis.


Burma/Myanmar junta’s connection to Japanese Imperial Army


Hi Blog. It’s been a mystery to me for years now why Burma (now Myanmar basically by military junta whim) has become such a basket case–moving from being the richest country in SE Asia to the poorest over two generations–and one that cares more about putting down protesting monks than helping out its cyclone-ravaged people.

Here’s one reason hinted at by a journalist: historical connections to the Imperial Japanese Army–and how it got its template to suppress a citizenry from Wartime Japan.

It may also be another reason why the GOJ is still surprisingly cosy with the Burmese junta, to the point of muting criticism even when a Japanese journalist gets shot by the Burmese military (imagine what would happen if that had occurred in, say, China or North Korea!). Comment follows article:

Why Burma has been trashed for 46 years
The Japan Times: Wednesday, May 14, 2008

LONDON — The Burmese regime is not to blame for the powerful cyclone that struck the Irrawaddy Delta and Yangon early this month, killing up to a hundred thousand people. But it certainly will be to blame for the next wave of deaths if aid does not soon reach the survivors.

A hundred years ago, the victims of such a catastrophe were on their own, but there are now well-established routines for getting help in quickly from outside. We saw them at work in the same region during the tsunami that killed at least twice as many people in 2004. Nothing could be done for those who died in the first fury of the event, but relatively few died from disease, injuries, exposure or sheer hunger or thirst in the days and weeks that followed.

Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India — the nations worst hit by the 2004 tsunami — are reasonably well-run countries that were able to help their own citizens, and they had no hesitation in welcoming international aid as well. Burma (which got off lightly in 2004) is very different. The question is: why?

What sane government would block the entry of foreigners bringing exactly the kind of help that is needed — people whose professional lives are devoted to disaster relief — when at least a tenth of the country’s people are living in the open, with little access to food or clean water?

The short answer is that the generals who rule Burma are ill-educated, superstitious, fearful men whose first priority is protecting their power and their privileges.

They almost lost both during the popular demonstrations led by Buddhist monks last year, and they are terrified that letting large numbers of foreigners in now might somehow destabilize the situation again. They are sitting atop a volcano, and they know it.

But that is not really a complete answer, for it begs the question: Why has Burma fallen into the hands of people like that not just for a few years, but for 4 1/2 decades? Thailand has the occasional short-lived military coup, Indonesia had its problems with Sukarno and Suharto, and Cambodia had the horrors of Year Zero, but no other country in the region has been misgoverned so badly for so long.

It seems incredible now, when neighboring Thailand has four times Burma’s per capita income, that at independence in 1948 Burma was the richest country in Southeast Asia. With huge resources, a high literacy rate, and good infrastructure by the standards of the time (due to the British Empire’s obsession with railways and irrigation projects), it seemed fated to succeed. Instead it has drifted steadily downward, and is now the poorest country in the region.

The problem is the army, obviously, but why is the army such a problem? Perhaps it is the legacy of the “Thirty Comrades.” Rarely has such a small group of people dominated a whole country’s history for so long.

The Thirty Comrades were a group of young Burmese students (average age 24) who went abroad in early 1941 to seek military training so they could come home and launch a rebellion against British rule. Most of them were more or less Communist in orientation, and their original intention was to get training from the Chinese Communists.

By chance they fell in with the Japanese instead. They returned under the wing of the Japanese invaders at the end of the year as the “Burma Independence Army,” but switched sides in 1944 when it became clear that the Japanese would lose the war. They combined the authoritarian traditions of the Imperial Japanese Army with the ruthless ideological certainty of militant Marxism, and they dominated the army of the new republic from its independence in 1948.

It was this army, the nastiest behavioral stew imaginable, that seized power in 1962 and has ruled Burma ever since. The last of the Thirty Comrades, Ne Win, only retired in 1988, and continued to exercise great influence from behind the scenes until only 10 years ago.

Whatever ideology the army once had is long gone. It has become so corrupt that Burma ties with Somalia for last place on Transparency International’s corruption index. The country exists merely to serve its armed forces, which have never shown any hesitation in shooting citizens who question their right to rule.

Its commanders are fully aware that most Burmese hate their rulers, and fear that the presence of a large number of foreigners might serve as a spark for another popular uprising. Even if another million and a half lives depend on the rapid delivery of emergency aid to the desperate survivors in the delta, as Oxfam fears, the army will severely restrict the entry of foreign aid personnel as long as it can resist the international pressure to let them in.

Hundreds are probably dying each hour who could be saved if the food, shelter, water purification equipment and medical teams could pour in as they usually do after a disaster, but the army is half a million strong, so nobody is going to fight their way in. The Burmese, as usual, are on their own.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
The Japan Times: Wednesday, May 14, 2008


COMMENT: Regarding GOJ cosiness, according to the Japan Policy Research Institute:

While the Japanese Foreign Ministry claims to be engaged in a “quiet dialogue” with the junta to promote democratization, business interests have turned a blind eye to politics and lobbied for full economic engagement, including new aid. As early as June 1994, Keidanren, the powerful Federation of Economic Organizations, sent a special fifty-man mission headed by Marubeni chairman Kazuo Haruna to Rangoon to meet with the junta’s top brass. In the wake of the mission, many Japanese companies, especially banks, opened branch offices in Rangoon. Two years later, in May 1996, Keidanren upgraded its informal study group in Burma to a “Japan-Myanmar Economic Committee.” The timing was less than opportune, for SLORC was then in the middle of a crackdown on the NLD about which the Japanese government expressed great concern….

“In a special year-end issue of Asiaweek (December 1997), [economic pundit Ken’ichi ] Ohmae disparaged Suu Kyi’s 1990 election victory, again linking her to the United States: “The West knows Myanmar through one person, Aung San Suu Kyi. The obsession with Suu Kyi is a natural one if you understand the United States. Superficial democracy is golden in the U.S.: Americans love elections. Just as Myanmar is Buddhist, and Malaysia is Islamic, America has a religion called democracy.”
JPRI Working Paper No. 60: September 1999, Japan’s “Burma Lovers” and the Military Regime, by Donald M. Seekins

This is a tangent to, but an interesting one to follow. People with more knowledge on this (since it also offers some insight into the GOJ’s general attitude towards human rights) are welcome to comment. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Anonymous on job-market barriers to NJ graduates of J universities: The “IQ Test”


Hi Blog. Feedback from a reader about prospects of finding work in Japan as a NJ despite graduation from a J university. According to the author, barriers are put up at the entry level all over again to prefer native candidates–or at least how they get tested by IQ. Read on:

Hello Debito. I am a reader of your blog since I came to Japan the second time in September 2006. I am a Master’s student at [an extremely prestigious Japanese university] and do research on “national identity” in Japan. That is why I was interested in your homepage in the first place.

But now I feel discriminated the first time and wanted to ask you for some advice.

I started searching for a job in Japan because I will graduate next year but I want to stay in Japan. I started as early as the japanese students, visited countless fairs and setsumeikai, and bought all the expensive books on business fields, tests and self analysis. In short – I didn’t do anything wrong. But now all my J friends have a job contract and I still don’t what is extremely frustrating. Because I put more effort into it then most of them and I don’t think I am less smart, but still I did not get even one serious offer.

The reason for this is a stupid old fashioned IQ test like test which is quite the same at each company. It is not so difficult but the time limit for each problem is very strict, which is a major disadvantage for NJ graduates. Once I did the test in English at ONE out of 35 companies which provided the same test in English for NJ applicantsand passed easily, although English is NOT my mother language. I am German.

(I failed at the second interview though. Partly because I was inexperienced and nervous. It was my first and last opportunity for an interview)

I think this test is extremely unfair against all NJ, because it needs far much more preparation than for J students to master it and even then you have less chances to pass. In other words, even with the best preparation it’s a gamble.

It would be much better for the students (and the companies who waste talent) to provide the test in English and add an extra test for the Japanese abilities of NJ students. The English test for the J students is quite meaningless because its far too easy (I finished it 10 min. before the time was over and had everything right). But it is not enough to compensate the lack of speed reading skills in Japanese which need 12+ years of J education system.

I think if Japan wants to keep the students who studied here and want to contribute something to Japan’s society they should think these recruiting practices over, or they will loose well educated brain power in a world wide competition.

Anonymous (who is serously thinking about going to the US or back to Europe…)

COMMENT: When I got my first non-Eikaiwa job in Japan (back in 1989), I too had to take an IQ test–the same one meted out to regular entrants, and in Japanese. Well, I failed–after only a couple of years of classroom and street study, my Japanese wasn’t good enough yet. So the boss administered other tests, such as having me read the newspaper aloud etc, making it a language test. Up to that point, I had been trained more in Japanese the Spoken Language (Eleanor Jorden’s text), not written, so I didn’t do well enough for him again. He was about to deny me the job when I did what I do best–talk persuasively in Japanese. I convinced him the test wasn’t representative of my real abilities nor would it reflect accurately upon what I could do for his company. I passed that test, as I got hired, and from that point on became much better in Japanese working for a year at an intern in a software company. But this was Bubble Japan (and companies were looking for ways to “internationalize” themselves; plus I took a big pay cut), and I clearly got far more rope to explain my way into a job than the above author, who has far more ability and experience (and a degree from a world-class Japanese university) yet got stopped for lack of “measurable IQ”.

This is an issue that deserves attention, so others with experience should feel welcome to comment. For in the poster’s view (and mine), these sorts of barriers only hurt Japan when educated candidates want to stay and contribute. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan Today: Gov’t looks to immigrants as population shrinks



Hi Blog. Good news. The LDP (yes, the LDP!) is actually considering a proposal for not only an immigration policy, but even an immigration ministry, addressing problems we’ve raised here all along regarding seeing NJ as disposable labor, not immigrants.

No word yet on how to make NJ into actual legal residents, but these are still steps in the right direction. There are still politicians mouthing the same old canards at the end of the article, but one doesn’t expect everyone to see sense all at once. Let’s see how the proposals turn out when officially released. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Gov’t looks to immigrants as population shrinks
AFP/Japan Today Tuesday 06th May, 07:17 AM JST
Courtesy of Scott Walker

TOKYO –Japan’s ruling party is considering plans to encourage foreign workers to stay in the country long-term, a daily reported Monday after the birth rate fell for the 27th successive year.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has proposed setting up an “immigration agency” to help foreign workers—including providing language lessons, the Nikkei economic daily said without naming sources.

The party also intends to reform current “training” programs for foreign workers, which have been criticized for giving employers an excuse for paying unfairly low wages, the paper said.

LDP lawmakers believe that immigration reform will help Japanese companies secure necessary workers as the declining birthrate is expected to further dent in the nation’s workforce, it said.

A group of about 80 LDP lawmakers will draw up a package of proposals by mid-May, it said. No immediate comment was available from the party on Monday.

A government report on the falling birthrate warned in April that Japan’s workforce could shrink by more than one-third to 42.28 million by 2050 if the country fails to halt the decline.

The government said Monday the number of children in Japan has fallen for the 27th straight year to hit a new low.

Children aged 14 or younger numbered 17,250,000 as of April 1, down by 130,000 from a year earlier, the internal affairs ministry said in an annual survey released to coincide with the May 5 Children’s Day national holiday.

The figure is the lowest since 1950 when comparable data started.

The ratio of children to the total population sank for 34 years in a row to 13.5%, also a record low, the ministry said.

Local media said it was also believed to be the world’s lowest, coming below 14.1% for both Italy and Germany.

Japan has struggled to raise its birthrate with many young people deciding that families place a burden on their lifestyles and careers.

Japan’s population has been shrinking since 2005 and the country is not producing enough children to prevent the drop.

Government leaders in Japan, which largely thinks of itself as ethnically homogeneous, have rejected the idea of allowing mass-scale immigration.

Some politicians have argued an influx of immigrants would lead to lower wages for Japanese workers and a higher crime rate.


Washington Post on the Yakuza and the Japanese Police


Hi Blog. This is a tangent to the role of bringing up issues of NJ in Japan, but it relates as we have been talking about the NPA in recent months. One of my friends, a person who studies wrongful arrests in Japan, says, “The Japanese Police are some of the biggest criminals in Japan.” According the the article below, the NPA’s involvement in hindering international investigations of Japanese organized crime may be evidence of that. Courtesy of The Club. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


This Mob Is Big in Japan
By Jake Adelstein
The Washington Post Sunday, May 11, 2008; B02

I have spent most of the past 15 years in the dark side of the rising sun. Until three years ago, I was a crime reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, and covered a roster of characters that included serial killers who doubled as pet breeders, child pornographers who abducted junior high-school girls, and the John Gotti of Japan.

I came to Japan in 1988 at age 19, spent most of college living in a Zen Buddhist temple, and then became the first U.S. citizen hired as a regular staff writer for a Japanese newspaper in Japanese. If you know anything about Japan, you’ll realize how bizarre this is — a gaijin, or foreigner, covering Japanese cops. When I started the beat in the early 1990s, I knew nothing about the yakuza, a.k.a. the Japanese mafia. But following their prostitution rings and extortion rackets became my life.

Most Americans think of Japan as a law-abiding and peaceful place, as well as our staunch ally, but reporting on the underworld gave me a different perspective. Mobs are legal entities here. Their fan magazines and comic books are sold in convenience stores, and bosses socialize with prime ministers and politicians. And as far as the United States is concerned, Japan may be refueling U.S. warships at sea, but it’s not helping us fight our own battles against organized crime — a realization that led to my biggest scoop.

I loved my job. The cops fighting organized crime are hard-drinking iconoclasts — many look like their mobster foes, with their black suits and slicked-back hair. They’re outsiders in Japanese society, and perhaps because I was an outsider too, we got along well. The yakuza’s tribal features are also compelling, like those of an alien life form: the full-body tattoos, missing digits and pseudo-family structure. I became so fascinated that, like someone staring at a wild animal, I got too close and now am worried for my life. But more on that later.

The Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) estimates that the yakuza have almost 80,000 members. The most powerful faction, the Yamaguchi-gumi, is known as “the Wal-Mart of the yakuza” and reportedly has close to 40,000 members. In Tokyo alone, the police have identified more than 800 yakuza front companies: investment and auditing firms, construction companies and pastry shops. The mobsters even set up their own bank in California, according to underworld sources.

Over the last seven years, the yakuza have moved into finance. Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission has an index of more than 50 listed companies with ties to organized crime. The market is so infested that Osaka Securities Exchange officials decided in March that they would review all listed companies and expel those found to have links with the yakuza. If you think this has nothing to do with the United States, think again. Americans have billions of dollars in the Japanese stock market. So U.S. investors could be funding the Japanese mob.

I once asked a detective from Osaka why, if Japanese law enforcement knows so much about the yakuza, the police don’t just take them down. “We don’t have a RICO Act,” he explained. “We don’t have plea-bargaining, a witness-protection program or witness-relocation program. So what we end up doing most of the time is just clipping the branches. . . . If the government would give us the tools, we’d shut them down, but we don’t have ’em.”

In the good old days, the yakuza made most of their money from sleaze: prostitution, drugs, protection money and child pornography. Kiddie porn is still part of their base income — and another area where Japan isn’t acting like America’s friend.

In 1999, my editors assigned me to cover the Tokyo neighborhood that includes Kabukicho, Japan’s largest red-light district. Japan had recently outlawed child pornography — reluctantly, after international pressure left officials no choice. But the ban, which is still in effect, had a major flaw: It criminalized producing and selling child pornography, not owning it. So the big-money industry goes on, unabated. Last month’s issue of a widely available porn magazine proclaimed, “Our Cover Girl Is Our Youngest Yet: 14!” Kabukicho remains loaded with the stuff, and teenage sex workers are readily available. I’ve even seen specialty stores that sell the underwear worn by teenage strippers.

The ban is so weak that investigating yakuza who peddle child pornography is practically impossible. “The United States has referred hundreds of . . . cases to Japanese law enforcement authorities,” a U.S. embassy spokesman recently told me. “Without exception, U.S. officials have been told that the Japanese police cannot open an investigation because possession is legal.” In 2007, the Internet Hotline Center in Japan identified more than 500 local sites displaying child pornography.

There’s talk in Japan of criminalizing simple possession, but some political parties (and publishers, who are raking in millions) oppose the idea. U.S. law enforcement officers want to stop the flow of yakuza-produced child porn into the United States and would support such a law. But they can’t even keep the yakuza themselves out of the country. Why? Because the national police refuse to share intelligence. Last year, a former FBI agent told me that, in a decade of conferences, the NPA had turned over the names and birthdates of about 50 yakuza members. “Fifty out of 80,000,” he said.

This lack of cooperation was partly responsible for an astonishing deal made with the yakuza, and for the story that changed my life. On May 18, 2001, the FBI arranged for Tadamasa Goto — a notorious Japanese gang boss, the one that some federal agents call the “John Gotti of Japan” — to be flown to the United States for a liver transplant.

Goto is alive today because of that operation — a source of resentment among Japanese law enforcement officials because the FBI organized it without consulting them. From the U.S. point of view, it was a necessary evil. The FBI had long suspected the yakuza of laundering money in the United States, and Japanese and U.S. law enforcement officials confirm that Goto offered to tip them off to Yamaguchi-gumi front companies and mobsters in exchange for the transplant. James Moynihan, then the FBI representative in Tokyo who brokered the deal, still defends the operation. “You can’t monitor the activities of the yakuza in the United States if you don’t know who they are,” he said in 2007. “Goto only gave us a fraction of what he promised, but it was better than nothing.”

The suspicions about the Yamaguchi-gumi were confirmed in the fall of 2003, when special agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), whom I’ve interviewed, tracked down several million dollars deposited in U.S. casino accounts and banks by Susumu Kajiyama, a boss known as “the Emperor of Loan Sharks.” The agents said they had not received a lead from the Tokyo police; they got some of the information while looking back at the Goto case.

Unlike their Japanese counterparts, U.S. law enforcement officers are sharing tips with Japan. Officials from both countries confirm that, in November 2003, the Tokyo police used information from ICE and the Nevada Gaming Control Board to seize $2 million dollars in cash from a safe-deposit box in Japan, which was leased to Kajiyama by a firm affiliated with a major Las Vegas casino. According to ICE Special Agent Mike Cox, the Kajiyama saga was probably not an isolated incident. “If we had some more information from the Japan side,” he told me last year, “I’m sure we’d find other cases like it.”

I’m not entirely objective on the issue of the yakuza in my adopted homeland. Three years ago, Goto got word that I was reporting an article about his liver transplant. A few days later, his underlings obliquely threatened me. Then came a formal meeting. The offer was straightforward. “Erase the story or be erased,” one of them said. “Your family too.”

I knew enough to take the threat seriously. So I took some advice from a senior Japanese detective, abandoned the scoop and resigned from the Yomiuri Shimbun two months later. But I never forgot the story. I planned to write about it in a book, figuring that, with Goto’s poor health, he’d be dead by the time it came out. Otherwise, I planned to clip out the business of his operation at the last minute.

I didn’t bargain on the contents leaking out before my book was released, which is what happened last November. Now the FBI and local law enforcement are watching over my family in the States, while the Tokyo police and the NPA look out for me in Japan. I would like to go home, but Goto has a reputation for taking out his target and anyone else in the vicinity.

In early March, in my presence, an FBI agent asked the NPA to provide a list of all the members of Goto’s organization so that they could stop them from coming into the country and killing my family. The NPA was reluctant at first, citing “privacy concerns,” but after much soul-searching handed over about 50 names. But the Tokyo police file lists more than 900 members. I know this because someone posted the file online in the summer of 2007; a Japanese detective was fired because of the leak.

Of course, I’m a little biased. I don’t think it’s selfish of me to value the safety of my family more than the personal privacy of crooks. And as a crime reporter, I’m baffled that the Japanese don’t share intelligence on the yakuza with the United States.

Then again, perhaps I’m being unreasonable. Maybe some powerful Japanese are simply ashamed of how strong the yakuza have become. And if they’re not ashamed, they should be.

Jake Adelstein is the author of the forthcoming “Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.”



Hi All. What with a March book tour, April semester starting at university, and a six-day Golden Week Cycletrek stretching 621 kms I did between Miyazaki and Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, a lot of stuff has piled up on my blog without compilation into a Newsletter. So over the next week or so I’ll put out some Newsletters with briefs and links in quick succession, hopefully organized behind a theme. The first:


Table of Contents:
1) Filipina allegedly killed by J man, let out of jail despite suspicion of killing another Filipina in past
2) Japan Times et al on homicide of Scott Tucker: “likely to draw leniency”
3) Tokyo Police apparently drop case of Peter Barakan’s assault
4) Yomiuri and Japan Times on Matthew Lacey Case:
Fukuoka Police dismiss NJ death by blow to the head as “dehydration”

5) “Hostage Justice”: Swiss woman acquitted of a crime,
but detained for eight months anyway during prosecution’s appeal
6) Two articles from The Economist on bent Japanese criminal justice system, death penalty
7) Rough Guide on what to do if and when arrested in Japan
8) Yuyu Idubor’s Statement to High Court April 23, 2008, letters from prison parts five and six

9) Japan Today: Male Shinjuku cops rough up Singaporean women during “passport check”
(with link to Japan Probe site with information about possible police identity fraud)
10) Hiragana Times July 2006 on NJ police brutality by Toyonaka, Osaka cops
11) Potential Olympic torch problems in Nagano? All the more reason to target NJ!
12) Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri: Replacement “Gaijin Card” system, increasing police powers
13) Japan Times: Critics deride future extra policing of NJ under new proposed registration policy

14) Reuters: Study says immigrants and crime rate not linked
15) Japan Times ZEIT GIST: G8 Summit and the bad “security” habits brought out in Japan

By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan,
Daily blog updates at
Freely forwardable

1) Filipina allegedly killed by J man, let out of jail despite suspicion of killing another Filipina in past

We have (insufficient) news reports about a case last month of a Filipina suspected of being killed by a Japanese man, and having her body parts stowed in a locker in Hamamatsu Station. Then it turns out this guy, Nozaki Hiroshi, had apparently killed a Filipina some years before, and tried to flush her body parts down a toilet.

For that previous crime, Nozaki was convicted, but only sentenced to three years plus. It wasn’t even judged a murder. And he got out apparently to kill again. Oddly enough, Nozaki’s jail sentence was only a bit more than Nigerian citizen Mr Idubor’s (more below), and Idubor’s conviction was for alleged rape, not murder. Yet Nozaki was apparently caught red-handed, while there was no physical evidence and discrepant testimony in the Idubor Case.

Ironically, that means that under these judicial litmus tests, the women involved could have been killed and it would have made no difference in the sentencing. That is, if you’re a Japanese criminal victimizing a foreigner, not the other way around. It’s getting harder to argue that the Japanese judiciary is color-blind towards judging criminals and victims. Read more:


2) Japan Times et al on homicide of Scott Tucker: “likely to draw leniency”

Here is another situation demonstrating differing judicial standards by nationality…

Japan Times: “The death of an American resident in Tokyo in a fatal bar fight late last month is not likely to result in any severe punishment being meted out due to the circumstances of the case, legal experts say. Richard “Scott” Tucker, 47, died at Tokyo Metropolitan Hiroo Hospital after being punched and choked at Bullets, a nightclub in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, on Feb. 29. Police arrested Atsushi Watanabe, a 29-year-old disc jockey at the club, for the fatal assault…” Read more:

These standards even apply when there are no allegations of provocation:


3) Tokyo Police apparently drop case of Peter Barakan’s assault

As reported before here, TV tarento Peter Barakan got maced last December in a premeditated assault before one of his speeches. In his words, they have done “absolutely zilch”, even though police found the getaway car, found somebody in the car, and found mace cans in it. Yet the suspect didn’t get the regular 23-day interrogation one would expect if a NJ had assaulted by a Japanese. I guess a lack of “100% certainty” means Japanese police can drop the case completely. Huh? Read more:


4) Yomiuri and J Times on Matthew Lacey Case: Fukuoka police dismiss NJ death by blow to the head as “dehydration”

This has appeared in a previous Newsletter, but I’ll rerun it since it’s germane. Two articles about a mysterious death of a NJ, found dead in his apartment 3 1/2 years ago, deemed not a product of foul play by Fukuoka police (with no autopsy performed). An overseas autopsy, however, revealed the cause of death to be a blow to the head. The Japan Times took the case up a full year ago, but no ripples.

Now, thanks to the tenacity of the deceased’s brother, even the Yomiuri is taking it up. Yes, even the Yomiuri. Is this yet another case of when it’s a crime against a foreigner, the J police don’t bother with it? It’s happened before (see the Lucie Blackman and Australia Jane cases, for starters, from

More on the Lacey Case:

Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot…


5) “Hostage Justice”: Swiss woman acquitted of a crime, but detained for eight months anyway during prosecution’s appeal

Here’s another oddity of the Japanese judiciary–“hostage justice” (not my term, see below). The prosecution is so strong in this country that, in the extremely rare case (i.e far less than one percent of all cases that go to trial) where they lose a criminal case judgment (and the accused goes free), they can appeal.

But here is no question that the rights of the accused differ by nationality. If you are a Non-Japanese, and even if you are judged innocent by a lower court, you are still incarcerated for however many months it takes for the higher court to deliver a verdict (in this case, innocent again). Because, you see, foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan.

Unlike Japanese. When Japanese appeal guilty verdicts, they are not detained (see links to Horie Takafumi and Suzuki Muneo cases; the latter, now convicted of corruption twice over, is still on the streets, even re-elected to the Diet!). Read more:


6) Two articles from The Economist on bent Japanese criminal justice system, death penalty

Excerpts: “Article 34 of the Japanese Constitution guarantees the right to counsel and habeas corpus, but is systematically ignored. Police and prosecutors can detain suspects for 23 days. Interrogations are relentless and sometimes abusive. Prosecutors are reluctant to bring cases to trial without a confession. Indeed, it is considered a first step in a criminal’s rehabilitation. When asked about the country’s 99% conviction rate, Japan’s justice minister, Kunio Hatoyama, corrected your correspondent to state that it was actually 99.9%, because prosecutors only present cases that are watertight.”

“The notion of being innocent until proven guilty is not strong in Japan. Mr Hatoyama calls it “an idea which I want to constrain”. But confessions are important and the courts rely heavily upon them. Apart from helping secure convictions, they are widely interpreted as expressions of remorse. A defendant not only risks a longer sentence if he insists he is innocent, he is also much less likely to be granted bail before trial–often remaining isolated in police custody, without access to counsel, for long enough to confess.

“Toshiko Terada, a private lawyer, calls this hitojichi shiho–hostage justice. Perversely, where little supporting evidence exists, the system helps hardened criminals, who know that if they do not confess they are unlikely to be indicted. Innocents, on the other hand, may crack–as in the Kagoshima case, or in a notorious 2002 rape case when the accused confessed under pressure but was released last October after the real culprit came forward.” Read more:


7) Rough Guide on what to do if and when arrested in Japan

Anonymous Guide writer: “In Japan, police can arrest anyone, any time. They do not come announced. There are no government leaflets that prepare you for the catastrophe. So, I wrote this one instead, compiled from my own painful experience and those of many other foreigners in Japan. The actual chances to be arrested in Japan are much higher than the chances to be hurt by an earthquake in Japan–especially if you are a foreigner. Don’t think that you will be able to deal with it just because “you know your rights” from back home or from Hollywood court movies. Japan is not about justice, it is about bustice. So prepare yourself for the real big bang–read this.”


8) Idubor’s Statement to High Court April 23, 2008, Summary letters from prison parts five and six

The Idubor Case is where a Nigerian, Osayuwamen Idubor, was sentenced last December to three years for rape despite no physical evidence and flawed accuser testimony.

From Mr Idubor’s statement: “I was coerced to sign deposition documents prepared by the police who promised me that they would not prosecute me if I would sign. Furthermore, the police intentionally hid or lost critical evidence. For example, they erased the phone number of the complainant’s friend from my cell phone address book as well as the record of threatening e-mail messages from the same person. Also, because of their failure to investigate the surveillance tape of the camera in my bar, subsequent data overwrote the tape automatically and erased the record for the day in question. The police never documented detailed description of the relationship between the complainant and her friend, effectively hiding the intent of the accusation.” Read more:

Here are some more letters from Idubor, written in jail to tell about what happened in his view (link goes to part five, and links to the very beginning as well). Read more:

Unfortunately, I just heard the High Court upheld his sentence on April 23, shaving a mere 80 days off his incarceration, with two years plus left to serve. I’ll write more on this later.

Meanwhile, let’s turn to targeting of NJ in Japan even when there is no crime, or even the suspicion of crime–just policing for it’s own sake:


9) Japan Today: Shinjuku cops rough up Singaporean women during “passport check”

Japan Today: “A few burning questions that arose from this incident [of plain-clothes male policemen getting physical with female tourists in public]: 1) Are these police officers authorized to request our passports as they wish? 2) Under what circumstances can these officers exercise this authority? 3) Without any resistance in any way from us, other than just asking why they require our passports and trying to walk to the station control, where we feel safer, are they allowed to use physical restraint? 4) Are these male officers allowed to use physical restraint on females like us? Should they not have waited for a female officer? 5) In such a predominantly tourist area like Shinjuku, where these officers are checking for foreign passports, should they not have received some form of language training so that they can explain why they need to see my passport? I do not believe that expecting them to be achieve a basic level of communication skills in the English language which is spoken in most of the rest of the world is unreasonable in anyway. What kind of training DO these officers receive? 6) What in the world did my friend and I do that warranted the passport check and the physical restraint?” Read more:

Especially since, according to the Japan Probe blog, there may be people masquerading as police to carry out identity theft. More on how you can recognize “real cops” on the beat here:


10) Hiragana Times July 2006 on NJ police brutality by Toyonaka, Osaka, cops

Hiragana Times: “The [police at Toyonaka Police Station, Osaka,] all threw me down hard on the floor, and then ordered me to get up and sit on a chair. I was already in great pain all over my body. I held up my hand and said, ‘please help me stand up.’ One of the policemen was just shaking and spitting at me like a crazy person. He became angrier and then he pulled me up by the hair. He then began to hit the back of my head with his fist again. He kept on repeating ‘this is Japanese police system,’ at the same time he was yelling and laughing at me. I gave up all hope. I thought that they were going to kill me. Everything around me became black, I vomited and felt nausea, experienced double-vision, and coughed up blood. I cried for a doctor and a hospital, but they refused my emergency request.” Read more:


11) Potential Olympic torch problems in Nagano? All the more reason to target NJ!

Kyodo April 23: “The association of hotels and Japanese inns in the city of Nagano has requested that its members fully check the identifications of their foreign guests prior to the Beijing Olympic torch relay on Saturday as part of efforts to counter suspicious individuals, local officials said Tuesday.” Naturally, that follows–any protesters must be foreigners! Read more:


12) Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri on replacement “Gaijin Card” system, increasing police powers

Asahi on new “Gaijin Cards” with greater policing powers over “NJ overstayers”

“An advisory group to Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama has proposed changes to the alien registration card system to crack down on people overstaying their visas. The new registration card would make it easier for the authorities to keep track of foreign nationals staying in Japan.” Read more:

Mainichi: MOJ delays decision on requiring Zainichi to carry ID, with abolition of old NJ Registry System

“The Justice Ministry will postpone until next fiscal year a decision on whether to require special permanent residents such as Koreans to carry identification cards after the government abolishes the alien registration system, ministry sources said. Ministry officials have deemed that they need more time to carefully consider the matter as the human rights of permanent foreign residents are involved, according to the sources. An advisory council to the government on immigration policies will submit its final report to the justice minister by the end of this month, recommending that the alien registration system be abolished and a system similar to the basic resident register system for Japanese nationals be introduced for permanent residents.” Read more:

Yomiuri: GOJ revising NJ registry and Gaijin Card system: More policing powers, yet no clear NJ “resident” status

Yomiuri reports the change in the old “Gaijin Card” system, extending its validity for up to five years and somehow registering NJ with their J families. The bad news is that this measure, despite claims that it will make life “more convenient” for NJ living in Japan, is mainly a further policing measure. Registration will be centralized in the police forces (not the local municipalities any more), the replacement Cards will have more biometric data and tracking capability (RFID, anyone?), and the “zairyuu” (not “zaijuu”) cards, as labelled, are rhetorically old wine in new bottles. We still have to get beyond seeing NJ in Japan as “not really residents”, and all our protestations thus far clearly have not sunk yet in with policymakers at the national level. Read more:


13) Japan Times: Critics deride future extra policing of NJ under new proposed registration policy

Japan Times: “Foreigners living in Japan should be allowed five-year visas but kept under the eye of a new unified Justice Ministry-run nationwide identification system, a government panel on immigration control said in its report released Wednesday. The panel, made up of university professors and private-sector executives, said a new foreigner registration system and revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law should aim at creating “a symbiotic community” by providing a “pleasant environment for foreign residents in Japan.” While the report emphasizes that the proposed measures will enable the government to provide better services for foreign residents, critics view the new registry system as increased state control…” Read more:


14) Reuters: Study says immigrants and crime rate not linked

Reuters: “Contrary to common beliefs, rising immigration levels do not drive up crime rates, particularly in poor communities, and Mexican-Americans are the least likely to commit crimes, according to a new study.” Read more:


15) Japan Times ZEIT GIST: G8 Summit and the bad “security” habits brought out in Japan

Japan Times: “The point is, international events bring out bad habits in Japan. And now we have Tokyo bidding for the 2016 Olympics? Cue yet another orgiastic official fear-and-crackdown campaign foisted on the public, with the thick blue line of the nanny state the biggest profiteer.

“Conclusion: I don’t think Japan as a polity is mature enough yet to host these events. Japan must develop suitable administrative checks and balances, not to mention a vetting media, to stop people scaring Japanese society about the rest of the world just because it’s coming to visit. We need to rein in Japan’s mandarins and prevent them from converting Japan into a police state, cracking down on its already stunted civil society.” Read more:


I think that’s quite enough for today. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan,
Daily blog updates at


Japan Times Feb 16 Symposium, my question from the floor makes the paper



Hi Blog. On March 1, The Japan Times published a two-page report on their Feb 16 Tokyo University Symposium (commemorating their 110th year of publication) discussing the future of print journalism. Invited, along with specialists, were editors from two other English-language dailies in the region, the Korea Herald and the Taipei Times. You can see the whole report in pdf format on the Japan Times site:

I was also invited to attend as a guest (thanks!), and you can see the back of my fat head in the front row (second from the left, orange shoulder).

And of course, during the Q&A Session, my hand was first up. My question made the Symposium writeup:

The answer was a bit of a non-answer, but I had a chat with Ms. Daimon afterwards. I have also offered my opinion on how the Japan Times could improve its readership in the past on this blog (the JT is uniquely poised to offer something more independently, as a newspaper not controlled as a vanity project by the other Japanese newspapers, such as the doctrinaire Yomiuri, or a union-busting, closed-circuit Asahi (just try to contact the English-language section editors by telephone, and find yourself turned away at the switchboard!)).

I’m hoping this finally sinks in: that the JT can most easily change its editorial stance, and offer information not only for English-language readers, but also the immigrants who want to make a life in Japan (who need essential information even in non-calamitous times). The JT has already done so for years now with the Community Page on Tuesdays. Let’s hope we get a further expansion of this editorial bent as soon as possible, for in this days of withering print journalism, that is its competitive advantage. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 3: “Activism vs Academia”



The Japan Times: Tuesday, May 6, 2008
“Beyond Activism vs. Academia”
Article three for the JUST BE CAUSE column

Back in January, I was a panelist at Waseda University’s Global Institute for Asian Regional Integration, invited to give an “activist’s perspective” to an academic crowd.

Academics are a tough audience. In a way, they’re the activist’s antithesis. Researchers must offer “dispassionate” analysis — looking at data without taking any sides or showing any “bias.” This means academics often view the fight for human rights fundamentally differently.

For example, when I talk about the nationwide spread of “Japanese Only” exclusionary signs, academics often become doubting Thomases. To them, a few signs up are not necessarily indicative of a trend. Their issue is a matter of degree — i.e. are there enough signs up to demonstrate, say, “statistical significance”? For the activist, however, it’s a matter of incidence. One “Japanese Only” sign is too many. Even one sign is enough to violate the Japanese Constitution and United Nations treaty.

So naturally, some academics have been rather skeptical when I claim racial discrimination here is growing in magnitude and scope. One even asserted at this forum that my online “naming and shaming” of discriminators ( ) is counterproductive — that too much “attacking Japan” alienates potential allies. Again, I understand why never the twain. The academic observer, particularly in the social sciences, is bound by a “prime directive” — not to interfere with their object of study when collecting data; plus there is an incumbent resistance to making value judgments (think of “cultural imperialism” etc.; to an anthropologist, I’m probably the Antichrist). In sum, academics observe societal or global “standards.” Activists, however, try to create or adjust them.

So during the Q-and-A, I made the case that praxis makes perfect — that academics also need to be more “activist.” The following essay, taken almost verbatim from a recording, sprung from nowhere:

“Let’s do a meta-discussion here about the whole ‘global standards’ thing, because this is really the bedrock of our argument. Whenever we look at ‘globalization’ and ‘global standards’, who sets those? It’s not really clear.

“If we look at America (as an example of a world standard-setter), we might say, ‘Oh, well, they’re having a xenophobic wave. They’re actually instituting fingerprinting for other people, so other countries might start doing it too. Look at Britain, they’re bringing it in voluntarily for people that want to go through the border smoothly.’

“Yes, but just because a couple of other countries in the world do it does not mean; a) it’s happening everywhere so it’s indicative of a trend; or b) that it’s justifiable. We as activists don’t say, ‘This is OK because other people are doing it.’

“Our starting point is more, ‘What’s the better way for people to reach a good potential within the society they live in? What will help people live more successful, more fulfilling lives?’ as opposed to, ‘What’s the best way to observe, control or monitor?’

“I’m afraid the Japanese government still has the attitude of not ‘making things easier for non-Japanese to integrate and associate.’ It’s a matter of policing and control.

“Especially when you hand over issues of immigration over to police forces. They will always look at it from the point of view of, ‘How do we keep order? How do we make sure laws are being followed?’

“The problem is that the police’s rubric is not, ‘Foreigners are also being legal and following the laws too.’ They focus on the bad things. It’s almost constantly an attack. And as a person in the audience commented earlier tonight, he is the victim of that attack. Whenever he walks out of the supermarket, the police check on him, thinking: ‘He might be a lawbreaker.’

“And that’s what I was talking about at the very beginning of this presentation: Let’s talk about the good things that foreigners do too. Don’t just attack.

“We have to untie this attitude of making the enforcement of law based upon physical appearance. There are ways to untangle that, but you have to break out of the whole meta-argument of; a) any criticism of Japan is a bad thing; or b) global standards are encouraging this right now.

“As researchers, of course, we can only look at the trends . . . But our steps as activists is to say, ‘What is the better path to choose?’ and to give advice. And I think that is what our research should also be leaning towards: how to nudge things in a more positive direction.

“Because if we don’t, and we just sit back and look at trends as dispassionate academic observers, saying, ‘Things are getting bad, ah well,’ that’s really a half-measure. It doesn’t really help anyone.

“Even corporations are talking about corporate social responsibility. I think there’s a certain degree of ‘academic social responsibility’ we can engage in, when we are advising people in these difficult times of globalization, to try and find ways to help people lead better lives.”
Listen to the entire speech at Debito Arudou’s coauthored book “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants” (Akashi Shoten Inc.) is now on sale (see Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments to


UN News: first group of 16 nations reviewed by HRC


Hi Blog.  Japan’s not yet under the UN Human Rights Council microscope.  But at this rate it soon will be.  And I’m looking forward to seeing comments and excuses about why we still have no law against racial discrimination twelve years after effecting the ICERD.  Arudou Debito in Kurashiki 


Date: April 19, 2008 4:01:07 AM JST

United Nations Human Rights Council has concluded its review of the first batch of countries as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – a new mechanism to examine the record of every UN Member State.

The mechanism’s Working Group wrapped up its first session in Geneva today after evaluating the rights records of 16 nations: Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Finland, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil, the Philippines, Algeria, Poland, the Netherlands, South Africa, the Czech Republic and Argentina.

“Having witnessed the energy which you have all displayed during this session, I have no doubt that we shall collectively rise to the occasion and achieve the primary goal of the UPR, which is the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground,” said Council President Doru Romulus Copstea in a message delivered at the meeting’s close by Vice President Boudewijn Van Eenennaam.

The Working Group’s next session will be held from 5 to 19 May, during which 16 more Member States’ records will be reviewed.

The UPR is one of the reforms which differentiate the Council from the Commission on Human Rights, which it succeeded in 2006.

Under the Review’s work plans, 48 countries are scheduled to be reviewed each year, so that the UN’s complete membership of 192 countries will be reviewed once every four years.

Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Council to ensure that all countries were scrutinized equally. “The Review must reaffirm that just as human rights are universal, so is our collective respect for them and our commitment to them,” he said.



Date: April 22, 2008 8:00:31 AM JST

preparatory meetings kicked off today in Geneva in preparation for next year’s review of the landmark 2001 global conference against racism, the top United Nations human rights official warned that some States still do not recognize the existence of racism as a phenomenon.

“National laws and measures to ensure its elimination in most countries are either inadequate or ineffective,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour. “As a result, vulnerable groups continue to suffer aggression while abusers enjoy impunity.”

She added that few nations have implemented the necessary action plans to remedy this situation.

The process to prepare for the 2009 Durban Review Conference began in 2006, but its first substantive meeting was held by the Preparatory Committee today.

The Conference will assess progress and implementation at the regional, national and international levels of the Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

“The Durban Review Conference is not, and should not be seen as, a repetition of the 2001 World Conference,” Ms. Arbour pointed out at the opening meeting of the Preparatory Committee.

Instead, “it is a platform to evaluate progress, an opportunity to reinvigorate commitments, and a vehicle to fine-tune responses in a purposeful and contextual manner.”

According to a press release from Ms. Arbour’s Office, known as OHCHR, progress since the 2001 meeting – a huge event which attracted some 18,000 people – has been patchy.

The High Commissioner acknowledged that the controversy surrounding the original Durban Conference has not completely subsided.

“There is no hiding the fact that the Durban Review Conference, even before moving its first, preparatory steps, has already elicited criticism and continues to raise concerns which, if not squarely confronted and resolved, may ultimately jeopardize a successful outcome of this process,” she said.

Golden Week Cycletrek 2008 is finished, 621 kms between Miyazaki and Kurashiki


Hi Blog.  Just another quick word to say I finished my Golden Week Cycletrek 2008, 621 kms in six days.  Cycled Kyushu Miyazaki to Nobeoka to Saiki, then ferry over to that funny little peninsula in Shikoku (all sinew and mountains, wanted to see if I could do it) to Ikata to Matsuyama to Shimanami Kaidou to Onomichi to Tomonoura to Fukuyama to Kurashiki.  All safe, save mild sunburn, scrapes, mosquito bites, and some dehydration, with the best weather I’ve ever experienced on any Cycletrek (see reports on the old ones here)–temperate temperatures and no rain the whole way.

I’ll be back to blogging in earnest by May 7, when my next JUST BE CAUSE column comes out in the Japan Times (Tues May 6 in Tokyo, May 7 elsewhere).  Thanks as always for reading.  Arudou Debito in Kurashiki

Japan Times: Canada, U.S. nudge Japan to join child abduction resolution framework


Hi Blog.  This story is from the Japan Times – Saturday, March 15, 2008, on a topic of import to  child custody after divorce–and Japan’s difficulty with accepting children brought back to Japan without the permission of both parents as abduction.  Comment from the submitter follows article.  Debito in Matsuyama


Canada, U.S. nudge Japan to join child abduction resolution framework

Staff writer

Canadian and the U.S. government officials and a law expert Friday
urged Japan to join an international legal framework to resolve
cross-border cases of child abduction by parents and others.

As the number of international marriages rises, there will be a
corresponding rise in divorces among multinational couples. The Hague
Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
states that children removed or retained from a signatory state by a
parent without the other’s permission must be returned promptly to the
original country of residence.

The convention can also help parents exercise visitation rights abroad.

Japan is not among the 80 signatories to the convention. When kids are
abducted to nonsignatory countries, it can take years to make any
progress, and sometimes all efforts are in vain.

Ottawa is dealing with more than 620 unresolved child-abduction and
custody-related cases, Bill Crosbie, the Canadian Foreign Affairs and
International Trade Department’s deputy minister for consular
services, said at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo. Twenty-nine of them,
the highest number in any one country, are in Japan, he said.

The U.S. currently has 40 cases of international child abduction
involving Japan, the third-largest after Mexico and India, said
Kathleen Ruckman, deputy director of the U.S. State Department’s
Children’s Issues Office.

“What the Hague Convention is about to say (is) where the decision has
to be made about the child’s future,” said William Duncan, deputy
secretary general of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.


COMMENT:  Its interesting how the US government makes the intake requirements
for actual new cases to qualify as an “official” State Dept case of
child abduction to a foreign country in an effort to keep the numbers
low. But thank GOD that many people have met all of those criteria and
maintain the official cases with the Govt…same in Canada . Thanks to
the Govt of Canada for keeping the pressure on Japan!
Patrick B