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Hi Blog. The Sankei reports on May 25 that the Ministry of Justice will be loosening some of its strictures on NJ visas (the Sankei uses the word nohouzu in its headline; I’m not 100% sure of the nuance but it sounds like “a wild and endless expansion of favorable treatment regarding NJ entry visas”; rather snotty, but that’s the Sankei for ya).
The new Immigration policy is directed at NJ with very high skills (koudo jinzai — a good idea) and their families (who will also be allowed to work; wow, that’s a change!), will have a points system for evaluation (another good idea), will offer longer visa periods (5 years), and will loosen the specificity between work visas. It’s being touted as a means to make Japan more appealing to NJ labor (you had better!).
Sounds like a step in the right direction. But it’s still 中途半端. What’s missing is GOJ guaranteeing some degree of protection of labor and civil rights after NJ get here. And what about qualifications? Just try practicing law, medicine, or most other licensed skills in Japan now without going through the rigmarole of domestic certification, with walls so high (cf. the NJ nurses from Indonesia and The Philippines over the past few years) that almost all NJ applicants fail (and, magically, have to return home as usual after three years, just like any other revolving-door “Trainee” or “Researcher” NJ laborer).
This isn’t the first time a points system etc. has been floated (only to die the death of a thousand meddling bureaucrats) either. I guess the mandarins are realizing what a fix Japan is in without NJ labor. But if this kind of policy is going to happen at all, the almighty MOJ has to be the one proposing it. Then perhaps the waters will part for Moses. Let’s wait and see.
But this is on balance “good” news. But not “great” news unless the GOJ also does something to force domestic actors to treat NJ nicely. Which is doubtful. Arudou Debito
The government will seek to introduce a system to enable people who claim to be victims of human rights violations to file complaints with the United Nations and other international organizations based on global treaties, sources said Thursday.
Details will be worked out among officials from relevant government bodies, mainly the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry, and the government intends to obtain Cabinet consent on the matter by the end of the year, the sources said.
The individual complaint system is based on international treaties governing the protection of human rights. Under the system, when perceived rights violations are not addressed after an individual has exhausted all possible means under a country’s legal system, the person can file a complaint with certain international organizations. The relevant organization then issues warnings or advisories to the nation if it recognizes the individual’s case as a human rights violation.
After an international organization gives its opinion or recommendation to a signatory nation of the relevant international treaty, the country is asked to investigate the cases based on the international organization’s views and report back to it.
The system can be used when nations have either ratified the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or declared their acceptance of the system. The optional protocol of the treaty, which defines the system and was adopted in 1966 by the U.N. General Assembly, has been ratified by 113 nations, including several European nations and South Korea. Japan has ratified the treaty but not the optional protocol.
The government is considering accepting the system via Cabinet consent on the following treaties: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The Democratic Party of Japan has long called for the introduction of the system, as it believes it would expand opportunities for human rights abuses to be settled.
The DPJ pledged to introduce the system in its manifesto for the 2009 House of Representatives election. Justice Minister Satsuki Eda has also vocally advocated its introduction, saying the nation must act in line with “international rules.”
But other government officials have said it would be difficult to balance the system with an independent judiciary, and that there would be problems keeping the legal system consistent if international organizations demanded the government make changes.
Now for the disclaimers: I am aware that apparently linking the treatment of NJ in Japan to slaves in America is not an apt comparison (although Japan’s “Trainee/Researcher” system for importing cheap NJ labor has encouraged widespread labor abuses, child labor, and, yes, even slavery). I am aware that most NJ are in Japan of their own free will (if one ignores the forced labor of many Zainichi ancestors), whereas slaves were brought to the US by force. Et cetera. But the two concepts are related if not co-joined, as racial discrimination and justified unequal treatment is common to them both. What I want you to think about as you read the interview is how the contemporary debate arena and concepts of fundamental equality were blurred in both Pre-Civil-War USA and are still being blurred in contemporary Japan, tying the hands of even someone as able and firm in his convictions as Abraham Lincoln.
Excerpt of the interview follows, transcribed by me. Errors mine. Quick comment from me below. Arudou Debito
TERRY GROSS: Did Lincoln always believe that slavery was unjust?
ERIC FONER: […] The problem arises when you ask the question, “What do you do about slavery, given that it’s unjust?” Lincoln, like many many other Americans, took a long time to figure out exactly what steps ought to be taken…
GROSS: I want you to read a statement that he made in Peoria in 1854, and let’s start with the significance of this speech.
FONER: 1854 is when his great rival, Sen. Stephen A. Douglas forced the Kansas-Nebraska Act through Congress, which [repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and] opened up a good portion of the Midwest to the possible expansion of slavery… He comes out as a leading proponent against the westward expansion of slavery. He talks about the evil of slavery in and of itself… Lincoln says,
“This declared indifference, but as I must think covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republic of its just influence in the world, enables the enemies of free institutions to a plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites, causes the real allies of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticizing the declaration of independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self interest.”
That little paragraph somehow condenses Lincoln’s thinking about slavery. “Slavery is a monstrous injustice.” That’s the language of abolitionists, not politicians… But then he goes on to more practical issues: It makes the United States look ridiculous in the world. We claim the American Revolution to be the exemplar of freedom and justice in the world. And yet, we have this giant slave system. And it enables the enemies of democracy to say, “These Americans are just hypocrites. They don’t believe in their own founding principles.
GROSS: So when hearing this you might think that Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery. But as you pointed out he wasn’t yet an abolitionist. And in another paragraph in the same speech he says some things that I think will surprise many Americans.
FONER: Well, he goes on to say that slavery is wrong, but what should we do about it? Here he candidly admits that he doesn’t know what to do about it… and Lincoln is thinking through his own position on slavery here. Lincoln:
“If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves and send them to Liberia, to their own native land. But a moment’s reflection would convince me that however high hope there may be in this, in the long run its sudden execution is impossible. What then? Free them all and keep them here among us as underlings? Is this quite certain that this betters their condition? Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this, and if mine would we all know that the great mass of White people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment is not the sole question if indeed it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well- or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot, then, make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted, but for their tardiness in this I will not undertake to judge our brethrens of the South.”
Again, here are some remarkable comments by Lincoln which epitomize views until well into the Civil War. Slavery really ought to be abolished but he doesn’t really know how to do it. He’s not an abolitionist who criticizes Southerners… for not taking action. His first impulse is to free them and send them back to Liberia. At this point Lincoln does not see Black people as an intrinsic part of American society. They are kind of an alien group who have been uprooted from their own society and unjustly brought across the ocean. Send them back across the ocean. This was not an unusual position at the time.
GROSS: …I wonder how Lincoln interpreted the Declaration of Independence when it said, “All men are created equal”? Did he think it meant all White men?
FONER: No, Lincoln always insisted that that phrase meant everybody. The question is, “What does it mean when you say they are created ‘equal?'” And during the great Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Douglas is constantly badgering Lincoln, saying, “Lincoln is a believer in Negro equality.” That was like the nuclear weapon of politics back then. And Lincoln had to deny it. And he did deny it. The statements that most disturb Lincoln’s admirers come out of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, where he explicitly denies believing in Blacks having the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, the right to intermarriage with White people. What then did “equality” mean? Lincoln is very specific about it: Equality means the right to improve your condition in life. As he had, of course, growing up in very modest circumstances. Black people, he always insisted, should have the rights to the fruits of their own labor, the right to improve their condition in society. That’s why slavery is wrong, and on that ground he says that they are equal to everybody. But these other rights — political rights, civil rights, are conventional rights, which the majority of society has the right to regulate. Women, for example, do not have the right vote, but that does not mean they should be slaves. Lincoln makes that distinction. To us, that sounds like an untenable decision. How can you improve your condition in life if you lack all the legal rights?… And Lincoln had not yet thought that through. It isn’t until the middle of the Civil War that Lincoln begins thinking seriously about the future role of Black people in American society. But on this question of Black equality, he’s walking a tightrope — between his belief in a basic equality for all people, and on the other hand the unwillingness to challenge the racist views of his state [Illinois], which was a deeply racist state…
The rest of the developed world has mostly moved on to accept universal human rights (as has Japan, both under its constitution and under the international treaties it has signed). But public awareness of the issue, as Mark in Yayoi said yesterday, is sorely lacking:
“The Twitter comments that follow [yesterday’s article] are dispiriting — nobody seems to notice the fundamental incongruousness of discussing members of a criminal organization and people who happen to have different nationalities in the same breath. And then there are the other commenters who support the idea of certain people not having human rights. Others claim that foreign embassies should be the ones to guarantee the rights of immigrants. They miss the fundamental meaning of ‘human’ rights: rights are inherent aren’t handed down by the government! The government can restrict certain people’s rights, but the default state is not ‘zero rights’.”
In the United States, it took a war to get rid of institutionalized slavery, and more than 100 years to get equal treatment by race before the law. I am not sure what it will take for Japanese society to realize that fundamentally unequal treatment towards NJ has to stop. Arudou Debito
Niconico News cites a former prosecutor who said his training was to deny human rights to organized crime members and foreign suspects.
Level3, Mark in Yayoi, and Sora amend an original translation, featured below. More commentary follows the translation:
Stunning revelation from former prosecutor on the real situation of initial training, “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no rights”
Niconico News, May 23, 2011 (updated May 31, 2011)
The chief prosecutor in the Saga City Agricultural Co-op case, now known to be a frame-up, spoke at a symposium held in Tokyo on May 23, 2011, offering a revealing discussion of the surprising reality of the training he received when he joined his department. “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no human rights,” he disclosed, and “public prosecutors were taught to make up confessions and then have suspects sign them.” Describing how terrifying this warped training system is, he added that “after being trained in that way, [he] began to almost believe that this was natural.”
The person making the statements about his erstwhile workplace was former public prosecutor Hiroshi Ichikawa. Appointed to handle the 2000 Saga City Agricultural Co-op case, he coerced a confession from the former union leader that he was interrogating, using violent language such as “Bastard! I’ll kill you!” The union leader had been indicted on suspicion breach of trust. His confession was deemed not to have been voluntary, and he was acquitted. As a result, Mr. Ichikawa was severely reprimanded and resigned his post as public prosecutor.
Mr. Ichikawa took the podium as a panelist at the symposium “Prosecution, Public Opinion, and False Convictions,” sponsored by the Graduate School of Communications at Meiji University. “I have done things that no public prosecutor should do,” he said. “I want to tell the truth about how it is that a prosecutor could say such things.” This was a shocking statement.
Mr. Ichikawa was appointed to the Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office in 1993. He said that in his first year, a superior prosecutor taught him that “yakuza and foreigners have no human rights.” Describing his experiences, he mentioned that that superior said, “Foreigners don’t understand Japanese, so you can use whatever threatening language you like if it’s in Japanese.” The same superior also said that when investigating one foreign suspect, he held a pointed awl in front of the suspect’s face and shouted abuse at the suspect in Japanese. “‘That’s how you get them to confess,’ the superior said.”
In his third year, a superior taught him how to obtain a confession; this consisted of the prosecutor taking a document filled with whatever the prosecutor chose to say, threatening the suspect with it, and obtaining the suspect’s signature. What if the suspect refused to sign? “If the suspect resisted, my boss said, I should say that the document was my [investigation], not his [confession form],” said Mr. Ichikawa.
“As I continued to be educated this way, I began to think that these methods were natural. By my eighth year, I was saying things I definitely shouldn’t have; the [Saga] case resulted in an acquittal, and I ended up quitting.”
Mr. Ichikawa quit his post in 2005 and is currently practicing as an attorney. On May 22, the day before the symposium, he drew attention by offering a televised apology to the family of the union head that he had verbally mistreated, appearing on the TV Asahi program “The Scoop – Special”. This Meiji University symposium was also broadcast on Nico Nico Douga, where Mr. Ichikawa explained why he made these statements in public: “I think it is my role now to tell about what I have seen and heard in order to atone for the terrible mistakes I have made.”
COMMENT: Good that this came out, and bravo for Mr. Ichikawa. Mark in Yayoi offers the best comment by looking at the Twitter reactions to this article (also reproduced below), where a number of posters sought to justify the status quo. In Mark’s words:
“The Twitter comments that follow it are dispiriting — nobody seems to notice the fundamental incongruousness of discussing members of a criminal organization and people who happen to have different nationalities in the same breath. And then there are the other commenters who support the idea of certain people not having human rights. Others claim that foreign embassies should be the ones to guarantee the rights of immigrants. They miss the fundamental meaning of ‘human’ rights: rights are inherent aren’t handed down by the government! The government can restrict certain people’s rights, but the default state is not ‘zero rights’.”
That is very insightful about the public awareness and understanding of human rights in Japan, including at the highest levels of law enforcement. Bear this in mind in future discussions. Arudou Debito in Sapporo.
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Hi Blog. This is a bit of a tangent, but what affects citizens will also affect non-citizens as well (especially so, actually), so here goes:
The Mainichi reported yesterday that two men who were wrongfully committed of a crime were finally released. The problem is that it was a 44-year ordeal for them, thirty years of it spent in prison. And they are not the only examples of this lack of due process. As the article says, “The case has become the seventh in postwar Japan involving the acquittal in a retrial of defendants previously sentenced to death or life imprisonment.”
I’ve said before (after experiencing now six civil court cases that have all been riddled with absolute illogic) that the Japanese judiciary is pretty fucked up. So this is an example of how fucked up the Japanese criminal justice system is. This deserves to be known about. So know about it. (You can also read about it in my novel IN APPROPRIATE.)
NB: Before all you relativists start looking for examples of wrongful convictions in other countries that were later overturned, don’t even bother. For a) it doesn’t justify it happening here, and b) How much of this rigmarole and unaccountability will happen in other healthy judiciaries? Thirty years is a sizeable chunk of a person’s life lost!
Is the Japanese justice system more concerned about looking like it never makes mistakes than about rectifying past ones and avoiding future ones? Arudou Debito
TSUCHIURA (Kyodo) — A district court in a retrial Tuesday acquitted two men convicted in a 1967 murder-robbery case who each served nearly 30 years in prison.
The Tsuchiura branch of the Mito District Court delivered a not guilty verdict for Shoji Sakurai and Takao Sugiyama, both 64.
They had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1970 for the August 1967 robbery and murder of Shoten Tamamura, a 62-year-old carpenter, and were freed on parole in 1996.
The case was dubbed the Fukawa murder case, after the crime site in the town of Tone, Ibaraki Prefecture.
Presiding Judge Daisuke Kanda said in the decision that there was no objective evidence to link the defendants to the crime, noting that hairs and fingerprints detected at the crime scene did not match those of the defendants.
The judge also said witness accounts placing the two men at the victim’s home lacked credibility.
The two were arrested in October 1967, indicted in December that year and sentenced to imprisonment for life in October 1970 as suspects in the Fukawa murder case.
The case has become the seventh in postwar Japan involving the acquittal in a retrial of defendants previously sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
Sugiyama, who earlier in the day spoke to reporters at his home in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, said he was unhappy with a mere not-guilty decision and hoped the court would look into prosecutors’ effort to conceal evidence that may have helped acquit the defendants.
Sakurai said a not-guilty decision was natural.
The three-judge panel at the court’s Tsuchiura branch held six rounds of hearings in the two men’s retrial starting in July 2010, when the two pleaded innocent.
In the hearings, the defense counsel played a tape recording of investigators interrogating Sakurai and argued that the tape was found to have been edited. The defense contended that investigators apparently coerced Sakurai into confessing.
A 78-year-old woman, who saw a man on the day of the crime at the crime scene, testified in a retrial hearing that the man was not Sugiyama.
During the original trial, the two pleaded innocent to the charges, arguing that police investigators had forced them to confess.
But the district court’s Tsuchiura branch, citing their confessions and witnesses’ accounts, found the two men guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment in October 1970 — a decision upheld by the Tokyo High Court in 1973 and later by the Supreme Court in 1978.
They were released on parole in November 1996.
The two first filed for a retrial in 1983 when serving in prison but were rejected. They again filed for a retrial in 2001 after being freed.
In September 2005, the district court’s Tsuchiura branch accepted the two men’s second petition and decided to launch a retrial — a decision upheld by the Tokyo High Court in July 2008 and then by the top court in December 2009.
In the retrial, prosecutors again sought life imprisonment for the pair, arguing that the defendants had confessed voluntarily and their depositions were credible, urging the court to find them guilty.
The prosecutors called for conducting a DNA test on four items of evidence including underwear found wrapped around the victim’s neck. But the court turned down the prosecutors’ request.
The court was initially scheduled to give its decision on March 16.
But the court put off the date to Tuesday in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan and parts of the Kanto region and crippled railways and other mass transit in the region.
One of the two, Sakurai, worked as a volunteer at shelters in the quake-hit city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, after the March disaster.
Toshikazu Sugaya, also 64, who spent 17 years in prison after being sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly killing a kindergartener in 1960 and was acquitted in a retrial in 2009, was among the audience at the courtroom Tuesday.
Sugaya told reporters he would work with Sugiyama and Sakurai to wipe out unjust convictions.
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Hi Blog. Getting back to business, here is an excellent series of articles on how important NJ labor has been and will be to Japan’s future. Eighteen pages on the whos, whats, and why-you-should-cares in the Nikkei Business magazine dated May 2, 2011 (thanks to MS).
After the cover (Title: Kieta Gaikokujin Roudou Ryoku: Nihonjin dake de shokuba o mamoreru ka, or “Disappeared NJ Labor Force: Can Japanese maintain the workplaces by themselves?”) and table of contents, we open with a splash page showing Chinese waiting for their bags at the airport carousel after returning to China.
Pages 20 through 23 give us an assessment of NJ labor in several business sectors: Restaurants, Textiles, Finance, Convenience Stores, Agriculture, IT, Education, Tourism, and Airflight, headlining that the NJ labor force has “evaporated”.
Pages 24 and 25 give us the raw data, noting that the majority of NJ (55%) work in small companies of less than 100 employees, and that the near majority of NJ laborers (44%) are Chinese. The point is that “a closed Japanese labor market is impossible”.
Pages 26 and 27 give us a close up about a farm that lost none of its workers, and even asked (for a change, given the Japanese media) what NJ thought. It was all part of the magazine’s suggestions about what should be done to improve things and give NJ a stake: Accountability, Bonds, Careers, and recognizing Diversity. Even offered suggestions about how to simplify Japanese.
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Hi Blog. Let me devote today’s blog entry to a fear being expressed by Debito.org Readers. Got this comment a few days ago:
May 18, 2011 Hi Debito,
I just wanted to let you know that last week on ‘tepido naruhodos’ page, I saw a thread that included a large amount of communication between some posters about the posters on debito.org. They were discussing that of that date they had collectively identified 63 debito posters through e-mail addresses and social media sites.
I don’t know if you were aware of this, or if it was brought to your attention. The posts on that subject disappeared at some point around the weekend. Quite frankly, I think that they are a strange bunch. I think tepido naruhodo/Ken YN/LB lives in my area, but I can’t identify and confront him on this issue.
I don’t know if you might want to warn your readers that they might be stalked, or if you have ideas for other action?— Anonymous
COMMENT: Thanks for letting me know. I don’t read sites that are only out there to trash me personally. I would not have heard about this unless others had taken the time to stick their head in Internet garbage. Sorry and thanks for doing so.
Yes, I have been cyberstalked by these creeps (and others; there is even a site out there devoted to the possibility of my being Jewish merely because I’m an activist) for many years now. And I am sorry that these creeps are now trying to use the same tactics towards other posters on this site. How vicious.
And hypocritical. These creeps decry their lack of freedom of speech on this blog (I no longer approve their posts here; one look at the tone and commentary on the Tepido et.al sites will give you an indication why). Yet they are taking action not only against me, but also against others who express themselves here, just because they don’t agree with Debito.org Readers or with me personally.
I’m no certified mental health specialist, but I would say that these anonymous creeps (who remain mostly anonymous, of course, to evade any semblance of responsibility or maturity) have an unhealthy obsession with me personally and the issues on this site. Makes one wonder if they devote any time to having a real life away from the keyboard.
Try tracking their obsessive one-note postings on other perfectly legitimate discussion sites, such as Japan Probe, Japan Today, Mutantfrog, Hoofin, etc.. These two are the only ones with the balls to show themselves; now just imagine what kind of creeps, the slime that stalk other people, still keep themselves underground…
(As an aside: I have also heard that the new Google Chrome browser software doesn’t allow access to Debito.org. I know somebody who works at Google, maybe I should ask him what’s with that. Freedom of speech and all that, right, Google in China?)
As for dealing with these cyberstalkers: I suggest that Debito.org Readers, when you post, from now on avoid using your real name. Choose a unique moniker and stick with it (I generally remember them). Your comments are welcome. Just protect yourself from the shit I have to deal with on a daily basis. Goes with the territory, some might say, but I disagree; it wasn’t always like this. But the Internet has become a haven for bullying and few people are doing much about it. So protect yourself and keep your privacy intact.
This is just, in a word, bullshit. GOJ: If you want international sympathy, just come clean and tell the truth — that things are not yet fixed, and that we need international help to clean up this mess that we created through our systematic negligence and continuous coverups. But that’s probably too much to ask. Instead, we just tell everyone to keep calm and carry on, as radiation accumulates and we remain unbeknownst. And invite more people over to share in it. Culture with a side order of radiation. More memorable than just boring old bedbug bites, I guess.
I’ve had this on my mind for some weeks, and now it’s time to say it:
I see slogans of “Pray for Japan“. I don’t approve.
I think the better slogan is, “Pray for the Japanese people.”
Because the Japanese people have to live under this system and government that got us in this mess in the first place. Yet the GOJ just keeps on ducking responsibility and telling us that black is white, day is night, and dangerous is safe, no matter how much of a burden gets placed on the Japanese public. Pray that either The System shows mercy, or that the Japanese people wake up and achieve demands for change. Arudou Debito
LAS VEGAS (AFP) – Japanese business leaders launched a campaign Thursday to woo tourists back to Japan after the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that sent foreigners fleeing the country.
“I would like to say: Japan is safe,” said Atsutoshi Nishida, the chairman of Toshiba, told a high-powered gathering of travel and tourism executives and officials from around the world.
Accepting the group’s invitation to host the next Global Travel and Tourism Summit in Tokyo in April 2012, Nishida said he hoped to welcome participants to a Japan at “full strength” by then.
International travel to and from Japan plunged after the 9.0 magnitude quake March 11 off Sendai, Japan that sent a tsunami surging through nuclear power complexes along the coast, magnifying a disaster that killed 15,000 people.
While tourism represents only a small part of economy impacted, it is an important bellwether of confidence in Japan.
In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the number of tourists arriving in the country dropped by more than 50 percent, and leisure travel collapsed by 90 percent, according to the Japanese Tourism Agency.
Japanese departures from the country were estimated to have fallen by 18 percent in March from the same month in 2010.
There were tentative signs of recovery in May, and Japanese officials said that travel during the Golden Week holiday in late April and early May when Japanese celebrate their famed cherry blossoms, were better than expected.
But Oxford Economics, in a study released here Thursday, said the experience after other major disasters shows it can take as long as two years to get back to normal.
“Recovery rates depend not only on the extent of the damage caused but political support to rebuild infrastructure and promote travel and tourism, and crucially on the perception left on the traveling public by the disaster,” it said.
It said it took four years for New Orleans to return to baseline levels of tourism after Hurricane Katrina.
Japanese officials said their campaign to bring back tourism will begin with education campaigns to dispell what they say are public misperceptions about the effects of the nuclear disaster.
Only later will they proceed to ad campaigns and the like to get tourists to come back, they said.
Naoyoshi Yamada, of the Japan Tourism Agency, said the government has budgeted seven billion yen, or about 75 million dollars, this year for the effort.
It was clear from their presentations here that the Japanese representatives see fears over the lingering effects of the nuclear crisis as the biggest hurdle to overcome.
Nishida contended it was misleading to put the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex on a par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, telling reporters the release of radiation in that meltdown “dwarfed” the amounts released in Japan.
He said Japan’s top rating of seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale, equal to that of Chernobyl disaster, “has made many people nervous about visiting Japan.”
He said the levels radioactive material in Tokyo drinking water have remained within allowable limits for adults from the start of the crisis, and he said Japan’s standards were stricter than those of the European Union.
“By EU standards, there is absolutely nothing to worry about,” he said.
He said food in shops and restaurants were “safe to eat,” and there was no reason to worry about radiation levels outside of the immediate evacuation zone around the stricken reactors.
Despite the destruction caused by the quake, Nishida said, visitors can travel around Japan with ease. High speed rail travel has been restored, and the damaged Tohoku Expressway to the north has reopened, he said.
“Consumer confidence is on the way to full recovery, by summer I hope,” he said.
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Hi Blog. Got this recently from submitter SL who wrote:
hello debito. we have never met but i wanted to make you aware of a friend of mine who has been imprisoned in japan for the last 5 months without being charged. it’s a bit of a long story, but i met nathan about 4 years ago when he first came to japan from the states to pursue his photography. to make a long story short, he met a japanese woman, got her pregnant, they got married then all hell broke loose. he has been in prison for apparently trying to abduct his child and take her back to the states. until recently i had had no contact with him except a letter in which he asked me to donate money to japan’s relief effort, then i saw this video…
i am leaving japan at the end of may, so until then i will try to get his case some more attention. i hope that this message does not fall on deaf ears nor blind eyes. any suggestions are welcome, but this is more to make you aware of his situation.
all i ask is that you watch the video and perhaps forward it to anyone you think might be able to help him. thanks! sl
Also, according to a Facebook site devoted to his case:
“Nathan was arrested in Nov,2010 and is being held in a prison in Niigata charged with kidnapping his daughter Yukari. We are a group of his friends in Niigata who are trying to get the word about the injustice Nathan is suffering everyday as he awaits his fate in Niigata Prison. Please look at the Youtube video titled Free Nathan. Also as Nathan has no internet or telephone access if anyone would like to send Nathan any words of encouragement a letters can be sent c/o
Nathanael Teutle Retamoza
Niigata Prison 381-4-A Yamafutatsu,
Nathan’s next hearing is May 31st ,2011, 09:30-12:00 at the Niigata District Court . In this hearing the closing arguements from both sides will be heard.
Hearings are open to the public and if anyone is interested in attending there will be transportation provided from Niigata Station to the court house. Let’s show Nathan our support!!
The courthouse address is
Niigata District Court Gakko-cho dori 1-1 Chuo-ku, Niigata City
phone number 025-222-4175
This is the website for the court house with the address in Japanese and a very limited web site in English.
For the people who have promised to come to Nathan’s hearing on May 31st Nathan will be so grateful and overwelmed by your kindness. Thank-you in advance.
It is extremely important to remember that if someone decides to attend Nathan’s hearing on May31st, it goes without saying that you must respect the courtroom and the process because if not the judges have the right to clear the courtroom. We definitely don’t want that. So let’s support Nathan respectfully and quietly. If you have never attended a Japanese hearing or have any questions what so ever I will answer and/or try to find the answer asap. Attending the hearing is an anonymous in that your name is not registered anywhere and no one will ask why you are there. There are many random people in the courtroom; law students, professors, retired individuals who are interested in the law etc. Obviously if you are not Japanese you will stand out but because there is no conversation among the spectators what so ever, there is no worry that you will be singled and questioned. I have been asked about this many times so I hope that it will put some people at ease.”
COMMENT: I know no more about this case than what is on YouTube and Facebook. Those who wish to make enquiries can do so there or at firstname.lastname@example.org. FYI. Arudou Debito
Kyodo — Large numbers of foreigners will be needed to help revive the farming and fishery industries in areas damaged by the March 11 mega-quake and tsunami, the head of a reconstruction panel said Friday.
“It is important to draw human resources, including permanent foreign residents” to the hard-hit Tohoku region, Makoto Iokibe, chair of the Reconstruction Design Council, said at the Japan National Press Club.
Iokibe said many cities and towns in the region, known for its strong farming and fishery industries, were suffering from depopulation evern before the calamities, so population growth will be vital to rebuilding the area.
Iokibe, who is also president of the National Defense Academy of Japan, said the country cannot avoid a debate on raising taxes to fund reconstruction, given its heavy debt load and fiscal constraints.
The advisory panel to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, which Iokibe took charge of in early April, has been asked to develop the first set of reconstruction proposals by the end of June.
COMMENT: As submitter CJ commented: “What foreigner WOULDN’T leap at the opportunity to perform manual labor all day bathed in background radiation while being treated like a potential criminal and expected to leave when no longer needed, sacrificing pension contributions in the course of doing so?”
Touche. Especially since day laborers are now a hot commodity for hot radioactive reactor cleanups, see below. Get freshly-imported foreign workers doing this instead and you’ll have no family in Japan complaining. Arudou Debito
OSAKA — An Osaka day laborer who responded to an ad for a truck driver in Miyagi Prefecture found himself working beside the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station, it was learned Monday.
The man, whose name has not been released, has filed a complaint with a job placement center in Osaka’s Airin day labor district. The Osaka district labor bureau is also investigating the case.
According to the Airin center, a job notice came around March 17 from a Gifu-based firm, Hokuriku Koki, which was seeking a truck driver in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture. Onagawa is also home to a nuclear power station, but Yoji Takeshita, an Airin job center official, said the ad did not specify where the driver was supposed to take the truck.
The job promised ¥12,000 a day and the contract was for one month.
But about a week later, the man called the Airin center saying he was actually in Fukushima, not Miyagi Prefecture, and that he was wearing protective clothing and cleaning up debris around the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
On Monday, after the center spoke to the man and Hokuriku Koki, it was further learned he had spent about two weeks near reactors No. 5 and No. 6, working with water tankers to supply the pumps that were being used to keep them cool…
The man completed his work and returned to Osaka in late April. But he filed a complaint with the Airin center, saying that while he was paid ¥24,000 a day — twice what he’d been promised — he didn’t receive a radiation badge until the fourth day on the job and that the work was different from what he had been promised…
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Hi Blog. To commemorate today, Debito.org’s 2000th blog post since 2006 (yes, it’s been almost five years since Debito.org went daily as a blog), I would like to devote the next day or two to an important discussion regarding assimilation.
I got together with some old friends for beers some time ago (we do this whenever I’m in town), who all together have a combined tenure of more than a century of experiences living in Japan. We’re all English-native Caucasian males, for what it’s worth.
Our conversation suddenly took an interesting turn when one of our group asked a poignant question:
“How many of us have any Japanese friends with whom we can get together like this and talk as much in depth?”
There was a long pause, and we all realized, when it came to Japanese males, the answer was zero. Yes, zero.
We all said we had made Japanese female friends (we are guys, after all), finding J-women more curious and open-minded than their male counterparts (and that included relationships that weren’t all physical).
But not Japanese men.
Several theories abounded. One was that Japanese men in general make their friends in school, and view other males as rivals and competitors from that point on in life, as they climb the social and corporate ladder. Japanese men are thus some of the loneliest people in the world.
Another was that Japanese men just weren’t all that interesting. Not only are they completely work-oriented (as opposed to women, who also had social lives outside of mere drinks after work), they seemed to keep their personalities closely locked up inside, only showing a professional or socially-attuned mask to the public no matter what. So conversations inevitably went boring (notwithstanding the incipient language barriers), basically boiling down to the food and chopsticks questions if not the occasional comparative culture stuff, but nothing that would make for an interesting conversation about life in Japan or in general.
Yet another was that people did initially make male friends, but months or years later, realized that their “friend” was basically out for the “gaijin experience” (kinda like the Jimi Hendrix Experience). Felt like they had a curious cultural succubus (in male form) voyeuristically leeching off them as a gaijin, instead of a true friend out to share life with them. So they toned it down or broke it off.
Whatever the reason, the fact that ALL six of us despite an extended period felt that we had made NO particularly long-lasting friendships with our Japanese male counterparts was shocking. I thought I’d ask Debito.org Readers if they have similar or different experiences, and your theories why. People who also can speak to the female-female side of the experience are of course welcome to comment.
Keep it nice and constructive, please. It’s an essential question when it comes to issues of immigration and assimilation. Arudou Debito
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Hi Blog. Faculty members at the University of Sheffield, a venerable British institution for Japanese studies, have released their third edition of an academic book on Japan’s International Relations with a rather sensationalistic cover. I forward the letter of complaint from friend Amanda Harlow (used with permission):
[This and past editions still available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk]
This cartoon panders to the worst stereotyping of Japanese people and I feel this is a surprising choice for a respected British institution such as the University of Sheffield. If this was a mob of Japan-bashers on the streets of China, or a crazy nationalistic website I would not be surprised. But the School of East Asian Studies? Really?
Is it meant to be ironic? If so, I think this illustration would be better as an inside picture and not used on the cover of a book that is supposedly about international relations.
Here in Japan (I live in Sapporo with my Japanese husband and family) there are endless gaijin-bashing images and Debito Arudou, a friend of mine, is a well known activator on discrimination issues – if he found this image of a non-Japanese on a Japanese book cover we would all shake our heads and groan.
The latest edition of this comprehensive and user-friendly textbook provides a single volume resource for all those studying Japan’s international relations. It offers a clear and concise introduction to the most important aspects of Japan’s role in the globalized economy of the twenty-first century. The book has been fully updated and revised to include comprehensive discussions of contemporary key issues for Japan’s IR, including:
the rise of China
reaction to the global economic and financial crisis since 2008
Japan’s proactive role after 9/11 and the war on terror
responses to events on the Korean Peninsula
relations with the USA and the Obama administration
relations with Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East
changing responses to an expanding and deepening European Union
Extensively illustrated, the text includes statistics, maps, photographs, summaries and suggestions for further reading, making it essential reading for those studying Japanese politics, and the international relations of the Asia Pacific.
Glenn D. Hook is Professor of Japanese Studies in the School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield.
Julie Gilson is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Birmingham.
Christopher W. Hughes is Professor of International Politics and Japanese Studies, University of Warwick.
Hugo Dobson is Professor in the International Relations of Japan, University of Sheffield.
ペーパーバック: 560 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 3 edition (2011/8/31)
Language: 英語, 英語, 英語
Release Date: 2011/8/31
COMMENT: Okay, I shake my head and groan. Arudou Debito
LONDON (AFP) – Britain on Tuesday backed Japan’s claim for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and promised to support its economic integration with the EU after the two nations’ foreign ministers met in London.
Foreign Secretary William Hague also told Takeaki Matsumoto, his Japanese counterpart, that Britain had “great admiration” for Japan’s response to the March earthquake and tsunami which devastated the country’s northeast coast.
“Japan is unquestionably our closest partner in Asia,” Hague said in a statement.
“Japan is a like-minded partner and a positive force in international peace and security and I repeat our support again today for an enlarged United Nations Security Council with a permanent seat for Japan,” he added.
Britain in March urged the European Union to ease barriers between the bloc and its outside trading partners, and used Tuesday’s meeting to repeat its demands.
“The removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers could deliver over 40 billion euros ($59.2 billion) of additional European exports to Japan and more than 50 billion euros of additional exports from Japan to the EU,” argued Hague.
The pair agreed to “support the people of Libya in their aspiration to be rid of a dictator” and on the “vital need to achieve a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
Addressing the quake, Hague said: “We feel great friendship and affinity with the Japanese people in this hour of tragedy… and we have great admiration for the resilience and dignity and courage of the people of Japan.”
EXCERPT OF ARUDOU DEBITO PAPER (Copyright ARUDOU Debito)
3. Historical context of the GOJ’s behavior
Japan has a long history of lack of initiative regarding its obligations under U.N. agreements in regards to human rights. Peek (1992) notes, “Tokyo holds that human rights issues are a domestic matter and, therefore, beyond the mandate of the U.N…. [Japan] has generally responded defensively to human rights proposals at variance with Japanese law or practice” (219). In his view, Japan’s lack of participation in the incipient stages of the U.N.’s formation (including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948) led to the lack of “significant national stake in the U.N.’s existing principles and structures” (ibid), a relative inattention in the political sphere, and an understaffing in the relevant domestic bureaucratic organs. The high-profile tenure of Ogata Sadako as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees notwithstanding, for decades Japan refused to even join the UNHCR in the 1960’s and 1970’s despite several direct appeals from other countries; the GOJ “feared being drawn into a public denunciation of the human rights policies of any particular state”; even after joining the UNHCR, Japan’s interest was in “protecting itself from unwanted or highly politicized criticism” (both 220), and kept its participation “low-key” and abstemious from ruling on the majority of resolutions within its mandate.
After Japan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in 1979, it still opposed, as it had since the 1960’s the establishment of a specific high commissioner to review issues of human rights, arguing the office would be “highly politicized” and lead to bureaucratic inefficiency; Peek noted, “At the core of Japan’s position was its objection to any further encroachment on the internal affairs of sovereign nation-states” (221). It also added “reservations” to parts of the covenants (such as the review powers of the ICCPR’s Human Rights Committee), expressed objections to individuals being able to report claims directly to the HRC (arguing that U.N. relations are state-to-state), and emphasized the need for “further study” of contentious issues.
The conclusion that can be drawn from this: Postwar Japan’s leadership could not, and most likely still cannot, accept a fundamental tenet of the UN Charter — that there exists a “universal set of human rights”. This cultural relativism at first led to an attitude of, “leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone”. However, this became less tenable with the ascendancy of Japan as the number two economic power in the 1980’s, and Japan’s own repeated demand for acceptance as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. With greater international power came the expectation of greater international accountability, responsibility, and initiative.
Ironically, an argument can be made that some of Japan’s more liberal laws were created as a matter of opportunistic timing vis-à-vis international attention, not grassroots pressure. Peek provides the example of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, passed in 1984, legally guaranteeing equal pay for equal work regardless of gender. It was passed into law despite the opposition of women’s groups and the opposition parties, who objected to its lack of enforceability. Peek writes, “The intent of the law seems to have been more than a symbolic bone tossed to domestic and international critics in anticipation of the upcoming 1985 world conference ending the U.N. Decade for Women” (224). Peek also notes the GOJ concurrently passed a revised Nationality Law (now granting citizenship through mother as well as father), and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Thus, it would seem that for Japan to pass a law against RD, one would need a high-profile event (such as a Decade against Racism or a International Conference for Migrants) to trigger it, or a quid pro quo of sorts (such as a UNSC seat). Even then, this author anticipates that any RD law will contain built-in safeguards (such as a lack of fines or incarceration for miscreants) to ensure that it allays international critics but does not have statutes for enforcement.
It is clear that from a historical perspective, the GOJ works on its own timetable, is largely impervious to repeated criticism both internationally and domestically, and makes reforms that do not overwhelmingly affect Japan’s “sovereignty”, however Japan’s domestic arbiters determine it. As Peek (1991) notes, the GOJ “has used the defensive tactics of denial of legitimacy, special interpretations, reservations, and symbolic change. It seeks to justify its tactics on the basis of culture differences. In essence, the Japanese government portrays its policy in terms of protecting the traditional ethic of harmonious human relations against the impersonal ethic of universalism contained in the covenants” (10).
There is of course the political dimension. Although pressure from the U.N. does, as Peek notes (1992: 226-9), lead to domestic human rights reforms, the Realpolitik of the situation indicates that NJ in Japan, a tiny minority (1.7% of the population, as opposed to women comprising half), disenfranchised without even suffrage (this will not change in the near future; the opposition to the Democratic Party of Japan’s proposal to grant suffrage in local elections to NJ Permanent Residents led to its suspension in 2010 (Mainichi Daily News 2010)), have a great uphill climb to achieving anti-discrimination legislation.
TWO MAJOR SOURCES:
Peek, J. M. 1991. “Japan and the International Bill of Rights.” Journal of Northeast Asian Studies, Fall 1991 10(3): 3-16.
_____________. (1992). “Japan, The United Nations, and Human Rights.” Asian Survey32(3): 217-229.
Japan, The United Nations, and Human Rights
Author(s): John M. Peek
Source: Asian Survey, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Mar., 1992), pp. 217-229
Japan has once again made intimations (see JT article below) that it has plans to not only consider but even perhaps join the Convention, with a schedule for when it will perhaps join being announced this month.
The point is, I’m not hopeful. And I’ll say it again: Nobody, Japanese or NJ, should get married to a Japanese and have children under the current system in Japan. Divorce in Japan generally means one parent loses the kids. And I believe that will continue regardless of Japan’s agreeing to the Hague. Arudou Debito
ADDENDUM MAY 27: One clarification that is unclear upon rereading this post: I believe that Japan SHOULD sign the Hague. I have never argued that it shouldn’t. It is a step in the right direction. I am just questioning whether it will mean much in practice and enforcement, given the GOJ’s record regarding other treaties, and advising against getting one’s hopes up for a solution to the present situation. AD
The government will announce in May a plan to join the Hague Convention, which deals with cross-border child custody rows, official sources said Wednesday.
The Democratic Party of Japan-led government is expected to instruct the Justice and Foreign ministries to develop the necessary bills, with the aim of approving the plan to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction during a regular Diet session next year.
Japan has been under international pressure to join the child custody pact, which is designed to help resolve cases in which foreign parents are prevented from seeing their children in Japan after their marriages with Japanese nationals fail.
If Tokyo remains out of the pact, it could mar international confidence in Japan, the sources said. Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to relay Japan’s policy at a Group of Eight summit in late May in Deauville, France.
The Hague Convention sets procedures for resolving child custody cases in failed international marriages. As Japan has yet to join, non-Japanese cannot see their children if their Japanese spouse takes them to Japan from the country where the family has been residing.
There has been heated debate over whether to join the treaty, as it is customary for mothers to take sole care of children after divorces and it is not unusual for kids to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up. Critics have raised concerns over joining the pact, saying it could endanger Japanese parents and kids who have fled abusive relationships.
Japan to Sign Hague Child Abduction Convention
BY MIAKO ICHIKAWA
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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 conclude the treaty as early as in 2010.
The decision was reached amid criticism against Japan over unauthorized transfer and retention cases involving children. The governments of Canada and the United States have raised the issue with Japan and cited a number of incidents involving their nationals, blasting such acts as tantamount to abductions.
In one case, a Japanese woman who divorced her Canadian husband took their children to Japan for what she said would be a short visit to let the kids see an ailing grandparent. But the woman and her children never returned to Canada.
Once parents return to their home countries with their children, their former spouses are often unable to find their children. In Japan, court rulings and custody orders issued in foreign countries are not recognized.
Under the convention, signatory parties are obliged to set up a “central authority” within their government. The authority works two ways.
It can demand other governments return children unlawfully transferred and retained. But it is also obliged to find the location within its own country of a child unlawfully taken and retained, take measures to prevent the child from being moved out of the country, and support legal procedures to return the child to the rightful parent.
Sources said the Japanese government will likely set up a central authority within the Justice Ministry, which oversees immigration and family registry records. The ministry has decided to work on a new law that will detail the procedures for the children’s return.
In 2006, there were about 44,700 marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals in Japan, about 1.5 times the number in 1996. Divorces involving such couples more than doubled from about 8,000 in 1996 to 17,000 in 2006.(IHT/Asahi: May 10,2008)
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Hi Blog. Congratulations to Chris Savoie on his massive U.S. court victory against his ex-wife for, inter alia, false imprisonment of his children in Japan.
Debito.org has talked about the Savoie Case for quite some time now (do a search), but I devoted a Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to it back in October 2009. I’m personally glad he’s staying the course, and seeking judicial recourse that is amounting to legally-binding agreement. This is setting an important precedent regarding the issue of international child abduction, and drawing attention to a long-neglected problem. Arudou Debito
PS: Note the lame (if not just plain inaccurate) headline by the Japan Times/Kyodo News on this, “Wife fined for taking children to Japan“; makes it sound like she got punished for being a tourist. Get on the ball. Call it what it is: Child abduction.
A mother who left Middle Tennessee with her two young children to live permanently in her native Japan — leaving behind an ex-husband with joint custody rights — has been ordered to pay the father $6.1 million in damages.
But Christopher J. Savoie of Franklin said the money alone is a hollow victory. He hopes the ruling will help end a battle he has waged since 2009 to bring the children home.
“Anything about this just reopens a lot of wounds. It’s bittersweet,” said Christopher Savoie, who said he hasn’t been allowed even to speak to Isaac, 10, and Rebecca, 8, in more than a year. “At the end of the day, I’d much rather have one afternoon in the park with my kids than one penny of this judgment.”
Shortly after Noriko Esaki Savoie permanently moved with the children to Japan, a Williamson County court gave Christopher Savoie full custody, and the Franklin Police Department issued an arrest warrant for Noriko Savoie charging her with custodial interference. But because of domestic laws pertaining to custody and divorce, Japan will not help the United States resolve parental abductions to the country. The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues reports that it “does not have a record of any cases resolved through a favorable Japanese court order or through the assistance of the Japanese government.”
In March, Noriko Savoie was charged in federal court with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, and an arrest warrant was issued. That effort also has failed so far.
“My understanding is we don’t have an extradition agreement with Japan as it relates to parental kidnapping,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Daughtrey said. “As far as I know, nothing has been done.”
Christopher Savoie believes Monday’s ruling may open a door. His attorney, Joseph A. “Woody” Woodruff of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, said that while Japan won’t enforce U.S. judgments that pertain to custody or otherwise order Japanese citizens to “do the right thing,” they will enforce money judgments.
“They will enforce orders that assess damages for breach of contract and civil wrongs,” Woodruff said. “This is a tool we’re going to try to use to convince Noriko Savoie she needs to do the right thing.”
Williamson County Chancery Court Judge Tim Easter announced the damages Monday, having previously found Noriko Savoie guilty of three crimes in September. Easter ordered Noriko Savoie to pay Christopher Savoie more than $1 million for breach of contract and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. She was ordered to pay Christopher Savoie $1.1 million, to be held for the benefit of the children, for falsely imprisoning them since August 2009. Easter ordered Noriko Savoie to pay additional damages for each day she continues to falsely imprison the children up to a maximum of $4 million.
“Every day, she has another chance to lower the amount of damages,” Christopher Savoie said. “Noriko is not an enemy here. She’s just got to do the right thing here.”
Noriko Savoie was not represented at the hearing. Marlene Moses, an attorney who represented Noriko Savoie in 2009, said she no longer represents her and is unfamiliar with the latest developments.
“She chose to ignore these proceedings,” Woodruff said. “She was served in person in Japan.”
In a related proceeding, Savoie is suing Williamson County Judge James G. Martin III for negligence and violations of his constitutional rights. Martin was the judge who lifted a restraining order on the children’s passports so that Noriko Savoie could take them on a six-week trip to Japan. He did so after Noriko Savoie promised at a hearing that she would not permanently move there. She returned from the trip as scheduled, but left again shortly thereafter and has remained in Japan since.
U.S. District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger dismissed the case in December after ruling that Martin has judicial immunity. Savoie has taken the case to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Woodruff said Christopher Savoie’s lawyers in Japan are working to “domesticate” Easter’s orders. Christopher Savoie said he is frustrated the laws of Japan have left him with no other choice than to seek a large money judgment against his ex-wife, but hopes it will compel her to at least talk to him.
“I would much rather her return the kids than see 1 cent of this money,” he said. “I feel disappointed that the only thing we can do is ask for money. Even God can’t buy me back the year and a half I’ve missed. I feel bad for the judge even having to put a number on it.”
Christopher Savoie, a former Rhode Islander who drew international attention when he was thrown into a Japanese prison in 2009 for trying to recover his two children from his Japanese ex-wife by grabbing them as they walked to school, has won a $6.1-million judgment against his former wife.
But in an interview from his home in Franklin, Tenn., the University of Rhode Island and Bishop Hendricken High School graduate called the award issued by Franklin Chancellor Timothy Easter a “two-edged sword” in that it gives his ex-wife a strong financial incentive “to do the right thing” and allow him to see his two children, but there is no guarantee that he’ll see his 10-year-old son, Isaac, and 8-year-old daughter, Rebecca, before they reach 20, the age of majority in Japan.
“It’s bittersweet, because rather than getting any money, I’d much rather be in the park playing with my kids. No amount of money can compensate for that time with the kids,” said Savoie.
Along with his second wife, Amy, another former Rhode Islander who began a career in immunology at URI, Savoie, 40, became enmeshed in an international custody battle that unfolded two years after Christopher, who had achieved international stature as an innovator in biotechnology, returned to the United States with his children and Japanese wife, Noriko, in the hope of starting another business.
Not long after the couple arrived, Christopher sued for a divorce, and two months after being granted the divorce decree in January 2009, married Amy, whom he had known since his days at URI. Savoie says that, as part of the settlement, his ex-wife agreed to provide him custody of the children in exchange for a monthly payment of $5,500 along with other payments for their education.
Then, just days after Christopher and Amy gathered with friends and relatives and their two young children at a waterside restaurant in East Greenwich to celebrate their six-month wedding anniversary, Noriko told Savoie and the judge in Tennessee that she wanted to take the children on a brief vacation in Japan before they resumed school in the United States. It was only when the Savoies saw that there was no planned trip back that they began to suspect that their children had been abducted.
Savoie says that contrary to some reports in the media, his two children had always been brought up in an English-speaking environment. Isaac, who was born in California and went to preschool in the United Kingdom, scored in the 98th percentile on the standardized English test in Tennessee, and Rebecca was doing well, also.
In fact, he says, when he came upon their children on the street in Japan, their mother was walking closely behind because she needed to interpret for them because they were not fluent in Japanese. Savoie thought he could whisk them off the street, carry them off to the U.S. Consulate and bring them back to the U.S., only to see his plan foiled when officials at the consulate did not open the door and allowed him to be arrested by Japanese police.
Despite the exposure provided by his nearly three-week imprisonment, Savoie said he has not seen his children again. Every time he attempts to reach the children by phone, their grandparents hang up on him.
Savoie said his anxieties increased significantly after the Japanese earthquake and nuclear disaster. He said that while he was told the children are safe, by his calculations, “they are within the nuclear fallout zone.”
Savoie said the events of the last few days have given him some new hope. The judgement issued by a Tennessee court on Monday is designed to get his ex-wife’s cooperation by cutting off any future financial payments by her as soon as she agrees to return the children.
Although the court system in Japan recognizes that he has been awarded custody of the children by a Tennessee court, the problem is that Japan has no way of enforcing the custody settlement, Savoie said, but it does have a method of enforcing the financial penalties. “We have a set of lawyers waiting in the wings” to put in the mechanism to see the judgment implemented.
Savoie said he has also been buoyed by what he says is a recent announcement by Japan that it plans to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction, a move that would make it easier for international parents to recover their children who have been taken in custody disputes.
In the meantime, Savoie said the international custody battle has caused him and Amy to reconsider their calling. Instead of immunology, both are now students at Nashville School of Law in the hope that they may be able to help parents of other children — including some 300 in Japan alone — who have been abducted by spouses and are being held in Japan.
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Hi Blog. Here’s a submission from Sean Maki of yet another place that excludes NJ customers, this time in the international city of Kobe. Archive of the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments here, so you can see how the issue is nationwide. I will add this case to the Rogues’ Gallery presently. Thanks Sean. Arudou Debito
May 4-6, 2011
Hi Debito. On a visit to Kobe for Golden Week, I came across a bar worthy of your Rogues’ Gallery of exclusionary establisments. Ironically, it was a soul music bar called Soul Love, with a sign featuring album covers of soul artists, including prominent Motown acts, who presumably would not be welcome inside the bar.
If so, please write in to the Japan Times and say so (email@example.com).
Internet bullies are writing in and once again trying to reassert their control over the debate.
Don’t let them anymore. Offer some balance.
My previous Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column on ‘Fly-jin’ was, as predicted, controversial, and occasioned I’m told more comment than any column I’ve written before. Wow. Thanks for commenting.
However, I’m also told the comments were overwhelmingly negative towards my standpoint. This is fine too, since it is my job as a columnist to stimulate debate and offer alternate views.
However, remember what my column was on: How NJ are bullying each other into silence and submission in a society that already disenfranchises NJ.
If you disagree with my last column’s thesis, that’s fine. It’s your right. And clearly your voice is already being adequately represented.
However, if you agree with my thesis, and you don’t want the bashers to have the last word on this topic, I suggest you speak up now and send in your opinions to the Japan Times.
After all, it is generally the case that the critics are more likely to comment than those who agree. It’s tougher to build upon the sentiment of “I completely agree, the end”, than it is “I completely disagree and here’s why”.
But this time it’s special.
The whole point of the previous column was that media bullies have been controlling the debate on the status of NJ, and decrying them, unfairly as I argued, as deserters. “Fly-jin”.
If you don’t want them to continue to control the debate or let them have the final word on the subject, I suggest you send in your thoughts to the Japan Times via firstname.lastname@example.org
Consider offering some balance, please.
There has been too much complacency and silent victimization regarding this subject already. Speak up.
The problem is, it seems (after a short search) that this article has come out in English only — there is no link to the “original Japanese story” like many Mainichi articles have. So this may sadly may not be for domestic consumption. Or it may be available on Kyodo wire services (but again, not in Japanese for Mainichi readers). Sigh. Arudou Debito
TOKYO (Kyodo) — More than 90 percent of foreigners studying or working in Japan expressed willingness to continue staying in the country despite the March 11 disaster, according to a recent online survey by a supporting group for them.
The International Foreign Students Association conducted the survey between March 22 and 26, to which 392 people responded. Of the respondents, 60 percent were students and the remaining 40 percent were graduates, while more than 90 percent of them were from China, Taiwan and South Korea.
Those who are willing to stay in Japan said, “Because I like Japan,” or “At a time like this, I think I want to work together (with Japanese) to help the recovery,” according to the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization.
The survey also showed that 73 percent of the respondents saw information gaps between Japan and their home countries on the earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear emergency, with some saying overseas news on the nuclear crisis was “excessive.”
Some respondents also pointed out that the Japanese government does not fully disclose information on the nuclear disaster.
Foreign volunteers help clear mud from a shopping street in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 14. (Mainichi)
Around 60 percent said they have not been preparing for disasters, while some voiced the need for multilingual information on disasters.
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DEBITO.ORG PODCAST MAY 7, 2011
THE OTARU ONSENS CASE, TEN YEARS ON. DECEMBER 6, 2010, OTARU SHOUDAI
This month’s offering is a recording of one of my speeches given in English last December at Otaru University of Commerce, Hokkaido, Japan, sponsored by Dr. Shawn Clankie. Q&A included. It’s my standard presentation on the Otaru Onsens Case with some updates (especially given that the site of the famous standoffs with “Japanese Only” bathhouses took place in this very town) on how things have or have not changed.
The past two months have been uncomfortable for Japan, and for the country’s foreign residents. Non-Japanese (NJ) have been bashed in the media, unreservedly and undeservedly, as deserters in the face of disaster.
Consider the birth of the epithet “fly-jin.” A corruption of the racist word gaijin for foreigners, it appeared in English-language media as a label for NJ who apparently flew the coop in Japan’s time of need. The Japanese media soon developed its own variants (e.g., Nihon o saru gaikokujin), and suddenly it was open season for denigrating NJ.
For example, the Wall Street Journal (March 23) announced in English and Japanese articles an apparent “fly-jin exodus,” portraying NJ as fleeing, then sheepishly crawling back to their Japanese workplaces to face hazing. Tokyo Sports Shimbun (April 14) ran the headline “Tokyo Disneyland’s biggest reason for closing: repatriating NJ dancers” (oddly, Disneyland reopened days later).
Tabloids reported that “all foreigners have fled Japan” (Nikkan Gendai, April 11), or that a wave of migrating “bad foreigners” would render Tokyo’s Ueno a lawless zone (SPA!, April 12). The NJ-bashing got so bad that the government — unusually — intervened, quashing Internet rumors that foreign gangs were roaming the rubble, raping and pillaging, or that foreign terrorists had caused the earthquakes.
More moderate media still reported that escaping NJ labor was hurting Japan’s economy, citing farms and factories employing NJ “trainees,” fast food outlets, convenience stores, the IT sector and language education. Mainichi Shimbun (April 25) shed crocodile tears over the possible death of Japan’s textile industry due to the lack of cheap Chinese workers.
I saw no articles putting things into perspective, comparing numbers of AWOL NJ with AWOL Japanese. Cowardice and desertion were linked with extranationality.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt that many NJ did move due to the Tohoku disasters. But my question is: So what if they did?
I have my doubts that a) it’s any more significant than the fact Japanese did, or that b) it’s worth blaming NJ anyway. Japanese overseas, if advised by their government to leave a trouble spot, would probably do the same. I also doubt overseas media would criticize the departing Japanese so harshly.
So here’s what I don’t get: Why should Japan care if NJ are leaving? Japan hasn’t exactly encouraged them to stay.
Consider some common attitudes towards NJ: Larkers and freeloaders, they’re here just to make money, enjoying our rich, safe society before going “home.” NJ also get accused of threatening our safety and stability, as criminal gang members, terrorists or illegal workers. NJ are such a threat that the National Police Agency created a Policymaking Committee Against Internationalization (sic) in 1999, deputizing the nation’s hotels, employers and general public to join in their racial profiling and help ferret out “bad foreigners committing heinous crimes.”
Moreover, NJ are publicly portrayed as people to be viewed with suspicion, justifying Japan’s first neighborhood surveillance cameras in alleged “hotbeds of foreign crime.” They are even denounced by the likes of Tokyo’s governor, Shintaro Ishihara (recently re-elected to a fourth term), for infiltrating and subverting Japan’s very democracy (JBC, May 4, 2010).
On the other hand, NJ human rights remain unprotected. They are sometimes subjected to “Japanese Only” exclusionary rules and hate speech, neither of which are (or look likely to become) illegal activities in Japan. Meanwhile, local governments asking for kinder national policies for their NJ residents (e.g., 2001’s Hamamatsu Sengen, a set of proposals put forward in Shizuoka Prefecture to help foreign residents integrate) continue to be ignored by the central government. Indicatively, we still have no official policy to support and assimilate immigrants.
Rarely are NJ residents praised for the good they do for Japan, such as increasing our taxpayer base, contributing to the labor force, even sticking around to raise funds and deliver supplies to the Tohoku disaster areas. Instead, we get sentiments like “Japan must be rebuilt by us Japanese only” from the Asahi Shimbun (March 20) and Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s speeches.
All this might change, if NJ were ever given a stake in Japan. But rarely do they get the same opportunities as Japanese.
I speak from personal experience. We were promised, during Japan’s Bubble Era and “internationalization” push in the 1980s, that if we immigrants learned the language, worked hard and waited our turn on the corporate ladder, we would be treated equitably and promoted just like our native Japanese colleagues.
A quarter-century later, how’s that going? Pretty piddling. Few NJ have advanced to the top echelons of Japanese corporations in Japan. Few NJ “trainees” can ever hope to graduate beyond temp-worker status, picking strawberries for slave wages. Few NJ have become deans of universities, let alone gotten beyond basic contract work in education. Few NJ graduates of Japanese universities, despite years of corporate promises, have gotten genuine, promotable jobs in Japanese corporations here. And even after two decades of sweetheart visa status, few nikkei South Americans who lost their jobs in the recession were considered re-employable, unlike fellow laid-off Japanese: Only 1 percent of the former were offered any government retraining, with the rest tossed bribes to give up their pensions and “go home.” (ZG April 7, 2009)
Look, Japan decided in the 1970s that it wanted a quick-fix energy source to power its high-speed growth. It neither wanted to pursue available (and potentially safer) sources (such as geothermal), nor rely on foreign oil. So it built one of the world’s highest concentrations of nuclear power plants on some of the world’s most seismically active land. Did people really expect that someday this atomic house of cards would not come crashing down? Come on — it was the classic case of accidents waiting to happen.
Then, when they did happen, and people (regardless of nationality) began to look out for themselves and leave potentially dangerous areas, they got blamed for either overreacting or deserting? That’s rubbing salt in the wounds.
But it’s the NJ who got it particularly bad, since the worst critics were from within their own ranks. The word “fly-jin,” remember, was coined by a foreigner, so this meanness isn’t just a byproduct of systematic exclusion from society. This is sociopathy within the excluded people themselves — eating their own, egging on domestic bullies, somehow proving themselves as “more dedicated than thou” to Japan. What did these self-loathers ultimately succeed in doing? Making NJ, including themselves, look bad.
The point is that Japan made a mistake with its nuclear policy, and will pay for it in land, lives and reputation. Yet the past two months have demonstrated that NJ — ever weaker and disenfranchised — are being scapegoated to draw attention away from those truly responsible for this mess: the inept, cosseted Japanese nuclear industry, perpetually in bed with a bureaucracy that turns a blind eye to safety standards and abets coverups.
So let me counterbalance “fly-jin” by coining a word too: “sheeple.” By this, I mean people who timidly follow the herd even when it hurts them as a whole. They are unwilling to impinge upon their comfortable, convenient middle-class existences, or threaten their upward social mobility, by demanding a safer or more accountable system. Worse, they decry those who do.
If these sheeple had had their way, Japan’s nuclear industry’s standard operating procedure of disinformation and coverup would have continued after Fukushima, as it did after previous nuclear accidents in Tokai and Kashiwazaki. But this time the accident was big enough to potentially irradiate the international community. Ironically, it sometimes falls upon the dread foreigners to save the sheeple from themselves.
But again, the situation is particularly pathetic for NJ (and the opportunistic NJ rents-seekers) because, given their permanent “guest status” in Japanese society, they are expected to act like sheeple without ever being a full member of the herd. They neither have the same opportunity to speak their minds as residents, nor defend themselves from unfair bashing in public.
So bully for the fly-jin, or anyone, for protecting themselves and getting out. Why stay and be a sheep or a scapegoat?
Debito Arudou’s new novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale (see www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to email@example.com The Japan Times: Tuesday, May 3, 2011
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Hi Blog. Examiner.com’s Justin Tedaldi, also of JET organization JETAA-NY, has just put up an interview of me and a kind review of novel IN APPROPRIATE. Please go to Examiner.com to read the whole thing. Excerpt below. Thanks very much, Justin. Arudou Debito
Originally raised in rural upstate New York as David Aldwinckle, Debito is a 23-year resident of Japan who obtained Japanese citizenship (and a name change) in 2000. As the Just Be Cause columnist at The Japan Times newspaper, his nonfiction books include Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants, and Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan.
A longtime watchdog for foreigners’ rights in Japan, Debito’s first English-language novel takes a scalpel to the polite, friendly façade that tourists typically experience. In Appropriate examines the downright ugly aspects of Japanese life when a father is cut from all ties with his children post-divorce, which is not only common in Japan, but upheld by 19th century law. In this exclusive interview, Debito discusses his personal experiences that inspired the book, his history as an activist, and his thoughts on the future of Japan.
Q: You’ve been known as an activist for over a decade and have published non-fiction works on the subject. What inspired you to write about child abduction in Japan, and what were your goals?
DEBITO: My goal with In Appropriate was to expose a dire social problem, as usual. But this time I thought fiction would be the better medium. Doing what I do, I hear a lot of stories about broken marriages in Japan, and having gone through a nasty divorce myself (seeing my children only about six times since 2003), I know a little bit about child abduction. What goes on in Japan beggars belief, but it’s hard to zero in on one non-fiction case and expect it to cover the scope of the problem.
Although international child abductions in other countries have gotten some press, the situation in Japan is much, much worse. Child abductions and parental alienation in Japan are, in a word, systematic—meaning they are hardly uncommon between Japanese, too (former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi is a famous example; he never saw one of his sons for nearly two decades). One parent after a divorce is generally expected to disappear, and have little to no contact with the children anymore. In Appropriate was meant as a primer to the issue.
Japan has no system of joint custody or guaranteed visitation rights, and under this system I cannot recommend anyone, Japanese or non-Japanese (NJ), get married under it and consider having children. The risk is too great. We need fundamental reform of the Family Registry System and the laws governing divorce and child custody first.
Give us a basic overview on the phenomenon of kidnapping and left-behind parents in Japan.
It works like this: Japan’s divorce laws have been fundamentally unaltered since 1898(!), meaning modern-day common-sense divorces based upon “we just don’t like each other any more,” aka “irreconcilable differences,” don’t fly in Japan’s Family Courts. Fact is, if both sides don’t agree to a divorce, one side will have to portray the marriage as a living hell (even when it wasn’t) in public just to satisfy the requirements, inspiring vindictiveness in the other side. (Read more at www.debito.org/thedivorce.html.)
So after a successful split, one parent (usually the mother) gets the kids, and they are put on her Family Registry (koseki). Hers only, as Japan’s laws do not permit registry of people on two koseki. This means the other parent (usually the father) has no title or custody to the children (for example, I couldn’t even get an audience with my daughters’ junior high school teachers to see their grades). Access is granted only at the whim of the mother; I haven’t so much as seen a new photograph of my kids for about five years now. Even if the father goes to court to get a ruling guaranteeing visitation or access, if the mother again decides to make excuses for denial of visitation (or worse yet, levies a claim of “domestic violence”), the father will have to go to court again to get his rights enforced. Given that Japanese courts take months or years to hand down decisions, his kids will in the interim grow up alienated and never hearing his side.
This is what happens on a domestic level between Japanese. Now add the dimension of international marriage, where the NJ parent may have visa issues, face a language/culture barrier, or be communicating from overseas, and you have a more complex case. (More information via the Children’s Rights Network at www.crnjapan.net.)
Do you think Japan has any legal grounds on an international level to justify its actions?
Japan is not a signatory to many international agreements protecting the rights of children, including the Hague Convention on Child Abductions. Its courts have also not honored overseas court decisions regarding child custody awarded to the NJ parent. According to the U.S. State Department, Japan has not returned a single child abducted to Japan after an international divorce. No doubt Japan’s judiciary would find the Elian Gonzalez Case of 2000 puzzling indeed. Japan as a country refuses to abide by international norms regarding families post-divorce. More in an upcoming documentary called From the Shadows (www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com).
Why did you choose the fiction novel format?
Because no single non-fiction case would capture the complicated dynamics of this issue properly. Besides, In Appropriate is about more than just divorce: I wanted to describe how a person would find a fascination in Japan and Japanese people, come over during Japan’s Bubble Era to see Japan ripe with opportunity, and find how Japan went sour as an economy over the past two decades. It was wonderful for me to recount this as a Bubble Era veteran—when in the late 1980s Japan looked poised to take over the world, was even challenging notions of how capitalism worked. Then see how, step-by-step, Japanese society would be squeezed and squeezed, convinced that recovery was right around the corner, just like Godot.
How a person could become an immigrant to Japan—assimilating himself to the point of founding his own company, becoming bilingual in Japanese, even taking Japanese citizenship, yet be blindsided by events that were nearly always beyond his control. In Appropriate is much more than just a story of divorce—it’s a time capsule charting Japan’s descent into mediocrity and comparative international irrelevance. That’s best portrayed in a novel format…
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Hi Blog. Out tomorrow will be my latest JUST BE CAUSE column in the Japan Times. I actually wrote a piece in defense of the so-called “Fly-jin”, the NJ who are being treated like deserters for protecting their own, deciding to put some distance between themselves and situations they consider dangerous post-Fukushima.
I ask the question: “So what if many NJ did leave Japan? Do you think Japan thus far has been all that encouraging of them to stay?”
I think some people might find this view refreshing and cathartic, given the increasing sociopathy I’m feeling within the already-disenfranchised NJ as they bully their own.