Movie about Ichihashi Tatsuya, convicted killer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, already in the works — based upon his book. Ick.


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb

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Hi Blog. Here’s some ghoulish news. According to Yahoo News below in Japanese, there is a biopic in the works on Ichihashi Tatsuya, convicted killer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, coming out next year based upon his book (which we lambasted here on last January as publisher profiteering) about his 2 1/2 years on the lam as a fugitive from justice.

Now, movies about killers are nothing new (including ones with overtones of hero worship; consider NATURAL BORN KILLERS), and biopics about Japanese killers (the very good VENGEANCE IS MINE, starring a lean and mean Ogata Ken, I saw back in college) are also out there (even though VENGEANCE, although it tries to analyze the killer’s motivations and mother complex, did not spare the audience of the horrific detail of his murderous activity).

Maybe this movie will do the same (even though many of the details of what Ichihashi did to Hawker’s corpse have not been made public).  But the article below says that the contents will focus on his life as a fugitive and offer insights into Japan’s low life (such as the day-laborer sector of Airin Chiku; cue sympathy for the killer’s hardships?).

In any case, I for one see this as just more profiteering.  It looks as though this story will be depicted through Ichihashi’s eyes, and there is apparently already quite an online hero cult out there for this creep that the studios would love to cash in upon.

Again, this sort of media event has happened before, but this is altogether too soon — still seems like moviemakers trying to make a fast yen (and an unknown actor trying to make a directorial debut; he talks briefly below about his “feeling of responsibility” towards the victims, but mostly about how the killer’s account fascinates him, so methinks that’s what the flick will focus upon) before Ichihashi fades from public memory. Ick. Arudou Debito


市橋被告逃亡記を映画化 初監督&主演にディーン・フジオカ大抜てき
スポーツ報知 2011年11月23日(水)8時2分配信
Courtesy of SL

2007年、千葉県市川市で英会話講師の英国人リンゼイ・アン・ホーカーさん(当時22歳)が殺害された事件が初めて映画化されることが22日、分かった。殺人罪などで無期懲役の判決を受けた市橋達也被告(32)が逃亡生活の様子、心境をつづった手記「逮捕されるまで 空白の2年7カ月の記録」をもとに、香港、台湾で活躍する日本人俳優ディーン・フジオカ(31)が初監督、主演に抜てきされた。タイトルは「I am Ichihashi~逮捕されるまで~」で、来年公開。

映画「I am Ichihashi―」は、市橋被告の手記「逮捕されるまで―」(幻冬舎刊)が原作。前例のない逃亡犯の手記として、公判前の1月に出版され話題になった。






◆リンゼイさん殺害事件 07年3月26日、千葉・市川市の市橋被告のマンションのベランダに置かれた浴槽から英会話講師リンゼイさんの遺体が見つかった。市橋被告は直前に、捜査員の職務質問を振り切り逃走。翌27日、県警に死体遺棄容疑で指名手配される。沖縄・オーハ島での自給自足の生活、顔の整形手術を受けるなどして2年7か月逃亡。09年11月10日、大阪市のフェリー乗り場で逮捕された。死体遺棄のほか、殺人と強姦致死の罪で起訴され、今年7月21日に無期懲役の判決。市橋被告は控訴している。

◆ディーン・フジオカ 1980年8月19日、福島県生まれ、千葉県育ち。31歳。高校卒業後、米シアトル留学。現地の大学を卒業後、香港でモデルとして活動。05年に映画「八月的故事」で俳優デビュー。06年から台湾を拠点にドラマ、映画に出演。12月2日に映画「The Road Less Traveled」、来年1月に「BLACK&WHITE」が台湾で封切られる。日本語、英語、中国語を話す。身長180センチ。体重60キロ。血液型A。


MOFA offers public comments on signing Hague Convention on Child Abductions; not much there


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Related to Japan’s future signing of the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, here we have an official report about a public forum held on November 22, 2011 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (something I attended before and incidentally considered a very flawed and biased format).  Present were academics, lawyers, the Ministries of Justice, Health and Welfare, Education, Internal Affairs, plus the Cabinet and the National Police Agency.

In the course of discussions about setting up a central agency to handle the enforcement of the Hague, 168 public comments were collected since the end of September and were brought up at this meeting.  That report follows in full below, courtesy of TS.  A few things I found noteworthy within it:

1) The term LBP (Left-Behind Parent) is now part of the Japanese lexicon.

2) In discussions about the right of both parents to have information about (if not access to) their children, the same old saws about DV (domestic violence, however unclearly defined, and in Japan that matters) came up, and the GOJ is as usual being called in to do something about it (apparently more than just mediate, which the GOJ gets all control-freaky and nanny-state about) — seesawing between the LBP’s right to know about their children and the custodian’s right to be safe from the violent boogeyman ex-spouse.  This seesawing was also visible in an even more vague discussion about the GOJ holding onto passports of potential abductors and abductees, except under exceptional circumstances that were mentioned but left undeveloped.

3) The GOJ, regarding contact between LBP and child, plans to “support the respect of visitation rights”, but it also leaves measures vague and expresses caution about doing much of anything, really.

All told, this level of discussion was pretty low. I found little concrete here to sink one’s teeth into regarding advising toward future policies guaranteeing the lynchpins to this discussion: joint custody and guaranteed visitation that goes beyond an hour a two a month.  Not to mention return of internationally abducted children to their habitual residence as per the Hague.  Others are welcome to read the text below and squeeze out whatever interpretations I may have missed.  But given how much duplicity has taken place regarding the rights of LBPs in Japan up until now, I sadly remain unhopeful.  Arudou Debito












  • 中央当局が得た情報がLBP側に渡らないことが明確であれば,たとえば民間の団体たる私立学校と公立学校の間で情報提供義務に差をつける必要はなく,また差が出ることによる問題が生ずるのではないか。その一方で,情報提供義務を負う機関が広がることとのバランスで慎重な検討も必要。いずれにせよ,民間機関への情報の提供を求める場合,その範囲,方法については,政省令やガイドライン等で明確に定めることが必要。
  • 関係機関が中央当局に対して情報提供する際にDV被害のおそれがあるか否かについても併せて中央当局に通知することに関し,現場が何をどこまでやらねばならないのか,どう責任を取るのかが不明確なままでは,現場が委縮するので,そうならないように情報の流れが確保される具体的な通知の在り方について,今後関係機関内での実務的な検討が必要。他方,この点は,相手方の同意があった場合に情報を外部に提供するとの前提であったので中央当局としてDVのおそれの有無の情報が必要であったが,その必要がなくなったのであればそもそも中央当局にその情報を通知しなくても差支えないのではないか。
  • 情報提供を行う機関等が,「現に子を監護すると思われる者」か否かを判断することは難しく,外観上判断しやすい文言がより適当ではないか。なお,法制審で議論されている相手方適格の要件とは必ずしも同じ用語である必要はない。実態上,関係機関が,子を監護している者であるかどうかの判断を行うことは非常に困難であることからも,「監護する者」を「同居している者」としてはどうか。
  • 相手方となるべき「子を現に監護する者」の氏名(祖父母も含む)を申請者に開示後,相手方にその旨を知らせるべきか否かについては,さらに子が隠避されるといった事態を惹起するおそれもある一方で,DV被害者の居所の判明につながりかねないため,通知が必要とも考えられる。この点については,法律に明記せずとも対応できるのではないか。
  • 中央当局が集めた情報につき,行政機関個人情報保護法第8条第1項の「法令に基づく場合」により目的外提供できるとすることでは,弁護士法に基づく照会も該当することにならないか。その範囲が広くなりすぎるおそれもある。目的外提供の範囲につき絞ることも検討すべきではないか。


  • 条約に定める友好的な解決の促進のために,外務省として仲裁等の任意解決を外部団体に委託したいと考えるが,そのような団体の発掘・育成が検討課題。
  • 友好的な解決のために双方の合意があった場合に,返還手続の前後に関わらず中央当局が旅券を保管することは問題ない。ただし,返還に係る裁判手続が始まったら,合意がなくなったものとして保管を中止して,当事者に返付するケースもあるだろう。いずれにせよ,当事者の合意に基づく措置に過ぎず,合意の撤回があれば返付するということかと思われる。
  • 返還手続における保全的な処分との関連で,出国を差し止めるためにいかなる手段が可能かは今後の法制審にて引き続き検討。


  • 当事者が自らの裁判に必要と判断する情報を提供されるべきとの観点から,我が国中央当局から他の条約締約国の中央当局に,子の社会的背景に関する情報の提供を求める際は,裁判所からの求めだけでなく,申立人及び相手方からの依頼による場合も認めるべきではないか。
  • 他方,上記については,我が国中央当局及び他の締約国中央当局の事務的負担との関係から困難がある他,我が国と他の締約国との間で片務的な関係とならざるを得ないこと,相手国中央当局がどこまで社会的背景に関する情報収集に協力するか不明であること,相手国中央当局の情報収集結果を待っていれば迅速な裁判を確保できないおそれがあること等,現実的な問題として限界があることも事実。


  • 中央当局による援助の対象となる事案の範囲,及び中央当局がとるべき措置の範囲については,論点ペーパーの整理とすることで特段の意見なし。特に,援助の対象となる事案の範囲としては,他の締約国で認められた接触の権利を我が国において尊重されることを支援する(その逆も然り)と整理。
  • ただ,接触の権利についての支援は,当事者の協力が前提となることから,接触の権利の実施体制の確立(中央当局から当事者に紹介する実施団体の発掘及び育成含む)は大きな課題。
  • 他の条約締約国は条約締結後20~30年の年月をかけ,接触の権利の実施体制を整えてきた経緯がある。我が国も締結後,直ちに十分な体制を確立するのは難しくとも,関係行政機関が連携しつつ,面会交流を支援する団体等の育成に努めて欲しい。




  1. (1)パブリックコメントのとりまとめ結果及び概要パブリックコメントで寄せられた意見(PDF)PDF
  2. (2)論点ペーパー(PDF)PDF
  3. (3)参考資料


UPDATE: Post-divorce J child abductor Inoue Emiko DOES get book thrown at her in Milwaukee court, will return abducted child to custodial NJ father


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb

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Hi Blog. As was reported on last October 28 regarding the issue of Japan as safe haven for international child abductions, the US courts looked like they actually might start enforcing their arrest warrants against Japanese child abductors.  In this case, against a Japanese woman named Inoue Emiko who reportedly whisked the kid off to Japan despite a US court awarding the father, Moises Garcia, custody.  Then Inoue used the time-honored tactic of abducting the kid anyway and getting a Japanese court to award her the kid instead regardless (with a gracious 30-day per year visitation allowed; thanks a heap).  Then she presumptuously decided to have her cake and eat it too, coming back to Hawaii last April to renew her Green Card, whereupon the authorities honored the arrest warrant against her and sent her to stand trial in Wisconsin (leaving the kid in limbo with the grandparents in Japan).

Back in October I said that enough is enough, and that the American judiciary should throw the book at her.  Well, guess what — they did, and it looks as though the mother will return the child to the custodial father.  Bravo!  Read on.  Let that be a lesson to you, child abductors, and let that be an incentive for Japan to sign the Hague Convention. Note, however, the update regarding the J-media’s domestic spin after the article. Arudou Debito


Plea agreement reached in international custody case

Mother agrees to have daughter returned from Japan to Wisconsin
Nov. 21, 2011, Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), courtesy of SC

Karina Garcia’s mother agreed in court Monday to have the girl home in Fox Point by Christmas.

If she makes it, the 9-year-old would be the first of what advocates say are more than 300 children around the U.S. abducted to Japan in violation of American court orders to be returned through legal intervention.

She also could become a poster child for how to solve a growing problem as international marriages increase in the global economy.

The girl’s father, Moises Garcia, was pleased but cautious in talking to reporters after the hearing, where his ex-wife, Emiko Inoue, pleaded no contest to the felony charge of interfering with child custody by other parent. She was found guilty, but a plea agreement could leave her with only a misdemeanor conviction if Karina returns and Inoue completes other conditions.

Garcia has been working to bring his daughter home since Inoue fled with her to Inoue’s native Japan in February 2008, shortly after Garcia, 39, filed for divorce.

“Divorces are tough for everybody, but when there are cultural differences, it’s very hard to deal with that,” said Garcia, a physician and native of Nicaragua. The couple’s daughter was born in Wisconsin.

He said Inoue, 43, has brainwashed his daughter and alienated her affections for him during the time in Japan, but he’s confident that if the child comes home, she will be able to get the help she needs to deal with the psychological impact of the ordeal.

Japan is the only G7 country not part of an international compact about child abduction. Japan does not assist in returning children to parents with legal custody in other countries, nor does it extradite Japanese charged with crimes related to child abduction or custody interference elsewhere, such as Inoue.

Global Future, a group that advocates for parents whose children have been taken by their other parent to foreign countries, claims Japanese officials in the United States assist in such crimes by granting new passports and visas to Japanese trying to flee with their children.

The group’s founder and secretary, both Californians trying to get children back from Japan, attended Inoue’s hearing in Milwaukee. So did officials from the foreign ministry office of the Japanese consulate in Chicago. They declined to comment on the Global Future claims, or about Inoue’s case.

“We’ve had children returned from South Korea, Iran, Cameroon, Libya and Egypt, but we can’t get any back from a supposedly friendly country, Japan,” said Patrick Braden, CEO and founder of Global Future. His 11-month-old daughter was kidnapped and taken to Japan in 2006.

“This case really does have worldwide implications,” Braden said.

Fuji TV, a Japanese network, also was covering Monday’s hearing.

Inoue was arrested in April when she visited Hawaii to renew her U.S. permanent residency status. She was extradited to Wisconsin and was being held in the Milwaukee County Jail. She appeared in court Monday with her attorney, Bridget Boyle, wearing a dark blue jail suit and glasses.

In response to questions from Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Mel Flanagan, Inoue said she didn’t agree that she had committed all the elements of the crime, but agreed the state could prove her guilty. The felony is punishable by up to 7½ years in prison. If Inoue ultimately were convicted of a misdemeanor, she would likely be sentenced to the time she’s served since her arrest.

District Attorney John Chisholm noted that a felony conviction would probably also have prevented Inoue from remaining in the U.S. He said he thinks Inoue’s prosecution may still deter others, while allowing a chance for Karina to benefit from contact with both parents.

Inoue still has the option to seek visitation rights or changes in custody through family court.

Monday was to have been the continuation of a nonjury trial that began in October, but Boyle told the judge that during nearly four hours of discussion with her client, she agreed to the plea arrangement.

“Hopefully, this is an action in the best interests of the child,” Flanagan said.

Karina is currently living with her maternal grandparents in Japan. Garcia was granted full legal custody in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2008. He’s gone further than most people in his situation, said his attorney, James Sakar, and won legal custody from Japanese courts.

The problem, Sakar and Braden explained, is that the centuries-old Japanese civil legal system does not give those courts any enforcement powers.

Sakar said the particulars of Karina’s return to Wisconsin had not yet been worked out.

Braden, who has lobbied dozens of high-ranking officials in Washington, D.C., about the problem, said Monday’s deal was “almost there.” He said advocates for left-behind parents would have preferred a guilty plea and really would like to see U.S. authorities prosecute Japanese diplomatic officials and anyone else who assists noncustodial parents in taking children abroad.

“It’s a great step in the right direction,” he said.


UPDATE: Here’s what I’m hearing on my Facebook as feedback:

“A quick search on youtube came up with a great news report of her in cuffs as well

“Some of the Japanese media (like the Mainichi) didn’t bother mentioning her name while I heard Fuji pixled out her face.”

“TBS report says the mother is claiming domestic violence as the reason for the abduction.”

So then there’s this whole other dimension about how the Japanese press is going to encircle and protect their own, as has been mentioned here both above and before, I haven’t found any Japanese media which will call this event a “kidnapping”, despite the ruling by this American court. Yomiuri’s NNN TV has even blocked out her face and refused to mention her name at all as a felon:

Well, for the record, here is a picture of Inoue Eriko in all her glory, courtesy Sentinel Journal. Including handcuffs. Live with it, Japan — child abduction is a crime and those who engage in it are criminals, even if they are Japanese. Trying to reflexively make a victim out of a criminal just makes our media look biased and incongruous.


UPDATE TWO:  Convicted felon Inoue Emiko returns the child and gets released from the clink.  Bravo.  And of course, the Japanese media still refuses to use her name in the domestic press. Or even call what she did a crime. Check out the wording below: “arrested on suspicion of taking her 9-year-old daughter to Japan in violation of the father’s parental rights, the father’s lawyer said“. Those pesky lawyers and their allegations; never mind the conviction and sentencing by a judge. She abducts the kid, tries to game the USG by coming back to renew her Green Card, and after all that still has visitation rights in America. All right for some, isn’t it? Try getting this fair a deal in Japan. But again, fairness is not a highly-prized cultural conceit for Team Japanners. Now how about that biased and incongruous reportage.  As can be expected, the disingenuous slant is that the Japanese are the victims and sacrificers.  The Japanese article claims the daughter “wanted to live in Japan”, but once told of the situation, “went to America to save her mother” according to the very different headline.  What a trooper!  Especially after being put in this position by her irresponsible mother in the first place!


Japan woman freed in U.S. after returning daughter
The Yomiuri Shimbun, December 25, 2011, courtesy of AR

A Japanese woman has been released from custody in the United States as a result of a plea bargain after being arrested on suspicion of taking her 9-year-old daughter to Japan in violation of the father’s parental rights, the father’s lawyer said Saturday.

Based on the plea bargain, the 43-year-old woman from Hyogo Prefecture returned the daughter to the girl’s 39-year-old Nicaraguan father. The girl had been staying at the home of the woman’s parents in the prefecture.

The woman took the girl to Japan from the United States during divorce proceedings in a U.S. court. The court later granted the divorce and gave custody of the girl to the man.

According to lawyers for the man and the woman, the girl left Japan with her grandmother on Friday and was handed over to the man at a U.S. airport.

The girl said at first that she wanted to live in Japan. However, when she was told about the plea bargain, she understood her return to the United States would “save her mother,” the lawyers said.

The woman will continue to live in the United States and will have visitation rights, according to the lawyers.

The woman was arrested in the United States in April after the father filed a criminal complaint in the case. After realizing she faced a possible long prison sentence if found guilty, she agreed to the plea bargain in November, lawyers said.
(Dec. 25, 2011)





(2011年12月24日15時05分 読売新聞)


Thai flood victims getting 6-month visas into Japan to maintain Japan Inc.’s supply lines, then booted back home


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb

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Hello Blog. Interesting email from by Reader MD:

October 30, 2011

Hello Debito-san, I just found a highly interesting article on the MOFA now issuing 6-month work permits for Thai people to come and work in Japan in order to compensate for the supply-chain problems caused by the extensive floodings in Thailand. As you probably know a lot of Japanese companies now face said supply-chain problems because their Thailand-based production has come to an abrupt halt. The catch, all companies employing Thais for the above mentioned period (6m) have apparently to promise (?) that they send they will send the workers home once their visa runs out.

I only found references to the story in German so far but there should be something in English and possibly in Japanese too. Until now, here’s the story, more or less as reported, on my own English language blog with reference to the original source (German chamber of commerce in Japan):


Referential article in English:

The Japan Times, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011
Thai flood-idled to work here
Several thousand Thai workers at Japanese firms operating in Thailand will be allowed to work in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Friday, as companies shift their production in light of the impact of the massive floods in the Southeast Asian country.

Fujimura told a news conference that Japan’s special measures will remedy the supply chain disruptions caused by the floods, which have led to widespread crippling of industries.

The move comes as the floods have forced a number of major manufacturers, including Toyota Motor Corp., to suspend their local operations in Thailand.

Fujimura said the government is looking to accept thousands of Thai workers from about 30 firms for a fixed time frame of roughly six months.

Among the conditions the government will impose on the firms is to make sure the Thai workers return to their home country…

Full article at


COMMENT:  File this yet again under Japan Inc. having its cake and eating it too.  We wouldn’t want to have Japanese corporations losing out because of natural disaster overseas impeding our supply lines, now, would we?  (And as a petty but definitely related tangent, where is the Japanese media when you need them to criticize the Japanese “fly-jin” fleeing the country instead of staying behind to help Thailand recover?  They certainly did their bashing when NJ, and apparently only NJ, allegedly flew the coop post-Fukushima.)  So we’ll temporarily export the workers to Japan, have them keep up with the conveyer belts for the apparent honor of being extant in our safe, clean, modern society (while no doubt working cheaper than native Japanese, as usual), then boot them back as soon as we can so they cause no disruptions to our safe, clean, modern society (like we did our Brazilian cousins back in 2009 when they outlived their usefulness; we get to keep their investments anyway and need show no gratitude).

Good ole foreign workers.  Under Japan’s visa regime, they’re just widgets in the Grand Scheme.  Arudou Debito

The tug of war continues: Fukuoka High Court overrules Oita District Court that doubted, then affirmed, Oita Prefectural Govt’s denial of welfare benefits to superannuated NJ Permanent Resident


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Last November I mentioned in my Newsletter about this weird case of administrative exclusionism and atypical jurisprudence in Japan, thus:


16) Kyodo: Court overrules Oita Pref who tried to deny a 78-year-old NJ welfare benefits

Kyodo: A Japanese court repealed on Thursday a decision by Oita Prefecture in southwestern Japan not to examine a request from a 78-year-old Chinese woman to look into a decision by Oita City that rejected her application for welfare benefits.

A three-judge panel at the Oita District Court acted on a suit filed by the woman, who has obtained permanent residency status in Japan, against the Oita prefectural government decision that turned away the woman’s request, filed in February last year, to examine the Oita municipal government decision not to provide welfare benefits to her.

The prefectural government dismissed the woman’s request without examining it, saying she was not eligible to seek benefits because she does not have Japanese nationality.

In Thursday’s ruling, the district court said the prefectural government must review the municipal government decision in line with the woman’s request, and decide whether she should be given benefits.

Presiding Judge Kenji Kanamitsu brushed aside the prefectural government’s argument that the city’s decision not to provide her with benefits was a ”unilateral administrative action” against a foreigner who has no right to seek welfare benefits, and not an ”administrative decision” as she claimed, whose appropriateness can be reviewed under the administrative appeal law.

Judge Kanamitsu said the woman is ”obviously” eligible to ask the prefectural government to review the municipal government decision.

”An application for welfare benefits has been rejected, and it means the same to the applicants, regardless of their nationalities,” the judge said…


17) Mainichi: “NJ have no right to welfare payments”, rules Oita District Court two weeks later. Gee that was a quick kibosh.

After a half-month interlude of light and reason (as in September 30 to October 18), where it actually looked like a Japanese courtroom was actually going to be nice to somebody and rule against The State, another court has come along and put things back to normal:

Mainichi: The Oita District Court ruled on Oct. 18 that foreigners with the right to permanent residence but without Japanese citizenship are not entitled to welfare benefits, rejecting the claims of a 78-year-old Chinese woman who sued after being denied benefits by the Oita city government…

According to the ruling, the woman has Chinese nationality but was born in Japan and holds the right to permanent residence. In December 2008, the woman applied to the welfare office in Oita city for welfare payments, but was turned down with the reason that she had “a comfortable amount of money” in her savings.

The main issues of the trial became whether the woman held the right as a foreigner to receive welfare payments and whether her financial status justified her receiving aid…”

COMMENT: Gee, that was quick by Japanese judicial standards! I guess they know the value of putting the kibosh on something before the floodgates open: Can’t have all the goddamn foreigners expecting to have rights to something like our social welfare benefits, especially at an advanced age.


Then, as the clock continues to run out for this superannuated NJ, we now have another flip, fortunately in the more inclusive direction:


Court rules noncitizens are eligible for welfare
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 17, 2011), courtesy of lots of people

FUKUOKA–The Fukuoka High Court ruled Tuesday that permanent residents in in Japan with foreign nationalities are eligible to receive public welfare assistance, overturning a lower court ruling.

The high court accepted an appeal by a 79-year-old woman who is a permanent resident in Japan with Chinese nationality. She filed the lawsuit, claiming that the Oita city government illegally rejected her request for public welfare assistance.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Koga said in the ruling, “Foreign citizens with permanent residency [in Japan] are legally guaranteed the same status as Japanese citizens who receive the same treatment.”

The high court overturned the Oita District Court’s ruling and nullified the Oita city government’s decision not to grant the woman public welfare benefits.

According to a lawyer for the plaintiff, it is the nation’s first court ruling to present a legal basis for foreign permanent residents in Japan to receive public welfare benefits.

According to the ruling, the woman applied for the public welfare at the Oita city government in December 2008, but the city government rejected her request.

The point at issue in the lawsuit was whether the Daily Life Protection Law can be applied to noncitizens.

Article 1 of the law limits recipients to Japanese citizens. As for non-Japanese residents, each local government has made respective judgments based on a 1954 notice issued by the then Health and Welfare Ministry, which said the law would be applied with some modification.

Though there are many foreign permanent residents in Japan who receive public welfare benefits, their eligibility has not been legally guaranteed.

The high court ruling noted Diet deliberations in 1981 on ratifying the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which stipulates that countries “shall accord to refugees within their territories treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals.”

At the time, the Diet presented a view that Japan would not need to revise the Daily Life Protection Law to eliminate nationality clauses in it because the government has already been applying the law with necessary modifications.

The high court judged that the Japanese government had at that moment become obliged under international law to provide public welfare assistance to foreign residents in the country.

The high court also pointed out that the central government in 1990 limited the range of noncitizen recipients to those with permanent resident status in terms of management of the public welfare system.




(2011年11月16日 読売新聞)







大分・生活保護訴訟:永住外国人も対象 福岡高裁、法的根拠認める判決
毎日新聞 2011年11月16日 東京朝刊







COMMENT: Okay, that’s good news and a good precedent. Glad they took it away from the denizens of Oita, who clearly started saying “Chotto…” to the petty bureaucrats, then backtracked within two weeks as the wagons encircled to rule against the alleged foreigner (I would like to hear more about her, i.e., if she is in fact a Zainichi or not — there is a difference between ippan eijuusha and tokubetsu eijuusha, after all, and that will be noted by any legal exceptionalists who want to stop further positive precedent building). But the fact that she’s born here, raised here, speaks Japanese as her native language, and is approaching eighty years of age, yet STILL was denied benefits by heartless bureaucrats, backed up by the judiciary, is more than a bit scary. If this gets appealed to the Supreme Court (after all, the GOJ is a sore loser in court), I hope the judges are in a good mood when they start deliberating. Maybe we should send them sweets. Arudou Debito Dejima Award to Japan Rugby Football Union, blaming J losses on “too many foreign players”, including naturalized former NJ


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  Allow me to present a very rare and coveted award (this is only the fifth one in’s history) that only gives out to egregious racists and offenders of the sensibilities.  To people who are basically beyond any sort of appeal to logic or reason regarding treating other humans as equal and dignified human beings:  A Dejima Award.  And once again (this is the third time) it goes to that ever-encouraged admixture of bastion nationalism and Team-Japan-ism:  A Japanese sports league.  One that blames Japan’s apparently poor showing in rugby on the foreigners (apparently even those “foreigners” who are naturalized Japanese citizens). Read the article, then I’ll comment further:


Kirwan under fire for using too many foreign-born players
JAPAN TODAY, SPORTS OCT. 30, 2011, Courtesy of Yokohama John

TOKYO — All Blacks legend John Kirwan, due to quit as Japan coach after the Brave Blossoms’ disappointment at the rugby World Cup, came under fire Saturday for his use of foreign-born players.

The criticism came at a board meeting of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) which reviewed the World Cup in New Zealand, the union’s chairman Tatsuzo Yabe said.

Japan finished bottom of Pool A with three defeats—by eventual World Cup winners New Zealand, runners-up France and Tonga—and a draw with Canada.

“We talked about how our scrum went or how our breakdown went. We also talked about our mental side,” Yabe said. “Some argued that we had too many foreigners.”

Kirwan picked a record 10 foreign-born players, half of whom have obtained Japanese nationality, for his World Cup squad. The previous highest was seven, also selected by Kirwan for the 2007 World Cup in France.

He used seven of them in the starting line-up against Canada in an effort to break Japan’s World Cup winless streak, which dates back to their 52-8 victory over Zimbabwe 20 years ago. In 2007, Japan also drew with Canada.

Kirwan has insisted Japan must use foreigners to improve their results before 2019 when they host the World Cup.

“Rugby is a world sport, we accept everyone. It’s not political,” he said before the New Zealand tournament.

Earlier this month, the 46-year-old said he would not seek a new contract with Japan when his current five-year deal expires in December.

Former Australia coach Eddie Jones, who led the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final, which they lost to England, has been mentioned by some JRFU executives as a candidate to replace Kirwan, according to media reports.

Jones now coaches Japan Top-14 side Suntory Sungoliath.

Yabe said no specific name was named at the board meeting as Kirwan’s successor but they had set up a committee to choose the new coach and staff, hopefully by the end of this year.

“We noted the good things JK (Kirwan) has done. But the results are what matter,” he said. “JK said he would keep watching Japanese rugby beyond December. We will appreciate that.”


COMMENT: One comment from the Japan Today site that resonated with me in its succinct truthiness: “They needed a reason that they didn’t reach their highly unlikely expectations for the World Cup. Stating that their sights were set too high wouldn’t work, and neither would saying they just weren’t good enough. But blaming it about people who are not “pure” Japanese in the team… there’s an excuse all the people high up in the hierarchies can agree with.”

Just so. But in any case, savor just how stoneheaded this is. Like a fine wine, the flavor of this incident of clear and public racist scapegoating keeps unfolding on the tongue and in the mind, leading to a lingering despair for the future social dynamic of Japanese society.  No doubt for many people this will become SITYS cannon fodder for justifying a negative disposition towards Japan, and an understanding why it’s in decline. Not for me. I just give the Japan Rugby Football Union a golden razzie in the form of The Dejima Award. And create a permanent record for others to set their mental compasses by. Arudou Debito

Japan Times: Colin Jones on schizophrenic J constitution regarding civil and human rights of NJ residents


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. The Japan Times Community Page does it again! Legal scholar Colin P. A. Jones on the loopholes and contradictions within the Japanese postwar Constitution, how they came about, and what they mean in practice in terms of NJ (and Japanese) civil and human rights. This is one of the most enlightening pieces I’ve read all year, connecting a lot of dots and answering questions I’ve had building up for years. What are you waiting for? Read it! Several times. Until it sinks in. Arudou Debito


The Japan Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011
Schizophrenic Constitution leaves foreigners’ rights mired in confusion

… After Japan’s defeat in 1945, the country was occupied by American military authorities who, over the space of a week in early 1946, prepared the first draft of the current Constitution. The Americans were adamant that the new charter should unequivocally state that sovereignty rested with the people, not the Emperor.

This was nothing short of revolutionary; popular sovereignty was a concept that amounted to lese majeste for many Japanese, who had been raised on prewar propaganda perpetuating the idea of Japan as a national family headed by an emperor whose lineage could be traced directly back to the founding deities…

Of course, the real Pandora’s box of constitutional paradoxes involves the rights of non-Japanese […]. The first paradox is presented by Chapter 3 of the charter, which in Japanese is titled “Rights and Duties of the Japanese People.” The clear linkage of rights to citizenship is missing from the official English version; to read it properly, you need to understand that where it says “the people,” the Japanese term used is kokumin, which clearly refers to Japanese nationals. In some places the term used is “person,” which lacks any nuances of citizenship, but it still appears in a chapter whose title appears to limit all rights to citizens.

This subtle but important discrepancy is the result of what historian John Dower calls “language games” on the part of the Japanese government team when it rendered the Americans’ English draft into Japanese. This form of passive resistance, together with another modification that the Americans inexplicably accepted (the elimination of “nationality” as a prohibited category of discrimination under the equal protection provisions of Article 14), has resulted in a Constitution that seems schizophrenic insofar as it speaks of defining equality and “fundamental human rights” as being conditioned on nationality rather than being human.

Granted, the Japanese were understandably trying to avoid being foisted with a charter that on its face might have entitled anyone just getting off a plane to demand the right to vote, but the result is a Constitution that is extremely vague as to the rights of non-Japanese, even those born and raised in the country.

So what rights do foreign residents have under the Constitution? Well, according to the Supreme Court, they are entitled to all the same rights as Japanese people, except for those which by their nature are only to be enjoyed by Japanese people. Does that help?…

Another result of the uncertainty over the rights of foreigners is that they are apparently less free to leave the country than Japanese people. When I made a similar statement in a past article, a reader expressed his disappointment that The Japan Times was allowing me to perpetuate misinformation, since it is well established in treatises that foreigners in Japan are free to leave. This is true, of course, if you don’t care about coming back. But that is like talking about the right to eat and drink as though it has nothing to do with the right to use the toilet. For non-Japanese who have businesses, homes and families in this country, however, just the right to leave does not count for much if it only means a one-way trip.

Take the case of Kathleen Morikawa, an American resident in Japan who was fined for refusing to be fingerprinted as part of the alien registration process of days gone by. When she applied for a re-entry permit for a short trip to South Korea, her application was denied and she sought recourse in the courts. In 1992 the Supreme Court declared that foreigners had no constitutional right to enter or re-enter Japan, and that the Justice Ministry’s refusal to issue a re-entry permit was an acceptable exercise of administrative discretion in light of her refusal to be fingerprinted.

“Ignore the law and pay the price” is a fair comment here, but what I find noteworthy about the Morikawa case is that it did not seem to matter that she had a Japanese spouse and Japanese children. That the Justice Ministry can punitively strip Japanese nationals of their ability to travel or even live with a family member would seem to be at least as important constitutionally as whatever rights foreigners may or may not have.

The fact that many of us may be willing to live in Japan essentially at the sufferance of the government does not mean that our Japanese spouses, children and other kin should not have their own independent constitutionally protected rights to a family life free from arbitrary bureaucratic caprice. Article 13 of the Constitution refers to a right to the “pursuit of happiness,” but meaningful court precedents tying this provision to a right to family life are thin on the ground.

Full article at

Japan Times: More NPA behavioral oddities re alleged murders of Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  Speaking of odd Japanese police behavior towards NJ in criminal cases:  We’ve talked about the Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases here on before.  Fortunately, these cases have gathered traction thanks to caring family members, and tenacious reporters who don’t accept the NPA’s line that both of these deaths of NJ were mere accidents (while refusing to cooperate promptly and clearly on autopsy reports).  I have argued before that Japanese justice operates on a different (and subordinate) track for NJ victims of Japanese crime (i.e., Japanese perps get off the hook, foreign perps get thrown the book).  These articles in the Japan Times help to fortify that case (not to mention further illustrate how the USG’s missions abroad are woefully inadequate in providing service and protections to their own citizens).  Arudou Debito


Japan Times, Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2011
Kang family takes fight for justice to Tokyo (excerpt)
Father of young Korean-American who died in murky circumstances in Kabuki-cho feels let down by both the police and U.S. Embassy
By SIMON SCOTT, courtesy of the author

…Sung Won, the father of Hoon “Scott” Kang, the Korean-American tourist who died in mysterious circumstances in Shinjuku last year, arrived in Tokyo this week to continue his fight to seek justice for his son…

The Kang family is upset by the news that the official investigation into their son’s death has now been closed after the police concluded his death was accidental.

“I feel very angry and heartbroken,” says Scott’s father.

The Kangs and their supporters strongly reject the police finding of accidental death and want to see the case re-opened. They are also deeply unhappy with the way the Japanese police carried out the investigation and their failure to inform the family when they closed the case.

“Not only did they not tell my family, but we heard the news five months late. I was furious,” Kang says.

Nineteen-year-old Scott Kang was found lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood in the early hours of Aug. 26, 2010, in the sixth-floor stairwell of Collins Building 15, an eight-story high-rise of small hostess bars and clubs located near Shinjuku City Hall in Kabuki-cho. He remained in a coma for five days before dying of his injuries, his mother by his side, at the Kokuritsu Kokusai Iryo Kenkyu Center in Shinjuku.

The police investigation into his death was officially closed on Feb. 22, but the family was not informed of the fact until July — five months later…

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police say they notified the consular section of the American Embassy in Tokyo that the investigation had been closed on Feb. 22, and thought the information would be passed on to the Kang family.

But according to Mr. Kang, he received no communication from the U.S. authorities about the investigation’s closure until early July when an officer from the U.S. State Department telephoned.

Kang says that the failure of the embassy to pass on such critical information in a timely fashion shows the embassy is not taking the case seriously. “I feel the U.S. Embassy acted as if Scott was not a U.S. citizen.”…

The Kang family don’t just believe the police’s decision to close the investigation into Scott’s death was premature; they also think the police are withholding critical evidence from them that could prove Scott’s death was not accidental. One such piece of evidence is the autopsy report.

When Mr. Kang and Wozniak met with the Shinjuku police in October they requested a copy of the autopsy report into Scott’s death, but the police refused…

The refusal by police to give the next-of-kin of a deceased person a copy of the autopsy is common in Japan, but it is an approach that has attracted increasing criticism over the years. No one is more familiar with the difficulty of getting the police to release an autopsy than 50-year-old U.S. citizen and Japan resident Charles Lacey.

Lacey’s younger brother, Matthew Lacey, tragically died in Fukuoka in 2004 in suspicious circumstances. On Aug. 17 of that year, while Charles was staying in New York, he got a call from the Fukuoka Police informing him that they had found his brother’s body at the apartment where he lived and that he had died from dehydration and diarrhea…

Despite the unusual circumstances of his brother’s death, Lacey says the police initially had no plans to perform an autopsy, and it was only at his own behest that they reluctantly agreed to carry one out.

After Charles signed the necessary papers, an autopsy was performed on Aug. 19, two days after he was told of his brother’s death, at Kyushu University Hospital. Later the police told Charles that the autopsy showed a 20-cm fracture on his brother’s skull, and that based on this, their determination of cause of death had changed from death by sickness to an accident…

Lacey added that in his home country, it is standard procedure for a copy of the autopsy to be given to the next-of-kin of a deceased person when requested. In Japan, as Lacey discovered, things are not so simple, and it took him almost three years to get a copy of the report.

Full article at


Earlier article by the same author:

The Japan Times Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Family slams stalled probe into Kabuki-cho death
Questions linger nine months after teenage American tourist was found unconscious in a Shinjuku stairwell
By SIMON SCOTT, courtesy of the author

Nine months after their only son, Hoon “Scott” Kang, a Korean-American tourist, died from severe head injuries sustained in the stairwell of a building in Kabuki-cho, his family and friends are still no closer to understanding how he died.

Although the Shinjuku police have officially opened an investigation into Scott’s death, the family has been told only that the investigation is “not complete.”

Rest of the article at


Earlier article on Matthew Lacey Case, by Eric Johnston:

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007
U.S. man on quest to find cause of brother’s death (excerpt)
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer, courtesy of the author

OSAKA — Charles Lacey’s brother died mysteriously 2 1/2 years ago in Fukuoka and he’s still trying to learn the cause.

He believes police bungled the investigation, wrongly concluded the death was due to an accident and are, like prosecutors, purposely withholding key information that could suggest foul play…

At the time, the family was told by police the preliminary cause of death was thought to be severe diarrhea and dehydration. Feces stains had been found on the toilet seat and the carpet, and Matt, who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, had recently received a prescription to treat diarrhea. Robbery did not appear to be a motive, as Japanese and U.S. currency worth nearly $1,000 was found in plain view.

But once the Lacey brothers arrived in Fukuoka, the cops changed their story. The autopsy had revealed a 20-cm crack in Matt’s skull, and “cerebral hemorrhage” was now listed as the cause of death.

The English translation of the postmortem, which was prepared by Fukuoka police and not by the doctor who performed the exam, attributed the death to an “unknown external cause” and “it is suspected the subject was hit on the head.”

To the family’s surprise, foul play was ruled out.

“We were told by police that Matt must have fallen down in the kitchen, striking his head, and that the fall resulted in the skull fracture, despite the fact there were no signs in the kitchen of a fall,” Lacey said. “Our family felt something was wrong and that the police weren’t doing their job. There were too many unanswered questions to believe this was just an accident, as the police wanted us to believe.”…

Rest of the article at

Suraj Case of police brutality and death during Immigration deportation in Japan Times Nov 1, 2011


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Sorry to take a day or two to get to this. Here we have more reported (thanks to assiduous folks at the Community Page at the Japan Times) on the Suraj Case, a mysteriously underinvestigated case we’ve mentioned here before of police brutality and death of an African during deportation. What gets me is that even some of the veto gates at the Japan Times, according to the editor of this article on his facebook entry, took issue with the use of the word “brutal” in the headline; given what finally came to light regarding the condition of Mr. Suraj’s corpse below, “brutal” is obviously appropriate. And it would not have come to light at all had not Mr. Suraj’s widow and these reporters not pursued this case with such tenacity. Keep it up, Japan Times. Who else in a milquetoast Japanese media that is generally unsympathetic to NJ issues would give a toss? Arudou Debito


The Japan Times Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

PHOTO CAPTION: Immigration policy on trial: Abubakar Awudu Suraj died after being restrained by immigration officers with hand and ankle cuffs, a rope, four plastic restraints and a towel gag before a flight to Cairo from Narita airport. Below: An illustrated note that Suraj passed to his wife during her visit to an immigration center during one of his periods in detention. COURTESY OF ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ’S WIDOW

Justice stalled in brutal death of deportee
Autopsy suggests immigration officers used excessive force in restraining Ghanaian
Courtesy, thanks to lots of people

Abubakar Awudu Suraj had been in Japan for over two decades when immigration authorities detained him in May 2009. The Ghanaian was told in Yokohama of his deportation to Ghana at 9:15 a.m. on March 22 last year. Six hours later he was dead, allegedly after being excessively restrained by guards.

Jimmy Mubenga also died last year while being held down by three private security guards before takeoff on a British Airways flight from London to Angola. The father of five had lost his appeal to stay in the U.K. and was being deported. Mubenga put up a struggle and died after the guards sat on him for 10 minutes, say witnesses.

But the details of the deportations of two men from rich countries back to their native Africa, and their aftermath, are strikingly different. Mubenga’s death is already the subject of a vigorous police inquiry, front-page stories and an investigation by The Guardian newspaper. The case has been discussed in Parliament, where security minister Baroness Neville-Jones called it “extraordinarily regrettable.”

Suraj has received no such honors. The 45-year-old’s case has largely been ignored in the Japanese media and no politician has answered for his death. An investigation by Chiba prosecutors appears to have stalled. There has been no explanation or apology from the authorities.

His Japanese wife, who had shared a life with him for 22 years, was not even aware he was being deported. She was given no explanation when she identified his body later that day. His body was not returned to her for nearly three months. Supporters believe he put up a struggle because he wanted to tell his wife he was being sent home.

An autopsy report seen in a court document notes abrasions to his face, internal bleeding of muscles on the neck, back, abdomen and upper arm, along with leakage of blood around the eyes, blood congestion in some organs, and dark red blood in the heart. Yet the report bizarrely concluded that the cause of death is “unknown.”

Any movement in the Suraj case is largely down to his wife, who wants to remain anonymous. She won a lawsuit against the Justice Ministry, which oversees immigration issues, demanding it disclose documents related to his death. The documents were finally released in May, more than a year after he died…

Rest at

UPDATE: — Economist (London) reports on Suraj Case, and NPA not allowing journalists to investigate, courtesy CR. Debito

Justice in Japan
An ugly decision
The Economist Nov 4th 2011, 8:05 by K.N.C.

BOUND and gagged, a man dies in the custody of immigration officers while being forcibly deported. The police investigate slowly. Prosecutors mull the case. The wheels of justice barely turn.

Now, it looks like the case will be dropped completely—and a man’s death go unpunished. Prosecutors in Chiba prefecture, where Tokyo’s Narita airport is located, have decided not to indict the ten officers who carried Abubakar Awudu Suraj’s unconscious body onto an Air Egypt flight in March 2010 before he was declared dead, according to a new report in the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Two official autopsies at the time could not determine the cause of death, though Mr Suraj’s widow saw injuries to his face when she identified the body. A new autopsy however purports to reveal that he had suffered heart disease and says the cause of his death was illness.

This is hard to swallow at face value. Three days after the incident an immigration official told Mr Suraj’s widow “It is a sorry thing that we have done.” Officialdom dragged its heels to such a degree that she had to file criminal charges and later civil charges. The kind of gag that was used to restrain him is prohibited, though its use is said to be commonplace.

Mr Suraj was a Ghanaian national who arrived in Japan in 1988, learned the language, worked odd jobs and married a Japanese woman. He was arrested for overstaying his visa and the courts didn’t accept his requests to remain. The March 2010 deportation was the immigration bureau’s second attempt—after Mr Suraj made such a rumpus the first time round that it had to be stopped. So perhaps officers used a bit of extra force to make sure it didn’t fail.

It is an ugly situation. The authorities surely didn’t mean for Mr Suraj to die in custody. But since he did, the people responsible should be held legally accountable. The Chiba prosecutors, by suggesting they may drop the case, look as complicit as the ten officers themselves.

Addendum, 5 November 2011: When The Economist requested an interview with the Chiba prosecutor’s office, the answer was a firm no. An employee said that interviews are only allowed for members of the prosecutors’ “Kisha Club,” the quasi-formal groups that control the flow of news to major Japanese news organisations (and which tend to turn journalists into stenographers for officialdom, by neutering independent reporting). The employee said that the only time The Economist can prosecutors questions is during an annual “press registration”—whose application deadline is long past. Must every Japanese institution be designed to keep out outsiders?


RE: Civil suit mentioned above:

Japan’s immigration policy
Gone but not forgotten
The Economist Aug 5th 2011, 9:45 by K.N.C. | TOKYO

WRISTS cuffed, ankles bound and with a rolled towel shoved in his mouth, Abubakar Awudu Suraj died in the custody of nine Japanese immigration officers on March 22nd 2010 while being deported to Ghana for overstaying his visa. Since then his widow and friends have sought information—and justice—from the authorities, but have been ignored. On August 5th 2011 they filed a civil suit against the government.

The Chiba prefectural prosecutors have received the results of an investigation but have yet to act. None of the officers have been sanctioned at all, explains Koichi Kodama, a lawyer working on Mr Suraj’s case. He argues that the authorities are trying to cover up misdeeds. For example, restraining a person by using ankles cuffs and a towel is not permitted, he says. And in a videotape of the botched deportation, the supervisor tells the cameraman to stop filming as things get hot, says Mr Kodama.

The civil suit seeks compensation of ¥136m (around $1.5m) from the government for wrongful death. But the real motivation is to hold the authorities to account, explains Mr Suraj’s widow. “I want to reveal the truth without concealing anything,” she says. “They were carrying a human being. I don’t understand why they had to treat him like that. I feel very powerless,” she says.

The Japanese mainstream media have largely ignored the case. (We reported it May 2010 and followed up in December 2010.) The head of the immigration bureau left out unflattering facts about his officers’ conduct when he was called to the Diet (parliament) to explain what happened. A criminal case was filed as well, naming the officers involved, but it has barely budged on the court’s docket. The ministry of justice looks hampered by rather obvious conflicts of interest. The ministry’s agents hold the evidence of wrongdoing that their colleagues are alleged to have committed. The ministry stands responsible for penalising officials within its own ranks.

One small change is that since Mr Suraj’s death, there apparently have not been any other forced deportations. But that only sharpens the question. As long as Mr Suraj’s case is ignored by officialdom, it is Japan’s institutions of justice that fall under suspicion. Every day that the officers who were present when Mr Suraj died don their uniforms and walk into their offices is another day in which the Japanese state looks complicit in a cover-up.

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 45 Nov 1, 2011: “The costly fallout of tatemae and Japan’s culture of deceit”


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

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Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011
The costly fallout of tatemae and Japan’s culture of deceit
By ARUDOU Debito

There is an axiom in Japanese: uso mo hōben — “lying is also a means to an end.” It sums up the general attitude in Japan of tolerance of — even justification for — not telling the truth. (sources here and here)

First — defining “telling the truth” as divulging the truth (not a lie), the whole truth (full disclosure) and nothing but the truth (uncompounded with lies) — consider how lies are deployed in everyday personal interactions.

Let’s start with good old tatemae (charitably translated as “pretense”). By basically saying something you think the listener wants to hear, tatemae is, essentially, lying. That becomes clearer when the term is contrasted with its antonym, honne, one’s “true feelings and intentions.”

Tatemae, however, goes beyond the “little white lie,” as it is often justified less by the fact you have avoided hurting your listener’s feelings, more by what you have gained from the nondisclosure.

But what if you disclose your true feelings? That’s often seen negatively, as baka shōjiki (“stupidly honest”): imprudent, naive, even immature. Skillful lying is thus commendable — it’s what adults in society learn to do.

Now extrapolate. What becomes of a society that sees lying as a justifiably institutionalized practice? Things break down. If everyone is expected to lie, who or what can you trust?

Consider law enforcement. Japan’s lack of even the expectation of full disclosure means, for example, there is little right to know your accuser (e.g., in bullying cases). In criminal procedure, the prosecution controls the flow of information to the judge (right down to what evidence is admissible). And that’s before we get into how secretive and deceptive police interrogations are infamous for being. (source here)

Consider jurisprudence. Witnesses are expected to lie to such an extent that Japan’s perjury laws are weak and unenforceable. Civil court disputes (try going through, for example, a divorce) often devolve into one-upmanship lying matches, flippantly dismissed as “he-said, she-said” (mizukake-ron). And judges, as seen in the Valentine case (Zeit Gist, Aug. 14, 2007), will assume an eyewitness is being untruthful simply based on his/her attributes — in this case because the witness was foreign like the plaintiff.

Consider administrative procedure. Official documents and public responses attach organizational affiliations but few actual names for accountability. Those official pronouncements, as I’m sure many readers know due to arbitrary Immigration decisions, often fall under bureaucratic “discretion” (sairyō), with little if any right of appeal. And if you need further convincing, just look at the loopholes built into Japan’s Freedom of Information Act.

All this undermines trust of public authority. Again, if bureaucrats (like everyone else) are not expected to fully disclose, society gets a procuracy brazenly ducking responsibility wherever possible through vague directives, masked intentions and obfuscation.

This is true to some degree of all bureaucracies, but the problem in Japan is that this nondisclosure goes relatively unpunished. Our media watchdogs, entrusted with upholding public accountability, often get distracted or corrupted by editorial or press club conceits. Or, giving reporters the benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to know which lyin’ rat to pounce on first when there are so many. Or journalists themselves engage in barely researched, unscientific or sensationalistic reporting, undermining their trustworthiness as information sources.

Public trust, once lost, is hard to regain. In such a climate, even if the government does tell the truth, people may still disbelieve it. Take, for example, the Environment Ministry’s recent strong-arming of regional waste management centers to process Tohoku disaster ruins: Many doubt government claims that radioactive rubble will not proliferate nationwide, fanning fears that the nuclear power industry is trying to make itself less culpable for concentrated radiation poisoning by irradiating everyone (see!

Apologists would say (and they do) that lying is what everyone in positions of power does worldwide, since power itself corrupts. But there is the matter of degree, and in Japan there is scant reward for telling the truth — and ineffective laws to protect whistle-blowers. It took a brave foreign CEO at Olympus Corp. to come out recently about corporate malfeasance; he was promptly sacked, reportedly due to his incompatibility with “traditional Japanese practices.” Yes, quite so.

This tradition of lying has a long history. The Japanese Empire’s deception about its treatment of prisoners of war and noncombatants under the Geneva Conventions (e.g., the Bataan Death March, medical experiments under Unit 731), not to mention lying to its own civilians about how they would be treated if captured by the Allies, led to some of the most horrifying mass murder-suicides of Japanese, dehumanizing reprisals by their enemies, and war without mercy in World War II’s Pacific Theater.

Suppressing those historical records, thanks to cowardice among Japan’s publishers, reinforced by a general lack of “obligation to the truth,” has enabled a clique of revisionists to deny responsibility for Japan’s past atrocities, alienating it from its neighbors in a globalizing world.

Even today, in light of Fukushima, Japan’s development into a modern and democratic society seems to have barely scratched the surface of this culture of deceit. Government omerta and omission kept the nation ignorant about the most basic facts — including reactor meltdowns — for months!

Let me illustrate the effects of socially accepted lying another way: What is considered the most untrustworthy of professions? Politics, of course. Because politicians are seen as personalities who, for their own survival, appeal to people by saying what they want to hear, regardless of their own true feelings.

That is precisely what tatemae does to Japanese society. It makes everyone into a politician, changing the truth to suit their audience, garner support or deflect criticism and responsibility.

Again, uso mo hoben: As long as you accomplish your goals, lying is a means to an end. The incentives in Japan are clear. Few will tell the truth if they will be punished for doing so, moreover rarely punished for not doing so.

No doubt a culturally relativistic observer would attempt to justify this destructive dynamic by citing red herrings and excuses (themselves tatemae) such as “conflict avoidance,” “maintaining group harmony,” “saving face,” or whatever. Regardless, the awful truth is: “We Japanese don’t lie. We just don’t tell the truth.”

This is not sustainable. Post-Fukushima Japan must realize that public acceptance of lying got us into this radioactive mess in the first place.

For radiation has no media cycle. It lingers and poisons the land and food chain. Statistics may be obfuscated or suppressed as usual. But radiation’s half-life is longer than the typical attention span or sustainable degree of public outrage.

As the public — possibly worldwide — sickens over time, the truth will leak out.

Debito Arudou’s novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale ( Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Twitter @arudoudebito. Send comments on this issue to
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011


— UPDATE: On a more personal note of thanks, I see that as of Midnight November 5, 2011, this column is in its fifth day after release still placing in the top ten “most read stories” on the Japan Times website (go to the story, look down the right-hand column at the Poll, and click on the upper tab that reads “Most read stories”). I think, other than my column last year on the JET Programme, this is the first time one of my columns has been read this much this long. I want to thank everyone for reading! Debito

Have Your Say: Letters to the Editor re my Oct 4 2011 Japan Times JBC column, “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action”


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Two positive letters were printed in the Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY column, regarding my October 4, 2011 column, “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action“:

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011
Ganbatte and gaman stifle debate, hinder recovery

Nuclear debate discouraged (excerpt)

Re: “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action” by Debito Arudou (Just Be Cause, Oct. 4):

I was wondering when such an article would show up in the newspapers. Thank you for finally commenting on some of the finer workings of how the triple disaster is being dealt with in Japan.

Like any event on this scale, the catastrophe has brought out the best and worst in Japanese culture. While one cannot help but admire the stoicism, calmness and composure in dealing with the events in March, the lack of discussion about the future of nuclear energy, food safety and lessons learnt is shocking.

For non-Japanese it is difficult to follow the social workings in Japan. Concepts such as ganbatte and gaman, which are raised by the author, play an important part in discouraging necessary debate. Also, the Japanese social convention of considering the expectations and feelings of others suppresses discussion….

Rest of the letters at: