Tokyo Metro Govt issues manual for J employers hiring NJ employees: Lose the “Staring Big Brother” stickers, please!


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Hi Blog. Reader JF found this sticker up in Ikebukuro a few weeks ago:


Issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Youth and Safety Policy Division, it says that the employer of this establishment will not hire illegal foreign workers.  The slogan rimming above says, “Office declaring its promotion of the proper employment of foreigners”, complete with The Staring Eyes of Big Brother that probe all souls for criminal intent, sorta thing.  Like this one, snapped in Tamagawa last September:

(which says, “We won’t overlook crime!  If you see anyone suspicious, call the cops!”)

JF comments:  “I sort of see what they are trying to say with it, but I still think this sticker is bad style and puts all of us in a bad light. Suggesting yet again that many foreigners work illegally, while the actual percentage is probably tiny.”

It is, the number of so-called “illegal foreigners” long since peaking in 1993 and continuing to drop, despite police propaganda notices claiming the contrary (see for example here and here).

JF did a bit more searching about the origin of the stickers, and discovered a downloadable manual directed at employers about how to hire foreign workers legally:

Here’s the cover:


Entitled “Gaikokujin Roudousha Koyou Manyuaru” (Hiring Manual for Foreign Workers), you can download it from at

It opens reasonably well, with the first sentence in the preface (page 1) stating that illegal overstaying foreign workers aren’t just a cause of the worsening of public safety (yes, that old chestnut again), but they also have human rights, and influence the economic competitiveness of Japan.  It talks about the five-year goal of halving the number of illegal overstayers starting from 2003, and how that did indeed succeed, but there are still about 70,000 illegal foreigners still extant, with about 70% of them entering the country with the goal of working illegally (I don’t know how they determined that without installing a “mental goal detector” at the airport, but anyway…).  It also talks about the change in policy sloganing away from “strengthening policy against illegal foreign labor” in 2003 to the promotion of “proper employment of foreign workers” in 2009 and 2010; okay, that’s a bit better.

The manual defines “illegal labor” on page 3, and the new immigration procedures of 2012 on page 2 — with very clear outlines of what employers should check to make sure everything is legal (the Zairyuu Kaado (ZRK), the replacement for the old Gaitousho), and what criminal fines and penalties might happen if they don’t.  Page 4 describes what is on the ZRK, who gets it and who doesn’t, and what types of visas in particular should be checked for work status.  Page 5 tells the employer how to read official documents and stamps, and page 6 elaborates on how to spot forgeries.  There’s even a GOJ website the employer can use to verify details on said NJ employee, with a surprising amount of technical detail on how the ZRK is coded (see here and here) discussed on page 7.  The manual continues on in that vein for a couple more pages, essentially telling the employer how to read a ZRK (or old remaining Gaitousho) and visa stamps like an Immigration official.  Pages 12 and 13 talk about visa regimes and what times of work fall into each, and 14-15 offer more warnings to employers about not following the rules.  The book concludes with how to treat longer-term NJ, and offers contact numbers for questions.

COMMENT:  I welcome more thoughtful comments from other Readers, but I think this manual (overlooking the “Staring Big Brother” stickers; albeit that may just be a cultural conceit of mine) is a good thing.  For one reason, it’s inevitable:  Employers have to be told the rules clearly and the punishments for not following them (as opposed to the NJ alone getting punished for overstaying, with little to no penalty for the employer — who often wants or forces NJ to overstay in order to put them in a weaker wage bargaining position); let’s hope employer punishments are “properly” enforced in future.  For another, the illustrations are less racialized than usual, to the point where it is unclear who is “Japanese” and who is “foreign” on page 16.  Good.  Definitely progress, compared to this.

My only misgiving is that this feels like a training manual for how to operate a complicated piece of consumer electronics, and for that reason is dehumanizing.  It also might deter people from hiring NJ if things are this potentially mendoukusai.   That said, I’m not sure in what other way that information could have been transmitted; links to better-executed foreign employment manuals for other countries welcome in the Comment Section.  What do others think?  Arudou Debito

11 comments on “Tokyo Metro Govt issues manual for J employers hiring NJ employees: Lose the “Staring Big Brother” stickers, please!

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    Yes, it’s a step in the right direction (putting resposibility back on the employer and actually explaining how visas work).
    I can’t say I don’t like the cover artwork (still “bignosing”, but I guess the individuals aren’t being compared to a “normal” – i.e. “Japanese-looking” – human), and I wholeheartedly agree with your misgivings about the “Big Brother” eyes (which, I have heard, were designed by Ishihara’s artist son)

  • I think companies need more training on the hiring and employment of their foreign workers. Not just the legal requirements to satisfy the Japanese government. I have worked in one of Watami’s Food Processing Plants for more than two years. While I applaud my employer for opening up positions to legal foreign residents, it is far from a color free environment. I return home from Watami every day exhausted not by the intensity of the labor but the mental exhaustion of working with xenophobic people and dealing with patroniziing racism almost every hour of my shift. I was trained on pretty much everything until 6 month ago and when some management changed, somebody decided that foreign people might not be smart enough to grasp some of the new procedures so I havent been trained on shit since. Embarassing being there 2 years and now going back and asking somebody there for a month where something is or how to operate something. Employers need to be trained to build inclusive and supportive workplaces which mean more productivity and higher profits.

  • “… links to better-executed foreign employment manuals for other countries welcome…”

    Here is the UK’s:

    Starts off:
    “..It is illegal to employ someone who is not allowed to work in the UK. As an employer, you have a duty to check potential employees’ documents, before you employ them, to ensure they have the right to work in the UK. This will enable you to establish a statutory (legal) excuse against having to pay a penalty if we find you are employing an illegal worker. You can find full details of the checking process in the guidance booklet for employers on the right side of this page…..”

    And then makes clear:

    “..You will not have an excuse if you knowingly employ an illegal worker, even if you carry out the correct checks before or during their employment.

    If you do not carry out these checks and are found employing an illegal worker, we will take tough action against you. You would be fined up to £10,000 for each illegal worker, or face up to 2 years in prison…”

    Transparency is all that is needed. So, at least the GoJ is going in the right direction. But, only if enforcement is carried out, and without victimisation.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    It’s kind of like poking a pig in the hole. The sticker in the first photo is odd in two respects. First, it is promoted by the “Youth and Safety Policy Division,” which seems off beat from labor and employment. What does this section have anything to do with labor policy? “Staring Big Brother” face sends us a sub-liminal message that out-of-status foreigners will likely assault young people??? Is this the reason why the staring face looks like ubiquitous “Neighborhood Watch” sign you see in residential areas?

    And second, the fact that the local government promotes employer-training means that there is no state/national law to ban employers from hiring “illegal” foreigners in Japan. The message in the sticker clearly gives us an assumption that it is ‘generally’ ok for employers to hire foreigners regardless of their status. This is pointless since 1) employers are not mandated to join in the local government’s campaign; and 2) holding the sticker alone is not equivalent to establishing anti-illegal employment laws.

    Employers are responsible for confirming the proof of NJ’s work eligibility prior to the employment, so there should be no excuse for hiring those who are ineligible. In all, I’m not exactly sure 1) if this is an effective way to educate employers about rules on NJ employment; and 2) if the local government is willing to invoke criminal punishment for hiring ineligible workers.

  • I think for the sake of discussion we should separate the manual itself from the “staring Big Brother” illustration, as I believe they are two separate issues. I have seen Big Brother literally hundreds of times in Tokyo over the past few years (mostly on neighborhood watch signs, anti-crime warnings, surveillance camera notices, etc), and as eerie and potentially problematic as the design is, I have never thought of it as being specifically tied to the GOJ/NPA “criminal foreigners” narrative. Its use in this pamphlet and accompanying stickers doesn’t create any tie in that regard.

    As for the pamphlet itself, I agree that it is somewhat dehumanizing and quite technical, but I question whether that will turn potential employers away from hiring NJ. If we’re talking about employers who do not have extensive experience employing large numbers of NJ already but are considering doing so in the future, I think that most are either of the type that will not check for a manual in the first place (and perhaps haphazardly employ an ineligible person while also playing hard and fast with labor laws), OR the type that will find this kind of clinical manual reassuring as they consider a NJ applicant’s application. In this sense, the manual might make the latter category MORE likely to employ NJ, as it gives them a clear set of instructions that ensure they remain within the law. If I had been fed a steady stream of rhetoric connecting NJ with illegal immigration and crime for decades, I would be hesitant to employ a NJ in the ABSENCE of a definitive guide like the above.

    — Point well taken.

  • “Is this the reason why the staring face looks like ubiquitous “Neighborhood Watch” sign you see in residential areas?” It only works one-way, trust me.

    I had a series of neighbors who burned every piece of household (and sometimes industrial) waste outside their homes/premises. I spoke to the Jiji-kai-cho, who told me, “Ah, they’ve been doing it for years.” My home was still invaded by toxic fumes on a regular basis, and no amount of pleading would get them to stop. I arrived home one day to find a T-shirt on fire on the laundry pole, which, thankfully, I extinguished and saved the place from burning down. Others in the neighborhood were not so lucky. Their response, “Shoh ga-nai, neh!”

    So, one fine day, I cycled on my mama-chari around the semi-rural neighborhood and photographed every single smoldering heap of crap burning away in gardens. In barrels, piles, incinerators and even in buckets. All 57 of them within a 750 meter radius of my home. I then make a perfectly bound, formal complaint folder to the Mayor of the City, pictures and all, and I sent a copy to a local TV channel, who made a 30-minute show about it, and then aired it. 1,000 people called the city hall to support my complaint, and to demand an enforcement of the existing smoke by-law.

    I even filed a complaint, with the evidence, with the local police. Now known widely for being crooked as the proverbial dog’s hind-leg. I made two DVDs, of the smoke and the TV show and sent them registered mail (and got back signature cards) to Koizumi and that stupid ex-newsreader bimbo-airhead who was the environment minister that week. No reply.

    All for naught.

    The cops showed up once, about 2100h or so, lights flashing, and wearing protective vests, and told me to stop making a nuisance of myself. So did the fire-department. The Jiji-kai-cho told me that if I didn’t relocate that some of the neighbors were “going to kill me.” I did. And may they rot in hell, the lot of them. Fukushima whatever is too good for them.

    Sadly, in Japan, you are innocent until proven foreign. Even when you are right. Those eyes in the poster, well, they’re only on YOU, not on them! It just doesn’t work the other way ’round. Get that and you get Japan.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Dennis,I was hoping for a happy ending when you wrote “1,000 people called the city hall to support my complaint, and to demand an enforcement of the existing smoke by-law.”
    Sadly, the fact that the cops and the jijikai could in fact run you out of town in response for showing their tolerance of illegality up shows the postmodern nature of laws in Japan- these laws are imposed and only for show, to be ignored locally if THE VILLAGE doesnt want to implement them.

    As a westerner, you made an appeal to universal laws, to common sense, only to learn that THE VILLAGE mentality and The local Mob Rule trumps this, if in league with the local cops.

    I suppose you didnt know “the Japanese (read: local) way” which in this case means, they can burn the trash.

    What perhaps might have been the appropriate (tho completely irrepsonsible, but hey, shoganai ne!) would have beemn that you too burn your trash back.

    Fight fire with fire, literally. But then you might have been playing with fire if some T shirt of theirs caught fire.The question would have been if they would then have arrested you, the foreigner,the outsider, for arson- violating Japanese laws even though a local had previously done the same thing to your T shirt?

    The cynical among us would say that yes, because Japanese laws can be broken by ireesponsible local Japanese, but not by you, the foreigner/outsider, who must be seen as whiter than white. It is of course not fair.

    Once again, it raises the bigger issue of why bother coming to live in Japan? It is placing yourself in a life of daily disadvantage.

    I have done stuff like you did, appealing to a higher authority about a local issue. But I usually wait until I have moved out of range before nuking- i.e. from orbit as it were, as Michael Behn said in “Aliens 2”.

    “Its the only way to be sure” (that you are safely away from any local retribution).

    I am sorry for what happened to you, and that yet another NJ who tried to follow the laws of Japan in fact came a cropper of the curious postmodern paradox that exists in Japan between laws, the signs and the actual local behaviour, and leaves as a detractor.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Dennis, where exactly was that town you lived in? Was it actually near Fukushima at all?

    I just wonder if burning the trash, including toxic waste is a “cultural difference”, perhaps of the Tohoku region?

    The jijikai cho said some of “the neighbors wanted to kill you”. I got that in writing in Kawasaki from a bunch of young street gangmembers ironically wearing “casual American style” clothes.

    The police in my case were supportive (though I had Japanese friends doing all the talking, I just stayed out the picture), but couldnt/didnt do much until said teenagers got into fight amongst themselves and I witnessed them being arrested in front of the station a week or two later.

    I convinced myself this was not representative of all of Japan, just Kawasaki. Indeed, Kawasaki City Hall is relatively progressive, but the government can pass progressive laws and erect shiny new buildings, but if the locals in your neighborhood act like out of a trailer park, South Park, or “Deliverance” and the cops side with them, there is no impact at the local level.

    Laws mean nothing unless enforced. Thus, no rule of law. Fittingly, this is the problem in China too. In Korea, they pass pro NJ laws to encourage much-needed immigration, and the locals tend to ignore these laws when it suits them.

  • Baudrillard says:

    “Tokyo Governor tells local residents to shut up about burning (radioactive)waste”- sounds like your neighborhood garbage experience Dennis, writ large!

    “According to Fuji TV news clip on November 4, the governor said,

    “Shut up” is all we need to say to these complaints.


    Fuji TV news also says that 3,000 complaints have been sent to the Tokyo Metropolitan government, over 90% of them protesting against the debris from disaster-affected areas to be transported, processed, crushed and burned and buried in Tokyo Bay.

    Remember, Japan is a very homogenous society where peer pressure to conform can be intense.”

  • @Dennis (#6) That was an interesting anecdote and a glimpse into the reality of Japan. It’s these personal stories that do the best job of debunking the myth of “Japan as a Western-style democracy” by showing that there has never been anything but putting on a show to conceal the actual dirtiness of “the Japanese way”, both for the Western audience as well as for the domestic one – the illusion that Japan is way more civilised or “first world” than China or other Asian neighbours.

    Japan is still a dark, dangerous country. You have received a death threat from an official organ of the Japanese government for simply trying to act on your alleged rights as a citizen. There is no real difference in meaning by them saying “you will get killed” or directly saying “we will kill you” if you continue to be a nuisance.

    Politicians who question the role of Hirohito in WWII get shot at. Companies who put Koreans into their ads (like eye-drop maker Rotho) will get hassled by a neo-fascist Gestapo until they stop. If they go to court “an agreement” will be reached which in Japan always means the underworld will get its way.

    I often wondered what my local Koban on the street corner actually does. Whenever I walk around my neighborhood, I see dozens of violations of traffic laws alone, in full sight of the Koban. But by now I’ve understood that this “police” is for show only, too. They shou;d be seen more like a lost and found or tourist information, while the “law” is upheld by the neo-fascist stalkers and their harassments and death threats. There is a reason the average Japanese is so non-confrontational and chooses to ignore bad things rather than try to change them. Because he or she knows that you could still very much get killed for acting outside of your caste’s norms, in 2013 Japan.

    — I say we stop extrapolating discussions here. This is still an unconfirmed report of peer pressure and bullying. It would be very easy for someone to plant this story (like the fake eyeball-licking fad) just to make fun and flummox the media. I approved the comment because it was a possible story. But I would stop extrapolating about society in general any further until this story is on firmer ground.

  • Thanks to all, and I appreciate Debito’s caveat. I don’t always get a chance to read, hence the delay in response.

    The semi-rural municipality is Toyoda-cho, once autonomous, now amalgamated into the city of Iwata (home to Yamaha & Jubilo Iwata). The PD & FD referred to are in Iwata, part of the Shizuoka Prefectural network. I won’t mention the name of the (then) Jiji-kai-cho, save to say he resides in the area of Toyoda-cho called Akaike, South of the Tokaido-sen and North of the Shinkansen tracks between Hamamatsu and Kakegawa.

    Designed by a professional urban-planner, who later became the Mayor, the ‘Cho’ is unique in the blight-ridden landscape of Japanese city and town design. It was like living in a manicured version of Hoofddorp or one of those small villages in the Vosges. Separated sidewalks/bike-paths, small canals and a real sense of pride on the part of the majority of the residents. It was an idyllic place to live, save for the maniacal pyros.

    I just needed a cathartic release, and thought it was topical. If we could return to the topic at hand it might be a better use of our energies at this time. My apologies for taking up so much time, and my thanks to Debito for the space and consideration.

    — De nada. Thanks for the follow-up.

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