Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage


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Hi Blog. Making an enormous impact was this Reuters expose that came out a little over a week ago exposing the corruption and exploitation of Japan’s deadly foreign “Trainee” System, in place since 1993. has talked at length about this deadly system many times before, start here. But Reuters collates the issues in a very accessible manner in its article below. A PDF with even more information and graphics, entitled “Sweatshops in Disguise”, is available at (archived just in case on at ReutersTraineesJapansSweatshopsinDisguise061214).

Once comment on the Reuters website that resonated with me was, “Japan is in this regard no more than a clean Third-World country.”  This horrible system should have been the shame of Japan and stopped long ago.  Instead, as it approaches its 25th anniversary, it’s gearing up for an expansion under the Abe Administration.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito



Special Report: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage
HAKUSAN, Japan/HAIMEN, China, June 12 Thu Jun 12, 2014 

Labor-short Japan expanding foreign trainee program

(Reuters) – Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 was a regular work day at Kameda, a family-owned apparel factory housed in rusting corrugated metal buildings in the western Japanese city of Hakusan. For three Chinese women, it was a day of escape.

At about 6:30 that morning, Ichiro Takahara, a Japanese union organizer, rolled up outside the dormitory where the women lived. Lu Xindi, Qian Juan and Jiang Cheng were waiting – they had been secretly plotting this move for months. Takahara drove them to a convenience store and then to the local labor standards office.

The story behind their flight began three years earlier and more than 900 miles (1,440 km) away in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. There, they signed up with a labor export company to work in Japan’s “foreign technical intern” program, which Tokyo insists is designed to help workers from developing countries learn advanced technical skills.

In a lawsuit filed in a Japanese court, Lu, Qian and Jiang claim that rather than training them, Kameda forced them to work excessive hours at below minimum wage. In 2011, their busiest year, the women were working 16 hours a day, six days a week, with 15 minutes for lunch, according to the lawsuit and work records. For that, they were paid around $4 per hour, according to records reviewed by Reuters.

Other former interns have made similar allegations in dozens of lawsuits filed in Japan. Their case stands out because during the time Lu, Qian and Jiang were working there, Kameda was putting pleats in Burberry BRBY.L clothes.

Japan is a key market for the British luxury brand, generating 12.8 percent of Burberry’s pre-tax profit, or around 55 million pounds ($92.5 million), in the year to March 31, 2013.

The profits came from licensing arrangements, some of which date back decades. Today, Burberry maintains licensing arrangements with four Japanese companies. The largest of these is with apparel manufacturer and retailer Sanyo Shokai, a relationship that began in 1970. Though most of what Burberry produces in Japan is sold there, factories in Japan also supply two stores in Hong Kong that sell the Burberry Blue and Burberry Black lines. Kameda was putting pleats in shirts and skirts sold by Sanyo Shokai under the Burberry Black line.

Burberry declined to allow Reuters to speak to any executives directly about the Kameda case. Through a public relations agency, it issued a statement saying Burberry had asked Sanyo Shokai to terminate its relationship with Kameda in late 2012 because Kameda was not complying with Burberry’s ethical standards.

Among Kameda’s other clients at this time were some of Japan’s largest trading houses: Itochu 8001.T and Mitsui Bussan Inter-Fashion (MIF), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsui & Co 8031.T. Mitsui said it was unaware of the lawsuit until Reuters contacted the company for comment; MIF said it would monitor the lawsuit and then decide about the company’s relationship with Kameda. Itochu said it was not aware that Kameda employed foreign technical interns.

Kameda’s website lists department store Isetan 3099.T as a client. A spokesman for the retailer, now known as Mitsukoshi Isetan, said that it has only been buying women’s apparel from Kameda since January.

The most recent government data show there are about 155,000 technical interns in Japan. Nearly 70 percent are from China, where some labor recruiters require payment of bonds worth thousands of dollars to work in Japan. Interns toil in apparel and food factories, on farms and in metal-working shops. In these workplaces, labor abuse is endemic: A 2012 investigation by Japanese labor inspectors found 79 percent of companies that employed interns were violating labor laws. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said it would use strict measures, including prosecution, toward groups that repeatedly violated the laws or failed to follow its guidance in their treatment of technical interns.

Critics say foreign interns have become an exploited source of cheap labor in a country where, despite having the world’s most rapidly ageing population, discussion of increased immigration is taboo. The U.S. State Department, in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons report, criticized the program’s use of “extortionate contracts”, restrictions on interns’ movements, and the imposition of heavy fees if workers leave.

Japan faces a worsening labor shortage, not only in family-run farms and factories such as Kameda but in construction and service industries. It is a major reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is planning a further expansion of the trainee program.


Lu, Qian and Jiang arrived in Osaka by boat on Nov. 19, 2009. Lu was 30, Qian 28, and Jiang just 19.

The women had signed up to work in Japan with a labor export company in the city of Haimen, not far from Shanghai, called Haimen Corporation for Foreign Economic & Technical Cooperation.

A woman at the company’s office who gave her name as Chen confirmed that the company sent workers to Japan to work in apparel factories. But she declined to discuss the Kameda case, or even confirm that the company had sent Lu, Qian and Jiang to Japan.

The Haimen firm then signed an agreement with Shanghai SFECO International Business Service, a subsidiary of state-owned company China SFECO Group, according to Guan Xiaojun, head of the Japan trainee department. Shanghai SFECO signed a contract with the Ishikawa Apparel Association and sent Lu, Qian and Jiang to Japan.

Guan said Lu, Qian and Jiang probably paid about RMB30,000, or more than $4,800, in “service fees”, as well as a separate fee of RMB4,550 that would be returned to the women after three years as long as they did not violate Japanese law. Asked about the accusations in the lawsuit, Guan said her company had only dispatched the workers. “Labor disputes have nothing to do with us,” she said.

The rules of the program specified that Lu, Qian and Jiang’s first year in Japan was to be devoted to training. Japanese law bars employing foreigners as unskilled laborers. But quietly, the country has been bringing in foreigners since at least the 1980s, originally to train staff of companies with operations overseas. The practice was formalized as the technical intern program in 1993.

The women received 18 days of Japanese language training in Osaka. Then, the Ishikawa Apparel Association put them on a bus for the drive to Kameda, said their lawyer, Shingo Moro.

Kameda specializes in making pleats. It had relied on foreign interns for about a decade because it couldn’t find enough workers in Japan, Yoshihiko Kameda, its president, told Reuters.

The conditions the lawsuit describes are a world apart from the clean, efficient image Japan projects to the world, and a far cry from the quintessentially British reputation on which Burberry trades.

Not long after their arrival, the apparel association took the women’s passports and passed them to Kameda in violation of Japanese law protecting interns’ freedom of movement, according to the lawsuit. An Ishikawa Apparel Association spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, said the group does not conduct inappropriate supervision and training, but declined further comment citing the lawsuit.

At the factory, Lu, Qian and Jiang’s overtime stretched to more than 100 hours a month, the lawsuit says. A timesheet prepared with data supplied by Kameda to the Japanese labor standards bureau shows Lu logged an average of 208 hours a month doing overtime and “homework” during her second year in Japan. That is equivalent to almost 16 hours a day, six days a week. Japanese labor policy considers 80 hours of overtime a month the “death by overwork” threshold.

For this, Lu earned about 400 yen, about $4, an hour at Kameda, the timesheet shows. The local minimum wage at the time was 691 yen an hour, and Japanese law requires a premium of as much as 50 percent of the base wage for overtime.

In addition, during lunch breaks and after work, the women were asked to do “homework”. For this, they were paid by the piece, rather than by the hour.

At night, Lu, Qian and Jiang slept in an old factory building, their lawyer says. To catch rats, Kameda brought in a cat, which brought fleas. Lu and Qian suffered so many flea bites they developed skin conditions, the lawsuit says. Evidence compiled for the lawsuit shows the women’s legs covered in bites.


Like Lu, Qian and Jiang, most interns come through a program supported by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), a foundation funded by the Japanese government and member groups. JITCO is also tasked with ensuring its members’ internship programs are properly run.

Kameda’s factory is in Hakusan, an industrial town of about 100,000 people on Japan’s west coast, a center for Japan’s once booming apparel industry. That industry has largely been reduced to family-run factories, such as Kameda’s, which mostly do small orders with quick turnarounds at low margins. Around the Kameda factory are several others that employ foreign trainees from China and Southeast Asia.

In November 2011, Kameda told the interns the plant was going to be inspected by JITCO, according to testimony the women gave Takahara’s activist group. The inspection came after four Chinese interns at a nearby apparel factory – also a member of the Ishikawa Apparel Association – fled to Takahara’s shelter and filed a complaint about labor issues.

Kameda, who lives in a large house with a manicured Japanese garden opposite the factory where he used to house the women, tried to hide their working conditions from JITCO inspectors. Kameda threatened to send them back to China if they didn’t do as they were told, according to their testimony.

The day before the inspector arrived, Kameda gave Lu, Qian and Jiang fake payslips, according to their testimony. Together with an interpreter and a representative from the apparel association, Kameda told them how to respond to questions from the inspector. They rehearsed their answers twice. The next day, when the inspector asked them if they still had their passports, the women knew to say that they did.

JITCO declined to comment on the Kameda case.

Asked about alleged abuses in the program, JITCO said in a statement that it will continue to provide legal protection for interns. JITCO will also help supervising organizations adhere to immigration and labor laws and regulations “by providing all kinds of advice, and through public relations such as seminars and teaching materials”.

In the interview with Reuters, Kameda said the interns approached him about how they should respond to the JITCO inspection several times. He denied coaching or threatening to send them home if they did not answer as instructed. But he acknowledged telling Lu, Qian and Jiang that they might be sent home, as workers at the nearby factory had been.

He also recalled telling the workers their overtime – which he said exceeded 100 hours a month at that time – might be a problem for the JITCO inspector. In fact, JITCO even warned him the interns were working too much overtime, Kameda said. Asked about this inspection, JITCO said it would not comment on individual cases.

Kameda acknowledged keeping some of his workers’ passports, but said it was at their request. He said the women sometimes worked 100 hours of overtime a month and may have put in as many as 173 hours.

Kameda also said he initially paid them less than the legal wage. But he insisted the underpayment was the result of an administrative error. The additional hours and homework, he said, were provided at the women’s behest. Kameda warned the workers that the hours they were working were longer than Japanese labor law allowed, but the workers expressed a “strong desire” to continue working long hours, he told Reuters.

No one from the Ishikawa Apparel Association visited Kameda prior to a JITCO inspection, the apparel group’s spokeswoman said. She said she was not aware of any use of falsified payslips, or of any coaching of Kameda interns. She confirmed that the interns had complained to the association about their housing. The association, she said, asked Kameda to respond to the interns’ concerns.

Lu, Qian and Jiang, who have since returned to China, declined requests for an interview. Interns who have sued their former Japanese employers can face difficulties upon returning home, including intimidation, lawsuits and penalties from the Chinese companies who sent them to Japan – and also pressure from family members ashamed of their problems overseas.


The women complained several times to Kameda about their living conditions, labor organizer Takahara says, but nothing changed until they complained to the Ishikawa Apparel Association. After the group passed on this complaint, Kameda moved the women into temporary housing while he cleaned the converted factory where they slept. It was two months before they could move back into the factory, according to Takahara.

Around August 2012, the workers reached out to Takahara’s group. Could he help the workers negotiate a settlement like the one the Chinese interns received at the nearby apparel factory? Through a colleague who spoke Chinese, Takahara told them they would not be able to continue to work after they filed their complaint. He advised the interns to keep working and collect evidence. Over the next few months, Takahara and his colleagues worked out a plan with the Kameda interns.

Takahara, now 62, had been involved in brokering settlements for foreign workers for more than a decade in western Japan. Over the years, Takahara, who also works as a gardener, had worked out a script that he followed several times a year with foreign interns with grievances.

Because workers who complain have been forcibly deported, Takahara and other union representatives encourage interns to fulfill their contracts. They are meticulous in their documentation: keeping time cards, sending faxes from convenience stores so there is a dated record of the communication, alerting local labor inspectors before bringing in interns to report alleged violations to make sure staff are on hand.

The morning of their escape, Takahara drove the women from Kameda to a convenience store. There, they sent a fax to the factory requesting paid holiday until Nov. 19, the day their contract expired. Takahara then took them to the local labor standards office to testify about their experience at the factory. The inspectors were expecting them.

In late 2012, Kameda agreed to pay 1.3 million yen each to Lu, Qian and Jiang. In addition, the labor standards bureau ordered Kameda to pay 260,000 yen collectively to the three women for the “homework” they had been required to do on a piece rate. In the end, the women each received about 1.4 million yen, or nearly $14,000 at current exchange rates, Takahara says.

Kameda told Reuters he paid the full amount the labor standards bureau demanded and did everything asked of him. He blames Takahara’s group for stirring up resentment among the workers. “They were completely happy until they left and sued us,” Kameda said.

Moro, the women’s lawyer, says Kameda only paid what he owed the women for the second and third year of their time at his factory, and the homework settlement was not based on an accurate calculation of the hours the women worked.

On October 9, 2013, Moro filed suit on behalf of the three Chinese interns in a court in Kanazawa, naming Kameda and the Ishikawa Apparel Association as defendants. The suit asks for unpaid wages, expenses and damages for pain and suffering amounting to about 11.2 million yen, or about $109,000.


It wasn’t until late 2012, after Lu, Qian and Jiang had left the factory and their complaints reported in the Mainichi newspaper, that a Burberry executive visited Kameda. Burberry asked Sanyo Shokai to terminate the relationship with Kameda “due to non-compliance and a lack of cooperation in the implementation of Burberry’s ethical standards,” Burberry said in its statement.

Burberry’s code of conduct, which covers licensees such as Sanyo Shokai, prohibits homework and bans the use of bonded labor and the payment of “deposits” to employers. It requires factories to pay at least the national legal minimum wage and provide safe, clean accommodation for workers. Workers should not be required to work more than 48 hours a week or 11 hours a day, the code says. Overtime should be both voluntary and no more than 12 hours a week; it should not be demanded on a regular basis. Burberry also requires all factories to make sure workers keep their “passports, ID cards, bank cards and similar documents to facilitate their unhindered freedom of movement”.

The luxury brand only began auditing Japanese suppliers for ethical compliance in 2009, the year Lu, Qian and Jiang arrived. Burberry’s two auditors started, according to a person familiar with the company’s activities, with the largest factories and those that produced finished goods.

Burberry’s current licensing arrangement with Sanyo Shokai and Mitsui will expire in June 2015. Under the terms of a new license agreement, the Burberry Blue and Black labels will continue as Blue Label and Black Label, dropping the Burberry name. Burberry will continue to audit the supply chain.

Today, about 37 of the approximately 270 factories that supply Burberry branded items to licensees in Japan use foreign interns supported by JITCO. These factories employ around 307 JITCO interns. Burberry now offers training and access to a hotline in Chinese.

“Burberry takes the welfare of workers in all areas of its supply chain extremely seriously,” the company said in a statement to Reuters. “In the case of foreign contract workers in particular, we are very focused on ensuring that they operate in conditions that adhere to the Burberry Ethical Trading Code of Conduct.”

Japan strengthened protection for interns in 2010, putting them under Japanese labor laws for all three years of their internship. But the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which represents more than 30,000 attorneys, argues the intern program should be scrapped on human rights grounds.

Kameda says his factory no longer employs foreign interns. He thinks Japan should drop the pretense of internships and allow foreigners to work as laborers. “Regardless of the women’s requests, I regret that I didn’t do things properly,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions from Reuters. He intends to counsel partner factories that employ interns “so what Kameda is experiencing won’t happen again.”

(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki, James Topham and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo, and the Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

20 comments on “Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage

  • Whippenpoof says:

    Look how K-Y, head of the unapologetic apologists over at The Stalker Site, tries to make foreign trainees deaths from overwork seem like an alternative to other accidental/inevitable causes of death. Bit cold-blooded.

    Ken Yasumoto Nicolson says: This PDF says there were about 100,000 people on trainee visas in 2008. Dr Arudou states that there are “dozens of deaths per year” amongst trainees, but this table gives, if we assume the trainees are 50:50 male and female in their twenties, an annual death rate of 0.5 in 1,000, or about four dozen people. One could argue about them having harsher working conditions so an increased death rate versus having less opportunity to get in accidents due to drinking and/or driving, but I think we’d remain in the same order of magnitude for these figures.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Whippenpoof #1

    Of course K. Y. Nicholson is cold blooded about trainee deaths; the K Y doesn’t stand for ‘Kuuki Yomenai’, oh no sir!
    Like all NJ apologists, he has the mistaken impression that if he abuses Chinese immigrant workers in the same way the Japanese do, or approves/rationalizes such abuse, then he is not only likely to win further approval from his Japanese overlords, but also become in some small way just a little bit more like them too (he must be so excited by the anticipated praise he will receive for slamming abused workers).

    A clear case, Dr. Debito, of Ken Y N suffering from ‘Scott-Stokism’.
    What’s the prognosis?

    — A permanent case of dehumanization due to lack of empathy.

  • Baudrillard says:

    “Lu, Qian and Jiang probably paid about RMB30,000, or more than $4,800, in “service fees”, as well as a separate fee of RMB4,550”

    Now the word is out, why would anyone, from anywhere, want to pay all this just to be exploited so badly? It is paying to work 6 days a week!
    Now that China’s living standards are improving surely there had to be something there than this awful Japan experience.

  • In a nutshell the poor, little life of everyone’s favourite Scot, who so desperately needs the pat on the head from his masters. One .can only imagine the reasons why someone would so completely sell his soul

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I think that snake-charmer of Japologists, has a very similar way of thinking that resonates with private reformers and pro-corporate welfare folks working for corporate data-mining company(i.e., InBloom) or charter chains funded by billionaires like Gates or Walton Family Foundation. These people simply work for powers-that-be (i.e., state governors, mayors, corporate hedge-fund managers, wealthy philanthropists), who torture teachers and public workers through punitive accountability and pension cuts that lead to demoralization.

    My diagnosis shows that he has VAMification(ramification solely based on quantitative Value Added Measurement) syndrome–similar to Harvard Professors Raj Chetty & Thomas Kane, twin masterminds who engineered bogus quantitative research linking bogus assessment system(VAM; evaluating teachers based on test scores) with student’s future income. Their evil workshop pulled off at a recent controversial Vergara trial in California(US), misleading the judge to strike down constitutionally granted teacher tenure system.

    So, back to Japologist leader, his attempt to focus on selective number of fatal cases in a way to disregard the contexts for socio-economic hardships and punitive labor practice gives us a nod. I think he would be tickled pink if he was offered a job at Pearson for CCSS machine or the Harvard University to work for Chetty & Kane eco ‘VAMBoozle’chamber.

    What I don’t know is the category of his syndrome. Is it mild or chronic? Anyone?

  • I don’t think the domestic labour issues will get any better when the same old misogynistic chauvinistic fossils are still in power:

    “..A male member of Tokyo’s city council has admitted telling a female colleague to “hurry up and get married”, in an incident that outraged many Japanese…”*

    “…But some high-profile members of Japanese society, including politicians, diplomats and academics, have said publicly that she deserved such remarks because she is still single….”
    Great stuff 🙂

    You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried!!

    So, Japanese slave labour is finally being exposed and hopefully will detract many from coming when far better alternatives are on offer, and the remaining 50% of the domestic labour force are being told to have babies…who is going to build the olympic park?


  • US State Dept. ranks Japan as Tier-Two Human Trafficker, due in part to “Trainee” program:

    U.S. Govt Report Rebukes Japan’s Guest-Worker Program
    The Wall Street Journal By YOKO SUDO
    Jun 24, 2014, Courtesy of JK
    Links to sources at

    Chinese laborers in the Trainee and Technical Internship Program in front of their dormitory in Hokota, Ibaraki prefecture, in May, 2013. Associated Press
    The U.S. Department of State ranked Japan as tier two in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, meaning Japan is a fairly serious violator of the rights of migrant workers on the same tier as Afghanistan, India and Iraq. Among the report’s findings were what it describes as forced labor through Japan’s Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program, which the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to expand under its new growth strategy.

    The trainee program was originally designed to foster basic industrial and technical skills among foreign workers. But critics say it has been used by Japanese companies to obtain cheap foreign labor. About 73% of the workers under the program come from China, with smaller proportions from Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were about 151,000 technical interns in Japan under the program in 2012.

    According to the U.S. report, released June 20, some trainees pay up to $7,300 to brokers for jobs and are employed “under contracts that mandate forfeiture of thousands of dollars if workers try to leave.”

    The report said some companies confiscate trainees’ passports and other personal identification documents.

    During their “internships,” migrant workers are placed in jobs that don’t teach or develop technical skills, and some workers are unpaid, or paid less than they have been promised, the report said. Many have no contracts, and are charged “exorbitant rents for cramped, poorly insulated housing that keeps them in debt.”

    The report has cited the trainee program for the past eight years.

    “Accepting foreign workers as ‘interns’ makes the Japanese companies feel like they are doing a favor by accepting the foreigners and training them,” said Ippei Torii of the support group Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan. “This sense of superiority and the administrative opaqueness undermines the foreigners’ labor rights.”

    The report identifies shortfalls in Japan’s anti-trafficking regulations, pointing out that the government “has not, through practices or policy, ended the use of forced labor within the TTIP.”

    The report adds that the government has never identified a forced labor victim, despite substantial evidence and reporting of trafficking, including instances of debt bondage, passport confiscation, and confinement.

    The report also sounds the alarm on sex trafficking in Japan.

    “Walks” with female high-school students, during which girls are paid to accompany men to cafes and hotels and engage in commercial sex, are identified as a recent trend in Japanese sex trafficking. Japanese men also contribute to demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia and Mongolia, the report said.

    As well, some women and children from East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Russia travel to Japan for employment or fraudulent marriage and are subsequently forced into prostitution in bars, clubs, brothels and massage parlors, the report said. The freedom of sex-trafficking victims is strictly limited by debt bondage accumulated through unclear charges, threats of violence or deportation, blackmail and other coercive methods.

    The report gives a tier-two ranking to countries whose governments don’t fully comply with the minimum standards of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act, but which are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. Japan has been ranked tier two since 2001, the first year that the Trafficking in Persons Report was published. Tier three, the lowest ranking, includes countries such as Syria, Russia, North Korea and Iran.

    The Japan International Training Cooperation Organization, which administers the trainee program, declined to immediately comment on the report.

  • In the widely known TV Tokyo programme “You ha nani shini Nippon he”, there was an ongoing “documentary” about young Indonesian men who have been brought to Japan to be work as skipjack (katsuo) fishermen someplace in Western Japan, which is basically longline fishing, extremely hard work, and depending on the weather conditions, life threatening. They are out at sea for several days or even weeks, going from one place to the next until the tanks are full of live skipjack. They make around 70000 JPY a month(!) which might be good money back home in Indonesia, but given the fortune that the (Japanese of course) bosses make from the skipjack sales, it amounts to modern day slavery.

    These valid criticisms did not play any role for the makes of this documentary of course. The tone of programme was extremely patronising and humiliating, painting an image of these men basically being animals who became lucky to be invited to “superior” Japan and getting a chance of an “education” and “making money to send back home”.
    During the course of the programme, which was constructed to show the Indonesians as chaotic and undisciplined in the beginning, but due to the influence of the training (which was creepily organised in some sort of camp with more than a slight resemblance to the boot camp of “Full Metal Jacket”) gradually became more “Japanese” and able to work on the fishing boat.

    The programme tried to stress to what lengths the Japanese fishing industry went to accommodate the Indonesians – it was reported as a sensation that the ship cook was also an Indonesians, so they were able to “even eat their Halal meals on board!!”

    In what little free time they had during the fishing boot camp training course, they were shown to visit the local water park and interact with a Japanese woman who worked there, or how they marveled at a vending machine, or what little trinkets they bought at the near convenience store, and were given plenty of air time to admire this little part of Japan they were allowed to explore.

    From the outside, it’s clear that these men are being exploited for the profit of the Japanese fishing industry, and the exploitation is organised and paid for by the Japanese state. No Japanese guy would do this kind of work for 70000 JPY – despite the training and “free meals”. It’s not surprising that this form of modern slavery in exists in Japan, but the chutzpah with which “You ha…” sold this as an example of Japan “helping” its Asian brethren was astounding even for someone as cynical about modern Japan as me. It was a prime example of the brainwashing going on in the Japanese media.

  • Oh, God, Nani Shi Ni Nippon He is just a disgusting, racist show to begin with. I didn’t realize they were glorifying the slave wages and, ugh. Everything about that is so unspeakably racist, I’m speechless.

  • #7 John K –
    1) who will build the Olympic park? S.E. Asians. They are next on the yet-to-be-exploited list. Nikkei Brazilians and Chinese are on to their exploitive techniques. Once the “trainee’s” start to get organized, and demand basic human rights, they are of limited use to “Japan Inc.”

    2) When the current old guard is replaced by a slightly younger guard, I seriously doubt much will change. The powers that be will still choose to exploit foreign “trainees” – and will continue to get away with it. Keep in mind this is not Japanese vs. everybody else. It is rich, powerful, connected Japanese vs. anyone they can exploit. The yet-to-be-exploited list may be shrinking, but Japan can keep abusing foreigners (one group at a time) for decades to come.

    -Have you ever wondered why foreign laborers in Japan come from specific countries? They pull laborers from specific nations, test specific criteria (how much bullshit a group will tolerate, etc.), then kick the laborers out when the economy slows down.
    -But when the economy takes a positive turn, they do not favor the group that was just kicked out. The prefer 1st timers, with no Japan experience, familiarity, or connections. They don’t want laborers who speak Japanese, understand the system, and know their rights.
    -So w/o gaiatsu, I see no change – now or in the future.

  • Peter McArthur says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the news report you posted is inaccurate. Back in the ’90s, Japan spent a brief period in Tier 3 of the U.S. State Department’s Human Trafficking Shit List. I read about it in Jake Adelstein’s book [i]Tokyo Vice[/i]. The police’s unofficial “deport first, ask questions later” policy allowed Yakuza pimps to get away with every imaginable abuse of women who were in Japan illegally.

  • Surely the mask is slipping that Japan is anything other than a third world country, with working conditions, especially for foreigners, being a prime example? The foreign trainees scam is disgusting, but pretty much any work requiring foreigners (perhaps outside of specialised short term contract in-demand skills in IT for example) is open to this kind of abuse? For example, condtions for English teachers at all levels must be pushing the breadline by now. Foreigners really need to think twice about coming to Japan to work right now. The chances of making a quick buck are dwindling, and thanks to the expense and obtuseness of the country, NJ could find themselves heavily in debt and unable to leave their employer or the country no matter how intolerable or precarious the postion. People should also keep in mind that Japan is by far the most expensive country on earth, no matter where you live.The countryside can be even more expensive than the city due to transport, heating and fuel plus local taxes etc. IMO you need an absolute minimum of 250,000 yen a month plus travel pay, insurance etc just to get by. That’s just survival. You won’t save anything on that and if you have to work a full time job , you won’t have the time or energy to make anything outside of that. In a nutshell, Japan is ripe for slavery at the moment for NJ across the board. IMO. Be very careful if considering coming to Japan.

  • Sorry if my previous comment was too strong. I was writing very fast.

    The thing is, if you mention Indonesian fishermen in western Japan catching katsuo…that’s probably my prefecture. I probably MET those guys living in the town I was a JET. They were dirt broke, riding around on bikes in a village where the only way in or out was on a two lane highway (where people rarely followed the traffic laws, let alone drove safely).

    I remember one time we were at a festival near a fishing port in the tiny fishing village in the next prefecture over. It was called Take-ga-shima, I believe. There was nothing there but the matsuri, but right there in the port was a tiny shack – it looked like a little pre-fab office, you know the kind they have at construction sites?

    And inside, there were no less than four bunk beds and a group of Indonesian men crammed inside.

    And there we were, all just enjoying the matsuri, and even me – I looked over and thought, “That must be some more Indonesians, like the guys in my town.” And I know that it registered – holy crap, they’re packed in that little hovel like slaves – but we were all too busy enjoying our things-onna-stick for what I was seeing to really register.

    And, oh God, Nani Shi Ni CAME out here to film these guys? And instead of raising an alarm for the Japanese people to realize how sick this treatment of these people is…glorified it as Japan helping people out?

    I MET these guys. They…wow. So forgive me if I had a strong reaction, because I think I knew those guys, and I realized now how little I did to even THINK about what they were going through, let alone help them in any way, shape or form.

    I just…wow.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    It’s OK Chester.

    I understand how you feel, but don’t beat yourself up about it. They will go home and slam Japan as slavery. Word of mouth will discourage others from coming.

    As for the TV program spinning the situation to make it look like Japan was benevolently helping these people instead of exploiting them? Well, that’s Japan all over: navel-gazing at ‘Japanese uniqueness’, and ‘how attractive Japan is as a place for NJ to live and work’ etc. You can’t expect the J-media to do anything other than buy into/peddle to the viewer, the ‘cult’ of Japanese self-perception.

    After all, the Japanese don’t want to hear about anything they don’t like. If it is mentioned, they become embarrassed, and then feel victimized that it was brought up! Think wartime atrocities and Korean sex-slaves. Just talking about that as fact marks you out as ‘anti-Japanese’, because the Japanese want to pretend it never happened. How about the world cup? Ah, yes, those NJ are so BIG! It’s clearly unfair. Let’s not mention the world cup ever again….

  • @Chester (14.) I don’t think your reaction was that strong to begin with. If I had never lived in Japan and seen the “ura”, just from watching the programme, I’d have thought that these guys are simply accepting these dire conditions because the money is so good that it heals all wounds. There was no mention of the 70000 JPY / month they get for risking their lives and health and being treated like slaves.

    After reading Van Wolferen and Patrick M. Smith, there is no doubt in my mind that the Japanese media is organised in a 100% totalitarian fashion (re: Michael Woodford / Olympus scandal non-reporting). Even “fun” programmes must follow the nationalist, Japan-uber-alles script, or else their work simply goes to the trashcan.

    When Abe made all his creepy travels to South Asia and Africa, suddenly all the travel shows sent their reporters to exactly the same countries to report how great and safe they are, and how good friends of the Japanese the locals are. Most of the travel shows are simply to prove what great impact Japanese culture had in the 3rd world countries. Whenever a travel show goes to either China or the US, then suddenly the aspect of how “dangerous” these countries are comes to the forefront of the story.

    The watchers of these programmes probably don’t want to know much non-Japanese information and it is made sure that Japan will always win any comparison – even the Italian food is better in Tokyo, as the comedic talent seemed to be disgusted by real cheese and didn’t give it the “oishiii” stamp of approval.

    Japan’s media was, like most institutions that were only built to satisfy Western demands, built by shady, often Yakuza characters. Most of the entertainment sector is run by Yakuza as well, because they guarantee to keep it nationalistic.

    But again, it’s not necessary to think too much about Japan. I’m back home, I will never go there again, and the only reason why we even have this conversation is because Japan was, and still is represented as a democractic, modern society, by the Japanese themselves as well as outsiders. That’s the actual outrage. If Japan was taken at face value, i.e. being a dangerously nationalistic country which could be turned into a fascist state again at a whim – who really thinks that the modern, good Japanese would be able to do anything against it?

    China becoming stronger than Japan could be the best thing that has happened to world peace since decades.

  • ” It’s not surprising that this form of modern slavery in exists in Japan, but the chutzpah with which “You ha…” sold this as an example of Japan “helping” its Asian brethren was astounding even for someone as cynical about modern Japan as me. It was a prime example of the brainwashing going on in the Japanese media.”

    I hope that you are familiar with the term “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” We are witnessing its modern incarnation.

  • Oh dear…..with such shortages, encouraging the “other” half of Japan to work is not getting any better either. So much for the 3rd arrow…more like a blunt wet paper dart with regards to structural reform!:

    “…With no maternity leave, Osaka assemblywoman harassed for giving birth..”

    “..After Mayu Murakami became the first incumbent Osaka city assembly member to give birth, her colleagues called her a selfish rule-breaker, a remuneration thief and a betrayer of the public. According to Murakami’s accounts, one assemblyman yelled at her, “You should apologize to voters for having a baby.”…” What an advanced and progressive culture 🙂

    You can’t make this stuff up:

    “..In the assembly of the neighboring city of Sakai, the efforts of assemblywomen led to the word “childbearing” being listed as a reason to be absent from work. However, the rules have no stipulations on maternity leave, and female assembly members still have no idea how long they can be absent from work for childbearing….”

    🙁 🙁 🙁


    With no maternity leave, Osaka assemblywoman harassed for giving birth
    June 27, 2014
    By YUSAKU MIYAZAKI/ Staff Writer
    OSAKA–After Mayu Murakami became the first incumbent Osaka city assembly member to give birth, her colleagues called her a selfish rule-breaker, a remuneration thief and a betrayer of the public.

    According to Murakami’s accounts, one assemblyman yelled at her, “You should apologize to voters for having a baby.”

    Treatment of women in Japan became a hot topic after Ayaka Shiomura, a Tokyo metropolitan assemblywoman, was targeted by sexist heckling during her presentation on measures to increase the birthrate.

    Now, Murakami and other female politicians are speaking out about what they describe as a structural defect in local politics that works against women trying to juggle motherhood and a political career and can lead to incessant harassment.

    The key problem, they say, is that most local assemblies in Japan still do not have a maternity leave system.

    “Assemblies’ disregard for women is deeply rooted,” Murakami, 29, a member of Osaka Ishin no Kai, a regional party affiliated with the Japan Restoration Party, said after learning about the heckling of Shiomura. “I hope that more assembly members jointly fight against it.”

    Murakami was first elected to the Osaka city assembly in April 2011. She soon got married, and found out she was pregnant about four months later.

    She said she was surprised that the city assembly’s rule book did not mention maternity leave.

    Murakami proposed changes to the rules to other assembly members, including those of other parties. But she said she received jeers instead of support.

    “It is a personal choice (to give birth),” one of her colleagues said. Another suggested that she feign illness to follow the rules: “It is possible to take a leave of absence on the ground that you are suffering from a disease, isn’t it?”

    “It seems that the city assembly’s rules discourage women of child-rearing age from becoming assembly members and giving birth,” Murakami said.

    She took time off to have her baby. But because of the lack of a maternity leave system in the assembly, she continued to receive remuneration.

    Some assembly members accused her of “stealing” her remuneration. Others questioned the timing of her pregnancy, saying she was only thinking about herself.

    To end the accusations that she was skipping work, she returned to her assembly job six weeks after her baby was delivered.

    But the criticism had already spread against the woman elected from the Chuo Ward constituency.

    During a cherry-blossom viewing party, a drunken male voter asked her angrily, “Which is more important for you, Chuo Ward or your child?”

    She broke down in tears while trying to counter his argument.

    “There have been many cases in which I have had to quietly endure (criticism) in order not to spoil the atmosphere,” Murakami said.


    In the assembly of the neighboring city of Sakai, the efforts of assemblywomen led to the word “childbearing” being listed as a reason to be absent from work.

    However, the rules have no stipulations on maternity leave, and female assembly members still have no idea how long they can be absent from work for childbearing.

    During the campaign for the Upper House election on July 21, 2013, Sakai assembly member Yoshika Kobayashi gave speeches for candidates of her party, Osaka Ishin no Kai. She was only weeks away from giving birth, but she felt obligated to continue stumping.

    “If I was absent from the job (due to my pregnancy), I could have been told that women are not useful. I felt pressure to avoid that,” she recalled.

    She proposed that assemblies follow the example of private-sector companies.

    “If assemblywomen can take maternity leave of a certain period, even if remuneration is cut, such pressure will be reduced,” said Kobayashi, who had her child in late July 2013.

    The Labor Standards Law stipulates that workers can take a 14-week maternity leave–six weeks before giving birth and eight weeks after. However, the stipulation does not cover assembly members.

    In both houses of the Diet, lawmakers can take leaves of absence for childbearing purposes.

    That permission was established after Upper House member Seiko Hashimoto gave birth in 2000. The period of absence is decided by each lawmaker who applies for the leave.

    So far, eight lawmakers have taken leaves of absence for childbearing, including Yuko Obuchi, a former state minister in charge of measures to deal with the declining birthrate, and Seiko Noda, chairwoman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council.

    But “childbearing” is not listed as a reason for absence from work in many local assemblies.

    According to Kimio Ito, professor of sociology at Kyoto University’s Graduate School, current international norms for gender equality prohibit sexual discrimination based on differences of physiological functions between men and women.

    “The jeering at the Tokyo metropolitan assembly and the harassment against assemblywomen who gave birth are the same in the sense that gender equality is lacking,” he said.

    Ito said that in Europe, it is common sense for politicians to take maternity leave.

    “Japanese assemblies should guarantee childbearing rights of their members if they want to prevent the country’s birthrate from declining further. They should immediately introduce a maternity leave system,” he said.

    Murakami also plans to propose a system that can reduce remuneration to assemblywomen when they are taking maternity leave.

    She said she learned about the world of politics when she was a university student working as an intern for an assembly member in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

    She decided to run in an election at 25, the youngest age permissible under Japanese laws.

    After working at a foreign consulting company, she campaigned for a seat in the Osaka city assembly election. But she never gave up on her other dream of becoming a mother.

    In spring this year, she became a member of the city assembly’s committee on education and children. She now plans to have a second child.

  • Regarding the indonesian boys in the “You ha…” episode. I watched it too. I don’t remember that they were given 70,000 Yen monthly salary but I do remember that they were given 10,000 Yen spending money per month. Then the camera showed them all walking over to the vending machines in their compound, and buying drinks. It didn’t appear that there was anything else to spend money on out there in the countryside. No prizes for guessing who owns the vending machines, right?

    And their lunches seemed pretty bleak – a banana and a plain buttered roll.

  • Debito:

    Looks like the U.S. ambassador-at-large agrees with you:

    Japan called hotbed of forced labor

    Japan called hotbed of forced labor
    July 09, 2014 Jiji Press

    WASHINGTON (Jiji Press)—Luis CdeBaca, U.S. ambassador-at-large who tackles human trafficking, expressed concerns on Tuesday that the Japanese government’s technical training program for foreigners has been serving as a hotbed of forced labor.

    “Traffickers continue to use…the program to subject victims to forced labor,” he said at a hearing at a Senate subcommittee. “The program lacks adequate government oversight,” CdeBaca said. “We look forward to working with the government of Japan over the coming year” to help revamp the program.

    The Japanese government plans to upgrade the foreign trainee program as a key measure in its revised economic growth strategy, which was announced last month.


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