DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 14, 2014

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 14, 2014
Table of Contents:

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THE SEISMIC SHOCK OF 2014

1) In a stunning decision, Japan’s Supreme Court overturns Fukuoka High Court, rules that NJ Permanent Residents (etc.) not automatically eligible for social welfare benefits
2) JT: Colin Jones on NJ rights after the Supreme Court welfare verdict of July 2014: None but what MOJ bureaucrats grant you

OTHER WEIRDNESS AND DENIALISM

3) SITYS: JT publishes lawyer’s analysis of J-cops’ arbitrary “stop and frisk” procedures. It’s now actually worse for NJ than Debito.org has reported before (correctly)
4) Unsuccessful protest against instatement of NJ CEO at Takeda Pharma: Note weird narratives of exclusionism
5) Japanese hotel and restaurant bars all Non-Japanese — in Bangalore, India! And it’s shut down by the local Indian govt. within days
6) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s Google Page Rank drops from 4 to Zero overnight. Unsure why

NICE TRIES

7) JT: Japan needs to get tough on hate speech: U.N. experts and columnist Eric Johnston; why I doubt that will happen
8 ) AFP: “Tarento Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture”. I wish her well, but the hyperbolic hype is not warranted
9) JDriver on J Driver License renewals and questionable legality of residency/Gaijin Card checks to ferret out “illegal overstayers”
10) Asahi’s AERA Mag July 14, 2014: Special on NJ in J globalized companies, says “Offices without NJ will not succeed”. Yet again panders to stereotypes
11) Yomiuri: TV shows to get foreign-language subtitles by 2020 for “foreign visitors” to Tokyo Olympics. Nice, but how about for NJ residents now?

… and finally…

12) Japan Times JBC 77 July 3, 2014,”Complexes continue to color Japan’s ambivalent ties to the outside world”, modified version with links to sources

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By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter @arudoudebito)
Freely forwardable
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THE SEISMIC SHOCK OF 2014

1) In a stunning decision, Japan’s Supreme Court overturns Fukuoka High Court, rules that NJ Permanent Residents (etc.) not automatically eligible for social welfare benefits

In an event sure to make my year-end top ten most important human rights issues of 2014, Japan’s highest court just overturned the Fukuoka High Court’s 2011 decision, ruling that an octogenarian granny who, despite being born in Japan, living her life here as a Zainichi Special Permanent Resident, and contributing to Japan’s social welfare systems, has no right to the benefits of her contributions because she’s foreign (i.e., not “kokumin”). More comment after the articles:

JT: The Supreme Court ruled Friday that foreigners with permanent residency status are ineligible for welfare benefits, overturning a decision by the Fukuoka High Court that had acknowledged their eligibility under the public assistance law. The decision by the top court’s Second Petit Bench concerned a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency who was born and grew up in Japan. The woman applied for welfare benefits with the Oita municipal office in Oita Prefecture in December 2008 but was denied the benefits on the grounds she had some savings. The woman then filed a suit demanding that the city’s decision be repealed. She is now receiving the benefits because the municipality accepted her welfare application in October 2011. While the recipients of welfare benefits are limited to Japanese nationals by law, the government issued a notice in 1954 saying foreigners should be treated in accordance with the public assistance law. Since the government limited recipients to Japanese nationals and foreigners with permanent residency in 1990, municipalities have exercised their discretion in doling out the benefits. In October 2010, the Oita District Court rejected the plaintiff’s suit, saying that denying the public assistance law to foreigners was within the discretion of a municipal government. In November 2011, however, the Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying that foreigners with permanent residency have been protected under the public assistance law.

COMMENT: And now the pendulum has swung again, with a great big Bronx Cheer for all NJ in Japan. More information on what has appeared on Debito.org over the years in this blog entry.

My final thought on this for now is how the online commenters (who consistently blame NJ for anything bad that happens to them) spin this one against the plaintiff? It’s a challenge: She’s an 82-year-old granny Zainichi living her entire life in Japan trying to get her tax benefits back, for heaven’s sake. Still, the reflexes are kicking in. We’ve already had one person commenting at the Japan Times about how this ruling was a means to deal with “illegal immigrants” somehow (the JT immediately spotted this as trolling and deleted it; wish they would be more proactive with my columns as trolls keep derailing any meaningful debate). Any more gems out there, go ahead and quote them in the Comments section below. A ruling this egregiously anti-NJ becomes an interesting psychological experiment to see how far the self-hating gaijin will go to deny they have any rights to anything whatsoever in Japan.

UPDATE JULY 25, 2014: This very blog entry gets cited in the South China Morning Post.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12530

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2) JT: Colin Jones on NJ rights after the Supreme Court welfare verdict of July 2014: None but what MOJ bureaucrats grant you

Jones in the JT: This newspaper’s well-intentioned July 27 editorial declaring that the social safety net should be for all taxpayers is perfectly understandable — particularly given that the petitioner was an elderly Chinese who was born and spent her whole life here. Unfortunately, it is a mistake to equate feeding the maw of whatever tax-fueled Leviathan nation state you happen to live in with being entitled to anything from it in return. This is particularly true in Japan, where by law it is generally more important that one of your parents be Japanese than where you were born, raised or paid taxes. After all, being a dutiful taxpayer alone won’t get your visa renewed or keep you from getting kicked out of the country; why should it get you a welfare payment either?

Thus, if you live here on a foreign passport, you might want to snuggle up in a comfy chair and read through the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, since for most purposes, that is your constitution. Having its roots in an Occupation-era decree modeled after U.S. immigration laws then in effect (missing some important features, as will be discussed later), the ICRRA did not become a “law” until 1982, when it was amended in connection with Japan’s accession to the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. I say it is your constitution because in 1978, the Supreme Court acknowledged that most constitutional protections did extend to foreigners, but only within the framework of the immigration laws and regulations, including the broad administrative discretion granted by these to Ministry of Justice officials.

COMMENT: What I’d like to have clarified is Colin’s point about whether or not people (particularly non-citizen permanent residents) who pay taxes really have no rights to expect the benefits from The State. Let me ask Debito.org Readers to assist me in doing a little research. Let’s find some law journals and other academic research written by specialists that give comparative rights for non-citizen residents in an international light. Here are two research questions:

1) Are non-citizen residents (particularly permanent residents, as taxpayers) entitled to the same social welfare benefits (e.g., unemployment, child support, and other safety-net measures designed to rescue citizens from destitution) in other developed countries? (Let’s say the G8, or widen it out to the OECD if necessary.)

2) Do guarantees of civil and human rights guaranteed in the national constitutions of developed countries also apply to “all people/residents”, including non-citizens, or are they strictly reserved for citizens, as they apparently are in Japan?

Note that we are not looking for absolute equality (that’s impossible, otherwise there would be no benefit to citizenship). But simply put: Do foreign residents receive the same guarantee against various social adversities elsewhere as a legally-enshrined human right, or not? Please send us some links to some articles in the comments section, with pertinent excerpts/abstracts included.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12566

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OTHER WEIRDNESS AND DENIALISM

3) SITYS: JT publishes lawyer’s analysis of J-cops’ arbitrary “stop and frisk” procedures. It’s now actually worse for NJ than Debito.org has reported before (correctly)

DEBITO: Hokay, let’s go over this issue one more time on Debito.org (the previous times from here): the ability of J-cops to racially profile and subject any “foreigner” to arbitrary Gaijin Card ID-checks. I offered advice about what to do about it (print and carry the actual laws around with you and have them enforced). Last time I talked about this (in my Japan Times column last April), I noted how laws had changed with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law, but the ability for cops to arbitrarily stop NJ has actually continued unabated. In fact, it’s expanded to bag searches and frisking, with or without your permission (because, after all, NJ might be carrying knives or drugs, not just expired visas). Well, as if doubting the years of research that went into this article (and affirmed by an Japanese Administrative Solicitor in our book HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS), the JT put up a “featured comment” from some anonymous poster saying that my article was wrong and a source for misinformation:

MM333: I’m sorry, but the information in this article and on the website describing the powers of the police to stop foreigners and demand passports or residence cards for any reason ‘whenever’ is inaccurate. The law does not give the police in Japan arbitrary powers to conduct suspicionless questioning. […] There is no doubt that in practice police in every country may try to exceed their powers, but it is quite another thing to assert that the police actually have the right to do this. In may interest people to know that the laws imposed on the police in Japan with regards to questioning are actually more restrictive as compared with the US (ie. Stop and Frisk) or the UK (ie. CJPOA Section 60). I would recommend that everyone read the law themselves and consult a Japanese attorney if they have questions about the law. I would also ask the Japan times to have this article reviewed by a Japanese attorney and corrections made where appropriate to avoid misinformation being spread.

DEBITO: Eventually the JT DID consult a lawyer and ran the following article — where it’s even worse than I argued: The lawyer is essentially suggesting that you had better cooperate with the police because the laws will not protect you — especially if you’re in a “foreigner zone” of Tokyo like Roppongi.

JT LAWYER ISHIZUKA: Legal precedents in these cases have tended to stress the importance of balancing the public’s right to privacy with the necessity and urgency of the specific investigation and the public interest in preventing the crime the individual stopped by the police was suspected of being involved in. […] Regarding the profiling, considering it was in Roppongi, which has a bit of a reputation for crime involving foreigners, the police officials could probably come up with a number of explanations for why they stopped [a NJ named P], such as a suspicion that he was carrying or selling drugs. It is unlikely that any judge would rule that this was a case of profiling and that the questioning was illegal. As for the frisking, it was legal for the officers to pat P down over his clothes and bag, even without his consent. However, it would be illegal if an officer searched inside P’s pockets or clothing without consent or intentionally touched his genital area, even over his clothes. […]

So, in conclusion, what can you do if you are approached and questioned by police officers? Cooperating may be the smartest option and the fastest way to get the whole ordeal over as quickly as possible, but if you don’t feel like being cooperative, you can try asking the police officers what crime they are investigating and attempt to explain that you are not doing anything illegal, clearly express the will to leave and then do just that. Don’t touch the police officers, don’t run and don’t stop walking — and don’t forget to turn on the recorder on your smartphone in front of the officers, thus making it clear that you have evidence of any untoward behavior. You cannot be forced to turn the recorder off, no matter what the police officers yell at you. Best of luck!

DEBITO AGAIN: You know there’s something seriously wrong with a system when legally all you have is luck (and a cell phone recorder) to protect you from official arbitrary questioning, search, seizure, and racial profiling by Japanese cops. Even a lawyer says so. So that’s definitive, right? Now, then, JT, what misinformation was being spread here by my previous article? How about trusting people who give their actual names, and have legal experience and a verified research record (several times before in past JT articles)? And how about deleting that misinformative “featured comment” to my column? SITYS.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12536

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4) Unsuccessful protest against instatement of NJ CEO at Takeda Pharma: Note weird narratives of exclusionism

Japan’s largest drug maker, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., last month tapped a NJ (a Frenchman by the name of Cristophe Weber) to be its next CEO. This occasioned protests by the founding Takeda family and dissident shareholders, because hiring a NJ to be its leader would allegedly be abhorrent.

Relativism first: We’ve of course had protests and government interventions in other countries when foreigners buy up a strategically-important company. (Let me date myself: I remember the Westland helicopters scandal when I was living in England back in the 1980s!) So business xenophobia is not unique to Japan, of course.

But check out the narratives of justification for the exclusionism being proffered with straight faces:

A NJ CEO of a Japanese company would be “bad for the morale of Japanese employees”. (Why?)
A NJ CEO would necessarily result in “technological transfer overseas” (i.e., NJ are untrustworthy).
This would mean “finances or research and development would be entrusted to NJ” (Would it? This is an unaccountable dictatorship? This is not an issue of NJ-dom: Remember the corruption of the Olympus case, and they were all Japanese at the helm — until a NJ became the whistleblower.)
A NJ CEO is tantamount to a hostile “takeover by foreign capital” (again, those trust issues).
This particular NJ is unknowledgable of Japan’s health care industry of the “traditions and corporate culture” of Takeda (i.e., NJ are ignorant about Japan and Japan’s permutations of industry).

Imagine those arguments being made if a Japanese helmed an overseas company (we already had a Japanese in 2009 placed at the helm of, for example, the Japan Society in New York — an organization founded in 1907 by powerful Americans to explore Japanese society). Accusations of racism would probably fly. But in Japan, not so much. These knee-jerk exclusionary discourses are that hegemonic.

Anyway, the exclusionists (who only hold 1-2% of total shares, so they’re basically soukaiya) did not win out, and Weber became CEO. Nyah. Some referential articles about the Takeda Pharma Case follow.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12499

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5) Japanese hotel and restaurant bars all Non-Japanese — in Bangalore, India! And it’s shut down by the local Indian govt. within days

This case you might have heard about already, but in terms that Debito.org has talked about for decades, there are no surprises here: A “Japanese Only” Japanese restaurant has been discovered turning away “foreigners” in a foreign land — India. Well, turning away all “non-Japanese”. Because, you see, “Japanese” is not a function of nationality. It’s a function of racialized tribalism.

In other words, no matter where you are in the world, under Japanese binary sensibilities, there are two types of people: Japanese and NJ — not Japanese and “foreigners”. Overseas, Japanese technically become foreigners. But not in exported Japanese contexts such as Japanese restaurants. So again, Japanese society’s exclusionary view of the world anytime, anywhere, becomes perfectly understandable when looked at through this binary rubric.

Fortunately, not all societies let this sort of racism pass without comment or sanction. And India, despite being saddled with a horrible caste system, is no exception. Within weeks after exposure, it was partially shut down after notice from the Greater Bangalore City Corporation on explicit charges of racial discrimination — something Japan simply cannot do. Articles follow.

Bangalore Mirror: Unabashedly racist, Uno-In Hotel bars all other nationals; ironically, its head and staff are Indians. The hotel makes no bones about it. Its website categorically states: Located in Bangalore, we are a hotel exclusively for Japanese. Situated on Langford Cross Road in Shanthinagar, Hotel Uno-In, which also houses a Japanese rooftop restaurant called Teppen, has a policy of not allowing access to Indians, or for that matter, any other non-Japanese nationals. […] Based on an incident that happened a few months back, these reporters visited the hotel with a colleague and got a first-hand taste of the discriminatory attitude. The moment they stepped foot into the lobby and expressed a desire to have lunch at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant Teppen, they were told ‘Indians’ were not allowed. Below is a transcript of the recorded conversation that took place with Nic U Iqbal, MD and CEO of Nippon Infrastructure which runs the hotel…

Mail Online India: A ‘Japanese only’ hotel, which allegedly did not entertain Indians and other foreign nationals in its restaurant, has been closed down by the Greater Bangalore City Corporation (GBCC) on charges of racial discrimination.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12484

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6) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s Google Page Rank drops from 4 to Zero overnight. Unsure why

Debito.org Reader: Debito, I could be in error, but it looks like your Google page rank has been reduced from 4 to 0. I would talk to someone who knows about this stuff and ask them what’s up. If I am correct, you should regard that as a serious issue. It’s a mystery to me: I use a Safari on my mac. There’s a plug-in that gives you page rank, so I always see it when I visit a site: http://any-tech.ws/page-rank/

I think yours has always been 4 or 5. Perhaps 5, which is *really* good for a site like yours. I don’t recall ever seeing another site’s ranking just suddenly disappear. It could just be a glitch. But I doubled checked this — and your page rank is not showing up anywhere: http://checkpagerank.net/index.php

(Screen capture of Google Page Rank according to the above link as of July 5, 2014: still zero)

My best suggestion would be to check Google’s webmasters toolkit. If you don’t have an account, I would create one, it’s very helpful. Often they will tell you if there is a problem.

[NB: I have done this. The Google web masters toolkit has indicated after a scan that there is nothing problematic about this site, and thus offer no avenue for query or appeal to Google.]

Your page rank is an important factor in how well your site ranks in search engines. It’s not the *only* factor — but it’s the one most closely related to your web authority. If this *just* happened — you might not notice an immediate impact, but over time the traffic you receive from Google would begin to decline.

If you are the *only* person with a webpage about a particular topic, you’ll continue to rank in Google’s search engine. If you and 100 other sites are taking on the same topic, you’ll fall to the bottom of the list. You have a massive archive, so on many topics, *only* you have a page — you’ll get traffic on those pages. But on competitive topics, your traffic will fall off. Does that make sense? Unless this is all a weird glitch. In which case maybe nothing will happen. You could just monitor it for a while … Sincerely, a Debito.org Reader.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12492

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NICE TRIES

7) JT: Japan needs to get tough on hate speech: U.N. experts and columnist Eric Johnston; why I doubt that will happen

JIJI: Japan came under pressure at a U.N. meeting Tuesday to do more to help stop hate speech that promotes discrimination by race or nationality. “According to information we received, there have been more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches in 2013, mainly in Korean neighborhoods in Tokyo,” Yuval Shany from Israel, one of the experts at the U.N. Human Rights Committee, said at the meeting in Geneva. Shany asked Japan whether it is considering adopting legislation to address hate and racist speech. Existing laws in Japan do not allow police to intervene to stop hate speech demonstrations, Shany said at the meeting held to review the civil and political rights situation in Japan. “It seems almost nothing has been done by the government to react to Japanese-only signs which have been posted in a number of places,” Shany said.

Kyodo: The Osaka High Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that branded as “discriminatory” demonstrations staged near a pro-Pyongyang Korean school by anti-Korean activists who used hate-speech slogans. A three-judge high court panel turned down an appeal by the Zaitokukai group against the Kyoto District Court decision ordering that it pay about ¥12 million in damages to the school operator, Kyoto Chosen Gakuen. The order also banned the group from staging demonstrations near the school in Minami Ward, Kyoto.

Johnston: The good news is that, finally, more and more people in Osaka and the Kansai region are fighting back against the haters. Counter-demonstrations against Zaitokukai in particular are increasing. At the same time, there is a feeling among many here that, as Osaka and Korea have a deep ties, things will work themselves out. But that’s the problem. What’s needed now is not “historical perspective,” “understanding” or “respect,” but legislation ensuring protection and punishment. This is precisely because perspective, understanding and respect alone will not stop hate speech — especially that directed at new groups or those who have not traditionally been as ostracized as ethnic minorities.

AFP: A far-right Polish MEP outraged lawmakers gathered in the European Parliament on Wednesday by comparing the continent’s unemployed youth to “niggers” in the U.S. South. […] Comparing job-seeking youth to black laborers in the American South during the 1960s, Korwin-Mikke said: “Four millions humans lost jobs. Well, it was four million niggers. But now we have 20 millions Europeans who are the Negroes of Europe.

Grauniad: A former local election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) in France has been sentenced to nine months in prison for comparing the country’s justice minister, who is black, to an ape. […] On Tuesday, a court in Cayenne, French Guiana’s capital, sentenced her to nine months in jail, banned her from standing for election for five years, and imposed a €50,000 (£39,500) fine. French Guiana is an overseas département of France and is inside the European Union. It also handed the FN a €30,000 fine, putting an end to a case brought by French Guiana’s Walwari political party, founded by Taubira.

COMMENT: So there is precedent, example, template, and international embarrassment. Will this result in a law in Japan against hate speech (ken’o hatsugen)? I say again: not in the foreseeable future, sadly. As noted on Debito.org many times, we have had all four of these pressures in Japan for decades now (not to mention an international treaty signed in specific), yet we still can’t get a law against racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu) in Japan.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12526

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8 ) AFP: “Tarento Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture”. I wish her well, but the hyperbolic hype is not warranted

AFP: In celebrity-obsessed Japan with its conveyor belt of 15-minute stars, fashion model and “talent” Rola is blazing a meteoric trail at the forefront of a galaxy of mixed-race stars changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture. Turn on the TV and there’s no escaping the bubbly 24-year-old of Bengali, Japanese and Russian descent—she even dominates the commercial breaks. A marketing gold mine, Rola smiles down celestially from giant billboards, her wide eyes and girlie pout grace magazine covers and she even greets you at vending machines. But Rola, who settled in Japan when she was nine, has done it by turning the entertainment industry on its head, her child-like bluntness slicing through the strict convention that governs Japanese society.

JPN_GUY: The positive reaction to mixed-race models is certainly better than not wanting them on screen. It’s “anti-racist” and to be welcomed. To a certain extent, I guess it does show Japan is becoming more open and tolerant. But like most things, it’s not that simple. For one thing, all these women are stunning beautiful. Everyone loves a good-looking girl. We knew that already! But not all mixed race people in Japan could, or even want to be, celebrities. Kids like mine just want normal lives. They might want to be a lawyer, a pilot, a shipbuilding engineer or a dental technician. As I said, the high visibility of mixed-race people in better than being vilified and ignored, for sure. But it’s also a sign of fetishism, and a refusal to see mixed race people as just “one of us”. Celebrities are “special” by definition. Ironically, that’s why visible minorities have less difficulty breaking into this field.

DEBITO: Of course, most “tarento” blaze and then fizzle without making any real impact, least of all “changing the DNA Japanese pop culture” as this article and its pundits claim. Rola in particular does not seem to be consciously promoting any increase in social tolerance of “haafu” — she’s just doing her thing, entertaining with a new (or actually, not all that new, but for now fresh-sounding) schtick as an ingenue. Of course. That’s her role as an entertainer. This has been the role of so many other entertainers, including the Kents (Kent Derricott made his pile and returned to the US to buy his mansion on the hill in Utah for his family; Kent Gilbert did much the same and lives in Tokyo with a residence in Utah as well), Leah Dizon (remember her?, already divorced from the Japanese guy who made the baby bump the speed bump in her career; she’s trying to make a comeback in Japan while based in Las Vegas), Bob Sapp, Chuck Wilson, and many, many more that I’m sure Debito.org readers will recount in comments below.

Sadly, none of these people have really made or will make a long-term impact on Japan’s mediascape. The best long-seller remains Dave Spector, who is a very, very exceptional person in terms of persistence and media processing (not to mention stellar language ability), but even he makes little pretense about being anything more than an “American entertainer” for hire. Other impactful persons I can think of are Peter Barakan and perhaps these people here. So it’s not non-existent. But it’s not powerful enough to permit “Doubles” to control their self-image in Japan, either.

I wish Rola well. I hope she continues to make the media splash she’s making. But the overhype can be fatal for many an entertainer when people eventually tire of her current incarnation. Even if Rola becomes “successful” by revamping her act to become more substantial, she’ll just be as subsumed and co-oped as Miyazawa Rie or Becky is. Or as forgotten as Leah Dizon within a few years. Let’s hope not, and let’s hope that she becomes a long seller. But I doubt it. Because the ingenue trail she is blazing (or rather, is being blazed for her by her agents) of the “sexy-baby-voice tarento” genre has never really allowed for that.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12520

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9) JDriver on J Driver License renewals and questionable legality of residency/Gaijin Card checks to ferret out “illegal overstayers”

We’ve discussed on Debito.org before the rigmarole of NJ drivers in Japan getting J Driver Licenses, being subjected to extra intrusive procedures that are of questionable legality. Well, a Debito.org Reader decided to do his civic duty and ask for some reasons why. And this is what he found out. Read on and feel free to contribute your own experiences.

JDriver: As you might know, residents of foreign citizenship (外国籍の方 in the bureaucratic parlance) are required to show their residence cards or in other way demonstrate their status of residence when getting or renewing their drivers license. Obedient citizen as I am, of course I went along with it and presented it when asked, but I did make clear I would like to be clarified on the legal basis for such a request. I didn’t expect that the person doing the registration would know something like this off the top of their head, but I was intended on talking to someone eventually who could point to this and that paragraph of this or that law that governs these circumstances.

So after all the procedure was finished and I got my license, I went to the window I was told I’d get my questions answered. The first person could only, after quite a while, produce the Immigration law article 23, which only says that you are in general required to present the passport or the residence card when the police and other authorities ask for it “in the execution of their duties.” So I asked for a specific law or ordinance that shows that in this concrete case it is indeed their duty to ask for the card. I got sent to her boss, who again only wasted my time with the same answer (Immigration law) and got irritated and dismissed me, but not before arranging for me to see the final boss of bosses, who should be able to answer my, I thought very simple, question i.e. what is the legal basis for what you’re doing?

Neither the last guy could legitimize the demand in legal terms, so we agreed that he will research it and call me later to let me know. He did call later the same day, only to tell me that after all, the legal basis would have to be in the Immigration law, because he couldn’t find any other! He said it is all done to prevent the “illegal overstayers” from getting drivers license, as if that, or any other goal, would justify working outside of legal framework. I was flabbergasted that apparently no one in the whole Koto drivers center (江東試験場) knew the legal basis of their actions…

http://www.debito.org/?p=12515

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10) Asahi’s AERA Mag July 14, 2014: Special on NJ in J globalized companies, says “Offices without NJ will not succeed”. Yet again panders to stereotypes

On the heels of our prior discussion about the Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s “scandal” about having the audacity to put a NJ as CEO of the company (shock horror! Think of how much the company will be compromised!, was the narrative), here’s a special issue by left-leaning AERA magazine of July 14, put out by the (left-and-right-leaning, depending on the editor) Asahi News Corp, on Japan’s “global companies”. Its big headline is that offices that are not multinational in terms of staff “will not succeed”. (Somebody tell that to Takeda Pharma’s xenophobes!) [scan of magazine banner enclosed]

You might think this is a forward-thinking move, but AERA also resorts to the same old media tropes about NJ. For example, it puns on the seminal TV show of more than a decade ago called “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Nihonjin” with a bit on “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Japanese workplaces”. Not to appear dated, it also refers to Koko Ga Hen’s current incarnation “YOU Wa Nani Shi Ni NIhon E” (What did YOU [sic] come to Japan to do?), with a poll of twenty (a scientifically-significant sample!! /sarcasm) real-live NJ residents of Japan saying what they find unsatisfactory about Japan. There’s also a discussion between two J pundits on immigration (yep; how about polling an immigrant?), a comparison between NJ transplant schools modeled on the Indian, Chinese, and Canadian education systems (why? dunno), and the coup de grace — the influential Oguri Saori manga “Darling wa Gaikokujin” being riffed on to talk about “Darling wa Damenzu Gaikokujin”.

This is about J women marrying NJ “Wrong men” (from a manga title, a polyglot word of Dame (J) and Mens (E?)) who are penniless, unfaithful, or violent (and in this case, according to AERA, from less-economically-developed countries, viz. the newly-coined word “kakusa-kon”, or economically-tiered marriages), because the NJ get a visa, and the women get the relief (iyashi) of having less to lose (financially or materially) after the breakup. Whaa….?

Yep, even when we resort to the hackneyed stereotypical tropes (gotta love the swarthy smitten NJ in the illustration; clearly by the skin tone there’s kakusa there), we still have to pander to prejudices by including some nasty ones.

There’s more up there, so other comments? Mine is that even if J companies take things to heart and hire more NJ employees, I’m worried that 1) like before, it’ll only be on a “contingency” basis (to take the NJ out for a test drive, meaning the hiring process is two-tiered and unequal, with less job security for the NJ), and 2) it’ll just happen because it’s “trendy”. NJ have been hired as “pet gaijin” (as was common practice during the “Bubble Years”; I know) to show off how “international” the company has become, without ever allowing NJ employees to play any real part in the company’s future. Just plonking NJ in your office doesn’t necessarily mean much (until NJ become, for example, managers). And when they do, the Takeda-styled soukaiya mentioned last blog entry will no doubt protest it anyway (if not fire you for doing the right thing about J-boss corruption, a la Olympus).

Sorry to rain on what may be a positive trend (I’d much rather have them acknowledge that J companies cannot remain insular than not, of course), but I’m not sure AERA is encouraging real non-insularity. Especially when even they can’t keep the discussion serious and refrain from painting NJ with negative stereotypes.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12503

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

11) Yomiuri: TV shows to get foreign-language subtitles by 2020 for “foreign visitors” to Tokyo Olympics. Nice, but how about for NJ residents now?

KM: Hi Debito! Here’s another indication that the government cares more about short-term visitors than about the foreigners who actually live here:

Yomiuri: The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will develop a system to show Japanese TV programs with subtitles in foreign languages, including English and Chinese, to provide a more comfortable viewing experience for foreign visitors, according to sources. In response to the increasing number of visitors from overseas, the envisaged system will be launched by 2020, the year in which the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held, the sources said. Behind the ministry’s decision were requests from foreign visitors for more foreign-language subtitles for domestic TV programs. The envisaged system will be offered for news programs related to visitors’ safety and security during their stay, as well as variety shows.

KM: I have a few thoughts about this:

1) It probably would be nice to have more programing with English subtitles (and subtitles in other languages) but I’m a bit surprised that such a huge adjustment to daily programing in Japan would be made on behalf of those visiting short-term for the olympics. Of course, it would be open to anyone but the article (and a similar article in Japanese) makes it sound like the olympics and the comments of short-term visitors are primary motivations for the change.

2) The article says that Japanese content will be “automatically translated by a system to produce the foreign-language subtitles.” Such subtitles might be intelligible for things like a weather forecast, but I can’t imagine them being of much use (except as something to laugh at — because of their poor quality) with variety programs.

3) Instead of making a major adjustment like this to satisfy the whims of short-term visitors, perhaps the money to make this change could be spent to improve the quality of disaster information and disaster warning systems for people who actually live here.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12539

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

… and finally…

12) Japan Times JBC 77 July 3, 2014,”Complexes continue to color Japan’s ambivalent ties to the outside world”, modified version with links to sources

Opening paragraphs: Hang around Japan long enough and you’re bound to hear the refrain that the Japanese have an inferiority complex (rettōkan) towards “Westerners” (ōbeijin).

You’ll hear, for example, that Japanese feel a sense of akogare (adoration) towards them, wishing Japanese too had longer legs, deeper noses, lighter and rounder eyes, lighter skin, etc. You’ll see this reflected in Japan’s advertising angles, beauty and whitening products, and cosmetic surgery.

This can be quite ingratiating and disarming to the (white) foreigners being flattered, who have doubtless heard complementary refrains in Western media about how the short, humble, stoic Japanese are so shy, self-deprecating and appreciative.

But people don’t seem to realize that inferiority complexes have a dark side: They justify all kinds of crazy beliefs and behavior…

http://www.debito.org/?p=12487

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

That’s all for this month. But the next Newsletter will no doubt be a bit briefer, as my next JT out in only a couple of weeks. Thanks for reading!

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 14, 2014 ENDS

21 comments on “DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 14, 2014

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/18/national/sapporo-assemblyman-says-indigenous-ainu-no-longer-exist-as-group/

    Sapporo assemblyman says indigenous Ainu ‘no longer exist’ as group

    SAPPORO – A Sapporo assemblyman has drawn fire for posting comments online stating the indigenous Ainu group “no longer exists,” and suggesting those who identify as Ainu are motivated by government programs that benefit the ethnic minority.

    “The present law does not encompass anything that may legally confirm the term ‘Ainu,’ ” Yasuyuki Kaneko, a 43-year-old assemblyman in the prefectural capital said in a posting on Twitter on Aug. 11.

    Kazushi Abe, vice executive director of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, challenged Kaneko’s comments.

    “I feel disgusted with his lack of knowledge. It was regretful seeing this amid efforts to restore the rights of Ainu people,” Abe said.

    The Ainu lived for centuries in Hokkaido and nearby Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. The Cabinet in June confirmed the Ainu as “indigenous people who have their own language, religion and culture.”

    On his official home page, Kaneko says state support, including scholarships and low-interest housing loans, are why people claim to be Ainu.

    “The definition of the Ainu group is vague,” he told Kyodo News.”

    MAINICHI IN JAPANESE AND THEN ENGLISH, COURTESY OF JK

    札幌市議:「アイヌはもういない」 ネットで自説
    毎日新聞 2014年08月17日 07時30分
    http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20140817k0000m040120000c.html

     札幌市議会の最大会派「自民党・市民会議」に所属する金子快之(やすゆき)市議(43)=同市東区選出=がインターネットの短文投稿サイト「ツイッター」に今月11日、「アイヌ民族なんて、いまはもういない」などと書き込んでいたことが分かった。アイヌ民族でつくる団体からは「不見識だ」と批判の声が上がっている。

     金子市議はツイッターに「せいぜいアイヌ系日本人が良いところ」「利権を行使しまくっているこの不合理。納税者に説明できません」などとも投稿。今年3月には「同じ日本人に無理やり色を付けて、不透明な特権を与えることが一番の問題ではないか」とも書き込んでいた。

     アイヌ民族をめぐっては、2007年の国連による「先住民族の権利宣言」を受け、国会が08年6月にアイヌを先住民族とする決議を全会一致で採択した。決議では「日本が近代化する過程でアイヌの人々が差別され、貧窮を余儀なくされた」として、アイヌの人々を先住民族と認め、総合的な施策を取るよう政府に求めた。

     今年6月には、政府がアイヌ文化の復興を促進するため北海道白老町に整備する「民族共生の象徴となる空間」の運営の基本方針を閣議決定。札幌市には、アイヌ民族を対象に低金利で住宅新築資金を貸し付ける制度がある。

     金子市議は毎日新聞の取材に「同じ日本人を区別し出自によって公的補助をするやり方は間違っていると批判したかった。誤解を与えるような表現があったかもしれない」と説明した。

     北海道アイヌ協会の阿部一司副理事長は「いつアイヌがいなくなったのか教えてほしい。国も先住民族と認め、復権に向けて歩んでいるなかで、議員としてあまりにも不勉強で歴史を踏みにじる発言だ。国際的にも恥ずかしい」と反発している。

     金子市議は道内のテレビ局勤務などを経て、11年にみんなの党公認で初当選し、現在1期目。13年11月に無所属となり、今年5月から「自民党・市民会議」に所属している。【山下智恵】
    ENDS. English Version:

    Sapporo city councilor in hot water for tweeting native Ainu people ‘don’t exist’
    August 18, 2014 (Mainichi Japan)
    http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140818p2a00m0na004000c.html
    SAPPORO — A city councilor here is under fire for an Aug. 11 Twitter post in which he declared that the native Ainu people “don’t exist anymore.”

    “What Ainu people? They don’t exist anymore,” tweeted 43-year-old city councilor Yasuyuki Kaneko, a member of the Sapporo Municipal Assembly’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) contingent — the largest in the chamber. The comment has drawn intense criticism from local Ainu citizen groups, who called it “thoughtless.”

    Kaneko, a first-term councilor from the city’s Higashi Ward, also tweeted, “Even if there are Ainu, they are no more than Japanese who are descended from Ainu,” and, “All they do is insist relentlessly on exercising their rights. It’s absurd, and I can’t explain it to the taxpayers.”

    In March, Kaneko also lashed out at the Ainu, tweeting, “Even though they’re just regular Japanese, they are distinguished from others and are given special privileges. Isn’t that really the biggest problem?”

    In response to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, the Japanese Diet passed a resolution in 2008 declaring the Ainu an indigenous people by a unanimous vote. The resolution furthermore stated that “the Ainu became victims of discrimination during Japan’s era of modernization, and were forced into extreme poverty,” and called on the government to develop comprehensive policies to assist the Ainu. In line with the resolution, Sapporo instituted low-interest loans for Ainu building new homes.

    When asked for comment by the Mainichi, Kaneko stated, “I wanted to point out how wrong it is to make special distinctions among regular Japanese just because of where they were born, and then give people public aid based on that. Perhaps I used phrases that could invite misunderstanding.”

    Ainu Association of Hokkaido deputy chair Kazushi Abe said, “Kaneko’s comments displayed a shocking ignorance as a city councilor and trampled on the facts of history. They’re an international embarrassment.”
    ENDS

    Reply
  • John (Yokohama) says:

    http://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/sports/j-league-club-bans-teen-for-waving-banana-at-brazilian-player

    “J.League club bans teen for waving banana at Brazilian player

    TOKYO —

    A teenage Yokohama F-Marinos supporter has been banned for life by the J.League club after waving a banana toward a visiting Brazilian player in a suspected racist taunt.

    Yokohama’s website said Sunday they would indefinitely bar one of their supporters from their matches for committing an unspecified “act of provocation” against an unnamed Kawasaki Frontale player in the home match the previous night.

    Yokohama won the match 2-0.

    The male supporter was seen on television and later on social media as he waved a banana in a section behind Yokohama’s net in the 42nd minute as Kawasaki striker Renato moved in front of him.

    When asked if the supporter, identified only as a man in his late teens, was taunting the 26-year-old Renato, Yokohama president Akira Kaetsu told Japanese media: “From an objective point of view, it is highly possible.”

    “There is strong suspicion,” he said about the possibility of banana-waving being construed as racial discrimination.

    The teen told Yokohama officials he had committed an “act of provocation” which was however “in no way aimed at anyone in particular”, according to press reports.

    It was the second incident of rare racial abuse in Japanese football this year but it remains to be seen whether the J.League will punish Yokohama.

    In March, Urawa Reds were ordered by the league’s authority to play behind closed doors after fans unfurled a “Japanese Only” banner at a home match.

    (c) 2014 AFP”

    Reply
  • Debito, regarding Kaneko’s disgusting comments above, can I throw a question out there? My wife says that the name “Kaneko” derives from “Kim,” and indicates Korean heritage. Is this true?

    If it is true, I find Kaneko’s comments even more absurd and moronic – he HIMSELF would be an ethnic minority calling for ignoring and continuing to oppress another ethnic minority. But it would also drive home how twisted Japanese views of their own racial purity is – if Kaneko is a Korean name, then we have a non-Yamato Japanese person standing here insisting that the Ainu don’t exist because all Japanese are the same!

    Well, even if Kaneko isn’t a name indicating Korean heritage, the man’s comments are sickening. There is a simple rule in the world that the Japanese don’t follow – when your country invades, colonizes, oppresses and tries to murder a group of people you from that point on, forever and ever, forfeit any right whatsoever to insult, laugh at/about or in any way comment on that group of people ever again.

    Kaneko really crossed a line with his comments, though, and I pray that he, too, is an ethnic minority so that maybe this situation could blow up into a big scandal that forces people to actually think about their idiotic myth of mono-ethnicity.

    — Kaneko has been one of the names the Zainichi Koreans have used as tsuushoumei in order to “pass” as Japanese. But it’s not a perfect correlation. There are plenty of Wajin Kanekos out there.

    Reply
  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ John #2,

    That’s an interesting case, because I remember a couple of years ago the J-media got their knickers in a twist because a ROK soccer team player made a ‘monkey’ face at the Japanese fans. This means that the Japanese feel discriminated against when someone calls them a monkey, so surely they should all understand that waving a banana at a Brazilian (and thereby calling him a monkey?) is exactly the same.

    Reply
  • John (Yokohama) says:

    I would think that a soccer fan would know (via this problem in Europe for example) that waiving a banana is racism pure and simple. The teen’s excuse is a joke. He knew what he was doing.

    The team responded in a good way by banning him.

    Reply
  • John (Yokohama) says:

    http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20140826p2a00m0na022000c.html?inb=ra

    “Editorial: J.League should adopt zero tolerance toward racism

    It’s not their fault but bananas have become a symbolic sign of racism. We must eradicate all sorts of discrimination from soccer stadiums and society.

    During a J.League game between Yokohama F. Marinos and Kawasaki Frontale at a stadium in Yokohama on Aug. 23, a teenage Marinos fan sitting behind the Marinos goal waved a banana toward the pitch. It was just after a Brazilian player with Frontale failed to score a goal and was about to turn back.

    During questioning by Marinos’ officials, the teenager explained that he was aware of his act of provocation but that it wasn’t aimed at any particular player. His explanation underscores a lack of awareness against discrimination, which the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), as well as soccer leagues across the globe, have been trying so hard to eliminate from stadiums.

    Throwing bananas onto the pitch carries the connotation of calling someone a monkey and is a well-known means of racial discrimination. Since African footballers started to play in the European leagues in the 1970s, there has been a spate of discriminatory incidents involving bananas. Those incidents represent the dark side of racial and ethnic diversity.

    During a Spanish league game in April, a banana was thrown onto the pitch at the feet of FC Barcelona player Dani Alves as he was about to take a corner. The Brazilian national team player picked up the banana, peeled it and ate it, and then kicked the ball as if nothing had happened.

    Such a humorous reaction to an act of discrimination sparked worldwide compassion, prompting not only fellow soccer players but also the Italian prime minister to be photographed peeling a banana and then post it on Facebook and other social media. Unfortunately, however, there is an endless stream of similar acts of discrimination in Europe.

    In the J.League, the Urawa Reds were penalized with an unprecedented game behind closed doors after its supporters displayed a racist banner reading “Japanese Only” at Saitama Stadium in March. Urawa’s management was criticized for leaving the banner unaddressed until after the game while some spectators had raised questions about it.

    Lessons and reflections from that incident may have led to the Marinos’ quick reaction to the latest incident. The club decided to impose an indefinite ban on the teenager later the same day, and the Marinos’ president reported the incident as an “act of discriminatory provocation” to J.League Chairman Mitsuru Murai on Aug. 25. The J.League is poised to impose sanctions on the Marinos at an early date.

    What takes place at soccer stadiums represents the realities of society. The J.League should take this incident as an opportunity to send out a message to society that discrimination is totally intolerable and demonstrate its spirit of “zero tolerance” to racism and discrimination, following the footsteps of FIFA and other organizations.”

    Reply
  • — Debito here. I just want to thank people for putting up these articles and discussing them in the Newsletter comments sections like this. It’s a great way for you to bring up issues you want to discuss (and I can adhere to my self-regulation of one blog post every four days or so). Please continue. Another Newsletter due out in a week or so for you to post afresh in.

    Reply
  • “the dark side of racial and ethnic DIVERSITY.” What? DIVERSITY should NOT be the thing which is claimed to have “a dark side”.

    Probably some English speaker was simply paid to translate the above sentence from an article written in Japanese by a Japanese person.

    Here, let’s make sure the original Japanese article author actually wrote such a twisted sentence:

    多民族化、多人種化が引き起こした負の側面と言えよう。
    http://mainichi.jp/opinion/news/20140826k0000m040168000c.html

    社説:サッカーとバナナ 人種差別を根絶しよう
    毎日新聞 2014年08月26日 02時30分
     バナナが悪いわけではない。バナナが人種差別の象徴的記号となってしまっていることを私たちは知らなければならない。そして、あらゆる差別をスタジアムと社会から根絶しなければならない。
     横浜市で23日に行われたサッカーJ1の横浜F・マリノス−川崎フロンターレ戦で、横浜マの10代後半の男性サポーターがピッチに向けてバナナを振る行為があった。川崎のブラジル出身の選手が相手ゴールに攻め込んだが得点できず、引き揚げようとした時、ゴール裏のスタンドにいた男性がバナナを振った。
     横浜マの事情聴取に対し、男性は「挑発行為はしたが、特定の選手に向けたものではない」と説明したという。この言葉には、国際サッカー連盟(FIFA)や欧州サッカー連盟(UEFA)、各国リーグが根絶に取り組んでいる差別に対する意識の希薄さが表れている。
     バナナをピッチに投げ入れるなどの行為は「お前はサルだ」という意味で、人種差別の常とう手段だ。欧州では1970年代以降、アフリカ生まれの黒人選手らがプレーするようになり、バナナによる差別行為が頻発した。多民族化、多人種化が引き起こした負の側面と言えよう。
     スペインリーグでは4月、バルセロナに所属するブラジル代表の選手がコーナーキックを蹴ろうとした時、足元にスタンドからバナナが投げ込まれた。その選手はバナナを拾って皮をむき、食べた後、何事もなかったかのようにボールを蹴った。
     差別に対してユーモアを交えた行動で応じたこの行為は世界中の共感を呼び、選手だけでなく、イタリアの首相もバナナの皮をむいて写真に納まり、フェイスブックなどで発信した。だが、残念ながら欧州では同様の行為が絶えない。
     Jリーグでは3月、浦和のサポーターによって人種差別横断幕「JAPANESE ONLY(日本人以外お断り)」が埼玉スタジアムに掲げられ、浦和に史上初の無観客試合が科された。観客から指摘を受けながら、クラブ側が試合終了まで放置したことも問題だった。
     この反省と教訓が今回、横浜マの素早い対応につながったと言えるだろう。その日のうちに男性に対し無期限の入場禁止処分を下すことを決め、週明けの25日には社長がJリーグに出向き、村井満チェアマンに「差別的挑発行為」と報告した。Jリーグは早期に制裁を科す方針だ。
     スタジアムと社会はつながっている。差別は絶対に許さないというメッセージを社会に発信する契機ととらえ、JリーグはFIFAなどにならい、「ノートレランス(非寛容)」の精神で臨むべきだろう。

    Yep, turns out to be even worse: “Let’s call it the dark side CAUSED by racial and ethnic diversity.”

    Wow, in the opinion of 毎日新聞, even when they TRY to write a politically correct description, their racist 本音 STILL can be seen.

    “Such problems are CAUSED by racial and ethnic DIVERSITY.”
    “If it weren’t for DIVERSITY, life would be much LIGHTER.”

    Shame on the Mainichi Shinbun. That one sentence punctures the entire article pretense of being righteous.

    Reply
  • John (Yokohama) says:

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/27/national/crime-legal/police-say-rumors-foreign-looters-hiroshima-unfounded/

    “Police say rumors of foreign looters in Hiroshima unfounded

    OSAKA – The Hiroshima Prefectural Police said Wednesday they had no information to substantiate online rumors that foreigners were burglarizing houses in areas of the city hit hardest by last week’s deadly mudslides.

    No suspects had been arrested on suspicion of burglarizing, as of Tuesday. However, the police said that due to the rumors, they were beefing up patrols in the affected areas.

    Rumors about foreign burglars began circulating on Twitter and social media sites that espouse right-wing and often xenophobic views, soon after the heavy rains hit parts of the city on Aug. 20, leaving 70 people dead in mudslides and forcing about 1,300 people from their homes.

    According to the prefectural police website, there has been at least one possible phone scam in which a mudslide victim received a call around last Friday from a person claiming to represent a local bank and asking for a donation for the victims. The caller hung up when asked for confirmation of his identity, police said.

    On Monday, following reports of fake police and city officials visiting homes and asking for cash donations, police warned residents to be on guard and confirm the identity of anyone requesting donations.

    On Saturday, Kyodo News reported that a 73-year-old man returned to his damaged home after a couple of days and discovered it had been vandalized.

    Unfounded rumors on social media of a spike in foreign crime appeared following the March 2011 quake and tsunami in Tohoku, forcing police and other officials to warn against false reports. There were also false rumors of a wave of crime by foreigners in Kobe following the 1995 earthquake.”

    Reply
  • “…Unfounded rumors on social media of a spike in foreign crime appeared following the March 2011 quake and tsunami in Tohoku,..”

    Yup..and the crimes were eventually tracked to local J’s….but that was funnily enough brushed under the carpet and only had a small print side line in the press to it went unnoticed.
    Image and harmony..the 2 words that sum up Japan!

    Reply
  • So, Debito, a while back you had a column or post about Kobito-Zukan and its racist implications. I didn’t buy it when I read it, but this news has me rethinking your point:

    It turns out Hello Kitty is not a cat. She is a British human.

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/miranda/la-et-cam-hello-kitty-in-los-angeles-not-a-cat-20140826-column.html#page=1

    So, wait a second: a Japanese company has been for decades, around the world, been selling products with an English person drawn as a cat? Wait, what? This…that’s…actually kinda racist, in a really bizarre way.

    Not that there are common stereotypes that British = cat – but just that some Japanese guy thought it would be just fine to depict British people as giant-headed, mouthless cat people?

    It’s really, really weird news, but somehow makes so much sense in the context of Japanese racism. It’s not about hatred or violence – just do whatever you want with anyone else’s culture and depict non-Japanese people any way you feel.

    — There is that argument you can make. But the article doesn’t say he’s a human. It just says she’s a little girl:
    ============================
    Hello Kitty is not a cat.
    You read that right. When Yano was preparing her written texts for the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, she says she described Hello Kitty as a cat. “I was corrected — very firmly,” she says. “That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”[…]

    Hello Kitty is British.
    Kitty is actually named Kitty White and she has a full back story. She is a Scorpio. She loves apple pie. And she is the daughter of George and Mary White.

    ============================

    Now, “a little girl” you can extrapolate semantically to say it is “a little human”, but the cartoon world has long since depicted animal characters as humanistic but not really human per se. For example, anthropomorphic characters such as Mickey Mouse even have animal pets, such as a dog (who remains a dog) in Pluto. And what the hell kind of animal is Goofy? Human? Animal? Nobody really cares outside of the movie STAND BY ME. The point is that Hello Kitty has been sold as a little girl born in Britain. Not necessarily British humans. But not a non-anthropomorphic cat, either. This netherworld of cartoon characters is a funny one, where one can project racism onto a character (e.g., gollywogs and jive-talking crows), but it’s a harder sell to argue that Hello Kitty in particular is a simulacrum of a human as opposed to an embodiment of a bunch of idealized images given humanoid form. There is room for discussion here.

    Reply
  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    The Johns (#9 & #10)
    Nothing new about this phenomena. Some 6000 Koreans and Chinese were lynched and murdered (skelletons still occassionally get dug up around the Kanda River) after false rumours of them poisoning wells following the 1923 Kanto earthquake.

    Reply
  • D.A.D.

    I consider this the most telling:

    “…They loved the idea of Britain. It represented the quintessential idealized childhood, almost like a white picket fence…”

    The image, image is fundamental to Japanese culture, as it can be controlled and thus leads to harmony.

    The ‘image’ of Paris is held in a similar vein. Unfortunately the reality of a real city, as opposed to a contrived idealised image for acceptance, is too much for some. Notably the ‘Paris Syndrome’ which affects some Japanese when visiting Paris and often repatriated by air ambulance after experiencing psychiatric symptoms.

    The controlling feature of animation/cartoons/manga etc on the surface is about kawaii, happy, fun, etc etc…yet the undertow is about control. Since if one can control the image, one can control the response and thus the harmony. Why do you think there these endless immature cartoon like people used on billboards, TV adverts, public literature brochures etc. It is easy to control the narrative.

    Since the bizarre corollary is that since Japan Inc uses such imagery to control its own citizens, it assumes through ignorance that those from outside of Japan will also accept the the safe, peace loving, crime free, polite society that its portrays. It has worked for decades, but the gloss is coming off and the reality is emerging. Just like those who experience the real Paris. Ideology and reality are never the best of bedfellows…

    Hello Kitty is no different. Yet the Japan Inc has glossed over the reality in favour of the kawaii image it portrays to the point of not even noting the reality. The fact it is a “revelation” after some 40years is proof of that! Style over substance…

    Reply
  • Originally Hello Kitty was based on a cat (a Japanese bobtail) by the creator Shimizu. The brand owner Sanrio is now saying its not a cat, for marketing purposes – “it’s whatever you want it to be!”

    What.ever.

    Just don’t believe the hype.

    Reply
  • http://hellokitty.wikia.com/wiki/Hello_Kitty
    “She is portrayed as a female white Japanese Bobtail Cat with a red bow.”

    http://www.popcultmag.com/criticalmass/books/kitty/hellokitty1.html
    “In the early ’70s, Sanrio was trying to develop its own in-house design department. The president, Shintaro Tsuji told his group to draw animals. In 1974, a young designer named Yuko Shimizu came up with the design for Kitty, which Tsuji said left him with a “not too bad” impression.”

    Reply
  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I agree with the Doc., and some of the posters above about Kitty- she is a ‘British’ cat about as much as Micky is an ‘American’ mouse. It doesn’t really matter. If (that’s a hypothetical ‘if’) we were to agree that Kitty was racist, then rather than being part of the gaijin controlling narrative, Kitty is nothing more than the same complete lack of cultural awareness and sensitivity to ‘others’ that we see in all other aspects of Japanese society, used as a cynical marketing tool aimed at the Japanese.

    The cats out of the bag. We know the score; kawaii doesn’t magic away Fukushima or any other of this society’s ill. Let them ‘dream the dreamy day’ away, ignorance is bliss, avoid responsibility, cry foul when it’s forced on them. I’ll be laughing all the way to the airport.

    Reply
  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Andrew in Saitama #12

    You are absolutely correct about that massacre after the Kanto earthquake, during which even the police were rounding up Chinese and Koreans off the street, and shooting them with no legal process (see Gordon; Postwar Japan as history).

    Doesn’t help when Ishihara, during his last term as Governor of Tokyo, visited an SDF base, and gave them a speech about how when the next big earthquake comes to Tokyo, the SDF will be needed to control rioting foreigners.

    After the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake, some Chinese and Korean communities in Kobe blocked streets with rubble, and mounted patrols for their own protection, whilst (in some areas) preventing government agencies (the police, SDF) to enter for up to six weeks. This is because they retain a cultural memory of the persecution following the Kanto earthquake.

    Not surprisingly, the Kobe earthquake museum not only fails to mention this, but also praises the SDF for their immediate deployment for disaster relief (whereas anyone who was in Kobe at the time can tell you that the SDF didn’t turn up until about a week later because- just like Fukushima- there was no agreed upon beforehand, practiced and prepared procedure. Indecision at all levels prevented timely response. Everything required the use of initiative, not something the Japanese education system values at all.).

    Still in Kobe today, some of the locals complain that many Japanese people were made homeless by the earthquake, and the zainichi Koreans moved onto their housing plots while they were away, and stole them. I can’t believe that’s true- I’m sure that Kobe city hall didn’t lose all their records.

    In any event, just like Abe’s nationalist revisionism, institutional memory is not something the Japanese do well, is it?

    — Well, memory being what it is, note: Ishihara’s speech to the SDF was shortly after he became Tokyo Governor, in his first term.

    Reply
  • The latest effort by the illustrator Shimizu is “Rebecca Bonbon, a french bull terrier in New York”. http://ny.racked.com/archives/2011/07/26/french_bulldog_rebecca_bonbon_has_a_miracle_credit_card.php
    French Bulldogs, the fashion pet of the moment, and NYC, the “dangan” destination of the moment, married into a character. Oh how shallow it all is.

    I’ve always seen Hello Kitty (and now this new character) as a proxy for Japanese people who’d like to adopt the “English lifestyle” or “the Paris lifestyle” but are too intimidated to do the real thing.

    Japanese people are said to lack self-esteem when they’re in Europe or the US and are super self-conscious about how they are perceived. That’s why they dress up in brand goods and never seem to leave the house unstyled. I was a told by a Japanese person here in Germany that I “would always be able to tell the Japanese from the Chinese because they wear ‘better clothes’:

    Kitty is how the Japanese see themselves in 70s England – cute, well-groomed, well-dressed, and adorable. It doesn’t matter that you can’t express yourself in a foreign language or have no intention to learn about the culture beyond ‘oishii’ food as long as you make a good impression through your clothing and aren’t mistaken for a ‘generic Asian person’.

    If you watch Japanese commercials where a Japanese person visits Europe or the US, this theme is always there.

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  • Well, my take on it is this:

    You were saying that Kobito-Zukan has racial undertones of children “collecting” and keeping little miniature gaijin as “pets.” (And do feel free to correct me if I’m misremembering your argument.)

    Looking at Sanrio’s statement about Hello Kitty, they were saying – she’s your friend, she’s a girl, she’s a companion. She’s whatever a little girl wants her to be in her mind.

    Hm. So we have this faceless, silent cat with dead, soulless eyes who expresses nothing, says nothing, and conforms to whatever image a little Japanese girl wants her to.

    She’s not Japanese, her name is Kitty White. Hm. She’s foreign. A silent, mouthless, soulless, empty, foreigner for little girls to keep and impose any image they want onto them.

    It just occurs to me that Hello Kitty is actually the epitome of the “pet gaijin” idea. Without even being given a mouth to speak, she has absolutely zero agency of her own, merely performing cute little routines from her home in England for girls’ amusement.

    Am I reading too much into this? Obviously I am. I’m not going to BS you all, I am clearly going way too far with my analysis of this. BUT. As we all know, there is an established pattern already in Japan. That everything I’m saying here may not apply to Hello Kitty, but it certainly applies in other parts of Japanese culture. The “pet gaijin” is a common topic, and complaint about life in this country.

    That Hello Kitty is herself a “pet gaijin” isn’t something I even considered until Sanrio drew attention to the fact that she is “not a cat.” She’s a little fetishized foreign daydream for children, and that really makes me feel uncomfortable. A discomfort I NEVER would have had (I did really like Hello Kitty’s branding before this) if they hadn’t said anything stupid to a museum curator.

    — The argument about Kobito-zukan on Debito.org is here: http://www.debito.org/?p=11003

    Reply
  • John (Yokohama) says:

    http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201408300033

    “Japanese soccer club fined for fan’s racist gesture
    August 30, 2014

    REUTERS
    Yokohama F Marinos club has been slapped with a 5 million yen ($48,179) fine after a fan made a racist gesture during an Aug. 23 match against Kawasaki Frontale at their Mitsuzawa Stadium, local media reported on Aug. 29.

    A Marinos supporter was seen on television waving a banana at Kawasaki’s Brazilian striker Renato during the 2-0 home win and the teenager was subsequently identified and banned indefinitely by the red-faced club.

    In March, the J.League ordered Urawa Red Diamonds to play a home match behind closed doors after a banner daubed with the words ‘Japanese Only’ was displayed by one of the club’s fans in the fixture against Sagan Tosu.”

    Reply

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