DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 3, 2014

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 3, 2014
Table of Contents:
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FOREVER UNDER THE RADAR:

1) Japan’s population tally in media still excludes NJ residents; plus J political misogyny and appeals to gaiatsu
2) Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage

ON THE RADAR AND INFLUENCING PUBLIC OPINION:

3) World Cup 2014: Held in Brazil, but causes tightened police security in Tokyo due to alleged possibility of “vandalism”
4) J-Govt. “We are Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol. 4 , June 2014 offers fascinating insights into PM Abe Admin mindsets
5) MLB J-baseball player Kawasaki Munenori doing his best to speak English to North American media. Debito.org approves.
6) Fodor’s Travel Guide on Japan 2014 features two chapters on Hokkaido and Tohoku written by Debito

… and finally…

7) My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014

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By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter @arudoudebito)
Freely Forwardable

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FOREVER UNDER THE RADAR:

1) Japan’s population tally in media still excludes NJ residents; plus J political misogyny and appeals to gaiatsu

Debito.org Reader JK offers the following links and commentary about two important subjects: 1) The unwillingness of Japan’s media to count NJ as “residents” in official population tallies (despite NJ inclusion on the juumin kihon daichou Resident Registry since 2012), and 2) the widespread misogyny in Japan’s policymaking arenas that has no recourse but to appeal to pressure from the outside world (gaiatsu) for assistance (as NJ minorities clearly also must do).

Speaking to the first point in particular: Before we even touch upon the lousy demographic science, how insulting for NJ once again to simply “not count” as part of Japan’s population. Some J-articles have minced words by qualifying the ethnically-cleansed statistic as “the population of Japanese people” (nihonjin no jinkou). But others (see the Nikkei below) simply render it as “Japan’s population” (nihon no jinkou). When they eventually get around to mentioning that NJ are also here, they render them as “nihon ni taizai suru gaikokujin” (NJ “staying” in Japan, as opposed to zaijuu “residing”). How immensely arrogant and unappreciative of all that NJ residents do for Japan!

Yomiuri: Japan’s population on Jan. 1 of this year was down 0.19 percent from a year before at 126,434,964, falling for the fifth straight year, the internal affairs ministry said Wednesday. The figure was calculated based on Japan’s resident registry network system and does not include foreign residents.

Mainichi: A Tokyo metropolitan assemblywoman [Shiomura Ayaka], who was subjected to sexist jeers during a recent assembly meeting, stressed that the heckling came from more than one person as she spoke at a news conference for the foreign media. […] The Tokyo metropolitan assembly voted down on Wednesday a resolution that called for identifying assembly members who heckled an assemblywoman last week with sexist remarks, with disapproval by the Liberal Democratic Party delegation, the biggest group in the assembly.

JK comments: The quote I’d like to focus on is this: “The incident has caused deep embarrassment to Japan which is preparing to host the Olympics.” Soo…. seeing as how the political option got voted down twice, it looks to me like the only option Shiomura has to effect change in the gikai is via pulling the shame lever in form of a Kisha Club press conference. My take is that this move is intended to generate attention with gaiatsu as a real and possible side effect. Assuming this is case, can your conclusion to the Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Banner Case (i.e. Gaiatsu is basically the only way to make progress against racial discrimination in Japan) be generalized to include political misogyny as well?

http://www.debito.org/?p=12482

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

REUTERS: 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. […]

Not long after [Trainees Lu, Qian and Jiang’s] arrival, the [Burberry outsourcing] 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. […]

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12470

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ON THE RADAR AND INFLUENCING PUBLIC OPINION:

3) World Cup 2014: Held in Brazil, but causes tightened police security in Tokyo due to alleged possibility of “vandalism”

JT: Tokyo police will deploy about 800 officers in the Shibuya area Sunday to control crowds and reduce jams, noise and possible vandalism as Japan faces Cote d’Ivoire in the opening round of soccer’s World Cup. “We expect considerable congestion with soccer fans, shoppers and tourists,” a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department said Wednesday. “We will take necessary security measures to ensure a smooth traffic flow, control the congestion and prevent trouble.”

COMMENT: Sooo…. once again we see the bad precedents established by bringing any major international event to Japan. I’ve written before on the bad precedents set by, for example, the G8 Summits (where foreigners anywhere in Japan, even hundreds of miles away in Hokkaido!, are cause for NPA crackdowns in the capital). And also the same with the 2002 World Cup, where the media was whipped into a frenzy over the possible prospect of “hooligans” laying waste to Japan and siring unwanted babies from rapes. (seriously). This time, in 2014, the games are thousands of miles away in Brazil. But the NPA has still gotta crack down! The paranoia, bunker mentalities, even outright falsification of data in order to justify a more-policed Japan are reaching ever more ludicrous degrees.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12460

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4) J-Govt. “We are Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol. 4 , June 2014 offers fascinating insights into PM Abe Admin mindsets

Any good organization wanting public approval (or in this case, approval from its geopolitical “friends”) does outreach. And this very professional online magazine issued yesterday from the Abe Administration, called “We are Tomodachi”, is worth an introduction to Debito.org Readers. It offers fascinating insights into what the PM Abe Administration is thinking (or trying to convince you it is thinking — something few branches of Japan’s governmental organs do in any convincing detail even for its citizens). As The Economist (London) recently noted, Abe is “Japan’s most purposeful prime minister for many years”, and herein many of Abe’s purposes are clearly argued in well-proofed English, albeit in all their stiff transparency. Here’s the Table of Contents: […]

Part travel guide, part geopolitical gaijin handling, part cultural screed (cue those shakuhachis!), “We Are Tomodachi” magazine is a great read to deconstruct how the Abe Administration is trying to march the Post-Bubble discourse on Japan back into the first-generation Postwar discourse. Ah, those were the days, when Japan’s elites had near-total control over Japan’s image in the world, and so few outsiders had any understanding (or or had experienced Japan in great depth) that they would ever be taken seriously by anyone who wasn’t a “real Japanese” (moreover, the handful of NJ who did know something could be co-opted as anointed cultural emissaries; they’re still trying to do it within this very magazine). No, since then millions of people have since experienced Japan beyond the GOJ boilerplate, have lived and invested their lives in Japan, and have learned the Japanese language. So the dialogue is not so easily controlled by the elites anymore. (PM Abe’s Gaijin Handlers: If you’re dropping in on Debito.org again, Yokoso and enjoy our Omotenashi!)

So, Gaijin Handlers, here’s a lesson on what to avoid next time: What irritates people like us who know better is your cultivated mysticism in elite conversations about anything cultural in Japan. Consider this example of bogus social science (depicted as a “secret”) from page 72:

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“The Japanese have a reputation for being taciturn and hard to communicate with. Probably the most difficult part of Japanese communication for people from other countries is the way people here converse wordlessly. When people are standing silently at some natural attraction, they’re using their five senses to feel nature and commune with it. So if you notice some quiet Japanese in such a spot, you might try joining them in their silence, taking in everything around you with all your senses: light, wind, sky, clouds, sounds, smells. Because even when nobody is talking, there is plenty of communication going on in Japan.”
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This is a juicy claim for deconstruction under a number of genres of social science. The biggest confusion you’re going to cause in NJ tourists and newbies will come when they confront the amount of noise at many a tourist trap (especially from those trying to “nigiyaka” the place up with their megaphoned music), and wonder how they’re supposed to use all their five senses like the mystical Japanese apparently do. Logically, this also means the purported J-silence around awkward conversations could be due to the inscrutably “shy” Japanese trying to take NJ in with all their five senses too (I wonder what happens when they get to “Smell”, “Touch”, or “Taste”?). What rubbishy analytical tools. And it’s one reason why so many people (Japanese and NJ) go nuts in Japan, because they’re constantly told one thing yet experience another.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12448

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5) MLB J-baseball player Kawasaki Munenori doing his best to speak English to North American media. Debito.org approves.

While we’re on the subject of sports, here’s something that I found very positive: A Japanese baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays named Kawasaki Munenori doing his darnedest to meet the domestic press (video here): I have written in the past about how certain other Japanese athletes overseas do it differently. In fact, my very first newspaper column (in the Asahi Evening News — remember when it was titled that?) way back in 1997 was a grumble (what else? I’m Debito) on how J-baseball pioneer Nomo Hideo (remember him?) was skiving in terms of trying to connect with his adoptive community (article here).

I will admit right now that I’m no expert on sports, but from what I’ve seen (and I’m welcome to correction/updates), many of Japan’s athletes overseas don’t bother to publicly learn the language, or connect all that much with their local community. Baseball superstar Ichiro is the immediate example that comes to mind, as AFAIK he assiduously avoids American media; some might justify it by saying he’s all business (i.e., focused on the game) or trying to avoid gaffes. But I still think it comes off as pretty snobby, since these sportsmen’s lives are being supported by fans, and they should give something back.

If I had a hotline into their brain, I would tell them to go further — exhort them to countermand the dominant discourse that English is too hard for Japanese to learn well. And then I would exhort even further: J sportsmen in the big leagues get treated pretty well (especially salarywise — that’s why they’re no longer playing in Japan!), yet you never hear them speaking up about the shoe on the other foot, on behalf of the often lousy and discriminatory treatment many NJ sportsmen get treated in Japan (imagine if the United States put such stringent foreigner limits on their baseball team rosters, for example; contrast it with how many foreign players (more than a quarter of the total in 2012) MLB actually absorbs!)

Again, sports isn’t quite my field, and if you think I’m being inaccurate or unduly harsh, speak up! People have in the past: Here’s an archived discussion we had nearly twenty years ago about Nomo in specific; I daresay that despite all the trailblazing Nomo did, and the wave of Japanese baseball players going overseas to seek fame and fortune, little has changed in terms of giving back.

That’s why Kawasaki is such a lovely exception, doing his level best to connect. His earnestness is very endearing. Debito.org gives two thumbs up! May more follow his example.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12323

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6) Fodor’s Travel Guide on Japan 2014 features two chapters on Hokkaido and Tohoku written by Debito

Here is my latest publication, expanded this time from one chapter to two:
FODOR’S Japan 2014 Travel Guide
Two full chapters on tourism in Hokkaido and Tohoku
Pp. 707-810. ISBN 978-0-8041-4185-7.
Available from Amazon.com (for example).
Here are some excerpts. Get a copy, or advise your touring friends to get a copy!

http://www.debito.org/?p=12473

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… and finally…

7) My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014

Opening: Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.

However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!

And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.

Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work…

Full article with links to sources and comments at
http://www.debito.org/?p=12437

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That’s all for this month. See you in August for more mirth and mayhem!

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter @arudoudebito)
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 3, 2014 ENDS

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