DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 9, 2008

mytest

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Hi All. It’s been a while since my last Newsletter, and I’ve only just recently rebooted the Debito.org Blog with daily updates. But I’ve got a good excuse–being off on the March Handbook for Newcomers Book Tour. Let me focus on that this time:

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 9, 2008:

HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS BOOK TOUR SPECIAL

(BONUS DVD EXTRA: APRIL 1 JAPAN TIMES COLUMN)

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1) BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK TOUR–A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE
2) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST WITH ENTIRE FCCJ SPEECH ON HANDBOOK
3) EXCERPT OF THE BOOK ON JAPAN FOCUS
4) TERRIE LLOYD REVIEWS HANDBOOK POSITIVELY FOR DAIJOB.COM
5) CHUUNICHI SHINBUN ON ONE OF MY NAGANO SPEECHES

…and finally…
6) JAPAN TIMES JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 2
…ON LOCAL KOKUSAIKA FORUMS AS WASTED OPPORTUNITIES

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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan

debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org

Daily Blog updates at http://www.debito.org/index.php

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1) BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE TOUR–A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE

One of the things a friend of mine (hi Frank) said when my first two books came out (JAPANESE ONLY, see them at http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html) was, “You should be out there promoting the hell out of your book.” Quite frankly, given the then-timeliness of the subject matter, I thought they would sell themselves, provided Akashi Shoten, Japan’s biggest human-rights publisher, put them on every bookshelf in Japan. However, that’s now how things happen. Given the highly-cartelized nature of the Japanese book market in general (particularly towards English-language books; raspberries to distributor Youhan), and the very limited scope of the human-rights book market in specific (I have met some book stores that say they absolutely refuse to stock a serious book!), I realized that the best way I would ever get people to know about the books would be if I promoted them myself. So that’s what I did this time with HANDBOOK, with a nationwide book tour done completely on my own dime (that’s right–no sponsors), my own time (no agent booking or helping), and my own verve (I was giving two or more speeches a day sometimes), I created a couple of powerpoint presentations and started selling.

And sell they did. In two weeks plus (March 15 to April 2), I toured Sendai, Tokyo, Nagano, Shiga, Osaka, Wakayama, Kobe, Okayama, and Fukuoka. I also visited nearly three dozen local bookstores personally to ask them to stock my book (see http://www.debito.org/handbook.html#stores) ; all did, and some who already had it on the shelves took in even more stocks just because I visited. My favorite instance was the enormous Tsutaya Roppongi Hills, which had previously refused to take my JAPANESE ONLY books because “they didn’t match their store’s image”; this time, however, the manager looked at the book, said that *he* wanted a copy for himself, and ordered 30; he even ordered three each of JAPANESE ONLY, so there. (And if you’d like your store or library to stock the book, see http://www.debito.org/handbook.html#order for flyers and ordering procedures.) It was an amazing feeling. Everywhere I spoke I sold at least ten copies, and I personally went through three boxes of fifty books; yes, that’s 150 receipts written by hand. Quite honestly, I’m not used to my books selling so well; nor, given my fate of stirring up controversy and polarized views no matter what I say or do, am I used to universally positive reviews. Very grateful, glad our book is being of service.

I also talked about forming NGO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA) Japan in two venues, Sendai and Osaka, which you can join if you like. See more at

http://www.francajapan.org

My powerpoint presentation for FRANCA (so you can see more of what it’s trying to accomplish) at

http://www.debito.org/FRANCAmarch08.ppt

In every place I went, I had great friends and hosts, lovely evenings out, supportive audiences, and smooth transitions from venue to venue (despite schlepping about 80kg worth of stuff at times); many of those people are receiving this Newsletter for the first time, and I thank you all for your help and encouragement.

As for those who weren’t able to attend my speeches, you can listen to one of them here:

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2) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST WITH ENTIRE FCCJ SPEECH ON HANDBOOK

As written up on the Trans Pacific Radio website:

http://www.transpacificradio.com/2008/04/05/debitoorg-podcast-for-april-5-2008/

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Debito.org Podcast for April 5, 2008

Trans-Pacific Radio

Posted by Ken Worsley at 6:43 pm on Saturday, April 5, 2008

In this edition of the Debito.org Podcast, Arudou Debito has recorded his entire speech (a little more than an hour and a half), along with Q&A, given at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on March 18, 2008. This is the standard speech he gave during his recent three-week-long nationwide tour… so if you missed it, here’s your chance to see what he was on about. It’s not all about the book; he also talks about Japan’s lack of an immigration policy and issues of multiculturalization and Japan’s future. If you’d also like to see the powerpoint presentation he used that evening, download it at http://www.debito.org/HANDBOOKmarch08.ppt (note that the order of the slides is different).

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Here is the speech write-up, as per the FCCJ archives:

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Book Break: Handbook for Non-Japanese residents and immigrants in Japan

Time: 2008 Mar 18 18:30 – 20:30

Description:

Japan has year-on-year had record numbers of registered Non-Japanese (NJ) residents, now well beyond the two million mark. However, Japan’s government has tended to treat NJ with benign neglect, if not outright hostility at times, offering them insufficient support for making a better, more secure life in Japan.

Japan still has no official “immigration policy”, despite the fact that immigration is a fact of life. In 2007, the number of “Newcomer” (foreign-born) Permanent Residents has been forecasted to surpass the shrinking numbers of “Oldcomer” (Zainichi generational foreigner) Permanent Residents by 2007. This will mean a total of more than one million “unremovable” Permanent Residents by decade’s end.

Higuchi Akira, Administrative Solicitor in Sapporo, and Arudou Debito, author and activist, have authored a handbook in Japanese and English to address this readership. Offering guidance to NJ from entry until death, chapters of the book deal with how to secure a stable visa, start a business, deal with legal and interpersonal problems, even give something back to Japanese society.

Speaker Arudou Debito, a 20-year resident of Japan, columnist in the Japan Times, and author of JAPANESE ONLY–The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (Akashi Shoten, Inc, 2003, 2004, and 2006; subject of a FCCJ Book Break in June 2003), will speak on why we need this book and what good he intends it to do.

Library Committee, THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB OF JAPAN

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Hear it at

http://www.transpacificradio.com/2008/04/05/debitoorg-podcast-for-april-5-2008/

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3) EXCERPT OF THE BOOK ON JAPAN FOCUS

Academic website JAPAN FOCUS.org has an extensive excerpt (about ten pages’ worth). Introduction here:

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A new bilingual book by lawyer Higuchi Akira and author-activist Arudou Debito went on sale in March 2008. The book includes advice on securing stable visas, establishing businesses and secure jobs, resolving legal problems, and planning for the future from entry into Japan to death. In this extract, they explain the rationale behind the project and offer advice for how to deal with problems in Japan and integrate into Japanese society.

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Read it at:

http://www.japanfocus.org/products/details/2708

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4) TERRIE LLOYD REVIEWS HANDBOOK POSITIVELY FOR DAIJOB.COM

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The Handbook for Life in Japan

By Terrie Lloyd, Daijob.com, March 29, 2008

http://www.daijob.com/en/columns/terrie/article/1630

I don’t review many books because to be honest I don’t have a lot of free hours in the day. But when I heard that a new handbook intended to help foreigners learn and understand the regulations of life in Japan, and how to plan ahead for unexpected situations, I jumped at the chance to get a preview copy. The Japanese don’t make it that hard for foreigners to come and work in Japan, but once you get here, you soon find that no one really seems to know what the actual rules are – whether for visas, finding and keeping a job, taxes, getting married, retirement allowances, etc. Visiting the many Internet information boards can yield some information, but it is often out of date or wrong due to the writer’s lack of legal knowledge.

Well, there is now an authoritative guide to how to get to and live in Japan. It is called HANDBOOK for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan (“Handbook” for short) and is written by Arudou Debito, a well-known blogger and writer who naturalized as a Japanese citizen in 2000, and his cohort, Higuchi Akira, a certified Gyosei Shoshi (Administrative Solicitor).

This is a rather unique book because it takes the view that the reader is at some progressive point in their life in Japan, somewhere prior to first arrival right through to having your remains back home! It gives a general framework of major regulatory issues that each of us as residents in Japan have to deal with in our daily lives. In that respect it is an ideal manual for new arrivals wanting to know what they should and should not do in this rather opaque society. It’s also good for general updates for old hands like myself.

In several chapters, the Handbook gets quite specific, offering advice on what to do if something not so positive happens to you — such as if you get arrested, need to get divorced, get fired unfairly, get discriminated against, etc. These are things that are not spelled out in an authoritative way anywhere else that I can think of, and thus make the publication something you’ll want to keep handy all the time.

The Handbook starts out by defining exactly what documents you need to get into Japan and be legal for various types of activities — in particular for work. It does a good job of clarifying just what documents are needed to get into Japan and how a visa is not the actual certification that lets you stay here, a Status of Residency (SOR) is. It personally took me years to find out how the immigration system works — now you can read about it in just 12 pages.

There is a whole chapter on Employment, covering all the basics such as the labor laws, termination, salary and holidays, deductions and taxes, how the social insurance system works, what the difference is between full-time, part-time, and contract workers, and where to go when you need to get help. I have covered many of these topics over the years, but nonetheless found some materials relating to contract workers which covers new ground. While reading, I found myself making a mental note to follow up on this and get more information about it.

Indeed, this is one of the outcomes of reading the Handbook — it prompts you to want to find out more. Although the book has 376 pages, half of it is written in Japanese so that someone who you might be seeking advice from (a lawyer or Japanese friend or “senpai”) can quickly grasp the nature of what you are asking, and give you a more specific answer. This means that the Handbook is not only a quick read, but also is intended to be a framework rather than an exhaustive reference manual. Arudou addresses this fact by providing copious notes on where to go to get follow up help.

By the time you read this, you should be able to pick up the Handbook at your local bookstore. But just in case you can’t, Arudou maintains a pretty comprehensive website at www.debito.org, and right on the front page there is a link with instructions on how to order a copy… The retail price is JPY2,415, and my personal opinion is that it is worth every yen. A necessary read for newcomers, and useful “gap filling” information for longer-term residents.

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5) CHUUNICHI SHINBUN ON ONE OF MY NAGANO SPEECHES

Nagoya’s Chuunichi Shinbun attended my Japanese speeches during the Tour on racial discrimination in Japan at Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano (http://www.kamesei.jp). See the article in Japanese (with photo) here:

http://www.debito.org/?p=1424

Nice writeup. Nice ryokan, too, cooperatively managed by Tyler, a Non-Japanese…

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…and finally…

6) JAPAN TIMES JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 2

…ON LOCAL KOKUSAIKA FORUMS AS WASTED OPPORTUNITIES

Here’s the text of my second new JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times Column. Enjoy:

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JUST BE CAUSE

Public forums, spinning wheels

By DEBITO ARUDOU

Column Two for the Japan Times, Tuesday, April 1, 2008

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20080401ad.html

A friend sent me a Yomiuri article (Feb. 10) about a neighborhood forum in Kanazawa. Its title: “Citizens consider how to live together with foreigners.”

I’m pleased this event was deemed worth a write-up. After all, I’ve witnessed plenty of forums over the years that have been ignored.

But it wasn’t really what I’d call “news.” I couldn’t help feeling that attendees were just “reinventing the wheel” rather than developing a vehicle that would actually get us anywhere.

The Kanazawa forum was reportedly warm and fuzzy: Seventy people discussed how to make the area a nicer place, with Japanese and non-Japanese participating in good ol’ “machi zukuri” (town-building). “International communication starts with us, inside us” sorta thang.

It had the bromides about how people find it difficult dealing with different languages and cultures, giving birth to all sorts of dreadful misunderstandings. The conclusion: It’s best to get together and talk more often.

Kum ba yah. I’ve been through these gabfests before, and it’s made me a tad curmudgeonly. It’s like karaoke where the only song available is “Yesterday”; a conversation that never gets beyond talk of food and chopstick use; a class full of “permanent beginners.” In other words, a constantly repeating cycle without progress.

I was a panelist at another one of these get-togethers recently in Saitama. Organized by some very earnest and eager people, it was bursting with panelists to the point where we had too many cooks, stewing over how nice ‘n’ peaceful yet standoffish Japanese society can be.

It was a cookie-cutter of Kanazawa, except for the presence of a snooty young local Diet member who mouthed platitudes about how tough things must be for everyone, including the Japanese who have to clean up after foreigners.

At that point I began woolgathering recalling all the warm-fuzzy forums I’d seen turn into woolly-headed worry sessions and arrived at a sad conclusion: They are wasted opportunities.

For even if these events are put on by people genuinely concerned about the welfare of non-Japanese residents (not by the local-government “internationalization Old Boys,” justifying budgets for parties and overseas trips), if one is not careful the agenda will go on autopilot, bogged down in banalities.

For example, the discussion invariably focuses on the cultural differences rather than similarities: the conflicts that arise when foreigners enter the picture (after all, people love drama). A perennial hot topic is the consequences of juxtaposing gaijin with burnable garbage sorting (they go together like steak and eggs). And gee whiz, Japanese language is “muzukashii” and people can’t speak goodly. The hopeful undercurrent is that communication will ultimately fix all.

Communicating will indeed fix most. But not all. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s “matsuri” (as these forums are indubitably good things) but someday they must get beyond the “permanent beginner” and “cultural ambassador” stage, because there are situations where mere talk will not work.

Bona fide racists and paranoid shopkeepers exist out there, as they do in any society. They will not accept people under any terms who, in their eyes, look or will potentially act “different.” Sometimes just appealing to a xenophobe’s better nature simply will not work.

This is why we need laws against racial discrimination yes, actual laws with enforceable punishments to deal with the stoneheads who won’t see sense and accept that people should be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin or national origin. Until more people realize this, the ill treatment of non-Japanese residents discussed in these forums will continue unabated.

Thus these forums miss the point when they pass the problem off as mere cultural misunderstanding. Culture is not the core issue here: One can learn culture, but one cannot change race.

The point should be that Japanese society must stop the common practice of using race and physical appearance as a paradigm for pigeonholing people. And until we reach a common understanding (and an enforceable law) on that issue, talking shops like these will just keep spinning their wheels.

Are you going to one of these forums? Then bring this issue up from the floor: How local governments should protect local rights by passing local ordinances (“jourei”). Kawasaki City has passed one against exclusionary landlords, and so can anyone else. But it’s not going to happen until more people call for it.

Don’t just jaw. We need a law. And I said so on the panel in Saitama. I dare readers to copycat if you ever get the chance. Double dare ya.

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Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments to: community@japantimes.co.jp

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All for this newsletter. Thanks for reading! Considering getting your own copy of HANDBOOK? See

http://www.debito.org/handbook.html

Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan

debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org

Daily Blog updates at http://www.debito.org/index.php

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 9, 2008 ENDS

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