My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.

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Hi Blog. My latest SNA column talks about how NJ do have the ability to get some political power in Japan.  It will of course mean some work on their part, but that’s inevitable for all minorities anywhere.  But the biggest obstacle, aside from the willful exclusion of NJ from the electorate, is the will to naturalize and run for office.  You can do it, and I believe it’s likely you’ll get in, since the Japanese electorate is really quite hungry for something different to choose from.  But you’ve gotta stop believing that you’re merely a “guest” in Japan in the first place.  Read on to see some examples of elected former NJ and take note.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Non-Japanese Residents claim political power despite obstacles
Shingetsu News Agency, Visible Minorities column 54, March 31, 2024
Courtesy https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2024/03/31/visible-minorities-non-japanese-residents-claim-political-power/

I teach Political Science at the university level.  In my first lecture every semester, I try to convince skeptical students why they should bother studying Political Science at all.

I argue that understanding how power flows through political structures will help students enfranchise themselves in a democratic system.  Because if they don’t, other people who understand the system better will use it to their advantage instead.

But this assumes one major fundamental:  that they can participate in the democratic system at all.  Fortunately, most of my students are citizens, so they can vote.  Given how abysmal youth voter turnout generally is, I consider it a major educational outcome if they bother to.  Persuading people that their vote matters is the bare minimum a civics class can accomplish.  

If I have the opportunity in higher-level classes to proselytize further, I encourage them to engage in community building, such as organizing into interest groups and consolidating power into voting blocs.  

My real converts consider running for local office, thereby embedding themselves within the very power structure itself.  Because political power, especially for minorities in any society, is rarely surrendered without a struggle.  We need more diverse views in office as demographics change the makeup of future majorities.  

That’s how democracy is supposed to work.  Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Japan’s Non-Japanese (NJ) Residents and Visible Minorities still have trouble grasping.  As a result, they are letting the Japanese government deprive them of their potential as a political force in Japan.

GETTING BEYOND THE “GUESTISM”

A lot of the issue is that, as I have written before, many of Japan’s minorities believe they really don’t have the ability—or even the right—to shape Japanese society.  They convince themselves that they are merely “guests” in Japan—not taxpayers and residents—and therefore have no say in how they’re treated by public policy.  

After all, they’re in Japan by choice, and if they don’t like the way things are, they should go “home.”  They’ve internalized the narrative that Japan is not “home” and foreigners don’t belong here.

This dehumanizing mantra is well-established and reinforced on a daily basis.  But less considered are the underlying political structures enforcing it.  It’s hard to have a stake in a society when it might be booting you out shortly.  

Official permission to work, i.e., visas, are generally only one to three years in duration, sometimes non-renewable, and often tethered to a specific job sponsor.  This means many NJ can’t change jobs without losing their visa and risking going to jail as overstayers.  Employers, of course, are happy with this situation, leveraging this vulnerability to abuse and exploit NJ workers even further.  Thus all the incentive structures are there to make NJ life in Japan temporary and miserable.

But consider one more disenfranchising mechanism:  The larger scheme to make sure NJ never coalesce into interest groups and voting blocs.  

In other societies, minorities, newcomers and immigrants cluster in like-minded regions where they can create communities.  Harlem.  Chinatowns.  The Navajo Nation.  Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, and Little Saigon.  The Dearborn Muslims.  New York’s Jewish communities.  The Polish Patches.  The Castro District.  The proposed states of Jefferson and Deseret.  And the majority-minority states of Hawaii, California, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, and soon Georgia.  

Once people reach a critical mass in a population, they can foster entire social movements, even elect representatives and become an unignorable political force.

PREVENTING RESIDENTS FROM BECOMING VOTERS

But Japan makes sure NJ never reach a critical mass.  Whenever we hear about, for example, Chinese buying up land in an area, out come the politicians stoking fear about Chinese becoming the local majority and “seceding from Japan.”  Essentially, the logic is that more foreigners means less Japan, and if NJ ever get power over Japanese, Japan is lost.  That’s especially visible when NJ are officially denied administrative roles in any public sector positions.

Then there’s simply getting rid of NJ Residents by not renewing visas en masse.  Clean house and ethnically cleanse.  The lost historical Iranian, Filipina, and Brazilian communities in Japan are testament to that. 

But even without a critical mass, power within a democracy is granted to people who can vote, so Japan makes sure NJ Residents never become part of the electorate.  

Japan still has no official immigration policy to encourage NJ Residents to become Japanese citizens.  Further, whenever Japan announces an expansion to any working visa program, politicians at even the highest levels of government are quick to clarify this does not mean these migrants will become immigrants.  The very word “immigrant” (as in a person) isn’t an established concept in Japanese policymaking circles.  

This situation seems unlikely to change, despite the recent resumed mass migration into Japan.  Japan’s NJ Registered Resident population reached a record high of 3.4 million in 2023, up more than 10% over the previous year.

Yet the government has made it more difficult over the past two decades to go from a one-year visa to a three, not to mention obtain Permanent Residency.

The numbers reflect this.  Although the largest group of NJ Residents are Permanent Residents, their numbers only grew about 3% in 2023.  

Then there’s the issue of actually taking out Japanese citizenship, as this author has.  Yet the number of people who have naturalized on average over the past decade is less than 1000 per year, and on a general downward trend.  

No wonder.  After years languishing in nasty jobs and jumping through so many visa hoops, getting Japanese citizenship is often a very arbitrary process, with applications rejected even for parking tickets and “cultural incongruities.”  There’s also favoritism shown to applicants from countries with richer economies and lighter skins.  Not to mention the identity sacrifice of forcing people to give up their birth nationality.

IMMIGRANT POWER AND POLITICIANS IN JAPAN

Consequently, the only NJ groups in Japan that have accrued any political power are the Zainichi generational “foreigners.”  They’re the Japan-born descents of the former citizens of empire, who have lived in Japan more than a century yet are still “foreigners.”  Also known as the “Oldcomers,” they have formed lobbying groups such as as Mindan, Mintoren, and Soren.  Then there are also historical and indigenous minority groups such as the Burakumin Liberation League and Utari Kyoukai.  They all have managed to move the needle on how minorities are portrayed in the media.  

But in terms of shifting real political power, there is no substitute for getting the vote and a seat at the policymaking table.  And that means overcoming it all to become a citizen and get elected to office.

That happens, even in Japan.  Perhaps the most visible case was Finland-born Tsurunen Marutei, who not only served in his local town council in Kanagawa Prefecture from 1992, he also served two terms in Japan’s national Diet from 2002 to 2013.

Others have since followed.  Decades ago US-born Anthony Bianchi and Canadian-born Jon Heese won back-to-back city council seats in Inuyama and Tsukuba respectively.  Bianchi has since retired, but Heese (whom I have interviewed for this column before) has since graduated up to a prefectural-level elected position.  

We have also seen incumbents such as Bolivian-born Noemi Inoue, elected in 2011 to the Sumida-ku Assembly; Syrian-born former Egyptian Sultan Nour, elected in 2021 to Shonai Town Assembly in Yamagata Prefecture; and Uzbekistan-born Babakhodjaeva Orzugul, elected to a seat in Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku Assembly in 2023. 

Notably, all of them won their seats quite easily, some even getting the highest number of votes of all candidates running, despite the fact that their fellow NJ Residents cannot vote for them.  Bravo.

A reporter recently asked me if this meant change in Japan was afoot.  

My answer was that yes, this is not something we’ve seen before, and Visible Minorities claiming the right (and the structural power) to be Japanese is a positive change.  I think anyone who wants to see the change has to be the change, and they’re doing that.

How did they win so handily?  My theory is that given Japan’s single-party democracy, I think the Japanese electorate are hungry for any hope of change.  Something different.  Newcomer Immigrant Japanese can be precisely that.  So for once, being seen as an outsider in Japan can be an advantage. 

This theory also holds when you consider the opposite example:  When Diet Member Tsurunen didn’t offer his constituents anything new beyond having blue eyes (seriously, that was his slogan), he got voted out.  They realized he was basically running more for himself than them.  So you really have to be the change, not just look it.

Finally, the reporter said, “I think Heese, Orzugul, Inoue, and Sultan offer interesting insights into the shifting demographics of Japan.  But none of them are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino—the four groups who make up the most non-Japanese residents.  Do you think it is easier for certain types of Non-Japanese to gain power and acceptance in the country?”

My answer was this:

“I don’t know.  There is certainly a hierarchy of treatment based upon country of origin and skin color in Japan, especially in naturalization processes.  But certainly people of Chinese and Korean ancestry have been elected in the past.  

“Probably when other ethnic groups aren’t overworked, underpaid, and restricted to unstable visa statuses, we’ll see more of them naturalizing and running for office.”

We’ll talk again with Jon Heese about running for office next column.

ENDS
======================
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20 comments on “My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.

  • I agree with the whole article. Excelently written like always. But I do have one thing to ask about. The part that talks about the GOJ making it harder to turn a 1 into a 3 year old visa and making PR harder doesn‘t seem right to me. I checked the government‘s website and they didn‘t change the rules or the process at all. You cite statistics that the number of these visas has fallen, but that‘s not really evidence the government made it harder to obtain. Colerration is not causation. Would you be able to provide some evidence that the government actually made it harder? From everythin I‘ve read in the last couple of months, they‘re actually trying to set up „trainees“ with more permanent visas and they‘re allowing nomad visas now. Whether they finally call it immigration and allow immigrants to assimilate into Japanese culture is another question (my guess is no). The only thing they did made worse is the situation for refugees (which was already pretty bad) and Japan‘s new refugee act actually violates the UN Refugee Convention. It would be nice if you could write about that some day.

    I would instead argue that since Japan‘s racist covid policies, people realized that PR is besically useless and therefore don‘t apply for it anymore as often. I‘ve spoken to some people who actually returned their PR and went back to their home countries because of that. The 1 year. 3 year, or 5 year visa was never a problem for me because you can prolong them idefinitely everytime. I had to prolong my German visa every year for 5 years in order to get PR, so it‘s not just a Japan thing.

    That being said, once you get PR in Germany you have all the rights a citizen has, except for voting rights. The story in Japan is completely different.

    — Thanks for the kind words. Okay. How about here, or here, or here, or here, or scroll through here or here. Some of it is anecdotal, but even if the rules don’t change on paper, this demonstrates a concerted effort to enforce them in ways unfavorable to NJ, and with no right of appeal. As you said above, how easy is a visa regime that can be completely revoked at a moment’s notice during a pandemic using some of the most racist policy justifications possible? Even at the worst of times, “Muslim bans” face successful court challenges elsewhere. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes in Japan?

    Reply
    • Thank you for the answer. No, I completely agree with you that the rules are arbitrary, and the fact that they can revoke your visa at any time, like during the COVID pandemic or in the McLean case, is a joke. But I would still argue that the work visa situation got better in the last two decades, not worse; otherwise, there would not be such a steady climb in immigration. And some „trainees“ in certain industries are now allowed to stay indefinitely and even get PR, something unimaginable 10 years ago. 
      But again, I completely agree with you that bureaucrats have too much power over visas and there is no appeal process. It is also true that visas being so tightly tied to an employer is a stupid system that just calls for abuse of human rights. 
      Still, I would argue that it‘s easier to get a work visa in Japan now than 10–20 years ago. But the biggest problem remains: Japan doesn‘t want to assimilate these people and doesn‘t see them as immigrants. They just see them as interchangeable workers. 

      Reply
    • HA. HA. HA. HAAAAAAA.
      I’ve been in Japan long enough to qualify for permanent residency and have NEVER been granted a visa longer than a year. Didn’t matter if I paid up into everything, didn’t matter I had N2, I still got to enjoy a yearly visit to immigration.

      Reply
      • No idea if you’re laughing at me or at Japanese immigration, but if it’s at me, I can only tell you that German is my native language and I had to go to immigration in Germany every year too until I got permanent residency. So it‘s not just Japan, a lot of countries operate that way. bureaucracy sucks everywhere, even for natives.

        Now, before people misinterpret my comment, I‘ve been reading Debito.org actively since 2015 and started to comment actively since 2019. Everyone who knows me here, knows that I consider Japan one of the most racist countries out there (at least if we talk about liberal democracies and not literal slave states like Qatar).

        I know for a fact that the LDP and it’s right wing Nippon Kaigi cult have been trying to remove all foreigners from Japan (they literally openly stated this during various Nippon Kaigi meetings). The only reason they tolerate foreigners is because otherwise the country would‘ve already completely collapsed.

        I was just trying to make the point that getting a more permanent work visa for Japan is easier nowadays than it was 10,20, or 30 years ago. They keep adding more industries for „trainees“ which will offer them a pathway to PR and even naturalization. This was unheard of even 5 years ago. Now, „trainees“ and other foreigners in general are still being treated as „guests“ and they can even cancel your PR for a simple pandemic, due to racist reasoning, but for the first time ever, people from poorer Asian countries can get long term visas and bring their family (for certain industries). It‘s still not an official immigration policy and definitely not a good one either, but let‘s just say that Japan is slowly opening up to the idea that it either needs to increase immigration, or that the country will literally become as poor as Vietnam by 2050 if they continue to ignore immigration.

        It remains to be seen if Japan will even be able to attract enough foreign talent and assimilate them (my guess is no, as I said previously, because the vast majority of Japanese people believe in nihonjiron myths about how their culture and mindset is superior to all other „races“).

        I also completely agree with Debito that the immigration bureau makes up arbitrary rules all the time to deny visas, or to only give you a 1 year one, but this has been the case forever in my opinion. I can‘t really agree with the part in the column that states that it became harder during the last decade. There‘s just not enough data for me to say „yes, that‘s definitely a fact.“

        On the other hand, I‘m not here to argue with Debito. He is the expert on this topic (with literally a phd thesis about this very topic), I am not. I just wanted to know if he had some kind of official stats to back up that claim, but since immigration doesn‘t publicly disclose their guidlines on how they decide who get‘s a 1, 3, or 5 year visa, it‘s of course impossible to cite official stats, even for Debito.

        Anyway, like I said originally, I completely agree with the column, but the part about it being harder to obtain PR and a 3 year visa in the last 10 years kinda sparked my interest and I wanted to know more about it. With no official stats, it‘s impossible to know if that is true or not. The only thing we know is that the number of PRs has decreased, but like I said, since covid more and more people realized how racist Japan is and that PR basically means nothing. At least that‘s the impression I got from social media and privately talking to some immigrants. A lot of them told me „I don‘t want PR, I plan to go home or move somewhere else one day anyway“.

        Anyway, the main point of the column was that the guestism needs to go away and that immigrsnts should organize and play a part in politics and I completely support that message. I‘ve held the same opinion for about 10 years now.

        The main message of the column is spot on, like all of Debito‘s column. And that‘s basically all I have to say. I don‘t think I need to discuss this further. People on this website know about my opinions and how highly I rate Debito.

        — Hi Niklas. Thanks for making your stance so clear. I don’t mind if people disagree, or want more evidence, or question my claims. That’s all part of the process of good social science and honest research.

        My standard of evidence for drawing the conclusion that it’s gotten harder is based upon a lot of people who contact me directly asking for help. I ask them to do a report for Debito.org so you can see it too, but probably only about one out of ten take me up on that offer. It’s a pity, but a swarm of anecdotes would help to build a better generalized case in public instead of just in my consciousness.

        Your standard of evidence would also involve government statistics. I agree. Mine too. But we’re not getting it conclusively. Yes, we do have more people coming over on visas. Yes, we do have “Trainee” work statuses now qualifying for longer-term stays. And yes, we do have record numbers of foreigners living in Japan now.

        However, I’m not convinced that this is a change from the perpetual government default of making sure NJ Residents never become immigrants, or even Japanese. And given the fact that (except for the near-decade or so of blip where NJ Resident numbers went down), there was a significant upward trend in the NJ Population over the past 30 years (as in the population doubling), yet only marginal gains in the longer-term visas (and an actual DOWNWARD trend of naturalizers), I drew my conclusions that there were government-managed sluices holding things back. We should have a lot more Permanent Residents by now, if not citizens, especially from non-OECD countries and refugees. (I’ve already done a column recently on why so many long-termers leave.)

        That, coupled with the anecdotes of bureaucrats being arbitrary in their decisionmaking, looking for any administrative excuse to deny or demote visas (again, without appeal), led me to lean that it was “getting harder”, not easier. I’ll stand by that.

        But again, I appreciate the questions, and so should we all at Debito.org. Thanks again for the clarification. –Debito

        Reply
        • Just to be clear, sir; I am NOT laughing at your language abilities. I don’t make fun of another person’s English when they are not a native speaker. Since I’m in a country where I’m learning a new language, that’d be just giving karma a bigger bat to swing at me.

          I was laughing because coincidentally while this blog went up I just received my 13th straight one year visa. I’m starting to feel like Sisyphus…

          Reply
          • I didn‘t mean my language, I was rather referring to my opinion about Japanese immigration. I‘m not really concerned about my English abilities, since I hold a C2 certificate and I used to work as a freelance translator before I became a software engineere. The reason I sometimes make spelling and grammar mistakes here on debito.org is that 90% of the time I‘m typing on my phone without autocorrection and I‘m too lazy to double check my grammar all the time 🙂

            As long as everyone understands what I‘m trying to say, it‘s good enough for me.

            Thank you for clarifying your comment though. I‘m sorry to hear about your endless 1 year visa situation. 13 years is just way over the top. That‘s honestly by far the longest streak I‘ve ever heard of.

        • Thanks for the reply again. Even though I said I don’t want to comment on this anymore, I just want to point out this part again:

          “However, I’m not convinced that this is a change from the perpetual government default of making sure NJ Residents never become immigrants, or even Japanese.”

          I completely agree with that, as I wrote so twice. The Japanese government in reality doesn’t want immigrants to settle permanently and doesn’t want them to naturalize. Nippon Kaigi even wants to expel all foreigners, like I wrote above.

          But, the current policies that Japan implemented are still a small step forward compared to even 5-10 years ago, even though not enough to relieve the labor shortage at all and still not an official immigration policy.

          In my opinion the reason why we don’t have more permanent residents is not because it’s so hard (I mean, it is hard, but in a lot of EU countries it’s actually harder, Germany and the UK make you take an exam about their language, history, culture and political system for example, and yes I know that the UK isn’t an EU country anymore, but I’m too lazy to look up the requirements for more countries for now), but it’s, like I said above, because most NJ decide to leave after a few years, because they realize how racist Japanese society is and that they have no future in this country. PR is worthless if you’re stuck teaching English forever, or work below minimum wage as farmer, or fisher. Most foreigners who even speak above N1 Japanese get denied at more traditional Japanese jobs and companies, just because they don’t look Japanese. And PR is especially worthless if it can be made null and void like during the covid pandemic. And Japanese citizenship also means nothing, because you’ll never be considered Japanese if you’re naturalized or a “hafu”. I mean your own website proves this Debito. Even after you got your citizenship, you got regularly stopped by police and refused at bars and other establishments. Why jump through all the bureaucratic hoops of getting citizenship (and having to renounce your original one), if it doesn’t mean much in the end? It basically only gives you voting rights and gives you the right to always enter Japan, but your status in society doesn’t change.

          You even wrote so yourself in the column you linked: “Unless you marry (and stay married to) a Japanese, it’s quite difficult for foreigners to control their own professional lives in Japan. Becoming a salaryman is one thing, where you can work until you drop, but promotion is tougher for foreigners, and they are the first ones laid off in any economic downturn. Moreover, the types of jobs you can take are mostly “foreigner” jobs in certain industries.”

          I honestly think that’s the main reason. It is probably a combination of both, no opportunity for job growth and immigration inventing arbitrary rules to keep foreigners away from applying for PR, but I think that reason number 1 is the main reason. Japan is just not attractive enough for most NJ to come here and stay long term, even poorer NJ from Vietnam and China don’t want to come, or stay long term anymore, so Japan now looks at countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

          I think we both actually completely agree with each other Debito, it’s just that it’s sometimes hard to express your thoughts on something so complex through a comment section. It always turns into having to write several paragraphs of text in order to explain myself efficiently.

          And again, I respect you for standing by your original claim, it would just be nice to have some official stats in order to really see what the real reason for PR going down is. But like I said, this is not your fault, immigration just doesn’t release such information, so we may never know and can only guess based on anecdotal evidence.

          Anyways, this is really my last comment on this issue now. I think my standpoint should be clear by now. I look forward to your next column, like always, and I hope that you’ll write about the new refugee law that passed a few months ago, where even the UN said that it violates the UN Refugee Convention.

          — Thanks for the extra comment and the article suggestion at the end. I’m not sure I’m expert enough on the complex history of the refugee situation to offer more than just a horserace journalistic hack job. I’ll see what I can do. My next column is scheduled to be with Jon Heese.

          Reply
          • @Niklas, these are excellent comments you’re making on this thread. I agree with you 100%.
            You are absolutely right.
            In fact, Japanese society/politics has been so openly hostile to the idea of letting NJ live in Japan with any kind of equality due to ‘barbarians at the gates’ narratives, that now they cannot entice the numbers they need to save themselves/economy/society. You are spot on in your analysis.
            Question is, what next?
            They can’t entice enough people, so what will happen?
            LDP is full on ‘apres nous Le deluge’ due to age of voter base.
            What does Japan in decline look like? I would suggest *this is what it looks like*.

        • Well talk about the devil.

          „We will accept foreigners based on rules to create an inclusive society.“

          Just lol. The point of a refugee programm isn‘t to create an inclusive society, the point is to protect people from war and political prosecution.

          Also, how is speeding up deportations and deporting peoole back to countries where they will likely be killed going to create an inclusive society?

          Are these Japanese politicians on heavy drugs all the time when they speak to the press?

          https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20240405/p2g/00m/0na/026000c

          Reply
      • I was in nearly exactly the same situation as you. N2, owned a condo in Tokyo, had been living in Japan for 12 years, but kept getting 1-year visa extensions, so I was ineligible to apply for PR. I finally reevaluated my life and made the extremely painful decision to leave Japan. I wanted PR and to be able to live in Japan indefinitely; Japan had been my home for 1/3 of my life at that point. But the sadistic immigration system in which THEY decide whether you get 1 or 3 years based on arbitrary and opaque criteria, THEY decide whether to cancel your PR on a whim, THEY decide how much income you need to make to get PR if you’ve somehow managed to get a 3-year extension (with the income number being beyond reach of the typical English teacher’s salary)…all of these SADISTIC rules AFTER the SADISTIC and arbitrary wait time of 10 years (which I had already fulfilled)… This sadistic immigration system was having effects on my mental health, and now that I’m living in Ohio and making nearly twice as much money with just a high school diploma as I did with my university degree, JLPT N2, and CELTA as an English teacher in Japan, not having to constantly worry about clearing the next visa hurdle, life is so much easier. I wish I’d made this decision many, many years ago.

        Reply
    • @Niklas

      “I had to prolong my German visa every year for 5 years in order to get PR, so it‘s not just a Japan thing.”

      The difference, though, is that you can still get German PR applying from a 1-year extension. Is it inconvenient or even anxiety-inducing to have to apply for an extension every year? Sure. But in Japan, it isn’t just inconvenient and anxiety-inducing, it actually PREVENTS you from applying for PR (because the rules say you can only get PR from a 3- or 5-year extension). You could live in Japan and still not get PR after 10, 20, or even 50 years simply because bureaucrats keep giving you 1-year extensions ad infinitum, for reasons that “we are not allowed to tell you.”

      Reply
      • Sorry, but I‘m not familiar with that rule. I checked 5 different websites, including mofa and all of them just say that you have to be living in Japan for a minimum of 10 years, must have paid all health insurance and taxes, must have enough income to support yourself and your potential family and be an „upstanding citizen“, so no fine or prison sentence.

        Nowhere is there a single word about how you need at least one 3 year visa in order to apply. I never applied for PR myself, so I‘m not an expert and I guess this could be one of those hidden rules that bureaucrats just made up to deny PR to NJ that Debito mentioned, but it‘s really weird that not a single website I checked mentions this as a reason for being rejected. If this is true than that‘s really an extremely unfair policy which makes no logical sense at all. Which would totally be in character with Japan, but I‘m still surprised I never heard about this, even though I personally know some PR holders myself.

        Reply
  • One recent development that cuts Japan both ways and ends “guestism” as a reality or a self perception is tying Health & Pension payments with a visa renewal.
    Back in the 90s, Guestism had its perks as NJs could avoid paying into Japan’s ailing Health Insurance/Pension system by claiming they had travel or foreign insurance. This was a grey area overlooked for some years and in fact the law said everyone had to have “some kind of insurance” so it was a loophole.

    Some local city halls then tried to crack down and even back charge NJs from the time they had started living in said city, patently ridiculous as how can one be insured for the past? It was more of a tax or levy, as in “If you live here the rules state you owe us X amount from Day 1”.
    However, many could just move house to another city and if there was not forwarding address, they might avoid it.

    Not any more, as it has effectively become a National Law- to get a visa renewal you must have been paying the Insurance/Nenkin as a visa renewal requirement. By doing this however, is IMHO tantamount of Japan indirectly accepting there are no “guests” in Japan after a year. Surely guests would not need to pay into a Japanese pension system, as they are not going to stay!

    Thus, unless one is really just a very short term guest of a few months in Japan, there are no longer any “Guests”- you are paying into that system and are thus a resident and should receive the benefits as well, accordingly.

    Otherwise you are essentially an Underclass, taxed the same as a Japanese but with none of the benefits.

    — Good point about the Nenkin requirement voiding “Guest Status”. Hadn’t made that connection myself.

    Reply
  • The government has changed and got the idea from the Nagoya immigration Office to deny PR to people who don’t pay into the pension system. I was denied PR before Covid for having been behind in pension payments (months behind, but less than a year) but not behind with health insurance. I had been married to a Japanese woman for 15 years at that time. I did not get a rejection until 9 months had passed. During the nine months I paid the pension payments, although I was late. I said my salary was less and had trouble making ends meet.

    The government does not like people who have PR but don’t pay into the pension system. Now the government is talking about revoking PR for people not paying nenkin and kokumin hoken. However, Japanese that run a small business can get out of paying for nenkin for themselves.

    Reply
    • @JDG
      The US Taxes people who can’t vote. What are you talking about, since you failed to make any specific claim.

      Reply
      • Well, obviously I’m making a broad sweeping anllusions about the nature of social responsibilities Vs social freedoms and those of the state towards residents.
        In combination with this, I’m also making a (thinly) veiled criticism of the ‘enigma of Japanese power’ triumvirate that is so focused on hard economic data (GDP/current account surplus/Nikkei225/USD exchange rate) as ‘proof’ of economic well being that manipulating these figures (Bank of Japan holding stock in 75% of Nikkei 225 companies, for example) has distorted understanding of market fundamentals (eg, with increasing interest rates, why has the Nikkei continued to climb AND the JPY continued to weaken, contrary to perceived economic orthodoxy?).
        Never mind the fact that this is focusing on the symptoms of Japan’s economic malaise rather than the cause (after all, none of this is addressing the falling birth rate and increasing tax burden, is it?).
        But I didn’t really want to have to spell it all out with my sausage fingers on my stupid little phone touchscreen, and hoped that those who have been paying attention would be able to unpack all this for themselves.
        ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Reply

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