Hi Blog. I was asked a few days ago in the Comments Section to give you an update on how the documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES Spring Tour was going. I’m in Okayama at the moment, fresh out of two screenings (one more to go, in Kumamoto), and a couple of hours in an internet cafe getting mentally prepared for an evening of partying, so here you go. A quick summary:
First, the executive summary at the very top. The response to this movie, about Japan’s hidden NJ migrant workers, has been remarkable. I have never sold so many DVDs and books ever on a tour (we sold out so fast — you can buy your own copies by clicking on the avatars above — that I had to have my stocks replenished twice on the road by post). Sixty DVDs and 40 books sold later, I think it’s prudent to plan yet another tour. I’ll be working down at Nagoya University the second week of September, so that takes care of the airfare costs to and from Hokkaido. For places that missed me this time, how about planning something late August/early September? If you’d like to schedule an event, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now for some tour highlights (directors Koenig and Kremers, please feel free to comment or answer questions if you’re reading this):
The first showing was at Second Harvest Japan, a very nice public service provided by Charles McJilton and company to provide homeless people with food that supermarkets decide not to sell. A capacity crowd (eating, you guessed it, leftover strawberries beyond the supermarket sell-by date) asked poignant questions about why the film covered the Trainees and Nikkei workers so well but didn’t mention those being human trafficked on “Entertainer” visas. I didn’t have the answer (I’m a promoter, Jim, not a producer or a director), but Patricia Aliperti, a scholar of human trafficking in Japan who serendipitously happened to be in attendance, gave us a firsthand account of how Japan was listed as a Tier-Two Human Trafficker by the US State Dept in 2004, promised to abolish its state-sponsored sexual slavery, reduced the number of NJ visa-ed women in the water trades on this visa by about 75%, then neglected to abolish the visa status completely. Seems to me within character.
One attendee of the first screening offered her thoughts here. http://hinoai.livejournal.com/716510.html
Other screnings were equally well-attended, with Amnesty International at Ben’s Cafe Takadanobaba pulling in at least 50 viewers and the Blarney Stone in Osaka pulling in close to the same. Smaller screenings in Tsukuba and Shiga had interested commentary from viewers asking about how the directors came to choose this subject, and why it took itinerant Germans to finally produce a movie of outstanding quality about this issue. The Nagoya University Labor Union screening was so full of Nikkei (as was the Okayama screening) that we decided the lingua franca for the Q&A would be Japanese language, and everyone, however haltingly for some, put their thoughts into Japanese.
Further sundry thoughts: Two Nikkei participants in the Okayama screening had lost their jobs at the end of January, were on unemployment, and were thinking they would probably have to return to Brazil when the dole money ran out in three months. I made sure they got a free copy of the DVD and of the HANDBOOK to show around, if that would help. Participants were nearly unanimous in both the power and necessity of labor unions to inform and enforce labor rights. The audience’s outrage was palpable over the GOJ’s negligence at inviting all these people here, neglecting the schooling of both them (the Okayama Nikkei, for example, worked 11 hours a day, six days a week, and had no time to study Japanese) and their children, and telling them to go home now that they “weren’t necessary”. After all their time spent here paying taxes, living here for years if not decades, and saving Japanese industry from being priced out of the market.
Rumor has it the GOJ has advised Hello Work to consider three Japanese for every non-Japanese applicant. It’s unconfirmed, but if true, that means nationality once again has become a job qualification, one should think in violation of Labor Standards Law.
Moreover, 2HJ’s Charles also told us that visa overstayers in Japan are actually being issued with Gaijin Cards from local governments (yes, stating that they are overstaying). That’s why they’re centralizing the Gaijin Card system behind the new Zairyuu Cards, to remove the local government’s discretion in these matters (so much for chihou bunken, then!). I’ll have more information later on in the blog after some confirmations.
In sum, SOUR STRAWBERRIES may be a testiment to the last days of Japan’s internationalized industrial prowess, as people are being turfed out because no matter how many years and how much contribution, they don’t belong. Have to wait and see. But to me it’s clear the GOJ is still not getting beyond seeing NJ as work units as opposed to workers and people. Especially in these times of economic hardship. I’m seeing it for myself as the movie tours.
Call me out for another movie tour by the end of the summer. I might by then be able to get FROM THE SHADOWS movie about child abductions after divorce as well. Arudou Debito in Okayama