Thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi TV Tackle on NJ issues


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Hi Blog. Just a few thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi program “TV Tackle”.

It was, in a word, disappointing.

Maybe that’s par for the course in a 55-minute (minus commercials) show edited for content, and it did try to take on some serious issues.

Eight commentators participated: three academics — a Korean, a Brazilian, and a Chinese — plus two media pundits and three politicians — LDP’s Kouno Taro, plus Koumeito, and DPJ. All people of Asian background (save an overlong and as incomprehensible as ever commentary from Koko Ga Hen TV show bomb-thrower Zomahoun Rufin), all reasonably informed, but all clipped for airtime before much of substance came out.

The show had four segments: 1) the new Gaijin Cards with IC Chips, 2) The historical issue of the Zainichis and other Permanent Residents and their right to vote in local elections, 3) the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, and 4) the new Tourism Agency and the new tightening of Immigration controls (fingerprinting etc.)

The show gave good backgrounds on the issues (lots of data, historical facts), but what the panelists did with the show was what disappointed.

1) The IC Gaijin Cards was far too short, and fumbled the issue when talking about why NJ have to carry cards 24/7 or face arrest and criminal charges. Nikkei Brazilian Angelo Ishi showed his card for the cameras (thanks; surprisingly few Japanese know NJ have to carry them, or even have them), but there was not enough reportage on why these cards are so controversial (heavy fines and jail time, for example), and why the new cards are even more so (potential remote tracking of IC Chips and and heavier penalties for delayed reporting of changes of status). Even the DPJ rep there admitted he had no problems with the Cards, despite the official party line of opposing them. So much for the debate. Where’s Tanaka Hiroshi when we need him?

There was a decent bit on the Calderon Noriko Case, fortunately, but the hardliners held sway: If her parents hadn’t come in on someone else’s passport, then maybe they could have stayed here together as a family. End of debate.

2) We then got bogged down in the historical issues of the Zainichi Koreans, and how historically they’ve been here for generations yet have no right to vote. Kouno Taro disappointed by saying that if you want the right to vote, naturalize. Even though, as we’ve said time and time again (and I have to him directly), the process is not all that easy and is quite arbitrary. It is not a kirifuda. This segment wound up a waste of time with the Korean academic getting hot under the collar and appearing to talk too much.

3) The best bit was on the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, where just about everyone there agreed that bribing workers to go home was a national disgrace. Kouno again took a hard line and said that we shouldn’t have imported people because they were Nikkei, but rather because they speak Japanese well (as if people working this hard in factories could have done much about it; you want perfection before entry?). Angelo Ishi got in good points that Japanese companies actually went overseas to RECRUIT Nikkei, with all sorts of false promises about income and conditions, and others pointed out that Japan’s special ties with Nikkei overseas actually did choose people based upon blood and little else. It was portrayed rightfully as a failed policy, but hands were wrung about how to keep the NJ here, sigh.

4) Last bit was on tourism and the fingerprinting issue. Much fearmongering about the Koreans in particular and their ability to come over without visas, and one case of falsified fingerprints was portrayed as the evils of Koreans, not as flaws in the system. No mention at all was made of how it’s NOT MERELY TOURISTS being fingerprinted, but EVERY NJ WHO IS NOT A ZAINICHI.  And that includes Regular Permanent Residents, who too have to suffer the humiliation of being treated like tourists and suspected terrorists.

Therein was the great flaw in the program. Nobody was there who could represent the “Newcomers”. No naturalized Japanese. No non-Asian Permanent Residents. Nobody who could give a perspective (except Angelo, and he did well, but he’s halfway in The Club anyway) of somebody that has been a pure outsider both by race and by face, and show the cameras that Japan is in fact changing with these new kinds of people who are here to stay as immigrants.

Pity. The show meant well. But it fell back into old hackneyed paradigms with few eyes opened.

This synopsis has been written over the 20 minutes since the show ended, all from memory. If people find segments of this show on YouTube, please send this blog entry a link. Keeps me honest. Thanks.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

10 comments on “Thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi TV Tackle on NJ issues

  • I caught about half of the show. Better than I thought it would be (I saw an ad a couple hours earlier promoting the show). I agree with a lot of what you mentioned, Debito. The show could have delved into a couple of the issues in more detail rather than tackling 4 themes shallowly and with ill-timed TV commercials. It wasn’t clear what this show wanted to achieve. Did it want to show the plight of foreigners in Japan to the largely ignorant Japanese TV audience? Did it want to re-create an honest debate by presenting both sides of the arguments? Again, the ‘real’ problems were hardly touched (Japan’s disposable, xenophobic attitudes towards foreigners) and I fear that the average J-joe watching will still wake up tomorrow unaware of these issues.
    Thanks for writing about this program and keep up the great work!

  • >No naturalized Japanese.

    They should have invited Kaoru Miki or Martti Tsurunen. Those guys are great communicators.

  • I couldn’t help thinking that most of tonight’s program was more deep rooted in post-WWII Asian politics. Most of the issues at hand had to do with Asian foreign immigrants, despite the segment on the nikkei Brazilians. I didn’t quite see any point to the program other than digging up anti-Chinese/Korean sentiment among the aging Japanese community. Especially by the comments about the reason Japan worries about NJ voting rights, it had a very elitist Japanese superiority tone to it. The segment about the Calderon family looked more like Kafka’s “The Trial” than a debate about human rights.

  • Debito, weren’t there any approaches to your good self about appearing on the program? You would have been a natural for a program like this.

    — Nope.

  • I didn’t watch the program, but as always this kind of debate focuses on illegal immigrants(that should be kicked out, period) and the Zainichi(that won’t be kicked out, period) with some Nikkei issues.

    As you say, the really vulnerable and law abiding legal newcomers are ignored.

    * The issues you raise about the inherent insecurity of IC chips? Ignored.

    * The fact that some dependent wife(or with a job but no university education) will get kicked out of the country in two weeks time, because her husband has died and they had no kids(what if she is pregnant?) without being given time to try and regularize her situation? Ignored.

    * The fact that an unlucky legal worker can lose both his job and permit when he goes to the Police station to report a stolen wallet while the Zainichi who stole it to sell the IC data to some criminal organization so that they can frame him for some crime in Okinawa won’t lose anything even if caught and found guilty? Ignored.

    Poor Zainichis that want to vote both in Tokyo and Pyongyang, poor *illegal* immigrants that have to hide from the police, poor those who got their Japanese ancestry on eBay and cannot speak a word of Japanese. I really feel their pain.

  • Re: Iooioio

    Why is it that for many commenters this becomes a contest for who is the most oppressed? Why fall into that trap of being divided and conquered, or why feel the need to trivialize the experiences of those with a history of struggle because you feel you have it worse? I think the show intentionally played up some of these historical issues to make gaijin in general look bad. Also, you didn’t even watch the program!

  • What are you suggesting? In the Chunichi Shimbun article as well, the “pro-Gaijin” groups are complaining about the state unwillingness to welcome *illegal*(do I need to stress that more? They are willingly breaking the law) workers and about non-issues(most PRs, Zainichi or not, could get Japanese nationality easier than they got PR in the first place and vote to their hearts’ content and avoid Gaijin Cards altogether).

    Right wingers are going to use these outlandish reclamations to justify the new system and regular Japanese that do not know better will agree with them.

    I will concede that some Nikkeis(and I realize most are actually descended from Japanese immigrants to their country, so sorry for the previous libelous comment) have it bad, certainly worse than native Japanese and PRs, but it isn’t by far as bad as wives and husbands of PRs and Japanese, Working Visa holders, and “exchange”(read slave) students from developing countries.

  • I commented about this program in my japanese blog, but much of it was already discussed here already.

    For me the fact that the NJ residents matter went on air in a golden hour nation-wide program was already a huge step. NHK documentaries and newspapper articles are great, but they don`t have the same penetration as this.

    If the japanese population (and consequently the japanese polititians) don`t become aware of the situation things won`t really improve. What is needed is that more people get aware of what is happening, what is at stake and what they want to do about it. Or else this will always be a niche matter to be discussed between right-wingers and NJ residents only.

    Considering that and the background that Kitano has doing “Private ODA” actions towards Africa, I hope that this was just a first step and the “showing the picture” approach was appropriate.


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