DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 11, 2009

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi All. I’m in Tokyo from today, so let this be my post for the time being. Before I get started with this Newsletter, news flash. Those who haven’t seen documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES, you can catch a screening this Sun June 14 at the Tokyo Univ Komaba Campus, from 2:30PM. All the details you need to get there at

http://www.debito.org/?p=3491

I’ll be there too, so stop by!

Sponsored by Linguapax Asia, part of an all-day symposium on human trafficking at Komaba that day.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 11, 2009

Table of Contents:

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

IMMIGRATION AND JAPAN’S FUTURE

1) DIJ Tokyo Symposium 2009: Japan’s Demographic Science overtaken by anti-immigration politics

2) Tokyo Trip June 2-5 overview, plus report on NJ nurses and caregiver program talks at DIJ

3) Asahi: More NJ “trainees”, “interns” face dismissal

4) Mainichi: Foreign researchers, tech experts may get preferential immigration treatment

5) Asahi on future of Japanese pension plans: oldies below poverty line

6) Sunday Tangent: Shinjuku-ku issues its own quadralingual guidebook to life in Tokyo

7) Protest IC Chipped Gaijin Cards every Tuesday anytime between 9AM-12:30PM, Diet Building, Tokyo

TANGENTS

8 ) Sunday Tangent: DPJ submits bill to limit seshuu seijika (hereditary politicians)

9) Japan Today Kuchikomi: Oddly includes NJ stats in article on gang rape at Kyoto U of Education

10) Sugaya Case: M-J on policing and Japanese jurisprudence

FOLLOW-UPS

11) Bankrupt Eikaiwa NOVA’s Saruhashi admits wrongdoing in court

12) Sumo Stablemaster gets his for Tokitaizan hazing death

13) More on fingerprinting, tracking people electronically, and RFID technology

… and finally…

14) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Jun 2 2009: “The issue that dares not speak its name” (full text)

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org)

Daily Blog updates in real time at www.debito.org

Freely Forwardable

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

IMMIGRATION AND JAPAN’S FUTURE

1) DIJ Tokyo Symposium 2009: Japan’s Demographic Science overtaken by anti-immigration politics

A recent symposium featuring Japanese researchers hosted by the German Institute of Japanese Studies was enlightening. Everyone concluded that Japan is facing a demographic juggernaut, with an aging society with low birthrate, depopulating countryside, and ever more populating cities. Japan is not only greying, but also losing its economic prowess.

Yet these conclusions suddenly become null once one brought in immigration. One representative of a Japanese demographics think tank gave a noncommittal answer, citing that Japan is (now suddenly) a crowded place, that immigration was not an option for our country, and that inflows must be strictly controlled for fear of overpopulation. A follow-up with him one-on-one got him claiming there is “no national consensus” (he used the word in English) on the issue. When I asked him whether or not this was a vicious circle (as in, no discussion of the issue means no possible consensus), he dodged. When I asked him if this term was a loaded one, one political instead of scientific regarding demography, he begged off replying further.

This dodging happened with every other Japanese speaker on the issue (one other person in the audience raised the same question with another speaker, who eventually gave a begrudging acknowledgement that foreigners might be necessary for Japan’s future, but he himself couldn’t envision it).

This does not give me hope for the future policy, or even proper demographic scientific analysis in Japan…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3442

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

2) Tokyo Trip June 2-5 overview, plus report on NJ nurses and caregiver program talks at DIJ

Here’s a brief overview of what happened to me the past few days during my most recent Tokyo trip, including speaking in front of the Diet building against the IC Chips in Gaijin Cards and helping Trans-Pacific Radio out with their live podcast at the Pink Cow Shibuya. But it’s not all personal stuff. There is also a summary of two talks on international migration I found informative. Excerpt:

International migration has produced 195 million migrants. They now number as a proportion of population 1 in 10 in industrialized countries, and 1 in 35 of the world labor force. There are now 195 million migrants, 50% of them now women. When it comes to the proposed import of nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines, as per bilateral agreements with Japan under “Economic Partnership Agreements”, the goal is, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, of 1.5 million NJ caregivers in Japan by 2040. But the program has gotten off to an inauspicious start.

Only in its second year, the EPAs have had goals of only 1000 total NJ health care workers imported. They would be trained in Japanese for six months (at the hiring company’s expense, of around 600,000 yen, then work the remaining four and a half years in the health sector getting their skills and standards up to speed. The course is harsh, as it is a “tenure system”, as in “up or out”. If they don’t pass the same caregiver and nurse tests that Japanese natives pass within five years, they lose their visas and get sent back home. This test, by the way, has a 50% fail rate for native Japanese. And salaries are not all that great for anyone working the severe hours required in this business sector (which may account for why there is a shortage of nurses and caregivers in Japan in the first place)…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3447

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

3) Asahi: More NJ “trainees”, “interns” face dismissal

Asahi: During the five months until February, more than 1,500 trainees and interns returned to their countries without spending the full three years here.

These difficulties highlight the program’s lack of a sufficient safety net. Interns are required to pay for unemployment insurance, but they often find it hard to receive benefits

According to Zhen Kai, who gives advice to foreign trainees and interns at the Gifu Ippan Rodo Kumiai, a Gifu-based labor union for workers at small businesses, an increasing number of interns are refusing to be let go before the end of their three-year stints.

They remain at corporate dormitories without pay while negotiating with their employers to have their dismissals reversed.

“The situation is grave,” Zhen said.

Canceling a worker’s training or internship in the middle is allowed only when a business goes bankrupt or is in serious trouble. Because of visa restrictions, interns technically work under an arrangement with organizations, such as local chambers of commerce and industry, that accept them for member companies.

This means that if fired at the midpoint in their training, they are not eligible to work for ordinary companies or receive new job information at Hello Work public job placement centers.

While a Justice Ministry guideline urges groups and businesses to find new jobs for their dismissed interns, in practice help is rare.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3340

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

4) Mainichi: Foreign researchers, tech experts may get preferential immigration treatment

Mainichi: A government committee has released a draft report recommending that a skill- and experience-based point system be established to ease acquisition of residency and permanent residency for foreign researchers and technical experts.

The high-grade worker acceptance promotion committee report calls for points to be awarded to Japan-bound candidates for experience and good academic and research records in potential high-growth fields such as information communications, energy and biotechnology, as well as for Japanese language ability.

Should a candidate receive a set number of points, he or she would qualify for Japanese residency, benefit from simplified residency status renewal procedures, receive extended periods of stay, and be given preferential treatment when applying for permanent residency.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3317

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

5) Asahi on future of Japanese pension plans: oldies below poverty line

Asahi: The average household that starts receiving public pension benefits this fiscal year will see the payment level drop to about 40 percent of average working household incomes in 20 years, the welfare ministry said.

The ministry’s latest estimates include changes in annual benefits over 20 years. If the average household begins receiving benefits in fiscal 2009 when the couple reach the age of 65, the payments will be 223,000 yen a month, or 62.3 percent of the average income of working households.

When the couple become 85 years old, the pension amount will be 199,000 yen in terms of current values, or 43.2 percent of the average working household income.

COMMENT: Here is the proposed future for those of us paying into our nation’s pension plan. Read and weep. Considering Japan’s unofficial poverty line is about 200,000 yen a month, people who retire are forecast to become just that: impoverished.

Good discussion on Debito.org about pension plans in general at:

http://www.debito.org/?p=3397

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

6) Sunday Tangent: Shinjuku-ku issues its own quadralingual guidebook to life in Tokyo

Mainichi: The municipal government of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward has released the “Guide to Living in Shinjuku,” a daily life manual in four languages aimed at new foreign residents.

The illustrated guide is in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese with furigana phonetic readings above the kanji characters for easy reading. The guide covers details of moving into an apartment, such as the deposit and so-called “key money,” as well as etiquette such as polite greetings to neighbors after moving in, not playing music too loudly at night, and making sure to check with the landlord before getting a pet.

The 74-page manual also covers practicalities of everyday living in the ward, such as separating garbage, procedures to follow in case of a natural disaster, bicycle manners and making it clear that smoking is prohibited on the streets.

COMMENT FROM JK: I don’t suppose Shinjuku-ku would be kind enough to release a “Guide to Living with Foreigners,” in Japanese aimed at the existing residents of the Ward. In my opinion this “startbook” = ‘Read This Book, Become A Good Gaijin, And Don’t Cause Us Any Trouble”.

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: I’m not quite that negative about it. Sample scans of the book enclosed, and a link to a pdf to the entire book at

http://www.debito.org/?p=2973

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

7) Protest IC Chipped Gaijin Cards every Tuesday anytime between 9AM-12:30PM, Diet Building, Tokyo

NUGW Nambu: A sit-in will be held in front of the Diet Building every Tuesday June 2, from 9:00-12:30 a.m., to protest the changes to immigration law which are being pushed through parliament with little debate, and no consultation with those directly affected by the laws.

Place:

Shugiin Dai 2 Giinkaikan (Second Members Office Building of the House of Representatives)

Kokkai gijido mae Station: (Marunouchi line, Chiyoda line)

We will have banners and posters prepared.

You can come for any length of time, between 9 and 12:30.

Contact Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (Ijuuren)’s (http://www.jca.apc.org/migrant-net/) Takaya-san at fmwj AT jca DOT apc DOT org for more information.

More information at:

http://www.debito.org/?p=3412 (info on June 2 protest, but it’s a template for what’s happening every Tues from now on, as the Diet has extended its current debate session for two more months).

What happened when I attended on June 2: I was handed a mike, and asked to give the Diet a piece of my mind. I did.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3447

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

TANGENTS

8 ) Sunday Tangent: DPJ submits bill to limit seshuu seijika (hereditary politicians)

Here’s the best reason I can see for voting for (and urging your relatives to vote for) the opposition DPJ yet. And no, it’s not a NJ issue. It’s the issue of seshuu seijika, or politicians with inherited Diet seats.

In my view, inherited seats and political dynasties to this degree are the biggest reason we have so much rot in Japan’s democratic institutions: gormless politicians who neither understand how the other (poorer) half of Japan lives, nor have any reason to rock the boat and institute any real reforms of the status quo because they’re a political elite with their future estates sewn up for life.

For example, either way the next election swings, we’ll have Aso (grandson of former PM Yoshida Shigeru and son of a former Dietmember) or Hatoyama Yukio (grandson of former PM Hatoyama Ichiro and son of a former Dietmember too). All thoroughbreds. As have most PMs been in the past couple of decades.

I talk more about this in the context of just how myopic Japan’s policymaking is in a Japan Times article back in December 2007. I also enclose in this blog entry three articles from the Japan Times.

Any political party willing to limit the powers of its own politicians is worth a second look. I say get ready to vote DPJ.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3459

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

9) Japan Today Kuchikomi: Oddly includes NJ stats in article on gang rape at Kyoto U of Education

Here’s something pointed out last week in a comment on Debito.org by E.P. Lowe, about a ponderous essay on Japan Today.com why students do the things they do, such as gang rapes in Kyoto University of Education. And then, with no particular need whatsoever, we get stats on how many foreign students are attending. Not sure why that’s materiel for this article, especially given the tendency by elements in this country to drag foreigners into reports and policy proposals on crime, even when they are unconnected to the crime being discussed. Unprofessional, Japan Today.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3453

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

10) Sugaya Case: M-J on policing and Japanese jurisprudence

Big news last week was Sugaya Toshikazu’s very, very rare acquittal after nearly two decades in prison. It describes well what’s really sick about Japan’s judicial system (primer on that here), which you had better pay attention to because as NJ you’re more likely to be stopped, prosecuted, and convicted in Japan (primer on that here) by the police forces.

Here’s what the Mainichi had to say last week about the Sugaya Case, followed by an appraisal of the situation by reader M-J…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3472

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

FOLLOW-UPS

11) Bankrupt Eikaiwa NOVA’s Saruhashi admits wrongdoing in court

Former Eikaiwa boss Saruhashi finally admits he done wrong. But neglects to mention how all the unpaid teachers left in the lurch will still be left in the lurch. This was once the largest employer of NJ in Japan? Saru mo ki kara ochiru, as they say. But this is a mighty fall by a money skimmer with a money spinner. And a shady company from start to finish anyway, setting the business model for other eikaiwas out to screw over both their students and their teachers. Throw the book at this guy, and make him cough up what he owes to his teachers. So that others don’t do the same and think it’s “just regular business practice”.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3500

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

12) Sumo Stablemaster gets his for Tokitaizan hazing death

A bit of follow-up on a case that Debito.org took up some months ago due to the politics of Sumo (and our perceived need for the Association to divert attention from its own excesses by bashing the foreigners). The stablemaster whose orders resulted in the death of Sumo wrestler Tokitaizan two years got his: Seven years in the clink. Good. But it’s now on appeal, and who knows if it’ll be lessened to the degree where it does not become a deterrent for future leaders to order and carry out the bullying and hazing of its underlings.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3468

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

13) More on fingerprinting, tracking people electronically, and RFID technology

Update Three this week. I put out an article three weeks ago that sparked some controversy, about the prospects of the new Gaijin Cards with IC Chips within them being used to track people and ferret out the foreigners with more effectiveness than ever before. I was accused of scaremongering by some, but oh well.

As a followup, here are some responses and links to germane articles from cyberspace, pointing out how my prognostications may in fact be grounded in reality. Along with a critique at the very bottom from friend Jon Heese, Tsukuba City Assemblyman, of that controversial article.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3483

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

… and finally…

14) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Jun 2 2009: “The issue that dares not speak its name” (full text)

JUST BE CAUSE

The issue that dares not speak its name

The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 2, 2009, Column Sixteen

By ARUDOU Debito

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090602ad.html

Version with links to sources at

http://www.debito.org/?p=3437

A few columns ago (“Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates,” March 3), I discussed how foreign apologists resuscitate dead-end discussions on racial discrimination. Promoting cultural relativity for their own ends, they peddle bigoted and obsolescent ideologies now impossible to justify in their societies of birth.

This would be impossible in Japan too, if racial discrimination was illegal. And it would be nice if people who most need a law passed would unite and demand one.

But that’s not why getting that law is tough. It’s more because the domestic debate on racial discrimination has been dulled and avoided due to rhetorical tricks of the Japanese media and government. After all, if you can’t discuss a problem properly, you can’t fix it.

How it works: In Japanese, “racial discrimination” is jinshu sabetsu. That is the established term used in official translations of international treaties (such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, or CERD) that Japan has signed up to.

However, the Japanese media won’t couch the discussion in these terms. This was visible during the nationwide debate generated by the Otaru onsen case (1999-2005), where public bathhouses refused entry to customers because they didn’t “look Japanese.” If you read the oodles of non-tabloid articles on this case (archived at www.debito.org/nihongotimeline.html ), you’ll see the debate was conducted in milder, misleading language.

For example, it was rendered in terms of gaikokujin sabetsu (discrimination against foreigners). But that’s not the same thing. The people being discriminated against were not all foreign (ahem).

Or else it was depicted as gaiken sabetsu (discrimination by physical appearance). But that’s not “race,” either. Nor is “physical appearance” specifically covered by the CERD.

This term particularly derails the debate. It actually generates sympathy for people afraid of how others look.

Think about it. If, say, some old fart is standoffish towards people who are tall, big, dark, scary-looking, foreign-looking, etc., oh well, shikata ga nai it can’t be helped. We Japanese are shy, remember.

Fortunately, there are limits: “Looks,” sure, but few Japanese would ever admit to disliking people specifically by race, even though one is a factor of the other.

That’s because racial discrimination, according to the Japanese education system, happens in other countries like America under segregation or South Africa under apartheid. Not in Japan.

Then things get really wet: Remember, We Japanese admire certain types of foreigners, so we’re obviously not prejudiced. And We Japanese have been discriminated against in the past for our race, like, for instance, those American World War II internment camps. And how about the time we got ripped off for being naive, trusting Japanese last time we ventured overseas? So it works both ways, y’see?

Welcome to the Never-Never Land of Self-Justification and Victimization. If We Japanese are doing something discriminatory, so what? Everybody else is doing it. So we’ll keep on keeping on, thank you very much. There the debate dies a death of a thousand relativities.

Back to the media, which stifles more intelligent debate through its rhetoric of avoidance. They rattle on about minshuteki sabetsu (discrimination by ethnicity), even though it wasn’t until last year that Japan even admitted it had any minorities.

Or else it’s not portrayed as a form of discrimination at all: It’s a matter of cultural misunderstandings, language barriers, microwaves and sun spots, whatever anything but calling a spade a spade. That’s why only one article out of the 100 or so on the Otaru onsen case actually deemed it flat out, without quoting some radical-sounding activist jinshu sabetsu. Not a misprint. One. And that was a Hokkaido Shimbun editorial at the very end of the case.

Pity it only took five years of debate for them to get it, and more pity that the media has since mostly gone back to claiming discrimination by nationality, looks, ethnicity, culture etc. all over again.

The Japanese government’s fingerprints are also all over this rhetorical legerdemain. When the U.N. CERD Committee first accused Japan of not doing enough to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2000 ( www.debito.org/japanvsun.html ), double-talk was in fine form.

First, the government argued back that Japan has no ethnic minorities, and therefore anyone who was a citizen was a member of the Japanese race. Thus citizens were not covered by the CERD because any discrimination against them couldn’t be by race.

Then they admitted that foreigners in Japan might indeed be victims of discrimination. But that’s too bad. They’re foreigners. They don’t have the same rights as citizens, such as the right to vote or run for office. Even the CERD acknowledges that. Oh well. If foreigners want the same rights, they should naturalize.

Never mind those half-million or so former foreigners who have naturalized, such as this writer, who don’t all fall into this neat dichotomy. Somehow they don’t count.

Essentially, the government is arguing that the CERD covers nobody in Japan.

That’s why domestic debate on racial discrimination is so carefully worded. If somebody gets denied something ostensibly because they’re a foreigner, or foreign-looking, it’s not a matter of race. It might be discrimination by nationality, or by face, or by culture, or not even discrimination at all.

Just don’t dare call it jinshu sabetsu, the scourge that dares not speak its name. If we pretend it doesn’t exist, you can’t legislate against it.

======================

Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

All for today! Thanks for reading!

Arudou Debito

Sapporo, Japan

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 11, 2009 ENDS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>