DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 1, 2010

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Hi All. Before I get underway with this Newsletter, please let me advise:

My latest Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column comes out tomorrow Tues (Weds in the ruralities) February 2, 2010. The topic: The racism of Dietmember Hiranuma towards fellow Dietmember Renho, and how it lays bare the lie of the xenophobic Rightists saying that naturalization ever matters. (Sneak preview below in item #4).

Get a copy tomorrow!

Now for the:
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 1, 2010

Table of Contents:
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PROMISES OF REFORM
1) Asahi: MOJ & MEXT crafting “point system” for immigration policy
2) Asahi: Nagoya to withdraw from Juki Net system, while dogs (not NJ) get juuminhyou
3) Japan Times on proposal to convert Itami Airport into “International Campus Freedom City”
(Plus DEBITO.ORG POLL: What do you think about Osaka Gov’s proposal to scrap Itami Airport and create a “International Campus Freedom City”?”

THINGS THAT NEED REFORM
4) Racist statements from Xenophobe Dietmember Hiranuma re naturalized J Dietmember
5) Japan Times Colin Jones on anachronistic Koseki System, how lack of family laws affect J divorces
6) Why we fight: Media on J birth rate decrease and population decline acceleration
7) Taikibansei & Cabby on mixed experiences of visa treatment depending on location of Immigration Office. What about others? http://www.debito.org/?p=5839
8 ) Japan Times Amy Chavez comes unglued with weird “Japan Lite” column: “How about a gaijin circus in gazelle land?”
9) Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku blocks online campus access to Debito.org. Just like Misawa Air Force Base.

TANGENTS
10) Economist article excerpt on being foreign worldwide
11) Gallup Poll says 700 million desire to migrate permanently
12) Economist passim on “Global Creativity Index”, which ranks Japan over USA in terms of creativity
13) On the 15th anniversary of the Kobe Earthquake: My first activism in Japan: Eyewitness essays when I volunteered down there
14) Tidy free FCCJ Scholarship up for grabs, deadline Feb 15

… and finally …
15) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST FEBRUARY 1, 2010 (from Debito.org and iTunes)
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By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org) in Sapporo, Japan
Daily blog updates, RSS, and subscriptions to this Newsletter at www.debito.org.
Twitter arudoudebito. Freely Forwardable

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PROMISES OF REFORM

1) Asahi: MOJ & MEXT crafting “point system” for immigration policy

In a move that may be heralding the fundamentals of an actual Japanese immigration policy (something I was told back in November the DPJ was not considering), the primary ministries in charge of bringing in, registering, and policing NJ (traditionally MOJ, MEXT, and MHLW) are apparently beavering away at a “points system” for allowing in people with a skill set, modeled on other countries’ immigration policies. On the other hand, people who have gotten preferential visa treatment in the past (by dint of having Japanese blood and not necessarily much else) are going to see their opportunities narrow (they’ll have higher hurdles and be tested on their acculturation).

I might say this is good news or a step in the right direction (if you want an immigration policy, it’s good to say what kind of immigrants you want), but it’s too early to tell for two reasons: 1) We have to see how realistic this “points list” is (if it’s even made public at all; not a given in Japan’s control-freak secretive ministries) when it materializes. 2) There still is no accommodation for assimilation of peoples (I don’t see any Japanese language courses, assistance with credit and housing, faster tracks to naturalization, and heaven forbid anything outlawing NJ discrimination!). Just a longer tenure for you to make your own ends meet without being booted out after three or so years.

Given the GOJ’s record at designing policies that make Japan’s labor market pretty hermetic (including ludicrous requirements for Permanent Residency, unreasonable “up-or-out” hurdles for NJ such as health-care workers, and bribes to send unwanted workers “home”), at this stage I don’t see how this is necessarily anything different from the “revolving door” labor market pretty much already in place, except with higher value-added workers this time.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5791

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2) Asahi: Nagoya to withdraw from Juki Net system, while dogs (not NJ) get juuminhyou

Two interesting developments in the weird system for registering people in Japan.

We all know that Japanese (by definition, unless they’re royals) are listed on Family Registries (koseki), and if they have an established address are listed on Residency Certificates (juuminhyou). We also know that NJ are not listed on either, and that has created problems for them not just logistically but also logically (how dare people who pay residency taxes (juuminzei) not be treated as residents?) There’s talk of fixing that, but anyhoo…

Adding insult to more insult is the fact the government keeps issuing juuminhyou residency documents to things that can’t actually reside anywhere, such as Tama-Chan the sealion in Yokohama (2003),Tetsuwan Atomu in Niiza (2003), Crayon Shin-chan in Kusakabe (2004), Lucky Star in Washinomiya (2008), and most recently a photogenic sea otter named Ku-chan in Kushiro, Hokkaido (2009) (who quickly swam to Nemuro and then points beyond; check your fishing nets).

Now Kyodo reports that the animals or fictitious creatures don’t even have to be famous anymore to become residents. It can be your favorite pet. Read on.

Wags (pardon the pun) on Debito.org wondered what happened if your pet happened to be born overseas — would they get this juuminhyou anyway?

Finally, one more idiotic thing about registration is the double standard when it comes to carrying ID. In Japan, there is no standardized identification card which all citizens have to carry (drivers licenses are fine, but not everyone drives; health insurance cards work but they’re not photo ID; nobody carries passports except tourists (except me, in case I get stopped by cops). NJ, of course, have to carry their Gaijin Cards at all times under threat of arrest and criminal prosecution.) Japan’s proposed answer to that was the Juuki-Netto System early last decade, and it came under fire quickly for “privacy concerns” (well, fancy that). It was even declared unconstitutional in 2006 by the Osaka High Court (the judge ruling in that case soon afterwards committed suicide).

But Juuki-Netto has been a complete flop. Only 3%, the Asahi says below, of Japanese nationwide applied for their cards. (I didn’t either.) Now Nagoya is even withdrawing from it. Read on.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5787

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3) Japan Times on proposal to convert Itami Airport into “International Campus Freedom City”
(Plus DEBITO.ORG POLL: What do you think about Osaka Gov’s proposal to scrap Itami Airport and create a “International Campus Freedom City”?”

Young-Turk Osaka Governor Hashimoto has been suggesting some interesting reforms recently, one of them, according to the Japan Times, is to close down Osaka Itami Airport (relocating all flights to KIX), and to use the land for creating an international campus, where international schools and universities would be located and the lingua franca English.

On the surface of it (regardless of the efficacy of essentially creating a Dejima for ideas and culture, nestled right next to Osaka proper), it’s an intriguing idea with great potential, and not one that in principle Debito.org can oppose (what could a move like this hurt if successful, except the natural insular order of things, which does deserve some change). What do other Debito.org Readers think?

http://www.debito.org/?p=5746

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THINGS THAT NEED REFORM

4) Racist statements from Xenophobe Dietmember Hiranuma re naturalized J Dietmember

Kyodo: Former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma on Sunday criticized remarks made by House of Councillors member Renho in November in trying to slash budget allocations for the supercomputer development by pointing to the fact that the politician, who goes by a single name, is a naturalized Japanese.

“I don’t want to say this, but she is not originally Japanese,” said the former Liberal Democratic Party member during a speech before his supporters in Okayama City. “She was naturalized, became a Diet member, and said something like that,” the independent House of Representatives member continued.

Hiranuma was referring to the high-profile remarks made by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan member, who asked during a debate with bureaucrats, “Why must (Japan) aim to (develop) the world’s No. 1 (supercomputer)? What’s wrong with being the world’s No. 2?”

http://www.debito.org/?p=5770

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5) Japan Times Colin Jones on anachronistic Koseki System, how lack of family laws affect J divorces

In a breathtakingly excellent article that only the Japan Times can give us, we have Colin P.A. Jones once again offering eye-opening historical research and commentary on how family law in Japan (or lack thereof) has been created so much on the fly that few accommodations are made for modern circumstances. In fact, Colin claims below, many circumstances (such as birth registries in complicated circumstances, or joint custody after divorces) are so inconceivable to this anachronistic system that people’s lives are forced to conform to it for its convenience, not the other way around. It’s so bad that even the Koreans wised up and abolished theirs recently. So should Japan. Read excerpt below.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5835

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6) Why we fight: Media on J birth rate decrease and population decline acceleration

What follows are two articles that show that Japan’s aging society is growing ever more so. The population decrease is accelerating, and fewer people than ever want to have children. Again, time for a policy towards immigration. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Either you do it now while we still have some vitality. Or immigrants will come anyway later to fill an enfeebled and empty island instead. Slow or quick, it’s going to happen. It’s a mathematical certainty.

That’s why we’re fighting for our rights — to make things better for the people who will be replacing all of us.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5745

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7) Taikibansei & Cabby on mixed experiences of visa treatment depending on location of Immigration Office. What about others?

I’d like to ask Debito.org Readers about their experiences with various Immigration offices around Japan. We had a discussion recently on the JALT PALE list about how they did on their Permanent Residency applications, and have concluded that how NJ are treated both interpersonally and applicationwise seems to depend on the Immigration office they apply at. Two testimonials follow from Taikibansei and Cabby. Immigration offices at Miyazaki, Morioka (and for me, Sapporo — story from 1996 here) seem to be very nice and liberal. However, I’ve heard bad things about Tokyo (and Okayama below). How about everyone else? I think collecting information on Debito.org would be a good idea so people have some idea where to apply (stories about applying for the most important visa, PR, most welcome)

Taikibansei: I do think this is one of the best things about having access to an immigration office in a smaller town. Most immigration horror stories originate in big cities like Tokyo. Moreover, I’ve always wondered whether each office has the same limit (say, 100) on the number of permanent residencies they can process in a year. Tokyo, with its huge foreign population, would probably easily exceed that number by mid-year for most years. Miyazaki, on the other hand, would struggle most years to get to one third of that number. This would explain the apparent difference in ease of getting PR. I mean, if there really is just one rule for everyone, then it should be just as difficult to get PR in Miyazaki as Tokyo. However, XXXX and his acquaintances apparently could not get PR there, while I know of nobody who has been rejected for PR in Miyazaki.

Cabby: My experiences with Immigration since 1988 have been very mixed. When I moved to Okayama from Osaka my 3-year spousal visa was about to expire. I went to the local and at the time very small Immigration office and told them that I would like to apply for permanent residency. The bozo bureaucrat behind the counter did everything he could to discourage me. I told him that I qualified and there would be no harm in trying. He went so far as to say that the 3-year spousal visa that I had did not count since it was issued in Osaka. That was when I about hit the ceiling. He then said it would take at least six months and perhaps a year to get the visa, if it were granted, adding that I would not be able to leave the country during that time. “Are any family members in the U.S. ill? You should consider this before applying.” Well, not one to be deterred by officialdom, I applied anyway. Three weeks later I got a card in the mail asking me to come to the Immigration office to get my new visa, a PR. The point I am trying to make is that this fool in the local office really had little if anything to do with the decision…

http://www.debito.org/?p=5839

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8 ) Japan Times Amy Chavez comes unglued with weird “Japan Lite” column: “How about a gaijin circus in gazelle land?”

Excerpt: “This confirms a suspicion I have long had about the Japanese people ● they are descendants of gazelles… Consider that gazelles and the Japanese share some striking similarities: They are both fine boned and graceful and the females have pretty little feet with high heels, making them look like they are tip-toeing along. Now, put a cow next to the gazelle and you have us gaijin.

“A crowd of Japanese people looks tidy but a crowd of beefy foreigners looks like a stampede. The Japanese, with their long, elegant limbs and quiet demeanor cannot possibly be descendants of the caveman.”

Whaaaa…?

http://www.debito.org/?p=5780

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9) Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku blocks online campus access to Debito.org. Just like Misawa Air Force Base.

Let me forward two collated emails that I received from a student at Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku. He sent proof that his university blocks campus access to Debito.org.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard of Debito.org being too truthy for some places with internal attitudes to maintain. Such as the American Air Force Base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture. (I know for a fact they didn’t like me exposing both the “Japanese Only” signs right outside their base and the organized blind-eying both they and the City of Misawa gave it.) So instead of dealing with the problem, they dealt with the messenger, by making sure that anyone on base cannot see what you’re seeing now. It’s to them Non-Operational Information, I guess. Or, as Momoyama seems to indicate, it might give students in Japan too much of an education.

Report from Momoyama student follows, along with his unsuccessful efforts to get it “unblocked”. Arudou Debito, webmaster of the site just too hot for some institutions to handle.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5855

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TANGENTS

10) Economist article excerpt on being foreign worldwide

In its Xmas Special of December 19, 2009, The Economist (London) had a long and thoughtful essay on what it’s like to be foreign, and how “it is becoming both easier and more difficult to experience the thrill of being an outsider”. It even devoted more than a paragraph specifically to Japan’s offer of foreignness:

“The most generally satisfying experience of foreignness — complete bafflement, but with no sense of rejection — probably comes still from time spent in Japan. To the foreigner Japan appears as a Disneyland-like nation in which everyone has a well-defined role to play, including the foreigner, whose job it is to be foreign. Everything works to facilitate this role-playing, including a towering language barrier. The Japanese believe their language to be so difficult that it counts as something of an impertinence for a foreigner to speak it. Religion and morality appear to be reassuringly far from the Christian, Islamic or Judaic norms. Worries that Japan might Westernise, culturally as well as economically, have been allayed by the growing influence of China. It is going to get more Asian, not less. Even in Japan, however, foreigners have ceased to function as objects of veneration, study and occasionally consumption…”

http://www.debito.org/?p=5713

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11) Gallup Poll says 700 million desire to migrate permanently

Gallup.com: Every day, migrants leave their homelands behind for new lives in other countries. Reflecting this desire, rather than the reality of the numbers that actually migrate, Gallup finds about 16% of the world’s adults would like to move to another country permanently if they had the chance. This translates to roughly 700 million worldwide — more than the entire adult population of North and South America combined.

From its surveys in 135 countries between 2007 and 2009, Gallup finds residents of sub-Saharan African countries are most likely to express a desire to move abroad permanently. Thirty-eight percent of the adult population in the region — or an estimated 165 million — say they would like to do this if the opportunity arises. Residents in Asian countries are the least likely to say they would like to move — with 10% of the adult population, or roughly 250 million, expressing a desire to migrate permanently.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5763

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12) Economist passim on “Global Creativity Index”, which ranks Japan over USA in terms of creativity

Also in their bumper Xmas Issue last year, The Economist had a number of (as usual) interesting articles. Here’s another, about what makes America attractive as a destination for immigration.

The part that I’ll excerpt from concerns how countries attract talent and creativity, citing an odd survey called the “Global Creativity Index” created by a Richard Florida. The Economist notes, “The index combines measures of talent, technology and tolerance. America comes fourth, behind Sweden, Japan and Finland,”, then picks apart the methodology that would put Japan as more tolerant to people from elsewhere than the US (and Finland, which also has a very low percentage of foreigners). Given the revolving-door labor market (here and here) and the trouble NJ in Japanese universities have getting favorable study conditions and domestic employment afterwards (here and here), one wonders if this celebrity researcher has ever lived or worked overseas much.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5759

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13) On the 15th anniversary of the Kobe Earthquake: My first activism in Japan: Eyewitness essays when I volunteered down there

As the Japanese media was blitzing in mid-January (dovetailing with the events in Haiti, although NHK refuses to put it as top news when there are Center Shikens affecting Japanese students out there), yesterday, January 17, was the fifteenth anniversary of the Kobe/Awajishima Earthquake that claimed over 6000 lives.

The Kobe Quake has special significance for me personally. A third of my life ago, I was so enraged by the GOJ irresponsibility (an NHK program last night from 9PM cataloging the science behind the 15-second temblor still refused to mention how the highway overpasses also collapsed because of shoddy construction work (tenuki kouji); commentators blamed it all on sea sand vs. mountain sand) that I went down for a couple of weeks at my own time and expense to help out as a volunteer. I of course wrote the events up, and they are amongst my first essays charting my nascent activism in Japan. Here are links to them all:

http://www.debito.org/?p=5766

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14) Tidy free FCCJ Scholarship up for grabs, deadline Feb 15

Each year, the FCCJ Scholarship Committee awards up to one million yen in scholarship funds to university students who have demonstrated a serious interest in journalism. The fund was originally established by former FCCJ member Swadish DeRoy and is now supported through generous donations from individuals and businesses dedicated to excellence in journalism. Our Committee also conducts student workshops in Tokyo and Kansai that have drawn hundreds of students seeking to understand the basics of our profession.

But the Scholarship Fund is the heart of our committee work and we are anxious to reach as many applicants for this year’s fund as possible. We would thus like to request that you let as many possible applicants as possible know about the fund. Students do not have to be journalism majors. They merely need to be currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate students who have shown a serious interest in pursuing journalism as a career. Both Japanese and non-Japanese may apply.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5842

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… and finally …

15) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST FEBRUARY 1, 2010 (from Debito.org and iTunes)

In this issue of the Debito.org Podcast, I read three of my Japan Times articles regarding the word “gaijin” (technically “foreigner”, but not really; I controversially compare it to the epithet “nigger”), and the effect its underlying binary rubric has on both NJ worldwide and Japanese migrating within Japan. Articles as follows:

1. Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 6, “The Case for ‘Gaijin’ as a Racist Word” (August 5, 2008).
2. Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 7, “The Case for ‘Gaijin’ as a Racist Word, Part Two” (September 2, 2008)
3. Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 8/ZEIT GIST Community Page column 46, “Gaijin Part Three: How the concept is destroying Japan’s countryside” (October 7, 2008)

This along with a Duran Duran song excerpt at the end and Tangerine Dream’s “White Eagle” in between. Enjoy.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5878

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All for this month. I will be in Canada for most of February (Calgary and Edmonton), so it’ll be a few weeks before I send out another Newsletter. The Debito.org Blog, as always, will be active.

Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org) in Sapporo, Japan
Daily blog updates, RSS, and subscriptions to this Newsletter at www.debito.org.
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 1, 2010 ENDS

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