Just heard: NGO FRANCA and I will be meeting with UN Special Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante March 23, Tokyo. Anything you want me to say or give him?


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Hi Blog.  Short entry for today.  I just heard yesterday from NGOs concerned with human rights in Japan that I will be part of a group meeting with Mr Jorge Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, on March 23 in Tokyo.

I will have twenty minutes to make a presentation regarding exclusions of NJ in Japan in violation of UN CERD treaty.

Is there anything you’d like me to say?  I already have some ideas here (see Chapter 2).  But I’m open to suggestions and feedback.  If there is anything you would like me to present him, please send me at debito@debito.org.  Please keep submissions concise, under 2 sides of A4 paper (meaning one sheet front and back) when formatted and printed.

To give you some idea of format, I’ve given presentations to UN Rapporteurs before, particularly Dr Doudou Diene back in 2005 and 2006.  The archive on that here.

I will of course make the case that the GOJ is being intransigent and unreflective of reality when asserts, again and again, that Japan does not need a law against racial discrimination.  And in violation of its international treaty promises.

The floor is open, everyone.  Thanks very much for your assistance.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Chair, NGO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA)


34 comments on “Just heard: NGO FRANCA and I will be meeting with UN Special Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante March 23, Tokyo. Anything you want me to say or give him?

  • yes can you ask him when japan is going to pass a law against discrimination. Because I got refused at another housing office again today in osaka.

  • Just a ditto on pressing for a law with teeth and enforcement. With the added point that a new law also serves an educational function as well.
    Break a leg!

  • Terrific opportunity, Debito. Congratulations.
    I don’t have anything specific to give or suggest outside of bringing up the issue of NJ being required to pay taxes but not being given any power to decide where those taxes go or are used. I think I have been rather consistent in my remarks here that if the GOJ does not want to incorporate NJ as responsible, tax paying “citizens” (I only use that word figuratively), then they should start being made to feel it in their pocket books.

    “Knock ’em dead” as they say.

  • Rather than having something for you to say, I have something to say to you. On behalf of all your readers and people you speak out for, thank you!

    Now lets just hope someone listens!

  • He should know about ‘housing problems’ (refusal to rent to ‘foreigners’, even if we speak/read Japanese fluently, are married to Japanese nationals, graduated colleges here, have jobs, and are PR or SPRs). I had so many troubles finding a place to live 3 yrs ago – in Tokyo! Several landlords refused foreigners. Settled down for a room at Sakura House, an agency that rents to foreigners only (where then my Japanese spouse wasn’t allowed to stay even for a day because we was_not a NJ!)

    I would love to tell him how PR NJ kids who return to the country of their (permanent) residence, Japan, with their parents from abroad (even if sent by a J gov’t agency where one or both parents work) can’t qualify to be ‘returnees’ in Japanese education just because their citizenship is NJ, regardless of the fact that they were born and/or grew up in Japan, some are adopted by Japanese nationals, Japanese is their native tongue, and their whole education before going abroad for several years was in Japan. While Japanese kids are rewarded in such cases and praised for foreign language(s) acquisition, their international experience and their expanded (?) worldview, NJs are left to take “ippan” entrance exam which returnees can’t pass and even Japanese students may have difficulties with it. (There’s only one ‘international’ school in Tokyo that accepts NJs, however, ironically they also limit returnees “waku” to Japanese passport holders. I think they’re calling themselves ‘international’ because they teach 4 foreign languages and accept 25 NJ students every year — and about 112 students applied this year!).

    Should he not know about the Police harassment at Narita and some other spots where the Police would stop people for just “looking foreign” (non-Asians only?).

    I wonder if this ever happens to any of your readers:
    Although invited with other spouses and family members, in some cases I was denied admittance to a gov’t institution where my spouse works, just because of my foreign looks (Caucasian). It happened despite my having a proper spousal ID and the permit to enter the place. I would be stopped 10 meters before_the_gate. Other spouses and family members were passing by and all entering the site… it happened several times to me and it would always take a couple of days and the head of security would call and apologize for the “mistake.” Just to have this happen again. Yeah, they believe that my ID and the permit could be fake. I guess that if I looked “Asian,” they’d never even take a second look at even a fake ID?!

    — Would be nice to know more about what kind of government institution this is…

  • Kevin put it well and I’m joining in on thanking you.

    But to contribute…

    For years, on my way to work, I’ve been taking snaps of the empty seats around me in the other crowded trains. There’s over 100s of unique pictures now.

    Plan to put them all in a book, together with snaps of the cute illustrations in banks and whatnot were foreign figures are robbing the innocent Japanese ones. Anyways, back to the train:

    I wear a suit/shirt to work like everybody else (except mine fits), I don’t smell bad and I don’t stare nor talk. But people just don’t want to sit next to a foreigner. And we’re suppose to swallow the different reasons thrown at us without a second thought.

    As a newly arrived tourist these things may be hard to notice, especially when in the euphoria that the first few short time(s) here brings. When told about these incidents, and the reasoning for them you’re thrown by Japanese, some tourists relate- and even takes sides with the Japanese.

    Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

    It’s my belief the rapporteurs are under a very similar spell.
    It’s hard to notice these things. People not wanting you there. Little stickers on ATMs are hardly what you have time for during a brief visit here. Etc.
    “Only Japanese” signs are probably just weeded out as “a couple of bad apples” and not the general conscious as evident to anyone who’ve looked for apartments here, worked at a Japanese company (in Japanese) or done anything besides living in a bubble for a couple of years.

    So…please ask him to have someone stationed here for years.

  • Sure'nuff and yes I do says:

    Could you ask him

    1: to go and try to get rental housing from somewhere that is know as gaijin unfriendly.

    2: why is there a need in japanese to differentiate everything in terms it being either japanese or “of some other nondefined place”

    3: why they won’t enact a law that gives everyone equal protection against racism.

    4: why Japan expects special treatment on the world stage whilst shunning everyone.

    5: how can you trust the japanese governments as they have lied and preached about non-nuclear
    pacifism whilst allowing US forces to transport (deploy) nukes in japanese territory.

    6: how can you trust the japanese to use the “constitution” to protect people against racism,
    when they have been going against it for years providing military assitance to the US
    campaign in the middle east.

    7: why the government has scrapped the visa – health insurance link condemning thousands of
    NJs to have their rights violated.

    8: how a naturalized japanese cannot be a “real” japanese

    9: why japanese parents are allowed to kidnap children from overseas whilst in the same breath
    complaining that a handful of japanese were snatched by NK decades ago.

    [spurious claims deleted]

  • Basically everything “Sure’nuff and yes I do” said. Those are good things to bring up and ask. Thank you again for what you do.

  • Sure'nuff and yes I do says:

    in addation to the above:

    10: why is there even an idea of penalizing NK descendants in Japan, via excluding them from school tuition fee exemption, in retaliation for Japan’s dislike of NK abductions.

  • In all honesty, I think that since you have a limited time and format, you should focus on the things that are the most pressing. The GOJ is not going to act on everything or act quickly, so you should pick the course of action that will lead to results, tangible ones. My thoughts are these:
    1. Recognition of ethnic minorities i.e Okinawans
    2. Recognition that all people present in the country should be subject to the same laws, regardless of status or nationality.
    3. Law against racial/ethnic discrimination with teeth

    These 3 issues could have a major impact and set the stage for future gains.

    Just my 2 yen.

  • Two recommendations for your presentation:

    1. As many photos as possible. Show Narita checks, the urine checks, the real estate agents, the shop signs, etc. The special rapporteur can never grasp the depth and scope of the issue with words alone.

    2. The words used must be succinct and very, very powerful. Also, create a single, short binding phrase that is repeated several times, and is likely to be picked up by the media.

  • “…limited time and format, you should focus on the things that are the most pressing…”

    This is my thought as well.

    I really cannot think of anything to add to or simplify 1,2 and 3, these are the crux of it from the POV of what IMHO the UN should seek to achieve. What needs to be done, however I would think is describe in a way that can be shown to be true that these things do not exist today. This would be a powerful presentation, I think.

  • I second, third and fourth the kudos being given out to you Debito. Good luck – sock it to `em. The issue I would like most to be spoken about, I know it was brought up shortly during the CERD talks and completely brushed off, the issue of the koseki system. I (as an NJ) am virtually invisible as my daughter`s mother. There is my husband, and my daughter on the koseki, I`m a sad little footnote, and not even listed as her mother, only as being married to my husband. It’s like a shameful little note that you really have to look for. If I read it correctly, she’s apparently an immaculate comception and birthed child as there is no mother…maybe she hatched from an egg? Sorry, off on a rant there, I`ll rein it in. I just find it very unfair that the child I spent 9 months carrying and gave birth to is not even listed as my own.

    Not to mention the unfairness which would occur if a (god forbid) divorce were to occur. That`s another can of worms that I`m sure you`re familiar with. So, again, the koseki system. It doesn`t work for Japanese, and it doesn`t work for NJ. It works for no one. Get rid of it.

  • Well, actions speak louder than words. So take him to a real estate agency and let him try to rent an apartment. Or to that hotel in Tokyo which says it doesn’t accept foreigners and let him try to get a room for the night.

    Talking to and telling him about discrimination are fine, but what will the GoJ say when the UN Reporter explains that he was personally discriminated against in Japan’s most international city while they say that a law against discrimination isn’t needed?

  • I would definitely bring up “housing,” although a law against racial discrimination would definitely solve this.

    Let me give you my story. I was in a crowded realtor’s office one Saturday afternoon looking for an apartment, and was politely handed a booklet of apartments to look through. Everything normal up to this point. By the way, I speak Japanese, read Japanese, write Japanese, and have lived in this country for years.

    I picked out several but was completely unprepared for what happened next. In front of everyone, the realtor started calling each of the landlords of the places I was interested in, saying “someone is interested in renting your apartment. But he’s a foreigner. Is that ok?”


    He then calls the landlord of the next apartment on the list.


    This went on a couple of times, and was one of the most humiliating moments in my life. All the Japanese in the office were glancing at me pathetically. I felt like a sub-human piece of trash. That’s what’s so insidious about blatant racism. It dehumanizes you.

    What’s ironic is that Japanese have lectured me innumerable times in the past about how sensitive Japanese are to others’ feelings. “The Japanese will go out of their way not to offend.” “They can read what you’re thinking without you even saying a word.” “The Japanese don’t like to hurt other people’s feelings.” Well, I’ve never been so humiliated in my life! And the realtor didn’t even think he was doing anything wrong! This was just business as usual, and foreigners aren’t sensitive creatures – they don’t have feelings – so who cares that I’m calling the landlords right in front of him and making him listen to getting rejected over and over again simply for not being Japanese.

    This experience made me think that the Japanese government does not protect our rights here because they want us to feel stigmatized, they want to rob us of our dignity. Why? Because then we’ll go back “home” to where we came from.

    Housing discrimination is a real problem in Japan. It’s not an abstraction. This really needs to be stopped.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    John: That was powerful. I don’t want to hijack this very important thread, but it is important to remember where identity comes from and what it means. I believe that a very significant part of Japanese identity is predicated on not so much what it means to be Japanese, but what being Japanese isn’t, at least as people are raised to believe. Not being different is a huge part of it. Until this overarching facet of what it means to be Japanese is addressed, it will seem quite normal (a right as someone else put it) to openly discriminate without having the slightest clue that one is doing so and that doing so is morally wrong. Which leads me to Debito’s request for topics to address in the meeting – an anti racial discrimination law with teeth. That would do so much to help, for example, biracial kids who face crap at school from administrators, parents and teachers. Debito, I join the others in thanking you for sticking up for the little guy. If I had an award to give you, I would. Yup, an actual anti-discrimination law is the foundation upon which many other issues can be addressed. Back to John again, I hope you were able to find a place to live and that this terribly negative experience hasn’t poisoned you against the many, many wonderful Japanese who do have a backbone and principles.

    Debito, give ’em hell.

  • Hi John,

    I can sympathize completely with your predicamentin getting housing , as I have been up against real estate agents and landlords who refuse rental accomodation just for being a foreign person. However my understanding of the issue is that most JP landlords are fearful of people who do not carry any recomendations or references from their own people & also the frenzy created in the media about NJ bad manners, has created a sort of a ‘seige mentality’.

    Hence they might actually be looking to be reassured again and again from someone they know well and maybe miscommunicating the fact that they want to discriminate foreigners. While I definately think, that the relationship between the landlord and tenant should be businesslike and not involve matters of race etc.. one still has to cope with fact that’s how things work.

    And I agree with you that the “Housing Problem” should be taken up as a major issue which needs redressal. And lastly my priority of issues to be taken up for redressal should be :

    1) Negative portrayal of NJ in the media
    (Offenders etc should not be stereotyped and portrayed as NJ.
    This is not good where different people have to coexist in the society. )

    2) Discrimination for Random Police Checks based on racial profiling of the individual
    and demonstration of high handedness & extralegal powers.(urine sampling etc..)

    3) Discrimination at the Workplace based on race.

    4) Discrimination with regard to acquiring Housing

    5) Discrimination at a Hotel,Bar,place of Entertainment,a shop or a market

    And lastly identify the native japanese who will have the courage to see the larger picture & address the real issues and not hide behind excuses and seek their escape route by bringing up non issues.

  • Please Mr Debito,
    Can you talk to him about discrimination law?
    For protect our childrens “half foreign/japanese” who are discriminate at school,by their physic,names,etc
    even if they have capacity to study well or make proffessionnal sport,etc they are discriminate ,ijime,its so stress for them.
    Thank you

  • Debito,

    Please ask him to press Japan on its treatment of human trafficking victims. I think that officially recognized victims are in the single digits, whereas estimates of actual victims are in the thousands to low ten-thousands.

  • Kaz- No. It is not something as innocent as that. Most Japanese landlords are RACIST, meaning they will reject an application from a person with a history of no landlord problems in Japan, Japanese fluent, better salary and more stable job than any other prospective tenants, and with better educational credentials SOLELY because of skin color. I only know this because it happens to me. Please don’t presume their innocence; this is not a court, and you don’t have the monopoly on the Japanese experience.

  • KaZ-

    If a white US landlord refuses to let African-Americans view their property, we do not sympathize with them for their “siege mentality.” If a Spanish landlord won’t rent to Muslims, we do not greet them with understanding for their xenophobia.

    Please do not victimize the landlords here. Yes, one may see how such beliefs can be nurtured by a fearmongering press and a culture that emphasizes in-groupness. Ultimately, though, the fault is theirs. The victims are the NJ refused at the door, on the phone, in the realtor’s office; those whose direct duty it is to correct this injustice are the landlords themselves. To accept as a permanent strategy that we should cope with things as they are is to accept that we will forever be an underclass: inferior, untrusted, and in the worst of times, barely human.

    With this in mind, I would press this as one of the most important issue here, along with employment and schooling. These three things are the most basic requirements to participate in society. One needs a place to live. One needs employment to live. One needs a proper education in a non-threatening environment to grow into adulthood.

  • Sure’nuff And Yes I do says:

    how about


    Excerpt follows:

    The Sankei worries (Japanese) about an implication of the government’s new child allowance proposal. They point out that some foreigners working in Japan will be able to claim an allowance for their children even if the kids are currently living overseas. Conversely, Japanese parents working overseas won’t be able to claim for their children. Norihisa Tamura of the LDP came up with a possible scenario:

    「仮に、アラブの王様のお子さんが日本で稼いで、向こ う(母国)に50人の子供がいれば、その50人が支給 対象になるという問題を含んでいる」

    “If an Arab prince with 50 children back home earned money in Japan then we’d end up paying for those 50 kids”

    The Sankei concurs that foreign polygamy could become a drain on Japan’s finances but also raises concerns about the risk of fake claims or even the possibility that foreigners would rush to adopt children overseas in order to claim the allowance. The paper concedes that the regulations were the same under the previous administrations from 1981 but cites LDP member Katsuei Hirasawa’s concern that the sums involved in the DPJ plan are so much greater that abuse is much more likely. They hope that Hatoyama will settle this issue before any legislation is passed.

    Zakzak 2010.03.10





















  • these comments are all very valid,but what debito needs is actual proof of this happening,rather than anecdotes,which are completely unusable.
    obviously photos of signs,and recordings of conversations like those above in estate agents’ would be the only thing that is useful..

    — Send them to me.

  • Can/would the UN bring resources to actually invest in an investigation to quantify the housing discrimination problem? The anecdotes are so widespread, but it seems nobody has tried to pull together a survey of foreigners, ro realtors, or an undercover investigation of realtors/landlords to definiteively say “X pecent of landlords in Japan won’t rent to foreigners”, “X percent of foreigners in Japan have experienced housing discrimination”.

    Same goes for work and education.

    As much as police racism is an issue, it probably affects far fewer people. Everyone needs a place to live, a job, education. Not everybody gets set up by racist cops.

    One new issue.
    I’m renewing my visa, and noticed on the Immigration website listings of the vaarious visa procedures, for all visas the final step reads “Procedure for complaints/appeals – None”
    except for refugee visas, which reads something like “The procedure will be announced at the appropriate place”
    Given the reputation for non-uniform (to say the least) job knowledge among Immigration staff, who knows how many people have been mistakedly denied visas? Is there no accountability at all?

    Is this “no appeal” visa process the norm internationally? Just curious.

  • I don’t know that it falls within the UN’s jurisdiction really… but the way that racism is taught so early, under the guise of “teaching English.” Ask him to visit a school with an ALT program, to see how there are so few Asian faces among the ALTs and probably zero or close to zero non-Asian faces among classroom teachers. How the Japanese teacher can’t speak a word of English but will be treated with respect, addressed by their last name and obeyed as an adult superior… and that the ALT will be more often than not acting like a trained monkey by request, being called “Tommy-sensei!” with a smirk and a hint of sarcasm along with the “sensei” part, and basically serving to start that superiority complex at an early age…. the ALT may be an adult, WAY closer to “bilingual” than anyone else in the classroom, better educated and more widely travelled…. and yet the students are still being taught, if not in so many words, that THEY “outrank” the ALT on the basis of race and skin color.

    In private conversation schools as well… actually, I am going to email you about that. Since the conversation wasn’t recorded, I’m not sure that much could be done about it now, but if it would help…

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    As much as police racism is an issue, it probably affects far fewer people. Everyone needs a place to live, a job, education. Not everybody gets set up by racist cops.

    See, Level3, here my position is the exact opposite. Many people only need to find a place to live once and then don’t have to worry about it again. Same for employment. But they might have to pass by several police boxes every single day, and have police patrol cars pass them every day, and who knows when those police might want to target you? Particularly if you live in a nice area where there’s no crime and no trouble, and the cops need to be seen doing something in spite of this.

    Makes me want to move back to a high crime area where I only have to convince one landlord to rent to me, and then I can sit back and enjoy my home while the cops are too busy with real potential criminals to be bothering me!

  • @Mark

    Point taken. Perhaps living in “dangerous” Osaka insulates me?

    Of course, the damage is incomarable for the unlucky few who get seriously targetted by the “justice” system. Being turned away by a couple landlords is nothing compared to being unjustly thrown in jail and denied bail even after being found innocent because a stubborn prosecutor wants to appeal.

    But I would argue that housing,job,school discrimination is not only much more common a problem, but also they reinforce? train? (what word fits best?) the next generation of racists, including cops; bringing up another generation with no gaijin neighbors, no gaijin superiors at work, gaijin “nails” getting hammered down in schools (and sometimes their hair dyed black!).

    That’s not to say the J “justice” system isn’t trying it’s hardest to MAKE themselves a problem for more and more gaijin. What gaijin in their right mind would volunteer to pick someone up at the airport these days?

    Though their newly stated goal to try to hire more naturalized Japanese into the police force did make me chuckle. What’s their cut-off age for hiring new recruits? given the typical 20-year-ish span before naturalization, how are they going to get ANY young naturalized citizen recruits to go through training and out on the beat? Maybe returnees, but they’re already Japanese.

  • I am never surprised at the defenders of Japanese racism while criticizing the racism in the West.

    Most people will sit back and apologize: “Well the Japanese…” or “We Japanese…” Yet never once see the damage done by racism no matter the nation, ethnicity, or culture.

    Yet let’s switch feet, a Japanese person goes to a rental agency in LA and is told, “Oh sorry you’re foreign. This landlord will not rent to you.”

    Hope most of you see the point now. If it is wrong in one place then it wrong all over. Especially seeing as Japan signed the Universal Bill of Human Rights – a UN document which “Opposes all forms of racism.”

    So when will Japan be held to account for its signature? That would be my question. When will the UN hold Japan to account?

  • I’d mention the perennial scare stories boosted by the NPA about foreigner crime waves, usually when the stats say the opposite.

  • Hi,
    The Japanese landlords who discriminate against tenants are fully and completely wrong to do so whatever the circumstance and the media does not help at all by portraying NJ always in a negative light.


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