Hello all, let me get this out before I head down to Osaka for the weekend:




…and finally…


By Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan,

Visit and comment on all articles below at

Freely Forwardable




Interesting article on job security in Japan and what unions can do to help. In light of the recent NOVA eikaiwa labor market earthquakes (not to mention pretty lousy job security in Japan for NJ in general–90% of all NJ workers in Japan are on term-limited contracts, according to the National Union of General Workers (, it’s a good roundup.


Foreign workers get mixed results from joining unions in Japan

By Oscar Johnson

Japan Today Feature Friday, September 28, 2007

TOKYO For many foreign workers in Japan, joining a labor union is hardly a priority. But just as Nova language school–the country’s largest employer of foreigners–has taken heat recently for illegal dealings with customers and not paying wages, its ongoing row with unions has been gaining scrutiny. For some, the issue calls into question the very viability of unions; for others, it confirms the need.

“If workers don’t join a union, there’s only one certainty: things will not change,” says Bob Tench, vice president of the Kanto branch of the National Union of General Workers’ Nova Union. “If they do, I can’t say for certain things will change, but there’s a chance.”…


Rest at

(The title is a bit misleading–sounds as if unions are to blame for the mixed results. Not really the article’s tack.)

I encourage everyone in Japan who is NJ to join a union. I have. Lose the allergy and the visions of George Meany and Jimmy Hoffa, and realize it’s the only recourse you have in Japan to get your labor rights enforced. All other measures, as I have written in the past (, be they the courts, the ministries, even the laws as written themselves, will not help you in a labor dispute.

Especially if you are a NJ. Labor rights have been severely weakened over the past two decades, and the sooner you understand that and take appropriate measures, the more secure life you’re going to have in Japan.

Speaking of stable work environments:



Yesterday I sent out to you a separate post about the apparent financial problems of the Japan Times, with some suggestions on both how we and they can help save the institution.

I received a thank-you email almost immediately in the Comments section of the blog entry from Yukiko Ogasawara, President of the Japan Times. Thanks back.

Other comments have also been enlightening and helpful. One I will excerpt here:


Raising prices doesn’t necessarily mean that a company is in trouble but Debito-san is correct that the JT has financial problems. Here are the sales and operating loss numbers for the Japan Times for the past three years from Nifco’s financial filings. (Nifco owned 75.5% of the JT as of 3/07, which made it a consolidated subsidiary.)

(Yen millions)

Sales Operating Loss

3/07 2,989 (-5.3%) 327

3/06 3,142 (-8.6%) 248

3/05 3,436 (-5.9%) 211

3/04 3,651

That’s an 18% decline in sales over three years. Pretty serious. I’m not sure what was happening in 2003 and earlier.

The good news is that this order of loss is pretty insignificant to Nifco, which reported operating profit of Yen 13,696 million in its last FY (an increase of 16.5%). Nifco won’t go broke because of the JT.

I would personally hate to see the JT go under but the JT is not the only newspaper coping with shrinking markets. If management actually cares about becoming profitable, Debito-san’s suggestions would be a good place to start making changes.


Any more suggestions? Comment at the blog.

There’s a good chance JT management might see them.

It’d be a shame to lose the JT, given it’s a forum for debates like these:



In June 2006, I’m embarrassed to say I missed this debate on the Community Page on reinstating fingerprinting for NJ only. Since cyberspace is quite incandescent with outrage at the moment over the November revisions to the laws, here are excerpts of pros and cons by two friends of mine, Scott and Matt:

Japan Times Community Page Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Should Japan fingerprint foreigners?




Fingerprinting puts foreign residents at risk

Courtesy Matt Dioguardi’s blog at

..Ultimately, this policy puts foreigners at unfair risk. I typed in the phrase “how to fake fingerprints” on Google recently and got back over half a million hits. I checked the first 60, which told you how to do just that.

You leave your fingerprints everywhere you go. You leave them on trains, on vending machines, any place you lay your hands. Foreigners will have to take this in stride as they become de facto suspects in almost every crime committed.

There are respected scholars, former police officers, and journalists now questioning the entire science of fingerprinting. And whose to say how long it takes before collected prints are leaked through Winnie?

Putting all this aside, guess what? This policy just won’t work. Does anyone really believe that all terrorists are foreigners? The Tokyo subway sarin attack comes to mind (6000 injured, 12 dead), so does the bombings of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Tokyo in 1974 (20 injured, 8 dead) and the Hokkaido Prefectural Government office in Sapporo in 1976 (80 injured, 2 dead). The obvious prejudice here is palpable…



Immigration’s new system will make us safer

…Indeed, all criminals are fingerprinted, but that doesn’t mean all people fingerprinted are criminals. The “green cards” of permanent resident foreigners in the U.S. have shown their fingerprint for decades. People in high-security or sensitive jobs are fingerprinted, too.

Some countries require fingerprints for passports now, and many more are proposing such a measure. Fingerprints are being used for biometric ID on ATMs and even cell phones for online transactions.

Clearly their role has evolved far beyond just crime investigations. And as their use continues to diversify, public feelings are likely to evolve toward a neutral view, too.

Fingerprints are just one form of biometric identification. Ironically, they are not even the most widely-used form, even in law enforcement. That throne belongs to photographs, which are in many ways much more “personal” data than fingerprints. Yet you don’t hear anyone complaining that being photographed is “degrading” or “makes them feel like a criminal.”

In the end, when public safety is at stake, worrying about hurting people’s feelings is just not good policy. Airline security, for example, with its body pat-downs and shoe removal almost seems designed to violate one’s dignity. It’s unpleasant, yes, but necessary…


Full text of both articles at


The biggest problem I see with this new biometric system (aside from the fact that it’s not even being instituted nationwide–only at Narita, which means elsewhere everyone foreign goes through the Gaijin Line regardless of whether or not they are actually a resident of Japan) was not really alluded to in Scott’s argument: that if you really want to take care of terrorists, you fingerprint everybody. After all, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear. Even if you’re Japanese, right?

I’ve said this before, but there is no reason to target NJ only like this, except for the fact that you can. Given the cultural disfavor with fingerprinting in Japan (essentially, only criminals or suspected criminals get systematically fingerprinted in Japan–this association is one of the reasons why the Zainichi generational foreigners successfully protested for decades to get it abolished in the 1990’s), if you included Japanese in the fingerprinting there would be outrage, and the policy would fail. Look what happened when they tried to institute the Juki Net universal ID card system earlier this decade (it was even ruled unconstitutional in 2006).

I been watching this come down the pipeline for years now, and have of course been writing about it. See the roots of this policy and what sorts of discriminatory logic it is founded upon (i.e. clear and systematic racial profiling, both in essence, and in an enforcement which bends existing laws) in a 2006 Mainichi article and a 2005 Japan Times column:

Here comes the fear: Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents

By Arudou Debito, Japan Times, May 24, 2005

Japan to fingerprint foreigners under proposed immigration bill

Mainichi Shinbun, February 8, 2006

Both at

In any case, Kyodo has just reported that tomorrow will see the official announcement of the fingerprint law’s promulgation on November 20.

Almost makes you want to naturalize.

Now for The Economist’s take:



How the pendulum has begun swinging back. As a twenty-year reader of The Economist, I’ve noticed a constant editorial slant favoring market-based solutions to just about everything, and the concomitant (but wan and blinding) hope that the more politically-conservative elements of governments in the developed economies would follow The Economist’s preferred course. Hence their often backwards-bending support of the current administration in the world’s most powerful economy, which has long demonstrated a pursuit of power for its own (and its cronies’ own) sake.

Now, after struggling for years to come to terms with (and offering conditional, but certainly evident, support for) the American curtailment of civil liberties (enabling other countries, such as Japan, to create copycat policy), this week’s Economist finally comes down against the erosion. Bravo.


Civil liberties under threat: The real price of freedom

It is not only on the battlefield where preserving liberty may have to cost many lives

The Economist, Sep 20th 2007

(here is how it concludes) …When liberals put the case for civil liberties, they sometimes claim that obnoxious measures do not help the fight against terrorism anyway. The Economist is liberal but disagrees. We accept that letting secret policemen spy on citizens, detain them without trial and use torture to extract information makes it easier to foil terrorist plots. To eschew such tools is to fight terrorism with one hand tied behind your back. But that–with one hand tied behind their back–is precisely how democracies ought to fight terrorism.

Take torture, arguably the hardest case. A famous thought experiment asks what you would do with a terrorist who knew the location of a ticking nuclear bomb. Logic says you would torture one man to save hundreds of thousands of lives, and so you would. But this a fictional dilemma. In the real world, policemen are seldom sure whether the many (not one) suspects they want to torture know of any plot, or how many lives might be at stake. All that is certain is that the logic of the ticking bomb leads down a slippery slope where the state is licensed in the name of the greater good to trample on the hard-won rights of any one and therefore all of its citizens.

Human rights are part of what it means to be civilised. Locking up suspected terrorists–and why not potential murderers, rapists and paedophiles, too?–before they commit crimes would probably make society safer. Dozens of plots may have been foiled and thousands of lives saved as a result of some of the unsavoury practices now being employed in the name of fighting terrorism. Dropping such practices in order to preserve freedom may cost many lives. So be it.


Now if only Japan’s opinion leaders were as intelligent and outspoken about the flaws in Japan’s new laws.

Then again, not everybody sees things quite so harshly:



Got this yesterday from Heidi Tan over at Bloomberg (thanks): A Sept 29 podcast from Bloomberg Radio, interviewing Robert Feldman, chief economist at Morgan Stanley Japan Securities, over economic issues and Fukuda’s “steady hand”.

One thing brought up was immigration. Here’s how Mr Feldman, who has been “a Japan watcher for 37 years”, assesses the situation: (Minute seven)


Q: Is there a change in immigration within the Japanese people?

A: Yes there is. Immigrants are now really welcome by a large share of the population. Obviously, large-scale immigration is something new to Japan. They’re not sure about it. It’s also a huge issue in many other countries around the globe. And so Japan is watching what’s happening in the United States and in Europe with immigration policy. From my perspective, I see a very large number of Japanese people very much welcoming young, eager, aggressive people who want to come to Japan and make their lives there. We have now between 400,000 and 450,000 foreign-born workers in Japan. That’s not a huge number. But most of these are very young people. A huge number are from China. Young, hardworking kids who want to come and make something out of themselves. And quite interestingly, until a couple of years ago, there was a lot of talk in the media in Japan about crime coming in with these foreign workers. You see almost no discussion of that anymore. I think the immigrant groups have proven themselves to be very hardworking, very good citizens, and that’s helping the image of immigration. So yes, immigration will be part of the story, but inevitably it cannot be the main line.

Q: What is the response to the Chinese coming into Japan?

A: I think a lot of them come because they want to work. They have opportunities there, they read the kanji well enough so it’s easy enough to get around. So I think the young Chinese community in Japan is very very happy to be there. I witnessed a very interesting sort of event a couple of weeks ago. I was visiting the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo… As you enter the main shrine, there a place where according to Shinto religion you’re supposed to wash off your hands… And there was a group of young Chinese kids there, who were about to go into the shrine. And they were being very very serious and solicitous about washing their hands properly before they went into the shrine. As a sign of respect towards the Meiji Emperor. And I thought it was just lovely, that this group of immigrants was so serious about honoring the traditions of the country where they had come to at least work for a while.


COMMENT: Usually my mantra is that immigration is the future and I’m sunny about it. But I’m not sure I can be quite as rosy as Mr Feldman about the present situation. Granted, his appraisal of Japan’s future labor market actually included immigration (as opposed to the three-page survey in the July 26, 2007 Economist, which ignored it completely).

But I’m not so sure about Chinese being “really welcome” (given the short-term revolving-door visa policies that both the ruling party and the bureaucrats want, moreover the “Japanese Only” policies that are even starting to target Chinese in particular) or “very very happy” to be here.

Given the harsh working conditions many of them face,

I wonder how many Chinese in Japan Mr Feldman talked to when creating his happiness index, or even his assimilation quotient (just seeing them being respectful of shrine customs does not to me necessarily signal their respect for a Japanese emperor, or the fact that the crowd of Chinese were even immigrants; they might have been tourists on their best behavior).

And as for the “almost no discussion” regarding foreign crime, the biannnual press releases from the NPA still score headlines (see link below to last February’s media blitz). Even the current Justice Minister Hatoyama has made it clear he intends to stay the course of toughness towards foreign crime. It’s even been transmuted into anti-terrorism bills.

Caveats on my part: I don’t live in Tokyo, and every time I go down south I’m surprised at just how many NJ, particularly Chinese, are working in restaurants, hotels, and convenience stores–and that’s not even touching upon NJ working in less public-view places such as factories and nightlife. I might be lacking Mr Feldman’s perspective by living in Sapporo, a city not terribly multicultural. Plus having my eyes on the problems all the time could be biasing my sample (or just making me old and cynical).

But the fact that the larger group (even larger than Chinese) of Newcomer NJ worker immigrants in Japan–the Brazilians–doesn’t even warrant a mention (they’re found farther west) indicates to me that Mr Feldman doesn’t get out of Tokyo much.

I do of course hope he’s right, of course. I just don’t think based upon what he says above that he has sufficient evidence to back up such rosy assertions, especially given how the GOJ treats NJ as inferior workers and agents of social problems. Feels funny to be the cynic this time.



Two new articles about things we have been talking about on for months now, so let me update with excerpts:


Japan remains haven for parental abductors

September 25, 2007, Japan Today/Kyodo News By Alison Brady

…As a result of the increasing number of international marriages, more than 21,000 children are born each year in Japan to couples of mixed Japanese and non-Japanese descent. Add to that the number of children born to Japanese who live abroad and are married to a non-Japanese. What becomes of these bi-national children when the parents separate or divorce?…

There are no exact figures on how many children have been abducted to Japan. T he National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports 46 American children have been kidnapped to Japan since 1995. That number grows considerably when factoring in children of other countries and cases that were either dropped or never reported. Furthermore, the U.S. government has no record of even a single case in which Japan has agreed to return an abducted child by legal means to the United States…


Rest at

A good article on the nastiness that occurs when Japan will neither allow joint custody of children after divorce (meaning one parent usually just disappears from a child’s life), nor sign the Hague Convention on Child Abductions (which in international marriages encourages Japanese to abscond with their kids back to Japan, never to return). More on this phenomenon at the Children’s Rights Network Japan site at

I’m personally interested in this issue, as I too have not seen one of my children since Summer 2004, and am involved in the production of a movie talking about the Murray Wood Case.

More on the movie later when the directors are good and ready for publicity.


Next article offers a bit of hope for the Idubor Case, where an African was accused similarly of a sexual crime and is still being held by police for eight months now despite no evidence.


Man acquitted of indecent assault over lack of evidence

Mainichi Shinbun September 28, 2007

YOKOHAMA A man has been acquitted of the indecent assault of a woman at his home in January last year, due to lack of evidence.

The Yokohama District Court found the defendant, an antique goods dealer and an Iranian national, not guilty for a lack of evidence. Prosecutors had demanded that the accused spend four years behind bars for indecent assault, resulting in injury.

Presiding Judge Kenichi Kurita pointed out that the alleged victim’s testimony changed during the trial and could not be trusted, declaring, “It cannot be concluded that the man molested her despite her will.”

The man was charged with fondling the body of a 32-year-old acquaintance at his home in Midori-ku, Yokohama, on Jan. 28, 2006, causing her slight neck injuries.


Good. The key here is that she was in his home when this happened, so motive and intent favor the male. Pity it took Japan’s judiciary over a year and a half to come to this conclusion.

What I also find rather amusing about this case is the act of “fondling”, causing “slight neck injuries”? What are we talking about here, hickies? Case dismissed.



I will be briefly speaking both for ten minutes and as part of a panel (English and Japanese) at Osaka University’s Suita Campus, Osaka University Convention Center (Osaka-fu Suita-shi Yamadaoka 1-2), from 9:30AM to 11AM.

Panel will be on “Non-Japanese Residents and their Health Treatment–What’s Necessary in this Era of Multicultural Co-Existence”, chaired by Professor Setsuko Lee of Nagasaki’s Seibold University, Director of the Japan Global Health Research Center, and will also offer opinions of three other speakers.

Sponsored by the 22nd Annual Meeting for the Japan Association for International Health


…and finally…


Great news for all us Dosanko! The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, *OUR* local team, has just won its second pennant IN A ROW in the Pacific League. BANZAI!!

Why this matters to The game tonight was between two NJ coaches–Hillman and Valentine–who between them have won the last two Japan Series and now four league pennants. They’ve certainly earned their stripes in Japan. If nobody points out that it’s now the NJ coaches who are bringing winning strategies to Japan, I will, of course. (Whaddya expect?) Now let’s see if we can get restrictions removed on quotas for foreign players on Japanese baseball teams.

And why this matters to Hokkaido: We’ve become a baseball powerhouse, what with Tomakomai Komadai also winning the High School Baseball leagues twice in a row from four years ago, then coming in second last year; the fact they hardly qualified this year will be salved by this victory.

Sorry to say this is Hillman’s last season with the Fighters. He’s probably heading back to Texas to be with his Rangers. He will be sorely missed.

Next stop, Pacific League champs take on the Central League champs (the goddamn Tokyo Giants). If Hillman can beat the Giants (which once was the team Hokkaido supported–not that the Giants ever cared) in a home game, it will be poetic justice indeed.

More on Japanese baseball (including that thing about foreign-player quotas) at Trans Pacific Radio at


All for today. Thanks for reading!

Arudou Debito

Sapporo, Japan,


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