DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 29, 2011

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Hello Readers. This will be my second-to-last Newsletter for a couple of months, as I will be vacationing Debito.org for a bit while I write another book (it’s nigh time).

But I’ll still put out another podcast on February 1, the same day my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column comes out, examining how some long-termers (even naturalized) still call themselves “foreigners” in public and the damage this rubric does. Have a read. Meanwhile:

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 29, 2011

Table of Contents:

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ECCENTRIC

1) Japan Times Community Page on long-termer coping strategies in Japan,
where even Dietmember Tsurunen seems to advocate accepting your foreign status and working with it
2) Dietmember Tsurunen offers clarification and apology for calling himself a foreigner in Japan Times article
3) Japan Times publishes reactions to their Dec. 28 article on Old Japan Hands accepting their foreigner status
4) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Feb 1 critiques the “naturalized but still foreign” rubric
5) AP video: Sting talks to Ric O’Barry on “The Cove” and dolphin slaughters
6) Weekend Tangent: The future of Eikaiwa: AFP: Robots replace english teachers in SK

ODD AND STRANGE

7) QB House Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requires Japanese language ability for a haircut (UPDATE: Sign has been replaced)
8 ) “To De-Sign or Not to De-Sign”: A debate about what to do re exclusionary signs
9) Tangent: End of an era: Asahi Evening News presses to close
10) TMC reports on TV Asahi “Super Morning” rupo re Shibuya Center Gai citizen patrols harassing buskers, NJ
11) AFP: Otemon Gakuin Univ finally apologizes for Indian student suicide in 2007, still refuses to comment if racially-motivated bullying
12) Tangent: BBC show QI gets scolded by J media and embassy for insensitivity re atomic bombings

SIMPLY WRONG-HEADED

13) Suspected murderer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, Ichihashi Tatsuya, publishes book about his experiences. Ick.
14) Caroline Pover on protesting Gentosha Inc’s publication of Ichihashi’s book after Lindsay Ann Hawker’s murder
15) DEBITO.ORG POLL: What’s your take on suspected murderer Ichihashi Tatsuya’s book on his experiences
evading arrest for the homicide of Lindsay Ann Hawker? (Multiple responses OK)
16) FCCJ No.1 Shimbun: A killing separation: Two French fathers suicide 2010 after marital separation and child abduction
17) Yomiuri on “Lehman Shock” and Japan’s foreign crime: Concludes with quote that “living in harmony with foreign residents might be just a dream”
18) AP: Japan population shrinks by record numbers in 2010. NYT: Its workers aging, Japan turns away immigrants.
19) NY Consulate Japan’s Kawamura Yasuhisa offers more rosy picture of immigration to Japan in NYT Letter to the Editor
20) Economist.com offers microcosm of Nagasaki as example of Japan’s urban decline

THIS IS MORE LIKE IT

21) Kyodo: Tourism to Japan hits new record high in 2010
22) Japan Times: Otaru Beer, with NJ braumeister, revolutionizing microbrews and beerdrinking styles in Japan
23) JT on Rita Taketsuru, Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry, and her connections to Nikka’s factory in Yoichi, Hokkaido
24) MOFA now requiring consent of both parents for their child’s J passport renewal
25) Hollywood Reporter: JT “Richard Cory” child abduction story optioned as possible movie/TV production
26) Tangent: Elderly J activists sue GOJ to allow different last names after marriage
27) Japan Times et.al: Suraj Case of death during deportation sent to prosecutors

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By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
Freely Forwardable

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ECCENTRIC

1) Japan Times Community Page on long-termer coping strategies in Japan,
where even Dietmember Tsurunen seems to advocate accepting your foreign status and working with it

Japan Times: The Japan Times talked to three well-known, popular foreigners who have made it to the top of their fields in Japan about their views on surviving and thriving as a foreigner in Japanese society.

Peter Barakan is a British musicologist and commentator who arrived in 1974. Konishiki is a Hawaiian former sumo great who has spent 27 years in Japan. Tsurunen Marutei is the first foreign-born member of the Diet’s House of Councilors of European descent. Originally from Finland, he has lived here for 42 years.

So how do these three Japan hands — who have racked up over a century in the country between them — stay sane under the barrage of compliments that can push even the greenest, most mild-mannered gaijin over the edge from time to time? What witty retorts do they have in their armory for when they are told they use chopsticks well?

Tsurunen: “I say thank you.”

It seems that while coming up against and confounding stereotypes — e.g. the awkward, Japanese-mangling foreigner — can make some foreigners feel they aren’t being taken seriously, seasoned veterans have learned to blow this off — or even revel in it….

http://www.debito.org/?p=8288

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2) Dietmember Tsurunen offers clarification and apology for calling himself a foreigner in Japan Times article

In response to the feedback regarding his statements to the Japan Times last December 28, where in an article he calls himself a foreigner despite his Japanese citizenship, Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei sends this public statement through his office (not an official translation):

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“I wish to thank everyone for their comments. As people have pointed out, my use of the English word ‘foreigner’ was inappropriate. I was trying to express that I am not a ‘Japan-born Japanese’ and used ‘foreigner’, but strictly speaking I should have said ‘foreign-born person’, or as I said in the article ‘Finn-born Japanese’.

“I regret using expressions that gave rise to misunderstandings, and I would like to offer my apologies.”
============================

http://www.debito.org/?p=8407

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3) Japan Times publishes reactions to their Dec. 28 article on Old Japan Hands accepting their foreigner status

The Japan Times yesterday published letters to the editor regarding Charles Lewis’s December 28 article in the Japan Times, on old Japan hands Konishiki, Peter Barakan, and Tsurunen Marutei, and their coping strategies for living in Japan long-term.

The letters remind me of the parable of the blind men feeling up the elephant and describing what it looks like: One feels the trunk and thinks an elephant is like a snake or a tree branch, one feels the legs and thinks an elephant is like a pillar, one feels the tail and think it’s like a rope, one feels the ears and thinks it’s like a fan, one feels the tusk and thinks it’s like a pipe, one feels the belly and thinks it’s like a wall, etc. It’s a great metaphor for not getting the big picture.

As for the letters, each author gives the article a feel and offers their take, and it’s a bit of a mess…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8411

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4) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Feb 1 critiques the “naturalized but still foreign” rubric

In the Japan Times Community Page last December 28, long-termer Charles Lewis wrote a respectful column asking three fellow wise men (sumo wrestler Konishiki, musicologist Peter Barakan, and Diet member Marutei Tsurunen) about their lives as successful “outsiders” in Japan. Despite a combined century of experiences here, the article pointed out how they are still addressed at times as if they were still foreigners fresh off the boat.

Mr. Lewis’s article depicted these veterans’ coping strategy as, essentially: Accept that you are a foreigner in Japan and work with it.

That is fine advice for some. But not for us all. I asked three other wise men, also with Japanese citizenship and a combined tenure of more than 50 years in Japan, who offered a significantly different take.

Read the rest on February 1 in The Japan Times!

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5) AP video: Sting talks to Ric O’Barry on “The Cove” and dolphin slaughters

For a Weekend Tangent, we have rock star Sting being asked for an opinion of documentary “The Cove” and dolphin slaughters by activist Ric O’Barry. Sting gives an intelligent opinion without alienating his Japanese market (something he’s had a history of doing in the past).

If you want to see Sting more in character vis-a-vis his outspokenness, have a listen to him playing “Murder By Numbers” with Frank Zappa some years ago.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8425

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6) Tangent: The future of Eikaiwa: AFP: Robots replace english teachers in SK

AFP: Almost 30 robots have started teaching English to youngsters in a South Korean city, education officials said Tuesday, in a pilot project designed to nurture the nascent robot industry.

The machines can be an efficient tool to hone language skills for many people who feel nervous about conversing with flesh-and-blood foreigners, he said.

“Plus, they won’t complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance package, or leave in three months for a better-paying job in Japan… all you need is a repair and upgrade every once in a while.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=8245

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ODD AND STRANGE

7) QB House Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requires Japanese language ability for a haircut (UPDATE: Sign has been replaced)

Here is the latest permutation of the “Japanese Only” signs nationwide. Instead of saying they refuse all foreigners, QB House, an international bargain barbershop chain since 1995, has a sign up in one of their Tokyo outlets saying they may refuse anyone who doesn’t speak sufficient Japanese. While some may see this as an improvement (i.e. it’s not a blanket refusal of NJ), I just see it as another excuse to differentiate between customers by claiming a language barrier (which has been the SOP at exclusionary businesses in Japan for years now). Who’s to judge whether or not someone is “able to communicate” sufficiently? Some panicky manager? I’ve seen it in practice (in places like Wakkanai), where a barber sees any white face, assumes he cannot communicate, and reflexively arms the X-sign at you. This time, however, QB House has managed to make an exclusionary sign in perfect English in one of the more international areas of Tokyo. How about catering to the customers instead of finding ways of snippily enforcing a “culture of no”? Photo of the sign and note from submitter follows:

http://www.debito.org/?p=8336

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8 ) “To De-Sign or Not to De-Sign”: A debate about what to do re exclusionary signs

There’s a debate going on between Debito.org Reader OG Steve and myself that is too good to leave buried in a Comments Section. It was occasioned by a recent blog entry about a sign, up at an outlet of bargain haircutter QB House in Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requiring Japanese language ability for service. OG Steve made the point that he was happy to see an exclusionary sign up that proclaimed clear and present exclusionism (as opposed to the hedging wording of “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”), which in his view actually made discriminatory policies harder to stamp out. I disagreed, as in my view clear and present exclusionary policies, especially in the form of signs like these, encourages proliferation and copycatting, institutionalizes the discrimination, and further weakens civil society’s ability to take action against exclusionism. OG Steve replied that it makes the evidence and case clearer, and thus strengthens the hand of people who wish to take judicial action. I replied… well, read on. Then we’ll open the floor to discussion. It’s a worthy topic, so let’s have at it, and see if we can get some conclusive arguments from other Debito.org Readers as well.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8360

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9) Tangent: End of an era: Asahi Evening News presses to close

It’s the end of an era: the demise of the Asahi Evening News. This means one less daily media outlet covering domestic Japanese news in English. And one less voice coming from and covering the NJ community in Japan.

Consider what happened to the alternatives this past decade: the Mainichi Daily News went the way of the dodo some time ago. The Daily Yomiuri still exists, but essentially offers translations of its articles of right-wing bent, mostly avoiding criticism of Japan — and they have severely cut back on their full-time NJ staff anyway (they have more translators than actual NJ reporters, and they are being steadily replaced by mere proofreaders).

Now it’s the Asahi’s turn. You might say that this is the natural outcome of the drop in print media revenues. But I think the Asahi had this in mind all along. Not only did they engage in union-busting activities this past decade (successfully — they axed lots of full-time NJ journalists), but they also isolated (I tried more than once to contact a few NJ reporters who had bylines in the paper through the Asahi switchboard; switchboard said they had no actual AEN division to connect to) and bled their English division so dry that someday there would be no other alternative but to get rid of it. And next month that’s what they’ll be doing.

Last man standing (in English) is the Japan Times. And Kyodo News (as if there’s any comparison, as they also have few, if any, full-time NJ reporters). Long may they run.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8334

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10) TMC reports on TV Asahi “Super Morning” rupo re Shibuya Center Gai citizen patrols harassing buskers, NJ

TMC reports: I was watching television on Friday morning (January 7th) and caught a segment featured on TV Asahi’s Super Morning about a citizen patrol operating in Shibuya’s Center Gai district that acts in an aggressive and belligerent manner. First, this group is shown breaking up a live music performance by young Japanese. Unlike what you would expect from such patrols, their manner of enforcing ward bylaws was extremely rude and invited escalation of the situation. Instead of simply telling the musicians to discontinue and wait for their response, the oyaji in charge of this band of bullies screamed at the kids like a yakusa to stop playing and continued haranguing them as they were dispersing. In contrast, the young musicians were not shown being argumentative at all.

The other disturbing scene occurred when this gang spotted an African male leaning on a guard rail. From a fair distance away, the patrol (composed of about six Japanese males dressed in their citizens patrol jackets) immediately went over, surrounded the guy and demanded that he pick up some cans that were on the ground next to him. Despite the fact that the African was doing nothing but leaning against a guard rail, they started barking at him (given their close distance to the African, their posture, numbers and tone, it could be perceived as very threatening). The African quite rightly took umbrage at the unprovoked intrusion and got into an argument that escalated into some pushing and shoving, with the African kicking some objects in the street. Eventually the police were called in to settle the dispute. Had it been some oyaji doing the same thing, I highly doubt the patrol would have done anything. In addition, I have so far never seen the police get that aggressive right off the bat in public…

This use of aggressive vigilante groups that take liberties the cops generally don’t or can’t is disturbing. I think citizen patrols are great but strutting around like brownshirts targeting certain groups and causing trouble is definitely outside of their mandate.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8352

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11) AFP: Otemon Gakuin Univ finally apologizes for Indian student suicide in 2007, still refuses to comment if racially-motivated bullying

Here’s another reason why people ought to think carefully before attending Japanese schools as a student of diversity, and it’s not just because funding to being them over without sufficient institutional support afterwards is being cut. Bullying. Here we have a Japanese university apologizing for the suicide of one of their ethnic students (raised in Japan with Japanese citizenship, no less). It only took them three years. And yet, like the recent Uemura Akiko suicide, the possibility of it being racially-motivated is not dealt with by the authorities. Thanks for the apology, I guess, but this will hardly fix the problem for others. Hence think carefully.

Hindustan Times: A Japanese university on Monday apologised to the family of an Indian student who committed suicide in 2007, after leaving a note saying he would kill himself because of bullying at school.

The male student, then aged 20, at Otemon Gakuin University in Osaka prefecture, jumped from a building three years ago, leaving a note saying: “The bullying I keep getting at school… Cannot take it any more.”…

The university refused to comment on whether the abuse was racially motivated saying the specific nature of the bullying was not known…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8310

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12) Tangent: BBC show QI gets scolded by J media and embassy for insensitivity re atomic bombings

As a Weekend Tangent (for the record, I have no particular stance on this issue), here’s another bit following yesterday’s about official GOJ reactions to overseas media: The BBC One show QI and its segment on the “unluckiest (or luckiest, depending on how you look at it) man in the world”: a survivor of two atomic bombings who died recently at the age of 93. It has engendered much criticism from the J media and cyberspace. Here’s a comment from Debito.org Reader JS:

“For the record, QI is a general knowledge quiz show with liberal doses of humour (points are awarded not for being correct, but for being “quite interesting”). They were actually quite complimentary about Yamaguchi and the Japanese resolve in the face of adversity, but apparently it was enough to merit a formal complaint and prime-time news coverage. Oh, and apparently Yamaguchi used to call himself “the unluckiest man in the world”, and he and his family laughed about it. I would say, as a Brit, that they’re laughing at the irony of the situation, not at Yamaguchi personally.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=8427

Yet, as we shall see below. something offensive gets released in the media and puts the shoe on the other foot, and look what happens:

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SIMPLY WRONG-HEADED

13) Suspected murderer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, Ichihashi Tatsuya, publishes book about his experiences. Ick.

Here’s the next installment in the circus that is the Ichihashi Tatsuya manhunt and arrest for homicide. First the police royally bungle their dragnet, enabling Ichihashi to live on the lam for years. Then now that he’s finally been arrested, he’s able to come out with a book about his hardships (with the apparently reassuring disclaimer that he’ll donate the proceeds elsewhere — what would he do with the money anyway?) without coming clean about why he allegedly did it. Why do I feel we’ve got the beginnings of hero worship, with pilgrimages following his path, and future fans harping on the adversities this man suffered while evading arrest? Hey, if Ichihashi had eaten his victim in another country, he might have become a writer and traveling gourmet celebrity in Japan. Reactions get weird when things get morbid — and that goes for anywhere (cf. Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

Again, I understand that the accused has the freedom to speak out about his case while in prison (a privilege you hear few people being granted while in Japanese incarceration), but somehow I get a sinking feeling about this. Deeply troubling. Let’s get a court verdict on this case, already. It’s been more than a year since his arrest.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8455

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14) Caroline Pover on protesting Gentosha Inc’s publication of Ichihashi’s book after Lindsay Ann Hawker’s murder

Caroline Pover: For anyone inclined to contact Gentosha (the publishers of Ichihashi’s book), you can do so by using the following:
Phone from within Japan: 03-5411-6211
Phone from outside of Japan: +81-3-5411-6211
Email (general enquiries): keieikikaku@gentosha.co.jp
Email (comments on their books): comment@gentosha.co.jp

There is a woman there who speaks perfect English, and one of the men responsible for making the decision to approach Ichihashi’s representatives has been reachable, but both these people have refused to give their names. And yes, just to clarify, the publishing house initiated the publication of this book. Their website is http://www.gentosha.co.jp.

Now I understand that there is human interest in this “story” and this book. I understand that human nature means that we are often interested in the sinister and the macabre, often for reasons we cannot explain and perhaps in a way we may not be particularly comfortable with. I understand that people are fascinated by how Ichihashi escaped and how he survived for so long on the run. I fully expected there to be a book at some point, and I don’t really blame the general public for wanting to read it.

What I don’t understand is how this book has been allowed to be released now. BEFORE the trial. Only in the past few days have tentative dates for the trial even been set — surely the publishers must have approached Ichihashi’s representatives knowing that they could produce the book before the trial, and Ichihashi’s representatives possibly thought to seize the opportunity to gain public sympathy.

Ichihashi has several defence lawyers, all of whom are working pro bono. A book like this will become a bestseller (and it will, make no mistake — and some scumbag is probably already on the phone right now asking for the movie rights). The Hawker family has repeatedly refused to accept any money from an individual claiming to be an Ichihashi supporter, and the family also refuses to accept any monies from the publication of this book. Ichihashi and his defence team may or not receive any money themselves, but the publisher certainly will. Ichihashi has been given the opportunity to tell his story, but shouldn’t that story be told in court?

What will be told in court however is the REAL story of what happened to Lindsay Ann Hawker. The real story of what he did to her, with details that her parents and sisters will have to listen to and live with forever. And when THAT story is told, the Gentosha staff who worked on Until I was arrested: Record of a two-year and seven-month blank will feel utterly ashamed of themselves.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8477

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15) DEBITO.ORG POLL: What’s your take on suspected murderer Ichihashi Tatsuya’s book on his experiences
evading arrest for the homicide of Lindsay Ann Hawker? (Multiple responses OK)

The available options, in no particular order:

It’s an attempt to make judges/a jury more sympathetic for his trial.
It will only encourage hero worship and make Japanese society look morbid.
It’s a cynical marketing ploy by the publisher.
It’s amazing he could get this published while in detention.
Like it or not, freedom of speech.
It’s the work of a monster and should not be on the market.
I want to read it and make a decision then.
I fear for the safety of other NJ women now.
It’s a useful piece of evidence — he’s owning up to the crime.
It’s a window into the mind of a killer for criminal science.
It’s a catharsis for all.
Something else.
Don’t know / Can’t say / Don’t care etc.

Vote as you like at any blog page at http://www.debito.org

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16) FCCJ No.1 Shimbun: A killing separation: Two French fathers suicide 2010 after marital separation and child abduction

Amid rumblings that Japan will sign the Hague Convention on Child Abductions this year (the Yomiuri says it’s currently being “mulled”), here’s another reason why it should be signed — child abductions after separation or divorce are driving parents to suicide. Read on. The Yomiuri articles follow.

FCCJ: The life and career of Arnaud Simon once could have exemplified the excellent relationship between Japan and France. A young French historian teaching in Tokyo, Simon was preparing a thesis on the history of thought during the Edo Period. He was married to a Japanese woman. They had one son.

But on Nov. 20, Arnaud Simon took his own life. He hanged himself. He did not need to leave an explanatory note; his closest friends knew he had lost the appetite for living because his wife would not allow Simon to see his son after their marriage broke up. Simon apparently tried on multiple occasions to take his boy home from school, but the police blocked the young father each time.

“The lawyers he met were trying to appease him, not help him,” one of his former colleagues remembers.

Another Frenchman in the same situation, Christophe Guillermin, committed suicide in June. These two deaths are terrible reminders of the hell some foreign parents inhabit in Japan — and because of Japan. When a couple separates here, custody of any children is traditionally awarded to the mother. After that, the children rarely have contact with the “other side”; they are supposed to delete the losing parent from their lives…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8307

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17) Yomiuri on “Lehman Shock” and Japan’s foreign crime: Concludes with quote that “living in harmony with foreign residents might be just a dream”

The Yomiuri is in full trumpet about foreign crime again — this time concluding (in an article that does develop the causes of some severe NJ suffering) with a quote from an elderly somebody about coexistence with foreigners being perhaps but a dream. A friend of mine offlist was quite critical of yesterday’s NYT article as an “anecdote-laden piece of fluff”. Okay, but check this one out: Nothing but anecdotes and nary a reliable stat in sight.

One thing I’m not quite getting is the connection between Lehman and foreign crime. Is Japan’s economy so fragile that one event could ruin it? Don’t businesses make their own decisions, or sovereign countries have responsibility over their own fiscal and monetary policies? Or is this another way of pinning Japan’s woes on foreigners?

http://www.debito.org/?p=8319

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18) AP: Japan population shrinks by record numbers in 2010. NYT: Its workers aging, Japan turns away immigrants.

AP: Japan’s population fell by a record amount last year as the number of deaths climbed to an all-time high in the quickly aging country, the government said Saturday.

Japan faces a looming demographic squeeze. Baby boomers are moving toward retirement, with fewer workers and taxpayers to replace them. The Japanese boast among the highest life expectancies in the world but have extremely low birth rates.

Japan logged 1.19 million deaths in 2010 — the biggest number since 1947 when the health ministry’s annual records began. The number of births was nearly flat at 1.07 million.

As a result, Japan contracted by 123,000 people, which was the most ever and represents the fourth consecutive year of population decline. The top causes of death were cancer, heart disease and stroke, the ministry said…

Saturday’s report showed 706,000 marriages registered last year — the fewest since 1954 and a sign that birth rates are unlikely to jump dramatically anytime soon.

NYT: Despite facing an imminent labor shortage as its population ages, Japan has done little to open itself up to immigration. In fact, as Ms. Fransiska and many others have discovered, the government is doing the opposite, actively encouraging both foreign workers and foreign graduates of its universities and professional schools to return home while protecting tiny interest groups– in the case of Ms. Fransiska, a local nursing association afraid that an influx of foreign nurses would lower industry salaries.

In 2009, the number of registered foreigners here fell for the first time since the government started to track annual records almost a half-century ago, shrinking 1.4 percent from a year earlier to 2.19 million people — or just 1.71 percent of Japan’s overall population of 127.5 million.

Experts say increased immigration provides one obvious remedy to Japan’s two decades of lethargic economic growth. Instead of accepting young workers, however — and along with them, fresh ideas — Tokyo seems to have resigned itself to a demographic crisis that threatens to stunt the country’s economic growth, hamper efforts to deal with its chronic budget deficits and bankrupt its social security system…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8300

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19) NY Consulate Japan’s Kawamura Yasuhisa offers more rosy picture of immigration to Japan in NYT Letter to the Editor

GOJ NY Consulate director Kawamura: “Despite Shortage, Japan Keeps a High Wall for Foreign Labor” (“The Great Deflation” series, front page, Jan. 3) oversimplifies a complex situation and seems to present foreign labor as a cure-all for Japan’s aging and declining population.

The article also appears to embrace cliches about Japanese homogeneity without pointing out recent policy changes. Japan is not walling itself off; quite the opposite is true.

In its new growth strategy, the Japanese government recognized the value of skilled foreign workers and their contributions to economic growth. Japan aims to double its skilled foreign work force by 2020 and to double the number of students from abroad that it welcomes, up to 300,000.

This policy reinforces the encouraging growth in the number of registered foreign residents. Despite a recent drop noted in your article, over the past 10 years registered foreigners in Japan have increased by almost 40 percent (from 1.6 million to 2.2 million). Japan faces tough economic and demographic challenges. But Japan will continue to find the policy mix that works best for our society and our economy.

COMMENT: Have a beer, Mr. Kawamura. You’ve discharged your duty well. As is good gaiatsu media policy, when we have somebody saying something discomfiting about Japan in overseas media, the GOJ’s Gaijin Handlers will step in to present the “Official View” (would be interesting if, say, the USG did more of that in Japan’s media). Here’s the Japan Consulate in New York doing just that…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8420

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20) Economist.com offers microcosm of Nagasaki as example of Japan’s urban decline

The Economist last week had quite a bleak article about Nagasaki, and used it as an example of Japan’s urban decline. Of course, it hints at the possibility of urban renewal through influxes of people (using the oft-cited policy panacea of “foreign students”). But again, not immigration. As far as Debito.org is concerned, the best bit of the article is:

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Can Nagasaki pull out of the spiral? Historically, after all, the city is Japan’s most open, allowing in Dutch and Chinese merchants in the 17th-19th centuries when foreign trade with the rest of the country was banned. Nagasaki is one of the closest cities to China and South Korea, with opportunities for tourism and trade. The museum to the atom bomb and its victims is world famous. Nagasaki is the birthplace of Japanese Christianity. It was a cradle of insurrection against the last shogunate, helping to shove Japan into the modern age with the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

To reverse the decline, Mr Sato has drawn up a plan with local officials that looks for overseas revenues to make up for falling domestic ones. That is hardly revolutionary. Among the goals are doubling numbers of foreign students, to 3,000; turning the shipyard into a tourist site; and bolstering sales of kamaboko, a rubbery fishcake. But asked about bolder measures such as encouraging foreign investment and skilled immigrants, Mr Sato says there is “not the right environment” for that yet.
====================================

Still wondering if the “yet” ever expires, even as things go down and down.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8438

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THIS IS MORE LIKE IT

21) Kyodo: Tourism to Japan hits new record high in 2010

I’m busy working on my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out February 1, addressing concerns I have, and other naturalized Japanese citizens have, when other long-term and naturalized residents called themselves “foreigners” in the Japan Times December 28). So for today, a short entry, and it’s good news. Record numbers of tourists coming in last year and pumping money into our economy:

Kyodo: “The number of foreign nationals arriving in Japan last year rose 24.6% from a year earlier to a record-high 9,443,671 due to the economic recovery in Asia and the relaxation by Tokyo of visa regulations for Chinese tourists, government data shows.”

I may have had some cross words here in the past about how NJ tourists are being treated once they get here, but why speak ill of this development? Bring them in and show them a good time — everyone wins. Let’s just hope that people will see sense and not decide to exclude NJ from their business just because there’s nothing legally stopping them from doing so.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8404

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22) Japan Times: Otaru Beer, with NJ braumeister, revolutionizing microbrews and beerdrinking styles in Japan

An article of personal import to me. The Japan Times reports on Johannes Braun, braumeister of Otaru Beer, who has come here and made the German-style brewing process a success. I drink with friends at Otaru Beer in Sapporo at least once a month (three to four times a month in summer), and think this development is good both for us as a local economy and for Japan as a place to do business.

Japan Times: Otaru Beer in the port city of Otaru has continued to flourish since its inception 15 years ago, with output growing at an annual average of 10 percent. At its head is a man who hails from a village near Frankfurt with a population of just 500 people.

Braumeister Johannes Braun, one of just two German nationals residing in Otaru, attributes the microbrewery’s success to a surprisingly simple recipe. “I brew beer — real beer, using only natural ingredients,” he says. “Many breweries in Germany still abide by a law governing beer production that dates back almost 500 years. I follow that law to the letter.”…

“The taste gap (between ‘third sector’ beverages and mass-produced malt beers) has closed dramatically, to the degree that consumers can’t tell the difference and therefore naturally choose the cheaper option,” he says. “That’s the ideology of the big makers and that’s why the output of beer is dropping in recent years.”

This is not such a big issue for most consumers in Japan who, Braun says, see beer as “little more than something to clear the throat” before moving on to something else.

Indeed, “nodogoshi ga ii” — a phrase used to describe the smooth sensation of beer passing down the throat — is a quality that Japan’s major breweries frequently stress in promoting their products, while taste or body are given short shrift…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8445

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23) JT on Rita Taketsuru, Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry, and her connections to Nikka’s factory in Yoichi, Hokkaido

What follows is a great story, of Rita Taketsuru nee Cowan, a NJ who comes to Japan, supports her husband on the quest for a great Japanese-made Scotch whisky, naturalizes, and lives out her life in a very different Hokkaido than I’ve ever experienced, gaining fans that salute her to this day. Have a read of the excerpt below. We should all be so lucky to leave a legacy such as this.

Japan Times: The men stood up and explained that this week was the 40th anniversary of Rita’s death and they were going to her grave to pay their respects. The owner of the locket opened his briefcase and showed me a foil-wrapped haggis he’d ordered especially from his butcher. Another of the men took out a packet of oatcakes and a jar of heather honey.

They invited me to join them but the wind had returned with a vengeance and their drink had pasted me squarely to my seat. As they climbed out of the train, I asked them who they were. The three seemed sheepish for the first time since we’d met. Finally, the owner of the flask spoke up, “We’re the Rita Taketsuru Fan Club.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=8448

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24) MOFA now requiring consent of both parents for their child’s J passport renewal

It looks like the GOJ has pinched one of the essential avenues for Japanese overseas looking to abduct their children back to Japan after separation or divorce — the ability for a Japanese citizen to get their child’s J-passport renewed at any Japanese embassy or consulate without the consent of both parents. Somewhat good news, although commenter Getchan below points out that there are still loopholes in this development.

MOFA: To Parents with Children of Japanese Nationality:
Notice: Passport Application for Japanese Minors

Under Japanese civil law, those under the age of 20 are regarded as minors. When a Japanese minor applies for a Japanese passport, one parent/guardian must sign the “Legal Representative Signature” section on the back of the passport application. An application signed by one parent will be accepted under the assumption that the signature is a representation of consent from both parent(s)/guardian(s)…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8109

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25) Hollywood Reporter: JT “Richard Cory” child abduction story optioned as possible movie/TV production

Hollywood Reporter said last month that the story of Richard Cory will be optioned for development into a media event (movie or TV). This is a pseudonymous story of a NJ father in an international marriage in Japan, who reported in a series of articles for the Japan Times Community Page about his hardships getting access to his children — after his wife went AWOL, then nuts. His case particularly highlights the systematic barriers that fathers and NJ face trying to get a fair shake in custody hearings, even when the J spouse is certifiable.

The optioning is good news, in the sense that the issue of “Left-Behind Parents” (LBP, to those of us who are) deserves plenty of exposure. Systematic Child Abduction and Parental Alienation after separation and divorce in Japan affects not only NJ, but LBPs who are Japanese as well.

A reality check at this juncture, however. Something being optioned does not necessarily mean something gets made. Especially when the market concerns the darker aspects of Japan: Robert Whiting’s best book, TOKYO UNDERWORLD, has languished for many years in production hell. SOUR STRAWBERRIES got made in part thanks to German government funding. FROM THE SHADOWS is still looking for investors. And even the goofy airy-fairy movies about NJ in Japan, such as Oguri Saori’s MY DARLING IS A FOREIGNER, was a flop — grossing less than $7 million bucks to become only the 71st-grossing movie in Japan last year. The more successful yet serious-in-tone movies about foreign treatment in Japan, like LOST IN TRANSLATION, are anomalous. Good luck to Richard Cory.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8121

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26) Tangent: Elderly J activists sue GOJ to allow different last names after marriage

Reuters: Tsukamoto is one of five people planning to file a lawsuit against the government and local authorities as early as February, saying the civil code that requires married couples to register under the same surname violates equal rights among married couples, as well as personal rights.

Men are allowed to take their spouses’ name, but it is rare.

The group will seek compensation for what it says is the legislature’s failure to enact change, the first such case to be debated in open court in Japan, the only country in the Group of Eight major industrialised nations with such a surname rule.

Hopes grew that the government would submit a bill to amend the civil code after the Democratic Party of Japan, which has advocated letting married couples keep separate names if they wish, took power in 2009. But opposition from a coalition ally caused the plan to stall.

“There were expectations that it could be enacted but unfortunately this did not take place. They do not want to wait any longer,” said Fujiko Sakakibara, lead lawyer for the group.

Grauniad: The movement for change gathered pace in the 1980s when more women entered the workplace. Many complained that changing their names after marriage was detrimental to their career prospects and affected relationships with colleagues.

Yet the Japanese are divided over the issue: in a 2009 survey 49% said they supported a change in the law, while 48% were opposed.

Women still have to use their registered surnames on official documents such as passports and health insurance cards.

Many companies allow married women to retain their maiden names at work, but for Tsukamoto, who married in 1960, unofficial acceptance is not enough.

“Now I am 75, and I was shocked to realise that I can no longer do the things I was able to do even last year,” she said. “That’s when I thought, I am Kyoko Tsukamoto — and I want to die as Kyoko Tsukamoto.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=8367

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27) Japan Times et.al: Suraj Case of death during deportation sent to prosecutors

Japan Times: Chiba police have turned over to prosecutors their case against 10 immigration officers suspected of being involved in the death of a Ghanaian deportee they had restrained and physically placed aboard a jetliner last March at Narita International Airport.

The action Monday came six months after the man’s Japanese widow and her lawyers filed a criminal complaint demanding that prosecutors take action against the airport immigration officers who overpowered Abubakar Awudu Suraj to get him on the jet, where he subsequently died of unknown causes while handcuffed in his seat.

The police turned their case against the 10 men, aged 24 to 48, who are still working, over to the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office. They could face charges of violence and cruelty by special public officers resulting in death, a Chiba police officer said… Handcuffed and his mouth covered with a towel, Suraj was found unconscious in the aircraft and confirmed dead at a hospital, Yoshida had quoted the officer as saying. The police were unable to pinpoint the cause of death…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8239

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That’s all for a few days. One more with a couple of Japan Times columns, and then I’ll be back after an extended hiatus. Enjoy the advent of spring!

Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 29, 2011 ENDS

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