Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say

Japan Times: The [Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program], however, has not been without its critics. Japan’s top ally, the U.S., has even singled it out, with the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report for years slamming the program’s “deceptive recruitment practices.” “The (Japanese) government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP,” it said this year, using the program’s acronym.

Past allegations include unpaid overtime work, karoshi (death from overwork), and all kinds of harassment, including company managers restricting the use of toilets or demanding sexual services. The government rejects claims the program is abusive, yet acknowledges there have been some upstream problems. “It is true that some involved in the system have exploited it, but the government has acted against that,” an immigration official said. “It is not a system of slave labor.” The official insisted it was not in authorities’ power to control the behavior of middlemen but insisted they were not allowed to charge deposit fees. “It is also banned for employers to take away trainees’ passports,” he added.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to expand the program that would allow foreign trainees to stay in Japan for five years instead of three, and says such labor will increasingly be needed, particularly in the construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Abe is also aware that the nation’s health care sector must increasingly look abroad to fill the shortage of workers. “It has been said that we will need 1 million caregivers for the elderly by 2025, which would be impossible to handle only with the Japanese population,” said Tatsumi Kenmochi, a manager at a care home near Tokyo that employs Indonesian nurses. For Kenmochi, foreign staff are a precious commodity and the sector must do as much as it can to make them feel welcome. “It must be hard to leave home and work overseas,” he said. “We make sure that they don’t get homesick, listening to them and sometimes going out to have a warm bowl of noodles with them.”

Torii of Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan said this is just the kind of attitude Japan needs to learn: “The issue is not whether we accept immigrants or not. They are already here, playing a vital role in our society.”

Tokyo sushi shop Mizutani, with 2 Michelin stars, refuses NJ customers; awaiting Michelin Guides’ response

AFP: A top notch Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo on Monday defended its special reservation rules for foreigners after a report in Japan it had refused to accept a booking from a Chinese customer. Sushi Mizutani, which has two of the coveted Michelin stars, told AFP it has an “across-the-board policy” of not accepting bookings by non-Japanese customers—unless they are made through a hotel concierge or a credit card company.

“Non-Japanese customers may not show up for their reservations,” a member of the staff at the restaurant said, adding employees do not have the foreign language proficiency to explain requirements to patrons. “We prepare fish for the number of expected customers and have to turn down other requests for booking sometimes. We simply cannot afford it if people don’t show up. “We don’t think it is anything discriminatory,” he said… No one from the Michelin Guide was available for comment.

COMMENT: Given the relativism and exceptionality that pervades the world’s treatment of Japan (giving it a free pass for some pretty egregious examples of racism), I would be rather surprised if Michelin took their stars away. Let’s wait and see.

Japan Today: Narita airport ends ID security checks for non-passengers

JT: Narita International Airport on Monday abolished ID checks for non-passengers at the airport in Chiba Prefecture. Since the airport opened in 1978, cars and buses have been stopped at various points, with occupants having to show ID such as passports, even if they weren’t departing on flights. Drivers were also required to get out and open the trunk of their cars. The ID checks at railway ticket gates have also been scrapped. […] A state-of-the-art camera surveillance system consisting of 330 individual cameras will be used with 190 of the units dedicated to facial recognition and related tasks, while the other 140 would be monitoring the exterior of the buildings and tracking license plate numbers, suspicious behavior and other relevant security information.

COMMENT: One of the larger issues that Debito.org has taken up, that of Instant Gaijin Card Checkpoints (as in, racial profiling) for people for walking in public while NJ, might be (overtly) coming to an end, at least in the place where new entrants (and their entourage) get their first taste of it: Narita International Airport.

We have discussed Narita Airport’s treatment of NJ customers in detail before. According to the article below, they are installing spy cameras instead of having the labor-intensive (and unnecessarily invasive, given that the Narita Prefectural Police Force stoppages that Debito.org has concentrated on were targeting NJ who had ALREADY cleared security screenings) face-to-face singling out of people for extra scrutiny in a not-at-all-random manner. One might counterargue that this is swapping Big Brother for Bigger Brother. But I will still say that not having a potentially temperamental local cop, trained to see NJ as suspicous, getting into a jet-lagged person’s face is an improvement. Let’s at least see if this will make Narita Airport behave less like a fortress, with cops manning the pikes against the international hordes.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 4, 2015

Table of Contents:
ON BIRTHDAYS AND BIRTHDAY PRESENTS
1) I turned 50 years old on January 13, 2015. Photo on the day.
2) A debate I’ve been having on whether birthdays are to be celebrated or not. Discuss.
3) Lawyer threatens Debito.org in 2009 re a 1993 article in The Australian Magazine on Japan pundit Gregory Clark. Had received reprint permission, so nothing came of it.
NOW BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL
EXCLUSIONISM
4) IPC Digital et al.: Shizuoka Iwata City General Hospital doctor refuses care to Brazilian child, curses out parents and tells them to “die” (kuso, shine)
5) Khaosod (Thailand): Taxi Association Condemns ‘No Japanese Passengers’ Sign
MIXED MESSAGES
6) Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan”
7) Fukuoka Subway Poster Contest winner: Rude Statue of Liberty “overdoes freedom”, takes space from J passengers
MISPLACED HOPE
8 ) Yomiuri: GOJ sky-pie policy proposes to deal with rural population decrease with resettlement info websites, and robots!
9) Japan Times: Japan’s “Omotenashi” (“selfless hospitality”) not in tune with what visitors want, NJ expert warns
…and finally…
10) My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014

Fukuoka Subway Poster Contest winner: Rude Statue of Liberty “overdoes freedom”, takes space from J passengers

This is a photograph of a subway banner last month designed by an eighth grader in a Fukuoka Junior High School, taking first place in a Fukuoka City Subway contest for “Riding Manners”. The caption: “Don’t overdo the freedom.”

December 25, 2014, Reader TJL remarks: Hmmm…Fukuoka is now jumping on the “ugly American” bandwagon by portraying a rude Lady Liberty taking up too much space and playing her music too loud…the poor old lady in kimono can’t sit down and the salary man is disturbed by the noise. My graduate student from Chile found this on the subway. So much for the kinder, gentler Japan welcoming visitors by 2020 for the Olympics.

COMMENT: First, praise. It’s a clever, well-rendered poster by a Junior High School student who at a surprisingly young age has a great grasp of space, color, perspective, and poster layout (I’ve done a lot of posters in my day, and I wasn’t anywhere near this quality until high school). I especially love the jutting out bare foot, the extra-spiky headdress, the update to include noisy iPod headphones, and the open flame of Liberty’s torch on the seat. The artist also displays careful attention to detail — he even remembered Liberty also carries a book (it’s on the seat by the torch).

Now, critique. It’s sad to see such a young artist with an image of seeing freedom as an American symbol that can be so abused in a Japanese context. Remember, just about anything humanoid could have been posed here taking up too much space, and comically too. However, as rendered, it comes off more as a cheap shot at something foreign…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 1, 2015

Table of Contents:
1) DEBITO.ORG ELECTION SPECIAL DECEMBER 2014: A clear LDP victory, normalizing Japan’s Rightward swing
2) Japan Election 2014: “Why taboo?” Grotesque foreigner-bashing cartoon by Hiranuma’s Jisedai Party, features “Taboo Pig” sliced in half over NJ welfare recipients “issue”
3) Grauniad: Police in Japan place anti-Korean extremist group Zaitokukai on watchlist; good news, if enforced
4) Holiday Tangent: Hanif Kureishi on UK’s Enoch Powell: How just one racist-populist politician can color the debate in an entire society
5) Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100

…and finally…
6) My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014

Grauniad: Police in Japan place anti-Korean extremist group Zaitokukai on watchlist; good news, if enforced

According to the Grauniad (article below), hate group Zaitokukai (which has been part of a group publicly advocating the killing of Japan’s generational Korean residents, the Zainichi) has been placed on a National Police Agency “watchlist” as a threat to law and order. That is good news. However, I wonder if it will deter Zaitokukai’s bullying activities, where they can verbally abuse, knock down, and even punch (watch the video to the end) an old man who counterdemonstrates against them: Where were the police then? (Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or within the movie Yasukuni?)

As Debito.org has argued before, the Japanese police have a soft touch for extreme-rightists, but take a hard line against extreme(?) leftists. So placing this particular group on a watch list is a good thing. As having laws against violence and threats to law and order is a good thing. Alas, if those laws are not enforced by Japan’s boys in blue, that makes little difference. We will have to wait and see whether we’ll see a softening of Zaitokukai’s rhetoric or Sakurai Makoto’s bullying activities.

Meanwhile, according to the Mainichi Shinbun at the very bottom, local governments (as opposed to the foot-dragging PM Abe Cabinet) are considering laws against hate speech (well, they’re passing motions calling for one, anyway). That’s good too, considering that not long ago they were actually passing panicky resolutions against allowing Permanent Residents (particularly those same Zainichi) the right to vote in local elections. Methinks that if the world (e.g., the United Nations) wasn’t making an issue of Japan’s rising hate speech (what with the approaching 2020 Tokyo Olympics and all), this would probably not be happening. In other words, the evidence suggests that it’s less an issue of seeing the Zainichi as fellow residents and human beings deserving equal rights, more an issue of Japan avoiding international embarrassment. I would love to be proven wrong on this, but the former is a much more sustainable push than the latter.

Blame Game #433: JT on “Rumors of Foreign Looters in Hiroshima Unfounded”, “Social Media Rehashes Historical Hate”, and Economist on unoptimistic outcomes re hate speech law

Continuing on with the theme of Japan’s Blame Game (as in, blame foreigners for any social ill that you don’t want to take responsibility for), this blog entry talks about the phenomenon of blame speech morphing into hate speech (not that far of a stretch, given the irresponsible nature of anonymous social media). We have people conjuring up fake stories of foreigners looting after natural disasters that got so bad that even the Japanese police (who are not positively predisposed to foreign residents in the first place — they’re usually on the front lines of blaming them for foreign crime and the undermining of Japanese society) are stepping in to defend them (article included).

This is ironic, since NHK has recently reported there have been 1200 burglaries in post-disaster Fukushima and perps are Japanese (article). And it’s not the first time that the authorities have had to step in and dispel rumors targeting NJ residents. Consider what happened weeks after the 2011 Fukushima disasters. Rumors were circulating about foreign crime all over again and had to be tamped down upon (article). Despite the fact that crime was occurring and probably not due to NJ (article). Note how J crime naturally causes considerably less media panic. But since there are no legal restrictions on hate speech in Japan, if you can’t say something nice about people, say it about foreigners. And there is in fact a long history of this sort of thing going on (article), what with the massacre of Korean residents back in 1923.

To be sure, hate speech has finally become an issue in Japan. A recent NHK survey has shown that a vast majority of the Japanese public think hate speech is a problem, and a near-majority think that legislation is needed (article). That said, I remain unoptimistic about how things will turn out, especially given the bent of the current administration. The Economist (London) appears to share that view, even hinting that it may be used to stifle pertinent criticisms of the government (as opposed to nasty speculation about minorities and disenfranchised peoples) (article).

So what to do? I still remain in support of a law against hate speech (as is the United Nations), i.e., speech that foments fear, hatred, and related intolerance towards disenfranchised peoples and minorities in Japan. Those are the people who need protection against the powerful precisely because they are largely powerless to defend themselves as minorities in an unequal social milieu. The Japanese government’s proposed definition of hate speech (taken from the NHK article above) of 「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」(behavior or expressive activity that foments discrimination or violence toward, or disparages people belonging to groups distinguished by race, citizenship, gender etc.) is a decent one, and a good start. Where it will go from here, given the abovementioned extremities of Japan’s current right-wing political climate, remains to be seen.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 14, 2014

Table of Contents:
THE SEISMIC SHOCK OF 2014
1) In a stunning decision, Japan’s Supreme Court overturns Fukuoka High Court, rules that NJ Permanent Residents (etc.) not automatically eligible for social welfare benefits
2) JT: Colin Jones on NJ rights after the Supreme Court welfare verdict of July 2014: None but what MOJ bureaucrats grant you

OTHER WEIRDNESS AND DENIALISM
3) SITYS: JT publishes lawyer’s analysis of J-cops’ arbitrary “stop and frisk” procedures. It’s now actually worse for NJ than Debito.org has reported before (correctly)
4) Unsuccessful protest against instatement of NJ CEO at Takeda Pharma: Note weird narratives of exclusionism
5) Japanese hotel and restaurant bars all Non-Japanese — in Bangalore, India! And it’s shut down by the local Indian govt. within days
6) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s Google Page Rank drops from 4 to Zero overnight. Unsure why

NICE TRIES
7) JT: Japan needs to get tough on hate speech: U.N. experts and columnist Eric Johnston; why I doubt that will happen
8 ) AFP: “Tarento Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture”. I wish her well, but the hyperbolic hype is not warranted
9) JDriver on J Driver License renewals and questionable legality of residency/Gaijin Card checks to ferret out “illegal overstayers”
10) Asahi’s AERA Mag July 14, 2014: Special on NJ in J globalized companies, says “Offices without NJ will not succeed”. Yet again panders to stereotypes
11) Yomiuri: TV shows to get foreign-language subtitles by 2020 for “foreign visitors” to Tokyo Olympics. Nice, but how about for NJ residents now?

… and finally…
12) Japan Times JBC 77 July 3, 2014,”Complexes continue to color Japan’s ambivalent ties to the outside world”, modified version with links to sources

My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014, with links to sources

Opening: Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.

However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!

And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.

Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work….

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 3, 2014

Table of Contents:
POSITIVE STEPS
1) Asahi: ‘Japanese Only’ banner at soccer stadium a microcosm of discrimination in Japan (E&J)
2) Asahi & Kyodo: Japan’s soccer leagues taking anti-discrimination courses, meting out punishments for racism
3) Saitama’s Konsho Gakuen school, “Japanese Only” since 1976, repeals rule only after media pressure, despite prefecture knowing about it since 2012
4) Counterdemos against racist rally by Zaitokukai in Osaka Nanba May 11, 2014: Brief on emerging narratives fighting fire with fire

NEGATIVE STEPS
5) Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program
6) SAPIO Mag features special on Immigration to Japan: Note odd media narratives microaggressing NJ (particularly the Visible Minorities) into voiceless role

STEPS OF UNKNOWN VALUE
7) Scholar Majima Ayu on how the racial discrimination inherent in America’s Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924 caused all manner of Japanese craziness
8 ) Economist: China to become world’s largest economy by end-2014. Will USA react to being overtaken similar to Japan?

… and finally…
9) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 75, May 1, 2014: “Tackling Japan’s ‘Empathy Deficit’ Towards Outsiders”

Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program

When Debito.org last seriously talked about the issue of Japan’s foreign “Trainees” (i.e. NJ brought over by the GOJ who are allegedly “in occupational training”, therefore not qualifying as “workers” entitled to labor law protections), it was back in July 2010, when news broke about the death of 27 of them in 2009. The news to me was that it was only the SECOND worst casualty rate on record. Even more scandalous was that about a third of the total dead NJ (as in eight) had died of, quote, “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation). Kyodo News back then rather ignorantly observed how problematic the “Trainee” system has been, stating that “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. Hardly “recent” even back then: Despite years of calls to fix or abolish the program entirely, with official condemnations in 2006 of it as “a swindle”, and the UN in 2010 essentially calling it slavery (see article below), it was still causing deaths at the rate of two or three NJ a month. (The irony was that karoushi (death from overwork) was a big media event when Japanese were dying of it. Clearly less so when NJ die.)

Now sit down for this news: The GOJ is seeking not to reform the “Trainee” system, but rather to EXPAND it. As the article indicates below, we’ve gotta get more cheap, disposable, and ultimately expendable foreigners to build our Tokyo Olympics in time for 2020. And then we can round them up once their visas expire and deport them (that is, if they’re still alive), like we did back in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.

This is precisely the type of exploitative capitalism that creates Marxists. But again, who in Japan empathizes with NJ workers? They’re only here to earn money and then go home, right? So they deserve to be exploited, runs the common national narrative. And under that discourse, no matter how bad it gets for them (and so far it really, really has), no amount of domestic or international condemnation will stop it.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 30, 2014

Table of Contents:
1) Hitler’s 125th birthday march in Tokyo Ikebukuro video: It’s only a few illogical dullards who can but question the nationality (thus loyalty) of dissenters

2) IPC: Five female Japanese students reported twice raping a Peruvian classmate in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka

3) New facial recognition systems at J border: Once again, testing out the next-gen loss of civil liberties on the “Gaijin Guinea Pigs”

4) Mainichi: Discrimination against NJ in housing rentals highlighted in Tokyo Govt survey; like “Tokyo Sharehouse” with its new Tokyo-wide system of Japanese-Only rentals?

5) “Japanese Only” exclusionary Tentake tempura restaurant in Asakusa, Tokyo, allegedly due to NJ “hygiene” issues

6) Japan’s Right-wing swing taking on NJ media: Foreign correspondents ‘blindly swallowing’ anti-Japanese propaganda, writer alleges

…and finally…

7) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 74, Apr 3, 2014: “Knowing your rights can protect against fake cops”, updating the NJ Spot ID Checkpoints issue

Mainichi: Discrimination against NJ in housing rentals highlighted in Tokyo Govt survey; like “Tokyo Sharehouse” with its new Tokyo-wide system of Japanese-Only rentals?

Mainichi: Discrimination against foreigners in renting apartments or other residences was given as an ongoing violation of their human rights by almost half of respondents to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

COMMENT: It is indeed good to see people acknowledging that discrimination towards NJ exists. And that the most common answer by respondents chosen (since it is probably the most normalized and systemic NJ discrimination) is in residence rentals. After all, take a look at this new system of guarantor-free housing by “Tokyo Sharehouse” — which has at least fifteen “sharehouses” advertised as “Japanese Only”:

LaFelice Ikejiri (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1324/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1324/
Claris Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1325/ (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1325/
Domondo Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1095/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1095/
Aviril Shibuya (Japanese Only in both meanings): http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1431/
Pleades Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/847/
La Vita Komazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/500/
La Levre Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/846/
Leviair Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/506/
Flora Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/502/
La Famille (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/503/
Pechka Shimo-Kitazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/507/
Amitie Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/508/
Cerisier Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/504/
Stella Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/501/
Solare Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/509/

Y’know, that’s funny. Why would this company go through all the trouble to put up a website in English and then use it to refuse NJ? So they’d look international? Or so they’d look exclusionary to an international audience? And you gotta love how they pretentiously put the names of the residences in faux French, yet won’t take French people…!

So, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, thanks for those surveys saying how sad it is that NJ are being discriminated against in housing. But what are they for, exactly? Mere omphaloskepsis? How about doing something to stop these bigots from discriminating?

Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Banner Case: Conclusions and Lessons I learned from it

LESSONS OF THE URAWA “JAPANESE ONLY” SOCCER STADIUM BANNER CASE OF MARCH 8, 2014

Let’s sew this issue up: What happened this week is probably the most dramatic and progressive thing to happen to NJ in Japan, particularly its Visible Minorities, since the Otaru Onsens Case came down with its District Court Decision in November 2002.

In this decision, a Japanese court ruled for only the second time (the first being the Ana Bortz Case back in October 1999) that “Japanese Only” signs and rules were racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu).

It did not call it discrimination instead based on “ethnicity” (minzoku), “nationality” (kokuseki), outward appearance (gaiken), or some kind of “misunderstanding” (gokai), “ingrained cultural habit” or “necessary business practice” (shuukan no chigai, seikatsu shuukan, shakai tsuunen, shikatsu mondai etc.). All of these claims had merely been excuses made to ignore the elephant in the room that more invidious racialized processes were involved.

But in the Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Stadium Banner Case, the word jinshu sabetsu reappeared in the terms of debate, and we may in fact have witnessed a watershed moment in Japan’s race relations history. Yet it wouldn’t have happened without the issue leaking outside of Japan, incurring gaiatsu (outside pressure), and a real threat to Japan’s worldwide reputation as a “civilized” society. A full explication follows:

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 73, “J.League and Media Must Show Red Card to Racism” on Saitama Stadium “Japanese Only” Urawa Reds soccer fans, Mar 13, 2014

J.LEAGUE AND MEDIA MUST SHOW RED CARD TO RACISM
JBC Column 73 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published March 13, 2014
By ARUDOU Debito, Version with links to sources

On Saturday, during their J. League match against Sagan Tosu at Saitama Stadium, some Urawa Reds fans hung a “Japanese only” banner over an entrance to the stands.

It went viral. Several sports sections in Japanese newspapers and blogs, as well as overseas English media, covered the story. The banner was reportedly soon taken down, and both the football club and players expressed regret that it had ever appeared. Urawa investigated, and at the time of going to press Wednesday, reports were suggesting that the club had decided that the banner was discriminatory, reversing a previous finding that the fans behind the incident had “no discriminatory intent.”

So case closed? Not so fast. There is something important that the major media is overlooking — nay, abetting: the implicit racism that would spawn such a sign.…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 12, 2014

Table of Contents:

MORE RACIALIZED NASTINESS

1) “Japanese Only” banner in Saitama Stadium at Urawa Reds soccer game; yet media minces words about the inherent racism behind it
2) Immigration Bureau: Points System visa and visual images of who might be qualified to apply (mostly White people; melanin need not apply)
3) SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots
4) YouTube: Police NJ Passport Checkpoint at Shibuya March 3, 2014 (targeted NJ does not comply)
5) Former PM and Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori bashes his Olympic athletes, including “naturalized citizens” Chris and Cathy Reed

MORE RACIALIZED SILLINESS

6) ANA ad on Haneda Airport as emerging international Asian hub, talks about changing “the image of Japan” — into White Caucasian!
7) The consequent Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 72: “Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad”, Jan 25, 2014
8 ) Discussion: How about this ad by COCO’s English Juku, learning English to get a competitive advantage over foreign rivals?
9) Amazing non-news: Kyodo: “Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave”
10) Papa John’s Pizza NY racism case 2012: “Lady chinky eyes” receipt gets employee fired. A case-study template

AS LIFE CONTINUES TO DRAIN OUT OF THE SYSTEM

11) Bloomberg column: “A rebuke to Japanese nationalism”, gets it about right
12) Fun facts #18: More than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, will be nearly a quarter by 2028
13) Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008!
14) NHK World: Tokyo Court orders Tokyo Metro Govt to compensate Muslim NJ for breach of privacy after NPA document online leaks
(but rules that police spying on NJ is permitted)

… and finally…

15) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 71 January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 72: “Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad”, Jan 25, 2014, “Director’s Cut”

Only a few days into the case of racialized advertisement from ANA, I got tapped by the Japan Times to cover it. Debito.org Readers and Facebook Friends certainly gave me plenty of food for thought, so thank you all very much. Here’s my more polished opinion on it, which stayed the number one article on the JT Online for two full days! What follows is the “Director’s Cut” with excised paragraphs and links to sources. Conclusion:

Look, Japan, if you want to host international events (such as an Olympics), or to have increased contact with the outside world, you’ll face increased international scrutiny of your attitudes under global standards. For one of Japan’s most international companies to reaffirm a narrative that Japanese must change their race to become more “global” is a horrible misstep. ANA showed a distinct disregard for their Non-Japanese customers—those who are “Western,” yes, but especially those who are “Asian.”

Only when Japan’s business leaders (and feudalistic advertisers) see NJ as a credible customer base they could lose due to inconsiderate behavior, there will be no change in marketing strategies. NJ should vote with their feet and not encourage this with passive silence, or by double-guessing the true intentions behind racially-grounded messages. This is a prime opportunity. Don’t let ANA off the hook on this. Otherwise the narrative of foreigner = “big-nosed blonde that can be made fun of” without turnabout, will ensure that Japan’s racialized commodification will be a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole.”

Amazing non-news: Kyodo: “Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave”

In an amazing bit of non-news completely devoid of historical context, some cub reporter at Kyodo reports that Tokyo bathhouses are taking steps to put up posters to explain Japanese bathing rules to foreigners!! To “ensure they behave” (those rapscallions!) and “avoid embarrassments” (such as being turned away at the door before they have the chance to display any deviant behavior?). Even though these types of posters have been up around Japanese bathing facilities for at least a decade (Introduction: Book JAPANESE ONLY) — thanks in part to the landmark Otaru Onsens Case (which was not even mentioned in the article as background information). Again, it’s not news. It’s in fact recycling news from 2010.

This is another reason that Japan’s obsession with hosting international events (such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) is kinda dumb — the domestic media has to reinforce the “Island Society” narrative by manufacturing yet another round of silly navel-gazing articles about how extraordinarily difficult it is for apparently insular Japan to cope with visitors from the outside world. At least this time the subjects are not hostilely treating all “foreigners” on sight as potential “hooligans” (World Cup 2002) or “terrorists” (2008 Hokkaido G8 Summit), or as the source of discomfort for hotel managers (such as in pre-Fukushima Fukushima Prefecture and other hotel surveys).

Plus these bathhouses are recognizing NJ as an economic force that might help them survive. As opposed to the even more stupid behavior by, for example, Yuransen Onsen in Wakkanai, which booted out foreigners (okay, consigned them to an unlawful unisex separate “Gaijin Bath” at six times the price) until it finally went bankrupt anyway due to lack of customers. Good. But again, Kyodo, do some research.

Post-passage of State Secrets Bill, watch as Abe further dismantles Japan’s postwar anti-fascism safeguards

My conclusions first: If you really want to “look on the bright side” of recent events, we could say “we live in interesting times”. Given the normally glacial pace of reforms in Japan, the Abe Administration is proceeding with incredible speed — which he can do, given LDP control over both houses of Parliament. It’s a pity that things are heading in the Rightist direction, dismantling the Postwar order of governance and the safeguards against Prewar fascism faster than the public or media can keep up.

As discussed here before Debito.org got tackled, both inside and outside observers (including the UN) were alarmed at the contents of the State Secrets Protection Law (himitsu hogo hou), the one that leaves vague what a “government secret” is exactly (for better public non-transparency), and offers criminal penalties of up to ten years’ incarceration for violators, including journalists. The tone of this law is pretty clear: Anyone who gets in the way (and according to LDP Secretary General and defense policy wonk Ishiba Shigeru, “noisy” protestors will be labeled “terrorists”; I’m waiting for Ishiba to say the same thing about the perennially noisy, intimidating, and sometimes violent right-wing sound trucks) will be dealt with accordingly.

Debito.org said that the protests in any case were too little, too late, and it would make no difference. It didn’t (except in Abe’s approval ratings, which dipped below 50% for the first time for this administration; never mind — a few more saber rattlings with the Chinese bogeyman will remedy that), and the bill was rammed through both the Lower and Upper Houses and is now law. SITYS.

This after, as also noted on Debito.org previously, Abe’s Gaijin Handlers were sent off on a mission to placate the one country that might get them to avert this course: The United States. Top Abe advisor Kitaoka Shin’ichi recently visited Hawaii and points mainland to sell Japan’s remilitarization as a means to help America’s security exploits abroad, saying it would be possible by a mere circumvention of the Constitution by reinterpretation. Who needs to go through that laborious process of actual Constitutional revision when you can just ignore it? And it seems the Americans have signed off on it. And on Japan’s new protection measures of “state secrets”. And on a creation of a National Security Council that reports to Abe, modeled on the USG’s NSC, so who could object? Checkmate.

Look, some people might be surprised by all this, but I’m not. Debito.org saw this coming more than ten years ago, and watched it play out since 2000 as innate fears of outsiders in general were made into public policy seeing foreigners as criminals, then terrorists etc. Now. it’s Chinese foreigners in specific (what with the two-plus “Lost Decades” of stagnant to negative growth causing Japan to be eclipsed by China as the largest economy in the region). I’ve charted the arc of this public debate here in a paper for Japan Focus, showing how officially-sponsored xenophobia was used to undermine, then decimate, Japan’s Left. And with no opposition Left, there’s nothing to stop a dedicated silver-spoon elite like Abe, who has known no war (and accepts no responsibility for Japan’s historical role in it), for swinging the pendulum the furthest Right it has been in the Postwar Era. Provided his health holds up, he’s got three years to do it. Just watch him do it as quickly as possible.

Zakzak: Counterdemos against hate speech in Japan, now supported by Olympic fever

Here’s some good news. Finding a silver lining in Japan’s successful Olympics 2020 bid, here’s Zakzak reporting that Olympic fever has seized the groups protesting against the anti-Korean demonstrations happening in Tokyo: They are blocking demonstrations and not wanting them to spoil Tokyo’s Olympics. Well, very good. Should think that as the time draws nearer the xenophobic elements within Japan’s ruling elites will be leaning on the rabid Rightists as well. But it’s nice to see the Grassroots doing it for themselves. May it become a habit.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013

Table of Contents:

DISINGENUOUSNESS, AS USUAL
1) NYT Editorial: Japan’s “Unnecessary Nationalism”, re the trappings of GOJ’s rightward swing
2) BBC, Yomiuri etc.: LDP now pushing revisionistic, jingoistic and militaristic agenda from above and below, with “Return of Sovereignty Day”, booths at Niconico Douga geek festival
3) JDP: Abe criticizes rise of hate speech in Japan, calls it “dishonorable” and counter to “The Japanese Way of thinking”. My, how disingenuous.
4) NYT: Violating IOC rules, Tokyo Gov Inose bad-mouths other 2020 Olympic bidders, particularly Istanbul for being “Islamic”
5) Tangent on Sexual Minorities: Gay marriage trends worldwide, and how Japan’s Douseiaisha do it: Donald Keene’s marriage by Koseki adoption

MORE STRAWS FOR THE CAMEL’S BACK
6) JT: Japan’s minimum retirement age to increase to 65 by 2025
7) Japan Times: “Student seeking Kyoto flat told: No foreigners allowed”, and how NJ tie themselves in mental knots
8 ) RocketNews: Automatic PR Status awarded to grads of Kyoto universities? Positive proposal by Kyoto Governor that will come to naught
9) Harbingers of further insularity: J international marriages way down, as are J students studying abroad
10) TV Tokyo bangumi: “Why did you come to Japan?” interviews NJ arrivals at Narita, reifies mainstream media discourse of NJ as tourists, not residents
11) Discussion: “Bignose” on Cute “Kobito-zukan” comic characters for kids and NJ control fantasies?

… and finally…
12) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 62, Apr 2, 2013: “Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2013

Table of Contents:
THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (1): BIGOTRY AND HATRED

1) Feb 9 2013 Tokyo Shin-Ohkubo Anti-Korean demonstrator slogans: “Good or Bad, Kill All Koreans” etc.
2) Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter
3) My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”

4) Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues

THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (2): ELITE DOMINANCE AND INSULARITY

5) Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm
6) SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles
7) JT/Kyodo: Record high applicants for J refugee status. Why media fixation on refugees? Because they are a bellwether of Japan’s “legitimacy as a competent, advanced, Western democracy”
8 ) Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces
9) JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 61 March 5, 2013: “Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan”

PLUS bonus follow-up:
11) Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga.

Asahi: Tokyo Gov. Ishihara to run for third term Sept 1 2006

Ebullient Ishihara to seek 3rd term 09/01/2006 http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200608310347.html THE ASAHI SHIMBUN Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has made clear he will seek a third term to help prepare Tokyo for its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Ishihara, 73, declared his intention to run for the gubernatorial race next spring after Tokyo beat out Fukuoka on …