My SNA Visible Minorities 30: “US Military Should Combat Japan’s Xenophobia”, i.e., counteract apparent Japanese media disinformation about their bases’ Covid policies (Jan 24, 2022)

Excerpt: Shingetsu News Agency has reported for two years on how the Japanese government and media have gone out of their way to blame foreigners for the domestic spread of Covid. Each time we’ve gone out of our way to point out that Covid was usually brought in by Japanese citizens disobeying lenient quarantines. The government’s exclusionary border policies, treating people without Japanese passports as somehow more contagious, is routinely supported neither by logic nor science. The latest mutation of this narrative has been the blame targeted at US military bases in Japan for community spread.

For example, Japan Times reported on January 8, stitching together wire reports from Jiji Press and Kyodo News, that “US military personnel are believed to have triggered a coronavirus resurgence in [Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima]. Many people in the three prefectures live in close proximity to American bases. Infection prevention measures taken by the US forces, which some have criticized as being too lax, are thought to be behind that explosion of cases.” […]. But this is contradicted by what the US Forces Japan say are their actual policies, with 92-98% vaccination rates and limitations on movement.

So is the blame game grounded in facts and science? Or are these reactions to people trying to find another foreign scapegoat for the latest Covid spike? We don’t know because US Forces Japan aren’t making their practices sufficiently loud and clear. As usual.

The upshot: How US Forces Japan are yet again ignoring being used for domestic political capital is irresponsible. USFJ has the duty to recognize that what they do affects Visible Minorities in Japan, whether it be inspiring “Japanese Only” bigots to slam shop doors in their faces, or giving more ammunition to reactionaries who seek to seal off Japan’s borders.
Full article at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/01/24/visible-minorities-us-military-should-combat-japans-xenophobia/

Combating xenophobic rumors and media: Debito.org asks US Forces, Japan for clarification on their COVID testing and vaccination policies

Query to US Forces, Japan: In recent weeks, the Japanese media has portrayed US Forces in Japan as a major vector for infection in Japan, portraying the US military presence in Japan as a leak in their otherwise tight border policies… As you know, Japan’s border policies for most of the past two years have refused entry to most foreigners, including foreign residents regardless of visa status, while letting in Japanese under often lax quarantine conditions to spread Covid anyway. Yet media and policymakers in Japan have frequently portrayed Covid as an exogenous, “foreign” disease, with the highly problematic interpretation of seeing foreigners as more likely to spread Covid than Japanese…

My point is that the US Military in Japan has a responsibility to dispel rumors and reports that are playing a part in potentially increasing xenophobic attitudes towards foreign residents of Japan… Please permit me to ask some clarifying questions, for publication on Debito.org:

1) Pursuant to President Biden’s order that all federal employees and military be vaccinated and tested by February 15, does this mean that all US Forces in Japan, both incoming and resident, have been vaccinated and boosted, and tested for Covid, including the Omicron variant?

2) What happens when members of the US Military test positive for Covid? If in Japan, are they quarantined within the base? If outside Japan, are they denied entry into Japan and quarantined overseas?

3) Do you have any response to the claims within the following reportage in the Japan Times?
“It was revealed in December that U.S. forces had been lax in their border measures against the virus… But it was found that the U.S. side was not conducting pre-departure and post-arrival testing, as required by Japan, and that it had shortened the period of restrictions on arriving personnel’s movement from 14 days to 10. It also allowed people in the restriction period to move freely within U.S. bases.”

UPDATE JANUARY 23, 2022:  We received no answer.

Why COVID keeps being seen as a “foreign” disease in Japan: Uncritical reportage in the Mainichi of Shizuoka Mayor blaming Omicron on “foreign nationals at work”, claiming it’s not “community transmission”. Wait, let’s parse that.

Mainichi: Following the first confirmed coronavirus omicron variant case in the central Japan city of Shizuoka in Shizuoka Prefecture on Dec. 27, Mayor Nobuhiro Tanabe said at a press conference, “He (the patient) is confirmed to have had contact with foreign nationals at work, and community transmission is unlikely.” According to the Shizuoka Municipal Government, the patient was earlier confirmed infected with the coronavirus and has mild symptoms. Genome analysis by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases revealed he was positive for the omicron variant. Two people who had had close contact with the man tested negative for the virus. The patient has no recent history of overseas travel, and came into contact with foreign nationals at work. The city’s public health center explained that it determined the route of infection was strongly suspected to have been via contact at work.

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: A few more simple questions needed to be asked of Mr. Mayor before his speculation got passed through by the Mainichi editors, and allowed to filter into the public sphere:

1) Were these “overseas people” freshly-arrived in Japan from overseas despite a near-blanket ban on any foreigners at the border?

2) Were these “overseas people” in fact foreign residents who were here anyway, therefore those people are in fact part of “the community” (meaning, yes, “community transmission”).

3) Is there any evidence that these individual “overseas people” were in fact COVID-positive? Were they tested? Was there any other vector testing of other people in the community? Or are we just simply assuming that foreigners are more likely than Japanese to have COVID and leaving it at that?

We should know.  But we don’t.  Why not?  Because the constant and uncritical assumptions that foreigners a) are vectors, and b) are not part of the “Japanese community” at large anyway, are precisely what I mean when I refer to Japan’s Embedded Racism.  Presumptions like these are so normalized as to be embedded and unquestioned in Japan, even by media professionals who are supposed to be asking these questions before they let these racist ideas infect and spread throughout society.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2022: Tokyo Asakusa “Suzuya” theatrical prop store bars “foreign customers” to “prevent COVID infection”. (Plus Momosaku, another repeat offender in Asakusa.)

Let me open the year inauspiciously with a post about new “Japanese Only” signs. The first one is from a store called “Suzuya Buyou Kodougu” (Suzuya Traditional Dance Props) in Asakusa Kouen Nishisandou.

Sign: “Foreign customers are not allowed to enter the store to prevent the new corona virus (COVID-19) infection.”
Sign: “Foreign tourists are not allowed to enter the store.”
Store: Entertainment Goods 浅草公園西参道
有限会社すずや舞踊小道具店
電話 03-3844-3798
〒111-0032 東京都台東区浅草2-7-13

COMMENT: Feel free to contact Suzuya and tell them what you think about their sign, particularly since no foreign tourists (and very few foreign residents) are being allowed into Japan to spread Covid. Yet that doesn’t stop racist signs depicting foreigners already here (who like regular Japanese residents probably haven’t travelled abroad) as more infectious than Japanese from appearing on stores (again).  Because (again) there’s no law against racial discrimination in Japan stopping anyone from putting up a “Japanese Only” sign for any reason whatsoever.

Meanwhile, also in Asakusa:
Name: 100 (izakaya) (Momosaku 百作)
Address: 4 Chome-7-12 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0032
Sign: “Japanese Only (in English), “None of our staff at this establishment speak foreign languages, so we refuse entry to all overseas people (kaigai no kata) (in Japanese)

COMMENT: No “overseas people” could possibly speak Japanese to their staff, of course. But the funny thing is, we featured Momosaku on Debito.org back in April 2018!  Back then, the submitter pulled down that sign, and it was replaced a day later.  Clearly Momosaku’s managers don’t like foreigners, Covid or no Covid.  Feel free to drop by and let them know how you feel about their “Japanese Only” sign.  Perhaps pull it down again.

Karst Campsite in Okinawa has “Only Japanese” rules due to Covid. Another one for the pile. UPDATE: Rules have been amended to exclude people who can’t “understand Japanese properly”.

Covid strikes again.  Here’s a campground in Okinawa that says that foreigners can’t make reservations there due to Covid.  Screen capture:

“Only Japanese can take a reservation because of COVID”
KARST CAMP SITE
〒905-0219 沖縄県国頭郡本部町字山里東屋比久原1381番地
050-6864-3379, email karstcampsite115@gmail.com
https://karstcampsite.com/facility/

COMMENT:  I’ve said this many times before, but associating contagion with nationality is unscientific.  Again, because a) there are Non-Japanese residents who live in Japan the same as Japanese, exposed to the same risks of contagion as Japanese, b) there are few foreigners in Japan from overseas at the moment due to the mostly-closed border controls, and c) chances are that foreigners who do come in from overseas are better vetted (not to mention more likely vaccinated due to better jab regimes overseas) than Japanese.

So there is no scientific reason to put up a rule like this.  There is, however, plenty of reason if you’re a xenophobe, like so many people who reflexively put up “Japanese Only” signs are, and will use any excuse (including foreign “health scares” from SARS and AIDS) to justify, even if they are a health care provider.  These are the people we will continue to expose for the record on Debito.org.  Adding to the pile.

UPDATE AUG 27: After phone calls to the campsite, the website has been amended to say “we can take a reservation for someone who can understand Japanese properly Because you need to understand our rules correctly.” Because of course, campsites are fraught with danger, and one language miscommunication and all goes to hell.  After all, foreigners don’t know how to camp if they can’t “understand Japanese properly”. And that’s after they decided in good faith just to blame Covid.

“Japanese Only” doctors: “Fast Doctor” House Call Service in Tokyo (which takes foreign traveler insurance) closed to all foreigners due to Covid. Hippocratic Oath? UPDATE: The “Japanese Only” rule has been removed.

Another casualty of the Covid scare in Japan has been the Hippocratic Oath, where this English-language medical service called Fast DOCTOR (see Japanese site, and English site) (where a doctor will make house calls for a flat fee of 50,000 yen) is now closed to all foreigners. Screen captures of the English site follow.

You can comment below about the rather odd things about the English site (including the iStock photos of non-Asian practitioners, and the testimonials at the bottom without a single recommendation in English). But the fact remains that this medical service is contravening their medical oath to treat all patients. Second, the “foreign” patients they are likely to treat (especially in this time of strict Covid checks at the border and better vaccination programs overseas) at this time are less likely to be infected by the pandemic than the average Japanese patient. Finally, it of course assumes that foreigners who read English are travelers, not Japan residents. Given all of these things that defy both good physical and social science, I wonder what kind of medical care they offer in the first place.

FYI, their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/fastdoctor.tokyo/
UPDATE: A defender of these practices steps forward below to gaslight, claiming “FastDoctor continues to offer its services to foreign residents of Japan.” See comments section for this blog entry.

UPDATE AUGUST 29, 2021:  FastDoctor’s website has been amended to remove their “Japanese Only” rules.  I have received no notification or justification for this from the company — I simply rechecked their website as a followup.  But it’s gone.  Naming and shaming xenophobes once again works.

Mainichi: Japan wants its COVID vaccine passports accepted by foreign countries, but won’t accept foreign countries’ versions; does the GOJ understand the concept of comity?

Mainichi: “Japan is making arrangements for its COVID-19 vaccination passports to be accepted by over 10 nations, including Italy, France and Greece, after the certificate program begins in late July, government sources said Sunday. If the agreements are reached, certificate holders will be exempt from quarantine or showing negative test results for COVID-19 when traveling from Japan to those countries, the sources said. But the Japanese government plans to continue requiring travelers entering Japan, including returnees, to quarantine for two weeks even if they have been vaccinated. The position has complicated negotiations with countries such as Singapore and Israel, which have called for mutual exemption, the sources said.”

COMMENT: Funny, that. It’s yet another example of how Japan’s authorities expect to have their cake and eat it too. Like how institutions in Japan can discriminate against foreigners without much if any international sanction. But woe betide anyone who seems to discriminate against Japanese overseas. Japan has gotten away with this for so long (e.g., more than 25 years since it signed the UN CERD without passing any laws against racial discrimination) that the GOJ has accepted it as normal transactional behavior for Japan in the international arena. (That, or the bureaucracy is so silo-ed off that getting a coordinated vaccine passport policy across all of the veto gates would involve discomfiting ministerial turf battles. Boo hoo.)

Well, tough. Let’s hope that overseas negotiators have the sense to not be taken in by the “unique Japan” arguments as usual, and demand comity. You don’t get without giving back in kind. But given how lenient the outside world has been regarding, say, the overt racism of Japan’s exclusionary border policies during the pandemic (and now the “Japanese Only” Olympics), it’s not a slam-dunk conclusion as of this writing.

My SNA Visible Minorities column 22: “Interrogating the Discriminatory Covid Self-Quarantine Scandal”, May 17, 2021

SNA (Tokyo) — Sometimes government-designed policies lack sense. Or, in places where the government is as unaccountable as Japan’s, policymakers ignore cautions—-or don’t get cautioned at all because a docile mass media is mobilized behind a national goal. So when things go wrong, very bad things can happen, especially when punishments for noncompliance only go one way and hurt innocent people.

That is what’s in the cards yet again with Japan’s Covid border controls. The current policy is that if you are a resident of Japan returning from overseas, you face a mandatory self-quarantine system. Everyone, regardless of nationality, signs must notify the authorities of their current location each day. If not, authorities will contact them via Skype, WhatsApp video call, or by voice cell phone number.

If you are found to be breaking quarantine as a Japanese, you get your name exposed to the public. However, foreign residents will lose everything—their lives, livelihoods, and anything they ever invested in Japan—by getting deported. So with punishments this disproportionate, the government had better make sure nothing goes wrong. Guess what? Things are going wrong, and it’s the government’s fault…
Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/05/17/visible-minorities-interrogating-the-discriminatory-quarantine-scandal/ 

Kyodo: “300 people per day re-entering Japan breaking COVID self-quarantine”. But NJ report Govt incompetence, which punishes them disproportionately.

Government incompetence is nothing new. There’s not much you can do when the expectation is one-way: The Man demands a promise from you, with punishments if you don’t comply, but if The Man doesn’t keep his promises, too bad, since there’s often no punishment for the Powers That Be. That’s what’s happening under Japan’s new “self-quarantine” rules. Kyodo News reports that “up to 300 people per day are breaking the self-quarantine”. People, regardless of nationality. What is NOT evenly enforced regardless of nationality is the punishment. As Kyodo notes, ‘The health ministry, which has asked for people to honor their pledge, has warned that penalties for noncompliance include publicly revealing names or, in the case of a foreign national, revocation of their status of residence and deportation.”

That’s very different. Especially since people are reporting to Magdalena Osumi of the Japan Times (see below) that there has been no follow-up from the government when it comes to helping people keep their pledge (and some confusion about how the rules are supposed to work). So if the GOJ messes things up and you’re a citizen, uh, your name gets made public. Big whoop. But if you’re NJ, through no fault of your own, you get deported.  Your life in Japan is over. As Debito.org has predicted might happen, this new Covid “Self-Quarantine” regime has become yet another means to ethnically-cleanse Japan of its foreigners. As if revolving-door visas and insecure job statuses aren’t enough. And of course, the Kyodo article neither questions the disproportionality of the punishment or reports on the incompetence of the government.

What follows is the Kyodo article. After that, a request from Magdalena Osumi for information about the government incompetence for an upcoming article. Read on if you have something to share with her.

Nagasaki Yorozuya-machi Steak House “Bronco” sign: “Foreign people are forbidden to enter this restaurant to prevent infection.” Exclusionary racism evolves with Covid. (UPDATED: Signs are down)

Steak House “Bronco”.
Address 850-0852 Nagasaki, Yorozuya machi 5-4
Phone 095-825-9377
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ステーキハウス-ブロンコ-206688849396493/
Sign says: “Foreign people are forbidden to enter this restaurant to prevent infection.”
This is in Kanko dori, the main downtown shopping area in Nagasaki. Online photos of the interior show a Confederate flag on display.

COMMENT: Another one to add to Debito.org’s collection of “Japanese Only” signs.  In addition to all of the other places archived both here on the Debito.org Blog and on the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, it looks like the owner of Bronco is so much of a fan of America that he’s adopting America’s long history of racism, down to the Confederate Flag (supporters of which would historically no doubt have supported America’s Asian exclusion laws, WWII internment camps for Japanese, and other measures that would exclude Non-Whites like him).

The interesting thing about this bigot is that his racism has evolved with the times.  No longer is it a matter of excluding people because they don’t “look Japanese” or “don’t understand Japanese culture” etc., etc.  Now it’s a matter of infection. That’s funny, actually. Given Japan’s abysmally-low vaccination rate, vaccinated foreign tourists are probably less contagious than his regular Wajin clientele. But no matter. He’s just reflecting Japan’s incredibly unscientific border controls and the narrative that Covid is exogenous. Given the new Eek variant possibly incubated from Japan’s former honor-system quarantines for Japanese only, it’s not anymore. But any excuse for a bigot.
UPDATE: EXCLUSIONARY SIGNS ARE TAKEN DOWN

German media Tagesschau on what it’s like to be Covid-quarantined in Japan (basically a prison run by sweaty-headed bureaucrats)

Here’s is a German TV show reporting on what life is like in Japanese Covid quarantine. At first, it seems like an April Fool’s article, but it rings all too familiar when one deals with Japanese bureaucracy, especially when it gets paranoid about contact with the outside world and contagion. (I remember once on an NHK news broadcast during the Avian Flu scare in 2003, where bureaucrats were filmed positioning chairs 2 meters apart in an international airport quarantine zone, measuring down to the millimeter (yes, with a measuring tape) the distance between them. Phew! That one millimeter makes all the difference.)

Anyway, read what the German media has to say about current life in quarantine in Japan (which TV news show Tagesschau compares to a prison, but with very Japanese-bureaucracy touches), and how Olympic participants will be bypassing it all. “Measuring-tape Science” at work again.

Tagesschau: Lively singing of birds – that sounds nice at first glance, but the truth is that it is a sudden insolation forced upon the guests in a Covid quarantine hotel in Tokyo. And it is cynical, because all incoming travelers are sealed off from the outside world starting with boarding the plane for Japan. The windows of the hotel cannot be opened, the air-conditioning does not work. Those you want to exchange air by opening the door of the room just a crack wide will cause a crisscross of voices. The telephone will ring. Japan is watching you – and is scolding you as if you are a school child.

Lloyd Parry in Times London: “Cancel Tokyo 2020 Olympics”. Yet even this respected reporter sloppily implies Japan’s Covid numbers are contingent on foreigners

Richard Lloyd Parry, a very respected journalist and author, has come out with a sensibly-argued Op-Ed in The Times London in favor of cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But even then he words things carelessly when he writes:

“[…] Japan […] compared to the pandemic mess in the rest of the rich world [has] been doing well. With twice the population of Britain, Japan has registered about a tenth the number of coronavirus cases and one twentieth the deaths. This has nothing to do with vaccination, which has hardly begun in Japan — only a few tens of thousands of health workers have been jabbed — but rather good hygiene and an almost complete ban on foreign visitors. Now the government threatens to sacrifice these gains for the sake of money and prestige.”

COMMENT:  Portraying Japan’s apparent success at lower case numbers as due to an almost complete ban on “foreign visitors” is neither helpful nor accurate. As Mr. Lloyd Parry surely must have known (since the ban affected him too as a Japan resident), this ban included foreign residents, not just visitors.  Not to mention that the British Covid variant was verifiably brought into Japan by Japanese.  Implicitly framing Covid as a “foreign virus” brought in by “foreign visitors” makes Japan seem to be a hermetically-sealed environment until the foreigners came in; and now “the government threatens to sacrifice these gains” from its apparent isolationism. This rhetoric isn’t that far removed from calling it the “Chinese Virus” or the “Kung Flu”.  And we’ve seen the dreadful results of that kind of carelessness.

A moment’s reflection (which probably would have happened if Lloyd Parry were talking about minorities in Britain, especially at the editorial stage) would have brought about the realization that these are people we’re talking about, and how issues are couched in the media affects them, particularly if they’re Japan’s disenfranchised minorities.  If it were my article, I would have said “Japan strongly limited international travel”, which doesn’t zero in on foreigners in specific.

I’ll let others comment on the possible comparative issues of “good hygiene” (implying the rest of the rich world has bad hygiene?), and other factors that might lead to Japan undercounting actual virus cases (such as a lack of reliable contact tracing, and not testing the asymptomatic for Covid).  But in my view, keeping the Covid case numbers low was a matter of politics, not science:  to keep the Olympics on track.  Now even despite all that, Lloyd Parry makes a convincing argument for canceling the Games.  Fine.  But let’s be more careful how we point fingers, shall we?  We’ve seen enough of how foreign correspondents succumb to Japan-style racialized narratives just as soon as they talk about “foreigners” and Japan.

Kyodo: Japan developing GPS tracking system for foreign travelers as “anti-virus measure”. So Covid is now another international event, justifying more policing of foreigners only?

In a development that Debito.org has been anticipating for quite some time (see, for example, the remotely-trackable RFID chipped Zairyuu Kaado ID cards the Government rolled out in 2012 to keep better tabs on NJ Residents), according to a Kyodo article below the Government is using the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as an excuse to enact programs digitally tracking all foreign tourists.  

Nothing quite like being forced to wear the equivalent of a GPS criminal tracker for your entire stay.  And it’s not a stretch to see it being applied beyond tourists to NJ Residents after that, as Covid is providing a pretense to “track and trace” those “foreign clusters”.  As CNN notes, “If visitors are allowed [to attend the Olympics], their experience will likely be high-tech. The government is developing a contract tracing app for attendees using GPS that will reportedly link visas, proof of test results, tickets and other information, authorities said.”

Visas? So we’re getting Immigration involved? As Submitter JDG notes, “Obviously, it’s just a matter of time until the Japanese demand all NJ are 24/7 tracked legally in real time with an automated alert popping up on some koban monitor the minute their visas expire. That ought to end that nefarious den of crime right there!  Whew.”

So with the advance of technology, the dragnet further tightens on “the foreign element” in Japan. As we have seen with the G8 Summits, the 2002 soccer World Cup, the 2019 Rugby World Cup, “Visit Japan” tourism campaigns in general, and now the 2020 Olympics, international events in Japan serve to inflame its knee-jerk “safety and security” reflexes, and justify all manner of bad overpolicing habits. They essentially become an excuse to invite foreigners in, then police them further.

My SNA Visible Minorities column 18: “Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner” (Jan 18, 2021), on how Covid countermeasures disproportionately target Non-Japanese against all science or logic

SNA: New year, new salvo of foreigner bashing: Last week, the Suga administration unveiled re-entry rules that permit non-Japanese residents to re-enter the same as Japanese, as long as they completed the same paperwork and fourteen-day quarantine. Good, but here’s the wrinkle: If you are found in violation of any quarantine regulations, you don’t just get in trouble like Japanese by, err, having your name made public. You may lose your visa status and get deported from the country. You read that right.

This policy was in reaction to the discovery of the United Kingdom mutation of Covid within Japan this month. But like most policy created in times of shock, it has hasty assumptions: that a foreign variant meant that foreigners were somehow responsible. In fact, the Patient Zeroes who came back from England and went out partying instead of quarantining were Japanese.

This new policy is ironic. In addition to the past year of Japanese media blaming foreigners for creating “foreign clusters,” it also ignores the lazy government response to Covid. Nobody at the national level wanted to take the responsibility for declaring a blanket state of emergency. But since infections have now reached record numbers, here comes the crackdown—and once again foreigners are being disproportionately targeted.

Granted, the government is now threatening to mete out jail time and fines for Japanese who don’t cooperate with measures to reduce Covid’s spread. This has occasioned the perfunctory hand-wringing about the effectiveness of punishment in curbing infections and “infringing too much on personal freedoms” for Japanese. I see that as part of the healthy give-and-take of political debate, to make sure things don’t go too far. But where is the parallel debate about the “freedoms” of non-Japanese residents who are receiving unequal treatment under the law?

A Japanese getting a fine or a spell in the clink is one thing, but it’s incomparable to a foreigner losing their legal status gleaned after years or decades of residency, followed by deportation and permanent separation from their lives, livelihoods, and families in Japan. We know that one of the reasons Covid became a pandemic is because of asymptomatic transmission. So what if a person who doesn’t know they’re sick and hasn’t left the country gets linked to a cluster by contact tracing? If that somebody happens to be a foreigner, his or her life in Japan may well be over…

Unknown news chyron of Govt panel that apparently blames foreigners for spreading Covid. However, FNN News tells a different story: one of assisting foreigners. Let’s be careful to avoid disinformation (UPDATED).

A screenshot of an unknown news has a chyron indicating that some government panel states, “Foreigners have different languages and customs, so we can’t thoroughly enforce policies against the spread of [Covid] infections.”  By implication, this means that foreigners are being seen as an obstacle to the safety of Japanese society because of their differences. The screenshot is starting to multiply around the mediasphere, which is why it’s been sent to me multiple times.

However, a Debito.org Reader sends me a FNN news videos which, at minute 1:30, says, “Bunkakai de wa, kurasutaa e no taiou ya, kotoba no chigai de soudan ya jushin ga okureru gaikokujin no tame ni ichigenteki na soudan madoguchi o setchi suru koto ni tsuite giron shiteimasu.”
Or (my translation):
“At this panel, they are debating about whether to set up a unified consultation center to deal with clusters and with foreigners and who face delayed medical consultations and treatments due to language differences.”

That’s quite a different take!  According to FNN, this panel seems to be trying to assist, not exclude or blame. I welcome others who find more clarifying media about this event.  Meanwhile, my point is to be careful.  Foreigners have been so perpetually offset and treated as exceptions from the regular population that this could reflexively feel like a repeat performance.  But let’s be careful that this reflex does not lead to disinformation.

UPDATE NOV 14:
Ph.D. Candidate Anoma van der Veere has kindly tweeted out his research indicating some media sensationalism is going on here.  Access the thread beginning at https://twitter.com/anomav/status/1327117586249568256?s=21&fbclid=IwAR0gIPlDs9K6X8tH87UWEuafZDYEM9XrgLobf7LI2luRRJgnStztEdka9n4
Screen captures follow, for the record.

My SNA Visible Minorities 15: “New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist”, on how they are actually a natural outcome of Japan’s bullying bureaucracy (Oct. 19, 2020)

SNA: Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that Japan’s foreign residents have no “right of sojourn,” i.e., to leave Japan temporarily and expect to return. (Japan Times columnist Colin Jones called it a “reverse Hotel California”–you can leave any time you like, but can never check back in.)

That means that even if you invested your entire life in Japan, married a Japanese, had children, paid taxes, bought property, started a business, and even achieved Permanent Residency (which by definition should be a legitimate claim to reside here forever), nothing you did matters… Hypothetically, if push comes to shove, a Permanent Resident will have the same status as any foreign tourist at the border.

Well, that hypothetical came true last April when, due to Covid, Japan decided to bar all foreigners from re-entering Japan–even though Japanese could still return and merely quarantine. No other developed country does this, and there is no science indicating that Japanese passports offer enhanced epidemiological protection. It was purely arbitrary…

From October 1, Japan announced it would open its borders to foreign residents under certain conditions. But it turns out that, realistically, these conditions are still a ban. Consider “George,” a foreign resident of Japan who told Debito.org his experience returning to Japan from Europe this month…

In sum, Japan’s October revised re-entry system is still a means to discriminate against foreigners. By arbitrarily creating a tight 72-hour hour window requiring special paperwork unattuned to the realities of Covid testing overseas (especially when the test is meaningless if you get infected on the plane), Japan’s bureaucrats merely deflected international criticism from its regular racism by replacing it with new, improved racism.

Updated petition against Japan Foreign Resident Re-Entry Ban: Still discriminatory: Requires extra hurdles for all NJ only, including extra GOJ permissions and overseas Covid tests

Petition: Since September 1, 2020, all legal non-Japanese residents of Japan can leave and reenter the country. This is a very important and uplifting development. With this most recent easing of restrictions, almost all points of this petition were met.

However, one vital point of this petition (equal treatment of all legal residents at the border regardless of nationality) is still not fulfilled. Only non-Japanese residents have to apply for a Receipt for Request of Re-entry at the Immigration Services Agency before departing from Japan. No explanation in given why this is necessary and why a valid residence card and the normal reentry permit is not enough. Furthermore, only non-Japanese residents (except for diplomats and special permanent residents) have to take a PCR test abroad within 72 hours before the departure for Japan. However, this requirement can nobody meet who stays in a country which does not test people without symptoms or does not deliver the results on time. And anyway, the PCR test at the Japanese port of entry should suffice. Residents of Japan have Japanese health insurance. This is why they are entitled to treatment in Japan if the PCR test at the Japanese airport should turn out to be positive.

Requesting negative PCR tests before going to Japan should be limited to non-Japanese who want to newly enter Japan. This requirement should not be bestowed upon legal residents, who have their livelihoods already in Japan. Therefore, this petition is going to continue until the requirement of PCR tests abroad is abolished for all legal residents of Japan regardless of nationality.

Cabby on “Ten Days in May: A Memorable Japan Hospital Experience during the COVID-19 Crisis”

Here’s some good news for a change, where Cabby writes about a good experience he had in Japanese hospital in Okayama, Central Japan. With all the stories Debito.org has covered about how COVID has affected NJ Residents adversely, this story comes a welcome respite:

Ten Days in May: A Memorable Japan Hospital Experience during the COVID-19 Crisis
By Cabby, Exclusive to Debito.org, May 17, 2020
As if submerged in a deep dark viscous pool and slowing ascending to the surface, I awoke in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital with doctor and two nurses in attendance. My vision was unfocused and mind disoriented. I saw I was enclosed in some type of clear vinyl box with what seemed like a wooden frame. The first external sound was that of a doctor asking if it was all right. My first mumbled utterance, “Where am I?” was answered with Okayama University Hospital I.C.U. The next words from the doctor were, “Is it okay for us to remove the ventilator? We need it for another patient.”

My confused reply . . . “What ventilator? What time is it? The doctor informed me it was Saturday afternoon and that I had been unconscious for about 26 hours. He asked once more about the ventilator. I now assume there was a matter of urgency to the request but at the time I was still quite groggy and did not even understand why I was on a ventilator. I answered, “if you think it is OK. You’re the doctor.” It was removed and in it’s place a large clear plastic oxygen mask was positioned over my nose and mouth.

As I began to regain a semblance of mental clarity I could see that I was in a large room with many patients. At the foot of the bed was a large blue and gray high-tech machine of some sort and a nurse sitting behind it. She was focused on a laptop computer resting on the surface of a tray in front of the mass of the machine. Before long the doctor returned and informed me that they were going to move me to a different part of I.C.U. to lessen the threat of COVID-19 infection. He also told me that I had been tested upon admittance and the results were negative. This was not my primary concern at the time. The very professional staff proceeded to wheel my bed along with the blue and gray machine down a short hallway to a somewhat more secluded section of the ward…

Summer post: Human Rights Watch calls for law against racial discrimination in Japan, in light of COVID and BLM

HRW (machine translated): “Black Lives Matter” (black lives are also important) and a protest against racism spread from the United States to the world and were held in Japan. The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is also ratified by Japan, is said to include not only racial discrimination but also discrimination based on skin color and ethnicity.

Even in Japan, there are people who have been exposed to discrimination and prejudice, such as Koreans living in Japan. According to a Ministry of Justice survey released in 2017, 25% of the people were refused employment because they were foreigners, and about 40% were refused. About 11% of people consulted somewhere because of discrimination. The fact that the victim is crying himself to sleep instead of getting assistance becomes apparent.

Before the spread of the new coronavirus, Japan had a chronic shortage of manpower and the government created a new status of residence. Once the infection is settled, it will return to the situation of actively accepting foreigners. It must be said that Japan is not ready for a society that lives with many people of different races, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities.

For many years, I have thought that Japan, like many developed countries, needs to enact “Racism Prevention Law.” The effect of the government’s rule is easy to understand, considering the fact that societies have changed significantly in the fields of hiring, dismissal, and sexual harassment in the decades since the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was enacted. Though far from true gender equality, it would be horrifying if there were no law.

Now is the time to start discussing anti-racism laws.

German journalism on Japan Govt’s COVID policy: Tohoku’s Dr. Oshitani: Foreigners (not Japanese) brought it in. And that’s why govt policies specifically exclude only foreigners, even NJ Permanent Residents.

When the Japanese media observes omertà on how Japan’s policymakers engage in racist politics, it’s sometimes up to overseas media to expose it.  Debito.org Reader Maximilian Doe offers a full report from German media:  How even Japan’s scientists (particularly a Dr. Oshitani Hitoshi, professor of virology at Tohoku University, and leader of the health advisors to the Japanese government) couched COVID as an overseas contagion, not something also brought into Japan by Japanese (such as the cruise ship Diamond Princess).  This led to policies that reflectively exclude all “foreigners” (including NJ Residents with valid visas) from entry or even quarantine.

OSHITANI:  Spread of COVID-19 in Japan had two major waves so far. The first wave was originated by people with travel history to Wuhan and other places in China. From January to early February, the number of cases from China found in Japan was 11. Of course, there were considered to be more imported cases from China in reality, but it was likely somewhere around several tens to about a hundred. These people traveled to Japan for sightseeing or other purposes, and later, through places where people congregate, such as sports gyms and small concert houses, transmissions spread across the country including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, and Osaka. This first wave had come under control by mid March with number of cases relatively low, but the second wave came as the first wave was calming down. Second wave was originated by infected people from a wide range of countries, such as Europe, US, Southeast Asia, and Egypt. We confirmed about 300 cases who had entered Japan from such countries, so the actual number of cases who entered Japan is estimated to be around 1,000 ~ 2,000. Although local transmissions of the second wave in Japan began in early February, infected people from abroad were coming to Japan and able to move around the country almost without any restriction, until the government put restrictions on travel at the end of March. This resulted in a large outbreak.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Virologist and government advisor Hitoshi Oshitani says: “The data clearly shows that Japan’s measures were more effective than those of Western countries.” No G7 country has so few Covid-19 fatalities as Japan. The high standard of hygiene of the Japanese is also claimed as an additional reason for this. Now the government of the right-wing conservative Prime Minister Shinzō Abe wants to make sure that foreigners will not cause the next wave.

COMMENT FROM DOE:  These German articles are not hard proof whether Dr. Oshitani is actively okay with shutting out even legal residents or not, but in combination with the Japanese and English articles published on the website of Oshitani’s lab I get the impression that he and his team of other advisors had a very strong influence, if not the most critical influence, on the government implementing this current entry ban. I also think that it’s enough evidence that he at least doesn’t care about the problem for stranded NJ residents. A curious behavior for an academic or one of Japan’s national apex universities, since universities are those “businesses” disproportionately affected by this. Besides this he’s clearly responsible for the – let’s say – special testing policy Japan has implemented. I’d like to hear your thoughts about this.

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: My thoughts are there is a pattern here.  Foreigners, as we’ve seen from the days of AIDS, SARS, and even the Otaru Onsens Case, are more likely to be seen as riddled with contagion, and treated as such by policymakers either with benign neglect or overt reactionary policies.  However, instead of having a government and civil society that rightfully points out that associating disease with citizenship leads to racism, in Japan we get blanket exclusion.  And it’s even backed up by Japan’s scientists.

Calling Debito.org Readers: How is life for you in COVID Japan?

This time I’d like to hear how life during pandemic is going in Japan from you. Hearing about how government policy and civil society affects Debito.org Readers is just as important as any old essay from me. Let me open the floor for discussion in the Comments Section by asking a few prompt questions:

1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy, especially when compared with what’s being put into effect in other countries (such as official calls at the local level for social distancing, the state of emergency in several prefectures, etc.)?  How would you gauge their effectiveness?

2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet?  How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbors?

3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic?  Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)?  Is there any resistance to working from home?  If so, what and why?

4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of?  Any pet theories as to why?

5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic?  Are things better, worse, or basically the same?

6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?

For example. And if you’re not in Japan, please tell us where you are and what’s going on around you, too (and if you can, compare it with Japan). Thanks.  We’re looking forward to your stories.

COVID-inspired racism as NJ Residents are separated and “othered” from fellow Japan taxpayers by Dietmembers and bureaucrats

We are witnessing the logical extension of generations of Wajin not seeing “foreigners” as part of Japan, i.e., where minorities are apparently nonexistent in Postwar Japan’s “monocultural, monoethnic homogeneous society” narrative. It thus follows that Non-Japanese regardless of residency status in Japan are perpetually classified and treated as “guests”, subject to the whims of the Wajin majority to grant them any human rights, legal status, or access to public services.  Book “Embedded Racism” has taken up this issue in great detail.

Now in this time of pandemic crisis, we’re seeing people revert to type and say that “foreigners don’t deserve the same government support as Japanese”, even though NJ Residents are paying taxes and living in Japan like any other people. The most recent manifestation has been self-hating Upper House Dietmember Onoda Kimi, an American-Japanese (father is American) representing Okayama (this place seems to spawn racists).  She argues on Twitter that NJ Residents should not be granted the same access to proposed government cash subsidies for taxpayers in financial hardship. As does fellow Lower House Dietmember Sugita Mio (who has come out as anti-LGBT in the past). And then there are the government agencies listed below who are resorting to SOP to differentiate, “other”, and subordinate NJ Residents as a matter of course.

My SNA VM35: “Visible Minorities: Torture and Murder in Japan Detention Centers” (June 20, 2022) including the Sandamali, Suraj, Fernando, Okafor, Ekei etc. Cases.

News Headline: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman.”

SNA: In August 2020, a Sri Lanka national named Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali was arrested for overstaying her visa, and detained in a Nagoya Immigration Detention Center. She had arrived in Japan in 2017, but her student visa was cancelled in 2019 because she couldn’t afford tuition fees. While in detention, she opted not to return to Sri Lanka, reportedly due to reduced flights during Covid and an abusive boyfriend back home.

During her seven months in custody, however, Sandamali’s health steadily declined due to a stress-induced stomach condition. According to the Straits Times, Sandamali “was vomiting blood in her final days, and was so weak that she had no control of her arms and legs. The immigration authorities allegedly turned a blind eye to medical expert advice to put her on an intravenous drip or to grant her provisional release to ease her stress. A report by public broadcaster NHK suggested that officials tend to suspect malingering for minor illnesses in their reluctance to grant provisional release.” […]

On March 6, 2021, Sandamali died in her cell, aged 33. By the time Sandamali’s family received her body, “her skin was wrinkled like an old person, and it was stuck firmly to her bones.” In November 2021, Sandamali’s family lodged a criminal complaint against officials at the Nagoya facility, accusing them of murder through willful negligence.

Unfortunately, as noted above, last week the Nagoya District Public Prosecutor’s Office dropped the Sandamali case, citing an inability to establish criminal liability or even a cause of death, blaming it on “multiple factors.” Multiple factors indeed. Sandamali’s case is not unprecedented. According to CNN, since 1997 at least 27 foreign detainees have died in Japan’s Immigration detention centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks,” because they detain foreigners only).

The main factor here is the cruel and unusual punishment by public officers, expressly forbidden under Article 36 of the Constitution. Yet nobody has ever been held criminally liable for foreigner deaths in detention. That’s what makes Japan’s Gaijin Tanks so cruel and unusual. Let’s consider a few more cases, then talk about the system that killed them…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 20, 2022

Table of Contents:
MURDER DECRIMINALIZED
1) Asahi: “Prosecutors drop case over death of detained Sri Lankan woman”, predictably ending Criminal Case brought by the family of Wishma Sandamali, and keeping Japan’s deadly “Gaijin Tanks” unaccountable
2) Japan Today expose: How the media failed Japan’s most vulnerable immigrants (Feb 22, 2022)

OTHER UNFAIRNESS
3) MRI on rude and slipshod treatment from Shizuoka hospitals and health care practitioners
4) Kyodo: Japan-born American files suit against Japan’s dual nationality ban

FULL TEXT OF OLDER SNA COLUMNS ARCHIVED
5) SNA VM9: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, April 20, 2020 (full text)
6) Debito’s SNA VM8: “No Free Pass for Japan’s Shirking Responsibility”, Mar 16, 2020 (full text)

… and finally …
7) My SNA Visible Minorities col 34: “Henry Scott-Stokes, Sell-Out to Gaijin Handlers, dies.” May 23, 2022, with ruminations on why foreign journalism in Japan has historically been so astray.

Debito’s SNA VM9 archived: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, April 20, 2020 (link to full text)

SNA opening from VM9 two years ago: Pandemics can bring out the best in people. Newton came up with theories on calculus, optics, and gravity while in quarantine. Shakespeare wrote some of his best plays, and Edvard Munch created iconic paintings in isolation. Even today, we’re seeing heroes in the health care industry, volunteers sewing and distributing basic personal protective equipment, neighbors checking up on each other, and leaders stepping up their organizational skills. When the daily normal becomes a struggle between life and death, we see what people are really made of.

In Japan, we’re seeing much of the “keep calm and carry on” mettle found in a society girded for frequent natural disasters. But that grit hasn’t trickled upward to Japan’s political elite, which has ruled largely without accountability for generations, and at times like these appears particularly out of touch. More concerned about the economics of cancelling the Tokyo Olympics than about the safety of the general public, Japan’s policymakers haven’t conducted adequate Covid-19 testing, exercised timely or sufficient social distancing, or even tallied accurate infection statistics.

As happened in prior outbreaks, such as SARS and AIDS, leaders have deflected blame onto foreigners. First China, then outsiders in general, starting with the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship (which, despite a third of its passengers being Japanese citizens, was even excluded from Japan’s coronavirus patient tallies). But treating outsiders like contagion has consequences: Society develops antibodies, and Japan’s already-normalized discrimination intensifies. Consider the case of Mio Sugita, a Liberal Democratic Party Lower House Diet Member from Tottori…

Read the full text archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16031

Japan Today expose: How the media failed Japan’s most vulnerable immigrants (Feb 22, 2022)

JT: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a strange institution. It’s responsible for the way Japan is perceived abroad, and it decides who receives the opportunity to immigrate. But its jurisdiction over the lives of immigrants largely vanishes when they reach Japan. It’s also the most influential agency that does not play a meaningful role in developing the government’s legislative agenda. Senior MoFA officials can only watch in dismay as less prestigious agencies, including some of Japan’s most corrupt, devise legislation that erodes the rights of immigrants and damages Japan’s international reputation.

A proposed overhaul of Japan’s detention system, scuttled in 2021 after the death of detainee Wishma Rathnayake and a resulting wave of protests, was especially unpopular with Japanese diplomats. The Kishida administration has revived it anyway, with parliamentary debate anticipated this summer. Until recently, MoFA relied on the press to guard against legislative aggression toward immigrants, quietly passing sensitive information to reporters who covered the Ministry of Justice, which enforces immigration law.

According to MoFA officials who acted as my sources during the 10 years I covered immigration, their current reluctance to cooperate with journalists is related to the sense, among the agency’s staff, that the media has become “much louder, but much less effective” on issues of immigration.

The officials I spoke with traced this problem to 2019, when a detainee starved to death at a detention center in Nagasaki, following a four-week hunger strike, named Gerald “Sunny” Okafor… Meanwhile, the press has helped to turn Okafor’s death into a non-story, by disseminating state propaganda that diminishes the death’s significance, then responding to that propaganda with opinion essays instead of investigations.

Archiving Debito’s SNA Visible Minorities column 8: “No Free Pass for Japan’s Shirking Responsibility”, Mar 16, 2020 (Link to full text)

SNA (March 2020) — There’s an oft-used expression in Japanese: sekinin tenka. Best translated as “passing the buck,” it’s a reflex of dodging blame for one’s own actions by transferring responsibility to others. For too long, Japan has done so on the world stage with impunity—even when it affects the world adversely.

Let’s start with, since it’s timely, the 3.11 Fukushima nuclear meltdown that took place nine years ago this month. While the earthquake and tsunami are not Japan’s fault, situating a nuclear power plant so perilously close to the coastline is; as is the perpetually-botched response of containment and leakage (even the willful dumping) of irradiated water into the Pacific Ocean.

Contrast that with the attention and criticism (and even a TV series) Russia got for Chernobyl, where the situation has finally been contained in a sarcophagus. In Japan, officials instead blamed world standards of safe radiation levels for being alarmist (adjusting them upwards for domestic political purposes) and declared Fukushima produce safe for consumption.

Even more timely is how sekinin tenka influenced Japan’s Covid-19 response…
Full text now archived on Debito.org at https://www.debito.org/?p=15978

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 23, 2022

Table of Contents:
1) My SNA Visible Minorities column 32: “On the Naomi Osaka Heckling” at Indian Wells tournament (March 21, 2022)

2) Kyodo: “63% of people with foreign roots in Japan questioned by police”, part of systemic racial profiling by the National Police Agency

3) My SNA Visible Minorities 31: “Shintaro Ishihara: Good Riddance to an Evil Man”, an honest obituary. Feb 20, 2022

My SNA Visible Minorities 31: “Shintaro Ishihara: Good Riddance to an Evil Man”, an honest obituary. Feb 20, 2022

SNA: Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who died February 1, was an evil man. Any honest obituary would admit as such. Unfortunately, the media’s retrospectives have tended to eulogize him, using weasel words so as to not speak ill of the dead.

But that’s the wrong reflex. Evil should never be whitewashed, especially when it comes to a person as evil as Ishihara, and by doing so they are complicit in historical revisionism. I will try to rectify that with this column by recounting Ishihara’s actual record…

A hateful man who poured his hate into concrete policies, Ishihara eventually found himself in a position of real power, elected multiple times to the governorship of the world’s largest and richest city. Ishihara installed Japan’s first neighborhood surveillance cameras specifically in areas of Tokyo he claimed were “hotbeds of foreign crime,” and went on TV at regular intervals to propagandize that Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Roppongi at night were no longer Japan.

He also said that Japanese politicians who support more civil and human rights for foreign residents must have “foreign ancestors” themselves, and abetted political witch hunts and loyalty tests to root out politicians with international connections.

Essentially, Ishihara was trying to ethnically cleanse Japan, undoing the “internationalization” phase of the 1980s and 1990s of openness and tolerance. In its place, he sponsored overt racism and normalized xenophobia.

And it worked. To this day, entire political parties, candidates, and hate groups publicly rally for the expulsion of foreigners and the extermination of Koreans. That’s why current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida can’t easily lift the world’s longest, most draconian and unscientific Covid border policies–because polls say 57% of the fearful Japanese public want them kept…
Full article at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/02/21/visible-minorities-good-riddance-to-an-evil-man/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 21, 2022

Table of Contents:
1) Japan Govt’s “Kizuna” magazine: “Beyond Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Leading the Way towards an Inclusive Society”, Winter 2021: Govt propaganda whitewashing history & rewriting exclusionary narratives
2) Ruminations on Ishihara Shintaro’s death: Good riddance to an evil man.
3) My SNA Visible Minorities 30: “US Military Should Combat Japan’s Xenophobia”, i.e., counteract apparent Japanese media disinformation about their bases’ Covid policies (Jan 24, 2022)

Japan Govt’s “Kizuna” magazine: “Beyond Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Leading the Way towards an Inclusive Society”, Winter 2021: Govt propaganda whitewashing history & rewriting exclusionary narratives

Have a look at this Japanese Government article in their “Kizuna” Magazine trying to present the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a liberalizing force, allowing Japan to embrace “inclusivity”.  Of course, we here at Debito.org are all in favor of inclusivity.  But when even the data it presents below doesn’t substantiate the headline, you know even the Japanese government is indulging in propagandizing clickbait based on incomplete social science.  No surprises there, I guess, but let’s parse the article. Here’s the opening, with my comment:
/////////////////////////////////////////////

PORTRAITS OF JAPAN
BEYOND TOKYO 2020: LEADING THE WAY TOWARD AN INCLUSIVE SOCIETY
Kizuna Magazine, Winter 2021
https://www.japan.go.jp/kizuna/_userdata/pdf/2021/winter2021/beyond_tokyo_2020.pdf

The Tokyo 2020 Games, which reached a safe conclusion even under the difficult circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, made a significant step toward the realization of an inclusive society—one in which everyone respects one another regardless of gender, age, or ability.

(Comment from Debito:  So the inclusivity is restricted to gender, age, and ability?  Not nationality, minorities (who were in fact shut out of the Games), or other racialized characteristics for Visible Minorities in Japan?  Granted, those three items are good ones, but it’s a narrower scope for “inclusivity” than should be possible or laudable.)

Article continues, and so do I…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 28, 2021: END YEAR SPECIAL

SPECIAL: “Visible Minorities: Human Rights Top Ten for 2021”, Shingetsu News Agency, Dec 27, 2021 by Debito Arudou

GOOD NEWS
1) US Embassy in Japan tweets warning against Japanese police practice of “racial profiling”: Bravo. About time.
2) Miyazaki International College cut their elderly professors’ salaries by 20%. After a 7-year battle, Fukuoka High Court rules this illegal. A victory for foreign plaintiffs too.
3) Senaiho Case against Yamanashi City for “Hair Police” school bullying: A very rare victory for the Plaintiffs! (UPDATE: Full court decision attached)
4) Good 2018 JT article on Japanese Nationality Law. Upshot: Don’t give up NJ citizenship after naturalizing into Japan

OTHER NEWS
5) My SNA VM28: “Japan’s Fast Breeder Reactor of Racism.” Summarizes book “Embedded Racism” First and Second Editions, Nov 22, 2021
6) My SNA VM27: “The Bright Side of Japan’s ‘Culture of No’.” Surprise! Debito has something positive to say about Japan. Oct 18, 2021
7) My SNA VM7: “Japan’s Botched Response to the Diamond Princess Coronavirus isn’t Racism; it’s Stupidity”, Feb 17, 2020 (archiving link to full text)
…and finally…
8 ) Debito’s SECOND EDITION of “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, 2022), fully revised and updated, now on sale

My SNA Visible Minorities 7: “Japan’s Botched Response to the Diamond Princess Coronavirus isn’t Racism; it’s Stupidity”, Feb 17, 2020 (archiving link to full text)

Back in February 2020, Covid created the modern equivalent of the “hell ship” in the Diamond Princess luxury liner, which trapped its passengers in Yokohama Port (until they were rescued by their respective governments) because of Japanese Government stupidity.  It’s been nearly two years gone by, so in lieu of a new blog entry, let me archive and link to the full text of my SNA column on it.  Excerpt:

SNA (Tokyo) — The drama of cruise ship Diamond Princess, currently moored at Yokohama and quarantined by Japan’s Health Ministry due to some of the 3,700 passengers and crew testing positive for the coronavirus, is a human rights crisis. The Covid-19 outbreak that originated in China has killed more than 1700 people and sickened tens of thousands. Here’s my take: Surprise! I’m not going to argue that the prison-ship conditions are due to racism, but more a matter of official stupidity…

Another thing the Japanese government botched: the willingness of all the passengers to simply gaman the stupid. The Diamond Princess is an international ship, and passengers from other countries aren’t going to do what’s expected by Japanese authorities. They are not going to quietly do as they’re told.

In fact, many people with different historical touchstones about being quarantined might object to being trapped on a Kalaupapa, a Swinburne Island, a Poveglia, or a wartime “hell ship.” So they did something about it. Passengers and crew have internet access, and they complained loudly to their respective governments and media about the increasingly intolerable conditions they have been subjected to.

Viral videos and interviews have turned the Diamond Princess into a much bigger embarrassment than some statistical infection rate blip. Instead of looking like Asia’s foremost modern, clean, and civilized country, Japan has only managed to look unprepared to handle international standards of disease control, or for that matter the international tourism Japan wants so badly.
Full text now archived at Debito.org at https://www.debito.org/?p=15942.

My SNA VM27: “The Bright Side of Japan’s ‘Culture of No’.” Surprise! Debito has something positive to say about Japan. Oct 18, 2021

SNA: As the pandemic stretches into yet another season, the media is starting to assess how Covid is changing the world permanently. At least one pundit has called the situation “epochal,” with the ever-rising worldwide death toll causing disruptions to politics, government, economics, and social life in general. It’s no longer a matter of just getting everyone vaccinated and then everything going back to normal: for the foreseeable future, we’ll have to accept some form of deprivation as the new normal.

Some countries are coping with deprivation (or at least a deferred gratification) less well. The United States is a good example. Despite being one of the most advanced economies and developed civil societies in the world, it has botched the pandemic badly–and it is not only because the previous president was willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of people to maintain his power. It’s also because of a design flaw deeply embedded in America’s national psyche.

American society is oddly susceptible to charismatic frauds posing as leaders, inept at everything except the uncanny talent of playing off social expectations framed as “freedoms”: 1) “freedom from want” (i.e., in a land of plenty, you should be able to get whatever you want); and 2) “freedom from being told what to do by government” (better known as “liberty,” where, as long as it’s not specifically illegal, you should be able to do whatever you want).

Consider how Covid has devastated American expectations. In terms of want, supply chains worldwide have broken down, meaning Americans have had to defer consumer gratification in places where it hurts, from toilet paper to used cars to sudden exorbitant rents. In terms of government nonintervention, the audacity of a national vaccine mandate demanding people get a Covid shot is being denounced as “tyranny.” Not all societies have reacted like this…

This is where Japan comes in. At a time of historic stressors around the globe, I realized that my decades living in Japan have come in handy. In fact, Japan has been an excellent training ground for deprivation and deferred gratification. They seem to lack the ability to keep things in perspective, particularly the one I gained from living under Japan’s “Culture of No.”…

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/10/18/visible-minorities-the-bright-side-of-japans-culture-of-no/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 18, 2021

1) My SNA Visible Minorities 27, Oct 2021: “The Bright Side of Japan’s ‘Culture of No'”: Surprise! Debito has something positive to say about Japan.
2) My SNA Visible Minorities 26, Sept 2021: “The ‘Inconceivable’ Racial Discrimination Law”: Japan’s human rights reports to the United Nations are a case study in official dishonesty

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPT 20, 2021

Table of Contents:
1) 2018 United Nations CERD Report (CERD/C/JPN/10-11) still mentions Debito.org’s works: “Foreign nationals and individuals with a foreign appearance have reportedly been denied entry to and services of certain privately owned facilities like hotels and restaurants that otherwise serve the public, including through the posting of signage reading ‘Japanese only’.”

2) Karst Campsite in Okinawa has “Only Japanese” rules due to Covid. Another one for the pile. UPDATE: Rules have been amended to exclude people who can’t “understand Japanese properly”.

3) Igarashi Kanoa, California-born athlete who won Silver for Japan in 2020 Olympics, rates himself worthy of representing Japan because “My blood is 100% Japanese. That’s something that you don’t change.” Dangerous old-school Olympian thoroughbred-ism.

… and finally …
4) My SNA Visible Minorities 25: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postmortem, where I argue the Games failed its goals of “Diversity and Inclusion” predictably and by design

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 16, 2021: SPECIAL ON THE TOKYO 2020 OLYMPICS

Table of Contents:
PREVIEW: Visible Minorities: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postmortem, Shingetsu News Agency, Aug 16, 2021, by Debito Arudou
1) “Japanese Only” doctors: “Fast Doctor” House Call Service in Tokyo (which takes foreign traveler insurance) closed to all foreigners due to Covid. Hippocratic Oath?
2) “Japanese Only” signs up in two Hokkaido Chitose city restaurants, Yakitori “Kawasemi” and Shokuji-dokoro “Yokaro”, June 2021.
… and finally…
3) My SNA Visible Minorities 24: “The Tokyo Olympics Trap”, on how these Games are harming Japan’s minorities, and how the IOC is harming Japan.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 19, 2021

Table of Contents:
THE EARLY FALLOUT FROM THE OLYMPICS
1) SNA: “Japanese Only” elevators at Tokyo Akasaka Hotel Excel Tokyu; hotel blames Olympic Organizing Committee! Plus Duty-Free Stores asked to rat on foreigners.
PRELUDE TO THE TIGHTENED-SECURITY AFTERMATH
2) Nikkan Sports: Aggressive Japanese man harasses Muslim woman and 3-year-old daughter in park, demands her Gaijin Card; then aggressive Japanese police detain, interrogate, and release the woman and child’s private info. I told you this would happen.
3) Japan’s “Gaijin Tank” Immigration Detention Centers: The Death of Sri Lankan Wishma Sandamali highlights a senseless, inhuman, and extralegal system killing foreigners they’ve trapped.
4) Mainichi: Japan wants its COVID vaccine passports accepted by foreign countries, but won’t accept foreign countries’ versions; does the GOJ understand the concept of comity?
… and finally …
5) My SNA VM Column 23: “Gaijin Card Reader App Obliterates Privacy,” June 21, 2021, on how NJ privacy is of so little concern that the Govt. has enabled anyone to swipe Gaijin Cards.

SNA: “Japanese Only” elevators at Tokyo Akasaka Hotel Excel Tokyu; hotel blames Olympic Organizing Committee! Plus Duty-Free Stores asked to rat on foreigners.

SNA: Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu separated its elevators between “Japanese Only” and “Foreigner Only.” SNA called the hotel to ask them why they did it. The answer is that this was their interpretation of guidance from the Olympic authorities. Seems all non-Japanese are visitors. (MP)

COMMENT: The assumption is, as usual, that rates of infection for foreigners and Japanese are different.  Never mind that:
1) “Foreigners” as signposted includes ALL Non-Japanese (including Residents), regardless of whether they’ve actually left Japan and come back  As Michael mentioned above, foreigners are no matter what treated as an exogenous force.
2) Plenty of Japanese have gotten infected from each other, not from foreigners.  In fact, many cases of variants have been carried in and incubated by Japanese themselves.
3) Even foreigners who HAVE come in from overseas have been checked and cleared both inside and outside Japan for infection, and if the systems are working properly, the foreigners (only) are barred entry.  That especially goes for people connected with the Olympics, as we have seen.
4) And many of those foreigners have gotten their vaccines overseas already, and at rates higher and more successful than Japan’s current lackluster (and slowing down) procedures for getting vaccinated.
5) I’m not an epidemiologist, but I daresay you’re LESS likely to get infected from inbound foreigners going through the current GOJ quarantine procedures than from the (generally unvaccinated) average Japanese clustered in poorly-ventilated urban transportation, non-remote workplaces, and eateries.

Finally, in addition to enlisting the general public to find “illegal foreigners” (including a downloadable app to scan Gaijin Cards like a game of Pokemon Go), the Japanese Government is now asking Duty-Free Stores to check passports and rat on foreigners for breaking quarantine (since after all, we can’t do that to Japanese).  From the Japan Times:

JT: The government will ask duty-free stores to check the date of entry to Japan in customers’ passports and report if they were shopping during their required 14-day quarantine period. […] In the request sent to shop operators, the health ministry asks them to provide information including the names, nationalities and passport numbers of violators to its Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants. If an Olympic-related visitor is found to be violating the rule, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will report the matter to the Tokyo Organising Committee.

UPDATE: “Foreigner Only” signs amended to “Foreigner Priority”. Fixed. Not.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 21, 2021

Table of Contents:
1) Justice Ministry’s new “Gaijin Card Reader App” now unlawfully enables the general public to scan you. So much for GOJ promises of privacy.
2) NHK: Ibaraki Public Health Center targets foreigners as vectors of Coronavirus, then retracts discriminatory claims as “misleading” and “inappropriate”
3) Mainichi Editorial: Foreign workers would also serve roles as consumers, taxpayers. Bravo. It needs to be said by somebody in the Wajin media
4) Celebrating 15 Years of the Debito.org Blog (June 17, 2006-2021)
…and finally…
5) My SNA Visible Minorities column 22: “Interrogating the Discriminatory Covid Self-Quarantine Scandal”, May 17, 2021

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 17, 2021

Table of Contents:
1) Kyodo: “300 people per day re-entering Japan breaking COVID self-quarantine”. But NJ report government incompetence, which punishes them disproportionately.
2) Senaiho’s final update on Yamanashi School Bullying Lawsuit: They basically lost, because bullying is an “expected and normal” part of Japanese Education (UPDATED with full court decision text)
3) Problematically racialized Education Ministry-approved primary-school “Morals” textbook: “Shōgaku Dōtoku: Yutaka na Kokoro 1-nen” (Kōbun Shoin, 2020)
4) Nagasaki Yorozuya-machi Steak House “Bronco” sign: “Foreign people are forbidden to enter this restaurant to prevent infection.” Exclusionary racism evolves with Covid. (UPDATED: Signs are down)
And finally…
5) SNA Visible Minorities 21: “A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”, April 19, 2021

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 19, 2021

Table of Contents:
CELEBRATING A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEBITO.ORG
1) April 15 2021: Debito.org celebrates 25 years of existence! Here’s to another 25 years! A brief retrospective.
2) Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities Column 21: “Visible Minorities: A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”

NOW BACK TO BUSINESS
3) Weird new Govt term to firewall naturalized and mudblood Japanese off from “real” Japanese: “Honpougai Shussinsha”: racist AND patriotic, ironically found on Justice Ministry’s Bureau of Human Rights site
4) “Foreign nationalities OK” apartments bin at Century 21 Saitama realty, and “We’re sorry about our foreign staff’s language & cultural barriers” notice in Family Mart Kyoto (SECOND UPDATE with answer from Century 21 Japan)
5) German media Tagesschau on what it’s like to be Covid-quarantined in Japan (basically a prison run by sweaty-headed bureaucrats)
6) It’s official: Tokyo 2020 is a “Japanese Only” Olympics: Japanese living abroad still allowed to attend, not foreigners. (UPDATED: This probably includes Japanese who have given up their J citizenship.)
7) SNA Visible Minorities Col 6: “Carlos Ghosn’s Escape from Japan Was the Right Move”, Jan 20, 2020 (UPDATED with full text)

And finally:
8) SNA Visible Minorities Column 20: “The World’s First ‘Japanese Only’ Olympics?”, on how Japan’s new ban on “overseas spectators” may lead to banning all foreigners (out of linguistics and force of habit) (UPDATED)

It’s official: Tokyo 2020 is a “Japanese Only” Olympics: Japanese living abroad still allowed to attend, not foreigners. (UPDATED: This probably includes Japanese who have given up their J citizenship.)

Japan Times reported today that this has precisely come to pass: “According to the Japanese organizing committee, foreign nationals made up roughly 10% of a total of 80,000 volunteers before the pandemic forced the one-year postponement of the games. Japanese citizens living abroad are expected to be allowed to volunteer, according to the officials.”

So to recap: Japanese citizens living overseas are not counted as “overseas spectators”. They have that immunity to Covid by dint of their passport. And the IOC has in effect “fully respected and accepted” this exclusionary Olympics.  It’s the world’s “first ever without overseas spectators”.

No.  It’s the first Olympics without “foreign” spectators.  Overseas spectators are okay if they’re Japanese.  So as predicted, welcome to Japan’s first “Japanese Only” Olympics. As long as you have a Japanese passport, you are immune to Covid and have privileged access to Our Games.

UPDATE MARCH 24: Debito.org Reader RO points out that according to the IACE Travel Agency (which is legally liable for their information), even overseas “Japanese” who NO LONGER HAVE JAPANESE CITIZENSHIP (because they gave it up and took another nationality) can still re-enter Japan. In other words, what constitutes “overseas Japanese” is a matter of having Japanese blood, even without having Japanese legal status. These are racialized paradigms for what constitutes a “Japanese”, and that is related to this blog entry because they will factor into border controls concerning the Olympics.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 15, 2021

Table of Contents:
BAD SCIENCE:
1) Reuters: “No foreign spectators at Tokyo Olympics”: Japan takes the Gold Medal for Discrimination with a “Japanese Only” Olympics?
2) Richard Lloyd Parry in Times London: “Cancel Tokyo 2020 Olympics”. Yet even this respected reporter sloppily implies Japan’s Covid numbers are contingent on foreigners

WORSE SOCIAL SCIENCE
3) Harvard Prof. Ramseyer criticized for poorly-researched revisionist articles on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. Actually, Ramseyer’s shoddy and intemperate research is within character, based on my experience.
4) School “Hair Police” lose case in Osaka (kinda): Court awards the victim a pittance, but calls enforced hair coloring has “reasonable and legitimate educational purpose”. Another setback for Visible Minorities.
5) Archiving SNA VM5: “Local Governments Classifying Japanese Citizens as Foreigners”, Dec. 16, 2019 (link to full text)
6) Archiving SNA VM4: “The Xeno-Scapegoating of Japanese Halloween”, Nov 18, 2019 (link to full text)
… and finally…
7) SNA VM 19: “Yoshiro Mori’s Overdue Comeuppance”, Feb 15, 2021, on how the former Japan Olympics Chair melded misogyny with racism — for decades!

Reuters: “No foreign spectators at Tokyo Olympics”: Japan takes the Gold Medal for Discrimination with a “Japanese Only” Olympics? (UPDATED)

Reuters: Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter… Kyodo said the government had concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as saying…

Most Japanese people do not want international visitors to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed. The survey showed 77% of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18% in favour. Some 48% said they were against allowing any spectators into venues and 45% were in favour.

COMMENT: I would hope that means that Non-Japanese Residents of Japan are allowed to get tickets and spectate.  But I’m not at all confident that will happen.  First, how will authorities enforce that, given the “Japanese Only” practices widespread in Japan that historically have barred entry or participation to anyone who is foreign, moreover doesn’t “look Japanese”? (This includes Japanese sports; see for example here, here, here, and here.)  After decades of studying these practices, my educated guess is that this entry ban will be applied to any person considered to be “Non-Japanese”, not just NJ tourists from overseas; and that includes online ticket sales.  Meaning anyone with a foreign-sounding name online will be denied a ticket, and a foreign-looking face denied entry at the door.

Second, what completely astonishes me is the poor physical and social science happening here.  Authorities have once again missed the point is the fact that ANY gathering during a pandemic is potentially a super-spreader event.  The virus is already in Japan, spread by Japanese, and thus Japanese spectators will infect each other, of course.  So if safety is a concern, why aren’t they barring ALL spectators?

Why are they targeting foreigners? Well, partly because the Wajin spectators are already doing it.  According to opinion polls cited in the article below, the “public concerns” officials are pointing to indicate that 77% of respondents are against allowing “foreign fans” to attend (while less than half want all spectators banned regardless of nationality).  But wait — isn’t this a form of “manufactured consent” — where the government and media continue to portray the issue as “It’s the foreigners who are contagious, not us hygienic Wajin”, and then that becomes a “public concern”?  Olympics + Pandemic + Racist Government Policies = Reified Embedded Racism.

Enough.  First the unprecedented cost overruns that have made this the most expensive Olympics in history.  Then the Mori sexism debacle.  And now the potential for a “Japanese Only” Olympics?  If you can’t postpone the Games until after the pandemic, I say cancel them already. This is why Debito.org was always against Japan getting the Games.  Hosting international events brings out the worst in Japan’s ethnostatist governing practices, and now it’s clear it encourages the Wajin population at large to become even more racist as well.  SITYS.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 15, 2021

Table of Contents:
1) Reuters and ABC News: Tokyo 2020 chief Mori makes sexist remarks at Olympics meeting. It’s been within character for decades now, so retire him.
2) Kyodo: Japan developing GPS tracking system for foreign travelers as “anti-virus measure”. So Covid is now another international event, justifying more policing of foreigners only?
3) Kyodo: Tokyo District Court rules in favor of Japan’s ban on dual nationality. My, what paranoia and hypocrisy
4) Full text of SNA VM column 3 now archived on Debito.org: “Racial Profiling at Japanese Hotel Check-Ins”, October 23, 2019
… and finally…
5) My SNA Visible Minorities column 18: “Latest visa rules could purge any foreigner” (Jan 18, 2021), on how Covid countermeasures disproportionately target Non-Japanese against all science or logic

Reuters and ABC News: Tokyo 2020 chief Mori makes sexist remarks at Olympics meeting. It’s been within character for decades now, so retire him.

ABC News: Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister of Japan, made the remarks during an executive meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee that was held online Wednesday. When giving his “private opinion” about the committee’s goal of increasing the number of female board directors from 20% to more than 40%, Mori expressed concern about how that would affect the length of meetings, according to a report by The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest daily newspapers. […]

“A meeting of an executive board that includes many women would take time,” Mori was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “Women are competitive. When someone raises his or her hand and speaks, they probably think they should speak too. That is why they all end up making comments.” [..] Speaking at a hastily-prepared press conference on Thursday, Mori confirmed he made the comments and offered an apology. “It was an inappropriate remark that went against the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics,” he said. “I deeply regret it and would like to sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have offended.” When asked about the calls for his resignation, Mori told reporters: “I’m not considering resigning.” […]

COMMENT FROM SUBMITTER MG: “Just wanted to send another bit of good Debito fodder from our ol’ buddy Mori Yoshiro. Just another reminder of what a terrible choice it was to hire this jerk to head an Olympics that really should just never have been handed to Japan in the first place when there was still a ruined Tohoku that needed rebuilding. Were it not for the long-term economic consequences that will follow my beloved adopted home country due to folly of these Games, I would surely enjoy the schadenfreude of a group of elites getting egg all over their face.”

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Mori, one of Japan’s least-popular Prime Ministers ever, is the type of Japan elite dinosaur zombie politician (in the same vein as equally useless Former PM Aso Taro) who feels he can say whatever bigoted thing pops into his head (as I cover in this blog entry, he’s made many other racist statements), and not be held accountable.  Because he never really has. Despite being a lousy leader, he just keeps on getting jobs leading things — such as high-profile sports committees (the Rugby World Cup in 2019) that turn into international embarrassments.  As it has again today. To Japan, tolerating Mori Yoshiro is like tolerating gaffes from the UK’s Prince Philip.  But Mori is not royalty, endured only because his position is essential upholding an apparently sacrosanct system.  He should be retired from public service immediately even if he refuses to resign. It’s obviously long overdue.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 18, 2021

Table of Contents:
1) Japan Times: J Govt’s pandemic border policy highlights their taking advantage of insecure legal status of foreign residents
2) “Tired Panda” on how rural tax authorities specialize in targeting foreign taxpayers for audit. And Japan aims to be Asia’s #1 financial hub? Hah.
3) “Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass”, my Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” Col 2, Sept 17, 2019, link to full text
… and finally…
4) My SNA Visible Minorities 17: NIKE JAPAN Advertisement on Japan’s Visible Minorities does some good (Dec 21, 2020)

Japan Times: J Govt’s pandemic border policy highlights their taking advantage of insecure legal status of foreign residents

JT: Inequity between the treatment of Japanese and non-Japanese residents, including those with established residency status and decadeslong careers here, brought back to the surface long-standing frustrations over apparent struggles with multiculturalism in the nation, stirring debate on the status of foreign residents here and the extent of Japan’s preparedness for an influx of foreign workers that had been anticipated before the pandemic struck.

As questions linger over the government’s intentions behind the controversial rules, records and reports from behind the scenes of Japan’s fight against the pandemic have begun to emerge.

They highlight the limits of the nation’s immigration strategy, with decisions apparently made ad hoc amid chaos, and reveal the insecure status of foreign nationals in Japan and underlying discriminatory attitudes within society toward immigrants and expatriates…

“Tired Panda” on how rural tax authorities specialize in targeting foreign taxpayers for audit. And Japan aims to be Asia’s #1 financial hub? Hah.

In the wake of treating Non-Japanese Residents like they’re riddled with extra Covid contagion, here’s yet another example of how Non-Japanese taxpayers are treated with extra suspicion — with bored tax auditors even in the most rural areas of Japan dedicated to ferreting out rank-and-file sneaky foreigners’ assets and earnings socked away overseas. Courtesy of Debito.org Reader “Tired Panda”, edited and reproduced here with permission.

According to numerous sources, “Japan has explicitly stated its goal is to make Tokyo the number one financial city in Asia… Japanese officials see an opportunity to lure the Asian headquarters of global financial firms to Tokyo as Hong Kong struggles under new scrutiny from Beijing.” In a business climate like the one being described by “Tired Panda” below, who wound up giving up Permanent Residency status after being zapped by local tax authorities, this seems unlikely to happen in Japan.

Tired Panda: It started with my tax accountant in [Katainaka Prefecture], who I have used for several years, suddenly asking me to declare my worldly assets, including how many mountains I owned. Being unaware of any such requirement, I was stunned by this and resisted but my accountant said just roughly write it down and as long as it’s under 5,000,000 you’ll be OK. Just sign it.

The tax department audited me a couple of years ago covering a period of 5 years. They have two young recruits whose full-time job is to concentrate on foreigners. They speak no English. They produced figures suggesting I had been evading taxes over this time and the amount of tax payable. They would not say what shares or investments were the source of the income and I had no way of disputing any figures. I’m aware that tax losses can be carried over to offset gains but they would not recognize this for my foreign investments, saying something about a “blue paper”. I made a start on trying to track everything over the years, but gave up when it became evident that unless something was in the format they required, such as a statement from Monex Japan, they would not accept it. They also slapped a penalty on each of the year’s taxes, compounding over the five year period. It became obvious that it was futile and I paid a substantial amount.

I thought this was the end of that horrifically stressful saga and I would make sure to try and do everything required and account for everything down to the last cent. I decided to revoke my permanent residency as I can’t see myself living indefinitely in this country which is forever tightening the tax noose in an effort to pay for the aging population. With the sponsorship of my company and using the new points system I changed to “Highly Skilled Professional (i) (b)” status…