Happy New Year 2011! Japan Times on long-termer coping strategies

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

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

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

Tsurunen: “I say thank you.”

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


Table of Contents:
1) DEBITO.ORG END-YEAR POLL: “What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?”

Holiday Tangents:
2) Happy Boxing Day: From deep within the archives: “Fred Fish” comic book, 1973, drawn by me aged eight
3) Holiday Tangent: “Steve Seed”, all drawed by me 1973, aged eight. C’mon, it’s kinda cute.
4) From even farther back: “Penny the Hamster”, drawn in Second Grade when I was seven
5) Tangent: Comic “The Flight’, drawn by me Christmas 1975 aged ten
6) Tangent: “The Meat Eaters”: My first try at a movie storyboard, circa 1975, Fifth Grade, aged ten
7) Last End-Year Tangent: “Lile Lizard”, written Second Grade aged seven, includes procreation!

Business as usual:
8 ) Kyodo: Stats for inflows & outflows: J exch students down, NJ up; NJ tourists also up, but none reaching GOJ goals
9) Mainichi: Global 30 strategy for bringing in more foreign exchange students to be axed, while fewer J students go overseas than Singapore
10) Japan Times: Paranoia over NJ purchases of land in Niseko etc: GOJ expresses “security” concerns
11) Fukui City now requiring J language ability for NJ taxpayer access to public housing. Despite being ruled impermissible by Shiga Guv in 2002
12) Discussion: As a person with NJ roots, is your future in Japan? An essay making the case for “No”

… and finally …
13) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 4, 2011
Double feature: The top ten events that affected NJ in Japan both for 2010 and for the entire last decade!

Last End-Year Tangent: “Lile Lizard”, written Second Grade aged seven, includes procreation!

Here’s the last comic for the holidays, thanks for reading. We’ll end with a sweet one. “Lile Lizard” (I think it’s a name, not a misspelling of “little”), a reptilian reprise of Adam and Eve, rendered by me aged seven in Second Grade. Created by god, Lile offers us a story with marriage, babies, family values, and even a mate sent by air mail! I think the note it ends on is a good way to finish the year. We’ll get back to the nitty-gritty hardcore human rights issues tomorrow. Thanks to everyone for reading Debito.org daily blog as it rounds off its fifth year in operation.

Tangent: “The Meat Eaters”: My first try at a movie storyboard, circa 1975, Fifth Grade, aged ten

Continuing the holiday tangents for two more days, here is my rather interesting attempt to combine disaster movie with horror flick. “The Meat Eaters”, drawn by me back in around Fifth Grade, circa 1975, when I was ten years old.

NOTES: Although at the time records indicate I was drawing a lot of battle-oriented comics (WWI, WWII, and some space alien stuff), this is perhaps my read of The Blob. Summer idyll disturbed by a bolt from the blue, and suddenly carnivorous tribbles begin to devour humanity. But of course a hero emerges, tries to save the day (especially given the do-nothing president; perhaps that’s what I thought of President Ford), and this time does NOT get what he deserves — a happily-ever-after Hollywood ending where justice is served. Oh oh, I’m starting to grow up, it seems…

Tangent: Comic “The Flight’, drawn by me Christmas 1975 aged ten

For today’s comic effect, here’s an effort by me to assimilate the experiences I was having by age ten: Travel around Europe with my stepfather (family in England, conferences around Europe, including Germany, Czech, and Poland), drinking in lots of British comics (still do, but at that time I was reading war comics like Warlord and Victor, not to mention Hotspur and Wizard; the Brits in the 1970s still loved reliving the glories of the World Wars, and British comic books over the decades quite possibly killed cumulatively more Germans in print than on the battlefield), and watching movies like Airport (I had a longstanding fear of flying, what with either paranoid disaster flicks at the time or hijackings to Cuba).

In this ten year old’s world, here’s what comes out in the wash: A turboprop flys Heathrow to Russia, via Paris, and over Germany, where the Nazis of course attack and put the flight in jeopardy. But of course, a hero emerges… and, well, read the comic. At least they made it to Warsaw. Enjoy. There’s even a Christmas message at the end, meaning I made this as a present for my parents.

From even farther back: “Penny the Hamster”, drawn in Second Grade when I was seven

Thanks for indulging me this holiday season with archiving things that feel more precious the more I look at them. Here is something even older than the first two entries: “Penny the Hamster”, named after our Second Grade class’s pet, who had a history of escaping (and inspiring me to write). The comic is more primitive in drawing (thanks to the younger age — I mean, seven years old?), but the narrative structure is, once again, still there. Dedicated to classmate Steve Chilbert (with whom I’ve gotten back in touch with after nearly 27 years thanks to Facebook) at the bottom of the cover (until, it seems, we had some kind of fight and I tried to erase him). Let’s see what travails await this main character in young David Aldwinckle’s world.

Holiday Tangent: “Steve Seed”, all drawed by me 1973, aged eight. C’mon, it’s kinda cute.

Continuing the Holiday Tangents (I just don’t feel like doing anything downer-ish as we round out the year), here’s another comic drawn by me probably around November 1973. “Steve Seed”. It’s from a photocopy, alas, but even I’m a little surprised at how developed the spelling and narrative structure are at this age. Refers to the circle of life, safety, and even reincarnation. And it’s doggone cute, darn it. If I could stick my arm into a time machine, I’d reach back and pinch my cheeks.

Happy Boxing Day: From deep within the archives: “Fred Fish” comic book, 1973, drawn by me aged eight

Happy Boxing Day. For the holiday season, let me put up some rilly, rilly old stuff. I got a boxful of old comic books I made when I was a little kid. What follows is “Fred Fish”, from 1973. I was in second grade, just turned eight years old, and was in Mrs. Joseph’s class in North Street School, Geneva, NY. I had been reading since I was about two years old (a LOT of comic books), and within five years I was producing some of my own. Mrs. Joseph saw me as reading at a level far above everyone else, she said years later, so she gave me class time to create whatever I wanted. That’s what I did — I sat down with pencil, paper, and a stapler and created what would turn out to be a pile of these mostly derivative but kinda cute works that fortunately got saved. 38 years later, here’s something for the blog, as a present and a diversion I hope you enjoy.

DEBITO.ORG END-YEAR POLL: “What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?”

As part of the end-year roundup, here are a few issues I thought would be interesting for discussion. Looking back, what do you think are the most influential events that affected NJ in Japan? Here are some of ones I thought were noteworthy, in no particular order:

What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?

Far-rightists question credentials of DPJ reformists by claiming they have NJ roots
Suraj Case of death during deportation
Long-dead Centenarians still registered as alive (yet NJ remain unregistered)
Nursing program only passes three NJ after two years
Hunger strike at Ibaraki Prison
GOJ apologizes to Korea for prewar annexation
“My Darling is a Foreigner” becomes a movie
Sumo Association decides to count naturalized wrestlers as still foreign
UN Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante’s critical Japan visit
NJ PR Suffrage Bill goes down in flames
Zaitokukai far-rightists get arrested for property damage to Zainichis
Child Abductions issue gathers steam with governments abroad, GOJ eyes Hague
The Cove engenders protests, get limited screenings anyway
Japan’s Kokusei Chousa pentennial census goes multilingual
Tokyo Police spying on Muslims
Futenma issue, with USG jerking GOJ’s chain
Renho becomes first multiethnic Cabinet member
Toyota’s mishandling of their runaway car recall, blaming foreign components and culture
Oita court ultimately rules that NJ have no rights to J pensions
Tourist visas eased for Chinese and Indians
Health insurance requirement removed from visa renewals

Something else
(Please tell us what you think got left out in the Comments Section below)

Kyodo: Stats for inflows & outflows: J exch students down, NJ up; NJ tourists also up, but none reaching GOJ goals

Kyodo: The Japan Student Services Organization said in its report that a record-high 141,774 foreigners are studying in Japan, up 9,054 from the year before, while the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said the number of Japanese studying abroad totaled 66,833 in 2008, 8,323 less than the previous year.

The number of Japanese students studying abroad has been on the decline since peaking at 82,945 in 2004, while that of foreigners studying in Japan has been growing. In 2008, the number of foreign students in Japan was 123,829.

Education ministry officials said the current job recruitment process in Japan is apparently discouraging Japanese students from studying abroad for fear of missing out on opportunities to apply for jobs in a given period…

The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan from January to November hit a record high for the 11-month period, but the government’s annual target of attracting 10 million overseas visitors is unlikely to be achieved, a Japan National Tourism Organization survey showed Wednesday.

The number of foreign visitors during the reporting period surged 29.2 percent from the corresponding period last year to 7.963 million, according to the organization.

Achieving the government target of 10 million tourists would require an additional 2 million tourists in December. But considering that the largest number of visitors in a single month this year was the 878,582 recorded in July, it is highly unlikely the target will be met…

Still, it is almost certain the number of foreign visitors this year will surpass the record high 8.35 million marked in 2008.

Mainichi: Global 30 strategy for bringing in more foreign exchange students to be axed, while fewer J students go overseas than Singapore

Mainichi: Would Mainichi readers be surprised to learn that Japan is preparing to ax one of the cornerstones of its higher education internationalization strategy?

The government’s cost-cutting panel, which is trying to slash costs in a bid to trim the country’s runaway public debt, voted on Nov. 18 to abolish and “restructure” the Global 30 project.

Launched last year with a budget of 3.2 billion yen, Global 30 envisioned “core” universities “dramatically” boosting the number of international students in Japan and Japanese students studying abroad, said the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology… Now the project has been terminated…

Fewer than 4 percent of Japan’s university students come from abroad — 133,000, well below China (223,000) and the U.S. (672,000). Just 5 percent of its 353,000 university teachers are foreign, according to Ministry of Education statistics. Most of those are English teachers.

At the opposite end of the education pendulum, students here are increasingly staying at home: Japanese undergraduate enrollments in U.S. universities have plummeted by over half since 2000. Numbers to Europe are also down…

South Korea, with about half Japan’s population, sends over twice as many students to the U.S. At some American universities, such as Cornell, Japan is behind not just China and South Korea, but even Thailand and tiny Singapore…

Japan Times: Paranoia over NJ purchases of land in Niseko etc: GOJ expresses “security” concerns

Japan Times: In Hokkaido, 29 contracts have been purchased by foreign interests, including Chinese, Australian, New Zealand and Singaporean enterprises.

It is a worrying issue not only for Hokkaido but for the rest of mountainous Japan.

Hirano said there is speculation that dozens of plots, including in Mie and Nagano prefectures, as well as on Tsushima, Amami Oshima and the Goto islands, are being targeted by Chinese and other foreign investors.

The growing sense of alarm finally prodded local governments, as well as officials in Tokyo, to start talking about ways to limit such purchases.

Last month, Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said a local ordinance is needed to force foreign interests to report an intended land purchase before the contract is signed.

At the national level, Prime Minister Naoto Kan indicated in October the possibility of restricting foreign ownership of land where it could jeopardize national security…

COMMENT: As submitter JK put it, “This just drips with paranoia of NJ and reeks of hypocrisy.”

Fukui City now requiring J language ability for NJ taxpayer access to public housing. Despite being ruled impermissible by Shiga Guv in 2002.

Blogger: Last April the city of Fukui adopted a “guideline” in its municipal public housing regulations that stated non-Japanese who applied for low-income housing must be able to “communicate in Japanese.” Applications for those who cannot will not be accepted. Since then various groups that work with foreigners in Japan have protested the guideline, but it still stands. Some of these groups have said that they are aware that some non-Japanese applicants, though they qualify for public housing otherwise, have been prevented from applying for housing due to the new guideline.

There are nine cities in Fukui Prefecture, but only Fukui City has such a rule. The city official in charge of public housing told a local newspaper that his office had received complaints from community associations (jichikai) of individual public housing complexes. These associations said that some non-Japanese residents were unable to communicate “very well” in Japanese, and thus it was difficult for them to understand and follow association rules regarding the “sorting of refuse” and “noise.” For that reason, the city government adopted this new guideline.

COMMENT: I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening before. Shiga Prefecture also banned NJ who do not “speak Japanese” from its public housing back in 2002. However, the Shiga Governor directly intervened literally hours after this was made public by the Mainichi Shinbun and rescinded this, as public facilities (and that includes housing, of course) cannot ban taxpayers (and that includes NJ, of course). Whether or not the Fukui Governor will show the same degree of enlightenment remains to be seen. Maybe some media exposure might help this time too.

Discussion: As a person with NJ roots, is your future in Japan? An essay making the case for “No”.

I’m hearing increasing discontent from the NJ Community (assuming quite presumptuously there is one able to speak with a reasonably unified voice) about living in Japan.

Many are saying that they’re on their way outta here. They’ve had enough of being treated badly by a society that takes their taxes yet does not respect or protect their rights.

To stimulate debate, let me posit with some flourish the negative case for continuing life in Japan, and let others give their own arguments pro and con:

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to expect people to want to immigrate to Japan, given the way they are treated once they get here.

We have racial profiling by the Japanese police, where both law allows and policy sanctions the stopping of people based upon having a “foreign appearance”, such as it is, where probable cause for ID checks anywhere is the mere suspicion of foreigners having expired visas.

We have rampant refusals of NJ by landlords and rental agencies (sanctioned to the point where at least one realtor advertises “Gaijin OK” apartments), with the occasional private enterprise putting up “Japanese Only” signs, and nothing exists to stop these acts that are expressly forbidden by the Japanese Constitution. Yet now fifteen years after effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination, Japan still has no law against it either on the books or in the pipeline…


Table of Contents:

1) Latest numbers on Japan’s registered NJ population from MOJ (November 2010)
2) Economist.com special report on Japan: How it all comes back down to demographics
3) Economist.com podcast on costs and benefits of immigration
4) WSJ: Domestic Group Appeals for Overhaul of Japanese Immigration
5) Japan Times Community Page on issues of dual citizenship: “Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy”
6) CNNGo.com: “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?”
7) Tangent: LA Times: PRC Census also measures for ethnicity, unlike Japan’s Census

8 ) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST SPECIAL: Speech by Neo Yamashita of EWA Osaka union on your contract labor rights
9) Japan Times Community Page on NJ “Trainee Visa” slavery program and how crooked it still is, according to NGOs
10) McNeill in Mainichi on how Japan Inc. needs to loosen up to women and NJ executives
11) Tangent: NHK: GOJ enshrining more rights for handicapped. Hope for same for NJ?

12) Japan Times: “Darling foreigner” Tony Laszlo is “less passionate today” about discrimination against foreigners
13) “Black Melon Pan” Afros as food: Insensitive marketing by Mini-Stop Konbini
14) YouTube video showing NPA Bicycle Instant Checkpoint supersedes attention to car accident
15) Yomiuri: ‘Leaked MPD data’ out as book / Documents published as is; names of police, NJ informants revealed

… and finally …
16) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE, Dec 7, 2010: “MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce”

Japan Times: “Darling foreigner” Tony Laszlo is “less passionate today” about discrimination against foreigners

Japan Times: Apart from writing, Laszlo taught for a few years at Japanese universities, and has also set up an nongovernmental organization, Issho Kikaku, in 1992. Through this NGO, he put on theatrical shows related to multicultural issues, and later, dealt with social issues such as discrimination against foreigners.

“In those days, personally, I felt a strong desire to avoid a simple dichotomy between Japanese and non-Japanese, male and female, family and friends, handicapped and nonhandicapped,” he said. Today, he said he is less passionate about the issues, and that the group’s activities have become more low-key…

COMMENT: “Low key”? I’ll say. How about “no-key”, or “delete-key”?…

Economist.com special report on Japan: How it all comes back down to demographics

Interesting podcasts from The Economist London (November 20, 2010) on how Japan’s economic future all comes down to demographics. Links to podcasts:

Eight minutes:
Economist Editor: “Unless Japan takes dramatic steps to reenergize its shrinking, greying workforce, its economy will suffer.”

Henry Tricks: “When I set about writing this report, I didn’t start out by looking at population decline. I looked at all the other problems… but everything seemed to come back down to demographics.”

My interpretation: There is no getting around immigration. NJ will come. Whether they find a weakened elderly population in the near future, or an empty island in the far future, they will come. They had better be made into Japanese or there will be no more Japanese.

Economist.com podcast on costs and benefits of immigration

Economist: What can you tell us as far as what you know about the fiscal burden of immigration, and the fiscal benefits of immigrants?

Robert Shapiro, former Prez. Clinton advisor: Particularly in five or six states, where immigrants are highly concentrated, there’s a fiscal deficit. Much of that has to do with educating children of immigrants. That’s the single largest cost. But if you look at it more dynamically, immigrants tend to be aggressive about improving their conditions. Aggressive enough to leave their homeland. These are not the kinds of people who take life as it’s been given to them. They try to make the best of their lives, and so you would expect to see some income gains — whether they start out as a day laborer or as an entrepreneur. The whole issue of entrepreneurship is interesting, because we find that not only do you see a lot of entrepreneurship among educated immigrants, particularly from Asia — and this has been commented on: the large volume of Silicon Valley startups that were started by immigrants, particularly from India. You see this also among undocumented immigrants, who are generally low-skilled people. Now they’re different kinds of businesses they’re starting. But that’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s a software startup, or a small corner business…

[There is] another benefit of immigration — and a fiscal benefit. And that is, immigrants — and they generally come in early working age — they work their whole lives, if they stay here their whole lives, and then they retire. That’s the same as an American, except that the American working young worker has parents. Who claim social security and medicare. Immigrants come without their elderly parents, and in that sense we get a contribution to the labor force without having to pay out the benefits to the parent. When you’re talking about millions of people, that’s big money…

YouTube video showing NPA Bicycle Instant Checkpoint supersedes attention to car accident

AT: Hey Debito, you gotta check out this YouTube video showing a prime example of the incompetence of the Japanese police. A guy riding a bicycle gets stopped by a police officer for no reason, which happens a lot in Japan. As the officer is asking him questions (which the guy is under no obligation to answer), we can hear an obvious traffic accident take place in the background just around the corner, and both the police officer and the bicyclist hear it. A reasonable police officer would realize that that was a traffic accident and that people may be injured and need first aid, etc. But no, this cop continues to question the bicyclist as if nothing happened. At one point he even denies that it may be a traffic accident. After the bicyclist convinces him to do so, he notifies dispatch of the traffic accident, and then continues to question the bicyclist rather than tending to the possibly injured! This cop neglected to tend to a possibly serious and fatal traffic accident, all so he can perform 職務質問 (voluntary questioning) on a bicyclist!

“Black Melon Pan” Afros as food: Insensitive marketing by Mini-Stop Konbini

Here’s a letter from cyberspace on another potentially offensive marketing campaign portraying African features as black-bread Afros to sell food.

No doubt we’ll get the defenders of this sort of marketing, e.g. “Japan has so few black people it has no sensitivity to this sort of thing”, “it’s not racist, at least not intentionally”, “lighten up guys, and stop foisting your cultural values on the Japanese”, or “it’s a Japanese character, not a real black character, so it’s not a problem”. Any other naysaying? Oh wait, yeah, “you just don’t get Japan”. Anyway, check this out:

XY: My name is XY, Founder and Director of [….] a marketing consultancy in [Japan] that researches Japanese consumer behavior on behalf of our international clients like Coca-Cola, VISA credit cards etc. As such, I often peruse the shelves of convenience stores to see what the latest trends are. I was shocked to find in my local Mini-Stop the all-new campaign for ブラックメロンパン, a bread that parodies a black man’s afro on the package. This is no small thing. Mini-Stop is a very large and growing combini chain and this is a signature campaign prominently advertised and displayed on their shelves…

Latest numbers on Japan’s registered NJ population from MOJ (November 2010)

I gave two lectures a couple of weeks ago at Hokudai’s International Student Center on Japan’s multicultural future (a prognostication I find a bit weaker in recent years, what with the drop in NJ numbers in 2009 in all honesty, especially after the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe). So I went on a dig for the most recent GOJ stats on NJ residents, and think it appropriate for this weekend’s blog entry. Have a look. Six screen captures with commentary. For example:

COMMENT: Here we have the number of resident NJ by nationality. As of 2007, the Chinese residents overtook the Koreans (North and South and Zainichi) for the first time in history, and are significantly more numerous than before. Their numbers are not abating, whereas the Koreans and Brazilians are going down significantly. Up also are people from The Philippines. Peruvians and Americans down slightly, while people from “sono ta” other countries are increasing their percentage of the population by a few fractions of a percent every year. Vietnamese, Thais, Subcontinental Indians, and Nepalese are the most significant gainers in this categories, growing by more than 10,000 souls over the past decade.

COMMENT: Here we have registered NJ by Status of Residence again, showing us how the numbers have changed over time. Permanent Residents have increased significantly unabated, except that the Special PRs (Zainichis) keep dropping significantly, while the Regular (immigrants) keep increasing significantly both in number and percentage (8.4%) over 2009 (they crossed lines in 2007; there are now significantly more “Newcomer” immigrants than “Oldcomer” Zainichis). Meanwhile, the non-Permanents have dropped by nearly 5% over the past year. The largest drop percentages are the “Trainees” (generally Chinese working in factories, allegedly receiving training but often being used as slave laborers) by nearly a quarter, and the Long-Term Residents (Nikkei workers, again being offered bribes to go “home” and be somebody else’s unemployment statistic). Also significantly dropping are the “Entertainers” (often people working in the sex trades, again slavery except this time sexual), at 15.8% which to me is good news.

My speech at Otaru Shoudai Dec 6, 2010, “The Otaru Onsens Case 10 years on”, now on YouTube in six parts

I gave a series of speeches over the past week, the latest one at Otaru University of Commerce, on “The Otaru Onsens Case Ten Years On”. It’s in English (as it is a lecture series in English sponsored by the university for language students and exchange students), and available for view in several parts at the Otaru Shoudai Channel on YouTube. Have a look. Links to parts one through six below.

Japan Times Community Page on issues of dual citizenship: “Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy”

Japan Times: What does Japan gain by, in effect, rejecting my children and thousands of other young dual citizens living in Japan and around the world, at the very moment when they come of age and are at last able to become productive members of society?

Best as I can figure, the only virtue of the “one citizenship fits all” rule is simplicity.

What does Japan lose by rejecting dual citizenship? … One wonders if the existing policy of denying permanent dual citizenship to people who possessed the status as children is motivated by a concern that altering it would lead to dual citizenship demands by others, such as ethnic Korean residents of Japan or Brazilians of Japanese descent. Rather than risk facing such demands, government officials might have concluded that it is “better to leave well enough alone.” However, allowing people who already have Japanese citizenship to keep it will not inevitably lead to more far-reaching changes to Japan’s Nationality Law.

Given its dire demographic outlook, perhaps Japan should open a dialogue on radical changes to its Nationality Law, such as a U.S.-style “birthright” giving citizenship to all people born on Japanese soil, an Israeli-style “Law of Return” allowing the ingathering of all ethnic Japanese everywhere in their ancestral homeland, or an Irish-style “Grandparent Rule” granting citizenship to anyone who can document having one Japanese grandparent. But even if Japan is not willing to open its door that widely, it should at least stop slamming the door on some of its own citizens shortly after they reach adulthood…

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 34, Dec 7, 2010: “MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce”

JBC: Even after 10 years as a Japanese and two Mexican standoffs, I still had to face the same old bureaucratic idiosyncrasies — those that arise when our government decides that things within the domain of the individual are instead privileges granted at the whim of The State. To name a few: middle names and different last names after marriage (forbidden by the family registry system), minority names with alternate spellings (e.g., Ainu and Ryukyuan names) — and, in more extreme examples, parental rights to child access during marital breakdowns (Zeit Gist, Feb. 2) and even to the contents of a mother’s uterus (as the old saying goes, “The womb is a borrowed thing” (hara wa karimono)).

No matter how complicated and diverse Japanese society becomes, bureaucrats will still assert old prerogatives. In my case, they even threatened to take away my fundamental rights just for refusing to abide by a system designed basically for bureaucrats’ convenience…

Japan Times Community Page on NJ “Trainee Visa” slavery program and how crooked it still is, according to NGOs

JT: In October 1999, 19 Chinese trainees came to the Takefu city office pleading for help. In their first year in Japan as interns, the women had been promised ¥50,000 a month, but scraped by on ¥10,000. The next year, as technical trainees, they should have received ¥115,000 a month. After health insurance, pension, rent, forced “savings” and administrative fees for the staffing agency in China were deducted, what they got was ¥15,000. The women walked for five hours from their workshop in the mountains of Fukui Prefecture to talk with the director of their placement organization at his home. Instead of receiving answers, they were turned away with harsh words — and even blows.

The incident was discussed in the Diet and became a symbol of the profound problems with the trainee system. Shortly afterwards, citizens’ groups formed to protect the rights of trainees and organizations already working to protect foreigners’ rights found a new focus. More than 10 years later, leaders of these groups say they have seen some positive changes, but abuses of the system are still endemic…

Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Dec 7 2010 now up at JT site

It’s been a hectic past few days traveling and speaking around Tokyo. After a night on the town on Sunday at an Amnesty International benefit, I was offered a free room with a friend (thanks) only to find I had left my toiletry bag at my previous accommodations. So I flew back to Sapporo yesterday unshaven and unkempt, arrived at Chitose Airport a mere two hours and change before my next speech in Otaru (which I recorded and will have up as a podcast sooner or later), drove the 80 or so kms, stopped off home for a shower shit and shave, and got to Otaru Shoudai with fifteen minutes to spare to give another 2.5-hour speech (my third in five days). And then came home and just crashed. Now I have 9AM classes coming up in an hour, so must blog quickly again.

Anyhoo, here is a link to my latest Japan Times column (also completed while on the speaking tour this past week). On how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nearly refused me a passport just because I wouldn’t spell my name in English as I pleased.


Have a read. I’ll have it up for commentary tomorrow.

Speaking at Otaru Shoudai Mon Dec 6: “The Otaru Onsens Case, 10 Years On”

English Lecture Series #3
The Otaru Onsens Case-Ten Years On
Arudou Debito
Monday December 6th, 2010
4:30 p.m. Room 370
Sponsored by Otaru Shoudai

Did you know that Otaru once had onsens that said “Japanese Only”? They not only refused entry to non-Japanese residents, but also Japanese people with foreign roots, and even a naturalized Japanese citizen. Ten years later, what has changed? Come hear Arudou Debito speak about it.

CNNGo.com: “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?”

CNNGo: Japan: The new melting pot?

Japan’s national government recently announced it is turning to travelers in a foreigner-friendly mission to boost diversity — at least in tourist spots — by paying them to provide feedback on how to increase accessibility for non-Japanese speakers.

David Askew, associate professor of law at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, identifies more profound changes.

In 1965, a mere 1 in 250 of all marriages in Japan were international, he notes. By 2004, the number had climbed to 1 in 15 across the nation and 1 in 10 in Tokyo.

According to Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government, by 2005, foreign residents in the city numbered 248,363, up from 159,073 in 1990.

According to Askew, the upswing in diverse residents and mixed marriages has led to another phenomenon: between 1987 and 2004, more than 500,000 children were born in Japan with at least one foreign parent…

Fiona Graham/SAYUKI speaks at Good Day Books Ebisu Sun Dec 5

Speaker: Fiona Graham
Topic: “The Japanese Company, Then and Now”
When: Starting at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, 05 December 2010
Admission: Buy a copy of A Japanese Company in Crisis or Inside the Japanese Company from our shop

Fiona Graham is an Australian anthropologist and a producer/director of anthropological documentaries. She has directed and produced programmes for NHK – Japan’s national broadcaster – and has also worked on programs for National Geographic, Channel 4, and BBC. She was the first white woman to graduate as a regular student from Keio University. Subsequently she worked for one of the top ten Japanese insurance companies. She took her MBA and doctorate at the University of Oxford, has lectured at the National University of Singapore, and is currently lecturing at Keio University. She has done fieldwork in both the UK and Japan, in Tokyo’s night world, in Japanese companies, with Japanese traditional sports teams, and in the world of anime and popular culture. Her current fieldwork is on geisha and traditional Japanese culture. In 2007, she became the first white woman to debut as a geisha and is now a working geisha in the Asakusa district of Tokyo….

McNeill in Mainichi on how Japan Inc. needs to loosen up to women and NJ executives

McNeill: I’ve talked about Japan’s reluctance to embrace mass immigration in this column before. Here’s something else to consider: Japan’s boardrooms are still almost completely devoid of foreigners — and females.

Women make up just 1.2 percent of top Japanese executives, according to business publisher Toyo Keizai; gaijin board members on Japan’s roughly 4,000 listed companies are as rare as hens’ teeth.

The exception is a handful of troubled giants, notably Sony Corp., which made Welshman Howard Stringer its chairman and CEO in 2005, and Nissan Motor Co., where Brazilian Carlos Ghosn has been in charge for over a decade.

That lack of diversity worries some bosses. Last year the Japan Association of Corporate Executives published the results of a two-year survey that called on its members to revolutionize boardroom practices.

“Japanese firms are terribly behind in accepting diversity,” said association vice chairman Hasegawa Yasuchika. “They should radically transform their corporate culture to provide the same opportunities to employees all around the world.”

Easier said than done, perhaps. Ever since Japan’s corporations began moving overseas in the 1970s, they have followed a tried and tested formula: Whatever happens in transplants and local operations abroad, control stays in the iron grip of the all-Japanese boardroom back home…

Speaking PGL 2010 Sat Dec 4 ICU on “Propaganda in Japan’s Media: Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of non-Japanese Residents”

PGL Conference 2010
International Christian University, Tokyo
The Conference: The 3 R’s: Resist Business as Usual, Reclaim Space for Peace, Revolutionise Public Consciousness
Sat Dec 4, Session 3: Arudou Debito, Hokkaido Information University (60 mins)
Talk Title: Propaganda in Japan’s Media: Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of non-Japanese Residents

Abstract: Japan has one of the most vibrant and pervasive domestic media environments in the world. This media environment can also be significantly manipulated by the Japanese government, mobilizing Japanese public opinion towards national goals even at the expense of domestic minorities — particularly non-citizens. The degree of underrepresentation and disenfranchisement of Non-Japanese residents in Japan is clear when one studies the “foreign crime wave of the 2000s”, promoted by the government in the name of “making Japan the world’s safest country again”, justifying public policy against “foreign terrorism, infectious diseases, and crime”. The domestic media’s complicity in publicizing anti-foreign sentiment without analysis has caused quantifiable social dehumanization; government polls indicate a near-majority of citizens surveyed do not agree that non-citizens should have the same human rights as citizens. This presentation studies how language and media have been used as a means for disseminating propaganda in Japan, fostering social stratification, alienation, and xenophobia.

Speaking Dec 2 at Sophia University on Liberal Democracy and Japanese Judiciary

Liberal Democracy and the Japanese Judiciary System
Is Japan’s Judiciary System Befitting a Modern Democracy?

Chris Pitts (Kyoritsu Women’s University (共立女子学園)/ AITEN (Amnesty International Tokyo English Network)

Mr. Pitts will be examining the general framework of the criminal investigation procedure in Japan and the trial process; how these structures fail to protect the rights of the accused; and the extent that these shortcomings have been criticized by Japanese Federation of Bar Associations & the UN Committee on Torture.

Arudou Debito 有道 出人 (Hokkaido Information University (北海道情報大学)

The outspoken foreigners’ rights activist will then discuss the ways in which certain elements within a modern democratic judiciary system can work to undermine the civil liberties of the individuals within that democracy; and ask: Are there authoritarian elements within the Japanese judiciary system? And are they undermining the civil liberties of those living within Japanese society?

Sophia Political Society
Thursday, December 2, 2010
From 5:30-7:00 in Bldg 4 Rm 175

DEBITO.ORG PODCAST DECEMBER 1, 2010: SPECIAL: Speech by Neo Yamashita of EWA Osaka union on your contract labor rights

PALE SIG Forum: Labor relations in Japan
Language: English
From recruitment through retirement (or dismissal), labor laws, court precedents, and labor unions affect educational workers. Educational workers, especially non-Japanese, however, are not well informed or even misled about this. For example, though Westerners want written contracts, Japanese labor advocates recommend not signing contracts in some cases to protect employment rights. This recommendation is based on labor law and court precedents. Accordingly, labor unions play a more crucial role in protecting worker rights than some think.

Neo Yamashita, Vice Chair of the Education Workers and Amalgamated Union Osaka (EWA), gives us his decades of expertise on November 20, 2010. Podcast listenable from here. 87 minutes. No cuts.

Yomiuri: ‘Leaked MPD data’ out as book / Documents published as is; names of police, NJ informants revealed

This breaking news from the weekend compounds just how sinister the activities of the Japanese police can be. First spying on people in the name of combating terrorism because they’re Muslims or connected to Muslims, then losing control of the information to the point where it becomes a book on sale to the public. Shame on you, Metropolitan Police Department. Imagine how big a scandal this would have been if Japanese people had been treated similarly.

Now, of course, since this is embarrassing to the police, the book (as per checks with Amazon.co.jp and an in-person check at Kinokuniya Sapporo yesterday) is no longer being sold. Good. But that sure was quick, compared to how much comparative time and effort it took for the Gaijin Hanzai Ura Files Mook in 2007 (which I believe the police contributed information to) to go off-market. Seems to me less the need to protect individual NJ than for the police to cover their collective ketsu. Whatever. The book is off the market. The materials for it shouldn’t have been collected in the first place.

Yomiuri: A Tokyo publishing house has released a book containing what are believed to be Metropolitan Police Department antiterrorism documents that were leaked onto the Internet last month.

Released by Dai-San Shokan Thursday, the book contains the personal information of Muslim residents in this country, such as their names and addresses.

Akira Kitagawa, president of the publisher, said he decided to put out the book “to raise questions about the laxity of the police’s information control system.”…

The 469-page book, titled “Ryushutsu ‘Koan Tero Joho’ Zen Deta” (Leaked police terrorism info: all data), is on sale at some bookstores, but several major publishing agents have refused to distribute it.

If the documents are authentic, the book contains the names and photos of foreign residents being monitored by the 3rd Foreign Affairs Division at the Public Security Bureau of the MPD, the names of people who have cooperated with the police, and the photos and addresses of police officers involved in terrorism investigations.

WSJ: Domestic Group Appeals for Overhaul of Japanese Immigration

WSJ: A powerful group of politicians, academics and business leaders is set to launch an unusual campaign to urge Japan to pry open its doors to foreigners, saying the country’s survival hinges on revamping its immigration policy.

Japan has one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world, and the debate over whether to allow more foreigners to settle in the country has long been a contentious, politically charged issue for the nation. But recently, calls to allow more foreign workers to enter Japan have become louder, as the aging population continues to shrink and the country’s competitiveness and economic growth pales in comparison with its neighbor to the west: China. A minuscule 1.7% of the overall Japanese population are foreigners, compared with 6.8% in the United Kingdom and 21.4% in Switzerland, according to the OECD.

The 87-member policy council of the Japan Forum of International Relations, a powerful nonprofit research foundation, will on Thursday launch a half-page advertisement in the country’s leading newspapers, urging Japan to rethink its immigration policy. They also submitted their policy recommendations to Naoto Kan, the country’s prime minister.

“If Japan wants to survive in a globalized world economy and to advance her integration with the burgeoning East Asian economy, she essentially has no other choice but to accept foreign migrants,” the advertisement says.

The policy council has issued several recommendations, including allowing more skilled workers to enter the labor market, particularly in industries where there are shortages of domestic workers, such as construction and the auto industry. Under economic-partnership agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines, Tokyo has allowed nurses and nursing-care specialists from these countries to enter Japan, but applicants are subjected to a grueling test in Japanese that only three people have passed. The council says these tests have to be made easier…

Weekend Tangent: NHK: GOJ enshrining more rights for handicapped. Hope for same for NJ?

We might have the image of the DPJ being too bogged down in politics to get much done. But as NHK reports below (be sure to watch video too from the link), we have some pretty impressive lawmaking being done by a more liberal government for one underprivileged segment of Japanese society — the handicapped.

The committee’s deliberations are saying the things we want guaranteed vis-a-vis human rights for human beings — including protections enshrined in law. With this precedent and degree of enlightenment, can we but hope that they could someday stretch it to include non-citizens? The linkage, however tenuous, is there. Have a read

Weekend Tangent: LA Times: PRC Census also measures for ethnicity, unlike Japan’s Census

LAT: “Similar to the census process in the United States, most people [in China] are given a standard [census] form with a few basic questions: 18 of them centering on names, ages, occupation. Ethnicity is also asked, but not religion, that being a sensitive subject in a communist country that is officially atheist. One-tenth of the population, meanwhile, was selected for a longer, 45-question form that includes queries about income, savings, the type of water one drinks (tap or boiled) and the number of bathrooms in the house…”

COMMENT: What’s interesting as far as Debito.org goes is that, despite some claims of Chinese homogeneity thanks to the Han majority, the PRC apparently DOES survey for ethnicity. Unlike the GOJ. Again, that’s the hegemony of homogeneity in Japan.


Table of Contents:
1) Mainichi: Bullying of Filipina-Japanese grade schooler in Gunma leads to suicide: NHK ignores ethnicity issue in reports
2) Japan Times: MEXT in line to deliberate on ijime after grade schooler Uemura Akiko suicide
3) French Embassy reports French father of abducted child in Japan commits suicide
4) TV America’s Most Wanted on unsolved questionable death of an American in Shinjuku Aug 2010. Any press in Japan?
5) My college mentor, Chalmers Johnson, dies at 79

6) Japan Times: Leaked documents reveal Tokyo Police spies on Muslim residents, tries to make snitches of them
7) Ministry of Justice website justifying crime prevention measures
due to “frequent occurrence of serious crimes committed by foreign nationals and increase in transnational crimes”
8 ) Eido Inoue on improbable remote tracking of RFID next-generation “Gaijin Cards”; yet “scan-proof” travel pouches now on sale
9) WB and me on what NJ tourists also need in Japan — security against NPA harassment
10) Eyewitness report on how NPA is targeting NJ in Gotanda as security risk for APEC Summit in Yokohama

11) Daily Yomiuri eikaiwa columnist Mike Guest misrepresents not only the record, but also his own academic credentials
12) Fun and Games at MOFA Passport Renewal — almost denied a passport because of one letter
13) Weird broadside from Japan Helpline’s Ken Joseph Jr. on Facebook: Claims my naturalization queers my campaigning
14) Japan Times Amy Savoie on int’l child abductions and the manufacturing of consent for it within Japan
15) Japan businesses cry foul over UK visa regime, threaten pullout. Fancy that happening to the GOJ.

16) The Independent (UK) on Japan’s rising nationalism as Japan slips in world rankings
17) UK Guardian compares South Korea’s relatively open-minded future with Japan’s possible “Second Edo Period” of insulation
18) Times Higher Education on MEXT: “Japan’s entrenched ideas hinder the push to attract more foreign students and staff”
19) Eurobiz Magazine’s Tony McNicol on the future abolition of the “Gaijin Tax” Re-Entry Permits
20) CBC interview with me on Japan’s shrinking population and prospects for immigration
21) For Educators in Japan: National EFL Job Satisfaction Survey

… and finally …

22) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Nov 2, 2010: ‘Homogeneous,’ ‘unique’ myths stunt discourse in Japan Studies

French Embassy reports French father of abducted child in Japan commits suicide

The latest in a series of tragedies through child abductions by Japanese because Japan’s laws and Family Court do not prevent them (more at crnjapan.net): The tragedy is clearly not only that of children being deprived of a parent. On November 19, a Left-Behind Parent deprived himself of his life. As reports the French Embassy in French and Japanese on November 24. English translation first, then official texts from the Embassy. We’ve had government after government denouncing this practice, GOJ, as the French Embassy puts it so eruditely below. How much longer must it go on?

French Embassy: Our compatriot Arnaud Simon killed himself Friday, November 19. The French teacher in Tokyo, he was 35 years old and lived in Japan since 2006.

Separated from his wife since last March, he was the father of a boy of 20 months he had sought unsuccessfully to gain custody. Our community is in mourning and I present on behalf of all our condolences to his family and loved ones.

Nobody can speak with certainty about the reasons why a man so young to commit an act so terrible. Mr. Simon, however, had recently expressed to the consular section of our embassy in Tokyo of its difficulties to meet his son and it is very likely that the separation from her child was a determining factor. This reminds us all if need be suffering fathers of the 32 French and two hundred other cases identified by consular authorities as being deprived of because of their parental rights.

It is clear that our words and deeds are little face a dramatic situation, but I wanted to remind the determined action of the French authorities and the Embassy in connection with its German partners, American, Australian, Belgian, British, Canadian, Colombian, Spanish, Hungarian, Italian and New Zealand calling on Japan to ratify the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and expedite a review of individual records to find appropriate solutions where they are possible, depending on circumstances.

It is the interests of children, that nobody has the right to deprive one of their parents. It is also to take into account the suffering of the fathers we have today is a tragic event.

Japan businesses cry foul over UK visa regime, threaten pullout. Fancy that happening to the GOJ.

Here’s another entry for the “shoe on the other foot” department — how Japan businesses squeal “foul!” when they face visa restrictions on their Japanese hires within Britain, and threaten sanctions and pullouts. Imagine if a foreign government were to try to do that to Japan for its visa programs, which are technically designed to give backdoor preferential treatment to unskilled workers? I’m pretty sure people would comment that the GOJ has the right to regulate its borders as it sees fit. Never mind comity, I guess.

Japan Times: “The JCCI has communicated to U.K. ministers and officials in September its strong concerns about the introduction of further limits on non-EU immigration and the possible impact on the existing operations and future investment of Japanese companies in the U.K.,” said Patrick Macartney, manager at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry…

Katsuji Jibiki, a human-resources manager at Mitsubishi Electric Europe, revealed at a recent business seminar that his firm has been denied work permits to recruit about 30 engineers from outside the European Union.

He said, “These days we have big difficulties with work permits. Every year the government changes the policy and it is a big headache for us.”

Jibiki added that if the problems persist “there is a possibility of transferring our regional headquarters from the U.K. to continental Europe. We are thinking about such contingency plans.”

ELT News and Daily Yomiuri columnist Mike Guest misrepresents not only the record, but also his own academic credentials

Mike Guest, a columnist for the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, had a mean-spirited spoof interview on the ELT News website of a person named “Orudo Debiru”, a “naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from the U.S. His main claim to fame is his activism for human rights, especially the rights of non-Japanese in Japan” — and whose first choice for Japanese name after naturalization was “Martin Luther King”. (Mr Guest asserts that any associations with the author of this blog are our fault, “unwarranted connections”.) Interestingly enough, after misrepresenting in print both my opinions (there are no quotes, only apparent paraphrases) and the people who contribute to this blog, we gave him the same scrutiny. That’s how we found out that he also misrepresents his own academic credentials (which he even claimed were “similar to mine”) by publicly stating in lecture and in print that he graduated from a university he did not graduate from. Yet Mr Guest doesn’t quite seem to understand the gravity of this issue, as his antagonism, dismissiveness, defensiveness, blame-shifting, and deception continue unabated online. This pattern of misrepresenting the record is most unbecoming behavior for a columnist who deals with educational issues in trusted professional forums.

Charity Concert in Sapporo: “The Happy Prince”

Tom Goetz: November 20, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, your attention please.

Please mark December 9, 2010 6:30 pm on your calendars for a Christmas Charity Concert at the Sapporo Baptist Church.

Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” will be featured in a show that features music, narration, and dance. Doors open at 6. Show starts at 6:30. Tickets are 2,000. Proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Project Santa Sapporo.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation reaches out to families with children who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. And, as the name says, the child’s wish is granted. For many, it is a trip to the Tokyo Disneyland, but some from warmer climes want to make a snowman here in Hokkaido. And, sadly, a Make-A-Wish trip is often a child’s last best memory. So, please help make dreams come true for kids whose time is short and who could really use come cheer.

My college mentor, Chalmers Johnson, dies at 79

James Fallows: I have just heard that Chalmers Johnson died a few hours ago, at age 79, at his home near San Diego. He had had a variety of health problems for a long time.

Johnson — “Chal” — was a penetrating, original, and influential scholar, plus a very gifted literary and conversational stylist. When I first went to Japan nearly 25 years ago, his MITI and the Japanese Miracle was already part of the canon for understanding Asian economic development. Before that, he had made his name as a China scholar; after that, he became more widely known with his books like Blowback, about the perverse effects and strategic unsustainability of America’s global military commitments. Throughout those years he was a mentor to generations of students at the UC campuses at Berkeley and San Diego…

For Educators in Japan: National EFL Job Satisfaction Survey

Forwarding: Dear colleagues: My name is Douglas Meyer, and I have been an EFL teacher in Japan for about 14 years now. Recently, I have become more and more interested in the wide-ranging working conditions at various schools in Japan, and what other teachers thought about their job. I did some looking, and found that there is very little information on this topic.

So, as a personal research project, I started to work last fall on two surveys which aim to paint a picture of the language teacher, his or her thoughts, opinions, and ideas on a number of language-related issues that we all face. If you have 5-10 minutes, I would greatly appreciate your input via the on-line survey links below. It is 100% anonymous, and I will make the results available to anyone upon request.

On-line survey for college and university language teachers:

On-line survey for elementary, middle, and high school language teachers:

Times Higher Education on MEXT: “Japan’s entrenched ideas hinder the push to attract more foreign students and staff”

THE: Frequently used as an empty slogan in the expansive years of Japan’s economic growth, internationalisation has once more been chosen as a watchword by the government – this time as the foundation for attempts to revive the country’s moribund education system.

With only two of its institutions appearing in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2010-11, Japan’s standing has been adversely affected by a dearth of international students and scholars.

In an attempt to address the issue, the Ministry of Education last year introduced the “Global 30” project, which has set a target for more than 130 undergraduate and graduate courses to be conducted entirely in English by April 2013.

But in the wake of cuts to public spending, the ambitious plan to involve 30 colleges has been whittled down to 13 institutions seen as future “global education hubs”.

As part of the same initiative, Japan has also set a target to increase the number of international students in the country to 300,000 by 2020 from the current figure of 130,000…

The Independent (UK) on Japan’s rising nationalism as Japan slips in world rankings

Independent: Most Tokyo districts will fortunately never experience Makoto Sakurai and his noisy flag-waving mob. But the city’s normally quiet Moto-Azabu area is home to the Chinese embassy and there are few countries Sakurai hates more than China. His group’s favourite insult – directed at the embassy via megaphone – is shina-jin roughly equivalent to “chink”.

“The Chinese are making fools of us,” said Sakurai, a baby-faced 30-something and the unlikely ringleader of what one academic calls: “Japan’s fiercest and most dangerous hate group today.” Like many nationalists, he is infuriated by what he sees as Chinese expansionism.

“If Japan had any guts, it would stand up to them,” he said.

Two decades ago, Japan was the rising Asian upstart that was barging its way on to the world’s front pages. “We are virtually at the mercy of the Japanese,” The LA Times famously blared in 1989, after a slew of high-profile takeovers by Japanese companies. Now it’s faltering Japan’s turn to tremble at the power of foreign capital; Chinese capital.

Japan’s conservative media have been sounding alarm bells all year as the rumblings from China’s economic juggernaut grow louder. In a 24-page feature in March, the right-wing Sapio magazine warned that China is set to “buy up Japan”, noting how Chinese conglomerates are gobbling up real estate and forests and even eyeing uninhabited islands around Japan’s coast. Another magazine ran a front-page story titled “Your next boss could be Chinese”.

Japan’s insecurity at its reduced status has been hammered home this week in a dispute with another neighbour. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s decision to visit one of four islands off northern Japan, seized by Moscow after the Second World War, was called “regrettable” by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Sakurai’s followers were more blunt – and bitter. “Russia and China are both taking advantage of Japan’s weakness,” said one. “China has a dagger pointed at Japan’s heart – what are we going to do about it?”

The disputes could not have come at a worse time…

CBC interview on Japan’s shrinking population and prospects for immigration

CBC Radio One, Nov 16, 2010 – Pt 2: Japan’s Population Crash

The population of Japan is shrinking. Other countries have tackled that problem by embracing immigration. But Japan is an unusually homogenous — some say xenophobic — country. And the idea of a multi-cultural solution is ruffling some feathers.

Japan Population Crash – Sakanaka Hidenori

The population of Japan is officially shrinking. In 2005 — the latest year for which data is available — deaths outnumbered births by 10,000 people. At that rate, Japan’s population will drop by more than 15 per cent over the next 40 years. On top of that, Japan’s population is an aging one … facing fears of labour shortages and economic stagnation in the world’s third-largest economy.

Other countries have responded to declining population pressures by increasing immigration. But Japan is an unusually homogenous nation. And the idea of multi-culturalism ruffles a lot of feathers.

Sakanaka Hidenori spent 35 years urging his country to bring in more immigrants. He is the former Director of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau. And in 2005 he wrote, Immigration Battle Diary, a book that details his own experiences and lays out a manifesto for the future of Japanese immigration policy. Sakanaka Hidenori is now the Executive Director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute. He joined us from Tokyo this morning, as part of our project, Shift. Our producer, Chris Wodskou provided the translation.

Japan Population Crash – Ito Peng

Arudou Debito was born in the United States. He’s a naturalized citizen of Japan. He married a Japanese woman, and they had two daughters. But he’s not very optimistic when it comes to increasing immigration to Japan. We aired his story to illustrate why.

For more on how Japan has reached this demographic reckoning… And what the rest of the world should take from it, we were joined by Ito Peng. She’s the Associate Dean of Interdisciplinary and International Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Eurobiz Magazine’s Tony McNicol on the future abolition of the “Gaijin Tax” Re-Entry Permits

Eurobiz Magazine a couple of months ago ran an article talking inter alia about something I’ve called the “Gaijin Tax” for more than a decade now — the Re-Entry Permit system. Thought of by some as a way of punishing the Zainichi Koreans etc. for staying behind in Japan (given all the incentives for them to leave after being stripped of colonial Japanese citizenship, moreover registered as foreigners in the late 1940’s), the Re-Entry Permit actually is a tax with a profit motive — even the lecturer cited by Tony McNicol below states this openly about its proposed abolition:

Without re-entry permit income, currently ¥6,000 for multiple re-entry, the changes are likely to lighten the government’s coffers. “This is a huge reduction in our revenue,” said Matsuno. “The Ministry of Finance is angry.”

What a piece of work our government can be. Charging for visas for foreigners and passports for nationals is one thing (and I just paid 16,000 yen for a new ten-year Japanese passport; ouch). But charging foreigners for their addiction to going “home” (or for even daring to leave Japan) with their visa held hostage, well, that’s just as I’ve suspected all along — a mean-spirited means to sponge off the NJ population. Good riddance to it.

Japan Times Amy Savoie on int’l child abductions and the manufacturing of consent for it within Japan

Thoughtful letter to the editor in the Japan Times on the International Child Abductions Issue. Excerpting the most interesting part for me — the rhetoric the media uses to keep the public unconsciously supporting the “home team” as their apparent members keep kidnapping kids to Japan with impunity:

Amy Savoie: The government tries to convey that it is justifiable for Japanese parents to “take kids home to Japan” (tsure-kaeri or tsurete-kikoku), but when a foreign parent takes the children to another country (that parent’s home country), the Japanese call it kidnapping (tsure-sari) or abduction (rachi). The Japanese government and media behave duplicitously every time they pretend these unilateral relocations (relocating without permission from the other parent) are not the same thing.

Instead of describing both situations only as tsure-sari (or only as tsure-kaeri), the Japanese government cleverly (and intentionally) uses different sets of words that convey two totally different meanings depending on who the kidnapper is…

Japan Times: Leaked documents reveal Tokyo Police spies on Muslim residents, tries to make snitches of them

In probably one of the most important developments of the year (thanks again to the Japan Times Community Page, consistently offering one great expose after another), we have actual substantiation of the Tokyo Police extending their racial profiling techniques to target Muslim residents of Japan. Not only are they spying on them and keeping detailed files, they are trying to turn them against one another as if they’re all in cahoots to foment terrorism.

We all suspected as such (the very day I naturalized, I got a personal visit from Japan’s Secret Police asking me to inform on any Chinese overstayers I might happen to know; they said they read Debito.org — perhaps as assiduously as some of my Internet stalkers). Now we have proof of it. Shame, shame on a police force that has this much unchecked power. Do I smell a return to Kenpeitai tactics?