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.

Kyodo: Japan celebrates its South American Japanese diaspora. Praising them for doing what it complains NJ immigrants to Japan do. (Like take Nippon Foundation money to sterilize Peruvian indigenous peoples?)

Kyodo: Princess Mako paid a visit to Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Thursday in Lima during her trip to mark the 120th anniversary of the start of Japanese immigration to the South American country. “I feel Japanese Peruvians are treated very well in Peru. I’m grateful that Peru accepted Japanese immigrants,” the 27-year-old princess, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino, said during the meeting at the president’s office.

Vizcarra said he is glad that Japanese Peruvians are actively involved in various fields. The president also showed his gratitude to Japan’s contribution to Peru in the areas of technological and economic cooperation and archaeology. [Princess Mako] later met at a hotel in Lima with representatives of Japanese people living in Peru and Japanese volunteers dispatched by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, thanking them for their efforts in the country. On Wednesday, she attended a ceremony marking the immigration anniversary and met with Peruvians of Japanese descent. She is scheduled to travel to Bolivia on Monday to mark the 120th anniversary of the start of Japanese immigration to that country.

COMMENT FROM DEBITO.ORG READER AIS: “Team Japan celebrates its emigrants for their contributions (i.e. being Japanese) – essentially praising them for doing what it complains its immigrants do.”
COMMENT FROM DEBITO.ORG READER JDG: “Notice they don’t talk about LDP members funding Peruvian government forced sterilization of ethnic minorities. That’s some Japanese contribution to Peruvian society!”

BBC in 2002: More than 200,000 people in rural Peru were pressured into being sterilised by the government of former President Alberto Fujimori, an official report has revealed. The Health Minister, Fernando Carbone, said the government gave misleading information, offered food incentives and threatened to fine men and women if they had more children.

Poor indigenous people in rural areas were the main targets of the compulsive family planning programme until 2000, when Mr Fujimori left for Japan amid mounting corruption allegations against him. Mr Carbone said there was evidence that Mr Fujimori and a number of high-ranking ministers could be held responsible for “incorrect procedures” and “human rights violations”.

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Now, before anyone writes in and says, “Don’t be racist.  Alberto Fujimori didn’t do this BECAUSE he is Japanese.  He just happened to be of Japanese descent. (And self-claimed citizenship.)  While doing monstrous things.

However, remember that Fujimori WAS being funded by the right-wing Nippon Foundation (founded by war criminal Sasakawa Ryouichi), especially when it was being headed by self-proclaimed South African Apartheid supporter (and apparently personal friend of Fujimori’s) Sono Ayako.  

Meaning Fujimori, with the help of Japanese eugenicists, was cleansing Peru’s countryside of Peruvian indigenous peoples without proper medical procedure or oversight.

We’ve covered Sono Ayako’s ideological hijinks and Alberto Fujimori’s international criminal activity (which is why he is in prison now) on Debito.org before.  What’s missing from this celebration of Japanese history in South America, as JDG notes, is Japan’s hand in overseas modern human rights atrocities.

Nikkei Asian Review: “In rural Japan, immigrants spark a rebirth”. An optimistic antidote to the regular media Gaijin Bashing

Nikkei: In roughly three decades, the number of foreign residents in Japan has grown to 2.47 million, from just 980,000 in 1989. So while this period will go down in history as the time the country’s population went into decline, it has also brought an unprecedented influx of newcomers from abroad. Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian: The students at Keiwa Elementary School in the southwestern prefecture of Mie speak nine different languages at home. But at school they use Japanese…

Foreign nationals tend to gravitate to places where their children are likely to receive better education. Mie — home to Keiwa Elementary — is a testament to this. The prefecture is gaining a reputation for supporting students born to non-Japanese parents. “Mieko san no Nihongo,” a textbook for teaching classroom Japanese developed by the Mie International Exchange Foundation, has proved useful in this regard and is now used in elementary and junior high schools nationwide.

According to the Ministry of Education, the number of students requiring additional instruction in the Japanese language at public elementary and junior high schools topped 30,000 for the first time in the year ended March 2017. The central government, too, is looking to bring more foreign workers into the country. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month said his government will design a reform plan for this purpose by the summer. Yet Abe is not exactly jumping in with both feet — the policy will not encourage permanent settlement, with a cap to be placed on the maximum stay and restrictions on bringing family members along. Even so, Japan is far more diverse than it was in 1950, when there were only 600,000 residents from overseas. From large cities to tiny villages, Japanese grow ever more accustomed to mingling with their fellow global citizens. And the newcomers are breathing life into communities that looked destined to fade.

COMMENT: As an antidote to the program talked about last blog entry, where hunting NJ for public sport and amusement became yet another TV show, here’s a relatively rare article showing the good that NJ do for Japanese society:  revitalizing communities that are dying, as they age and endure an exodus of their young to more prosperous cities.  The article is a bit too optimistic to be realistic (given that all this progress could be undone with a simple mass cancellation of visas and government repatriation bribes; the former has happened multiple times in Japan’s history), but I’d rather have the article than not.  Have a look and tell us what you think.

Mainichi on emerging GOJ policies towards refugees & immigration, still not allowing them to stay in Japan: “tourists yes, refugees & immigrants no”

Debito.org hasn’t talked as much as other topics about the Government of Japan (GOJ)’s attitude towards refugees (in that, the acceptance of refugees is one measure of international contributions by the club of rich, developed countries and UN treaty signatories). But it is safe to say that the GOJ has not been cooperative, accepting fewer people in total over the past sixty years than some countries do in a single year — as the United Nations is aware. So now the Abe Administration is trying a different tack: Accepting refugees as temporary students, and then sending them “home” someday. Debito.org Reader JK parses that to bits by citing articles below.

Mainichi: “The idea is that by accepting refugees as students, Japan could aid in training personnel for the later reconstruction of Syria.” …and… “The plan represents the government’s efforts to think of a way to contribute to solving the Syria issue, without influencing the current refugee authorization system.”

JK: Translation: GOJ doesn’t want to look bad at the UN in front of the other nations who are actually doing something to help refugees, so what to do?…Ah! Accept refugees as students to make it look like Japan is making a difference — Japan trains the Syrians so that one day they can go ‘home’ and fix everything up, and as students, they’re not in a position to stay for good as would be the case if they were accepted as refugees. It’s a win-win!

Mainichi: “As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise (the) birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants,” Abe told a news conference, according to the official translation of his comments.

JK: Translation: Accepting immigrants is the last thing we should do.

Anti-Korean Upper House candidate Suzuki Nobuyuki wants Japan closed to immigrants and rearmed with nukes (CORRECTED)

Suzuki Nobuyuki, a candiate for Tokyo in the Upper House for the far-right Restoration Party Shinpuu (New Winds, not to be (easily) confused with Ishihara’s Restoration party), calls for the end of relations with Korea, and an end to immigration (imin). Oh, and he also wants Japan to rearm itself with nuclear weapons (kakubusou) — now that’s even fodder for Japan’s increasingly isolationist future.

Here’s his newspaper blurb (click on image to expand in your browser): It has the typical right-wing tropes about a strong country with sufficient autonomy to defend itself from Chinese invasion, defending Japan’s honor by weeding out “masochistic” (jigyaku) history from education and reestablishing the family unit along traditional lines (no doubt meaning bringing back the Ie Seido), returning Japan to its status as the “world’s safest country” by bringing back the “world’s safest energy source,” nuclear power, and kicking out immigrants so they don’t take jobs away from Japanese (even though NJ were brought in as official policy during Japan’s labor shortage to do the dirty jobs Japanese don’t want in the 3K sector; oh, never mind — facts don’t matter to these people). Nasty ideology seeing the light of day these days in Japan. Are there still people not becoming alarmed yet? The stuff coming out of the mainstream involving constitutional revisions is even scarier.

2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan on sale Dec 2012, updated

I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN goes on sale in December 2012.

This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012. Get ready to get yourself a new copy!

(Oh, and my Japan Times JBC column has been postponed a week due to a major scoop this week that will fill the Community Page…)

Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it

Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed. Only a revolution can save it. What kind of revolution? Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”

That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.

“Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” […] No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth. Sakanaka claims to have found one. Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” […] It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 54 Aug 7, 2012: “For nikkei immigrants in Japan, it doesn’t have to be a bug’s life”

With apologies to Franz Kafka: As Beto awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his futon into a gigantic cockroach.

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. In his native land down south, he had been a person — if at times underprivileged due to his nikkei status. So, years ago, he “repatriated” to Japan, attracted by promises of better milk and honey. Yet now he felt even more marginalized by the locals here, who called themselves “people” yet treated him at times like he was an insect.

Beto scurried off to work, where people shied away and refused to sit by him in the train cars. But as the end of the line approached, the coach filled up with fellow cockroaches, and people stopped paying attention.

The people at his factory also took no notice of his metamorphosis. His supervisors were used to dealing with cockroaches. Bugs seemed an inevitable part of lower-rent circumstances. As in the train, it seemed some people had learned to “co-exist” with them in close quarters.

In public, however, reactions were different. Alone, Beto was often seen as something exotic, maybe even collectable if there was a curious person flitting about who was interested in “speaking bug.” But if seen as part of a swarm, people’s knee-jerk reactions were to take steps against them. Bugs might overrun the place, making it feel less the realm of the masters, more of the roaches…

Asia Pacific Bulletin: “Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival”

Here’s some evidence of how the debate regarding Japan’s need for immigration is starting to percolate through USG policy circles — this time the Asia Pacific Bulletin. It’s another well-intentioned brief article for busy policymakers, but with a couple of mistakes: 1) “since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend” is not quite right since it was on a downward trend before 3/11 too (in fact, when I was debunking the “Flyjin” Myth in my Japan Times column I demonstrated how the decreasing trend in NJ numbers was largely unaffected by the multiple disasters); 2) the “stagnant policy discussion at the national level” has in fact been restarted and quite actively discussed starting from May onwards (perhaps after Mr. Menju sent the article to press, but the APB website notes their turnaround on articles is mere weeks), as has been discussed here in detail on Debito.org. But Mr. Menju does get some important things very, very right — as in the other J media-manufactured myth of NJ crime and social disruption (especially the NPA’s involvement in cooking the numbers), how this dynamic forestalls a healthy discussion on immigration policy, and Japan’s overall need for immigration despite all the years of active ignoring of local governments’ advice on tolerance and acceptance. Decent stuff, and worth a read.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Tangent: Newsweek: Immigrants do not increase crime

As a Sunday tangent, here’s a Newsweek article making an argument that immigrants do not increase crime rates. It’s talking about the US example, but FYI. But it’s more food for thought when the NPA keeps erroneously telling us that NJ crime is on the rise.

Excerpt: So, yes, there are pretty compelling data to support the argument that immigrants as such—even presumably “illegal” immigrants—do not make cities more dangerous to live in. But what mechanism about such immigration makes cities safer? Robert J. Sampson, head of the sociology department at Harvard, has suggested that, among other things, immigrants move into neighborhoods abandoned by locals and help prevent them from turning into urban wastelands. They often have tighter family structures and mutual support networks, all of which actually serve to stabilize urban environments. As Sampson told me back in 2007, “If you want to be safe, move to an immigrant city.”

What other variables may be at work driving crime down? The ones most often cited are rising levels of incarceration, changes in drug markets, and the aging of the overall population. The authors ofFreakonomicsargue that the big drop in violent crime during the 1990s was a direct result of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973 and reduced by millions the pool of unwanted children who might have grown up to be criminals a generation later. Still, Wadsworth’s research and the recent FBI data reinforce the judgment that the vast majority of immigrants make our cities safer, especially when police know how to work with them, not against them. To blame all immigrants for the crimes committed by a few, and give the cops the job of chasing them for immigration offenses instead of focusing resources on catching the real bad guys, is simply nuts.

But that message just isn’t getting through. Polls continue to show that the vast majority of Americans think immigrants cause crime…

Robert Dujarric in Japan Times: Immigrants can buoy Japan as its regional power gives way to China

Excerpt: It is not possible to spend more than a few minutes with a Japanese diplomat or scholar without hearing the “C,” namely China. Most of them are convinced that the People’s Republic is expanding its global influence while Japan’s is shrinking. The entire world, and most worryingly Asia, which used to look toward Japan when Harvard scholar Ezra Vogel crowned it “No. 1” now sees China not only as the country of the future but already as today’s only Asian giant…

There is one area, however, where Japan could engage in a strategy that would simultaneously help its economy and give it an edge over China. This is immigration. Japan is unique among economies that are highly developed and in demographic decline in having so few immigrants. In fact, even European states that are in much better demographic condition also have large numbers of foreigners and recently naturalized citizens in their labor force.

The domestic economic advantages of a more open immigration policy are well documented. What is less understood is how it can be used as a foreign policy instrument. If Japan were home to several million guest workers, the country would become the lifeline of tens of millions of individuals back in their homeland who would benefit from the remittances of their relatives in the archipelago. Its economic role in the lives of some of these countries would become second to none. Many individuals would start to study Japanese, in the hope of one day working in the country…

COMMENT: If Japan offers the promise of domestic work, and if “Many individuals would start to study Japanese, in the hope of one day working in the country.”, then it had better make good on the promise of offering equal opportunity for advancement and assimilation regardless of background, by enacting laws that protect against discrimination. We were made a similar promise under the purported “kokusaika” of the Bubble Era. That’s why many of our generation came to Japan in the first place, and decades later feel betrayed by the perpetual second-class status.

Singapore Straits Times: Lee Kwan Yew advises Japan not to accept immigrants who don’t look Japanese

Nothing breeds arrogance like success. It must be nice to have created a rich city-state in your image, so you think you can claim enough legitimacy to bald-facedly tell other countries to do as you say, not as you do. We have elder statesman Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore offering his opinions earlier this week to the GOJ about how to deal with immigration — where he advocates a “homogeneous Japan” solution that chooses people based upon their thoroughbredness:

Lee: “You have the choice to keep Japan homogeneous and shrinking and stagnant economically, or you accept immigrants and grow,” he told the audience… He also advised the Japanese to chose immigrants who can be assimilated more easily.

“If I were Japanese, I would not want to go beyond people who look like Japanese. I will (also) choose people from the high end, so that the children will also be of a higher calibre.”

COMMENT: I wonder if Lee believes his fellow Chinese fall into the category of being “from the high end”? Many of his fellow “homogeneous Japan” proponents in Japan would not think so.

Anyway, on behalf of all of us non-thoroughbred Japanese citizens: nuts to you Lee Kwan Yew.

Sunday Tangent: Racial profiling of immigrants becomes legal in Arizona. However, controversy ensues.

I have been hearing word from several sources about the new draconian laws being enacted in Arizona to catch illegal migrant workers, including legally-sanctioned racial profiling, and stopping people on the street for ID checks. Many have said that it seems Arizona has taken a page out of the GOJ’s handbook for dealing with NJ in Japan. The difference, however, is that 1) the US dragnet is (necessarily) a coarser mesh (as Japanese authorities have a wider view of who doesn’t “look Japanese”, since anyone can “look American” and more sophistication is needed over there), and 2) it’s caused a level of controversy that has never happened in Japan (imagine street protests to this degree, even a J prime minister denouncing it?).

I believe it’s only a matter of time (and it will take some time) before the Arizona authorities stop the wrong person on racial grounds, other American laws kick in to protect people against racial discrimination, and American courts rule this Arizona law unconstitutional. Wait and see.

That just ain’t gonna happen in Japan for obvious reasons: We ain’t got no legal sanctions against racial discrimination, let alone this degree of people caring for the human rights of foreigners.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column April 6, 2010 prints my speech to UN Rep Bustamante on “blind spot” re Japan immigrants

CONCLUSION

In light of all the above, the Japanese government’s stance towards the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is easily summarized: The Ainu, Ryukyuans and burakumin are citizens, therefore they don’t fall under the CERD because they are protected by the Japanese Constitution. However, the zainichis and newcomers are not citizens, therefore they don’t get protection from the CERD either. Thus, our government effectively argues, the CERD does not cover anyone in Japan.

Well, what about me? Or our children? Are there really no ethnic minorities with Japanese citizenship in Japan?

In conclusion, I would like to thank the U.N. for investigating our cases. On March 16, the CERD Committee issued some very welcome recommendations in its review. However, may I point out that the U.N. still made a glaring oversight.

During the committee’s questioning of Japan last Feb. 24 and 25, very little mention was made of the CERD’s “unenforcement” in Japan’s judiciary and criminal code. Furthermore, almost no mention was made of “Japanese only” signs, the most indefensible violations of the CERD.

Both Japan and the U.N. have a blind spot in how they perceive Japan’s minorities. Newcomers are never couched as residents of or immigrants to Japan, but rather as “foreign migrants.” The unconscious assumption seems to be that 1) foreign migrants have a temporary status in Japan, and 2) Japan has few ethnically diverse Japanese citizens.

Time for an update. Look at me. I am a Japanese. The government put me through a very rigorous and arbitrary test for naturalization, and I passed it. People like me are part of Japan’s future. When the U.N. makes their recommendations, please have them reflect how Japan must face up to its multicultural society. Please recognize us newcomers as a permanent part of the debate.

The Japanese government will not. It says little positive about us, and allows very nasty things to be said by our politicians, policymakers and police. It’s about time we all recognized the good that newcomers are doing for our home, Japan. Please help us.

Post #1500!: Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Dec 1 2009 on making Japan more attractive to immigrants (with links to sources)

Japan Times: We are about to start a new decade. This past one has been pretty rotten for NJ residents. Recall the campaigns: Kicked off by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s “Sankokujin Speech” in 2000, where he called upon the Self-Defense Forces to round up foreigners in the event of a natural disaster, we have had periodic public panics (al-Qaida, SARS, H1N1, the G8 Summits and the World Cup), politicians, police and media bashing foreigners as criminals and terrorists, the reinstitution of fingerprinting, and increased NJ tracking through hotels, workplaces and RFID (radio-frequency identification) “gaijin cards”. In other words, the 2000s saw the public image of NJ converted from “misunderstood outsider” to “social destabilizer”; government surveys even showed that an increasing majority of Japanese think NJ deserve fewer human rights!

Let’s change course. If Hatoyama is as serious as he says he is about putting legislation back in the hands of elected officials, it’s high time to countermand the elite bureaucratic xenophobes that pass for policymakers in Japan. Grant some concessions to non-citizens to make immigration to Japan more attractive.

Otherwise, potential immigrants will just go someplace else. Japan, which will soon drop to third place in the ranking of world economies, will be all the poorer for it.

“Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants” featured in Legal Scriveners magazine

Just heard from Akira today. Our book (”our” meaning friend Akira Higuchi and myself) HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMER, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (Akashi Shoten Inc.) has just been featured (well, listed, anyway) in this month’s “Nihon Gyousei”, a national magazine for legal scriveners.

Great news. The book has really come into its own. If you don’t have a copy, you really oughta consider getting one. It deals with things you need to know to make a better life in Japan. Debito.org does its best, but the Handbook is one-stop shopping. And if you want to support Debito.org’s activities in some financial way, consider purchasing.

More on what’s in Handbook and how to get a copy here.

Japan Times: “Immigrants” magazine & advocates’ moves to establish J immigration policy

Japan Times: “Japan’s immigration policy has always been a patchwork. We need to have proper laws and regulations in place when accepting people from abroad,” Susumu Ishihara, 57, president of the Japan Immigrant Information Agency, said during a recent interview with The Japan Times.

Motivated by a sense of urgency, Ishihara recently spent ¥5 million of his own money to launch a quarterly Japanese-language magazine, called Immigrants, focusing on immigration issues. The goal is to provide more information on foreigners living here to Japanese people to bridge the gap between the two sides.

The first issue of the quarterly, circulation 10,000, included messages from ambassadors of South American countries as well as interviews with immigration policyexperts, including Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Taro Kono, and Shigehiko Shiramizu, a professor of global media studies at Komazawa University…

TIME Mag, Asahi, NY Times: “Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, but go home”

TIME: If Nikkei Brazilians, Peruvians and others who have lost their jobs go home, what will Japan do? Last week, Prime Minister Taro Aso unveiled a long-term growth strategy to create millions of jobs and add $1.2 trillion to GDP by 2020. But the discussion of immigration reform is notoriously absent in Japan, and reaching a sensible policy for foreign workers has hardly got under way. Encouraging those foreigners who would actually like to stay in Japan to leave seems a funny place to start.

Asahi: SAO PAULO–Many Brazilians of Japanese ancestry returning here from recession-struck Japan are struggling to find work, according to Grupo Nikkei, an NGO set up to support the job-seekers… Some returnees who performed unskilled labor in Japan have found it difficult to return to old jobs that require specific expertise, according to Leda Shimabukuro, 57, who heads the group. Some youths also lack Portuguese literacy skills, Shimabukuro said.

NY Times: So Japan has been keen to help foreign workers go home, thus easing pressure on domestic labor markets and getting thousands off unemployment rolls.

“Japan’s economy has hit a rainstorm. There won’t be good employment opportunities for a while, so that’s why we’re suggesting that the Nikkei Brazilians go home,” said Jiro Kawasaki, a former health minister and senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“Naturally, we don’t want those same people back in Japan after a couple of months,” Mr. Kawasaki said, who led the ruling party task force that devised the repatriation plan, part of a wider emergency strategy to combat rising unemployment in Japan…

Mr. Kawasaki said the economic slump was a good opportunity to overhaul Japan’s immigration policy as a whole. “We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan. We should make sure that even the three-K jobs are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese,” he said. “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.” He said the United States had been “a failure on the immigration front,” and cited extreme income inequalities between rich Americans and poor immigrants.

Reuters: Keidanren business lobby calls for more immigrants

TOKYO, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Japan’s most powerful business lobby will change its long-held policy and call on the nation to accept more immigrants, Mainichi newspaper reported on Monday, as the world’s fastest ageing nation faces serious labour shortages.

The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), whose policy on immigration to date has been to limit foreign labourers to fixed contracts, will announce the change on Tuesday, the Mainichi newspaper said.

Further comment and historical record behind this decision in this blog entry…

Japan Today: Gov’t looks to immigrants as population shrinks

According to the AFP and Japan Today: “Japan’s ruling party is considering plans to encourage foreign workers to stay in the country long-term, a daily reported Monday after the birth rate fell for the 27th successive year. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has proposed setting up an “immigration agency” to help foreign workers—including providing language lessons, the Nikkei economic daily said without naming sources. The party also intends to reform current “training” programs for foreign workers, which have been criticized for giving employers an excuse for paying unfairly low wages, the paper said.”

“HANDBOOK for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants”: info site on how to buy (Paypal OK)

Hi Blog. Just put up a new website on Debito.org with information on how you can buy our new book, HANDBOOK for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants, within Japan or internationally. Paypal possible. Please see: https://www.debito.org/handbook.html More on the book and upcoming national book tour at https://www.debito.org/?page_id=582 Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PRESS RELEASE for Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants

For the record… released March 4, 2008: ////////////////// PRESS RELEASE ////////////////// NEW BOOK “HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN” ON SALE FROM MARCH 15, 2008 AUTHOR ARUDOU DEBITO’S NATIONWIDE BOOK TOUR MARCH 15 TO APRIL 1 ////////////// FREELY FORWARDABLE ////////////// Akashi Shoten Inc, Japan’s biggest human rights publisher, will sell “HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, …

Reuters: Study says Immigrants commit less crime (in California)

Immigrants are far less likely than the average U.S.-born citizen to commit crime in California, the most populous state in the United States, according to a report issued late on Monday.

People born outside the United States make up about 35 percent of California’s adult population but account for about 17 percent of the adult prison population, the report by the Public Policy Institute of California showed.

Advance reviews for forthcoming HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS, by Akira Higuchi and Arudou Debito

Advance word about the forthcoming HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN (Akashi Shoten, on sale March 15, 2008). Book cover, advance review, book tour schedule, and link to contents of the book on this blog entry.

Wash Post on Brazilian Immigrants & Education in Japan

Warm-fuzzy article from the Washington Post: “Hamamatsu was a natural magnet for the newcomers because its many factories offered entry-level employment and required virtually no language skills. Officials here like to brag that their community became the most “international” of Japan’s cities. About 30,000 of its residents, or 4 percent, are foreign-born. That’s almost twice the proportion of foreign-born residents in Japan as a whole. (About 13 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born.) Most newcomers are from Brazil and Peru. They are offspring of Japanese who immigrated to South America in the early 1900s to work in coffee fields and take other jobs…”

JTs on rackets for immigrant workers, runaway Trainees

“A total of 9,607 foreigners, mostly Asians, ran away from job training sites in Japan between 2002 and 2006 in an apparent attempt to look for better working conditions elsewhere, according to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau… The tatemae (given reason) of the Trainee Worker program run by JITCO is to bring workers from developing countries to Japan to learn Japanese techniques that they can later put to use back home. The honne (real reason) of the program is to legally let small and medium Japanese companies import cheap labor. According to a recent series of articles in the Asahi Shimbun, the Japanese public for the most part still buys the tatemae explanation, even though the media has been reporting for years that many foreign trainees come to Japan for the express purpose of making money.” More horror stories to add to the stew…

REPORT: Immigrant children and Japan’s Hair Police

During one of my recent speech tours, I was told by a Nikkei Brazilian student (I will call her Maria) that her sister (call her Nicola) had been victimized by a Japanese high school’s rules. According to Maria, Nicola had been forced by her school to dye her hair weekly because it was not as dark as her peers’. Maria said she herself escaped the Hair Police (she looks more phenotypically “Japanese” than her sister), but Nicola was told to darken and even straighten hers. Although graduated from the high school, Nicola still has not only mental trauma from the ordeal, but also damaged hair which to this day has not recovered. An example of how Japan’s cookie-cutter educational rules are doing a disservice to Japan’s imminent internationalization…

J Times Dec 7 06: UNHCR “Japan cannot stop immigration”, Kyodo same day: Lawsuit argues “unreasonable to prohibit dual-income immigrant families” (updated)

Japan Times reports UNHCR’s Antonio Guterres visit to Japan, where he says that as more people migrate worldwide, Japan will not be able to stop immigration. He added his concern with how people are treated once they get here. Kyodo News article same day gives good example, with a man from Myanmar facing deportation after being caught working full time as a dependent on his wife’s visa filed a lawsuit Wednesday
seeking to stay. He argues it is unreasonable to prohibit immigrant families from having a dual income.

Debito.org post #3000: SNA Visible Minorities 38: Visible Minorities: “Queen Elizabeth, Monarchies, and Progressivism” (Sept 19, 2022), on whether royals should still be allowed to exist

SNA: On the death of Queen Elizabeth II, let’s talk about monarchies. Why do they still exist, and should they still be allowed to exist?

Monarchies are as old as civilization. Kings and hereditary power were once the norm worldwide, as they were the means to control land and offer protection for farming peasants, exchanging food supply for protection from invaders—when the system worked as promised.

But it often didn’t. “Good” kings were relatively rare and their legacies unsustainable. Sooner or later, the people got unlucky under some ruler whose only claim to power was divine right, suffering under a king or queen who had gotten a God Complex, or was being manipulated by an unscrupulous elite. Either way, their regimes cared naught about the welfare of most people in their kingdom, forcing them to pay treasure to corrupt systems, sending them to die in meaningless wars, and leaving them dirt poor at the best of times or starving in the worst.

That’s the reason why today very few absolute monarchies remain in the world. You simply can’t trust kings and queens to look out for any interests but their own. It took a couple of millennia, but people eventually realized that a monarch, or any leader unaccountable for their actions, had to be reined in. Most countries acknowledge that the best of all flawed systems is a government where people can choose their leaders. That’s why even one-party autocratic states have elections. Replacing leaders bloodlessly on a regular basis, under a franchise that expands suffrage to as many people as possible, on average produces a better minimum standard of living for all. So why do so many stable advanced democracies, such as the United Kingdom, retain their monarchies?

Rest is at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/09/19/visible-minorities-queen-elizabeth-monarchies-and-progressivism/

New semester is underway. Debito.org will be updated more slowly.

Just to let you know:  My semester has started, and I have more classes than ever before (more than half of them new).  So I’m quite busy: When I’m not giving lectures, I’m preparing those lectures, grading the aftermath of those lectures, or sleeping.  So Debito.org will be updated more slowly for the Fall.  

Eagle-eyed Debito.org Readers will as always be sending articles of note in the Comments Sections of the Debito.org Newsletters, so check there for what they’ve seen of note.  Thanks as always everyone for reading Debito.org!

Debito’s SNA VM37: “Reforming Japan’s Dickensian Foreign Trainee Program,” Aug 22, 2022, and why I remain skeptical that reforms will actually happen

SNA — News Item: video footage surfaced in 2020 of a Vietnamese “trainee” being physically abused by Japanese co-workers at a construction company in Okayama Prefecture, resulting in injuries including broken ribs and a broken tooth. Despite a criminal complaint, the Okayama Prefectural Police Prosecutor’s Office declined to prosecute the four Japanese co-workers involved. Here is the video footage that started it all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK1HhnvktOc&t=76s

This Vietnamese trainee is not alone. Despite the strict Covid border controls, currently 280,000 foreigners toil as temporary low-wage workers in Japan’s farms and factories nationwide. Given Japan’s often nasty work environments, which generally combine exploitative work ethics with a normalized bullying culture, this means that more than a quarter of a million foreigners are here and in harm’s way under a system of unfettered abuse…

Fortunately, there are some stirrings that reforms might happen. Even the conservative Yomiuri Shinbun said in an August 20 editorial that reforming the system is “unavoidable.” Moreover, the government announced last month a full-scale review of the program, intending to “bring this long-standing issue to a historical conclusion.” I am skeptical these reforms will achieve what is promised, which is basically to resolve the ongoing human rights abuses which have always characterized the trainee system. One reason for my doubts is because…

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/08/22/visible-minorities-reforming-japans-dickensian-foreign-trainee-program/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 22, 2022

Table of Contents:
REVISIONISM AND RECIDIVISM
1) Asahi: Okayama public prosecutors drop co-worker violence claim by Vietnamese “Trainee” despite video evidence. No wonder Japan’s violent bully culture thrives! (UPDATE: Out-of-court settlement was reached)
2) Japan Times on neighborhood sento bathhouse restoration activists: Omits history of how Japan’s already-declining public bath industry hurt itself with “Japanese Only” signs
3) Migrant Integration Policy Index rates Japan as “Integration Denied”, and “Critically Unfavorable” in terms of Anti-Discrimination measures. And this is for 2019, before Covid shut Japan’s borders.
4) Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets up “foreign media policing website” where anyone can report to J govt any foreign info “incompatible with our country’s standpoint”. Actually, quite within character.
… and finally …
5) My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him

Asahi: Okayama public prosecutors drop co-worker violence claim by Vietnamese “Trainee” despite video evidence. No wonder Japan’s violent bully culture thrives! (UPDATE: Out-of-court settlement was reached)

GoEMON (from Asahi): Two years ago, a 41-year-old male Vietnamese technical trainee was abused by his four Japanese coworkers while working. The act was then discreetly recorded by another Vietnamese trainee, causing a buzz within the public at that time. The result of the case was recently disclosed by the Okayama Prefectural Public Prosecutors Office.

The technical trainee filed a case to the Okayama Prefectural Public Prosecutors Office, claiming that he had been assaulted during the past two years working at the company, in which the four coworkers, all in their 30s, were referred to prosecution on suspicion of causing injuries and other charges. The Prosecutor’s Office, however, announced that the four cannot be prosecuted, due to a lack of information. The indictments were dropped against two for injury, one for injury and violation of the Violent Acts Punishment Law, and one for violation of the Violent Acts Punishment Law.

COMMENT:  “A lack of information”!? [Well, in the original Japanese, it just says, “For reasons left unclear.”] Anyway, watch the video above. Yet another example (see the McGowan Case for another) of how even when you have photographic or audio evidence of abusive behavior, the laws are only as good as the people enforcing them.  If public prosecutors will not do their job and prosecute, the laws specifically against violent acts mean nothing.  Even despite all the promises of reform of Japan’s already abusive, exploitative, and deadly “Trainee” system.  In a sense, this poor guy is lucky he didn’t end up laid up in the hospital or worse!

UPDATE: Yahoo News: According to the labor union protecting the Trainee, there was an apology from the construction company and the administering agency, with restitution paid through private settlement.

FURTHER COMMENT: Fine. But this case shows just how much, despite calls for reform for decades, things have NOT progressed.  By now, things like this shouldn’t still be happening, in this case violence towards a foreign co-worker for about two years!  But official negligence is the norm here.  Again, good thing the “Trainee” had the video of the savage treatment that resulted in broken ribs and untold mental damage.  But he shouldn’t have had to.

Japan Times on neighborhood sento bathhouse restoration activists: Omits history of how Japan’s already-declining public bath industry hurt itself with “Japanese Only” signs

JT: “Bathhouses are a space where I can ground myself,” says Sam Holden, who first found solace in sentō when he was a graduate student in Tokyo. Holden, who labels himself an urban activist, is a writer, translator and renovation specialist. He founded Sento & Neighborhood together with four associates in 2020 with the idea of “changing historic bathhouses as little as possible but finding a way for them to become sustainable,” Holden explains, hinting at the financial difficulties that many sentō face…

To Holden, visiting bathhouses means exploring the back alleys that embody a deeper layer of Japan’s urban fabric tucked away from busy and anonymous main streets — and one that has been part of Japanese cities for centuries. “Across the street from the bathhouse you have the liquor shop where the grandpas gather, the vegetable grocer and tofu shop and all sorts of local eateries,” Holden says. “Preserving a bathhouse means not only preserving that building, but this neighborhood network.”

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: I applaud the efforts of these movements to keep neighborhood sento open. However, the writer of this article (and perhaps the activists themselves) neglected to mention an important part of history, where public/private baths have refused entry to foreign and foreign-looking residents and customers. If offering this communal experience is “an important channel of communication between neighbors”, then it’s also important to recognize the fact that sometimes sento and onsen have undermined themselves by putting up “Japanese Only” signs, and not recognized “foreigners” as fellow neighbors. Openness to all members of the community should also be part of their slogans.

Also problematic is that the Japan Times seems to be forgetful of this discriminatory history as an editorial policy, as their archive on recent articles regarding Sento demonstrates. The JT laments the decline of the industry (for example, here) without getting into how some of their decline is their own fault. That’s particularly galling, considering I wrote for The Japan Times for two decades a regular column, in addition to other stringer articles, on this very subject.

Seems the Japan Times doesn’t prioritize this type of issue anymore. So much for reporting “in the public interest”.  This is how history gets unlearned and eventually repeats itself.  Just wait for the next moral panic blamed on “foreigners”, and communal doors to a public service will shut all over again.  Even if it drives the excluder out of business. Talking about preservation without including this issue is in fact counterproductive for the industry.

Migrant Integration Policy Index rates Japan as “Integration Denied”, and “Critically Unfavorable” in terms of Anti-Discrimination measures. And this is for 2019, before Covid shut Japan’s borders.

Migrant Integration Policy Index: “Japan scores 47/100 [Rank: “Integration Denied”], slightly below the average MIPEX country (49/100) because Japanese policies still refuse to recognise that Japan is a country of immigration. This denial leads to contradictory policies that create as many obstacles as opportunities for foreign nationals. Japan’s approach to integration is categorised as “Immigration without Integration”. While Japan is a leader far ahead of the other countries in this category, its policies still deny basic rights and equal opportunities to newcomers. Foreign nationals can find some ways to settle long-term in Japan. However, Japanese policies only go halfway to guarantee them equal opportunities, (e.g., on health and education), while also denying them several basic rights, most notably protections from discrimination.

“Japan needs to invest more on all the three dimensions, especially to guarantee immigrants with the same basic rights as Japanese citizens. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Japan’s current policies encourage the public to see immigrants as subordinates and not their neighbours.” […] Japan is one of the only MIPEX countries still without a dedicated anti-discrimination law and body. Japan is the among bottom three countries for anti-discrimination policies, together with other ‘immigration without integration’ countries. Japan’s approach is slightly ahead of poorer Central European countries with equally small and new immigrant populations, but far behind other developed countries…”

COMMENT: It’s as we’ve been saying here on Debito.org for decades: This is what happens when you are the only developed country without a national law against racial discrimination. And this is the MIPEX report as of 2019.  I look forward to seeing the next report, where it takes into account Japan’s racist policy of closed borders (even to lawful and Permanent Residents, for a time) due to Covid.  I strongly doubt Japan’s numbers will improve.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets up “foreign media policing website” where anyone can report to J govt any foreign info “incompatible with our country’s standpoint”. Actually, quite within character.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put up a website that enables anyone to submit to the government “information about any accounts in overseas [media] relating to our country that is based on misunderstandings of the truth/facts (jijitsu), or is incompatible with our country’s standpoint.”

Actually, what MOFA is doing is very much within the Japanese Government (GOJ)’s character.  The GOJ is very sensitive to how they are perceived abroad, historically stepping in many times to “correct misperceptions” in foreign media.  See here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example.  (And it’s a stark contrast to, for example, the Americans, who ignore outright disinformation even when it affects their own citizens abroad.)

Granted, compared to the US’s negligence (even making outright threats against their US citizens for not ignoring racial discrimination in Japan), I’d rather that a government step in to correct public misperceptions when their citizens abroad stand to get hurt.  But I’m also suspicious of the GOJ’s motives, as evidenced by the links above, as their “standpoint” towards historical and factual interpretation is riddled with ahistorical revisionism.  

Moreover, asking for the public’s participation like this is redolent of the “Snitch Sites” the Immigration Bureau deployed in 2004, so that anyone could anonymously sicc the GOJ on any foreigner they thought could be an “illegal” — much to the delight of all the Zainichi Korean haters out there.  

In sum, this “MOFA foreign media policing site” is yet another politically-motivated government-sponsored website that is encouraging online abuse and feeding the trolls.

My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him

SNA: The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has occasioned a lot of valuable, eye-opening discussions in the media, but few if any have focused upon how Abe’s death could be seen as a form of karmic payback–what happens when you ignore the lessons of history in the pursuit of raw political power.

The discussions have instead focused on the veneer of Japan’s “safe” society being blown away by a homemade gun; or about how the world’s democracies have been deprived of a Japanese leader comfortable on the international stage (while egregiously overlooking all the damage he did to Japan’s democracy).

A few intrepid journalists (starting with the SNA) have explored the swamp of Abe’s political connections with the “Moonies” religious cult, and how that probably gave motive to the killer.

To me the most absurd debate has been whether Abe’s death was an “assassination” at all –- the Japanese media have uniformly refused to use the corresponding word ansatsu, portraying it as merely a “shooting event” (jugeki jiken).

These important topics have been covered elsewhere by people with more expertise, so this column will take a different tack. It will discuss the role of national narratives in a society, how dishonest national narratives stunt the maturity of societies, and how a willful ignorance of history due to these national narratives circled back to kill Abe…

Read the rest at https://shingetsunewsagency.com/2022/07/18/visible-minorities-abes-assassination-and-the-revenge-of-history/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 18, 2022

Table of Contents:
1) Tokyo Musashino City fails to get local referenda voting rights for its NJ Residents (Dec 2021). Absorb the arguments of the national-level xenophobic campaign against it.

2) Archiving my SNA VM12 “A Despotic Bridge Too Far”, on Japan’s racist blanket ban on Foreign Resident re-entry, July 20, 2020 (link to full text)

3) Archiving SNA VM10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko) (link to full text)

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

Tokyo Musashino City fails to get local referenda voting rights for its NJ Residents (Dec 2021). Absorb the arguments of the national-level xenophobic campaign against it.

Here’s yet another example of a local government, a suburb of Tokyo called Musashino, trying to do what’s right for ALL of its residents (including those without Japanese citizenship) by getting their voice heard via voting in local referenda.  To stress:  These are votes on local, repeat, local referenda (i.e., they’re not actually *electing representatives*) — and the results are not even legally binding.  Moreover, according to a source below, 73% of the public supported the move (that is, before the xenophobes and alarmists stepped in to bully and scare the public). 

To stress:  These are votes on local, repeat, local referenda (they’re not actually *electing representatives*) — and the results are not even legally binding.  Moreover, according to the Takao source below, 73% of the public supported the move (that is, before the xenophobes and alarmists stepped in on a national level to bully and scare the public). So witness the typical alarmism behind sharing any political power in Japan.  The tactic is simple:  portray the granting of any voice in governance to non-citizens as a security issue.  The assumption then becomes that enfranchised foreigners will inevitably use their power to hurt Japanese citizens. Substantiating articles follow.  Trace the arguments pro and con within and see what I mean.  The article from the right-wing rag Japan Forward is of particular notice, reprinting the right-wing Sankei Shinbun’s blatant xenophobic editorial policies; as always it gives us a distillation of intellectualized racism.  An academic article as counterweight to the Sankei follows that.  A quote of note:

Takao:  “This backlash [to the Musashino policy proposal] highlights the LDP’s intention to allow more foreign workers to stay in Japan — to address labour shortages — while also suppressing their rights to maintain the image of a ‘homogeneous’ nation. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has indicated that Japan will need to quadruple the number of foreign workers to over 6 million by 2040 to sustain economic growth. But the civic and political participation of foreign residents in Japan is necessary for the sake of smooth social integration. Despite conservative protests, it is local authorities who are forced to step up, fill the vacuum and cope with the increasing pressure of foreign workers’ needs, which are not well addressed by the national government. Prospects for the further protection of foreign residents’ rights in Japan will hinge on effective policy coordination and leadership at the local level.”

Archiving my SNA VM12 “A Despotic Bridge Too Far”, on Japan’s racist blanket ban on Foreign Resident re-entry, July 20, 2020 (link to full text)

SNA (Tokyo) — How bad does it have to get? I’m talking about Japan’s cruelty and meanness towards its Non-Japanese residents. How bad before people think to step in and stop it?

I think we now have an answer to that due to Japan’s recent policy excluding only foreigners from re-entry at its border, even if they’ve lived here for decades, as a by-product of the Covid-19 pandemic. Japanese re-entrants get let in after testing and quarantine; no other G7 country excludes all foreigners only.

Consequently, many Non-Japanese residents found themselves stranded overseas, separated from their Japanese families, lives and livelihoods, watching their investments dry up and visa clocks run out without recourse. Or perhaps found themselves stranded within Japan, as family members abroad died, and the prospect of attending their funeral or taking care of personal matters in person would mean exile.

However, protests against this policy have been unusually mainstream, including institutions who have been for generations largely silent regarding other forms of discrimination towards foreigners in Japan. Consider these examples of how institutionalized and embedded racism is in Japan:

You’re probably aware that Japan has long advertised itself as a “monocultural, homogeneous society,” denying that minorities, racial or ethnic, exist within it. But did you know that Japan still refuses to include Non-Japanese residents as “people” in its official population tallies? Or to list them on official family registries as “spouses” of Japanese? Or that Japan’s constitution expressly reserves equality under the law for Japanese citizens (kokumin) in its Japanese translation? This complicates things for all Non-Japanese residents to this day…
Full text now archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16172

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…

Archiving SNA VM10: “The Guestists and the Collaborators”, May 18, 2020, on how long-term NJ leverage their newfound privilege against other NJ Residents (e.g., Donald Keene, Tsurunen Marutei, and Oussouby Sacko) (Link to full text)

SNA: In a recent SNA Speakeasy on “Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus Era,” I argued that Non-Japanese (NJ) must band together and be vocal about claiming what’s due them as taxpayers. We shouldn’t wait for the government to deign to divvy out what it thinks foreigners want, as if it’s the omotenashi (hospitality) Japan offers any guest. Instead, NJ residents should be telling the government what they want, on their terms; trying to influence policy agendas that affect them by, for example, participating in local government forums and policy deliberation councils (shingikai).

People have been advocating this for years. Why isn’t it happening as often as it should? Because NJ (especially those in the English-language communities) collectively suffer from something I call “guestism”: falling for the fiction that they are merely “guests” in Japan subject to the whims of the Japanese “hosts.” Their mantra is “It’s their country, not mine. Who am I to tell them what to do?”

Still, eventually some NJ live here long enough, develop deep connections and language abilities, and even become Japanese citizens. Some transform into community leaders, prominent business owners and spokespeople, media mavens, and elected officials. They are definitely no longer “guests.”

But once they earn due respect and authority, another problem comes up: Many squander their position by becoming “collaborators.”

Instead of using their power for good, such as showing other NJ how to follow in their footsteps and to assimilate and enfranchise themselves, collaborators pull the ladder up behind them. They actively consort with the powers-that-be to preserve their privilege and to undermine other NJ Residents.

For example, consider Marutei Tsurunen, Donald Keene, and Oussouby Sacko…
Full text is now archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=16075

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.

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

Asahi: Public prosecutors will drop their case against senior officials from the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau over the death of a Sri Lankan woman at an immigration detention facility, according to sources. Wishma Sandamali, 33, died in March 2021 at a facility run by the bureau, in a case that sparked widespread outcry over her mistreatment.

The Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office launched an investigation into whether the senior officials in charge at the time had committed murder or negligence as a guardian resulting in death, responding to criminal complaints against them from Wishma’s family and others. Sources said the prosecutors office concluded it cannot establish criminal liability in this case following discussions with another prosecution office that is higher in rank.

COMMENT: We’ve talked about the Sandamali Case here on Debito.org before, as we have the many other cases of death and destruction in Japan’s cruel Detention Centers. One of the reasons they remain so cruel is that they face no accountability, as seen here.  And prosecutors declining to prosecute those who kill foreigners have been discussed at length in my book Embedded Racism, Chapter 6, “A ‘Chinaman’s Chance’ in Japanese Court” (with 2022 updates of more cases, including Sandamali’s, in the Second Edition).

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

MRI on rude and slipshod treatment from Shizuoka hospitals and health care practitioners

MRI: I have been working and living in Shizuoka City for [close to a decade] now. I have not had any serious illnesses other than a mild case of chronic gastritis but in recent years, I know it has become more serious due to my symptoms becoming more severe regardless of the Takecab that I take daily for it. Due to this health issue becoming more serious, I have been needing to visit various clinics and I have been experiencing what I call indirect refusal.

So, I know that in the past, many foreigners were refused medical care due to not having kokumin kenkou hoken but even though I have a valid card, the doctor will always ignore me while I am trying to explain my symptoms and reason for my visit. Both the doctors and staff of various clinics here in Shizuoka City have almost systematically acted cold, uncaring, unresponsive and even downright rude to me.

After this happened the first couple times, I thought it was just that one particular nurse or doctor that was the problem, but after numerous experiences just like this at a number of other clinics, I realized that this is a big problem that needs to be brought to light.

Every time I am waiting in the lobby of a clinic or hospital here in Japan, I have a constant feeling that I am wasting my time and money. I almost always leave a clinic kicking myself because the doctor did indeed do everything they could to avoid helping me… [Specific names of institutions and their treatment follow.]