My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.

Intro: I teach Political Science at the university level.  In my first lecture every semester, I try to convince skeptical students why they should bother studying Political Science at all. I argue that understanding how power flows through political structures will help students enfranchise themselves in a democratic system.  Because if they don’t, other people who understand the system better will use it to their advantage instead. But this assumes one major fundamental:  that they can participate in the democratic system at all.  Fortunately, most of my students are citizens, so they can vote.  Given how abysmal youth voter turnout generally is, I consider it a major educational outcome if they bother to.  Persuading people that their vote matters is the bare minimum a civics class can accomplish.  

If I have the opportunity in higher-level classes to proselytize further, I encourage them to engage in community building, such as organizing into interest groups and consolidating power into voting blocs.   My real converts consider running for local office, thereby embedding themselves within the very power structure itself.  Because political power, especially for minorities in any society, is rarely surrendered without a struggle.  We need more diverse views in office as demographics change the makeup of future majorities.  

That’s how democracy is supposed to work.  Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Japan’s Non-Japanese (NJ) Residents and Visible Minorities still have trouble grasping.  As a result, they are letting the Japanese government deprive them of their potential as a political force in Japan…

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.

My SNA Visible Minorities column 56: Addressing Japan’s Child Abduction Problem (on the recent bill passed to allow joint custody after divorce (May 27, 2024)

SNA: It has been one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets.  It has shattered lives and caused enormous international embarrassment to Japan’s reputation as a nation of laws.  It has caused untold misery to countless children and families worldwide.  And amongst all the G7 “developed” nations, it only happens like this in Japan.  

I’m talking about Japan’s issues with child custody and access after divorce.  

Japan has something called the Family Registry (koseki) system.  It serves the important purposes of not only conferring Japanese citizenship, it also prioritizes the family unit over the individual.  A throwback system unamended for more than a century, the Family Registry has a major bug:  If you get divorced, the bureaucracy forces the couple as a registered family unit to cleave back into two unconnected individuals with completely severed family ties. 

The problem is that children are likewise forced into one severed family registry or another,  This means they lose all legal ties with one parent, and that parent (usually the father) has not rights of joint custody or child visitation.  This means that divorce in Japan completely disappears a “Left Behind Parent’ (LBP) from a child’s life. This invisibility is enforced by the rest of society too…

After decades of international exposure, embarrassment, broken treaty promises, xenophobic and racist tropes, and deprived children, Japan finally changes its laws to allow joint custody of children after divorce, taking effect in 2026.

Debito.org has been quiet on these developments until they actually came to fruition, and now that they have, it’s time to cheer.  Japan has finally gotten around to fixing one of its worst-kept secrets:  Child Abductions after divorces.  After years of international pressure (and all manner of racist justifications of the status quo, including even the Foreign Ministry accusing foreigners of being naturally violent, and Japan offering safe haven for international child abductions despite signing an international treaty against it), the Diet has just passed legislation allowing for joint custody after divorce.  Meaning both parents now have the ability to have a say in raising a child even if the relationship falls apart.  It comes into effect in 2026 and will be reassessed five years later.

Debito.org has talked about this issue for decades (since I too lost all contact with my children after my divorce, which is in fact the norm in Japan, thanks to the Koseki Family Registry system forcing split couples to sever all legal family ties and thus all rights to any contact).  Not only because NJ are particularly vulnerable to becoming “Left Behind Parents” in intercontinental relationships (since the J spouse can either make off with the child back to Japan or deprive you of a Spouse Visa), but also because this situation affected ALL divorces in Japan, regardless of nationality. It left all children in Japan vulnerable to being used a pawn used to punish one parent out of spite. And that would often carry on into adulthood, with the adult offspring hating the LBP parent without ever hearing both sides of the story or knowing the LBP cares about them.  This is not normal even in peer countries.  As the Mainichi notes below, “Japan had been the only country among the Group of Seven industrialized nation with no joint custody system, according to a Justice Ministry survey of other countries released in 2020.”

Anyway, this is an extremely positive and long overdue development, and it’s another example of Japanese domestic law not changing without international shame and pressure.  It’s just a shame it couldn’t have happened decades ago when it would have made a difference to me and my divorced friends. Let’s hope this brings more reality to future relationships.  Divorces are complicated.  Adding more child abuse into the mix (and by this I mean the child abuse that is inherent in an automatic severance of custodial ties) just made it worse.

Reuters: Biden calls ally Japan ‘xenophobic’ along with rivals China and Russia (May 2, 2024). Bravo Biden!

Reuters: U.S. President Joe Biden included ally Japan along with rivals China and Russia in a list of countries he called “xenophobic” on Wednesday, in a speech at a campaign fundraising event in Washington. Biden reiterated remarks he made last month linking China’s economic woes to its unwillingness to accept immigration. […] “You know, one of the reasons our economy is growing is because of you and many others. Why? Because we welcome immigrants,” Biden told Asian American and Pacific Islander donors Wednesday. “The reason — think about it — why is China stalling so bad economically? Why is Japan having trouble? Why is Russia, why is anyone? Because they’re xenophobic, they don’t want immigrants.”

COMMENT:  Debito.org says “Bravo Biden!”, for obvious reasons we’ve covered on Debito.org since its beginning back in 1995.  For generations now Japan has gotten a free pass on its racial discrimination (about which I’ve written entire books) simply because it’s an ally.  It’s about time somebody in leadership chided things in the right direction, Unfortunately, geopolitics and human rights do not mix, and the latter has taken a back seat to the former for too long. The reaction will be predictable and obvious.  There will be the handwringing from the diplomats and media, and the knee-jerk reactions from the ethnostatists defending Japan’s putative ethnic purity or sovereignty in various comments sections (although human rights supersede pat claims of sovereignty if you’ve signed the CERD, which Japan did nearly 30 years ago and still has not passed any laws against racial discrimination).  Whatever.  It’s long overdue to state the fact that Japan as a polity simply will not keep its international promises, and Debito.org agrees with Biden that Japan’s lack of any official immigration policy hurts Japan as a society both economically and demographically.

My SNA Visible Minorities col 55: “From Dancing Monkey to Symbol of Hope”: Interview with Ibaraki Prefectural Assemblyman and naturalized Canadian-Japanese Jon Heese (May 2, 2024)

BIO:  Jon Heese is becoming an old hand in Japanese politics, having served 13 years at various levels of government. He is presently one of five councilors representing Tsukuba (60 km NE of Tokyo) in the Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly—similar to a state or provincial legislature. After winning four terms at the city level, Mr. Heese leveled up in December, 2022. He is the first foreign-born politician to ever serve at the regional level.  He sat down for an interview with Debito Arudou for his Visible Minorities column in April 2024.

SNA:  Let me open with an argument:  I make the case in one of my recent columns that we don’t see enough former Non-Japanese running for office because the Japanese government doesn’t want them to.  With no immigration policy, the GOJ doesn’t just encourage NJ to become voters and citizens, they make it hard to graduate up to Permanent Residency and citizenship.  Would you agree with that assessment?

Heese:  No immigration policy? Do you mean “no policy to import labor willy-nilly à la every western country?” The question is already loaded. As for policy to prevent naturalization, thereby enfranchisement, I do not see any active policies intending to keep NJ from getting citizenship. Overall I see their immigration policies as an attempt to ensure that only contributing foreigners are allowed to stay beyond the 90 day tourist visa by obtaining a longer visa. Many countries try to keep out deadbeats. Japan is no different. By deadbeats, I mean people who are only coming to take advantage of our rather generous social services.

SNA:  Hang on.  Point of order.  We’re still falling back on those boilerplate arguments we see in the chauvinistic media that some foreigners are freeloaders.  Not so… [And the conversation gets warmer from there…]

BLOG BIZ: Coming out of the busiest semester I’ve ever had; will try to update more.

On a personal note, it’s been the busiest semester for me ever, teaching around 250 students and 19.5 college credits.  Consequently, updating Debito.org has been slow since I’ve been devoting all my energies to creating lectures, lecturing, grading, and sleep.  Repeat cycle for sixteen weeks.  Just coming out of it now.  I’ll try to do better, since there’s plenty to comment about (and Debito.org Readers have been doing an excellent job in the Comments sections; thanks!).  But for the first time ever, I didn’t immediately blog my most recent SNA column!  I’ll get to it.  Thanks very much to everyone for reading and commenting to Debito.org.

Debito cited in article, “Japan is becoming more diverse. Will its government?” Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 2024. As are several other naturalized and elected Japanese citizens originating from Canada, Uzbekistan, Syria/Egypt, and Bolivia.

CSM: A former swimming instructor from Egypt is helping revive the sleepy mountain town of Shonai, Japan. About 200 miles away, a Canadian polyglot is singing the praises of Tsukuba city. And Orzugul Babakhodjaeva is standing onstage at a food festival outside Tokyo, decked in a traditional Uzbek dress, expressing her desire to “create a society where diversity is accepted.”

The first-term city councilor in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward – who does not use her family name, and campaigned simply as “Orzugul” – is one of a small but growing number of foreign-born local government members bringing fresh perspectives to an island nation long known for its homogeneity. These lawmakers are often multilingual and have rich international work experience. Their platforms have resonated with many Japanese voters, as well as with a growing population of non-Japanese residents.

The number of non-Japanese residents jumped 10.9% from 2022 to 2023, reaching a record 3.4 million, as the country struggles to address a chronic labor shortage driven by its aging population. Last year, 8,800 residents were naturalized as citizens, allowing them to vote in elections.

Shifting demographics are challenging Japan’s reputation as a homogeneous society – and creating unprecedented openings for immigrants to participate in local government. Arudou Debito, author of the book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” says the election of immigrants to local government is “very important” for Japan’s democracy.

“Non-Japanese residents’ viewpoints are woefully unseen in Japanese society. They’re treated as ‘guests,’” explains Mr. Arudou, who is a U.S.-born naturalized citizen. “The fact that former non-Japanese residents are getting elected means they aren’t ‘guests,’ meaning Japanese society can trust immigrants with public policymaking power.”

Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.

Kyodo: “The number of foreign nationals residing in Japan hit a record high of over 3.4 million in 2023, government data has shown, with employment-related visas seeing significant growth amid the country’s efforts to address its acute labor shortage. As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreign nationals resided in Japan, up 10.9% from the previous year to mark a record high for the second consecutive year, the Immigration Services Agency said Friday.

“The number of specified skilled workers jumped 59.2% to around 208,000, while trainees under Japan’s technical internship program grew 24.5% to around 404,000 to approach the record high level marked in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, the data showed. The specified skilled workers visa, which allows the holder to immediately take on jobs in designated industries without the need for training, was introduced in 2019 in response to Japan’s severe labor shortage resulting from its declining birthrate, with the aim of attracting foreign workers.

“Meanwhile, permanent residents, who made up the largest group by residential status, stood at around 891,000, up 3.2%. Engineers, specialists in humanities and international services, including foreign language teachers, rose 16.2% to around 362,000. By nationality, Chinese accounted for the largest population of foreign residents at around 821,000, followed by Vietnamese at around 565,000 and South Koreans at around 410,000…”

COMMENT: So the foreign labor imports have resumed, and how. Also interesting is that Kyodo doesn’t seem to feel the need to shoehorn in foreign crime statistics this time (just a brief allusion to overstaying at the very end).  I’ll be incorporating these stats into my next SNA Visible Minorities column, out shortly, and argue how this influx can translate into political power.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2024

Table of Contents:
1) My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.
2) Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.
3) Debito.org Reader XY on “Rakuten Card is asking for sensitive Koseki Family Registry documents for Naturalized Japanese clients as a prerequisite for continued service”, even though nobody is clearly requiring them to.
4) My SNA Visible Minorities column 53: “Miss Japan Shiino Karolina lost her crown. Inevitably.” (Feb 26, 2024)
5) Reuters: Visible Minorities (“Foreign-born residents”) file lawsuit against government for police racial profiling. Good. Go for it.
6) My latest SNA VM column 52: “Positive Steps for Non-Japanese in Japan” (Jan 23, 2024), a report of a month spent in Tokyo and all the progress towards tolerance observed.
7) Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.

… and finally …
8 ) Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. Debito.org makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.

Debito.org Reader XY on “Rakuten Card is asking for sensitive Koseki Family Registry documents for Naturalized Japanese clients as a prerequisite for continued service”, even though nobody is clearly requiring them to.

Dr. Debito, I’m writing you because I’m experiencing a new type of discrimination by Rakuten Card.

I’ve been a Rakuten Card owner since 2014, and it is the card I’ve hold the longest, making it the biggest chunk of my credit history. Also, I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen, that naturalized back in 20XX, and one month afterwards I had already completed all the requirements for change of name and status according to what I was asked by Rakuten Card, which, if I remember correctly, required me to send copies of documents proving my change of name and status.

About a month ago, I received a mail by Rakuten Card asking me to send them a copy of my current Residence Card. I was very confused by this, so I contacted them, and they told me that since when I applied for the Card I was a foreigner, I needed to provide them with something that “proved” my residence status, and they asked me for my Koseki Family Registry, which is insane. I told them that I already gave them the documents they required back when I naturalized, that I’ve never been asked this by any other Bank or Credit Card company, and that it is insane for them to ask me for a Koseki, which is a very sensitive document that should be handed for these kind of requests, since something as simple as my Juminhyo Residency Certificate, which I think is what I sent back in 20XX proved my nationality, and they also have my “My Number” information, which should gave them access to corroborate this.

They insisted that this was something that the Financial Services Agency as part of an anti Money Laundering KYC thing, I asked them to give me more specifics on this, and they refused to do so, so I called the Financial Services Agency… (continues)

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: The dragnet of suspecting any foreigner, including NJ Residents, of being a money launderer expands to people who are no longer foreign as well.

My SNA Visible Minorities column 53: “Miss Japan Shiino Karolina lost her crown. Inevitably.” (Feb 26, 2024)

SNA: You might have heard the big news last month about Shiino Karolina, a Ukrainian-born Japanese citizen who won the title of Miss Japan. You have also heard earlier this month that she lost her crown due to allegations of her having an affair with a married man.

Yappari.  I thought that might happen.  How convenient.  Let’s put this event in perspective.  

This not the first time a Japanese beauty contest in has chosen a person not “pure-blooded” to represent Japan.  In 2015, African-American-Japanese Miyamoto Ariana was chosen as Miss Japan in 2015. 

This was big news back then too for winning despite her biracial status.  I say “despite” because oodles of internet trolls questioned whether a half-Japanese could represent Japan.  

And guess what?  She could, since lightning struck a second time a year later, when Indian-Japanese Yoshikawa Priyanka was crowned Miss World Japan.

However, with Shiino, the third time was not the charm.  She only lasted two weeks.  Why?  Because she was a bridge too far…

Reuters: Visible Minorities (“Foreign-born residents”) file lawsuit against government for police racial profiling. Good. Go for it.

Reuters: Three foreign-born residents of Japan filed a lawsuit on Monday against the national and local governments over alleged illegal questioning by police based on racial profiling. It is the first such lawsuit in Japan, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, and comes amid a sharp rise in the number of foreign workers coming to the country to help stem labour shortages as its population ages and declines.

The three men filed the lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court demanding that the national, Tokyo Metropolitan and Aichi Prefecture governments recognise that it is illegal for police officers to stop and question people solely on the basis of their race, nationality or ethnicity.

COMMENT: This has made big international news, the likes I haven’t really seen since the Otaru Onsens Case.  Good. Debito.org has reported at length on how racial profiling is standard operating procedure for the Japanese police, so it’s an issue that deserves to be pursued in court. We’ve also sued the government before, and think it’s unlikely they’ll win (we didn’t). But it’s worth doing for the awareness raising. If we can get it on the record that the judiciary recognizes this as “racial profiling”, or even that “racial profiling” actually exists in Japan as a term and a phenomenon, this will be a big step ahead. Plaintiffs, go for it, and good luck, says Debito.org.

My latest SNA VM column 52: “Positive Steps for Non-Japanese in Japan” (Jan 23, 2024), a report of a month spent in Tokyo and all the progress towards tolerance observed.

I know I should be talking about the Miss Japan 2024 debate, but I’ll get to it. Meanwhile, my latest SNA VM col 52 excerpt: Last month SNA (and this column) went on vacation for Christmas and New Years. During the hiatus, I spent a month in Tokyo meandering around visiting sights and people, developing my inner flaneur as well as conducting relaxed random research. Tokyo, a walking city riddled with world-class transportation and public facilities, is an ideal place for that.

This month’s column will offer my impressions about how much Japan has changed regarding the issues that have always been on my radar screen — society’s openness to Newcomers. On that score (in contrast to what’s happening with the debate over Miss Japan), I have some positive developments to report…

Happy 2024: Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.

JT: Amid concerns over rapid depopulation, a private panel has proposed that Japan should aim to have a stable population of 80 million by 2100 in order to maintain economic growth. Last April, the government released an estimate that the population would be reduced by half to about 63 million in 2100, with 40% of people expected to be 65 or older.

Japan has wrestled with the issue of a declining birthrate for decades, but the situation is about to “change drastically,” with the country now entering a serious phase of population decline, the panel, headed by Nippon Steel honorary chairman Akio Mimura and consisting of 28 members including prominent academics and business leaders, said Tuesday. […]

To avoid such a future, Japan needs to slow down the pace of the decline and eventually stop it, the panel said, adding that government strategy should focus on stabilizing the population at around 80 million by 2100. As of last month, Japan’s population was estimated to be 124 million. The panel carried out several simulations and argued that if the country raised the total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime — to 1.6 by around 2040, 1.8 by around 2050 and eventually 2.07 by 2060, it could maintain a population of around 80 million by 2100.

COMMENT: Nothing new here when you have the same old people retreading the same old shinola to the same perpetually-elected party in power.  Getting all these people together to wish for a skypie solution of increasing birthrates (while somehow also boosting productivity) is silly, as it has already been proposed multiple times over the decades without success.  This is no way to craft public policy that actually solves a problem.

Indicatively, *once again* this report makes no mention of immigration, despite both the UN and then-PM Obuchi agreeing as far back as the *YEAR 2000* (see below) that immigration is inevitable to keep the economy going.  But as we saw afterwards in 2009, xenophobic politics intervened, and even Japan’s demographers are forbidden to mention foreign inflows as part of Japan’s domestic demographic science. (See My JT column on that here.) In conclusion, a quarter-century later nothing has been learned.

A further note:  Whenever you have business interests involved (as if they’re any experts on demographic engineering), the primary concern will be about business interests, i.e., profits and cheap labor.  Now remember what the likes of elite business lobby Keidanren wrought by bringing in foreign labor on exploitative revolving-door visa regimes since 1991 (the “Trainee” slave-labor program, for example).  Allowing the grubby little hands of Japan’s business lobbies any more input into future policy drives only guarantees more inhumanity, because with population drops and an elderly society come labor shortages.  Who will fill them?  Robots; but robots don’t pay taxes into the rickety national pension system.  So foreigners.  Hence business interests will only continue to advocate importing labor without ever letting foreign workers become permanent Japanese residents.

Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. Debito.org makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.

JT: The Fukuoka District Court ruled Wednesday that Japan’s law that bans dual nationality is constitutional, rejecting an argument by a Japan-born plaintiff who lost her Japanese citizenship after she naturalized as an American. Yuri Kondo, 76, had argued that the nationality law — which stipulates that Japanese nationals will lose their citizenship if they become a citizen of a foreign country — undermines fundamental human rights to pursue happiness, self-determination, and identity, as guaranteed under the Constitution. While the nationality law was deemed constitutional, presiding Judge Fumitaka Hayashi said the wish of the individual who would lose their nationality should be considered as it is part of a person’s identity.

COMMENT: Most arguments made by the Japanese Government dovetail around the idea that people will be somehow confused in terms of national allegiances if they have more than one nationality. For what if Japan went to war with the country you have a second passport for? Where would your allegiances lie?

Making public policy merely on the basis of hypotheticals is not the best way to make laws. As noted above in the article, the number of countries allowing dual nationality is in fact increasing (“the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide”), as more people around the world travel, resettle, immigrate, marry, and have multinational children as well as lives.  Forcing them to give up their other nationality is to force them to give up part of their identity — a completely unnecessary and moreover psychologically damaging move just for the sake of bureaucratic convenience.  And that’s before we get into issues of arbitrary enforceability, as discussed in my book excerpt below.

The increase in diversity should be reflected in laws to accommodate reality.  Instead, we have pig-headed J politicians who can’t imagine a life beyond their own experiences (with the exception of the LDP’s Kouno Taro, who actually argued for dual nationality, albeit to coat the Kokutai in more glory, not for the sake of the individual’s identity) and refuse to legislate reality into reality.  And that feeds into a hidebound judiciary that claim they can only enforce the law as it’s written (even presiding Judge Hayashi above expressed regret at that).

To finish up, let me excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” on this topic.  It’ll make the case about why public policy is as stupid as it is as best I can…

My SNA VM column 51: “Being thankful despite adversity” (Nov 27, 2023), a think piece on how people survive terrible lives because the basic unit of survival is being part of a pair. And if you’re not in one in Japan, life is especially difficult.

Excerpt: Life is full of big emotions, many of them caused by you, others the product of your being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and some are just the cards you were dealt from birth and environment.

We can put that down to bad luck or some godforsaken ordeal. Or we can rationalize about things that don’t kill you making you stronger, adversity building character, etc.

But I don’t believe in ordeals anymore. I’m 58. My character is pretty much built. Moreover I’ve seen, through elders turned bitter in their old age, that too much adversity just makes you mean.

So as I approach my sixties, one of my life projects is understanding the science and practice of happiness. Interim conclusion: I choose to be happy. To me that means being thankful for the people who carry you through the inevitable tribulations of life while you do the same for them.

The life hack is having another person — at least one — who wishes you well, has your best interests in mind, and is there to see what you see, reminding you that you’re not the only one going through all this.

There is some science here. A book called “Escape from Camp 14” describes a survivor’s account of escaping a North Korean concentration camp. It offered the following life lesson…

My SNA Visible Minorities Column 50, “Memory-holing the ‘Japanese Only’ signs” (Oct 31, 2023), where I conclude that, since racial discrimination is unconstitutional but not illegal in Japan, the most effective way to get “Japanese Only” signs down is to get the media and government involved. If they won’t help, you’re probably out of luck.

Opening: For this, my 50th column for SNA, I’d like to take the reader on a little nostalgia trip through a project I’ve been working on for a quarter century:  “Japanese Only” signs.  

I’ve investigated and interviewed hundreds of these exclusionary places, published and updated seven books on this issue in English and Japanese, and curated on Debito.org the “Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments” since 1999 to make sure this issue doesn’t get memory-holed.   

For it seems that memory-holing is happening.  A SoraNews24 article on the Naha Case didn’t do much research, claiming somehow that, “Bars with Japanese-customers-only policies aren’t unheard of in Japan, but they’re becoming increasingly uncommon in the modern age. Moreover, when you do come across such establishments, they’re generally dedicated bars.”  (Incorrect.  The highest incidents of exclusionary rules are in fact hotels.)  

Then we get to the public reaction to the news.  When I put it up on Debito.org, some readers were defensive as usual, basically ranging from the “self-othering” by the Guestists (quote:  “I understand why they do it. I’m not offended. It’s their business and country.”) to the Ostriches who prefer, in spite of decades of evidence to the contrary, to bury their head in the sand and pretend the problem simply doesn’t exist (quote:  “You are overdramatizing things.  It doesn’t say we do not allow foreigners.  Being to those places as long as you speak Japanese you can enter anywhere.  You have to see things from their perspective too you know.  They don’t wanna get in trouble because a tourist doesn’t read nor understand.  As simple as that.”)

But it’s not as simple as that.  “Japanese Only” signs in fact predate the massive tourist influx to Japan over the past decade and thus cannot be blamed on them…

“Japanese Only” sign on izakaya bar in Naha, Okinawa (Okinawa Times and Japan Today). Removed after govt scrutiny and media exposure.

Here’s the latest entry for the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, where a bar in Okinawa refuses all “customers from overseas” (=”Japanese Only”) to enter the bar.  The difference is that the media took it up and ran them through the wringer of logic.  Not to mention they faced government scrutiny, which history shows makes all the difference.  It came out poorly for the bar, so they took the sign down.  Good. Two articles on this case are archived on Debito.org for the record.