Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 56 on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes: “Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place”

Japan Times: No doubt you’ve seen the news about the Takeshima and Senkaku disputes: Japan is sparring with China, South Korea and Taiwan over some specks in the ocean.

Why is this happening? Theories include pre-election political posturing and securing borders to exploit resources. But it’s gotten to the point where even respected academics (such as Stanford’s Harumi Befu and Harvard’s Ted Bestor) are worriedly writing, “current developments are counterproductive to the lasting peace in East Asia and are dangerously degenerating into belligerent diplomacy.”

My take on these scraps is pretty simple: They are merely a way to distract the Japanese public from a larger malaise, the symptoms of which include Japan’s loss of clout as Asia’s leading economy, perpetual economic funk, ineffectual political leadership and an irradiated food chain.

But the larger question remains: How could these far-flung rocks get so much domestic political traction? …

Discussion: JDG, Harumi Befu et al. on the end of Japan’s internationalization and swing towards remilitarization

There’s a case that can be made nowadays that Japan is not only in decline, it’s falling back on jingoism (beyond the standard nihonjinron and historical revisionism) to support the image of a Japan that was once better when it had fewer foreigners (or none, which was historically never the case). As my current research (more on this in future) has sought to demonstrate, Japan’s (Postwar, not Prewar, cf. Oguma Eiji) national narrative of “monoculturalism, monoethnicity, and homogeneity” has sponsored an ideological ethnic cleansing of Japan, thanks in part to revolving-door visa regimes and all manner of incentives to make sure that few “visibly foreign” foreigners stay here forever (hence the prioritizing of the Nikkei) for they agitate for more rights as generational residents (consider the visas that can be cancelled or phased out pretty much at government whim; we’ve seen it before with, for example, the Iranians in the late 1990s). And if you ever thought “the next generation of younger Japanese will be more liberal”, we now have Osaka Gov Hashimoro Touru (younger than I) also supporting historical revisionism (see below) and forming the “Japan Restoration Party” (the poignantly and ominously named Nihon Ishin no Kai) on September 12, 2012. With the recent saber-rattling (which nation-states indulge in periodically to draw public attention away from larger social problems, in Japan’s case the issues of nuclear power and the irradiating food chain) and the overblown flaps over the Takeshima/Tokdo and Senkaku/Diaoyu ocean specks, we have an emerging vision of Japan as a remilitarized power in Asia, courtesy of Debito.org Reader JDG. I thought we’d have a discussion about that here. Take a look through the resource materials below and consider whether or not you share the apprehension that I (and some major academics overseas, including Ted Bestor and Harumi Befu, at the very bottom) have about Japan’s future.

Mainichi and JT: Nagoya mayor Kawamura repeatedly denies Nanjing Massacre, joins ranks of revisionist J politicians

This is hot news (or has been recently), so let me cut in with this issue and break the arc of immigration/labor issues. Here’s another Japanese politician, Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi, playing to type (as in, playing to a Rightist historical revisionist base) by reportedly denying that the Nanjing Massacre in WWII China ever took place. He’s not alone. The Japan Times article below is particularly good, as it includes other deniers and their dates in Japan’s political discourse, showing there is a longstanding arc to this discourse.

There may be a political dimension. As a commenter mailed me, “Because I have lived in Nagoya for over 20 years, Mayor Kawamura’s atrocious lack of tact really makes me cringe. We’ve seen it before with these old boys. They reach a certain age and feel they can afford to throw caution to the wind. However, there may be some background here that isn’t being aired. The Chinese apparently had their sites on a prime piece of land near Nagoya Castle and wanted to build a consulate or trade related facility of some kind. There is local opposition. So it’s possible that the Mayor deliberately wanted to piss them off.” Interesting if true. Let’s have that investigated.

A little academic expostulating, if I may: One of the things that Japan has never undergone (as opposed to, say, Germany) is a postwar examination of its colonialist/imperialist past, as Postcolonialism as an analytical paradigm seems to have passed Japanese academia by (as have many rigorous intellectual disciplines, in favor of, say, the unscientific pseudo-religion that is Nihonjinron). Even proponent Edward Said was blind to it, by binding us to an East-West divide when encapsulating his theory of lack of minority voices in the world’s historical discourse as “Orientalism”, meaning Japan became an “Oriental” country (as opposed to a fellow colonial empire builder) and thus immune to the analysis. Partially because of this, Japan lacks the historical conversation (and is ignored overseas for not undertaking it) that would include and incorporate the minority voices of “sangokujin” (i.e., the former peoples of empire) et.al as part of the domestic discourse.

And this is one reason why fatheads like Kawamura are able to keep on reopening old wounds and refuse to face the dark side of Japan’s history — a history which, if an honest accounting of history is done everywhere, every country has.

Terrie’s Take on how Japanese companies are too “addicted” to cheap Chinese “Trainee” labor to hire unemployed Japanese

Received this this morning from Terrie Lloyd. Very much worth reading, as it shows the damage done by the market aberration (if you believe in free markets as the final arbiter of fairness) of holding labor costs artificially low — you get resistance to ever raising them again once business gets used to those costs as being “normal”. As wages and working conditions in Japan continue their race to the bottom, it seems that two decades of NJ “Trainee” near-slave and slave labor will come back to haunt the Japanese economy after all.

Terrie Lloyd: According to an article in the Japan Times on Thursday, quoting numbers from a Labor Ministry report released earlier in the week, there are now 2.02m people in Japan receiving welfare checks, more than any time since 1952. “Welfare” in Japan is apparently defined as financial assistance offered by the government to a household when its total income falls below the national minimum.

Presumably a big contributor to this record number of needy people has been the Great East Japan earthquake in March. The level of joblessness has soared to around 90% of employable survivors in the worst hit areas, and by the end of May about 110,000 were out of work and applying for the dole at various Hello Work offices in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures.

So, one would think that with this excess capacity of workers, many of whom are from the agricultural, fisheries, and manufacturing industries, juxtaposed with the phenomenon of disappearing Chinese trainee workers from factories around the same regions, less than half of whom are yet to return, that there would be a slew of local hirings to make up the shortfall. Certainly after the Chinese trainees fled the disaster areas, there were plenty of news reports of employers grumpily saying, “We can’t trust Chinese employees, next time we’ll hire locals.”

But are they following through with local hiring offers? Our guess is “not”.

The reason is because a Japanese breadwinner from Iwate on unemployment, or even welfare, can still receive 2-5 times more than the Chinese trainees do for the same jobs. The factory and farm operators may grizzle about their “unreliable” Chinese employees, but without this source of ultra-cheap labor, they have no way of being able to compete with the flood of goods and produce coming in from China itself. The fact is that thousands of small companies all over Japan are addicted to cheap trainee labor from China and elsewhere, and to go local they would soon go out of business….

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 12, 2011

Table of Contents:
EXCLUSIONISM AND RACIAL PROFILING
1) “Japanese Only” bar in Kobe, “Soul Bar”, Nishinomiya Yamanote Doori. Advertises the music of people they would no doubt exclude
2) Rpl on Police Gaijin Card Check in Chitose Airport yesterday — with cops refusing to identify themselves and even getting physical
3) Exclusionary pottery shop in Doguyasuji, Osaka, refuses service to non-Asian NJ
4) Yomiuri: Muslims file suit over National Police Agency antiterror investigations
5) Fukushima Japanese refused service at hotels etc., plus famous excluder/embezzler Toyoko Inn up to old tricks; requires guests unlawfully sign waivers just to stay
6) Tangent: Historical comparison between contemporary social attitudes justifying racial discrimination in Japan and pre-Civil-War slavery in America
7) Foreign Minister Maehara resigns due to donations from a “foreigner” (a Zainichi, that is)

INJUSTICE
8 ) NCN: Stunning revelation from former prosecutor on the real situation of initial training, “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no rights”
9) GOJ says it will schedule joining Hague Convention on Child Abductions this month. Wowee. Why I doubt that’ll mean anything even if signed.
10) Chris Savoie wins US court award of $6.1 million against ex-wife for breach of contract, emotional distress, and false imprisonment of his children in Japan
11) Yomiuri: Govt eyes international human rights complaint framework, where domestic claimants can take their issue to the U.N.
12) AFP: Britain now supports Japan’s bid for UN Security Council seat: How eyeblinkingly blind of GOJ history re unfollowing international agreements.
13) Tangent: Kyodo: 2 men acquitted in retrial after serving nearly 30 years in prison

… and finally …
14) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 7, 2011: “‘English-speaking diaspora’ should unite, not backbite”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 18, 2010

Table of Contents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 31 UN Rep Bustamante’s Full Press Release on Japan’s Human Rights Record

PRESS RELEASE MARCH 31, 2010: UN MIGRANTS RIGHTS EXPERT URGES JAPAN TO INCREASE PROTECTION OF MIGRANTS (excerpt)

TOKYO – The UN expert on migrants’ human rights on Wednesday praised Japan for some of the measures it has taken to alleviate the impact of the economic crisis on migrants, but, based on information provided by civil society, he noted that it is still facing a range of challenges, including racism and discrimination, exploitation, a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights and the overall lack of a comprehensive immigration policy that incorporates human rights protection…

The Special Rapporteur said, many challenges still need to be addressed by the Government in order to protect the human rights of migrants and their children. He listed some of the most important, along with some preliminary recommendations on how to improve the situation:

UN: Transcript of the Japanese Government CERD Review (76th Session), Feb 24 & 25, Geneva. Point: Same GOJ session tactics as before.

What follows is the full text of the GOJ’s meeting Feb 24-25, 2010, with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, something it faces for review every two years.

Media-digested highlights of this meeting already up on Debito.org here.

Although it was noteworthy for having 14 Japanese delegates from five different ministries (something the UN delegates remarked upon repeatedly), quite frankly, the 2010 session wasn’t much different from the previous two reviews. In that: The CERD Committee tells the GOJ to do something, and the GOJ gives reasons why things can’t change (or offers cosmetic changes as evidence that things are changing; it even cites numerous times the new Hatoyama Government as evidence of change, and as a reason why we can’t say anything conclusive yet about where human rights improvements will happen). The 2008 review was particularly laughable, as it said that Japan was making “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination”. I guess an actual law against racial discrimination isn’t a conceivable measure. As the GOJ delegates say below, it still isn’t. But it is according to the CERD Committee below.

In sum, the biannual to-and-fro has become Grand Kabuki. And while things got bogged down in the standard “minority” questions (Ainu, Ryukyuans, Burakumin, and Zainichis — all worthy causes in themselves, of course), very little time was spent on “Newcomer” minorities, as in, the NJ (or former-NJ) immigrants who are now here long-term. People like me, as in racially-diverse Japanese, aren’t seen as a minority yet, even though we very definitely are by any UN definition. Plus, hardly any time was devoted at all to discussing the “Japanese Only” signs extant throughout Japan for many UN sessions now, the most simple and glaring violation of the CERD yet.

I haven’t the time to critique the whole session text below, but you can look at the 2008 session here (which I did critique) and get much the same idea. I have put certain items of interest to Debito.org in boldface, and here are some pencil-dropping excerpted quotes:

Day Care Center in Tokorozawa, Saitama teaches toddlers “Little Black Sambo”, complete with the epithets

Guest writer Mark Thompson: A daycare center named Midori Hoikuen (みどり保育園), or Green Daycare Center, in Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture, located just 30 minutes by train from Ikebukuro station in Tokyo, has been teaching hate speech to three-year old children daily, despite the protests of the parents of at least one biracial child in the class.

Here is a quick translation of some of the frightening lyrics from the song the children are being taught to enjoy singing daily at the daycare center in Tokorozawa:

“Little Black Sambo, sambo, sambo
His face and hands are completely black
Even his butt is completely black”

The daycare center’s excuse is that since all of the children have already learned the title Little Black Sambo, there will be no change in the title whatsoever. The staff have continued to teach the use of the discriminatory word “sambo” and encourage the children to enjoy using it.

Please take the time to contact the daycare center yourself, either in English or Japanese, and raise your concerns about the daycare center’s teaching of hate speech to young children. It will only take a minute of your time and contact information is provided below.

Please also make your voice heard, by sending a carbon copy to Tokorozawa City Hall, Department of Daycare Services, which has been informed of this issue. Although technically a private institution, the parents [of the biracial child] were originally instructed by the city of Tokorozawa that their child would have attend daycare there.

Co-authored chapter in new Akashi Shoten book on “American Diaspora”

I just got a copy yesterday of a book in which I’ve co-authored a chapter with Jens Wilkinson. Entitled “Yo-roppa, Roshia, Amerika no Diasupora” (The European, Russian, and American Diaspora), published by Akashi Shoten Inc. (which published all my other books, thanks), the book is in Japanese. Scanned cover front and back and Table of Contents follow as images (click to enlarge in browser). And the English translation of the chapter follows in full afterwards for your reference. Excerpt:

“Most of the chapters in this book look at the movements of an interconnected minority people in response to some crisis. This chapter is fundamentally different in tone. Here, we discuss the movements of people from the United States of America, a country unusual in both current circumstances (the sole superpower in the world today, projecting power across what we will argue is an “empire”), and history (one of a minority of the world’s countries which were founded upon immigration, meaning that America itself has been the beneficiary of migrating Diasporas).

This is why, when discussing the situation of Americans living abroad, we will argue that may need a new paradigm to describe an “American Diaspora”– if there actually is one…”

NYT on South Korea dealing with racism: Prosecutors spring into action. Contrast.

NYT: On the evening of July 10, Bonogit Hussain, a 29-year-old Indian man, and Hahn Ji-seon, a female Korean friend, were riding a bus near Seoul when a man in the back began hurling racial and sexist slurs at them.

The situation would be a familiar one to many Korean women who have dated or even — as in Ms. Hahn’s case — simply traveled in the company of a foreign man.

What was different this time, however, was that, once it was reported in the South Korean media, prosecutors sprang into action, charging the man they have identified only as a 31-year-old Mr. Park with contempt, the first time such charges had been applied to an alleged racist offense. Spurred by the case, which is pending in court, rival political parties in Parliament have begun drafting legislation that for the first time would provide a detailed definition of discrimination by race and ethnicity and impose criminal penalties.

COMMENT: Well, how about that. First South Korea does away with its hojeok family registry system in 2007 (the similar koseki system, still extant in Japan, causes a lot of difficulties for NJ). This after it passes a law in 2005 with provisions against some forms of racial discrimination, such as against Koreans with mixed parentage. Now, according to the NYT below, they’re charging people in court with racism and drafting laws against it, even protecting at least one person with no blood connection to Korea. Dunno how thoroughly this is being enforced, but given the cultural similarities (and attitudes towards outsiders), it SK can do it, I daresay it’s not impossible for Japan. The discriminatory conditions described below sound eerily similar at times.

Economist.com BANYAN column on DPJ moves to right historical wrongs

Here’s The Economist’s Asia-focus “Banyan” column last week, on the DPJ’s attempt to try and redress the historical running sores that pass for diplomatic relations between Japan and the rest of Asia.

As I voted in the most recent Debito.org blog poll, the DPJ keeps surprising me with their progressive plans and policies. The proposal for a definitive joint-edited history book of the Asian region is precisely what UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene recommended as a salve years ago.

The Economist is right to express a certain degree of skepticism: so many hopes for countries to act like adults, and own up to the bad parts of history (viz. former PM Abe’s call for official whitewashing in the name of promoting Japan as “beautiful” — i.e. shame about the past just gets in the way of training Japanese to love their country), have been dashed time and time again. But as long as the DPJ can maintain the momentum of “not quite business as usual, folks”, I think we just might see decades of regional rhetorical logjam broken, and Japan discovering that international goodwill might be worth as much as good trade relations.

Economist.com: Yukio Hatoyama, Japan’s new prime minister, has pleased the neighbours by promising that rule by his Democratic Party of Japan would transform Japan’s relations with them. He made the pledge in both Seoul, where he met South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, on October 8th, and then in Beijing at a three-way summit with China’s leaders. Unlike the weasel-worded Liberal Democratic Party, which long ran the country, Mr Hatoyama’s new government, he says, “has the courage to face up to history.”

Both Mr Lee and China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, were delighted. Dealing honestly with historical matters, they affirmed, would make it much easier to tackle contemporary challenges together—notably, getting North Korea to give up its nukes, and deepening economic co-operation. Mr Lee said Mr Hatoyama had opened the way for “future-oriented relations”. The talk now is of reviving old plans for an undersea tunnel linking South Korea and Japan. Emperor Akihito may visit South Korea, a first. Both South Korea and China have applauded Japan’s proposal for a jointly compiled history textbook…

UN NEWS: UN expert calls on Japan to boost action in combating human trafficking

UN NEWS: 17 July 2009 — Although Japan recognizes the seriousness of the problem of human trafficking within its borders, the East Asian nation must take more concrete action to fight the scourge, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today.

“Human trafficking affects every country of the world, and Japan is clearly affected as a destination country for many of those victims,” said Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, wrapping up a six-day visit to the country.

The majority of trafficking is for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation in Japan, but she pointed out that trafficking for labour exploitation is also cause for great concern.

Next screening of documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES Sun June 14, Tokyo Univ Komaba Campus

In case you missed a chance to see documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES, here’s your next chance. Drop by Tokyo University Komaba Campus this coming Sunday afternoon and take in a screening. It’s part of a Linguapax Asia Symposium this year. Details and schedule as follows. More on the documentary here.

2009 Linguapax Asia Symposium
Theme: Human Trafficking
June 14, 9:00 – 16:30
University of Tokyo, Komaba Campus, Bldg. 18,
4th Floor, Communication Room No 3

With an estimated 900,000 victims annually, human trafficking is perhaps the major human rights issue of the 21st century. The 2009 Working Session of Linguapax Asia will discuss the connection of language with human trafficking and will explore the following:

• How can language define the socio-political contexts of human trafficking?
• How has human trafficking (both labor and sexual) been described historically (e.g. biblical sources and slave narratives)?
• How have literary works described human trafficking?
• How has human trafficking been portrayed by visual media?
• How can the language of human experience explore human trafficking and the sex industry?…

14:40 Debito Arudou, Hokkaido Information University, Documentary film: Sour Strawberries: Japan’s Hidden Guest Workers (2008, Tilman König and Daniel Kremers)

Sunday Tangent: Obama’s March 8, 2008 speech on race, full text

As a Sunday Tangent, here is the speech which probably sealed Obama’s image as a serious thinker and candidate: his 2008 remarks on race.

To me it is a very sophisticated version of MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech — few speeches have taken such a complex issue, i.e. race in America, and dealt with it with such insight, balance, and disarmingness. We need more of this insight in discourse about race in Japan. Unfortunately, too many people would prefer to think that there is NO issue of race in Japan. We’ll get to that. Meanwhile, read and savor the full text of Obama’s speech on race, and glean what you can about the approach to the issue. Ultimately, I believe, this got him elected.

Sunday Tangent: NPR interview with late scholar John Hope Franklin: feel the parallels

Sunday Tangent: An interview with the late John Hope Franklin, historian of the Negro experience in North America. I excerpt a section where he’s trying to buy a house in Brooklyn. Should ring some bells with any NJ trying to rent a place and/or get credit in Japan. One more historical template for why we need a law against racial discrimination here too.

Audience reactions to documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES roadshow March 21-April 1

Some various and sundry thoughts on audience reactions to the excellent SOUR STRAWBERRIES documentary as we finish up the last screenings (thinking about another August-September tour, so book me if you’re interested), and consider what the movie may mean in the context of international labor migration. In sum, SOUR STRAWBERRIES may be a testiment to the last days of Japan’s internationalized industrial prowess, as people are being turfed out because no matter how many years and how much contribution, they don’t belong. Have to wait and see. But to me it’s clear the GOJ is still not getting beyond seeing NJ as work units as opposed to workers and people. Especially in these times of economic hardship. I’m seeing it for myself as the movie tours.

IHT on Buraku Nonaka vs Barack Obama

What with the impending Obama Presidency, there is a boom in “change” theory, with press speculation whether a landmark incident that so countermands a society’s history could likewise do the same in other (apparently historically-intransigent) societies. Here’s an article on the NYT/IHT on what happened when a minority in Japan, a member of the Buraku historical underclass, got close to the top job, and what the current blue-blooded leader (Aso) allegedly did to stop it. The article about former Dietmember Nonaka Hiromu ends on a hopeful note, but I’m not so positive.

Quoting from one of my Japan Times articles, December 18, 2007:

“After the last election, 185 of 480 Diet members (39%) were second- or third- (or more) generation politicians (seshuu seijika). Of 244 members of the LDP (the ruling party for practically all the postwar period), 126 (52%) are seshuu seijika. Likewise eight of the last ten Prime Ministers, andaround half the Abe and Fukuda Cabinets. When the average turnover per election is only around 3%, you have what can only be termed a political class.”

Until the electorate realizes that their legislative body is a peerage masquerading as an elected body, and vote out more technically-inherited seats, “change” in terms of minority voices being heard will be much slower in coming.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column(s) on “Truth Octane”: Vote on which one you like better.

Before I get to my latest Japan Times column, a little story:

I usually start my columns about a week or so before the first draft is due. That way, I can tinker with it over the days here and there and add ideas as they come to me during the course of life. I don’t like writing too many things on the fly — things come out half-baked that way.

However, this essay on “Truth Octane” was a rather difficult one. Getting this complicated analytical concept out and developed with examples within 800 words was a challenge. Plus I had two weekend trips to Tokyo in the interim. I wasn’t really satisfied with my first version, so after Edo arrival last Friday, I handed it over to a trusted close friend for perusal. His verdict, and I quote, was, “It’s a turkey.” This was about 12:30 AM on Friday night – Saturday morning, and about four beers into the evening.

Well, no trusted friend calls my essays “turkeys” and gets away with it. So at 1AM, I commandeered his toilet (I’ve done some of my best thinking there) and didn’t leave until I had rewritten the whole thing from scratch. 700 words and 45 minutes later, I had a new draft out. My friend’s verdict: “Much better. Inspirational. No comparison.”

I gave both versions to my editor at the JT and let him choose which he liked better. He went with the second, rewritten, toilet version as well.

But I’m genuinely curious. What do readers think? First the published version, then the original version. Vote which one you like better at the blog poll at the upper right hand corner!

The Japan Times Community Page on the JBC “Gaijin Debate”, part two.

The JUST BE CAUSE Columns I wrote these past two months on the word “Gaijin” have inspired a lot of debate. Again, good. Thanks everybody. Here’s another salvo from The Community Page yesterday. I’ll have a Part Three on this issue out in The Japan Times on October 7, talking about how the strict “insider-outsider” system here (of which “Gaijin” is a subset of) also affects Japanese, and hurts Japanese society as a whole. Thanks for reading and commenting. And I love the illustration in the JT for this article…

Japan Times 4th JUST BE CAUSE column on “Good Grass Roots” June 3 2008

GOOD NEWS FROM GRASS ROOTS
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 4
By Arudou Debito, Japan Times June 3, 2008
Reader Rodney in Vancouver recently emailed: “I’ve often found your articles informative and useful, but they tend to take a tone of complaint. Please tell us about some face-to-face, grassroots efforts that have helped make Japanese more considerate and respectful of those who are different.”

Thanks. Yes, my essays sound like “complaints” because I focus on ongoing issues that need redress. That doesn’t mean I don’t see the good news too. Here are 700 words to prove that…

UN OHCHR Minority Update: Japan reviewed by Human Rights Council

Here are two updates on Japan’s human rights behavior being considered for periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council. This is a new activity by the UN after the old Human Rights Commission was disbanded, accused for many years of having the world’s worst human-rights offenders as leaders, there covering up their own abuses. Now under this new organ with the same acronym, everyone is being subject to review once every four years. And according to the press releases below, Japan’s turn came last week. Forwarding primary-source documents to you. Pertinent sections underlined. As it says below, you can also submit documents to the OHCHR if you want about human-rights abuses in Japan. Five pages max, deadline July 14, 2008, email included in this blog entry.

Reuters: UN’s Doudou Diene checking out racism in USA

UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene, who has visited Japan three times in the past, called racism here “deep and profound”, and urged Japan to pass laws against racial discrimination, is now visiting the US for the same reason. Good. Let’s see how the USG deals with his report (and let’s see how high up Diene gets meetings. Even Tokyo Gov. Ishihara found no time to meet Diene on any of this trips…). The GOJ essentially ignored his reports, alas.

US State Dept Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2007, Japan

Although the US is certainly no paragon of human rights worldwide (what with torture, renditions, abuses under SOFA, denial of Habeas Corpus to non-citizens, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and the largest arms sales worldwide, to name but a few caveats under this administration), here is their annual report on human rights in Japan in full. For what it’s worth. Note how the situation of “Japanese Only” signs nationwide is no longer mentioned, like it was in previous reports. I guess the US State Department considers the situation resolved. I beg to differ.

Terrie’s Take 456 on Immigration’s looming crackdown on NJ residents

Terrie’s Take: “Over the last 2 years, there have been a number of legislatory submissions and trial PR balloons floated that indicate that the government is intending to significantly increase its control over foreigners living here. Given that many other countries also impose strict tracking and controls on foreign residents who are not migrants, this wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing providing that there was some upside offered such as by those other countries. In particular, Japan needs to make laws and apply the proper enforcement of UN human rights to foreign residents. Rights such as anti-discrimination, right to impartial justice, fair treatment of refugees, proper criminalization of human trafficking, and rights of children are all severely lacking. But these unfortunately don’t seem to be part of the agenda at this time.”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 30, 2008

FURTHER POLICING IN JAPAN
1) Gyaku on upcoming GOJ regulations of the Internet: Online content, keitai, and file sharing
2) Kyodo: MOJ says GOJ to scrap NJ registration system and Gaijin Cards
3) Japan Times: Foreigner registration revision to include ID chip, probably same policing function
4) GOJ floats trial balloon: Japanese language improvement for visas
5) ABC Radio Australia: “Expatriates concerned by plans for Japanese language tests”
6) Yomiuri: GOJ shutting out ‘hooligans’ (i.e. antiglobalization activists) from Hokkaido G-8 summit
7) Mark Mino-Thompson on “updated” Hotel Laws: Refusal OK if “unreasonable/unrational burden”
8) Asahi: NPA Survey: 25% of hotels not following NPA demands to check “foreign guest” passports.
9) FCCJ Photo Journalist Per Bodner’s account of his arrest on fictitious “assault charges”
10) Kandai PR Harassment: Why you don’t let non-Immigration people make Immigration decisions…
11) Jeff on Japanese police documenting neighborhood residents
12) TIME: “Japan thwarts abusive police” by tweaking interrogation rules
13) Permanent Resident protests US Govt’s hypocritical apathy towards NJ Fingerprint policy
14) Patricia Aliperti & Catherine Makino on NJ Sexual Slavery/Human Trafficking in Japan

GOOD NEWS
15) Yomiuri: DPJ pushing bill for NJ voting rights in local elections
16) Economist Leader makes the case why immigration is a good thing
17) Christian Science Monitor: “Japanese youth help compatriots embrace diversity”

ODDITIES AND STUPEFIERS
18) Yomiuri et al: 71% of NJ tourists come for Japan’s food, yet 35% of J don’t want NJ tourism increase
19) KTO on a naturalizer back in 1985
20) Historical artifact: NJ Jobs in 1984 (Tokyo Shinbun)

…and finally…
21) Speech by Arudou Debito at Waseda Jan 22, 5PM, on Japan’s Immigration and Human Rights Record (with links to paper and powerpoint presentation)

Yomiuri et al: 71% of NJ tourists come for Japan’s food, yet 35% of J don’t want NJ tourism increase

Eating Japanese food is the most commonly stated reason for visiting Japan among overseas tourists, according to a recent survey. Within character have the Yomiuri talk less about the deterrents to entry (fingerprinting and treatment like criminals and terrorists) and accentuate the positives (food, natch). Update indicates that Japan is the 30th most popular nation to travel to, although it’s 8.3 million tourists nationwide in 2007 is even less than New York City’s tourism alone. No wonder–35% of the public surveyed in 2003 don’t want tourists due to fears of foreign crime.

Yomiuri: GOJ to forbid employers from confiscating NJ passports

After much trouble with employers confiscating NJ worker passports (held as a Sword of Damocles to abuse workers), the GOJ is finally making it expressly illegal. About time–the passport is the property of the issuing government, and not something a foreign government (or another person) can impound indefinitely. The fact that it’s been used as a weapon to keep the foreign laborer in line for so long speaks volumes about the GOJ’s will to protect the imported laborer’s rights after he or she got here. Glad this is finally coming on the books. Now let’s hope it gets enforced.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 12, 2007

1) NEW JAPAN TIMES ARTICLE TUES NOV 13 ON NEW WORKPLACE GAIJIN CARDING

2) NJ FINGERPRINTING UPDATE:
A) PROTEST WORKS: NARITA INSTITUTES NEW SEPARATE LINES FOR RESIDENTS
B) RECENT MEDIA: FP “AN UNMITIGATED PR DISASTER FOR THE GOJ”, “INEFFECTIVE”
C) CUTE ANIMATION RE FINGERPRINTING: DOWNLOAD AND SPREAD AROUND
D) TUES NOV 20, NOON, ASSEMBLE AND PROTEST AT JUSTICE MINISTRY

3) JAPAN TIMES: US GOVT FORCED PM ABE TO BACK DOWN RE COMFORT WOMEN
4) LA TIMES: HOW J POLICE IGNORE CERTAIN CRIMES. LIKE MURDER.
5) IHT/ASAHI, METROPOLIS, NUGW ON EIKAIWA NOVA BANKRUPTCY AFTERMATH
6) NOV 17 FED OF BAR ASSOC (NICHIBENREN) MEETING RE DIVORCE AND JOINT CUSTODY

…and finally…
7) UPCOMING SPEECH TOKYO NOV 18, “NO BORDER” GROUP ANNUAL MEETING

Shuukan Kinyobi/J Times: Vietnamese worker lawsuit against JITCO & Toyota-related company

Hi Blog. Another lawsuit against an employer for bad work practices. This time around, however, the plaintiffs are NJ. Let’s hope their efforts both make the labor laws more clearly enforceable, and highlight more of the problems created by treating NJ laborers as inferior. Thanks to Shuukan Kin’youbi and people at the Japan Times for …

Tangent: Rebecca Walker on the “Identity Police”

Hi Blog. Friend Michael Fox sent me this article from Heeb Magazine, Issue 13. An interview with Writer/Activist Rebecca Walker. Now, while the focus may be on how one person grew up straddling two cultures within the same country (Black and Jewish), the points she makes about having a healthy attitude towards people who would …

J Times column on Hair Police and NJ educational underclass

Japan Times Community Page column 36: “The bellwether of any country’s internationalization is the altered composition of the school population. Many of Japan’s immigrant children are becoming an underclass, deprived of an education for being born different than the putative ‘Japanese standard’.”

UPDATE June 27: My week speaking in Tokyo and facing the madding crowds

A summary of what happened this past week with my speeches in Tokyo: At Waseda, Meiji Gakuin University ASCJ 2007, Tokai University, and publisher Shogakukan Inc. Links to all my speeches, papers, and Powerpoint presentations also included FYI.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 25, 2007

1) FOLLOW-UP TO THE “HAIR POLICE” REPORT… comments from cyberspace
2) ASAHI: KURASHIKI HOTEL REFUSES NJ, GETS SLAPPED BY CITY GOVT
3) JUDGE RULES OVERWORKING NJ EDUCATORS IS LEGAL
4) UTU PETITION AGAINST OUTSOURCING JOBS
5) PETITION RE “COMFORT WOMEN”, US HR RESOLUTION 121
6) CHE: GRASSROOTS MEASURES AGAINST JAPAN’S HISTORICAL AMNESIA
7) FUJI TV: ARCHIVED SHOW ON JAPAN’S EXTREME RIGHT WING

and finally…
8) SECOND DEBITO.ORG DEJIMA AWARD TO “ALL-JAPAN HS ATHLETIC ASSN”
who organized a student footrace barring NJ from the starting lineup (Asahi)

Petitions re Comfort Women US Congress House Res. 121

Forwarding from other activists: “It has been more than 60 years of the women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial government and justice has yet to be seen. A clear position of the United States (country to whom Japan, esp. the current Abe regime, is REALLY beholden to, as we know) via Congress will mark the perhaps the biggest blow to the Japanese government which has stepped up public efforts to re-legitimatize revisionist history… It’s been long recognized in Japan that an international or external pressure is a critical political force in order to delivery justice to this issue, and now it seems that the House Resolution 121 has gained so much momentum, we need to keep it up….and get it PASSED!”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 14, 2007

1) ANSWER FROM ALEX KERR re HIS JAPAN TIMES COMMENTS
2) TAKAHASHI SPEECH ON REMILITARIZING JAPAN AT U OF CHICAGO
3) LATEST CRAZINESS FROM J JUDICIARY: SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD
4) NATURALIZED KOREAN-J RUNS FOR OSAKA PREF ASSEMBLY
5) PROTEST RE LABOR BILL: COMPANIES MUST REPORT THEIR FOREIGN WORKERS
6) SUCCESSFUL PROTEST: CHANGING “TORUKO” TO “SOAPLAND”
7) JAPAN TIMES: SHIGA GOVERNOR BACKS ANTI-DISCRIM LAW
and finally…
NORTHERN TERRITORIES DISPUTE… OVER A CASE OF BEER

JT: Shiga governor backs antidiscrimination law

Article uncovered from the archives: Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada said August 23, 2006, that she generally supports the creation of a national law to ban racial discrimination. However, many people in the central government and business who are pushing for more foreign labor oppose legislating against discrimination. Some say it would be better to change the attitude of society to be more tolerant of foreigners.

Irish Times: “Abe unleashes the deniers of history”, NYT on textbook revisionism

It’s business as usual as Japan Inc. takes on the world’s political arenas with spin doctoring over “Comfort Women” etc., to feint with the left hand while fiddling with the right. Distract with snow jobs while whitewashing the historical record. Only this time I think we’ve got enough people on the ground over here who know what our government is doing for a change. David McNeill releases an excellent article for the Irish Times, while Norimitsu Onishi, on an incredible roll these days, continues unearthing for the New York Times.

PM Abe: OK, OK, I apologize for “Comfort Women”, already

Trace the Arc of Abe, from denial to hair-splitting to no comment to deflection to apology through his cabinet. However, belated apologies like this (just by simple human nature, apologies tend to mean less when they come after being demanded, especially over a long duration) will have the irony of a similar debate: Just how much “coercion” was there behind this? And how does this affect the sincerity of the act? Stay tuned.

Abe denies existence of “Comfort Women”, overseas media and US Congress react, Abe backpedals, then clams up. Media pounces

Now the Western media has their peg to unzip the Abe Adminstration’s overt right-wing historical revisionist bent. Newsweek did a puff piece on Abe’s wife (comparing her to Jackie O) not too long ago, sigh. Now Abe undoes her image control with these revelations. NYT and Time Magazine aritcles follow. Remember that Abe tried this on NHK in 2001 before he was PM, forcing NHK to re-edit a historical piece involving the Comfort Women some years ago. J Times Sources included, as well as an update showing Abe backpedalling and containing links to statements before the US Congress on this issue. Go Mike Honda, go! More updates include March 7 Kyodo article as the GOJ continues to make a hash of the issue, and NYT interviews victims March 8. Then Abe blames the media for misconstruing him and clams up. NYT editorial and Kouno Statement of 1993 included. As well as lots more media debate and academic analysis.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DEC 13, 2006

1) JAPAN TIMES ERIC JOHNSTON MISQUOTED IN NEW BOOK ON IMPERIAL FAMILY
2) ANTHONY BIANCHI RUNNING FOR MAYOR OF INUYAMA, AICHI PREF
3) GOJ’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT AND ANTI-REFUGEE STANCE DRAWS FIRE FROM U.N.
4) TOKYO SHINBUN ON JAPAN’S FOREIGN SLAVE LABOR CONDITIONS
5) YOMIURI: FOREIGN WORKERS CANNOT WIRE MONEY HOME, WRITE LETTERS…
6) SENDAI CITY LOSES LAWSUIT OVER BUS ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION
7) ASAHI: COURT RULES JUKI NET UNCONSTITUTIONAL. HOWZABOUT GAIJIN CARDS?
8) GOJ NOW REQUIRES OVERSEAS “RAP SHEETS” FOR LONG-TERM VISAS
9) QUICK UPDATES TO PREVIOUS BLOG ENTRIES…
and finally… LOSING MY SUGAWARA ON MY KOSEKI

Tokyo Shinbun Dec 3 06, article on abuses of foreign Trainees and GOJ’s Kouno Taro policy prescription proposals

From the Tokyo Shinbun Dec 3, 2006. Excellent article rounding up the problems and the possible policy prescriptions regarding abusive treatment of foreign labor in Japan. NGO’s are even using the word “slave labor” (appropriately) to describe the situation.

Yomiuri: Factory has foreign worker sign oath not to pray, fast, use cellphone, write letters, wire money home, ride in a car…

Hello Blog. Interesting article on how Japan’s factories’ abusive practices towards foreign “trainee” workers are coming to light. (I have another article on this subject on this blog at https://www.debito.org/?p=105) In this case, a Muslim trainee worker has had to sign a “seiyakusho” (a written oath, mildly translated in the article as merely a “note”) …

METROPOLIS: DIETMEMBER TSURUNEN INTERVIEW AUG 9, 2006

Foreign-born lawmaker puts Japan’s acceptance of outsiders to the test By Oscar Johnson Courtesy http://www.crisscross.com/jp/newsmaker/345 Marutei Tsurunen stands in front of the Diet. PHOTO BY TSUTOMU FU TOKYO — Marutei Tsurunen relentlessly clawed at the doors of the Diet for a decade with two goals in mind: to get the inside scoop on politics and …

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 17, 2006

1) “DANGER! HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION LAW” MANGA TRANSLATED
2) “ILLEGAL FOREIGN LABOR MONTH” SIGNS UP AGAIN IN SHINAGAWA STN
3) TOKYO PRESS CONF JUNE 22: HAMAMATSU MAYOR KITAWAKI
4) JT ON REINSTITUTION OF FINGERPRINTING, AND RESPONSE
5) KOFI ANNAN ON JAPAN’S NEW IMMIGRATION LAW
6) KOFI ANNAN ON MIGRANTS
7) JOHN EDWARD PHILIPS ON ACADEMIA AND MONOCULTURALISM IN JAPAN