Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
26 Nov
Asahi: “Refugees welcome” was a rallying cry among 2,500 or so Tokyo Democracy March demonstrators who paraded through the capital’s Shinjuku district on Nov. 22 following the recent Paris terror attacks. The crowd, protesting all forms of discrimination, urged Japan to welcome those fleeing danger with some waving a banner displaying the asylum seeker-friendly slogan. [...] Causes on the agenda included the prejudice experienced by ethnic Korean residents in Japan, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and people with disabilities. The third annual demonstration also focused on asylum seekers amid concerns over anti-refugee sentiment in and outside Japan after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. [...] The event was first organized in 2013 chiefly as a protest against groups which staged a number of hate speeches targeting the numerous ethnic Korean residents in Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district. The demonstration has so far drawn on various themes, including the display of a discriminatory banner declaring “Japanese Only” at Saitama Stadium during a J.League football match on March 8, 2014. “We participate in this event because of our desire to improve our society,” said a 30-year-old organizer of the protest. COMMENT: This development is a positive one, both in that it happened (as an annual rally, no less), and that it was reported in the news.
22 Nov
It has been a busy past few months. August and September were spent proofing and indexing my new book Embedded Racism. But while doing that, I was working for a group called Netmobius who asked me to do some touristy writeups on Sapporo and environs. Since I've lived in the area for more than two decades and already written three chapters for Fodor's Japan Travel Guides, I was happy to do it. Here are links to the eleven articles and titles I wrote for them: Sapporo New Chitose Airport -- how it's run like airports everywhere should be. Transportation from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo Hokkaido Shinkansen – Traveling from Tokyo to Sapporo (or at least Hakodate by March 2016) History of Sapporo Station -- From Meiji to the Present Sapporo Station Layout and Facilities Shopping Near Sapporo Station (Paseo, Stellar Place, APIA, ESTA, Daimaru, Tokyu) Sightseeing near Sapporo Station (Odori Park, Sapporo Chikagai, Akarenga, Hokkaido University, Tanukikoji, Sapporo Clock Tower) Prominent Hotels Near Sapporo Station (JR Tower Nikko, Century Royal Hotel, Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo Grand Hotel, Hotel Monterey) Getting Around Sapporo: Sapporo Subway Namboku, Tozai and Toho Lines Getting Out and About: JR Hakodate Main Line for Otaru, Niseko, Hakodate, and Asahikawa Getting Off the Beaten Track: JR Hokkaido Train Lines Accessible from Sapporo (Asahikawa/Furano, Obihiro/Kushiro) You see, there is plenty to like about Japan, and I can switch off the critical tone when I want to.
18 Nov
Mainichi: As Japan's internationalization continues, the country's representatives in competitions abroad are also becoming increasingly diverse. The 31-man roster of the national rugby team that so electrified Japan in the recent Rugby World Cup, for example, boasted no less than 10 players born outside the country. And then there is Ariana Miyamoto, who this year became the first mixed-race woman to be crowned Miss Universe Japan. "There are foreigner athletes representing Japan, and then there's also me," Miyamoto, 21, told the Mainichi Shimbun in a recent interview. "I think Japanese society has changed a bit, but it still has a ways to go." Miyamoto, the daughter of an African American father and Japanese mother, is set to represent Japan in the annual Miss Universe pageant on Dec. 20 this year. Though she has become a positive symbol of Japan's internationalization, when she was selected to represent Japan in the pageant, she was also the target of many Internet attacks that she "doesn't look Japanese." […] "I want to end racial prejudice," said Miyamoto, adding that this was her reason for auditioning to represent Japan at the Miss Universe pageant. […] Meanwhile, the Japanese sports world is also looking more diverse, with Japan-born athletes like high school sprinter Abdul Hakim Sani Brown and baseball player (and recent Nippon Professional Baseball draftee) Louis Okoye making their mark. "I don't want to be summed up with the word 'haafu' (half)," said Miyamoto, referring to the Japanese colloquial term for those with one foreign parent. "It's the same as saying they're not really Japanese," she went on, and expressed hope that the presence of mixed race Japanese people like herself will eventually be considered completely natural. COMMENT: I am increasingly impressed by the resilience of Ms. Miyamoto in keeping her message on track. Bravo. However, the Japanese media is making sure her message of tolerance and inclusiveness is being contained and rendered ineffectual. This article in English, for example, was not featured as a Japanese article, for a Japanese-reading audience. Which, naturally, is the audience that most needs to hear it and be convinced by it. Here is a screen capture of web search engine for the Mainichi in Japanese, where the article does not exist. Keep at it, Ms. Miyamoto, and someday your message may even get through the editors of Japan's most liberal daily national newspaper.
14 Nov
This is an update to the previous post, but it deserves a separate blog entry for the deceitfulness. Thanks to Debito.org Readers contacting the organizers in Hong Kong, the 20th Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon made it clear to their Japan tour organizers (http://www.hkmarathon.jp) that restricting applications "exclusively for Japanese people" is unacceptable, as "all people who are residing in Japan, regardless of their nationalities, are allowed to join the mentioned tour". The Japan-side website then changed its wording to "This tour is designed exclusively for people residing in Japan. Applications from other countries are not acceptable. Applications from runners who are not residing in Japan will be treated as "invalid" and any deposit payment would not be refunded." But if you actually go to the website registration page (http://www.hkmarathon.jp/pre.html), the requirement for applicants of Japanese citizenship (item six in the bullet points: 私は日本国籍を有しています) is still there (screen capture). So although the English has changed for the purposes of placating the English-reading world, in Japanese are the same "Japanese Only" rules. It is very hard to see this as a mere oversight. And as written, NJ resident applicants still face refusal and then a non-refund of their deposit payments. It's gone from mere exclusionism to the potential for misleading applicants into corporate theft. How duplicitous and unprofessional of the Japan-side organizers. Imagine the internet uproar if a Japanese company made a mistake this big for its Japanese customers. Again, its seems, foreign customers in Japan don't matter. UPDATE NOVEMBER 13, 2015: Was tweeted this picture in regards to the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon registration desk for Japanese in Bangkok, Thailand. Seems to be more systematic than just Japanese organizers within Japan. More like the organization is excluding foreigners everywhere in the world, including in those nations where Japanese are foreigners themselves.
10 Nov
We've seen exclusionism in Japan's sports leagues before (baseball, hockey, the Kokutai, the Ekiden, and Sumo, for example). Now we can see that Japan uses the same exclusionary practices when it processes paying customers to participate in overseas events THROUGH Japanese companies. Such as can be seen here at the 20th Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon, which refuses all NJ customers (and will not refund their application fees, either): Source: http://www.hkmarathon.jp. Screen captures of the site, dated November 9, 2015: Note the bottom-right black box that says [ONLY JAPANESE]. This is reconfirmed when you scroll down to the next section, where it says in red script: "This tour is designed exclusively for Japanese people. Applications from other nationalities are not acceptable. Applications from non-Japanese runners will be treated as "invalid" and any deposit payment would not be refunded." Who is managing this? Kinki Nippon Tourist Agency, The Club Tourism Marathon Tour (their slogan, "Let's run the world!"), and HIS Travel Agency (aka No. 1 Travel, which has had "Japanese Only" pricing and different (higher) prices for foreign customers in the past). Who's sponsoring this? The Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Hong Kong Tourist Agency. I wonder if they know this is going on. COMMENT: What's wrong with this? The assumption that anyone who does not have a Japanese passport is not a resident of Japan. What about those people living permanently in Japan who might like to join this tour but do not have citizenship? How are they supposed to partake in this tour? Oh, I guess as customers, they just don't count because they're foreign. UPDATE NOVEMBER 12, 2015: They didn't know what was going on. After the Hong Kong sponsors were contacted by Debito.org Readers, the Japanese marathon tour site was amended to read: "This tour is designed exclusively for people residing in Japan. Applications from other countries are not acceptable. Applications from runners who are not residing in Japan will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded. " The Hong Kong Tourism Association has written (full letter in comments): "After receiving your email, we have immediately communicated with the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA), who is the organiser of Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon. According to HKAAA, all people who are residing in Japan, regardless of their nationalities, are allowed to join the mentioned tour. They have already advised the tour operator “Kinki Nippon Travel” to amend relevant wordings on the registration site." Gone is the assumption that foreigners in Japan are not residents of Japan. It's a pity that this wasn't obvious in the first place and required a caution from the overseas sponsors of the event. Bravo HKAAA and HKTA for their quick and decisive work. UPDATE NOVEMBER 13, 2015: Alas, the job is not quite done. On the application website itself, the requirement of Japanese Citizenship is still there. Hello HKTA...
6 Nov
Japan in Focus: A former Fukushima nuclear plant worker gets compensation, a new book explores racism in Japan, and why most married women give up their surnames. ABC NewsRadio's Eleni Psaltis presents Japan in Focus, a new program that takes a close look at significant political and cultural developments in Japan. This week: A former Fukushima nuclear plant worker has become the first person to be awarded worker's compensation by the Japanese government after being diagnosed with leukemia, Dr Arudou Debito from the University of Hawaii launches a new book on racism in Japan and how it has become embedded in laws and various social structures and the Japanese Supreme Court is considering whether it's unconstitutional to force people to give up their surnames upon marriage. Eleni Psaltis speaks to Komei Hosokawa from the Citizens' Commission of Nuclear Energy, Dr Arudou Debito from the University of Hawaii and Japan Times journalist Masami Ito. Duration: 15:08 First posted 26/10/2015 12:52:18 http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4338971.htm
2 Nov
JBC: Japan has a dire problem it must address immediately: its embedded racism. The country’s society and government are permeated by a narrative that says people must “look Japanese” before they can expect equal treatment in society. That must stop. It’s a matter of Japan’s very survival. We’ve talked about Japan’s overt racism in previous Just Be Cause columns: the “Japanese only” signs and rules that refuse entry and service to “foreigners” on sight (also excluding Japanese citizens who don’t “look Japanese”); the employers and landlords who refuse employment and apartments — necessities of life — to people they see as “foreign”; the legislators, administrators, police forces and other authorities and prominent figures that portray “foreigners” as a national security threat and call for their monitoring, segregation or expulsion. But this exclusionism goes beyond a few isolated bigots in positions of power, who can be found in every society. It is so embedded that it becomes an indictment of the entire system. In fact, embedded racism is key to how the system “works.” Or rather, as we shall see below, how it doesn’t... Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/11/01/issues/tackle-embedded-racism-chokes-japan/
2 Nov
Table of Contents: 1) Japan Times JBC 93 Nov 2, 2015: “Tackle embedded racism before it chokes Japan”, summarizing my new book out this week 2) Asahi TV: Police training drill in Tokyo on how to deal with jewelry thieves brandishing knives. Oh, and they’re “foreign” thieves. 3) “Foreign Driver” stickers appearing on Okinawan rental cars 4) Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say 5) Japan moving on to the next sucker societies for cheap or slave labor: Cambodia and Vietnam 6) Paul Toland Case Update: Japan as a “black hole” for parental child abductions — Family Court lawsuit & press conference to raise awareness of issue 7) “Onsen-Ken Shinfuro Video”: Japan Synchro Swim Team promotes Oita Pref. Onsens — and breaks most bathhouse rules doing so. Historically insensitive. 8 ) My Japan Times JBC 92 Oct. 5, 2015: “Conveyor belt of death shudders back to live”, on how Abe’s new security policy will revive Prewar martial Japan … and in case you thought I was being alarmist with JBC 92… 9) CSM: Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul for mythology
30 Oct
In another turn of logic in Japan, where differentiation between foreigners and Japanese is so normal that it's standard operating procedure for a significant amount of public policy, we have a case where "Foreign Driver" stickers have been created in Okinawa to call public attention to rental cars rented by foreigners. (image) Of course, with this constant differentiation comes the facile logical conclusion by policymakers that foreigners get into accidents BECAUSE they are foreigners. And presto, more public policy that once again targets foreigners. All the heart marks and polite language below in the "Foreign Driver" sign can't overcome that fact. Anyone want to find out if domestic NJ residents with Japanese driver licenses, who of course also become tourists if they travel within Japan, also get stuck with this sticker? Fukuoka Now Magazine: The number of foreign visitors renting cars is on the rise. In fiscal 2014, the number of car rentals around Fukuoka Airport jumped 250% to 6,572. Meanwhile, the Kyushu District Transportation Bureau offers a ¥2,500 2-day “all-you-can-drive” expressway pass. In the three-month period of last October to December, about 2,000 foreign tourists used the service, and the bureau expects this year’s numbers to outstrip last year’s. In Okinawa, a spate of minor accidents has led car rental shops to put “Foreigner Driving” stickers on cars rented to foreign tourists.“I keep an eye out for rental cars with wa license plates now,” admits a local taxi driver, referring to the rental car license plates whose numbers are prefaced by the hiragana character wa (わ).
27 Oct
Japan Times: A U.S. man seeking access to his daughter said Monday that the case is an opportunity for Japan to prove to the world it no longer tolerates parental child abduction. U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland is suing the mother of his Japanese ex-wife for denying access to his 13-year-old daughter. His former wife left with the child in 2003, at the age of 9 months, after their marriage failed. The woman committed suicide four years later. Toland said his situation would amount to a “felony crime” in other countries with up-to-date family laws. “In Japan, this abduction by a nonparent is not only accepted, but it is condoned. I’m the only parent in the world to (my daughter),” Toland said, who is in Japan for the first time since the trial at the Tokyo Family Court kicked off in July. Toland said if the case is resolved it would demonstrate to the world that Japan is turning over a new leaf after years of notoriety as a “safe haven” for parental child abduction. If his daughter is not returned to him, he said, it will only alienate the nation further.
24 Oct
Apparently the Tokyo police believe that jewelry stores need training in how to fend off thieves. Foreign thieves, that is. Even though according to the NPA's own statistics, theft (almost always committed by Japanese) is by far the most common crime in Japan -- even more than traffic accidents! And by "foreign thieves", we don't just mean the cat-burglar type of jewel thief (although even police also claim those as due to "foreigners" because of their "daring". Seriously.) We mean the loud, violent type, with perps shouting "kane" while wielding knives, as foreigners do, right? Fortunately, they can be repulsed by shopkeepers wielding poles and by police brandishing batons. TV Asahi was on the scene to record the event at a real jewelry store in public (in Okachimachi, Tokyo) to make the proceedings even more visible. Broadcast October 9, 2015. Check it out (video recording): COMMENT: If you want an exercise to show how to repulse robbers, fine. But there is no need to depict them as foreigners. Depict them as thieves, regardless of nationality, and arrest them.
21 Oct
Here is an excellent video featuring the former Japan synchronized swimming team in various hot springs (onsen) around Oita Prefecture. I have been to some of these myself, and can attest to the magic of both the location and the waters. However, I hate to pee in the pool here, but there are several things happening here that are absolutely impermissible by Japanese standards (in fact, they were cited as reasons for excluding all "foreigners" entry to the baths during the Otaru Onsens etc. Case of 1993-2005): Making noise in the bathing area. Splashing about. Wearing bathing suits in the pool. Wearing towels in the pool. Mixed bathing in a non-rotenburo area. Not washing off one's body completely before entering (note that they get in dry after only a cursory splash). If anyone does any of these things in real life, they will probably get thrown out of the bathhouse. Worse yet, if anyone who DOESN'T LOOK JAPANESE did anything like this, everyone who doesn't look Japanese (i.e., a "foreigner") a priori would be denied entry at the door, merely by dint by phenotypical association. That's why I have a hard time enjoying this video knowing the history of Japanese public bathing issues, where stone-headed onsen owners looked for any reason to enforce their bigotry on people they thought couldn't learn Japanese bathhouse rules. Instead, without any irony whatsoever, we have the Japan synchro swim team breaking most of them. To raucous applause. Good thing they didn't bring in a NJ synchro team to do this stunt -- because then "cultural insensitivity" would creep into the mix.
17 Oct
October 16, 2015 From XY: Hi Debito. I am getting a LOT of messages these days from friends in Cambodia asking about the opportunities for their friends to work in Japan. I tell them the conditions are tough and the climates a killer (for them) but they say it's better than the sweatshops in their homeland. One of my Cambodian friends is in Kumamoto for a year and a half on a study program. He just got here. He is freezing his ass off already and wants me to send him clothes (he doesn't have money to buy any, he needs his small allowance for food). Poor guy. Anyhow, I had no idea Japanese companies are doing so much serious recruiting in Cambo and Vietnam these days... The impoverished Cambodians are coming here in droves. Messaging a businessman in Cambo right now, he wants to provide labor to Japanese companies. Do you think they are treating these foreign workers better than in the past, or is it the same thing? Debito responds: It's the same thing. Japan's reputation has run sour in Brazil/Peru, China, Philippines, and Indonesia. The Japanese Government is just moving on to another set of suckers. It would love to get their hands on Burmese too.
12 Oct
Japan Times: The [Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program], however, has not been without its critics. Japan’s top ally, the U.S., has even singled it out, with the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report for years slamming the program’s “deceptive recruitment practices.” “The (Japanese) government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP,” it said this year, using the program’s acronym. Past allegations include unpaid overtime work, karoshi (death from overwork), and all kinds of harassment, including company managers restricting the use of toilets or demanding sexual services. The government rejects claims the program is abusive, yet acknowledges there have been some upstream problems. “It is true that some involved in the system have exploited it, but the government has acted against that,” an immigration official said. “It is not a system of slave labor.” The official insisted it was not in authorities’ power to control the behavior of middlemen but insisted they were not allowed to charge deposit fees. “It is also banned for employers to take away trainees’ passports,” he added. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to expand the program that would allow foreign trainees to stay in Japan for five years instead of three, and says such labor will increasingly be needed, particularly in the construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Abe is also aware that the nation’s health care sector must increasingly look abroad to fill the shortage of workers. “It has been said that we will need 1 million caregivers for the elderly by 2025, which would be impossible to handle only with the Japanese population,” said Tatsumi Kenmochi, a manager at a care home near Tokyo that employs Indonesian nurses. For Kenmochi, foreign staff are a precious commodity and the sector must do as much as it can to make them feel welcome. “It must be hard to leave home and work overseas,” he said. “We make sure that they don’t get homesick, listening to them and sometimes going out to have a warm bowl of noodles with them.” Torii of Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan said this is just the kind of attitude Japan needs to learn: “The issue is not whether we accept immigrants or not. They are already here, playing a vital role in our society.”
8 Oct
CSM: The decision to host the G-7 summit near Ise underscores Abe’s devout Shinto faith. Yet his commitment to Japan’s indigenous religion has led to far more than symbolic gestures. He and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have pursued a wide range of Shinto-inspired policies – from more openly embracing Japan’s imperial heritage to reforming aspects of Japanese education and even re-evaluating the country's wartime record – with the explicit goal of renewing what they say are traditional values. As old perhaps as Japan itself, Shinto has no explicit creed or major religious texts. Its adherents pray to “kami,” spirits found in objects both living and inanimate, and believe in a complex body of folklore that emphasizes ancestor worship. But as Japan modernized in the late 19th century, officials made Shinto the state religion, and Japanese were taught to view​ the emperor as having divine stature. The religion became closely associated with Japanese militarism, leading to its separation from state institutions after World War II. Shinto struggled for decades to find a place in postwar Japan, and given the religion's history, some critics see the country's newfound interest in it as a sign of simmering nationalism at best. At worst, they describe it as a reprise of the official State Shinto of imperial Japan. But among conservatives it reflects a palpable fear that Japan has somehow gone adrift after two decades of economic stagnation, rampant materialism, and the rise of neighboring China. Many believe the time has come for the religion to regain its rightful place in the public sphere. “Shinto is refusing to be restricted to the private and family life,” says Mark Mullins, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “There is this sense that Japan needs to get back what it lost after World War II and that this will be good for the nation.”
6 Oct
Table of Contents: DEFENDING THE NEW STATUS QUO 2) Another Gaijin Handler speaks at East-West Center: Dr. Nakayama Toshihiro, ahistorically snake-charming inter alia about how Japan’s warlike past led to Japan’s stability today (Sept. 15, 2015) 3) Tangent: Economist on “Japan’s Citizen Kane”: Shouriki Matsutaro; explains a lot about J-media’s interlocking relationship with J-politics 4) JK on emerging GOJ policies towards refugees & immigration, still not allowing them to stay in Japan: “tourists yes, refugees & immigrants no” SHINING A LIGHT ON AREAS NEEDING CHANGE 5) Nikkei interview with Japan’s most famous naturalized former Zainichi Korean: SoftBank’s Son Masayoshi 6) Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions 7) Yomiuri: More Japanese public baths OK tattooed visitors (particularly NJ) for 2020 Olympics: suddenly it’s all about showing “understanding of foreign cultures” … and finally… 8 ) Japan Times JBC 91 Sept 7, 2015: Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust
4 Oct
JBC: He’s done it. As past JBCs predicted he would, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gotten his way. Last month he closed a chapter on “pacifist Japan,” ramming through unpopular new security legislation that now allows Japanese military engagement in offensive maneuvers abroad. That’s it then. The circle is complete. Japan is primed to march back to its pre-World War II systems of governance. Now just to be clear: I don’t think there will be another world war based on this. However, I think in a generation or two (Japan’s militarists are patient – they’ve already waited two generations for this comeback), a re-armed (even quietly nuclear) Japan selling weapons and saber-rattling at neighbors will be quite normalized. Alarmism? Won’t Japan’s affection for Article 9 forestall this? Or won’t the eventual failure of Abenomics lead to the end of his administration, perhaps a resurgence of the opposition left? I say probably not. We still have a couple more years of Prime Minister Abe himself (he regained the LDP leadership last month unopposed). But more importantly, he changed the laws. So this is not a temporary aberration. This is legal interpretation and precedent, and it’s pretty hard to undo that (especially since the opposition left is even negotiating with the far-right these days). Moreover, Japan has never had a leftist government with as much power as this precedent-setting rightist government does. And it probably never will (not just because the US government would undermine it, a la the Hosokawa and Hatoyama Administrations). But there’s something deeper at work beyond the Abe aberration. I believe that social dynamics encouraging a reverse course to remilitarization have always lain latent in Japanese society...
2 Oct
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.
28 Sep
Contrast this situation with the situation of "Trainees" and other visa statuses in Japan: HCB: It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal. She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m. But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay. In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used. When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear. Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly. Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away. Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work...
24 Sep
Nakayama: (From minute 1:02:00). But as shown in Prime Minister Abe's statement commemorating the [unintelligible] end of World War II that was announced on the 14th of August, there were suspicion in Korea and in China that Prime Minister Abe changed totally the understanding of how we see history. But I think that we see if we actually read the text, I think it relates much more to [unintelligible]. He was sometimes being criticized as being a revisionist, trying to see the war in different terms. I don't think that was his intention. In Japan, the governmental historical discourse is that everything started from 1945. Everything that happened before that is basically wrong. That's not how things turned out. Yes, there was a disastrous four years. If you include China and The Occupation, it goes beyond that. But you have to remember that Japan was the first modern state in Asia which successed [sic] in modernizing itself, and became a player in the Great Power games. And that's a success case. Yes, it ended up in a war, with the United States and China, but that doesn't mean we have to negate everything that happened before 1945. An attempt by Prime Minister Abe was to see history in continuation, and there were some parts [unintelligible] that would make democracy stable after 1945, were established in the Prewar Period. So we have to see the history in continuance. I think that was the message. COMMENT: Wow. Imagine the international reaction if a representative of Germany (or one of their academics lecturing overseas) were to argue today that "Nazi Germany did some good things for Germany too, including making the country the stable democracy it is now." Fascinating tack (in its ahistoricality) in light of the fascist regimes that not only did their utmost to dismantle the trappings of stable democracy, but also led their countries to certain destruction (and were in fact rebuilt thanks to Postwar assistance from former enemies). No, what happened to Japan in the Prewar Era at its own hands was ultimately destructive, not stabilizing (and not only to Japan). Thus, Dr. Nakayama imparts an interesting mix of uncharacteristic historical ignorance, with an undercurrent of the ancestor worship that the Abe Administration ultimately grounds its ideology within. Moreover, Dr. Nakayama is a fascinating case study of how the Japanese Government recognizes the Gaijin-Handling potential in its bilingual brightest (inserting them into, in Dr. Nakayama's case, Japan's diplomatic missions abroad), and manages to convince them to come back home and shill for Japan's national interest even if it defies all of their liberal-arts training and mind-expanding world experiences. Meanwhile the USG kindly takes the lead of the Japanese Embassy to offer GOJ reps the forums they need to have maximum impact within American policymaking circles. Very smart of the GOJ, less so the USG.
20 Sep
A great little tangent from The Economist's Christmas Special of 2012. This story is fantastic (in fact, it beggars belief), and it answers a number of questions I always had about the status quo in Japan (especially when it comes to the interlocking of politics and media). I thought Watanabe Tsuneo (of the same publishing empire; the Yomiuri) is one of Japan's most morally-corrupt powerful men. This guy beats him. Economist: THE ECONOMIST’S office in Tokyo is in the headquarters of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the world’s biggest-selling newspaper. Every day, as you walk past bowing guards and immaculate receptionists, set back in a corner you pass a bronze statue of an owlish man with a bald head and thick, round-rimmed glasses, poring over a paper. He is Matsutaro Shoriki, who acquired the paper in its left-wing adolescence in the 1920s, and turned it into a scrappy, sensational pugilist for right-wing politics. The statue is not flattering: with his potato-like head and beakish nose, he seems to be pecking at the newspaper rather than reading it. Shoriki lurks in the background of much of 20th-century Japan, too. He created so much of what defines the nation today that it is a wonder he is not as well known as, say, William Randolph Hearst (one of his big Western admirers) is in America. Shoriki was as much the pugnacious, brooding, manipulative and visionary “Citizen Kane” as Hearst. Before he took over the Yomiuri, Shoriki was head of Tokyo’s torturous secret police. Later, to help him sell papers, he introduced professional baseball to Japan. After the second world war he was jailed for alleged war crimes; upon his release he set up Japan’s first private television network. To cap it all, he was the “father of nuclear power”, using his cabinet position and media clout to transform an atom-bombed nation into one of the strongest advocates of atomic energy. That legacy now smoulders amid the ruins of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant...
17 Sep
Son: I decided to go against the tide and become the first among my relatives to use Son as my family name. I won't go into the reasons and the origin of this issue, but if you are born into one of those families of Korean descent, you are subject to groundless discrimination. There are many children who undergo such hardship. When I was in elementary and junior high school, I was in agony over my identity so much that I seriously contemplated taking my own life. I'd say discrimination against people is that tough. Then you might ask why I decided to go against all my relatives, including uncles and aunts, and started to use the Korean family name, Son. I wanted to become a role model for ethnic Korean children and show them that a person of Korean descent like me, who publicly uses a Korean surname, can achieve success despite various challenges. If my doing so gives a sense of hope to even just one young person or 100 of them, I believe that is a million times more effective than raising a placard and shouting, "No discrimination." COMMENT: While I don't really see Son's sensitivity towards minorities in Japan translating into flexibility towards NJ residents in SoftBank's business practices (SoftBank, like NTT DoCoMo, demands a deposit from its NJ customers (to the tune of 100,000 yen) in order to get an iPhone subscription (something not mentioned on its Japanese site). I also have a friend from overseas who, during his monthlong journeys around Japan, had his phone hacked into, and was saddled with a $1400 internet bill on his credit card when he went back; protests to the company were met with a, "You're a foreigner, so you must have misunderstood how to use our phone; you're just trying to skip out on paying your bill," reception from SoftBank. This despite SoftBank having him on record renting the very same phone five times before and paying without incident.), Son is being interviewed by the Nikkei as a discrimination fighter. This is the first I've heard of him doing this (and I hope this article also came out in Japanese), so let's hope he continues in this vein. And that SoftBank knocks off its hypocritically discriminatory business practices.
13 Sep
Yomiuri: Restrictions on tattooed customers at bathing facilities and resort swimming areas are being loosened around the country. A number of facilities allow people with tattoos to enter if the tattoos can be covered by stickers. This is aimed at treating foreign tourists, many of whom consider tattoos a fashion item, differently from gangsters, some of whom sport elaborate tattoos. With the Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, some facilities are calling for greater understanding of cultural differences. COMMENT FROM JK: 1) Having a tattoo in Japan while being foreign AND not being a yakuza is an idea that is just now gaining traction?! 2) The (faulty) underlying assumption at work is that all yakuza have tattoos. 3) Despite the lack of a link to a Japanese translation, the idea being conveyed is that NJ with tattoos are outside of societal norms (read: betsuwaku), and so should not be treated as a yakuza since money can be made off them -- this notion is beautifully illustrated by Mr. Toshiki Yamasaki who says, "The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture". [...] COMMENT FROM DEBITO: During the Otaru Onsens Case, where "Japanese Only" bathhouses were excluding customers because they didn't look "Japanese" enough, one issue that was raised was, "Well, what about tattoos, then?" -- and then conflated the two issues to muddy the debate with relativity (not to mention conflate the treatment of "foreigners" with the treatment of organized crime in Japan). Debito.org has always seen tattoos as a different issue from skin color and other features determined from birth, as tattoos are something a person decides to put on themselves. That said, this sudden "change of heart" (dressed up as a "respect for" and "understanding of" foreign cultures) is ahistorical and purely motivated by economics -- i.e., the need for Japan to put on a good show for international events without the embarrassment of having bigots continue to cloak their exclusionary behavior with the specter of potential criminal activity (and there has been at least one case where "respect for foreign culture" involving tattoos didn't matter one whit). I conclude: What's at play here isn't fair-mindedness. It's merely the phenomenon of "not in front of the foreigners", especially since pretty soon there will be millions of them watching Japan. I bet that once the Olympics pass, those open-minded rules will be rescinded and managers will revert to banning customers (particularly NJ) at whim all over again.
6 Sep
Preview: JBC has talked about Japan’s right-wing swing before. The news is, it’s swung so far that Japan’s left is finally getting its act together. For example, over the past year historians inside and outside Japan joined retired politicians to demand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accurately portray Japan’s role in World War II during the 70th Anniversary commemorations last month. It didn’t work, but nice try. Or how about the decimated Democratic Party of Japan submitting a bill to the Diet that would ban racial discrimination (yes!), hate speech and related harassment? Sadly, the bill has no hope of passing, or of being enforceable even if it does (what with loopholes for “justifiable discrimination” and no criminal penalties). But, again, nice try. And we are seeing outdoor protest after protest, with ranks swelling to numbers not seen in decades. That’s all fine — and about time, given that people repeatedly reelected these rightists in the first place. But let’s discuss why Japan’s left has basically always been out of power (leaving aside the geopolitical pressures from Japan’s sugar-daddy busybody — see “U.S. green lights Japan’s march back to militarism,” Just Be Cause, June 1). The left keeps losing, and much of it is their own damned fault...
5 Sep
Table of Contents: WWII ANNIVERSARIES AND FORGETFULNESS 2) Morris-Suzuki in East Asia Forum: “Abe’s WWII statement fails history 101”. Required reading on GOJ’s subtle attempts at rewriting East Asian history incorrectly 3) Tangent: Japan Imperial Rescripts declaring war and surrendering: Interesting (and scary) documents in terms of narrative 4) Mainichi: Unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims? Supreme Court decision due Sept. 8 UNHELPFUL PUBLIC POLICIES FOR NJ 5) More public-policy bullying of NJ: LDP Bill to fine, imprison, and deport NJ for “fraud visas” (gizou taizai), e.g., visa “irregularities” from job changes or divorces 6) Asahi: Supreme Court backs stripping children of Japanese nationality if parents lapse in registering their births abroad 7) Japan Times: Debate on anti-discrimination bill begins in Diet; sadly, doomed to failure 8 ) Thoughts: How does a society eliminate bigotry? Through courts and media, for example. Not waiting for it to “happen naturally”. Two case studies. 9) Reader TH: Refused treatment at neurological hospital by setting overly-high hurdles for J-translation services ... and finally ... 10) Japan Times JBC 90: “Claiming the right to be Japanese AND more”, Aug 3, 2015
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