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Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
1 May
JBC 97: After more than 30 years of studying Japan, I’ve learned to appreciate one thing people here do well: living in the moment. By that I mean there seems to be a common understanding that moments are temporary and bounded — that the feelings one has now may never happen again, so they should be enjoyed to the fullest right here, right now, without regard to the future. I can think of several examples. Consider the stereotypical honeymooning couple in Hawaii. They famously capture every moment in photographs — from humdrum hotel rooms to food on the plate. They even camcord as much as they can to miss as few moments as possible. Why? Safekeeping. For who knows when said couple will ever get back to Hawaii (or, for that matter, be allowed to have an extended vacation anywhere, including Japan)? Soon they’ll have kids, demanding jobs, meticulous budgets, and busywork until retirement. No chance in the foreseeable future to enjoy moments like these. So they frame a beachside photo atop the TV, preserve a keepsake in a drawer, store a dress or aloha shirt far too colorful to ever wear in public — anything to take them back to that precious time and place in their mind’s eye. (Emperor Hirohito reputedly treasured his Paris Metro ticket as a lifetime memento, and was buried with his Disneyland souvenir Mickey Mouse watch.) Another example: extramarital love affairs. Sleeping around is practically a national sport in Japan (hence the elaborate love hotel industry), and for a good reason: the wonderful moments lovers can surreptitiously capture. It’s a vacation from real life. For chances are their tryst is temporary; it fills a void. But how pleasant their time is in their secret world!
30 Apr
Reuters: An economic uptick since Abe took office in December 2012, rebuilding after the 2011 tsunami and a construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have pushed labor demand to its highest in 24 years. That has helped boost foreign worker numbers by 40 percent since 2013, with Chinese accounting for more than one-third followed by Vietnamese, Filipinos and Brazilians. But visa conditions largely barring unskilled workers mean foreigners still make up only about 1.4 percent of the workforce, compared with the 5 percent or more found - according to IMF estimates - in most advanced economies. So far, measures to attract more foreign workers have focused on easing entry for highly skilled professionals and expanding a "trainee" system that was designed to share technology with developing countries, but which critics say has become a backdoor source of cheap labor. This time, the LDP panel leaders' proposal went further, suggesting foreigners be accepted in other sectors facing shortages, such as nursing and farming - initially for five years with visa renewal possible. They also proposed creating a framework whereby the number of foreign workers would be doubled from around 908,000 currently, and the term "unskilled labor" would be abandoned. In a sign of the sensitivies, however - especially ahead of a July upper house election - panel chief Yoshio Kimura stressed the proposal should not be misconstrued as an "immigration policy" and said steps were needed to offset any negative impact on jobs and public safety. [...] "The government insists it is not adopting an immigration policy, but whatever the word, faced with a shrinking population, it is changing its former stance and has begun to move toward a real immigration policy," said Hidenori Sakanaka, a former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief.
26 Apr
Nossal: Japan is a country which is largely opposed to free enterprise. As one who has studied economics and subscribes to the notion that the ability for individuals to do business is integral to a society’s wealth and commerce, as well as that society’s ability to solve problems generally, I find this condition amusingly shortsighted. As one who is living in and attempting to do business in Japan I find this condition depressing. After all, what is it that individuals can do best as entrepreneurs? We stand to make money by solving problems for other people. I will discuss some extraordinary barriers to business created by just a few layers of legal or bureaucratic excess which discourage or disable free enterprise in two examples of personal experience. It is assumed that there is some reason that people have gone through such troubles to erect these legal barriers, and I can only speculate what some of those possible reasons might be. On the microeconomic level, the effects of the clearly anti-business atmosphere created by those specific barriers are devastating. Businesses which could and should be thriving, multiplying, growing, and revolving multiples of yen back out into the local economy are stopped dead. Theoretically, all money gets spent somewhere, but inevitably some of that money which would have been spent in the local Ishikawa ken economy (where these stories take place) gets saved, sent away, or spent elsewhere and the greater Ishikawa ken economy suffers for this.
22 Apr
Mainichi: The Hokkaido Prefectural Government has prepared 2,500 stickers for use by foreigners driving rent-a-cars, in order to identify them to other drivers and prepare against on-the-road trouble. The stickers, which read "A person from a foreign country is driving," were distributed to rent-a-car companies in Hokkaido. In fiscal 2014, around 24,000 rent-a-cars were used by foreign tourists, around 14,000 more than in fiscal 2012. Accidents and driver arguments are expected, so the stickers were created to warn other drivers, similar to stickers for new drivers. The magnetic stickers are 14.5 centimeters square and carry Hokkaido's tourism character "Kyun-chan," a Japanese pika. A prefectural government official says, "When people see (a car with the sticker), we want them to act kindly." Comment: It would seem that the Japanese reflex of pointing out differences over similarities (a byproduct of the quest to keep Japan "unique" in the world narrative) has created perennial blind spots towards the effects of "stigmatization". That is to say, if you keep pointing out how different a group of people is (in this case, "foreign drivers", even if you say you are doing it "out of kindness"), it still differentiates and "others" people -- with the inevitable subordinating presumption that foreign drivers are somehow more prone to accidents, need to be taken notice of, or treated with special care. Why else would the public be notified (if not warned) that a foreign driver is present? Shoe on the other foot: How would people like it if females behind the wheel had to bear a "women driver" sticker? What if the "foreign driver" (for example, somebody who has been driving in Japan not as a tourist for years, or on the British side of the road the same as Japan?) would rather opt out of all the special attention? And what of the Japanese tourists from the metropolises who are "paper drivers" and probably have much less road experience than average compared to any motorized society in the world? Let's see how a "tourist driver" sticker (slapped on Japanese drivers too) would fare. This sticker is, to put it bluntly in Japanese, 有り難迷惑 (arigata meiwaku), or "kindness" to the point of being a nuisance. And it is not even the first "foreign driver" sticker Debito.org has heard of -- last October we reported on similar stickers in Okinawa with the same purpose.
19 Apr
"Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination" (Lexington Books / Rowman & Littlefield 2016) will also be released as a paperback version in July/August 2016. This is good news. Usually when an academic book comes out in hardcover, the paperback version is not released for a year or two in order not to affect sales of the hardcover. (The hardcover is, generally, intended for libraries and must-have buyers). However, sales of the hardcover have been so strong that the publisher anticipates this book will continue to sell well in both versions. So, just in time for Fall Semester 2016, "Embedded Racism" will be coming out over the summer for university classes, with an affordable price of $49.99 (a competitive price for a 378-page textbook, less than half the price of the hardcover).. Please consider getting the book for your class and/or adding the book to your library! Academics may inquire via https://rowman.com/Page/Professors about the availability of review copies and ebooks. Full details of the book, including summary, Table of Contents, and reviews here (weblink). Hardcover version: 2015/2016, 378 pages ISBN: 978-1-4985-1390-6 eBook: 978-1-4985-1391-3 Subjects: Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations, Social Science / Ethnic Studies / General, Social Science / Minority Studies, Social Science / Sociology / General
16 Apr
As of today (JST), Debito.org has been in action for twenty years. That means two decades of archiving issues of life and human rights in Japan. After starting out as an archive of my writings as Dave Aldwinckle on the Dead Fukuzawa Society, Debito.org soon expanded into an award-winning website, cited by venerable institutions and publications worldwide, taking on various contentious topics. These have included Academic Apartheid in Japan's Universities, The Gwen Gallagher Case, The Blacklist (and Greenlist) of Japanese Universities, The Community in Japan, The Otaru Onsens Case, the Debito.org Activists' Page and Residents' Page, book "Japanese Only" in two languages, the Rogues' Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments (which became the basis of my doctoral fieldwork), racism endemic to the National Police Agency and its official policies encouraging public racial profiling, the "What to Do If..." artery site, our "Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan" (now in its 3rd Edition), the overpolicing of Japanese society during international events, the reinstitution of fingerprinting of NJ only at the border, the establishment of the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA), the 3/11 multiple disasters and the media scapegoating of foreign residents (as "flyjin"), the archive of Japan Times articles (2002- ) which blossomed into the regular JUST BE CAUSE column (2008- ), and now the acclaimed academic book, "Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination" (Lexington Books 2016). I just wanted to mark the occasion with a brief post of commemoration. Thank you everyone for reading and contributing to Debito.org! Long may we continue. Please leave a comment as to which parts of Debito.org you've found helpful!
14 Apr
Debito.org Reader Onur updates his post here last month about discrimination at Japanese hotels being, in one case, coin-operated (where all "foreign guests" are unlawfully forced to provide photocopies of their passports, moreover at their own expense) at police behest. Now he gets to the bottom of police chicanery in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where he catches them in an outright lie. Three lies in one police notice, as a matter of fact: Onur: I wrote my Japanese address on the guest registration form during check-in [at Mimatsu Hotel, Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture]. However, the reception asked for my passport and said that they must copy my ID. I asked the reason. They said that it is the rule of the hotel(!) and also the law of Japan to copy the ID of all foreigners. I said that according to law it is not necessary and they are not allowed to copy my card, but they insisted they must copy, showing me a poster on the wall by the Mito City Police Department Security Division saying that "Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest to present their passport, photocopy of which we keep on file during their stay with us". I said that I will inform this incident to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), which has authority over the hotels regarding the implementation of laws. I enclose the poster. After visiting both the Public Health Department and the Mito Police, I had phone call from the Public Health Department. They said they went to the Mimatsu Hotel to check it and saw that the poster on the wall of the hotel has changed. It seems that the police department printed a new poster and distributed to all hotels only in a few hours after I left the police department! They said the new poster clearly states “foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan”, so complies the regulations. They said they informed the hotel about the laws and regulations and warned the hotel to not to the same mistake again. COMMENT: It would seem that, according to a number of past Debito.org posts on Ibaraki Prefectural Police posters and activities, the officially-sponsored xenophobia runs deep there. Put a nasty Gaijin Detention Center there, allow the police to project their bunker mentalities by lying on public posters, and you get panicky residents who sic cops on "people who look suspicious" because they look foreign (even if they are Japanese). Are you seeing what happens when you give the police too much power to target people? Ibaraki Prefecture is developing into a nice case study. Well done Onur for doing all this great detective work. I did some investigative work like this more than a decade ago. Remarkable that despite having this pointed out again and again, the NPA continues to lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce.
10 Apr
NHK: According to police, on the afternoon of March 5, police were contacted that "a suspicious foreigner had come in" from an electronics shop in Kawaguchi City. Police arriving on the scene found a foreign male at a nearby street. The male was a foreigner of Southeastern Asian descent. As he was not carrying his passport, police arrested him on the spot under suspicion of violating the Immigration Control Act. However, after further investigation, police realized that as he was less than 16 years old and under no obligation to carry his passport, so they released him from arrest about six hours later after apologizing. COMMENT: I'll say. Yet another instance of police overstepping their authority, and arresting someone due to a panicky shopkeep siccing cops on a youth just because the latter looked "foreign". Last time we had an arrest like this this wasn't the case -- the person even turned out to be Japanese, but it's hard to believe that police would necessarily come running and arrest someone just because they were acting "suspiciously". Because there are laws against that -- you have to have adequate suspicion that crime has been committed, or is likely to be committed. It's the "foreign" thing that became the grounds for arrest. Pity it took six hours out of this kid's life in police custody (something you don't want to happen to you -- you essentially have few rights as a suspect in Japan). The real thing that's hard to swallow is that shopkeeps are panicky precisely BECAUSE the Japanese police are encouraging them to see foreigners as criminals and racially profile. So thanks for the apology, Saitama Police, but how about training your cops better, so Japan's Visible Minorities (particularly impressionable kids) don't become targets of arbitrary (and traumatizing) arrests? I shudder to think what this officially-alienated kid thinks about life in Japan now.
6 Apr
Once again hosting an international event brings out the worst excesses of Japan's attitudes towards the outside world. Mutou Toshio, CEO of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a former deputy governor of the Bank of Japan, talked to The Japan Times about Japan's superiority to Rio 2016 in broad, arrogant strokes. Some highlights: ========================== The CEO of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics says security is his greatest concern but believes Japan will be safe from the kind of mass street protests currently overshadowing this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Games. “If I had to choose just one challenge from many it would have to be security,” Toshiro Muto told The Japan Times in an exclusive interview. “There are many threats of terrorism in the world. [...] To combat this, the organizing committee, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and national government need to be able to deal with it at every level. Cooperation is vital.” ========================== COMMENT: Yes, we've seen what happens when Japan's police "cooperate" to ensure Japan is "secure" from the outside world whenever it comes for a visit. Many times. Consider whenever a G8 Summit is held in Japan, Japan spends the Lion's Share (far more than half the budget) on policing alone, far more than any other G8 Summit host. Same with, for example, the 2002 World Cup. The government also quickly abrogates civil liberties for its citizens and residents, and turns Japan into a temporary police state. (See also "Embedded Racism" Ch. 5, particularly pp. 148-52). I anticipate the same happening for 2020, with relish. But Mutou goes beyond mere boosterism to really earn his paycheck with arrogance, elevating Japan by bashing current hosts Rio. (Much like Tokyo Governor Inose Naoki, himself since unseated due to corruption, did in 2013 when denigrating Olympic rival hosts Istanbul as "Islamic".) Check this out:
2 Apr
Terrie Lloyd: After a strong start last year, the ruling LDP government seemed genuinely perplexed when at the end of the year the nation's annual Real GDP was found to be just 0.5% and for the last quarter a problematic -0.3%. The government's leadership continue have their collective heads buried in the sand by blaming an unusually warm winter and other external factors for the anemic performance. You kind of feel sorry for them. After all, they have done everything by the textbook (well, the Keynesian textbook, anyway), by expanding the nation's money supply aggressively, and by implementing various stimulus packages. But unfortunately Mr. Abe's crew seem to have forgotten one small thing, they need the public to respond to their pump-priming (the whole point of Keynesian policies), and this means being seen to be making real regulatory reforms for the future, not just recirculating cash among vested interests. Abe needs to make good on his promised third arrow - slashing business regulations and encouraging innovation, liberalizing the labor market, getting tough with the agricultural sector, cutting corporate taxes, and increasing workforce diversity through immigration and improved support of working mothers. But instead the reverse is happening...
29 Mar
Japan Times: The number of foreign residents in Japan reached an all-time high last year, the Justice Ministry reported Friday. There were 2.23 million long-term and permanent foreign residents in Japan as of the end of last year, up 5.2 percent from 2.12 million people at the end of 2014, according to the ministry. It was the highest number since the ministry began keeping data in 1959. [...] Meanwhile, the number of residents who had overstayed their visas has also increased. The ministry reported that there were 62,818 foreign nationals overstaying their visas as of Jan. 1, up 4.7 percent from the same date last year. This marks the second year the figure has risen. Last year’s increase was the first in more than two decades, and the trend comes despite recent efforts by the ministry to crack down on overstayers. COMMENT: Typically, Debito.org sees a rise in the NJ resident population as good news, and it is: Japan needs them or, as I argue in Chapter 10 of "Embedded Racism", it won't survive. But it's never portrayed as good news in the media, where it counts. Even when it's put through the lenses of the foreigner-friendly Japan Times, the bias of the Justice Ministry still seeps through: After giving the numbers and some speculation about what is bringing more NJ to Japan again, we get into what NJ are doing here. As "Embedded Racism" Chapters 5 and 7 describe, it's never a matter of what good NJ residents are doing: It's always what sort of mischief they're up to. Because when you have a government with no Immigration Policy Bureau to institute a viable immigration and assimilation policy, and instead have a policing agency solely entrusted with "administrating" foreigners in Japan, naturally you'll get an embedded mindset that treats everyone as a potential criminal. Read the entire article and see for yourself. Feel the criminality steadily creep in and have the last word.
25 Mar
As PM Abe becomes further emboldened by a lack of organized political opposition, his administration is becoming more reactionary towards Japan's Left. According to the Japan Times, it will subject the Japan Communist Party to the Anti-Subversive Activities Law (Hakai Katsudou Boushi Hou), reserved for subversives who resort to violence. Of course, the JCP is a legitimate party (in fact, Japan's oldest political party) with a number of seats in the Diet, and it is allowed to agitate for reforms and even non-violent revolution, as it has for decades now. But Abe seems bent on a return to Japan's old form, when Leftists were incarcerated, tortured, and killed in custody in Wartime Showa Japan. Looking forward to him similarly cracking down on Japan's violent rightists as well, but I wouldn't hold my breath. I presume violent rightists wouldn't be considered "revolutionaries" by the Abe Administration in the same sense -- their form of revolution would take Japan back to a status quo of inter alia Emperor worship, unaccountable elite rule, and military adventurism. To Abe's clique that is also part of Japan's history, even if that would "subvert" Japan's current democratic institutions.
21 Mar
Economist: THE progenitor of Japan’s imperial line, supposedly 2,600 years ago, was female: Amaterasu, goddess of the sun. But for most of the time since, all emperors have been male. This has exercised the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Recently it concluded that Japan should let women inherit the Chrysanthemum throne, too. It is not clear what Emperor Akihito, who is 82 (and has a hugely popular wife), thinks about this. But the Japanese prime minister blew his top. Shinzo Abe leapt to the defence of a male-only line, saying it was rooted in Japanese history. The panel’s meddling, he said, was “totally inappropriate”. Cowed, it withdrew its recommendation that the law of succession be changed. COMMENT: What's interesting here is not that Japan protested outside comment about their emperor system (that happens with some frequency), but that the United Nations took it seriously enough to drop the issue. Pretty remarkable that the UN, which faces criticism for many of its human-rights stances, would be cowed by this. It only encourages Japan's rabid right to become more reactionary in regards to international criticism -- because oversight bodies will possibly retreat if the Abe Admin kicks up a fuss. When I asked the author a bit more about the reasoning of the UN committee members, he said that nobody on the committee would discuss it with him. He said he was told that it became a distraction from the report, so they dropped it. Supposedly they felt this was an issue for Japan, not the UN. Wow, that's awfully generous. I can imagine numerous countries making the same argument -- this contentious point is merely a "distraction" so drop it. Once again, Japan gets geopolitically kid-gloved. What's next: Japan protests UN criticism of its "Japanese Only" practices as "totally inappropriate"? Actually, Japan essentially has (see also book "Embedded Racism" Ch. 8), but not to the point of the UN withdrawing its criticism. Yet.
17 Mar
Reuters : Niculas Fernando died at a Tokyo immigration detention center sometime between 9:33 a.m. and 10:44 a.m. on November 22, 2014, according to the coroner. But it wasn’t until shortly after 1 p.m. that day that guards realized something was badly wrong – even though Fernando had been moved to an observation cell monitored via closed-circuit television after complaining of sharp chest pain. An inmate had to alert the guards before they rushed into Fernando’s cell and tried to revive him. [...] He was the fourth person to die in Japan’s immigration detention system in 13 months. In total, 12 people have died in immigration detention since 2006, including four suicides. In 2015, 14 detainees tried to kill or harm themselves at the detention center where Fernando died, according to data from the facility. A Reuters investigation into the circumstances surrounding Fernando’s death, including dozens of interviews with detainees, immigration officials and doctors, revealed serious deficiencies in the medical treatment and monitoring of Japan’s immigration detention centers. Guards with scant medical training make critical decisions about detainees’ health. Doctors visit some of the country’s main detention centers as infrequently as twice a week. And on weekends there are no medical professionals on duty at any of the immigration detention facilities, which held more than 13,600 people in 2014. Three of the four deaths in detention between October 2013 and November 2014, including Fernando’s, occurred when there were no doctors on duty. Like Fernando, another one of the detainees died while in an observation cell. Japan’s immigration system is under increasing strain. As a torrent of refugees pours into Europe, Japan also has record numbers of people landing on its shores in search of refuge. As of June last year, it had 10,830 asylum applications under review – small by Europe’s standards, but a new high for Japan, a nation that has long been reluctant to take in outsiders. In February, more than 40 detainees went on hunger strike at a facility in Osaka to protest their conditions [As they did in 2010, to little change -- Ed.]. Their main complaint: Poor medical care. [...] The Justice Ministry has not made public the findings of the investigation into the case nor released them to Fernando’s family. In response to a public disclosure request, Reuters received a copy of the national Immigration Bureau’s report from March last year. It was heavily redacted. Under a section titled “Problems,” every line had been blacked out.
13 Mar
Onur: I travel often, so I stay in many business hotels in Japan. Not all but many of them caused many problems due to the passport copy rule. Of course I carry only my residence card, not my passport. In the past I used to allow them when the hotel wants to copy my residence card. I remember that a hotel in Asakusa ward of Tokyo even asked me to copy my residence card by myself! The woman at the reception pointed the coin operated photocopier in the hall and told me to copy my residence card and bring it to the reception. I said it is coin operated, not free and she said pay the money to the machine. I paid the money, copied my residence card by myself and gave the copy to the reception. Even though it was hotel's photocopier, they did not pay the money back! Later I learned that as I have an address in Japan, hotels do not have the authority to ask my residence card and started to reject them when they asked to copy it. Still I was showing the card when they asked. Two years ago I had a bad experience at Inuyama Central Hotel in Aichi Prefecture. I wrote my Japanese address to the guest registration form, but two old male receptionists asked my passport. As I don’t carry it, I showed them my residence card and my address on it. They wanted to copy it, but I said no. They said that they must copy my residence card according to the law of Japan. I said copying is not necessary and they did not allow me to check-in! We had a long argument, but they refused me service. [...] Arguing with the hotels on this residence card check and copying is very annoying. Refusing to allow copying the card may not be enough as the hotel may continue asking it to other foreigners. Recently, when I stay in a hotel that asked to copy residence card, I am writing a review on Rakuten hoping that the hotel and checks and learns the real law. I also give a low rating to those hotels in the review. Average rating in on-line reservation sites is somewhat important in Japan, so probably many hotels would take it into account. If many foreigners people do the same thing, more hotels may abide the law.
9 Mar
Just before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Disasters, let's revisit a topic Debito.org covered some years ago in this blog post: "Parliamentary Independent Investigation Commission Report on Fukushima Disaster “Made in Japan”: ironies of different Japanese and English versions" (Debito.org, July 16, 2012). Veteran journalist Roger Schreffler has contacted Debito.org to release the following information about the snow job that the person heading up the investigation, a Mr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, carried out when this report was released in English blaming "Japanese culture" for the disasters (he also blamed foreign inspectors, believe it or not). It's a supreme example of successful Gaijin Handling, and most of the overseas media bought into it. But not everyone, as Roger exposes: Schreffler: I believe the following information may be of interest to you. The Fukushima commission never concluded that Japanese culture caused the Daiichi plant meltdown. Kiyoshi Kurokawa worked with a PR consultant, Carlos Ghosn's former speechwriter, and altered the preface to the overseas edition of the report. More than 100 media organizations, mostly unwittingly, quoted Kurokawa's introduction as if it were part of the official report. It was not, of course. [...] Kiyoshi Kurokawa will speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, March 10, the day before the fifth anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident. Kurokawa spoke at the club in July 2012 as chair of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the causes of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. More than 150 foreign news organizations, government agencies and NGOs attributed blame to ‘Japanese culture’. It was an invention. Nowhere in the 641-page main report and 86-page executive summary can one find the widely quoted expressions “Made in Japan disaster” and “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture (including) reflexive obedience, groupism and insularity.” In fact, all references to culture (文化) involve TEPCO - TEPCO’s corporate culture, TEPCO’s organizational culture, and TEPCO’s safety culture. It turns out that Kurokawa retained a PR consultant to hype the report’s English edition for overseas distribution including to foreign media organizations such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Fox News and more than 100 others (see attached list). UPDATE MARCH 11, 2016 JST, FOLLOWING FCCJ PRESS CONFERENCE, FROM ROGER SCHREFFLER: Debito, As a followup: The moderator asked Kurokawa [at the FCCJ on March 10, 2016) about the differences in the English and Japanese version of the report's executive summary. Kurosawa admitted that the 'content' was different. What this means is that the content turned over to the Diet on July 5, 2012 (both houses) was different than what he reported to the nonJapanese-speaking world. Listen for yourself to his answer [to a question from the AP, who moderated the meeting, when the audio goes up on the FCCJ website. It's at minute 34 on the recording] . Later on, Kurokawa equated his Japanese cultural references to Ruth Benedict, Samuel Huntington, Karel van Wolferen and John Dower. Which leaves one unanswered question: Who wrote it? [...] [T]he AP was one of only three media organizations, the other being the Financial Times and The New York Times, that pointed out discrepancies in the Japanese and English reports in summer 2012. The rest - even those who attended Kurokawa's July 6, 2012 news conference where he admitted to there being differences in the 'translation', but not 'content' - followed like a herd and didn't report that there was a discrepancy between the 'official' and the one for 'gaijin'.
5 Mar
Here's something that feels more problematic the more I think about it: "Foreigner-friendly" taxicabs being introduced in Kyoto. As noted below, they are government-sponsored vehicles with multilingual drivers and more space for tourist luggage. Sounds good so far. Until you get to the fact that they have a separate alighting point at one station in Kyoto. Already, we are getting into shades of "separate but equal" (as opposed to equal and undifferentiated), which we are seeing in a number of venues dealing with foreign tourism (for example, here). While I applaud the effort to improve service, it doesn't resolve the root problem (mentioned within the Kyodo article below) -- that taxi cabs are refusing NJ passengers. So instead of going after miscreant taxis, they're creating a separate taxi system to equalize things. Except that it won't. Think about it. Now we'll have busybody train station ojisan waving "foreign-looking" people over to the foreign taxi stand even when they're not tourists. Or we'll have people being told that they have to go to that solitary Kyoto Station stand, regardless of where they are, if they want to get a "foreigner-friendly" cab. And, with the law of unintended consequences, we'll have even more taxi drivers refusing to pick up foreign-looking people -- after all, their logic will go, "There's already a taxi designated for them, so I don't have to bother picking them up -- they can wait for one." As if foreign-friendly taxis could ever have the same coverage as regular taxis. See, "separate but equal" essentially never works because, as history demonstrates, it's too hard to achieve. If they really want to improve service, have the city assign somebody "foreign-looking" to hail taxis in Kyoto, and have him or her officially report misbehaving taxis to the Kyoto Tourist Agency (there is one, and I've done this very thing for at least one exclusionary Kyoto hotel; there were repercussions). And tell those taxis (like restaurants hear that they're being reviewed by reviewers posing as regular customers) that there will be person(s) posing as an evaluator so you better not avoid picking up customers. Monitoring for consumer quality is quite normal, and if Japan is serious about omotenashi, it had better avoid making historical mistakes.
2 Mar
Table of Contents: TIGHTENING THE NOOSE ON DOMESTIC DISSENT 1) ABC News Australia: Video on PM Abe’s secretive and ultra-conservative organization “Nippon Kaigi” 2) Sankei column by Okabe Noburu suggesting Japanese language tests for foreign correspondent visas, to weed out their “anti-Japan” biases 3) JT on corporate threats to student activists’ futures (SEALDs in particular); this is probably why they suddenly turned craven 4) O’Day in APJ: Japan Focus: “Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan” TRAGIC UPDATES 5) Suraj Case: Tokyo High Court rules Immigration Bureau not responsible for killing him during deportation 6) ALTs (“outsourced” English teachers) earning slave wages (or less) working for Japanese public schools 7) JT: Sakanaka argues success of ‘Abenomics’ hinges on immigration policy (old article from May 2014; not much has changed) 8 ) JT: Japan’s public baths hope foreign tourists and residents will keep taps running; oh, the irony! TERRORISTIC XENOPHOBIA 9) Nagoya anonymous neighborhood poster warning of crime that “may have been committed by foreigners”: vigilantism that should be officially discouraged, but no. 10) Tangent: McNeill in No.1 Shimbun: “Into the Valley of the Trolls”: Is ignoring them really an effective strategy? TRYING TO HELP 11) Asahi: Survey: Discrimination encountered by 42% of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward; Asahi wants NJ resident opinions 12) Asahi and JT: Osaka adopts Japan’s first anti-hate-speech ordinance 13) HJ on Mainichi article on “Preventing Illegal Hires of Foreigners”; what about campaigns to prevent illegal ABUSES of foreign workers? 14) Ben Shearon on RetireJapan, helping people living in Japan learn more about personal finance, investing, readying for retirement … and finally… 15) My Japan Times JBC 95, “Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step” Feb. 1, 2016
1 Mar
Here's an interesting column by one of our favorite newspapers, the Sankei Shinbun, famous for its anti-foreigner slants. Their columnist, Okabe Noburu, Senior Reporter for Diplomatic Issues, links a lack of language ability in foreign reporters to their tendency to hold "anti-Japan" biases. In a meandering column that brings in all sorts of anti-immigration slants itself, Okabe finally reaches the conclusion that maybe Japan might make language tests a condition for visas for foreign correspondents. That way they'll have a "correct" view of Japan. Without any intended irony, it seems that Okabe, who seems to claim competency in English (enough to pick on ethnic accents in English), holds biased views himself despite. Okabe: After the war, because English people don't like manual labor, they brought in immigrants from former colonies, such as Asia, Africa, and the West Indies, but recently there has been a huge influx of people from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, so British society's multiculturalization and multiethnicification has been proceeding. The immigrant problem is one of a history of empire. The English spoken by this variety of races has several "country accents" mixed in, so it's hard to understand. Even English has been hybridized. When I applied for my visa I had to take an English test. As language ability had not been demanded of me as an exchange student in the 1990s or during my half-year posting in Russia in the 1990s, this struck me as odd. However, after being dispatched, I came to the painful realization that understanding England meant first acquiring the language. Before being posted, I was a member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. I was pained to see foreign reporters who couldn't function in Japanese broadcasting their "anti-Japan" slants to the world. How about Japan making Japanese language ability a condition for foreign correspondents getting a visa? It might lead to a correct understanding of Japan.
26 Feb
McNeill: For most correspondents, it has become an unpleasant morning ritual: opening the laptop and wading through abusive tweets and mail. One of my recent articles, on Japan’s plunging press-freedom rankings provoked this response: “You’re anti-Japanese scum. Japan grows weaker because left-wing traitors here mix with the likes of you. Get out, moron.” That’s mild compared to the slurs that percolate on the Twitter feeds of star reporters. Hiroko Tabuchi, former Tokyo correspondent for the New York Times, recalls a stream of invective laced with sexual and ethnic smears (see sidebar).Justin McCurry, Tokyo correspondent for the Guardian has been branded an “ultra-leftist North Korean spy” and repeatedly invited to “Fack off.” Many reporters trudge the path taken by McCurry, from engagement to frustration, and resignation. “I have tried several different ways to deal with trolls, from snapping back to taking the time to dream up what, in my mind at least, is a rejoinder so withering that it will surely be the final word on the matter. It never is, of course.” Increasingly, he says, he reaches for the Twitter mute button: When trolls send an abusive message now “they are simply pissing into cyberspace.” But McCurry says it’s important to understand the difference between legitimate criticism and trolling. “I’ve had my share of critical emails, tweets and Facebook postings,” he says. “When the point is made in a temperate manner and, more importantly, with a real name attached, I take in what has been said and, if necessary, respond. But I regard this as reader feedback, not trolling.” Debito: One thing I might add, as a longtime veteran of being targeted by trolls, is that it's worse for some of us than you mentioned above. For example, I have numerous online stalkers, who dedicate many electrons on cyberspace (even devote whole websites and hijack Biographies of Living People on Wikipedia) not only to misrepresent my arguments, but also to track my personal life and advocate that I come to harm. I've endured death treats for decades, and I can't conclude that merely ignoring trolls and hoping they'll go away is an effective answer either. After all, as propaganda masters know, if enough people claim something is true, it becomes true, as long as through constant repetition they gain control over the narrative. I for one never visit these stalker sites, but lots of people who should know better do look at them without sufficient critique, and (as you noted above) assume that my not commenting about their false allegations is some kind of admission in their favor. What the stalkers actually get out of all this wasted energy truly escapes me...
22 Feb
Submitter PC: "This notification was in my mailbox this morning... It says that there were a number of burglaries in my neighborhood the other day & it is believed that the criminal is a foreigner and to be careful about taking precautions... My first thought: how do they know it was a foreigner?!? My second thought was: what kind of message does this give to the children who live here? Is it only me that thinks this smacks of discrimination?" The flyer reads (translation by Debito): !! URGENT MESSAGE !! ! BREAK-INS WHEN YOU'RE NOT HOME ! (akisuu) !! BE ON CLOSE GUARD !! Today (January 29, 2016), there were several break-ins at our apartment complex. It is thought that the culprits were foreigners, and there is a danger of them returning to commit more crimes. Anti-crime measures by each family are a matter of course, but it is also very important for residents to watch out for each other and ask around. Be on guard at all times. COMMENT: I'm not sure which is worse: The thefts themselves, the anonymous warning, or the accusation that foreigners are behind it. Especially given that theft is the most common crime in Japan by far and it is almost always committed by Japanese. Again, these sorts of vigilante moves without anyone taking responsibility for spreading rumors are precisely what stir up passions and target people (sometimes with fatal consequences). This should be discouraged by the authorities, but unfortunately it isn't. In fact, it's precisely the same tactics the Japanese police use (see Arudou "Embedded Racism" Ch. 7).
17 Feb
Here is an excellent bit of investigative journalism done by the Australians on an organization that the USG would do well to do their own research on (and the US media pay due attention to): PM Abe's Nippon Kaigi, which threatens to undo just about everything The Occupation did to demilitarize Postwar Japan and defang its self-destructive ultranationalism. Why hasn't anyone else done a good in-depth report on them, even after this report came out over a year ago? Because it's probably not something people want to believe--that the belligerent elements of Prewar Japan are not only ascendant, they are already well-organized within Japan's highest echelons of government. A transcript follows, but I strongly recommend people click on the link and watch the video at the ABC News Australia Lateline program to get the full effect. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4364818.htm LATELINE: It's been described as one of the most influential political organisations in Japan. Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, has an impressive list of members and advisors, including the Prime Minister and much of his cabinet. But very little is known about this right-wing nationalist lobby group which aims to reshape Japanese politics and policies and even change the Constitution. It operates mostly out of the public eye, but North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney gained rare access to file this exclusive story for Lateline.
14 Feb
This post deals with Government-sponsored slave wages (or worse) for NJ educators within the Japanese public school system through the cost-cutting "Assistant Language Teachers" (ALTs) "outsourcing" system--a backdoor way for local governments to get cheaper JETs than having to go through the national government's JET Programme (where wages and work conditions are more fixed at a higher standard). The cost-cutting for the ALTs has gotten to the point (inevitably) where the ALTs are no longer being paid a living wage. Here's the math in video form, courtesy of the Fukuoka General Union: CAPTION: This is an actual example on how impossible it is to live on the salary of a dispatched ALT working at a Kitakyushu City Board of Education public school. Though they are full time teachers they only have 1000 yen a day to spend on food and nothing else. They just can't survive on this low wage. 北九州市の市立中学校で働く派遣の語学指導助手の給料の実態。可処分収入は月3万円、­それはすべて食費に使うと1日1000円ぐらい。フルタイムの先生なのに貧困層。現実­です。 As further background to the ALT issue, here is a Japan Times Letter to the Editor by Chris Clancy:
10 Feb
Ben Shearon: I’ve been living in Japan for fifteen and a half years working as an English teacher. A few years ago I became interested in personal finance, and in December 2013 I started a website called RetireJapan. RetireJapan exists in order to help people living in Japan learn more about personal finance, investing, and getting ready for retirement in English. Personal finance can seem complex and intimidating, and there are a lot of companies that would love to take your money. The only way to make good choices is to learn as much as you can. RetireJapan includes information about Japan-specific resources, including NISA tax-sheltered investing accounts, kyoshutsu nenkin ‘J401k’ accounts, and the national pension scheme, as well as more general personal finance topics such as how to find money to save and what to do with it once you have some. As well as the website and blog I also conduct seminars and workshops around Japan. Check out the site and get in touch if you would like me to speak to your group. You can also send me questions via the site: http://www.retirejapan.info/blog/blog-101
8 Feb
In yet another example of how Japan's economy is not going to save itself unless it allows in and unlocks the potential of its foreign residents, here we have the flashpoint issue for "Japanese Only" signposted exclusionism: public baths (sento or onsen). As per the Otaru Onsens Case (which has inspired two books), we had people who did not "look Japanese" (including native-born and naturalized Japanese citizens) being refused by xenophobic and racist bathhouse managers just because they could (there is no law against it in Japan). Now, according to the Japan Times below (in a woefully under-researched article), the bathhouse industry is reporting that they are in serious financial trouble (examples of this were apparent long ago: here's one in Wakkanai, Hokkaido that refused "foreigners" until the day it went bankrupt). And now they want to attract foreign tourists. It's a great metaphor for Japan's lack of an immigration policy in general: Take their money (as tourists or temporary laborers), but don't change the rules so that they are protected against wanton discrimination from the locals. It's acceptance with a big, big asterisk. Admittedly, this is another step in the right direction. But it's one that should have been done decades ago (when we suggested that bathhouse rules simply be explained with multilingual signs; duh). But alas, there's no outlawing the racists in Japan, so this is one consequence.
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