Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
23 Oct
Kyodo: Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto met with the head of an anti-Korean group Monday as he considers cracking down on hate speech rallies in the city, but they ended up having a shouting match in which they more or less just insulted each other. The meeting with Makoto Sakurai, who heads the group commonly known as Zaitokukai, at City Hall was tense from the beginning, with both men calling each other names. Sitting 3 meters apart, the two came close to a scuffle at one point before people around them intervened. The meeting, which was open to the media, last just 10 minutes, far shorter than originally planned. During the meeting, Hashimoto said: “Don’t make statements looking at ethnic groups and nationalities as if they are all the same. In Osaka, we don’t need guys like you who are racists.” Friend: I'm sure some people will view this showdown between Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and Makoto Sakurai, leader of Japan's hate speech movement, as high drama, but it struck me as pathetic. Sakurai struts in front of the media, telling NHK and the Mainichi that they "hate Japan", then sits fanning himself waiting at what looks like a school desk for Hashimoto. They get into a shouting match at roughly the same level as my three-year-old. Hashimoto has been praised for facing down Sakurai but he made a mistake: he should never have sat in the same room as this pathetic schoolyard bully. Debito: I disagree. Sakurai is a bully. I was raised by a bully for a stepfather, and I personally have learned that you never show a bully any weakness during confrontation. And you inevitably must stand up to them as I believe Hashimoto did. People will be confused about what it all means (as the Kyodo article above certainly was), but I have to admit this is the second time (here is the first) that I have respected one of Hashimoto's actions. He was clearly telling this oaf that he should not generalize about a whole minority, and that his discriminatory actions are not welcome in his city. And he did it in the same register as he was being addressed. Good. Fire with fire. Bureaucrats who have spent their lives behind desks and never entered a fray like this have glass jaws in a verbal debate arena. My experience watching the Foreign Ministry in 2007 unable to handle Right-Wing bullyboys during a human-rights hearing is a prime example. It is time even public officials learned to use the register of fighting words, as Hashimoto did. Otherwise the fighters will dominate the dialog by drowning everyone else out.
19 Oct
Dovetailing with our previous blog entry, I noticed within the ranks of Sakurai Yoshiko's ultraconservative group Japan Institute for National Fundamentals the Guest Researcher Dr. Kevin Doak of Georgetown University. He was honored by them earlier this year: Yomiuri: A professor of Georgetown University in Washington has been selected for his study of nationalism in modern Japan as the first recipient of a private award established to promote research on Japan by foreign scholars. “It truly is a privilege and gives me the great confidence to continue my study,” said Prof. Kevin Doak at a July 8 ceremony in Tokyo to announce recipients of the first Terada Mari Japan Study Award established by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a Tokyo-based think tank. Doak, 54, received the Japan Study Award, top prize, for his 2009 book “A History of Nationalism in Modern Japan” (published in Japanese under the title “Ogoe de Utae ‘Kimigayo’ o”) and other works on Japan. In the book, he says English-language media do not necessarily provide correct explanations about nationalism in Japan. For instance, the book discusses a growing trend of “civic nationalism” in modern-day Japan, a concept opposite to ethnic nationalism. Civic nationalism, Doak writes, is based not on ethnic roots but on civic engagement such as having a sense of belonging to the Japanese community. Academic colleague: "Kevin Doak is a serious scholar, but I don't know what has been happening with him in recent years. The Japanese translation of this book is entitled 大声で歌え、君が代 or Lustily Sing the Kimigayo, and it is being marketed as a polemic in favour of patriotism, not as a detached academic tome. In part it seems the book has been hijacked by a publisher with an agenda -- the two-star comment on Amazon Jp is instructive -- but then how did Kevin allow them to do this? It would be interesting to compare the English and Japanese texts, if only life were not so short. This case bears comparison with the recent hoo-hah about Henry Scott-Stokes' book, another publisher-driven right-wing venture." I of course respect the views of an academic colleague who has the training, knowledge, and rigor to express his views in a measured, balanced, and well-researched way. My comment is that his concept of civic nationalism (according to the Yomiuri writeup above) not being "based on ethnic roots, but on civic engagement such as having a sense of belonging to the Japanese community", doesn't quite square with my research on how "Japaneseness" is enforced not only through "Japanese Only" signs and rules, but also through the structure and enforcement of Japan's legal and administrative systems. That I believe goes beyond civic engagement and into issues of ethnicity (and racialization processes). Perhaps someday we'll have a chat about that.
15 Oct
It's the next natural step of Japan's Extreme Right: jingoism and terrorism. They feel empowered enough in present-day Japanese society (especially in the wake of the Asahi retracting some articles on Japan's "Comfort Women" wartime sexual slavery) to start making larger threats to bodily harm. No longer are they satisfied with being bully boys during demonstrations (beating up Leftists with relative impunity, see here and here) -- as seen in the article below they have to hound from livelihood those who oppose them using nail bombs. The tactics behind the practitioners of hate speech have morphed into real power to conduct ideological witch hunts. And it won't stop there -- the most powerful elements of the Extreme Right are gearing up like never before in the Postwar Era to rewrite history overseas too (see Yomiuri advert below). The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize did not go to people advocating for the conservation of Article 9 in Japan's "Peace Constitution" is more evidence that the outside world still hasn't caught up with what's really going on with Japan's Right Wing Swing. Mainichi: Two universities have received letters threatening to harm their students unless the institutions dismiss a pair of instructors, who as Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporters had written articles about the wartime comfort women issue. Yomiuri Ad: Now, more than ever, Japan needs to tell the world the facts about this matter and dispel entrenched misperceptions about comfort women. Instead, the Foreign Ministry will build “Japan House” public relations hubs in major cities overseas to promote Japanese cuisine and anime as a pillar of the “strategic proliferation of information abroad.” Does the ministry have its priorities in the right order? A task force charged with protecting Japan’s reputation and directly controlled by the prime minister should be set up, and a minister and dedicated secretariat placed in charge of handling this matter. A united effort by the whole government is required—urgently.
11 Oct
JT: After years of pressure from foreign governments, and enormous efforts by “left-behind” parents to have access to children abducted to and from Japan after marital separation or divorce, the Japanese government became a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April. That is, of course, good news. Now the issue becomes one of enforcement. And to that end, this column has serious doubts that the Japanese government will honor this treaty in good faith. These doubts are based on precedent. After all, Japan famously ignores human-rights treaties. For example, nearly 20 years after ratifying the U.N. Convention on Racial Discrimination, and nearly 30 since acceding to the U.N. Convention on Discrimination against Women, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination, nor a statute guaranteeing workplace gender equality backed by enforceable criminal penalties. We have also seen Japan caveat its way out of enforcing the Hague before signing. For example, as noted in previous JT articles (e.g., “Solving parental child abduction problem no piece of cake” by Colin P.A. Jones, Mar. 1, 2011), the debate on custody has been muddied with ungrounded fears that returned children would, for example, face domestic violence (DV) from the foreign parent. DV in Japan is being redefined to include nontactile acts such as “yelling,” “angry looks” and “silent stares” (particularly from men). It is within this context that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) recently issued a pamphlet titled “What is the Hague Convention?” Available in Japanese (www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000033409.pdf) and English (www.mofa.go.jp/files/000034153.pdf), it offers a 12-page manga in which a Japanese father carefully explains the Hague Convention to his Japanese-French son. The pamphlet has sparked considerable controversy...
10 Oct
Table of Contents: HATE SPEECH AND THE BLAME GAME 1) Blame Game #433: JT on “Rumors of Foreign Looters in Hiroshima Unfounded”, “Social Media Rehashes Historical Hate”, and Economist on unoptimistic outcomes re hate speech law 2) Asahi Editorial: PM Abe and his Cabinet picks must clarify stance on Zaitokukai, racism 3) JT on hate speech and GOJ’s connections to organized crime: “Yakuza do what Abe Cabinet’s Yamatani can’t” 4) Blame Game #432: J-Cast.com reports Mt. Fuji is covered in human poop, speculates due to increase in foreign tourists OUTRIGHT MEANNESS AND DECEPTION 5) JT: Ishihara and Hiranuma’s conservative party to submit bill halting welfare for needy NJ a la July Supreme Court decision 6) 2014 MOFA pamphlet explaining Hague Treaty on Child Abductions to J citizens (full text with synopsis, including child-beating NJ father on cover & victimized J mothers throughout) 7) SCMP (Hong Kong) on MOFA Hague Pamphlet: “‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists”, cites Debito.org (UPDATE: Also makes Huffington Post Japan in Japanese & Al Jazeera) GOOD NEWS 8 ) Quoted in BBC Brasil (original Portuguese & machine E translation): “Japan receives criticism from the UN after wave of xenophobia in the streets” 9) Debito receives his Ph.D. Sept. 18, 2014, at Meiji Gakuin University ceremony. Photo included. … AND FINALLY… (I forgot to append my column to the Newsletter last month, so here are two of them this month) 10) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 78, August 14, 2014, “Past victimhood blinds Japan to present-day racial discrimination” 11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 79, on Japan’s Visible Minorities, Sept. 4, 2014 (version with links to sources)
5 Oct
JT: In most countries, police officers and criminals are supposed to be on opposite sides of the law, especially the higher up the chain of command you go, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe doesn’t appear to think this is necessary. Last month, photographs surfaced showing several members of Abe’s new Cabinet socializing with members of an anti-Korean hate group known as Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (more commonly known as Zaitokukai). The appearance of such images raises some disturbing issues. [...] At a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Sept. 25, [Cabinet member] Yamatani [Eriko] denied that the weekly’s article was true and alleged she had been misquoted. However, when she was asked to publicly repudiate Zaitokukai, she refused — three times. Shukan Bunshun last week published a follow-up article and included an audio recording of its interview with her, suggesting Yamatani did indeed lie at her news conference. It also added a proverb to its coverage: “All thieves start as liars.” But lying to the press is not a crime, nor is hate speech illegal in Japan. Hate crimes are not illegal either. That said, generating profit for organized crime is something else...
2 Oct
Continuing with the hate speech theme (and the perpetrators of it in Japan, e.g., Zaitokukai), here is an editorial from the Asahi decrying that support of this group (or at least the unwillingness to disavow or take measures against their spreading public hatred of minorities) appears to reside in the highest levels of government. As the person being cited, Yamatani Eriko, is the nation's top cop in the current PM Abe Cabinet, this information bodes ill for any legal measures or remedies against hate speech in Japan, something the UN recently advised Japan to adopt. BTW, this is the same Yamatani Eriko who spoke out against a memorial against Japan's wartime "Comfort Women" sexual slavery in Palisades Park, New Jersey (not the Glendale, California monument), including the following "explanation" in two languages on her blog of May 6, 2012 (courtesy of MS), with the requisite denialism: Conclusion: "Moreover, it cannot be tolerated that Japanese children are bullied and felt sorrowful due to a lie that Japan conducted the abduction of 200,000 girls which is not true at all, and that the lie has been spread throughout the world." These are the people who currently lead Japan. Is there any more doubt about the claim of Japan's right-wing swing?
28 Sep
Continuing on with the theme of Japan's Blame Game (as in, blame foreigners for any social ill that you don't want to take responsibility for), this blog entry talks about the phenomenon of blame speech morphing into hate speech (not that far of a stretch, given the irresponsible nature of anonymous social media). We have people conjuring up fake stories of foreigners looting after natural disasters that got so bad that even the Japanese police (who are not positively predisposed to foreign residents in the first place -- they're usually on the front lines of blaming them for foreign crime and the undermining of Japanese society) are stepping in to defend them (article included). This is ironic, since NHK has recently reported there have been 1200 burglaries in post-disaster Fukushima and perps are Japanese (article). And it's not the first time that the authorities have had to step in and dispel rumors targeting NJ residents. Consider what happened weeks after the 2011 Fukushima disasters. Rumors were circulating about foreign crime all over again and had to be tamped down upon (article). Despite the fact that crime was occurring and probably not due to NJ (article). Note how J crime naturally causes considerably less media panic. But since there are no legal restrictions on hate speech in Japan, if you can't say something nice about people, say it about foreigners. And there is in fact a long history of this sort of thing going on (article), what with the massacre of Korean residents back in 1923. To be sure, hate speech has finally become an issue in Japan. A recent NHK survey has shown that a vast majority of the Japanese public think hate speech is a problem, and a near-majority think that legislation is needed (article). That said, I remain unoptimistic about how things will turn out, especially given the bent of the current administration. The Economist (London) appears to share that view, even hinting that it may be used to stifle pertinent criticisms of the government (as opposed to nasty speculation about minorities and disenfranchised peoples) (article). So what to do? I still remain in support of a law against hate speech (as is the United Nations), i.e., speech that foments fear, hatred, and related intolerance towards disenfranchised peoples and minorities in Japan. Those are the people who need protection against the powerful precisely because they are largely powerless to defend themselves as minorities in an unequal social milieu. The Japanese government's proposed definition of hate speech (taken from the NHK article above) of 「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」(behavior or expressive activity that foments discrimination or violence toward, or disparages people belonging to groups distinguished by race, citizenship, gender etc.) is a decent one, and a good start. Where it will go from here, given the abovementioned extremities of Japan's current right-wing political climate, remains to be seen.
24 Sep
Continuing our occasional series on "The Blame Game" (I've written about this before in the Japan Times), where embarrassing and inconvenient domestic problems are blamed on foreigners, here's a report by a Japanese media source that Japan's venerable symbolic Mt. Fuji is covered in human hiker crap. Fine. I've hiked up many mountains, and I'm sure a hike up Fuji would challenge many an intestine. But then the article headlines that it might be due to the increase in foreign tourists (particularly Chinese and Koreans), parroting internet speculation. Not so fine. It does add "balance" by saying that others have said that Japanese also do it. But again, that's not what the headline says, and you'd have to read further to get that. The story should in fact be that people are bashing foreigners, not that NJ pooping on Fuji might be happening. Click bait is one thing, but the media practice of picking on foreigners because they are too weak in Japan's media to respond against group defamation (as I discuss in my doctoral dissertation; more on that later, sorry) is another. Japan needs stronger anti-defamation leagues (we at Debito.org have tried; remember McDonald's Japan's "Mr. James" campaign?) to nip this sort of thing in the bud.
19 Sep
I'm very happy to announce that yesterday I formally received my Ph.D. in International Studies from Meiji Gakuin University in a ceremony on their Shirogane Campus. Here's a photo:
17 Sep
SCMP: But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses. "It's the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten," said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist. "After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around," he said. "It's the same as in the debate over whaling. "The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them." Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women. "It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan," said Arudou. UPDATE: THIS SCMP ARTICLE PRODUCED AN ARTICLE IN HUFFINGTON POST JAPAN:
15 Sep
Japan, after years of pressure from overseas, is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, where children of international marriages are to be protected against psychologically-damaging abductions and severed contact with one parent after marriage dissolution and divorce. Debito.org has covered this issue extensively in the past. What matters now is how Japan intends to enforce the treaty. Debito.org has argued that we are not hopeful about Japan following the spirit of the agreement in good faith. It has been reinterpreting sections with caveats to give the Japanese side undue advantages in negotiations, indirectly portraying the Non Japanese (NJ) party as the suspicious interloper, redefining important issues such as domestic violence (DV) to include heated arguments and "silent stares" etc., refusing to see abductions by the Japanese parent as much more than a natural repatriation, and not being self-aware that in Japan, child abduction and severed contact with one parent is quite normal (due in part to the vagaries of the Family Registration System (koseki)), but not necessarily in the best interests of the child. Japan has been, in short, a haven for international child abductions, and how the GOJ will interpret the Hague to its people is crucial for change in public mindsets and enforcement. To that end, Debito.org is fortunate to have received a copy from a concerned reader of a 2014 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimushou) pamphlet explaining the Hague to the Japanese public. Scanned below in full, within its discourse are troubling assumptions and presumptions that bear scrutiny and exposure, as they remain along the lines of the concerns expressed above. If this is Japan's official mindset towards international child abductions, then Debito.org remains pessimistic, if not cynical, about Japan's intentions to enforce the Hague in good faith.
11 Sep
Got quoted (and some of Debito.org's "Japanese Only" signs posted) in BBC Brasil today (thanks Ewerthon for the link). I'll paste the article below with the Google machine translation in English afterwards. Corrections welcome. Machine translated excerpt: "A report of the UN Human Rights Committee referred to the Japanese government, highlights the passive reaction of the police in demonstrations of this kind. The authorities have been criticized for only observe, without taking any effective action to curb abuses. In late August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination requested that the country "firmly approached the manifestations of hatred and racism and incitement to racial hatred and violence during public demonstrations." Since 2013, Japan has registered more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches.[...] For the writer, activist and American-born researcher naturalized Japanese Arudou Debito, "(such discriminatory attitudes) have become increasingly overt, organized, and normalized." Debito collects, since 1999, pictures of signs of shops, bars, restaurants, karaoke bars, many of them sent in by readers from all over Japan, with English phrases - and even in Portuguese - prohibiting the entry of foreigners. The collection became a book entitled Japanese Only: The Otaru case of spa and racial discrimination in Japan. [NB: Not quite right, but my clarification was ignored by editors.] Debito is said still worried that with the increasing dissemination of the thoughts of the extreme right, the cause get more and more "fans"."Japan still has the belief that extremism is less likely to happen in its 'peaceful society'"," he explained. "I do not think it's that simple. Ignoring the problems of hatred, intolerance and exclusivism towards minorities hoping they simply disappear too is a positive and historically dangerous thought." The Brazilian community in Japan is also a constant target of discriminatory attitudes. Fourth largest group among the foreigners living in the country, Brazilians are constantly complaining of abuses generated by racial discrimination and the issue is always raised in discussions with local authorities...
8 Sep
In a show of xenophobia mixed with outright meanness, Japan's political dinosaurs (we all know what a nasty person Ishihara Shintaro is, but remember what kind of a bigot Hiranuma Takeo is too) will propose legislation that will officially exclude NJ taxpayers down on their luck from receiving the benefits to social welfare that they have paid into. Put simply, they are seeking to legislate theft. Oh, and just in case you think "if you want equal rights in Japan, you should naturalize", they've thought of that too, and according to the article below are calling for naturalization to become more stringent as well. This is on the heels of a dumbfoundingly stupid Supreme Court decision last July that requires Japanese citizenship for access to public welfare benefits. I've heard people say that all this decision did was clarify the law, and that it won't affect the local governments from continuing to be more humanitarian towards foreign human residents. But you see, it HAS affected things -- it's now encouraged rightists to codify more exclusivity, not leftists more inclusivity. In this currently far-right political climate in Japanese politics and governance, more exclusionism, not less, will become normalized, as long as the mindsets and actions of these horrible old men are allowed to pass without comment or critique. Well, that's one reason Debito.org is here -- comment and critique -- and we say that these old bigots should have their legacy denied. But remember, it's not as simple as waiting for the Old Guard to die off (Nakasone Yasuhiro, remember, is still alive and pretty genki at age 96), because a new generation of conservative elites are waiting like a row of shark's teeth to replace the old. Be aware of it, and tell your voting Japanese friends about how this affects you. Because no-one else can with such conviction. You must do all that you can so your legacy, not theirs, wins.
5 Sep
“VISIBLE MINORITIES” ARE BEING CAUGHT IN THE DRAGNET By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito Column 79 for the Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Community Page, September 4, 2014 Around noon on Aug. 13, in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, a local apartment manager notified the police that a “suspicious foreigner” was hanging around the nearby JR train station. Cops duly descended upon someone described by the Asahi as a “20-year-old male who came from the Philippines with a Japanese passport” (sic). When asked what he was doing, he said he was meeting friends. When asked his nationality, he mentioned his dual citizenship. Unfortunately, he carried no proof of that. So far, nothing illegal here: Carrying ID at all times is not legally required for Japanese citizens. But it is for foreigners. So the cops, convinced that he was really a foreigner, took him in for questioning — for five hours. Then they arrested him under the Immigration Control Act for, according to a Nikkei report, not carrying his passport, and interrogated him for another seven. In the wee hours of Aug. 14, after ascertaining that his father is Japanese and mother foreign, he was released with verbal apologies. That hardly suffices. If any of you have ever undergone Japan’s “voluntary questioning” and/or 23 days of interrogation after arrest, you know how harrowing it can be. And this isn’t the first instance...
5 Sep
Table of Contents: 1) United Nations demands Tokyo introduce anti-discrimination law to counter hate speech (HRC report CCPR/C/JPN/CO/6 text included in full, citing “Japanese Only” signs, thanks) 2) UN: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Japan 2014: Little progress made 3) Nikkei: Another Japanese nabbed for being like a “suspicious foreigner” in Ibaraki. Adding it to the collection 4) “No Foreigners” (and no women) Capsule Inn Omiya hotel in Saitama (UPDATE AUG 21: No-foreigner rule withdrawn, but lots more exclusionary hotels found on Rakuten)
1 Sep
Two posts ago I talked about the UN's most recent report on Japan's human rights record (and how there seems to have been almost no progress made). Well, also interesting is the public record of the give-and-take between UN officials and Japan's mission to the UN. That's below. It offers a glimpse of the mindsets of Japan's representatives, and how they will defend Japan's status quo no matter what. The parts that are germane to Debito.org are bolded up, so have a read. This is probably a glimpse as to what courses the GOJ will (not) take regarding human rights issues in future. BTW, If you want to see how much has not changed (these UN reviews happen every two years), get a load of what happened last time Japan faced the music in the UN regarding its human rights record, back in 2010. The GOJ even claimed Japan was taking "every conceivable measure" to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2008 (yeah, except for an actual law against racial discrimination, unrequited since 1996!). Debito.org's archives and analysis go back even farther, so click here. And when everyone by now realizes that Japan's human-rights efforts are a joke (seriously, back in 2013), the Japanese representative will angrily shout to the audience, "Why are you laughing? SHUT UP! SHUT UP!" This is not a joke. Concluding remarks (excerpt): ANWAR KEMAL, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Japan, said Japan was making progress in the implementation of the Convention. Japan had a democratic constitution and therefore should be able to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which would plug the gaps in the domestic legislation as recommended by the Committee five years ago. It should be able to tackle racist hate speech without impeding upon the right to free speech. It should install a national human rights institution without delay... AKIRA KONO, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, [said] Japan would continue to make tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation without permitting any form of discrimination, including racial or ethnic.
27 Aug
NH: According to the Nikkei, two weeks ago a no-good busybody "reported" to the police that there was a "suspicious foreigner" around. The police duly rushed to the scene and questioned a Philipino 20-year-old they found. They arrested him as caught in the act of not carrying his passport with him. After 7 hours of questioning, through an interpreter it came to light he also had Japanese citizenship and his father is Japanese. They double-checked, and since it was true released him in the middle of the night. The police stated "We are sorry. We will try to make sure it doesn't happen again." The article and police statement does not find any fault with the person who reported a suspicious foreigner, or with the police for going and questioning people alleged to be suspicious foreigners. That is pretty much just the whole story. It's not a bad law exam question, since we could ask, did he have to give up his Filipino citizenship now that he is 20, etc.? The article doesn't go there either, of course. Another example of this law's failure to account for Japan's diverse population, and people getting caught in the cross-fire. I can only imagine how this young man felt about all of this. COMMENT: I can imagine. I myself have been racially profiled (although not arrested) by J-cops on numerous occasions (see here and here, for example), even after naturalizing. So were these people (one of whom actually was arrested in 2006 for looking "too foreign".) This is yet another reason why Japan needs laws against racial discrimination -- because you can't always tell anymore who's "Japanese" based upon physical appearance alone. Innocent Japanese who don't "look it" are going to get caught in any dragnet of suspicion.
23 Aug
Good news. The United Nations has once again reviewed Japan's human rights record (preliminary report below), and found it wanting. Here's the bit that has been cited in Japan's news media (also below): ======================= Human Rights Committee Concluding observations (2014) CCPR/C/JPN/CO/6 ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION Human Rights Committee Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Japan (excerpt) Hate speech and racial discrimination 12. The Committee expresses concern at the widespread racist discourse against members of minority groups, such as Koreans, Chinese or Burakumin, inciting hatred and discrimination against them, and the insufficient protection granted against these acts in the criminal and civil code. The Committee also expresses concern at the high number of extremist demonstrations authorised, the harassment and violence perpetrated against minorities, including against foreign students, as well the open display in private establishments of signs such as “Japanese only” (arts. 2, 19, 20 and 27). The State should prohibit all propaganda advocating racial superiority or hatred that incites to discrimination, hostility or violence, and should prohibit demonstrations that intended to disseminate such propaganda. The State party should also allocate sufficient resources for awareness-raising campaigns against racism and increase its efforts to ensure that judges, prosecutors and police officials are trained to be able to detect hate and racially motivated crimes. The State party should also take all necessary steps to prevent racist attacks and to ensure that the alleged perpetrators are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions. ======================= COMMENT: Happy to see the generally-overlooked aftermath of the Otaru Onsens Case and the information on Debito.org's Rogues' Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments is still being cited. Keep the pressure on, UN. The media reaction and the UN report in full follows, and there's lots more important stuff (including issues of "Trainee" NJ slave-wage work, Japan's historical wartime sexual slavery, abuses of police power, and even Fukushima irradiation!)
18 Aug
Joining the ranks of hundreds of other places nationwide that have "Japanese Only" rules in place is this capsule hotel called "Kapuseru In Ohmiya" in Miyamachi 5-3-1, Ohmiya-ku, Saitama, close to JR Omiya Station East Exit, phone 048-641-4122. Incidentally, and also in violation of Japan's Hotel Management Law, it does not allow women to stay there either. Here's a screen capture of their entry on Rakuten as of August 18, 2014, with all their contact details. (Front door with directions there) (Entire site with "No Foreigners" and "No Women" rules listed at very bottom) Anyone want to give them a call, and/or to report them to the authorities? Here's how... UPDATE AUGUST 21, 2014: THEIR RAKUTEN ENTRY HAS REMOVED THE "JAPANESE ONLY" RULE, AMENDED IT TO A "BRING A JAPANESE SPEAKER IF YOU DON'T SPEAK JAPANESE, AS THE STAFF DOESN'T SPEAK FOREIGN LANGUAGES". THE "MEN-ONLY" RULE REMAINS. RAKUTEN PAGE SCREEN CAPTURE BELOW:
15 Aug
Table of Contents: THE SEISMIC SHOCK OF 2014 1) In a stunning decision, Japan’s Supreme Court overturns Fukuoka High Court, rules that NJ Permanent Residents (etc.) not automatically eligible for social welfare benefits 2) JT: Colin Jones on NJ rights after the Supreme Court welfare verdict of July 2014: None but what MOJ bureaucrats grant you OTHER WEIRDNESS AND DENIALISM 3) SITYS: JT publishes lawyer’s analysis of J-cops’ arbitrary “stop and frisk” procedures. It’s now actually worse for NJ than Debito.org has reported before (correctly) 4) Unsuccessful protest against instatement of NJ CEO at Takeda Pharma: Note weird narratives of exclusionism 5) Japanese hotel and restaurant bars all Non-Japanese — in Bangalore, India! And it’s shut down by the local Indian govt. within days 6) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s Google Page Rank drops from 4 to Zero overnight. Unsure why NICE TRIES 7) JT: Japan needs to get tough on hate speech: U.N. experts and columnist Eric Johnston; why I doubt that will happen 8 ) AFP: “Tarento Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture”. I wish her well, but the hyperbolic hype is not warranted 9) JDriver on J Driver License renewals and questionable legality of residency/Gaijin Card checks to ferret out “illegal overstayers” 10) Asahi’s AERA Mag July 14, 2014: Special on NJ in J globalized companies, says “Offices without NJ will not succeed”. Yet again panders to stereotypes 11) Yomiuri: TV shows to get foreign-language subtitles by 2020 for “foreign visitors” to Tokyo Olympics. Nice, but how about for NJ residents now? … and finally… 12) Japan Times JBC 77 July 3, 2014,”Complexes continue to color Japan’s ambivalent ties to the outside world”, modified version with links to sources
13 Aug
Opening paragraphs: Readers may be expecting this column to have something to say about the Supreme Court decision of July 18, which decreed that non-Japanese (NJ) residents are not guaranteed social welfare benefits. But many have already expressed shock and outrage on these pages, pointing out the injustice of paying into a system that may choose to exclude them in their time of need. After all, no explicit law means no absolute guarantee of legal protection, no matter what court or bureaucratic precedents may establish. I’m more surprised by the lack of outrage at a similar legal regime running parallel to this: Japan’s lack of a law protecting against racial discrimination (RD). It affects people on a daily basis, yet is accepted as part of “normal” unequal treatment in Japan — and not just of non-citizens, either. This brings me to an argument I wanted to round off from last month’s column, about how Japan has a hard time admitting RD ever happens in Japan. Some argue it’s because RD does not befit Japan’s self-image as a “civilized” society. But I would go one step further (natch) and say: RD makes people go crazy….
7 Aug
Jones in the JT: This newspaper’s well-intentioned July 27 editorial declaring that the social safety net should be for all taxpayers is perfectly understandable — particularly given that the petitioner was an elderly Chinese who was born and spent her whole life here. Unfortunately, it is a mistake to equate feeding the maw of whatever tax-fueled Leviathan nation state you happen to live in with being entitled to anything from it in return. This is particularly true in Japan, where by law it is generally more important that one of your parents be Japanese than where you were born, raised or paid taxes. After all, being a dutiful taxpayer alone won’t get your visa renewed or keep you from getting kicked out of the country; why should it get you a welfare payment either? Thus, if you live here on a foreign passport, you might want to snuggle up in a comfy chair and read through the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, since for most purposes, that is your constitution. Having its roots in an Occupation-era decree modeled after U.S. immigration laws then in effect (missing some important features, as will be discussed later), the ICRRA did not become a “law” until 1982, when it was amended in connection with Japan’s accession to the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. I say it is your constitution because in 1978, the Supreme Court acknowledged that most constitutional protections did extend to foreigners, but only within the framework of the immigration laws and regulations, including the broad administrative discretion granted by these to Ministry of Justice officials. COMMENT: What I'd like to have clarified is Colin's point about whether or not people (particularly non-citizen permanent residents) who pay taxes really have no rights to expect the benefits from The State. Let me ask Debito.org Readers to assist me in doing a little research. Let's find some law journals and other academic research written by specialists that give comparative rights for non-citizen residents in an international light. Here are two research questions: 1) Are non-citizen residents (particularly permanent residents, as taxpayers) entitled to the same social welfare benefits (e.g., unemployment, child support, and other safety-net measures designed to rescue citizens from destitution) in other developed countries? (Let's say the G8, or widen it out to the OECD if necessary.) 2) Do guarantees of civil and human rights guaranteed in the national constitutions of developed countries also apply to "all people/residents", including non-citizens, or are they strictly reserved for citizens, as they apparently are in Japan? Note that we are not looking for absolute equality (that's impossible, otherwise there would be no benefit to citizenship). But simply put: Do foreign residents receive the same guarantee against various social adversities elsewhere as a legally-enshrined human right, or not? Please send us some links to some articles in the comments section, with pertinent excerpts/abstracts included.
3 Aug
KM: Hi Debito! Here's another indication that the government cares more about short-term visitors than about the foreigners who actually live here: Yomiuri: The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will develop a system to show Japanese TV programs with subtitles in foreign languages, including English and Chinese, to provide a more comfortable viewing experience for foreign visitors, according to sources. In response to the increasing number of visitors from overseas, the envisaged system will be launched by 2020, the year in which the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held, the sources said. Behind the ministry’s decision were requests from foreign visitors for more foreign-language subtitles for domestic TV programs. The envisaged system will be offered for news programs related to visitors’ safety and security during their stay, as well as variety shows. KM: I have a few thoughts about this: 1) It probably would be nice to have more programing with English subtitles (and subtitles in other languages) but I'm a bit surprised that such a huge adjustment to daily programing in Japan would be made on behalf of those visiting short-term for the olympics. Of course, it would be open to anyone but the article (and a similar article in Japanese) makes it sound like the olympics and the comments of short-term visitors are primary motivations for the change. 2) The article says that Japanese content will be "automatically translated by a system to produce the foreign-language subtitles." Such subtitles might be intelligible for things like a weather forecast, but I can't imagine them being of much use (except as something to laugh at -- because of their poor quality) with variety programs. 3) Instead of making a major adjustment like this to satisfy the whims of short-term visitors, perhaps the money to make this change could be spent to improve the quality of disaster information and disaster warning systems for people who actually live here.
30 Jul
This case you might have heard about already, but in terms that Debito.org has talked about for decades, there are no surprises here: A "Japanese Only" Japanese restaurant has been discovered turning away "foreigners" in a foreign land -- India. Well, turning away all "non-Japanese". Because, you see, "Japanese" is not a function of nationality. It's a function of racialized tribalism. In other words, no matter where you are in the world, under Japanese binary sensibilities, there are two types of people: Japanese and NJ -- not Japanese and "foreigners". Overseas, Japanese technically become foreigners. But not in exported Japanese contexts such as Japanese restaurants. So again, Japanese society's exclusionary view of the world anytime, anywhere, becomes perfectly understandable when looked at through this binary rubric. Fortunately, not all societies let this sort of racism pass without comment or sanction. And India, despite being saddled with a horrible caste system, is no exception. Within weeks after exposure, it was partially shut down after notice from the Greater Bangalore City Corporation on explicit charges of racial discrimination -- something Japan simply cannot do. Articles follow. Bangalore Mirror: Unabashedly racist, Uno-In Hotel bars all other nationals; ironically, its head and staff are Indians. The hotel makes no bones about it. Its website categorically states: Located in Bangalore, we are a hotel exclusively for Japanese. Situated on Langford Cross Road in Shanthinagar, Hotel Uno-In, which also houses a Japanese rooftop restaurant called Teppen, has a policy of not allowing access to Indians, or for that matter, any other non-Japanese nationals. [...] Based on an incident that happened a few months back, these reporters visited the hotel with a colleague and got a first-hand taste of the discriminatory attitude. The moment they stepped foot into the lobby and expressed a desire to have lunch at the hotel's rooftop restaurant Teppen, they were told 'Indians' were not allowed. Below is a transcript of the recorded conversation that took place with Nic U Iqbal, MD and CEO of Nippon Infrastructure which runs the hotel... Mail Online India: A 'Japanese only' hotel, which allegedly did not entertain Indians and other foreign nationals in its restaurant, has been closed down by the Greater Bangalore City Corporation (GBCC) on charges of racial discrimination.
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