Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Nov 2, 2010: ‘Homogeneous,’ ‘unique’ myths stunt discourse in Japan Studies

Japan Times: Last month I attended an international lecture by one of Japanology’s senior scholars. I’ll call him Dr. Frink. Decorated by the Japanese government for his contributions to the field, he talked about Japan as a “unique” state that never really changes, even as it slips to third place behind China’s economy.

One reason he gave for this was that “Japan is still the most homogeneous society in the world.” He defined homogeneity by citing Japan’s tiny percentage of resident foreigners.

That was easily disputed after a quick Google search (the lecture hall had Internet; welcome to the 21st century). I raised my hand afterwards and pointed out that some 60 countries were technically “more homogeneous” than Japan, as they have smaller percentages of foreigners, foreign-born residents and immigrants.

According to the United Nations, as of 2005, Japan’s percentage (listed at 1.6 percent, which means that the zainichi, or Japan-born foreigners, are also included) was still larger than Kenya’s (1 percent), Nigeria’s (0.7 percent), India’s (0.5 percent) and China’s (excluding Hong Kong and Macau, 0.3 percent). Of course, given the boom in international migration this decade, many countries are net exporters of immigrants. But herein lies the flaw in linking monoculturality to an absence of foreigners: Don’t all these allegedly “homogeneous” countries (including Japan) also acknowledge ethnic minorities within their borders?

However, this column will focus on a much deeper problem in Dr. Frink’s school of scholarly discourse: The fixation on Japan’s “uniqueness,” and how a cult of Japanese homogeneity interferes with good social science…

Economist London on corrupt public prosecutors in Japan

Economist: A run of recent legal scandals, including wrongful convictions and brutal incarcerations, has tested respect for Japan’s criminal-justice system. The latest example, alleged evidence-tampering by a high-flying prosecutor and a cover-up by his bosses, has rallied many who want to see more regard for individual rights and greater checks on state power. The prosecutor in question, Tsunehiko Maeda, allegedly changed the date of a file on a computer disk that was being used as evidence against a woman accused of involvement in a massive benefit fraud. When Mr Maeda admitted this to his superiors, they are said to have ordered him to produce a report explaining how it happened “unintentionally”. On October 11th the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office dismissed Mr Maeda, the chief prosecutor in Osaka’s special investigative unit, and pressed charges against him…

The scandal has hit a nerve. Japan takes pride in one of the world’s lowest crime rates. But it also has a fishily high conviction rate, at 99.9%. That matches China’s and is far above rates in the West (see chart). In their defence, Japanese lawyers say that the country’s under-resourced state prosecution service is only able to bring the strongest cases to trial. Fear of failure, with which all Japan’s bureaucrats are imbued, reinforces a reticence to test weaker cases in court. According to a former Tokyo district court judge, a single courtroom loss can badly damage a prosecutor’s career. A second can end it.

Yet the recent scandals suggest that miscarriages of justice are all too common. So do several quirks of the justice system, which weigh the scales against the accused. Suspects can be held for up to 23 days without charge, for example. They often have little access to a lawyer and none during questioning. Police interrogations commonly last up to ten hours and are rife with mental and verbal abuse. On October 7th a businessman in Osaka produced a surreptitious recording of his seven-hour “voluntary” questioning, in which the police threaten to hit him and destroy his life…

CJFF: Immigration raids Filipino family home, husband has heart attack

CJFF: Afternoon of October 13, 2010 immigration officers questioned Victor de la Cruz in his work site at Gako Ishikaya located at the basement of Tokyo’s Shimbashi station of JR line. The immigration officer is asking if he and his wife, Susan Lubos de la Cruz who is an employee of an African embassy and Victor as her dependent are real husband and wife. There is no established case and Victor went home afterwards.

Today, October 20, 2010 at around 11:30 a.m. the immigration officers went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. de la Cruz in Meguro-ku and Victor was alone in the house. Later an immigration officer who gave his name as Mr. Kato of Shinjuku immigration with telephone number 03 5155 0496 called Susan, the wife of Victor, informing that they, the immigration officers, sent Victor to the National Organization Tokyo Medical Center at around 1:00 p.m. Victor suffered heart attack and in comatose given a 10-20 % chance to live by the doctor as of this writing (October 20, 2010, 11:50 pm).

Susan learned that her husband heart have stopped beating for an hour before Victor was sent to the hospital. Upon arriving home, Susan found all of their things and belonging are scattered and she also learned from the immigration officers that they went to their house to look for evidence if their marriage is real or not…

Susan, a member of Gabriela-Japan, a chapter of the Philippine national women organization Gabriela with 2 seats in the Philippine House of Representatives, is asking her organization for legal assistance and possibly to question the Immigration Bureau about the legality of their actions. Nobody knows what transpired and what kind of treatment, pressure, or intimidation or whatever the immigration officer employed to make Victor to suffer from heart attack. Susan is also doubtful about the legality of the immigration officers’ action in raiding her house…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 9, 2010

Table of Contents:
STEPS FORWARD AND BACK
1) Paul Toland on US House of Representatives vote against child abductions to Japan 416-1
2) Globe and Mail (Canada): “A black sun rises in a declining Japan”
3) Police notice: “Oreore Sagi” and other theft crimes with NJ crime placed in the proper context
4) Sendaiben and MB on Narita Airport again, this time both before and after entry
5) Discussion: Oguri Saori’s “Darling wa Gaikokujin” manga series: Does it help NJ assimilate?
6) Nagasakitabi.net uses “gaijin” stereotypes (blond wigs and fake noses) to push their website on TV

OTHERS “DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT”
7) “Pinprick Protests”: Chand Bakshi fights back against “NJ ID Checkpoint” hotel, gets apology
8 ) “Pinprick Protests”: NJ refusing to comply with GOJ Census?
9) Japan Times “Richard Cory” updates us on child custody woes and systematic bias against NJ fathers
10) Japan Times “Richard Cory” on child custody woes part 2: Who abducts wins

TANGENTS APLENTY
11) Weekend Tangent: My great grandmother’s veal turkey stuffing recipe
12) Travel Tangent: Hell to pay at LAX
13) Transit Tangent: Visited Tokyo DisneySea and tried not to enjoy myself, unsuccessfully
14) Cultural Tangent: American Soap Operas vs. Japanese Houmu Dorama
15) Just for fun: What are the going rates for English private lessons in your neck of Japan?

… and finally…
16) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Oct 5 2010: “Census blind to Japan’s true diversity”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 12, 2010 (forgot to blog)

Table of Contents:
DEVELOPMENTS
1) The 2010 Japan Census from October 1: Flash GOJ multilingual site explaining what it’s all about
2) Summer Tangent: DailyFinance.com on Japan’s generation-long economic stagnation leading to a lost generation of youth
3) Keishicho Kouhou on organized crime in Japan: Places NJ gangs in context for a change
4) Wash Post: “Strict immigration rules may threaten Japan’s future”, focus on nursing program
5) Thrice-convicted crooked Dietmember Suzuki Muneo gets his: Supreme Court rejects appeal, jail time looms
6) Kyodo: Japan to join The Hague Convention on Child Abduction. Uncertain when.

ACTIVISM ON BOTH SIDES
7) NYT: “New Dissent in Japan Is Loudly Anti-Foreign”
8 ) Success Story: Takamado English Speech Contest reform their “Japanese Only”, er, “Non-English Speakers Only” rules
9) Meeting with US Embassy Tokyo Sept 9, regarding State Dept. Country Reports on Human Rights
10) Asahi: Zaitokukai arrests: Rightist adult bullies of Zainichi schoolchildren being investigated
11) “The Cove” Taiji Dolphin protesters cancel local demo due to potential Rightist violence
12) Japan will apologize for Korean Annexation 100 years ago and give back some war spoils. Bravo.
13) Sendaiben digs deeper on those Narita Airport racially-profiling Instant NPA Checkpoints
14) M-Net Magazine publishes FRANCA March 2010 report to UN Rapporteur in Japanese

INTERESTING TANGENTS
15) Economist.com summary of Amakudari system
16) Coleman Japan Inc. has instructions “For Japanese Consumers Only”
17) Discussion: “If you could change one thing about a society…”

… and finally …
18) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column: ‘Don’t blame JET for Japan’s bad English”

“Pinprick Protests”: Chand Bakshi fights back against “NJ ID Checkpoint” hotel, gets apology

Here is a report from Chand Bakshi on how he called “basta” to a hotel that was racially profiling its customers, demanding all visually-looking NJ submit to an ID check and copy — claiming erroneously that this was required by law. Chand followed up on this to the point where he got capitulation and an apology. Well done.

This is actually pretty effective. The hotel I usually stay at in Tokyo has on various occasions (depending on how I was dressed) tried to Gaijin Card me too. I told them (and later followed up with an explanation to the management) that this only applied to tourists; NJ with Japanese addresses are not required to show ID. Of course, that’s not what the NPA would have hotels believe — they have explicitly instructed hotels to inspect and photocopy ID of ALL NJ. Which is why we must fight back against this invitation to racial profiling, as Chand has below.

In my case, my Tokyo hotel yesterday asked me if I had a domestic address upon check-in (which I’m fine with). I pointed to my name on the check-in card and said, check your records — I’m not only a Japanese, but also a frequent customer. Got a deep apology. But at least now my hotel chain is more sophisticated in its approach.

Read on for Chand’s report…

Globe and Mail (Canada): “A black sun rises in a declining Japan”

Globe and Mail makes a case that a groundswell of far-rightism in Japan is even worrying the traditional far-rightists:

“Until recently, it was the likes of Mitsuhiro Kimura that worried Japan’s political mainstream. The leader of the far-right Issuikai movement, he counted Saddam Hussein and French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen among his allies, and created friction with Japan’s neighbours by loudly denying the country’s Second World War crimes.

But now Mr. Kimura is among those concerned about a new breed of extremists, who are capitalizing on the bruised pride and swelling anger in Japan with a brand of politics that makes even a friend of the former Iraqi dictator uncomfortable. As this country staggers through a second decade of economic stagnation, and suffers the indignation of being eclipsed by historic rival China, there’s a common refrain coming from the growing ranks of this country’s young and angry: Japan must stand up for itself – and that foreigners are to blame for the country’s ills.

Take the past week alone. Infuriated by a perceived Japanese climbdown in a dispute with China over an island chain that both nations claim, right-wingers tossed smoke bombs at the Chinese consulates in the cities of Fukuoka and Nagasaki. Another man was arrested with a knife in his bag outside the Tokyo residence of Prime Minister Naoto Kan. On Friday, a motorcade of 60 cars organized by a right-wing group briefly surrounded a bus carrying Chinese tourists in Fukuoka, prompting Beijing to issue a warning to its citizens about the dangers of visiting Japan…”

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Oct 5 2010: “Census blind to Japan’s true diversity”

Japan Times: The official reason I keep getting from the Census Bureau is that this is a privacy issue. Asking people for their ethnic backgrounds is apparently too personal.

So you’re saying other questions on the census, such as household income, are not? Our personal information, according to your flash website, is properly protected anyway, right? If privacy is a concern, why does Japan have such an intrusive, even door-to-door, census at all?

Again, the government says it is for the creation of good policy in Japan. Which means, by extension, that matters of diversity and ethnicity are not part of good policymaking?

Sure, it’s nice to believe that by not making an issue of one’s roots, naturalized and multiethnic Japanese are officially treated the same as any other Japanese. But invisibility and accuracy are two different things. If accuracy is what the census is aiming for, it would be better to acknowledge that people of a wide range of ethnicities hold Japanese nationality.

Police notice: “Oreore Sagi” and other theft crimes with NJ crime placed in the proper context

In the same vein as a previous post putting Japanese and NJ crime in context, we have the Hokkaido police issuing a warning (procured from a Sapporo post office ATM area last February) about “Oreore Sagi” (“Hey Mom, it’s me, I need money fast” fraud) and other types of snatch and grab thefts. As you can read below, we have 1) a shyster phoning some old mom claiming to be her son and asking for emergency funds to be sent to an account, 2) a cash card being used for theft because the owner uses his or her birthday as their PIN number, 3) people storing their inkans too close to their bankbooks, 4) mysterious people distracting marks so they can snatch their belongings, and 5) call the police immediately if they think they’ve been a victim of crime.

Item 4) below in particular is germane to Debito.org. It mentions (in passing) that grabbers might say “you dropped some money” or “your clothes are dirty”, or speak to you in a foreign language. After distracting you, then they run off with your cash or bag.

Fine. It’s in context of other crimes committed by Japanese. Compare it with some past NPA posters making foreigners out to be the main culprits, including racist caricatures (which are fortunately avoided above), like this nasty one with darkies speaking katakana:

I think this new one is a definite improvement. Perhaps we’re getting listened to.

One more thing: About this “Oreore Sagi” fraud phenomenon. One thing I’ve always wondered is, are parents so distant from their children nowadays that they can’t recognize their own child’s voice on the phone? I don’t understand how they get duped. Explain, somebody?

Meeting with US Embassy Tokyo Sept. 9, 2010 regarding State Dept. Country Reports on Human Rights

Yesterday three friends and I visited the US Embassy in Tokyo to discuss employment and other issues of discrimination in Japan. The consular official who received us, a Mr Thomas Whitney, kindly gave us 90 minutes to give as much information as we liked for consideration in the US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights, an annual report given by the USG on individual countries that has in past years included information on even the Otaru Onsens Case (thanks). What follows are the summaries provided in advance of what we would say. Here’s mine, since it’s shortest:

The Japanese Government (GOJ) has a history of not abiding by its treaty obligations. With “Japanese Only” signs and rules in businesses nationwide (despite unlawfulness under both the Japanese Constitution and the UN CERD) and clear and present inequality towards non-Japanese in both the workplace and in protections under the law, Japan still has no national law with penalties against racial discrimination. The GOJ continues to make arguments to the UN against adopting one (i.e., freedom of speech and the efficacy of the Japanese judiciary for redress), while abuses towards non-Japanese and ethnically-diverse Japanese worsen (e.g., new and overt examples of hate speech and xenophobia, racist statements by politicians and media, even targeting of naturalized citizens for suspicion and exclusion). The GOJ has had more than a decade (having effected the CERD in 1996) to make legislative attempts to rectify this system, and its negligence presents ill precedent for abiding under future treaty signings (such as the Hague Convention on Child Abductions). Friends must help friends break bad habits, and gentle international pressure to assist the GOJ under a new reformist administration move in the right direction is a good thing for all concerned.

Arudou Debito

NB: Since our focus was on employment issues, I cited my experiences with TADD and Ambassador Mondale back in 1995 (See Ivan Hall CARTELS OF THE MIND), and the systematic full-time contracting of NJ in academia as witnessed through the Blacklist of Japanese Universities. I also mentioned that the GOJ has constantly refused attempts to release hard numbers on how many NJ academics in Japan have contracts vs tenure compared to Japanese academics getting contracts vs tenure (see more on this Academic Apartheid here). I also tied everyone’s presentations at the end with a request for USG visits to the Ministries of Education and Labor (following on Mondale’s precedent), to express awareness of the problem and the desire for proper enforcement of existing labor laws (if not the creation of a law against racial discrimination). Finally, I gave Mr Whitney the FRANCA handouts I gave the United Nations last March regarding general issues of discrimination in Japan (here and here).

NYT: “New Dissent in Japan Is Loudly Anti-Foreign”

NYT: The [xenophobic] protests also signaled the emergence here of a new type of ultranationalist group. The groups are openly anti-foreign in their message, and unafraid to win attention by holding unruly street demonstrations.

Since first appearing last year, their protests have been directed at not only Japan’s half million ethnic Koreans, but also Chinese and other Asian workers, Christian churchgoers and even Westerners in Halloween costumes. In the latter case, a few dozen angrily shouting demonstrators followed around revelers waving placards that said, “This is not a white country.”

Local news media have dubbed these groups the Net far right, because they are loosely organized via the Internet, and gather together only for demonstrations. At other times, they are a virtual community that maintains its own Web sites to announce the times and places of protests, swap information and post video recordings of their demonstrations.

While these groups remain a small if noisy fringe element here, they have won growing attention as an alarming side effect of Japan’s long economic and political decline. Most of their members appear to be young men, many of whom hold the low-paying part-time or contract jobs that have proliferated in Japan in recent years.

Though some here compare these groups to neo-Nazis, sociologists say that they are different because they lack an aggressive ideology of racial supremacy, and have so far been careful to draw the line at violence. There have been no reports of injuries, or violence beyond pushing and shouting. Rather, the Net right’s main purpose seems to be venting frustration, both about Japan’s diminished stature and in their own personal economic difficulties…

Success Story: Takamado English Speech Contest reform their “Japanese Only”, er, “Non-English Speakers Only” rules

Debito.org (via The Community) originally reported about a decade ago that the Takamado English speech contest, for junior-highschooler English speaking ability name-sponsored by a member of the Japanese royalty, was refusing foreign children enrolled in Japanese schools entry. This might seem reasonable, since native English speakers competing with Japanese L2 students would indeed have an unfair advantage.

However, Takamado’s rules excluded ALL foreigners, including those from countries that are not native English-speaking countries (such as Chinese or Mongolians). Moreover, the rules also excluded ALL Japanese who had foreign blood, as far back as grandparents.

So I wrote about it for The Community. Nothing happened. Then I wrote about it for The Japan Times back in 2004. Then something happened. I checked the rules for Takamado yesterday, and they’ve been revised to be more sophisticated about deeming who has a linguistic advantage. A foreigner is no longer just a foreigner and not a blanket tainter of Japanese student blood. Pays to say something. No longer is it a blanket system of “a foreigner is a foreigner is a foreigner”, and the attitude is less that any foreigner is a blanket tainter of Japanese student blood. Okay, better. Pays to say something. Especially in print.

Summer Tangent: DailyFinance.com on Japan’s generation-long economic stagnation leading to a lost generation of youth

Daily Finance.com: What happens to a generation of young people when:

They are told to work hard and go to college, yet after graduating they find few permanent job opportunities?
Many of the jobs that are available are part-time, temporary or contract labor?
These insecure jobs pay one-third of what their fathers earned?
The low pay makes living at home the only viable option?
Poor economic conditions persist for 10, 15 and 20 years in a row?

For an answer, turn to Japan. The world’s second-largest economy has stagnated in just this fashion for almost 20 years, and the consequences for the “lost generations” that have come of age in the “lost decades” have been dire. In many ways, Japan’s social conventions are fraying under the relentless pressure of an economy in seemingly permanent decline.

While the world sees Japan as the home of consumer technology juggernauts such as Sony and Toshiba and high-tech “bullet trains” (shinkansen), beneath the bright lights of Tokyo and the evident wealth generated by decades of hard work and Japan Inc.’s massive global export machine lies a different reality: increasing poverty and decreasing opportunity for the nation’s youth.

Suddenly, It’s Haves and Have Nots

The gap between extremes of income at the top and bottom of society — measured by the Gini coefficient — has been growing in Japan for years. To the surprise of many outsiders, once-egalitarian Japan is becoming a nation of haves and have-nots.

The media in Japan have popularized the phrase “kakusa shakai,” literally meaning “gap society.” As the elite slice prospers and younger workers are increasingly marginalized, the media has focused on the shrinking middle class. For example, a best-selling book offers tips on how to get by on an annual income of less than 3 million yen ($34,800). Two million yen ($23,000) has become the de-facto poverty line for millions of Japanese, especially outside high-cost Tokyo.

More than one-third of the workforce is part-time as companies have shed the famed Japanese lifetime employment system, nudged along by government legislation that abolished restrictions on flexible hiring a few years ago. Temp agencies have expanded to fill the need for contract jobs as permanent job opportunities have dwindled.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 6, 2010

Table of Contents:
SPECIAL ON THE DPRK SPY KIM HYON HUI JAPAN VISIT: THE BIG CON

1) North Korean spy and terrorist skirts Immigration, gets to stay in Hatoyama summer home, due to Yokota Megumi Case
2) UPDATE: Additional thoughts on the DPRK Spy Kim Hyon Hui Japan Visit from a friend in the know
3) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Aug 3: Kim uses Japan’s “perpetual victimhood” to her advantage

OTHER BIG CONS

4) Japan’s Centenarians are missing: Registry systems that ignore NJ residents are also registering long-dead Japanese as alive
5) Kyodo: NJ crime down once again, but NPA spin says NJ crime gangs “increasingly” targeting Japan, whines about difficulty in statistically measuring NJ crime
6) More racism in NPA police posters, this time Kanagawa Ken Yamate police and big-nosed “int’l NJ crime groups”.
(UPDATE: Contrast with same Kanagawa Police site in English: “we patrol community hoping smiles of residents never vanish.” Retch.)
7) Shame on Berlitz Japan for its court harassments, firing teacher for having cancer
8 ) Yomiuri: New “lay judges” in J judiciary strict about demanding evidence from prosecutors, give ‘benefit of doubt’. Well, fancy that.
9) Economist London on Japan’s treatment of Chinese: Welcome tourist money, work “Trainees” to death
10) NYT has video and article on JITCO NJ “Trainee” Program, including sweatshop conditions and karoushi
11) Mainichi/Kyodo: J companies will boost hiring of NJ by 50%! Yeah, sure.
12) JIPI’s Sakanaka on Gaijin Tank detentions for visa overstays: Put a maximum time limit on them
13) Toyota QC and “culture” again, says it will increase safety by dealing with mechanical and cultural defects, with Japanese-only review panel
14) Asahi: South Korea, China overtaking Japan in ‘cool’ culture battle, whatever that means
15) AP and JT on “Soft Power” of JET Programme, projecting Japan’s influence abroad
16) IMADR Connect Mag: UN CERD concerns and recommendations 2010 for the GOJ; rinse and repeat

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

17) NJ population falls in 2009 for the first time since 1961
18) New separate blog with details about taking Japanese citizenship, in English, written by other fellow naturalized Japanese
19) Thoughts on GOJ Upper House Election July 11, 2010: A DPJ loss, but not a rout, regardless of what the media says.
20) Asahi editorial supports NJ PR Suffrage, published during election-period debates

INTERESTING TANGENTS

21) AP: A Milestone For Russia: African-born Town Councilor Is Country’s 1st Black Elected To Office
22) Japan Times columnist CW Nicol (a whaling supporter) on why “The Cove’s” Taiji dolphin culls bother him

… and finally…

23) My Schofill family roots include Cherokee and lots of American South skeletons

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Aug 3 2010: “The victim complex and Kim’s killer con”

It’s fascinating whenever someone cons people out of pots of money — doubly so when someone cons a whole government. Take, for example, Japan’s biggest news story two weeks ago: Kim Hyon Hui’s four-day visit to Japan.

You might recall that in 1987 this North Korean spy, traveling on a fake Japanese passport, blew up a South Korean commercial airliner, killing 115 passengers.

Last July 20, however, this agent of international terrorism was allowed into Japan for a reception worthy of a state guest. Bypassing standard immigration procedures, Kim had her entry visa personally approved by our justice minister, boarded a chartered flight that cost Japan’s taxpayers ¥10 million, and was whisked by helicopter to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s private dacha to eat with political elites.

Then, flanked by a phalanx of 100 cops (who made sure nobody raised any uncomfortable questions), Kim got to meet the parents of Megumi Yokota, the cause celebre of North Korean kidnappings of innocent Japanese citizens decades ago. Next, at her request, Kim boarded another helicopter (at around ¥800,000 an hour) for an aerial tour of Mount Fuji. As a parting gift, she got an undisclosed amount of “additional remuneration.” Sweet.

And what did Japan get? Kim said she had information for the Yokotas about their missing daughter and other Japanese abductees who trained her to be a multilingual spy — even though, way back when, she said she had never met Megumi. So suddenly Kim has a quarter-century-old brain fart and gets the red carpet?

The Megumi Yokota tragedy has for the past decade been a political football in Japanese politics, a means for Japan as a whole to claim victimhood status…

AP and JT on “Soft Power” of JET Programme, projecting Japan’s influence abroad.

Here are two articles talking about what I brought up yesterday, Japan’s “soft power”, and how the JET Programme is an example of that. First one delves into the history and goals, the other making the case for and against it, with input from former students under JETs’ tutelage.

We’ve talked extensively about JET cuts/possible abolition here already on Debito.org (archives here), and raised doubts about the efficacy of the program as a means to teach Japanese people a foreign language and “get people used to NJ” (which I agree based upon personal experience has been effective, as Anthony says below). I guess the angle to talk about this time, what with all the international networking and alumni associations, is the efficacy of the program as a means of projecting Japan’s “soft power”, if not “cool”, abroad.

I have already said that I am a fan of JET not for the projection of power abroad, but rather because the alternative, no JET, would not be less desirable. Otherwise, in this discussion, I haven’t any real angle to push (for a change), so let’s have a discussion. Give us some good arguments on how effective JET is abroad.

AP: Of the more than 52,000 people who have taken part, many are moving into leadership at companies, government offices and non-profits that make decisions affecting Japan, said David McConnell, an anthropology professor at The College of Wooster in Ohio and author of a book about JET.

“The JET Program is, simply put, very smart foreign policy,” he said.

James Gannon, executive director for the nonprofit Japan Center for International Exchange in New York, describes JET as a pillar of the U.S.-Japan relationship and the “best public diplomacy program that any country has run” in recent decades.

JT: Upon return to their home countries, they act as unofficial goodwill ambassadors for Japan, and their experience as a JET is looked upon favorably by employers such as the U.S. State Department. For a relatively small investment on the part of taxpayers, the JET program has created huge returns, welcoming generations of non-Japanese who have, and will, go on to promote better relations between Japan and their own country and expose Japanese to the outside world in unprecedented ways.

Asahi: South Korea, China overtaking Japan in ‘cool’ culture battle, whatever that means

Here are two articles about an economic phenom I’ve never quite gotten the hang of: the “coolness” of a country. The Asahi frets that Japan is losing out to other Asian countries in “coolness”, whatever that means. There is an actual department within METI dealing with “cool”, BTW, and an article below talks about “Japan’s Gross National Cool”, again, whatever that means. Sounds like a means for former PMs like Aso to create manga museums and bureaucrats to get a line-item budget for officially studying “soft power”. Ka-ching.

But in all fairness, it’s not only Japan. Brazil is doing something similar with its quest for “soft power” (but more as an understated tangent to its economic growth, according to The Economist London). And of course, PM Blair had “Cool Brittania”. So this may be just an extension of trying to measure the value of services as well as hard material goods, or a hybrid thereof. It’s just that with “soft power” comes the potential for some equally soft-focus science — how can you be “losing” to other countries in something so hard to measure?

UPDATE: Additional thoughts on the DPRK Spy Kim Hyon Hui Japan Visit: The Big Con

Excerpt: Kim Hyon Hui, a wannabe actress-turned-terrorist who blew up a 747 filled with 115 people back in 1987 when she was a North Korean agent and who got the death penalty, only to see it revoked for reasons that are still unclear, arrived at Haneda airport Wednesday by special charter plane from her home in South Korea. Ms. Kim saw Japan’s fine hospitality at its best, and was even given her own motorcade to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s summer home in Karuizawa. No delays at train stations or red lights for our Ms. Kim!…

Yes, Ms. Kim did suffer a memory loss when she originally told Japanese officials she’d never met Megumi Yokota. But that was then and this is now. The Japanese government is quite happy to learn she has regained her memory, calling it a miracle and dismissing cynics who wonder whether Kim’s memory loss was restored with the aid of both hypnosis and secret bank accounts in Switzerland, Macau, or the Cayman Islands.

So busy were Japanese officials with their one-woman “Yokoso Japan!” on behalf of Ms. Kim and her testimony about children abducted from Japan by foreigners in violation of domestic and international law that readers will surely sympathize with our nation’s overworked and understaffed bureaucracy when they insist they have no time to meet with Americans, Canadians, British, Germans, French, Indians, or anyone else who would like–just a few minutes, if you please — to discuss the issue of children abducted to Japan by Japanese in violation of domestic and international law.

North Korean spy and terrorist skirts Immigration, gets to stay in Hatoyama summer home, due to Yokota Megumi Case

As a friend most poignantly pointed out to me yesterday evening, something’s very wrong with Japan’s current top news story:

“Have you been following the reaction to the treatment given that ex-North Korean spy who blew up a plane and murdered 115 people, yet came to Japan as a VIP and is now staying at Hatoyama’s Karuizawa retreat? David McNeil and Justin McCurry did pieces with a hint of outrage, especially David, who noted that, if Japanese authorities had bothered to follow the immigration law, she would have been arrested. To be fair, some Japanese journalists noted last night (on TBS, I think) that something isn’t quite right.

“You may be interested to know that the group “Bring Abducted Children Home” is pretty upset as well, noting that the Japanese government rolls out the red carpet for a mass murderer just because she might have some information on Japanese children who were kidnapped out of Japan but doesn’t want to deal with anybody seeking a meeting about Japanese children kidnapped back to Japan by a Japanese parent.”

Quite. As far as I recall not a peep about the terrorism on NHK 7PM last night. Only the meeting with the Yokotas and all the smiles. Elite politics indeed trumps all.

Sunday Tangent: Japan Times columnist CW Nicol (a whaling supporter) on why “The Cove’s” Taiji dolphin culls bother him

As another angle to the subject of the documentary The Cove, here we have Japan Times naturalist columnist (and fellow naturalized citizen) C.W. Nicol offering his view on what’s going on in Taiji. What’s interesting is his take on the matter of animal cruelty. Although he supports whaling as an issue and has no truck with tradition involving hunting of wild animals, what gets him is what the hunt does to the people in the neighborhood. I’m reminded of what goes on at Pitcairn Island (you get a society removed enough long enough from the authorities, they’ll invent their own rules, even if at variance with permissible conduct in society at large, and claim it as tradition). It was another reason for me personally to feel the conduct at Taiji is reprehensible.

The problem is that although Taiji is a small community, once it’s claimed to be “Japanese tradition”, you get one of the world’s most powerful economies behind it. Then all manner of issues (Japan bashing, economics, a general dislike at the national level of having outsiders telling Japan what to do, fear of right-wing repercussions, and corruption of culturally-tolerant debate arenas overseas) adhere and make the debate murky.

Nicol: What horrified me in Taiji was that the dolphins were not harpooned, and thus secured to be quickly dispatched. Instead, the hunters were simply throwing spears into a melee of the animals swimming in a small inlet they had sealed off from the sea, hitting them here and there. Then they’d retrieve the spear by hauling in a rope tied to it and hurl it again or use it close up to stab with. This was a far cry from the efficiency — and respect for life, and death — of an Inuit hunter or a whaler at sea.

That first time I witnessed the Taiji killings, I saw a dolphin take 25 minutes to die, while on another hunt I saw one that thrashed and bled for a horrible 45 minutes before it succumbed to its wounds. Killing, if justified and necessary, should surely be merciful and quick — yet I even saw an old grandmother laughing at a dolphin’s death throes and pointing out the animal to the small child with her as if it was some kind of joke. That really hurt and shook my belief in people.

In addition to this catalog of horrors, though, as a former marine mammal research technician in Canada, it shocked me that all those dolphins were being captured and killed with no government inspector or fisheries biologist on hand to take data and monitor the kill. I protested about what was going on to the fishermen, and to Town Hall officials in Taiji. I even went to Tokyo and protested to a senior official in the Fisheries Agency, but he just sneered and said, “What does it matter, they die anyway.”…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 11, 2010

Table of Contents:
CALLS FOR CHANGE, WELL MAYBE NOT:
1) JET Programme on GOJ chopping block: Appeal from JQ Magazine and JETAA in NYC (plus Debito.org Poll)
2) Powerpoint presentation: “Japan Past the Point of No Return”
3) Alarmist Nikkei Business cover re Chinese business practices: “Chapan: Your new boss is Chinese”
4) Japan Times: LDP & rightists still clinging to anti NJ PR Suffrage, even though not an issue in this election
5) Metropolis Mag has thoughtful article regarding the convoluted debate for NJ PR suffrage
6) Japan Times Zeit Gist on how NJ can participate in Japanese elections
7) Japan Times & Kyodo: Foreign “trainees” dying at rate of two to three a month, takes two years for one to be declared “from overwork” (karoushi), more than a quarter from “unknown causes”
8 ) IMADR Connect Magazine article on recent UN visit by High Commissioner of Human Rights to Japan May 2010

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, WELL MAYBE NOT:
9) Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japanese enforcement of vague laws: “No need to know the law, but you must obey it”
10) FCCJ No.1 Shimbun & Jiji on Japanese police’s extralegal powers, and how that power corrupts
11) Kyodo: Police raid car scrap yards run by NJ, suspecting them as “breeding grounds for crime”
12) NYT guest column on racial profiling of Japanese for “looking too tall and dark”. Just like arrest of “foreign-looking” Japanese back in 2006.
13) TBS: Daring heist of expensive watches in Sapporo. So daring it might have been foreigners!, says Hokkaido Police
14) J protesters of “The Cove” lose injunction in Yokohama District Court, cannot stop screenings, so they target people’s homes for intimidation
15) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JULY 1, 2010

TANGENTS
16) Newsweek: Immigrants do not increase crime
17) How the US deals with Arizona racial profiling: Federal lawsuits and Jon Stewart humor
18) Activist Junichi Sato on International Whaling Commission corruption and GOJ/NPA collusion
19) Canada spending even more than Japan this time on G8/G20 summits. However, controversy ensues.
20) Yours is no disgrace, World Cup Japan Team. Otsukare. I hope the J media does not spin this as a loss.
21) Sunday Tangent: “A Growing Love for ‘Cool Japan'” by Akira Yamada (of MOFA)

… and finally …

22) JUST BE CAUSE column July 6, 2010: “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry”: how government agencies want NJ tourists yet are accessories to excluding them (full text)

Sunday Tangent: “A Growing Love for ‘Cool Japan'” by Gaijin Handler Akira Yamada (of MOFA)

As a Sunday Tangent, here we have an essay from a GOJ gaijin handler doing what I call “turning a frown upside down” (I know — I do it myself enough.) He makes the case that a waning Japan is not so waning. It’s emerging as a carrier of “cool”, as in culturally-based “soft power”. Funny to see this screed appearing before a bunch of academics in an academic network, making all manner of hopeful assertions not grounded in much reliable evidence. It’s just trying to tell us how much the world in fact still “loves” Japan. Well, clearly the author does. Enjoy.

“A Growing Love for “Cool Japan”” by Akira Yamada:

Japan may appear defensive on the economic and political fronts. Has the world lost interest in an aging Japan whose economy will fall to third largest? There is, however, a side of Japan that is the object of ever stronger and deeper affection around the globe: Japanese popular culture, particularly anime (Japanese animation) and manga.

It will be no exaggeration to say that the world’s interest in and admiration for Japanese pop culture has grown dramatically in the first decade of the 21st century, thanks partly to the global spread of the Internet. This fact, however, is not well known around the world, even in Japan. Not many of the readers of the AJISS-Commentary, either Japanese or non-Japanese, likely have a clear understanding of the whole picture.

Although the exact number is unknown, there may be well over 100 events annually organized around the world featuring Japanese pop culture, anime and manga in particular, and attracting more than 10,000 participants. If events with several hundred or thousand participants are included, the number would be countless. Events focusing on Japanese pop culture are growing continuously both in numbers and in size. The largest event of this kind, “Japan Expo” held annually in Paris since 2000, brought in a record 164,000 participants in 2009. It is said that Brazil had several events with more than 100,000 participants…

Japan Times: LDP & rightists still clinging to anti NJ PR Suffrage, even though it’s not an issue in this election

The LDP and other rightists are still playing up the NJ PR Suffrage Issue, even though it’s not even a platform plank in this election (the DPJ Manifesto does not mention it this time) in a rather lame (and xenophobic) attempt to gather votes. Nothing quite like bashing a small, disenfranchised minority to make yourself look powerful and worthy of governance. Excerpt follows:

Japan Times: Whether to grant permanent foreign residents voting rights for local-level elections and allow married couples to keep their respective surnames have become contentious issues ahead of the July 11 Upper House election.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which advocates the introduction of foreigner suffrage and separate surnames for married couples if desired, faces strong opposition from conservatives in the Liberal Democratic Party and small parties, including its own ruling bloc partner.

Aichi Prefecture voters, however, are puzzled by the conservatives’ fervor because the topics have yet to stir national debate…

The LDP and small conservative parties set out to oppose the ideas in their platforms, vying with the DPJ, which has liberal views on these issues. Some homemakers, who used to be the last to become involved in politics, now speak to people at the weekly rally of Inoue’s group held at Kanayama Station in Nagoya.

“The pride of this country that has been built up by the Yamato (Japanese) race must be passed down to our children, otherwise there will be no future for the country,” said Masahito Fujikawa, 49, an LDP-backed candidate in the Aichi electoral district…

Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japanese enforcement of vague laws: “No need to know the law, but you must obey it”

Colin Jones in the Japan Times: A few months ago I met with some Western diplomats who were looking for information about Japanese law — in particular, an answer to the question, “Is parental child abduction a crime?” As international child abduction has become an increasingly sore point between Japan and other countries, foreign envoys have been making concerted efforts to understand the issue from the Japanese side. Having been told repeatedly by their Japanese counterparts that it is not a crime, some diplomats may be confused by recent cases of non-Japanese parents being arrested, even convicted for “kidnapping” their own children. I don’t think I helped much, since my contribution was something along the lines of “Well, it probably depends on whether the authorities need it to be a crime.”

Of course, the very question “Is x a crime?” reflects a fairly Western view of the law as a well-defined set of rules, the parameters of which people can know in advance in order to conduct themselves accordingly. However, there is a Confucian saying that is sometimes interpreted as “The people do not need to know the law, but they should be made to obey it.” This adage was a watchword of the Tokugawa Shogunate, whose philosophy of government was based in part on neo-Confucian principles.

It is also a saying that could provide some insights into why it sometimes seems difficult to get a clear answer about what exactly the law is in modern Japan. I am not suggesting that Japanese police and prosecutors have Confucian platitudes hanging framed over their desks, but knowing the law is a source of power. Being able to say what the law means is an even greater one, particularly if you can do so without being challenged. In a way, clearly defined criminal laws bind authority as much as they bind the people, by limiting the situations in which authorities can act. Since law enforcement in Japan often seems directed primarily at “keeping the peace,” laws that are flexible are more likely to serve this goal…

Sunday Tangent: Newsweek: Immigrants do not increase crime

As a Sunday tangent, here’s a Newsweek article making an argument that immigrants do not increase crime rates. It’s talking about the US example, but FYI. But it’s more food for thought when the NPA keeps erroneously telling us that NJ crime is on the rise.

Excerpt: So, yes, there are pretty compelling data to support the argument that immigrants as such—even presumably “illegal” immigrants—do not make cities more dangerous to live in. But what mechanism about such immigration makes cities safer? Robert J. Sampson, head of the sociology department at Harvard, has suggested that, among other things, immigrants move into neighborhoods abandoned by locals and help prevent them from turning into urban wastelands. They often have tighter family structures and mutual support networks, all of which actually serve to stabilize urban environments. As Sampson told me back in 2007, “If you want to be safe, move to an immigrant city.”

What other variables may be at work driving crime down? The ones most often cited are rising levels of incarceration, changes in drug markets, and the aging of the overall population. The authors ofFreakonomicsargue that the big drop in violent crime during the 1990s was a direct result of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973 and reduced by millions the pool of unwanted children who might have grown up to be criminals a generation later. Still, Wadsworth’s research and the recent FBI data reinforce the judgment that the vast majority of immigrants make our cities safer, especially when police know how to work with them, not against them. To blame all immigrants for the crimes committed by a few, and give the cops the job of chasing them for immigration offenses instead of focusing resources on catching the real bad guys, is simply nuts.

But that message just isn’t getting through. Polls continue to show that the vast majority of Americans think immigrants cause crime…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 20, 2010

Table of Contents:

THE CHINESE ARE COMING
1) Asahi has whiny article on how Chinese tourists don’t spend properly
2) Toyoko Inn opens “exclusively Chinese” hotel in Susukino Sapporo, refuses Japanese and other NJ; media ignores questionable legality
3) Taiwanese-Japanese Dietmember Renho becomes first multiethnic Cabinet member; racist Dietmember Hiranuma continues ranting about it
4) Debito.org Reader asks for advice regarding Chinese “Trainees” exploitation, stolen wallet, and local police

THE IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT
5) Asahi poll: Japan would rather be poorer as a nation than accept immigration
6) Osaka Minami public campaign: “exclude bad foreigners” like yakuza, enlists enka singer as spokesperson
7) Kansai Scene June 2010 article on issue of refugees and J Detention Centers (“Gaijin Tanks”)
8 ) Guardian on benefits of immigration to UK, NW on GOJ’s history promoting anti-racism 90 years ago at League of Nations!

TANGENTS
9) Reuters: Showings of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove cancelled in Japan due to threat of protest
10) Support and preview FROM THE SHADOWS documentary on Japan’s Child Abductions: Tokyo Shibuya Thurs Jun 24 7PM, admission free
11) Kyodo: GOJ survey indicates 70% of J disabled feel discriminated against. Nice they, unlike NJ, even got asked.
12) Fun Facts #15: Percentages of J high school grads matriculating into college by prefecture
13) Excellent Mark Schreiber article on history of crime terms in J media

… and finally …

14) Kansai Scene June 2010 interview re NJ PR suffrage issue (full text)

Debito.org Reader asks for advice regarding Chinese “Trainees” exploitation, stolen wallet, and local police

Here is a post from somebody seeking advice from Debito.org Readers. He’s seen a situation where Chinese “Trainees” are being exploited, where his wallet has been stolen but police allegedly won’t act on it, and just general confusion about what to do and where to go about things that he considers to be just plain off-kilter. Again, advice welcome.

Saturday Tangent: Kyodo: GOJ survey indicates 70% of J disabled feel discriminated against. Nice they, unlike NJ, even got asked.

Kyodo: Nearly seven out of every 10 people with disabilities said they have faced discrimination or biased treatment, an annual government report showed Friday.

The fiscal 2010 white paper on measures for disabled people, released by the Cabinet Office, says 68.0 percent of those surveyed said they have experienced discrimination or biased treatment because of their disabilities.

The office surveyed 2,178 people with disabilities between December 2009 and January 2010.

COMMENT: How nice. But wouldn’t it also be nice if the GOJ were to survey NJ to see if THEY feel they had been discriminated against. But they won’t. They don’t survey NJ. And when they do survey the general public in human-rights surveys, the questions are phrased so as to discount, even justify, the discrimination against them. Citations from 2007 GOJ survey here.

In sum, this to me is another example of the GOJ manufacturing consent to sway the public to accept a policy position. Fortunately, it’s for protecting people, not hurting them. But wouldn’t it be nice if the GOJ had somehow stepped in during all the nasty debates re NJ PR suffrage and curbed the hate speech, or even ask NJ sometime in a Cabinet Survey if THEY feel discriminated against? After all, we’ve already signed a Convention designed to protect them — nearly fifteen years ago in 1996, so there should be no disinclination. But no, NJ don’t deserve the same attention. After all, they aren’t Japanese.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 7, 2010

Table of Contents:
MORE DEBATES FROM BIZARROLAND
1) Eikawa GEOS claims in NZ court that workplace harassment is “The Japanese Way”, loses big
2) JIPI’s Sakanaka in Daily Yomiuri: “Japan must become immigration powerhouse” (English only, it seems)
3) Japan Times satirical piece on Gunma Isesaki bureaucrat beard ban
4) Kyodo: MOFA conducts online survey on parental child abductions and signing Hague Convention (in Japanese only)
5) Japan Times exposes dissent amidst scientist claims that eating dolphin is not dangerous
6) Economist London column on DPJ woes, passim on how senile Tokyo Gov Ishihara seems to be getting
7) Mark in Yayoi comments on Futenma affair: grant Okinawa its independence from Japan!
8 ) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JUNE 1, 2010 (Japanese), May 15 speech in Kani-shi, Gifu-ken

UPDATES
9) AFP: Another hunger strike in Immigration Detention Center, this time in Ushiku, Ibaraki
10) Robert Dujarric in Japan Times: Immigrants can buoy Japan as its regional power gives way to China
11) Tangent: Yomiuri: Nouveau riche Chinese buying up Japan, Niseko

… and finally…

12) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column June 1, 2010: Okinawa Futenma is undermining Japanese democracy (full text)

Yomiuri: Nouveau riche Chinese buying up Japan, Niseko

Yomiuri: China has also replaced Australia as the main foreign player in tourism and investment in and around Niseko, a southwestern Hokkaido town recently popular among foreign visitors as a ski resort.

“Australia was once the chief player in tourism and investment here. Since the [global] financial crisis, however, there has been an increase in the number of Chinese companies [conducting such activities],” Tomokazu Aoki, a senior official of Niseko Promotion Board Co.’s secretariat, said.

Founded in 1897, Niseko’s Yamada Onsen Hotel is renowned as the first resort to be built in the area. However, sold to a Chinese corporation this year, the hotel will reportedly be rebuilt as a villa-style accomodation.

A relative newcomer, the Hanazono ski resort has also been acquired by a foreign buyer, a Hong Kong-based communications company.

All this means progress and the go-ahead for further resort development in Niseko.

In April, The Times, a British newspaper, carried an article that read: “Chinese visitors to Niseko used to take a simple view of apres-ski: head to the nearest izakaya and scoff as much Hokkaido crab as possible. Nowadays, after the last run of the day, they scramble for the nearest real estate agent…The Chinese who come to this resort generally have money, are hungry for luxury and find a Japan that, increasingly, is for sale at knockdown prices.”

A local real estate agent said, “Most villas here are priced between 50 million yen and 100 million yen. Few Japanese can purchase such property, but there are Chinese paying cash to buy them.”

The business-savvy Chinese view the resorts as moneymaking assets and rent the villas out to tourists except when they themselves wish to stay there. This can earn them annual profits equivalent to about 5 percent of the villas’ original purchase price.

It is a trend that is set to continue. Teikoku Databank Ltd. estimates more than 300 Japanese corporations are currently funded by Chinese capital. Honma Golf Co., a major golf equipment manufacturer, is one of the latest–it became a Chinese subsidiary this year.

Japan Times satirical piece on Gunma Isesaki bureaucrat beard ban

Jay Klaphake: I would like to draw readers’ attention to the outstanding work of the municipal government of Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture. After receiving complaints that citizens find bearded men unpleasant, Isesaki — just as all levels of Japanese government often do — took decisive action to address an important public concern: The city announced a ban on beards for municipal workers…

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has been quick to point to surveys that show government workers with beards are more likely to be supporters of voting rights for non-Japanese residents than clean-shaven employees. Excessive facial hair could even be used to mask an individual’s foreign roots, meaning that many of the hirsute could be naturalized citizens or children of naturalized citizens…

A legal defense committee led by human-rights advocate Debito Arudou (of course he has a beard) and law professor Colin P. A. Jones is looking into whether Isesaki used off-budget secret funds to operate a barbershop in the basement of City Hall and provided free haircuts and shaves to public employees. Arudou reportedly tried to enter the barbershop but was refused access because his beard didn’t look Japanese, even though he insisted that his beard did, in fact, become Japanese several years ago.

Professor Jones has apparently filed a freedom of information request for documents detailing whether, and how much of, taxpayers’ money was used for the secret project. In response, the city said that no such documents could be found, no such barbershop exists, and furthermore it would be a violation of the privacy of the barber to say anything more…

Mark in Yayoi comments on Futenma affair: grant Okinawa its independence from Japan!

Mark in Yayoi on Okinawa Futenma Issue: Debito, when reading your essay, I was surprised to find that I agreed with you, but for almost totally opposite reasons…

The American occupation of Okinawa, unjust as it might be, is a net benefit to the mainland Tokyo government, which gets protection while simultaneously pretending that it’s “Japan” bearing the burden when in fact it’s Okinawa that suffers — they’re the people putting up with the loud airplanes and unruly soldiers. And these people bearing the cost of the protection were never seen as equals by Tokyo — they were used as human shields in a hopeless defense of Japan in 1945, and used as tax-paying slaves in the decades before that.

The US bases need to leave, and Okinawa needs to be free. Not free from the US, and not free to be Japan’s 47th prefecture (both chronologically and on the status totem pole), but free to be *its own independent nation.*

Exactly what “sovereignty” can the Tokyo government legitimately claim over the people of Okinawa, if we’re trying to redress past wrongs?…

Sunday Tangent: Top ten performers who would not be successful if American Idol were the template for success

A completely self-indulgent essay talking about the overarching influence of the American Idol model for selecting new musical talent for pop success. I make the case that certain artists, who became successful in their own right, would never have made it through Idol. Think of how less enriched the music scene would be without these artists. Here are my Top Ten: 10. Simon Le Bon / Duran Duran, 9. David Bowie, 8. Marilyn Manson, 7. Michael Stipe / R.E.M, 6. Kurt Cobain / Nirvana, 5. Alice Cooper, 4. David Byrne / Talking Heads, 3. Peter Gabriel, 2. Neil Young, 1. Bob Dylan. Add more if you like.

JIPI’s Sakanaka in Daily Yomiuri: “Japan must become immigration powerhouse” (English only, it seems)

Sakanaka Hidenori, former head of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau who has been written about on Debito.org various times, had an article on the need for immigration to Japan in the Daily Yomiuri the other day. Happy to see. However, I can’t find a Japanese version in the paper anywhere. Tut. Excerpt follows:

“My view is that a low birthrate is unavoidable as a civilization matures.

Other industrially advanced countries have also turned into societies with low birthrates as they have matured. Advancements in education, increased urbanization, the empowerment of women and diversification of lifestyles also exemplify the maturity of a society.

Japan, a mature civilization, should expect to experience a low birthrate for at least the foreseeable future.

Even if the government’s measures succeed in increasing the birthrate sharply and cause the population to increase, any era of population growth is far away and will be preceded by a stage of “few births and few deaths,” where there are declines in both birth and mortality rates.

Accordingly, the only long-term solution for alleviating the nation’s population crisis is a government policy of accepting immigrants. Promotion of an effective immigration policy will produce an effect in a far shorter time period than steps taken to raise the nation’s birthrate.

We, the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, propose that Japan accept 10 million immigrants over the next 50 years.

We believe that to effectively cope with a crisis that threatens the nation’s existence, Japan must become an “immigration powerhouse” by letting manpower from around the world enter the country.”…

AFP: Another hunger strike in Immigration Detention Center, this time in Ushiku, Ibaraki

AFP: Scores of foreigners in a Japanese immigration detention centre have been on hunger strike for more than a week, demanding to be released and protesting the mysterious death of an African deportee.

Some 70 detainees — many of them Sri Lankans and Pakistanis — have refused food since May 10, also seeking to highlight suicides there by a Brazilian and a South Korean inmate, say their outside supporters.

The protest comes after UN rights envoy Jorge Bustamante in March raised concerns about Japan’s often years-long detentions of illegal migrants, including parents with children as well as rejected asylum seekers…

Human rights activists, lawyers and foreign communities have complained for years about conditions at Ushiku and Japan’s two other such facilities, in the western prefecture of Osaka and in southwestern Nagasaki prefecture.

At Ushiku, about 380 people are detained, with eight or nine inmates living in rooms that measure about 20 square metres (215 square feet), said Tanaka, a member of the Ushiku Detention Centre Problem Study Group.

“They are crammed into tiny segmented rooms that are not very clean, and many contract skin diseases,” she told AFP…

Hiroka Shoji of Amnesty International Japan said: “The immigration facilities are supposed to be places where authorities keep foreigners for a short period before deportation.

“But some people have been confined for over two years as a result. The government must introduce a limit to detentions.”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 24, 2010

Table of Contents:
INTERESTING VIEWS
1) Singapore Straits Times: Lee Kwan Yew advises Japan not to accept immigrants who don’t look Japanese
2) David McNeill interviews ultranationalist Sakurai Makoto, lays bare his illogical invective
3) Former J employees sue Prada for sexual and power harassment, TV claims “racial discrimination”
4) Yomiuri, Terrie’s Take offer thoughtful essays on easing language hurdles for NJ on a tight deadline, such as Filipine or Indonesian nurses
5) Further reading: Indonesian “care givers” and those pesky qualifying exams: a means to maintain “revolving door” NJ job market?
6) Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory”
7) Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey
8 ) Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)
9) JALT PALE NEWSLETTER May 2010 (pdf file)

NEWS YOU CAN USE
10) Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.
11) Takasago Hotel, Fukushima-ken, has “rooms all full” if lodger is NJ
12) Japan Times: Housing glut resulting in more assistance for NJ renters, e.g., Japan Property Management Association
13) Matthew Apple on how to take child care leave in Japan. Yes, even in Japan. Sanctioned by the GOJ.
14) Sunday Tangent: Cato Institute on dealing with police racial profiling in general
15) MOJ: Numbers of people naturalizing into Japan 1999-2008
16) NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

… and finally …
17) DEBITO.ORG BLOG POLL: “What do you think about the whole Okinawa Futenma Issue?”

Singapore Straits Times: Lee Kwan Yew advises Japan not to accept immigrants who don’t look Japanese

Nothing breeds arrogance like success. It must be nice to have created a rich city-state in your image, so you think you can claim enough legitimacy to bald-facedly tell other countries to do as you say, not as you do. We have elder statesman Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore offering his opinions earlier this week to the GOJ about how to deal with immigration — where he advocates a “homogeneous Japan” solution that chooses people based upon their thoroughbredness:

Lee: “You have the choice to keep Japan homogeneous and shrinking and stagnant economically, or you accept immigrants and grow,” he told the audience… He also advised the Japanese to chose immigrants who can be assimilated more easily.

“If I were Japanese, I would not want to go beyond people who look like Japanese. I will (also) choose people from the high end, so that the children will also be of a higher calibre.”

COMMENT: I wonder if Lee believes his fellow Chinese fall into the category of being “from the high end”? Many of his fellow “homogeneous Japan” proponents in Japan would not think so.

Anyway, on behalf of all of us non-thoroughbred Japanese citizens: nuts to you Lee Kwan Yew.

David McNeill interviews ultranationalist Sakurai Makoto, lays bare his illogical invective

Untangle an ardent ultranationalist:

Sakurai: “To tell you the truth, Japan is extremely bad at dealing with foreigners,” he says. “Until about 100 years ago, before the Meiji Restoration, there were almost no foreigners here. We’ve only been dealing with them for a little over a century. But with globalization we understand that a lot of Japanese people go abroad, and that naturally a lot of foreigners now come to Japan. We realize we can’t prevent that. But they should obey Japanese rules.”

Japan Times: So he’s not actually against foreigners coming to Japan, just those who break the law?

Sakurai: “No, we oppose immigration. The (ruling) Democratic Party of Japan has proposed allowing 10 million people to come here. According to the ministry of health, by 2050 there will be 80 million Japanese here — that’s a fall of over 40 million. By 2100 it will be 20 million. If it continues like this our working population will disappear. So people are wondering what we should do. Should be accept millions of foreigners? I don’t think so.”

Japan Times: What about foreigners who have come here, married Japanese citizens, who pay taxes and have children. Would you send them all home?

Sakurai: “That’s different. Those people weren’t invited to come here by the government. The government wants millions of people to come in and work like robots in industrial jobs. They can’t treat foreigners like robots. Are you going to treat them as citizens? The DPJ is not talking about this. They should be allowed in step by step. It should be deliberated.”

Japan Times: Then you support a policy of phased, planned integration?

Sakurai: “If we’re saying, ‘OK, let’s set up schools for these people to help them blend into our society,’ I can understand that a little. But that’s not happening. The government is simply saying, ‘Come to Japan as workers.’ There’s no debate.”

Japan Times: OK, so let’s say there is a debate. Let’s say the government does deliberate this and create a policy that will allow phased mass emigration of 10 million people to come here. Would that be acceptable?

Sakurai: “No, I oppose such a move…”

Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)

Now here we have the Suraj Case making it out of Japan and being reported overseas. The new twist is that the widow now has lost her job allegedly because of the fuss made over her husband’s death while being deported by Japan’s Immigration Bureau. I’m fond of the title, with Immigration being depicted as “Japan’s Bouncers”, and pleased the reporter noted how little coverage this horrible incident got domestically. But the unaccountability regarding the cause of death and a possible homicide at the hands of GOJ officials is no joke.

Economist excerpt: Around 2m foreigners live legally in Japan, which has a population of 128m; the justice ministry counted 91,778 illegal residents as of January. But the number, boosted by cheap Chinese labourers, may well be much higher. After a nine-day research trip last month, Jorge Bustamante, the UN’s special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, complained that legal and illegal migrants in Japan face “racism and discrimination, exploitation [and] a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights”.

The Special Residency Permit system is an example of the problem. No criteria for eligibility are specified. Instead, published “guidelines” are applied arbitrarily. And people cannot apply directly for an SRP: illegal residents can only request it once in detention, or turn themselves in and try their luck while deportation proceedings are under way. So most illegal residents just stay mum. Mr Suraj fell into the SRP abyss after he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Although he had lived in Japan for 22 years, was fluent in the language and married to a Japanese citizen, his SRP request was denied.

Why the tougher policy now? Koichi Kodama, an immigration lawyer assisting Mr Suraj’s widow, believes it is a reaction to the appointment last year as justice minister of Keiko Chiba, a pro-immigration reformer; the old guard is clamping down. The police are investigating the incident and the ten immigration officers in whose custody Mr Suraj died, though no charges have been brought. As for Mr Suraj’s widow, she has yet to receive details about her husband’s death or an official apology. The topic is one Japanese society would rather avoid. The press barely reported it. Still, when her name appeared online, she was fired from her job lest the incident sully her firm’s name.

NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

NYT: Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.

“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”…

Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad…

Stringent new banking regulations — aimed both at curbing tax evasion and, under the Patriot Act, preventing money from flowing to terrorist groups — have inadvertently made it harder for some expats to keep bank accounts in the United States and in some cases abroad.

Some U.S.-based banks have closed expats’ accounts because of difficulty in certifying that the holders still maintain U.S. addresses, as required by a Patriot Act provision.

Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory”

Times (London): Peter Rabbit, who has appeared on everything from tea towels to crockery, has now inspired a tax. A party of Japanese tourists posing for photographs yesterday at the Cumbrian cottage made famous by Beatrix Potter’s stories became the first to be asked to make a £5 donation for the preservation of the local landscape.

Now Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute £5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.

Atsuhito Oikawa, 35, an academic in medical research, said that £5 would not be prohibitive to most Japanese but they should not be the only ones to pay. “Everyone is equal in Japan,” he said. “If you distinguish between Japanese and others, you run the risk of appearing discriminatory.”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 8, 2010

Table of Contents:

MIXED OPINIONS
1) Newsweek and NBER on how immigration helps societies, vs separate Newsweek column doubting it
2) Savoie Child Abduction Case: Father sues judge and lawyer that enabled ex-wife to abduct
3) US House of Reps Resolution submission regarding Japan’s Child Abductions Issue
4) How the mighty have fallen: Forbes ranks world’s leading companies, Japan with only 3 in top 100, Toyota drops from 3rd to 360th
5) Swiss woman acquitted of crimes yet denied bail due to being NJ, then barred as “visa overstayer” anyway
6) Japan Times editorial calling for the removal of its own Berlin Walls
7) DEBITO.ORG Podcast May 1, 2010

INFORMATION YOU JUST MIGHT NEED
8 ) GEOS Bankruptcy and G-Education takeover: Internal document forwarded to Debito.org stating staff not getting back wages
9) Mainichi: First GOJ guidelines for teaching NJ the Japanese language so they can live here
10) Debito.org Recommends: “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, By Christopher Dillon; Tokyo book tour next week

TANGENTS
11) Racial profiling of immigrants becomes legal in Arizona. However, controversy ensues.
12) Holiday Tangent: “Lifer” cartoon on “Things to do in a Wintry Hokkaido”, Happy May

… and finally …
13) JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column May 4, 2010, on “Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues ” (full text)

Newsweek and NBER on how immigration helps societies, vs separate Newsweek column doubting it

We had two articles come out in Newsweek over the past two months on the effects of immigration. One from last March cites an academic saying how influxes of foreign workers boost economies, raising average incomes (based upon 50 years of data) 0.5% for every percent increase in the workforce that is foreign-born. The other guest column that came out late April cites other academics suggesting the opposite.

My take: I feel that we’ve got some posturing going on. I’m reminded of the movie THE RIGHT STUFF, where we have the character of Werner Von Braun saying that the Americans are going to win the space race against the Soviets because “our German [scientists] are better than their German [scientists]”. Same here, where the April article brandishes its scientists vigorously, throwing in undeveloped citations like rocks (some aimed at “activists” and “multicuturalists” shrouding the debate in phony “half-truths”), and name-dropping academics with insufficient development of the science involved.

Myself, I’ll trust a half-century of data collated in the March Newsweek article, and believe that countries are enriched by immigration. Would anyone argue that places like the United States have NOT benefited through labor migration to its shores? The only issue is of quantifying how much, which the April column in my view hardly accomplishes.

And if proper attraction and assimilation of immigrants is key (which the April article hints at but won’t come out and say plainly), then the argument once again supports those half-truthy “multiculturalists” and their purportedly phony solutions.

JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column May 4, 2010, on “Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues “

Tally ho! The hunt is on for “fake Japanese” in Japanese politics.On March 17, at a meeting of opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) officials, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara not only criticized the ruling coalition for their (now moribund) bill offering permanent resident non-Japanese (NJ) the vote in local elections. He even accused them of having subversive foreign roots!

“How about those Diet members who have naturalized, or are the children of parents who naturalized? Lots of them make up the ruling coalition and are even party heads.”

He argued that their support for NJ suffrage arose from a sense of “duty to their ancestors.”

We then had the standard Ishihara brouhaha: One person who felt targeted by that remark, Social Democratic Party leader and Cabinet member Mizuho Fukushima, denounced it unreservedly as “racial discrimination.” She stressed that she was in fact a real Japanese and demanded a retraction. Ishihara, as usual, refused. Cue coda.

But something’s different this time. Ishihara is not just toeing the “foreigners cannot be trusted” line he’s reeled out ad nauseam over the past decade to justify things like targeting foreigners and cracking down on Tokyo’s alleged “hotbeds of foreign crime.”

He is now saying foreigners will always be foreigners, even if they have been naturalized Japanese for generations…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 24, 2010

Table of Contents:
PROACTIVE POLICYMAKING TOWARDS NJ
1) Tokyo Gov Ishihara encourages witch hunt for J politicians with naturalized ancestors
2) Xenophobic rantings of the Far-Right still continue despite NJ Suffrage Bill’s suspension; scanned flyers enclosed
3) Gaijin Card Checks expand to Tax Bureau, now required for filing household tax returns
4) Mutantfrog on Death of Yokoso Japan, plus birth of Welcome to Tokyo
5) Asahi: J companies abandoning old hiring and promotion practices, offering NJ employees equitable positions. Come again?
6) Eurobiz Japan Magazine Jan 2010 Interview of JIPI’s Sakanaka Hidenori
7) “Pinprick Protests” #1: GOJ authorities finally telling hotels correct enforcement procedures for NJ check-ins. Pity it only took five years.

ISSUES RESPARKED
8 ) Ghanian dies while being deported March 22, scant media on it
9) FCCJ Press Conf on Ghanian death while being deported, 2 more deaths in Ibaraki Detention Ctr
10) Japan Times on Suraj Case: Wife of Ghanian who died while being deported demands info on cause
11) GhanaWeb: Suraj apparently a son of a Ghanian Prince
12) Japan Times on “Little Black Sambo” controversy, cites Debito.org’s parody “Little Yellow J*p”
13) Case study about university contract termination of NJ reversed due to getting a lawyer
14) Kyodo: Japan’s depopulation accelerates in 2009

TANGENTS
15) Tokyo Shinbun: Fussa City bureaucrat blames NJ residents for more children’s cavities!
16) Sumo Suits Controversy in Canada
17) NJ and Abandoned Konketsuji Negishi Cemetery in Yokohama; photos included
18) Congratulations to Oguri Saori for her successful opening of “Darling wa Gaikokujin” movie

… and finally…
19) Debito.org Poll: “Do you think ‘Little Black Sambo’ should be in print and in educational institutions in Japan?”

Kyodo: Japan’s depopulation accelerates in 2009

Kyodo: The proportion of Japan’s population aged 65 and over hit a record high of 22.7% last year—sign of its fast-aging society, the government reported Friday…

Japan’s overall population as of Oct 2009 shrank to 127.51 million, down 183,000 people from a year earlier—the largest decline since the country’s population started shrinking five years ago, the ministry said. Some 29 million people are aged 65 or over, up from 28.2 million a year earlier.

The results add to concerns over Japan’s labor shortage, declining tax income and overburdened public pension system…

The ministry said a net decrease of 125,000 people living in Japan, also contributed to the population decrease last year. That includes 47,000 foreign nationals, many of them laborers who lost jobs at factories during the global economic slump.

Japan Times on Suraj Case: Wife of Ghanian who died while being deported demands info on cause

Japan Times: The Japanese wife of a Ghanaian who died last month while he was being deported for overstaying his visa called Tuesday on police and the Immigration Bureau to disclose exactly how he died…

The wife’s lawyer, Koichi Kodama, questioned the police investigation, which has not resulted in any arrests.

“If a man died after five or six civilians, not public servants, held his limbs, they would undoubtedly be arrested,” Kodama said, adding he told “exactly that to the prosecutors” he met with Monday in Chiba.

The Chiba police are questioning about 10 immigration officers and crew of Egypt Air, Kodama quoted a Chiba prosecutor as saying. Police said March 25 the cause of death was unclear after an autopsy. Kodama said a more thorough autopsy is being performed.

Xenophobic rantings of the Far-Right still continue despite NJ Suffrage Bill’s suspension; scanned flyers enclosed

For some people, anything is an excuse for a party. Especially if it’s a Political Party. For the Far-Right xenophobes in Japan, it’s their party and they’ll decry if they want to — as they continue their anti-NJ rantings, even when they’ve effectively shouted down the NJ Suffrage Bill the DPJ proposed after they came to power last August. Everyone has to have a hobby, it seems. Pity theirs is based upon hatred of NJ, particularly our geopolitical neighbors. Two submissions of primary source materials and posters enclosed below, one from Debito.org Reader AS, one from me that I picked up when I was in Tokyo last March, which led to a rally reported on in the Japan Times and Kyodo the other day. Drink in the invective and see how naked and bold Japan’s xenophobia is getting.

Sunday Tangent: NJ and Abandoned Konketsuji Negishi Cemetery in Yokohama; photos included

Most of us long-termers have heard about (if not visited) Aoyama Gaijin Bochi (as still written on the signs) foreign cemetery in downtown Tokyo (see here and here). Debito.org Reader CF writes about a less-known pair of NY cemeteries in Yokohama — Negishi and Hodogaya — that might be worth a look for history preservers.

Japan Times: Welcome to Yokohama Negishi Gaikokujin Bochi, also known as the Negishi Foreign Cemetery. Only a few hundred meters from Yokohama’s Yamate Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line, its obscure location and ambiguous past have helped keep it out of the spotlight.

While its diminutive size and inconvenient location have relegated this burial ground to near anonymity, its simple appearance, scattered headstones and wooden crosses belie a complicated past.

More than a 1,000 people are buried here and most are foreigners (“gaikokujin”) and infants.

Negishi was the poor foreigner’s cemetery. “Those who died of infectious diseases, sailors and those without money were mostly buried here. Of course there are some famous people, but it is basically a cemetery for poor people,” said Yasuji Tamura, a local teacher who has studied the cemetery for more than 15 years.

This continued until the end of World War II — when the graveyard’s most controversial residents were buried. After the war, Tamura and others believe that more than 800 infants were buried here…

Gaijin Card Checks expand to Tax Bureau, now required for filing household tax returns

As a natural extension of the strengthened policing of NJ by the GOJ (for we can only anticipate what scams NJ might get up to, untrustworthy lot), starting with fingerprinting them at the border every time as potential terrorists, criminals, and disease carriers, then tracking their money wherever they earn it, we now have the Tax Bureau doing the Immigration Bureau’s job of checking visa status if NJ were so good as to file their own tax forms. How dare they engage in such suspicious activities! It’s all part of expanding Gaijin Card Checks to unrelated agencies nationwide.

KYA writes: Can someone help me shed some light on this situation? I’ve filed my taxes in Japan every year for the past 8 years. I can’t swear that I ws never asked for a gaijin card or other form of ID before, but I KNOW that last year I wasn’t, wasn’t even asked to fill out that form asking how many days you spent in and out of the country, etc (I was asked to do that one two or three times, definitely not every year). And I know that my refund has NEVER been delayed, I’ve always filed early and got my money back early.

But this year, I filed my return in early March, and until today had heard nothing. Today, [I got a form in the mail requiring my Gaijin Card] (reproduced). I called immediately, asked why they needed it and if it was necessary, and got a big variety of non-answers in response. The first time I called, the person whose name was on the letter wasn’t there, so the guy who answered the phone said he’d answer my questions… I probably got more honest answers from him, although he was a bit of a jerk. He said that it’s always been like this, it’s not starting from this year, and that if I never had to do it before, it was because the person reviewing my return in the past decided that my name sounded Japanese enough, but that whoever did it this year thought it sounded foreign. I did challenge this, and asked him if it was okay to just judge people and choose who to question ad delay based on their NAME, would he have done the same to one of the many Japanese people who don’t have any NJ heritgage, but just have parents who gave them a katakana name? He basically said it just depended on the judgement of whoever got the return to review.

I asked why this NEVER popped up when I was preparing my tax return on the tax department’s homepage. There were all kinds of lists of necessary documents, including some things that said “(when applicable)” etc beside them. Nowhere did it say Gaiijn Card (for those who have one) or something similar. He said “Well, the homepage is written with Japanese people in mind. If you’d asked for help at city hall they would have told you to submit it.” So… you are delaying my tax return BECAUSE I can read Japanese, look at the homepage and prepare my own tax return WITHOUT wasting the time of someone at city hall or at the tax office? That seems very counterprductive, and when I pointed out as much, again he had no reply.

Then I told him I wanted to Google the law that made this necessary and asked him to tell me the name of the law requiring a gaijin card to get a tax refund. He said there was no law…