Weekend Tangent: The future of Eikaiwa: AFP: Robots replace english teachers in SK

AFP: Almost 30 robots have started teaching English to youngsters in a South Korean city, education officials said Tuesday, in a pilot project designed to nurture the nascent robot industry.

The machines can be an efficient tool to hone language skills for many people who feel nervous about conversing with flesh-and-blood foreigners, he said.

“Plus, they won’t complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance package, or leave in three months for a better-paying job in Japan… all you need is a repair and upgrade every once in a while.”

Weekend Tangent: Elderly J activists sue GOJ to allow different last names after marriage

Reuters: Tsukamoto is one of five people planning to file a lawsuit against the government and local authorities as early as February, saying the civil code that requires married couples to register under the same surname violates equal rights among married couples, as well as personal rights.

Men are allowed to take their spouses’ name, but it is rare.

The group will seek compensation for what it says is the legislature’s failure to enact change, the first such case to be debated in open court in Japan, the only country in the Group of Eight major industrialised nations with such a surname rule.

Hopes grew that the government would submit a bill to amend the civil code after the Democratic Party of Japan, which has advocated letting married couples keep separate names if they wish, took power in 2009. But opposition from a coalition ally caused the plan to stall.

“There were expectations that it could be enacted but unfortunately this did not take place. They do not want to wait any longer,” said Fujiko Sakakibara, lead lawyer for the group.

Grauniad: The movement for change gathered pace in the 1980s when more women entered the workplace. Many complained that changing their names after marriage was detrimental to their career prospects and affected relationships with colleagues.

Yet the Japanese are divided over the issue: in a 2009 survey 49% said they supported a change in the law, while 48% were opposed.

Women still have to use their registered surnames on official documents such as passports and health insurance cards.

Many companies allow married women to retain their maiden names at work, but for Tsukamoto, who married in 1960, unofficial acceptance is not enough.

“Now I am 75, and I was shocked to realise that I can no longer do the things I was able to do even last year,” she said. “That’s when I thought, I am Kyoko Tsukamoto … and I want to die as Kyoko Tsukamoto.”

AFP: Otemon Gakuin Univ finally apologizes for Indian student suicide in 2007, still refuses to comment if racially-motivated bullying

Here’s another reason why people ought to think carefully before attending Japanese schools as a student of diversity, and it’s not just because funding to being them over without sufficient institutional support afterwards is being cut. Bullying. Here we have a Japanese university apologizing for the suicide of one of their ethnic students (raised in Japan with Japanese citizenship, no less). It only took them three years. And yet, like the recent Uemura Akiko suicide, the possibility of it being racially-motivated is not dealt with by the authorities. Thanks for the apology, I guess, but this will hardly fix the problem for others. Hence think carefully.

Hindustan Times: A Japanese university on Monday apologised to the family of an Indian student who committed suicide in 2007, after leaving a note saying he would kill himself because of bullying at school.

The male student, then aged 20, at Otemon Gakuin University in Osaka prefecture, jumped from a building three years ago, leaving a note saying: “The bullying I keep getting at school … Cannot take it any more.”…

The university refused to comment on whether the abuse was racially motivated saying the specific nature of the bullying was not known…

Japan Times JBC/ZG Column Jan 4, 2010: “Arudou’s Alien Almanac 2000-2010” (Director’s Cut)

Director’s Cut with excised text from published version and links to sources:

Top Five for 2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) RENHO BECOMES FIRST MULTIETHNIC CABINET MEMBER (June 8 )
4) P.M. KAN APOLOGIZES TO KOREA FOR 1910 ANNEXATION (August 10)
3) TOURIST VISAS EASED FOR CHINA (July 1)
2) NJ PR SUFFRAGE BILL GOES DOWN IN FLAMES (February 27)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009

Top Five for 2000-2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) THE OTARU ONSENS CASE (1999-2005)
4) ISHIHARA’S SANGOKUJIN RANT (April 9, 2000)
3) THE SECOND KOIZUMI CABINET (2003-2005)
2) THE POLICE CRACKDOWNS ON NJ (1999- present)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009

Yomiuri on “Lehman Shock” and Japan’s foreign crime: Concludes with quote that “living in harmony with foreign residents might be just a dream”

The Yomiuri is in full trumpet about foreign crime again — this time concluding (in an article that does develop the causes of some severe NJ suffering) with a quote from an elderly somebody about coexistence with foreigners being perhaps but a dream. A friend of mine offlist was quite critical of yesterday’s NYT article as an “anecdote-laden piece of fluff”. Okay, but check this one out: Nothing but anecdotes and nary a reliable stat in sight.

One thing I’m not quite getting is the connection between Lehman and foreign crime. Is Japan’s economy so fragile that one event could ruin it? Don’t businesses make their own decisions, or sovereign countries have responsibility over their own fiscal and monetary policies? Or is this another way of pinning Japan’s woes on foreigners?

AP: Japan population shrinks by record numbers in 2010. NYT: Its workers aging, Japan turns away immigrants.

AP: Japan’s population fell by a record amount last year as the number of deaths climbed to an all-time high in the quickly aging country, the government said Saturday.

Japan faces a looming demographic squeeze. Baby boomers are moving toward retirement, with fewer workers and taxpayers to replace them. The Japanese boast among the highest life expectancies in the world but have extremely low birth rates.

Japan logged 1.19 million deaths in 2010 — the biggest number since 1947 when the health ministry’s annual records began. The number of births was nearly flat at 1.07 million.

As a result, Japan contracted by 123,000 people, which was the most ever and represents the fourth consecutive year of population decline. The top causes of death were cancer, heart disease and stroke, the ministry said…

Saturday’s report showed 706,000 marriages registered last year — the fewest since 1954 and a sign that birth rates are unlikely to jump dramatically anytime soon.

NYT: Despite facing an imminent labor shortage as its population ages, Japan has done little to open itself up to immigration. In fact, as Ms. Fransiska and many others have discovered, the government is doing the opposite, actively encouraging both foreign workers and foreign graduates of its universities and professional schools to return home while protecting tiny interest groups — in the case of Ms. Fransiska, a local nursing association afraid that an influx of foreign nurses would lower industry salaries.

In 2009, the number of registered foreigners here fell for the first time since the government started to track annual records almost a half-century ago, shrinking 1.4 percent from a year earlier to 2.19 million people — or just 1.71 percent of Japan’s overall population of 127.5 million.

Experts say increased immigration provides one obvious remedy to Japan’s two decades of lethargic economic growth. Instead of accepting young workers, however — and along with them, fresh ideas — Tokyo seems to have resigned itself to a demographic crisis that threatens to stunt the country’s economic growth, hamper efforts to deal with its chronic budget deficits and bankrupt its social security system…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 1, 2011

Table of Contents:
1) DEBITO.ORG END-YEAR POLL: “What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?”

Holiday Tangents:
2) Happy Boxing Day: From deep within the archives: “Fred Fish” comic book, 1973, drawn by me aged eight
3) Holiday Tangent: “Steve Seed”, all drawed by me 1973, aged eight. C’mon, it’s kinda cute.
4) From even farther back: “Penny the Hamster”, drawn in Second Grade when I was seven
5) Tangent: Comic “The Flight’, drawn by me Christmas 1975 aged ten
6) Tangent: “The Meat Eaters”: My first try at a movie storyboard, circa 1975, Fifth Grade, aged ten
7) Last End-Year Tangent: “Lile Lizard”, written Second Grade aged seven, includes procreation!

Business as usual:
8 ) Kyodo: Stats for inflows & outflows: J exch students down, NJ up; NJ tourists also up, but none reaching GOJ goals
9) Mainichi: Global 30 strategy for bringing in more foreign exchange students to be axed, while fewer J students go overseas than Singapore
10) Japan Times: Paranoia over NJ purchases of land in Niseko etc: GOJ expresses “security” concerns
11) Fukui City now requiring J language ability for NJ taxpayer access to public housing. Despite being ruled impermissible by Shiga Guv in 2002
12) Discussion: As a person with NJ roots, is your future in Japan? An essay making the case for “No”

… and finally …
13) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 4, 2011
Double feature: The top ten events that affected NJ in Japan both for 2010 and for the entire last decade!

DEBITO.ORG END-YEAR POLL: “What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?”

As part of the end-year roundup, here are a few issues I thought would be interesting for discussion. Looking back, what do you think are the most influential events that affected NJ in Japan? Here are some of ones I thought were noteworthy, in no particular order:

What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?

Far-rightists question credentials of DPJ reformists by claiming they have NJ roots
Suraj Case of death during deportation
Long-dead Centenarians still registered as alive (yet NJ remain unregistered)
Nursing program only passes three NJ after two years
Hunger strike at Ibaraki Prison
GOJ apologizes to Korea for prewar annexation
“My Darling is a Foreigner” becomes a movie
Sumo Association decides to count naturalized wrestlers as still foreign
UN Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante’s critical Japan visit
NJ PR Suffrage Bill goes down in flames
Zaitokukai far-rightists get arrested for property damage to Zainichis
Child Abductions issue gathers steam with governments abroad, GOJ eyes Hague
The Cove engenders protests, get limited screenings anyway
Japan’s Kokusei Chousa pentennial census goes multilingual
Tokyo Police spying on Muslims
Futenma issue, with USG jerking GOJ’s chain
Renho becomes first multiethnic Cabinet member
Toyota’s mishandling of their runaway car recall, blaming foreign components and culture
Oita court ultimately rules that NJ have no rights to J pensions
Tourist visas eased for Chinese and Indians
Health insurance requirement removed from visa renewals
and/or

Something else
(Please tell us what you think got left out in the Comments Section below)

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 18, 2010

Table of Contents:

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

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

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

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

Economist.com podcast on costs and benefits of immigration

Economist: What can you tell us as far as what you know about the fiscal burden of immigration, and the fiscal benefits of immigrants?

Robert Shapiro, former Prez. Clinton advisor: Particularly in five or six states, where immigrants are highly concentrated, there’s a fiscal deficit. Much of that has to do with educating children of immigrants. That’s the single largest cost. But if you look at it more dynamically, immigrants tend to be aggressive about improving their conditions. Aggressive enough to leave their homeland. These are not the kinds of people who take life as it’s been given to them. They try to make the best of their lives, and so you would expect to see some income gains — whether they start out as a day laborer or as an entrepreneur. The whole issue of entrepreneurship is interesting, because we find that not only do you see a lot of entrepreneurship among educated immigrants, particularly from Asia — and this has been commented on: the large volume of Silicon Valley startups that were started by immigrants, particularly from India. You see this also among undocumented immigrants, who are generally low-skilled people. Now they’re different kinds of businesses they’re starting. But that’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s a software startup, or a small corner business…

[There is] another benefit of immigration — and a fiscal benefit. And that is, immigrants — and they generally come in early working age — they work their whole lives, if they stay here their whole lives, and then they retire. That’s the same as an American, except that the American working young worker has parents. Who claim social security and medicare. Immigrants come without their elderly parents, and in that sense we get a contribution to the labor force without having to pay out the benefits to the parent. When you’re talking about millions of people, that’s big money…

Japan Times Community Page on issues of dual citizenship: “Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy”

Japan Times: What does Japan gain by, in effect, rejecting my children and thousands of other young dual citizens living in Japan and around the world, at the very moment when they come of age and are at last able to become productive members of society?

Best as I can figure, the only virtue of the “one citizenship fits all” rule is simplicity.

What does Japan lose by rejecting dual citizenship? … One wonders if the existing policy of denying permanent dual citizenship to people who possessed the status as children is motivated by a concern that altering it would lead to dual citizenship demands by others, such as ethnic Korean residents of Japan or Brazilians of Japanese descent. Rather than risk facing such demands, government officials might have concluded that it is “better to leave well enough alone.” However, allowing people who already have Japanese citizenship to keep it will not inevitably lead to more far-reaching changes to Japan’s Nationality Law.

Given its dire demographic outlook, perhaps Japan should open a dialogue on radical changes to its Nationality Law, such as a U.S.-style “birthright” giving citizenship to all people born on Japanese soil, an Israeli-style “Law of Return” allowing the ingathering of all ethnic Japanese everywhere in their ancestral homeland, or an Irish-style “Grandparent Rule” granting citizenship to anyone who can document having one Japanese grandparent. But even if Japan is not willing to open its door that widely, it should at least stop slamming the door on some of its own citizens shortly after they reach adulthood…

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 34, Dec 7, 2010: “MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce”

JBC: Even after 10 years as a Japanese and two Mexican standoffs, I still had to face the same old bureaucratic idiosyncrasies — those that arise when our government decides that things within the domain of the individual are instead privileges granted at the whim of The State. To name a few: middle names and different last names after marriage (forbidden by the family registry system), minority names with alternate spellings (e.g., Ainu and Ryukyuan names) — and, in more extreme examples, parental rights to child access during marital breakdowns (Zeit Gist, Feb. 2) and even to the contents of a mother’s uterus (as the old saying goes, “The womb is a borrowed thing” (hara wa karimono)).

No matter how complicated and diverse Japanese society becomes, bureaucrats will still assert old prerogatives. In my case, they even threatened to take away my fundamental rights just for refusing to abide by a system designed basically for bureaucrats’ convenience…

CNNGo.com: “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?”

CNNGo: Japan: The new melting pot?

Japan’s national government recently announced it is turning to travelers in a foreigner-friendly mission to boost diversity — at least in tourist spots — by paying them to provide feedback on how to increase accessibility for non-Japanese speakers.

David Askew, associate professor of law at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, identifies more profound changes.

In 1965, a mere 1 in 250 of all marriages in Japan were international, he notes. By 2004, the number had climbed to 1 in 15 across the nation and 1 in 10 in Tokyo.

According to Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government, by 2005, foreign residents in the city numbered 248,363, up from 159,073 in 1990.

According to Askew, the upswing in diverse residents and mixed marriages has led to another phenomenon: between 1987 and 2004, more than 500,000 children were born in Japan with at least one foreign parent…

McNeill in Mainichi on how Japan Inc. needs to loosen up to women and NJ executives

McNeill: I’ve talked about Japan’s reluctance to embrace mass immigration in this column before. Here’s something else to consider: Japan’s boardrooms are still almost completely devoid of foreigners — and females.

Women make up just 1.2 percent of top Japanese executives, according to business publisher Toyo Keizai; gaijin board members on Japan’s roughly 4,000 listed companies are as rare as hens’ teeth.

The exception is a handful of troubled giants, notably Sony Corp., which made Welshman Howard Stringer its chairman and CEO in 2005, and Nissan Motor Co., where Brazilian Carlos Ghosn has been in charge for over a decade.

That lack of diversity worries some bosses. Last year the Japan Association of Corporate Executives published the results of a two-year survey that called on its members to revolutionize boardroom practices.

“Japanese firms are terribly behind in accepting diversity,” said association vice chairman Hasegawa Yasuchika. “They should radically transform their corporate culture to provide the same opportunities to employees all around the world.”

Easier said than done, perhaps. Ever since Japan’s corporations began moving overseas in the 1970s, they have followed a tried and tested formula: Whatever happens in transplants and local operations abroad, control stays in the iron grip of the all-Japanese boardroom back home…

Weekend Tangent: LA Times: PRC Census also measures for ethnicity, unlike Japan’s Census

LAT: “Similar to the census process in the United States, most people [in China] are given a standard [census] form with a few basic questions: 18 of them centering on names, ages, occupation. Ethnicity is also asked, but not religion, that being a sensitive subject in a communist country that is officially atheist. One-tenth of the population, meanwhile, was selected for a longer, 45-question form that includes queries about income, savings, the type of water one drinks (tap or boiled) and the number of bathrooms in the house…”

COMMENT: What’s interesting as far as Debito.org goes is that, despite some claims of Chinese homogeneity thanks to the Han majority, the PRC apparently DOES survey for ethnicity. Unlike the GOJ. Again, that’s the hegemony of homogeneity in Japan.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 27, 2010

Table of Contents:
SAD STORIES
1) Mainichi: Bullying of Filipina-Japanese grade schooler in Gunma leads to suicide: NHK ignores ethnicity issue in reports
2) Japan Times: MEXT in line to deliberate on ijime after grade schooler Uemura Akiko suicide
3) French Embassy reports French father of abducted child in Japan commits suicide
4) TV America’s Most Wanted on unsolved questionable death of an American in Shinjuku Aug 2010. Any press in Japan?
5) My college mentor, Chalmers Johnson, dies at 79

SPY STORIES
6) Japan Times: Leaked documents reveal Tokyo Police spies on Muslim residents, tries to make snitches of them
7) Ministry of Justice website justifying crime prevention measures
due to “frequent occurrence of serious crimes committed by foreign nationals and increase in transnational crimes”
8 ) Eido Inoue on improbable remote tracking of RFID next-generation “Gaijin Cards”; yet “scan-proof” travel pouches now on sale
9) WB and me on what NJ tourists also need in Japan — security against NPA harassment
10) Eyewitness report on how NPA is targeting NJ in Gotanda as security risk for APEC Summit in Yokohama

STUPID STORIES
11) Daily Yomiuri eikaiwa columnist Mike Guest misrepresents not only the record, but also his own academic credentials
12) Fun and Games at MOFA Passport Renewal — almost denied a passport because of one letter
13) Weird broadside from Japan Helpline’s Ken Joseph Jr. on Facebook: Claims my naturalization queers my campaigning
14) Japan Times Amy Savoie on int’l child abductions and the manufacturing of consent for it within Japan
15) Japan businesses cry foul over UK visa regime, threaten pullout. Fancy that happening to the GOJ.

FUTURE STORIES
16) The Independent (UK) on Japan’s rising nationalism as Japan slips in world rankings
17) UK Guardian compares South Korea’s relatively open-minded future with Japan’s possible “Second Edo Period” of insulation
18) Times Higher Education on MEXT: “Japan’s entrenched ideas hinder the push to attract more foreign students and staff”
19) Eurobiz Magazine’s Tony McNicol on the future abolition of the “Gaijin Tax” Re-Entry Permits
20) CBC interview with me on Japan’s shrinking population and prospects for immigration
21) For Educators in Japan: National EFL Job Satisfaction Survey

… and finally …

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

Charity Concert in Sapporo: “The Happy Prince”

Tom Goetz: November 20, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, your attention please.

Please mark December 9, 2010 6:30 pm on your calendars for a Christmas Charity Concert at the Sapporo Baptist Church.

Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” will be featured in a show that features music, narration, and dance. Doors open at 6. Show starts at 6:30. Tickets are 2,000. Proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Project Santa Sapporo.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation reaches out to families with children who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. And, as the name says, the child’s wish is granted. For many, it is a trip to the Tokyo Disneyland, but some from warmer climes want to make a snowman here in Hokkaido. And, sadly, a Make-A-Wish trip is often a child’s last best memory. So, please help make dreams come true for kids whose time is short and who could really use come cheer.

CBC interview on Japan’s shrinking population and prospects for immigration

CBC Radio One, Nov 16, 2010 – Pt 2: Japan’s Population Crash

The population of Japan is shrinking. Other countries have tackled that problem by embracing immigration. But Japan is an unusually homogenous — some say xenophobic — country. And the idea of a multi-cultural solution is ruffling some feathers.

Japan Population Crash – Sakanaka Hidenori

The population of Japan is officially shrinking. In 2005 — the latest year for which data is available — deaths outnumbered births by 10,000 people. At that rate, Japan’s population will drop by more than 15 per cent over the next 40 years. On top of that, Japan’s population is an aging one … facing fears of labour shortages and economic stagnation in the world’s third-largest economy.

Other countries have responded to declining population pressures by increasing immigration. But Japan is an unusually homogenous nation. And the idea of multi-culturalism ruffles a lot of feathers.

Sakanaka Hidenori spent 35 years urging his country to bring in more immigrants. He is the former Director of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau. And in 2005 he wrote, Immigration Battle Diary, a book that details his own experiences and lays out a manifesto for the future of Japanese immigration policy. Sakanaka Hidenori is now the Executive Director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute. He joined us from Tokyo this morning, as part of our project, Shift. Our producer, Chris Wodskou provided the translation.

Japan Population Crash – Ito Peng

Arudou Debito was born in the United States. He’s a naturalized citizen of Japan. He married a Japanese woman, and they had two daughters. But he’s not very optimistic when it comes to increasing immigration to Japan. We aired his story to illustrate why.

For more on how Japan has reached this demographic reckoning… And what the rest of the world should take from it, we were joined by Ito Peng. She’s the Associate Dean of Interdisciplinary and International Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Japan Times: Leaked documents reveal Tokyo Police spies on Muslim residents, tries to make snitches of them

In probably one of the most important developments of the year (thanks again to the Japan Times Community Page, consistently offering one great expose after another), we have actual substantiation of the Tokyo Police extending their racial profiling techniques to target Muslim residents of Japan. Not only are they spying on them and keeping detailed files, they are trying to turn them against one another as if they’re all in cahoots to foment terrorism.

We all suspected as such (the very day I naturalized, I got a personal visit from Japan’s Secret Police asking me to inform on any Chinese overstayers I might happen to know; they said they read Debito.org — perhaps as assiduously as some of my Internet stalkers). Now we have proof of it. Shame, shame on a police force that has this much unchecked power. Do I smell a return to Kenpeitai tactics?

UK Guardian compares South Korea’s relatively open-minded future with Japan’s possible “Second Edo Period” of insulation

Guardian: In mid-November, all eyes will shift to Seoul when G20 leaders convene for the first time in the South Korean capital. The choice is long overdue, as South Korea is a remarkable success story: in one generation – the South Koreans, formerly pummelled by civil war, under constant threat from their northern communist brethren, long mired in poverty, and ruled by military dictators for 40 years – have built the world’s 13th largest economy and Asia’s most vibrant democracy…

The Japanese knew how to co-ordinate state and private-sector goals in the 1970s, but then lost their way. “We should now emulate the South Koreans,” says Eisuke Sakakibara, a leading Japanese economist, who was one of the architects of the Japanese “miracle” of the 1980s. Japanese in search of a miracle now travel to Seoul.

“In Japan, 1990 to 2000 was called the ‘lost decade,'” says the free-market economist Fumio Hayashi. Now Japan is completing its second lost decade. Hayashi and Sakakibara – indeed, most Japanese economists – more or less agree on the fundamental reason for such spectacular stagnation: the Japanese have stopped working hard. Fewer hours worked, longer vacations, and a declining population (since 2005) have, predictably, undermined Japanese growth. To turn this situation around, says Sakakibara, “the Japanese should work more, have more children, and allow immigration.” But the incentives to make any of this happen are just not there…

More strikingly, stagnation has found its promoters in Japan itself. A leading public intellectual Naoki Inose, who is also Tokyo’s vice governor, has declared that “the era of growth is over.” When Japan was threatened by western imperialism, he says, the country had to open up (in 1868) and modernise. This process has been completed. Japan is now ready to reconnect with its own tradition of social harmony and zero growth.

Referring to the 1600-1868 period, Inose calls this future the New Edo era: “A smaller population will enjoy the sufficient wealth that has been accumulated, and, from now on, it will invest its creativity in refining the culture.”…

Japan Times: MEXT in line to deliberate on ijime after Uemura Akiko suicide

The uproar on the Uemura Akiko Suicide has led to ministerial-level action. Good news, in that something is being done about bullying in Japanese schools. Bad news is that somebody has to die before something is done (and these crackdowns on ijime are periodical things anyway; once the furore dies down, well… let’s just wait for the next victim and we’ll have another cry and outcry).

Of course, the elephant in the room is the racially-motivated nature of the bullying, which does not seem to be being addressed. If you don’t address one of the root causes (a racial background being used as ammunition), you aren’t gonna fix things. Duh. Doesn’t anyone out there in ministry land have a degree in education?

Japan Times: The education ministry will conduct a nationwide survey of bullying in schools following the suicide last month of sixth-grader Akiko Uemura, in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture.

Japan Times Editorial: Why does the board of education deny a cause-and-effect relationship between the bullying and her suicide? It appears as if the board and school authorities refused to squarely deal with the tragedy and their responsibility in the case.

Ministry of Justice website justifying crime prevention measures due to “frequent occurrence of serious crimes committed by foreign nationals and increase in transnational crimes”

MOJ: “In the past Japan was proud of its image in the world of being an exceptionally safe country, but in recent years, the number of criminal cases that have been identified by the authorities has increased remarkably, while the clearance rate has dropped drastically and remains at a very low level, which makes the deterioration of public safety an issue of grave concern to the nation. In particular, exceptionally violent crimes attracting public attention and the occurrence close at hand of many offences committed by youngsters or by foreign nationals coming to Japan are making people uneasy about the maintenance of public order. In addition, since computers and high-level information technology such as the Internet have become a common feature of daily life, new crimes abusing such advanced technology have risen in number. Further, effective measures against international terrorism such as the multiple terrorist attacks on the United States, and efforts toward solving problems concerning the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, are needed…” (Cosigned by Criminal Affairs Bureau, Correction Bureau, Rehabilitation Bureau, Immigration Bureau, Public Security Intelligence Agency, and Public Security Examination Commission)

COMMENT: Well, that’s what I would call an unrepentant Bunker Mentality Mode. It’s hard not to read this as, “We were a safe society until the foreigners came along and spoiled everything for us. So now we have to crack down on the foreigners and Japanese who deal with them.” Great. Of course, we have no purely homegrown crime here, such as the Yaks, right? Why is “Recovery of Public Safety” so firmly linked in “foreigner issues”? Because they’re a soft target, that’s why. Read the whole MOJ website entry and try to suppress a wry smirk.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 1, 2010

Table of Contents:
NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT…
1) Economist London on corrupt public prosecutors in Japan
2) Not only China, Japan eyes India for tourist influx, eases visas
3) CRNJapan’s checklist for avoiding J child abductions during marital problems
4) Weekend Tangent: What Canada does about racial slurs and abuse in public: jail time
5) Weekend Tangent: Discovering how cheap, yes cheap, parts of Japan are becoming
6) Yomiuri: Tokyo bathhouses scrub up to lure NJ visitors. My, how the worm turns. Why couldn’t they have done this ten years ago?
7) Referential website of note: Asia Pacific Memo at UBC

CHOTTO MATTA…!
8 ) Allegations that GOJ’s Hello Work refuses NJ applicants, as evidenced by “Japanese Only” employer Zeus Enterprise of Tokyo Ginza
9) JT’s Philip Brasor analyzes J media claims of bias towards Ichiro’s and Hakuho’s sports records
10) Mainichi & Asahi: “4 arrested for helping Cambodian men work illegally”. Odd, given shysterism of Trainee Visa program
11) NYT on Japan’s deflation: “Japan, Once Dynamic, Is Disheartened by Decline”
12) CJFF: Immigration raids Filipino family home, husband has heart attack
13) New Book: “In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy” by Pekkanen and Kallender-Umezu
14) CNNGo.com does odd article on “Controversial Activist David Schofill” and NJ refusals at hotels and onsens
15) NHK 7AM this morning: Offer coupons at Narita Airport to NJ with “preferential exchange rates”. The catch is…

BASTA!
16) Kyodo: Court overrules Oita Pref who tried to deny a 78-year-old NJ welfare benefits
BUT
17) Mainichi: “NJ have no right to welfare payments”, rules Oita District Court two weeks later. Gee that was a quick kibosh.
18) Hate crimes in Fukui: Car burned, “Gaijin GET OUT” message left at local mosque; flagburning at Indian restaurant
19) Japan Times: Eikaiwa Gaba: “NJ instructors independent contractors w/o labor law coverage”, could become template for entire industry
20) Fukuoka General Union info site on how BOEs are outsourcing ALTs through dispatch companies, not through JET Programme
… and finally …
21) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Tues Nov 2: How the “Cult of Japan’s Uniqueness and Homogeneity” interferes with good scholarship on Japan

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.