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Japan’s masochistic approach to immigration

by

Special To The Japan Times

The Asahi Shimbun’s online newsmagazine, Webronza, recently featured a conversation between former Asahi reporter Mieko Takenobu and sex-goods purveyor Minori Kitahara. They discussed the latter’s brief imprisonment after being busted for displaying “salacious material” at her store associated with the controversial “vagina artist” Rokudenashiko. Most of the conversation was about the salacious material, but they also talked about jail.

Kitahara was kept in a cell at a Tokyo detention center with three other women, two of whom were Chinese being held for immigration violations. One had been working on a farm and the other at a dry cleaners. Kitahara learned that more than half the women in the center were non-Japanese being held for overstaying their visas. Takenobu, whose specialty is labor issues, explained that almost all the foreigners arrested in Japan are overstayers though the media makes it seem as if they are “criminals,” and therefore a danger to the public.

Kitahara said that the foreign inmates at the detention center are treated poorly — held for long periods without proper medical attention or the right to speak to outsiders in their own language, and since they can’t understand the rules of the place, they are always breaking them inadvertently and getting into trouble. Nobody is prepared when they go to trial, because the explanation of their rights is incomprehensible. “Even I didn’t understand it,” she said.

Takenobu explained that these conditions are the norm.

“As a reporter, I saw how difficult it was for foreign workers to live in Japan,” she said. “So I think they go home and talk about it, conveying what a tough place Japan is for them. I wonder if any good workers want to come here any more.”

Takenobu’s supposition is the natural manifestation of the government’s policy toward foreign laborers. The official line is that Japan does not accept workers from overseas, so if fewer people are interested in coming to Japan for work, then that means the policy is successful. In 1993, just after the end of the bubble period, the Foreign Ministry estimated there were 300,000 undocumented foreigners in Japan. As of Jan. 1, the number was 60,000.

Some of the people who overstay do not, in fact, have visas to begin with. They are so-called trainees who were accepted into a government program to transfer know-how to developing countries by having people from those countries work for Japanese companies at below minimum wage. For years now, however, it has been clear that the system is a sham, and that most of these workers do not learn special skills but instead perform the kind of repetitive labor Japanese people don’t want to do any more. The trainees know this. They are coming to make money — or trying to make money.

The government has said it will expand the trainee program so as to let workers stay for up to five years rather than the current three. By doing so, it is indirectly admitting that it uses the trainee system to address the current labor shortage, but underlying this admission is the assumption that there are many people out there itching to work in Japan.

On April 12, Tokyo Shimbun ran a feature profiling several undocumented workers. One woman “from the Middle East,” who married another foreign national some years ago and had a child by him before he divorced her and left Japan, worked at a printing company from 2008 to 2013. Her employer said she works hard and speaks Japanese well, and he hired her knowing she was undocumented. He eventually laid her off because of the economy, but he would hire her back if his business picked up because she has the skills he needs.

Then there’s the Bangladeshi man who came to Japan as a student in the late 1990s and later tried to start a computer service company. He could not get a resident visa, however, and found work as a lathe operator while supporting a wife and child. He communicated well in Japanese and understood how his factory works, but he felt bad about overstaying and reported himself to immigration, hoping they would give him amnesty.

But amnesty is not a concept recognized by the Foreign Ministry. The Immigration Bureau handles residency visas on a case-by-case basis, and the Bangladeshi man was ordered deported on principle.

Yukiko Omagari of the nongovernment organization Ijuren, which supports foreign workers, told Tokyo Shimbun that many overstayers have jobs that not only support their families but also Japanese industry. They tend to work for small companies involved in construction, civil engineering, manufacturing and service — industries that are now suffering labor shortages. The government thinks it can alleviate the problem by expanding the trainee system, which Ijuren and others say is inherently exploitative, but it could solve the problem effectively and quickly by granting amnesty to overstayers who are already contributing through their jobs. The government is afraid of foreign workers settling down permanently because they think Japanese society doesn’t accept them — a self-fulfilling assumption.

In the end, by removing skilled workers who have become valuable members of the community and treating unskilled trainees as cheap labor and unwanted guests, the government sends out a message. When Japan was the only economic game in Asia, everyone wanted to work here — but not any more. As pointed out by Hitotsubashi University researcher Kiyoto Tanno in the business magazine Diamond, South Korea and Taiwan are encouraging immigration of workers with easier visa conditions, especially in the caregiving field, which is also greatly understaffed in Japan.

Tanno says the Japanese public believes that “exploiting foreign workers when they’re needed and then kicking them out when they’re not is normal. That’s why they no longer want to come here.”

When a conservative business magazine chides the authorities over a policy that is supposed to help business but does the opposite, you have to wonder about the government’s priorities.

  • Steve Jackman

    A corollary to the famous saying, “Every nation gets the government it deserves” is, “Every country gets the immigrants it deserves”.

    Two good examples are the U.S and Japan, which are on opposite ends of the spectrum, in terms of the quality of immigrants they attract. The U.S treats immigrants with much more respect and dignity, while giving them much greater opportunities to reach their full potential, so it attracts the highest quality immigrants from around the world.

    Japan, on the other hand, treats immigrants with contempt, xenophobia, discrimination and racist attitudes. This is why it will never attract high quality immigrants, since they have many other better choices than coming and settling in a country with such closed minds and backward attitudes as Japan, where they will never ever be accepted as equals.

    Because of this, Japan is doomed to attract the least attractive immigrants or the small group of anime and manga loving apologists who are always lurking in these comments sections and feel compelled to attack anyone who they feel has insulted (their fantasy of) Japan.

    • batbrewer

      Popcorn? Check.
      Beer? Check. Check. Check. Check.
      OK, I’m ready for the illuminating and constructive thread that will surely follow.

      • Iain Macpherson

        Japan sure attracts a bunch of foreigners who like making money in Japan well enough, and like never getting mugged or getting their possessions stolen, but then spend way too much of their free time on JT comment streams spewing vitriol about Japan because it’s different from their home countries. Can I have a bit of that popcorn?

      • Btd

        You say it man, bunch of crying babies!

      • Steve Jackman

        What about all the case of immigrants who have died at the hands of Japanese immigration while in custody? Just cry babies???

      • Shiki Byakko

        Of course they are cry babies, didn’t you see the comment from above, they should never complaint about anything ever. Tough luck if they died.

      • warota

        Sign up as a farm trainee and show just how great these sorts of jobs mentioned in the article are then, tough guy. Don’t wimp out and cry when your politely two-faced Japanese employers confine you to your decrepit dormitories that you you’re forced to pay rent for from your delayed and deficient wages, okay?

      • Steve Jackman

        Ah, another binary thinker, who can think in black-or-white terms only. Yes, I agree Japan is safer than many other countries. But, that does not take away from the other unrelated problems I have written about in my comment.

      • Jonathan Fields

        Don’t bother with him. He’s a troll. He thinks that any criticism of Japan needs to be prefaced by praise or else it’s “ethnocentric” and “highly racist.”

      • Steve Jackman

        Comments like his remind me of an excellent article recently published in The New York Times about government sponsored “TROLL FARMS”, which are increasingly being used by some states to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion.

        The article is written by Adrian Chen and was published on June 2, 2015, in the Magazine section of The New York Times. It’s available online on their Website. I think you’ll enjoy reading it. Let me know if you think some of what Adrian writes about also applies to Japan.

      • Tabula Rasa

        He seems to lose his sh*t a lot more with the child sex topics.

      • J.P. Bunny

        A safe country, to be sure. But what about those invited here to learn new skills that can used to improve life back home, which turns out to be nothing more than a cheap manual labor scam? How about that poor junior high girl born in Japan faced with deportation because her parents overstayed their visa? Each case is different. People that knowingly break immigration laws should be dealt with according to the appropriate laws. Unknowing lawbreakers need to be taken care of on an individual basis, not considered dangerous criminals. Of course, it goes without saying that there shouldn’t be government sponsored sweat shop programs, nor should people die while in custody for visa violations.

        Those on the sweat shop program, or the sexual slavery market here really don’t have the time or money to spew vitriol on the JT comments board.

      • zer0_0zor0

        There are some problems, but on the whole, I have seen the Japanese immigration system being progressively improved over the course of the past nearly twenty years.

        It is far more modern and liberal than what you see in Korea, for example.

        People need a little perspective.

      • Jonathan Fields

        Another stunning display of logic. Foreigners in Japan can make money and live without falling victim to violent crime, so they should never complain about anything ever.

        Edit: It seems there’s some confusion. I am being sarcastic here.

      • Shiki Byakko

        “they should never complain about anything ever”
        By that logic, you also shouldn’t, so stop complaining.

      • Steve Jackman

        ?

      • Shiki Byakko

        Racist “You don’t have a right to speak out, so shut up” logic.

      • Steve Jackman

        ?

      • Jonathan Fields

        I think you misunderstood my post. I’m disagreeing with what Iain Macpherson is saying. Sarcasm can be hard to catch in a post like that. My apologies.

      • BG Davis

        The point is: no one forced them to come, so if they don’t like it they should leave. They must be better off than they were at home, else why would they go to Japan?
        I’m a former resident alien in Japan, and I never could understand the people of all nations who came and spent all their time complaining about the Japanese.

      • Steve Jackman

        I’m an American and a long-term resident of Japan. I’m vested in this country and want what’s best for it. My comments are not meant to “complain” about Japan. They are intentended to hopefully improve certain negative aspects of Japan which I disagree with.

        I think my decade-plus living and working in Japan gives me the right to express my opinion based on my observations and experiences here. I know many Japanese who also don’t like certain aspects of Japan. Should they too leave Japan?

      • Jonathan Fields

        That is pants-on-head stupid.

        Japan is a wonderful country with a wonderful culture, but it has its fair share of problems. “If you don’t like it, you can get out” benefits no one. Least of all Japan.

      • J.P. Bunny

        Well former resident alien, some of us are still residents, and have been for many decades. As tax paying residents, complaints are allowed. Japan may not be perfect, but neither is anywhere else. Maybe people weren’t forced to come here, but many came with false expectations, promises not fulfilled by employers. Many of these people are trying to make the best of a bad situation, so the “If they don’t like it they can leave” swill doesn’t fly.

      • warota

        And this is your “illuminating” contribution to this “constructive” thread”? With all of the food and drink you have for getting even more dense, fat and drunk than you already are, it’s good to see you won’t be lacking in (unintentional) irony either.

        I’d ask for you to actually address the topic at hand (labor and human rights issues in Japan) but I’m afraid of yet more unrelated and useless drivel said with a mouth full of half chewed popcorn in between swigs of cheap happoshu piss.

      • batbrewer

        Ooh you sweet-talkin’ thing you. Actually I don’t like popcorn and I’m drinking a beer from Messrs Alesmith of San Diego right now, so GFY. And if you ever *really* want to talk about anything, rather than just unload bile, try to at least be civil. Wanker.

        It’s tedious to have to explain a joke, but it appears that I need to explain that my comments were in response to Mr Jackman’s final paragraph, which invited responses of much heat and little light from certain regular commenters here. And we got that, didn’t we?

      • Nina Bradford

        *It’s 8:33 am and I already have popcorn*

      • batbrewer

        And you can have the humorless and abusive warota’s beer too, although it sounds like he needs it more than you do.

    • Toolonggone

      Well, unfortunately, the two good examples you bring up seem to be going to the very similar direction in terms of media propaganda and bigotry on race and gender. Immigrants are losing dignity and respect as of today, thanks to national media and conservative bullies in Red States. Those coming from specific regions(i.e., the Middle East, East Africa, Southeast Asia, or Central America) are very likely to be treated like trash–due to the consequence of nation’s awful foreign policy that brings catastrophic injury to local economy.

      Yet, what’s mind-boggling to me is that Japan is having a very similar allergy to immigrants from particular regions despite their history of pacifism that has kept them from other country’s political/economic crisis. Imagine how the MOJ would react should tens of thousands of Mexicans and Muslims made a choice to sail across Pacific Ocean to reach Tokyo Bay–very unlikely hypothetical situation, though.

      Phil is spot-on. It is mostly conservative weekly tabloid and magazines like WILL, Bungeishunjyu, Shukanshincho, ‘Shukan Da-i-a-mon-do’and even Sapio that make crude, distasteful 19th century ‘immigrants-as-disease’ narrative.

    • paul martin

      True, true again !
      I have lived here on and off since 2008 and yes immigration puts a LOT of unnecessary hoops in our paths. My Sons have been married to nationals (one now divorced) and my grandchildren are part Japanese, so I do have close ties here.
      What you say about America is factual, I had many doors opened there in the 25 years I lived there.
      On the other hand the US and the UK (I am UK citizen) have allowed millions of extremely UNDESIRABLES to literally, effortlessly INVADE and as a result of lax scrutinizing potential immigrants invited the very WORST elements who commit endless crimes in those countries.
      Yes Japanese immigration are VERY hard to deal with, but Japan is also the SAFEST country in the World and does NOT have masses od foreign derelicts flooding in on rickety boats, gypsies and violent criminals exploiting their STRICT system and sleeping on the streets !

    • BG Davis

      “The U.S…attracts the highest quality immigrants from around the world.”

      Surely you jest. The U.S. attracts huge numbers of low-level economic refugees who end up driving taxis and being surly and rude. Also Hispanic thugs, gangsters, drug dealers and the like, who are routinely deported and who routinely sneak back in. And many wealthy people from places like Taiwan who hide their assets so they can qualify for Medicare (there are even ads on Chinese-language TV in Los Angeles, promoting services to help people beat the system). And of course we got Justin Bieber.

      As a former resident alien in Japan, and having lived in Japan on and off since 1960, I’m hardly an “anime and manga loving apologist” (my experience predates anime, which I find stupid, and I’ve always though manga is/are rubbish). And I have no fantasy about Japan. But like everyone else, I wasn’t forced to go there and if I didn’t like things I could either adapt or go home. Seems eminently fair.

      • Steve Jackman

        You must get your news about the U.S from scanning headline news or watching trashy and sensationalized TV dramas.

        The valuable contributions of immigrants is a key reason for America’s greatness. In fact, over half of the biggest and most successful American companies which make up the S&P 500 were started by immigrants or children of immigrants. Please get a clue.

    • Frido

      As a manga and anime enthusiast, my fantasy of Japan was not insulted at all by this article. The contrary was the case. I feel bare grudge over a country where criminals are vagina molders, their purveyors and over-stayed immigrants. I wish there would be an exchange program where criminals of my country went into Japanese prisons and vice versa.

    • Stephanie

      I just read on the Japan Times that Tokyo was named the #1 liveable city in the world by Monocle magazine based on the “quality of life,” from the number of murders, to the level of noise. I do not believe this could have been achieved by the immigration policy US currently has. Especially, when only one city in US made it in the top 25, and that was Portland… For every policy, there will be some form of backlash no matter how well intended it was suppose to be. SO, to compare Japan to United States is a bit ignorant since it can be misleading, since yes, both have very different immigration policies and goals for the country.

      • Steve Jackman

        I never place much credence on such rankings, since they are very subjective and often driven by some other agenda. There are many such “best cities” rankings out there and Monocle is the only one which places Tokyo at the top. BTW, Tyler Brule (founder of Monocle) is a well known Japanophile and lover of all things Japanese. He often visits Japan, but has never actually lived here. Plus, Monocle is now part owned by the Japanese publisher Nikkei.

      • Toolonggone

        Just for the quick reference, Tokyo’s high reputation has nothing to do with Japan’s immigration policy in the first place.

    • Josef K.

      I think you are mistaking Japan with Sweden when you write “Because of this, Japan is doomed to attract the least attractive immigrants”.

      Surely, it should be: “Because of this, Sweden is doomed to attract the least attractive immigrants”?

      Sweden will never attract high quality immigrants since immigrants pretty much are offered life time support from social benefits.

      On the other hand, the only foreigners who are allowed into Japan are highly skilled workers mainly working mainly in the IT field.

      • Bruce Chatwin

        “the only foreigners who are allowed into Japan are highly skilled workers mainly working mainly in the IT field.”
        Really?
        How about the Technical Intern Training Program?
        The nurses working in extended care facilities?
        The language instructors?
        The Philippino, Brazilian, and Peruvian factory workers?

      • Josef K.

        Well, you got me on the nurses and partly on the factory workers.
        But as far as I understand, the nurses have time limited work visas and many of the factory workers are nikkei jin. These factory workers would probably not be let in if they were not japanese descendants).

        Japan prefer to experiment in using robots to care for their elders to allow more immigration of people who an work in nursing.

  • Btd

    Totally unacceptable! How dare this nation treat illegal immigrants and visa overstayers so poorly! Unbelievable. They should at Least be housed at the Hilton and get citizenship in 48 hours. What a racist nation, I’m shocked to leave in such a place. I mean, why do they imprison illegal immigrants, I think they should even be treated better than japanese, sarcasm over what a bunch of crying babies , you’re an illegal, you face the consequences!

    • Steve Jackman

      Actually, this says much more about Japan, than it does about these unfortunate immigrants. As a very wise man once said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

      • FeministSafeZone.blogspot.com

        That’s the thing. Non-Japanese people are not part of Japanese society.

      • primalxconvoy

        Actually, they are. A society is not the same as a “nationality”.

        That’s why we use the term in many contexts, such as “criminal society”, or perhaps in your case “raving nutcase society”.

      • FeministSafeZone.blogspot.com

        Nope. They definitely are NOT. All you have to do is look around to confirm that much. Japanese have decided that blood matters, and that anyone without sufficient blood of the Japanese type are not part of Japanese society. The Japanese are the ones who effectively made citizenship based on ancestry. It’s their island, and you and I have zero input.

        As a Feminist, I respect their preference for their own. However, white people are not allowed to have such preference due to racism.

      • Btd

        he was a wise man indeed, “its weakest members” so I suppose its citizens, not it’s illegal immigrants…….. still Japan’s a better place than Australia for illegals, they just dump them on deserted islands or “sell” them to Cambodia and Europa and South East Asian countries let them drown…

    • primalxconvoy

      Japan is one of the few places in the world that officially counts visa violators as “criminals”. The government can then trot out bloated statistics that show when more foreigners come into the country, then so do crime statistics.

      Japan is also one of the only developed nations that allows a miniscule amount of asylum seekers into the country.

    • COYP

      In the camps on the border of Mexico and civilized America the unlucky central Americans who don’t make it through are treated to waterslides and BBQs all day long before a drunken party in the evening all paid for by USA inc.

      • Steve Jackman

        You just showed your ignorance of the U.S, without even realizing it. The term plc applies to companies in the U.K., not the U.S. Companies in the U.S are referred to as Inc., so the correct term would be USA Inc.

        Edit: Ah, sneaky you, COYP! You changed your comment from “USA plc” to “USA inc”, AFTER I corrected you. You’re welcome!!

    • Josef K.

      “They should at Least be housed at the Hilton and get citizenship in 48 hours.”
      Welcome to Sweden!

  • FeministSafeZone.blogspot.com

    I don’t think these idiot journalists get it. Whenever you hear we are “living in a global society” where people from all countries can move to work, the reference is only to North American and European countries. Due to the Holocaust, European cultures do NOT deserve to keep their ethnic identities. Due to Racism, America must accept immigrants from everywhere. This rule does NOT apply to culturally rich Asian countries, who have every right to preserve their identity.

    Whiteness needs to be abolished.

    • Shiki Byakko

      And what exactly is that identity, may I ask.
      There are as many ideologies and identities in Japan as there are people living here. So is the identity to preserve the one the government says?

      • FeministSafeZone.blogspot.com

        Ethnic identity. Duh.

      • Shiki Byakko

        And what exactly that comprises?
        Because as far as I can tell, you just sound like one of those guys who want to “keep the races separate” kind of mentality.

      • FeministSafeZone.blogspot.com

        I see what you’re doing, and I think you mean well, trying to ‘deconstruct’ the Japanese ethnic identity. Like me, you are probably a western liberal. Unfortunately I think you’ve missed the point: That ethnic nihilism only gets applied to “white” people. Which is exactly why liberal NGOs and others don’t seem to care much about Japan’s immigration policy, but would likely freak out if a country like the UK or Germany suddenly closed its borders to non-Anglo Saxons or non-Germans. You see, we liberals, we carry double standards, and that double standard is there so that we can help deconstruct whiteness and white privilege. And we invite you to hop back on board. I hope this helps you in your quest for greater understanding.

      • Shiki Byakko

        Sorry, but I’m not “westerner”, and I’m also not liberal.
        I’m not “white” either, so I don’t really understand your US-centric point of view.
        Believe it or not, but actually most people who use English use it as a second language, so do not assume that because I’m speaking in English I’m from the US or Europe.

        But then again, you are someone who talks as if ethnicity was something more than just a persons genetic luggage, so you probably think that ethnicity has also something to do with the language people talk.

      • FeministSafeZone.blogspot.com

        WHITE PEOPLE’S GENETIC LUGGAGE NEEDS TO GO EXTINCT BUT JAPANESE GENETIC LUGGAGE IS BEAUTIFUL AND IS PART OF THIS MULTICULTURAL WORLD AND SO IS YOUR CULTURE, WHICHEVER YOUR CULTURE IS. IT’S BEAUTIFUL AND YOU’VE BEEN OPPRESSED BY WHITE PRIVILEGE FOR CENTURIES THE SOONER ‘WHITENESS GOES EXTINCT THE BETTER!!!!

      • Shiki Byakko

        More like, you need to see a psychiatrist.

      • primalxconvoy

        Excuse me, but China is multi-cultural. It had annexed Tibet and other areas of Asia. It has many different languages and has to deal with people from different areas of the same country speaking or reading different languages.

        Multi-culturalism has been alive since ancient history.

      • FeministSafeZone.blogspot.com

        “Excuse me, but China is multi-cultural. It had annexed Tibet and other areas of Asia.”

        But look what China is doing to Tibet and other areas of Asia: Sinicizing them. Within a hundred years, chances are the ethnic Tibetans will be speaking Chinese if things continue as they are. This is what happened to the Manchurians, and, largely, to the ‘inner’ Mongolians. China is an assimilationist country, not a multiculturalist one.

        In fact the Han Chinese are made up of dozens of different ethnicities that assimilated and became ‘Chinese’ over the last four-five thousand years.

    • primalxconvoy

      By “culturally rich”, you mean how rich companies and governments in Japan, with their own culture of making a quick buck, have successfully bulldozed most of the beautiful and historic, natural and cultural buildings, greenery, rivers, etc, and replaced them all with concrete, electric cables and Playmobile homes?

      If so, then you are quite correct.

      • FeministSafeZone.blogspot.com

        You are clearly a bigot to Japanese people and I hope that you get over your bigotry some day and see the beauty in this rich culture. Embrace positivity.

  • primalxconvoy

    I think that if Japan continues to engage in racist/nationalistic/protectionist activities like this, then in the near future, it will be JAPANESE immigrants coming to China to find jobs…

  • Ahojanen

    There are a number of discussion points, most of which I leave to other forum fellows :) Here I only point out some unbalanced tendency of media focus on the issue of immigration and cultural adaptation.

    Crimes or maltreatment involving foreigners or other intercultural problems can be conspicuous or newsworthy while successful and culturally well-adjusted foreign residents, whose number is in fact quite enormous, have little news value the media are willing to feature. If foreigners “fit in,” no news report about them is necessary, just like about most of ordinary Japanese.

    I don’t find Japan racist in comparison to other migrant societies. True, there are still problems in both technical and socio-cultural levels, but let’s look at a bright side, much reform and progress have also been made these days. Social perceptions towards foreigners are changing, less-stereotyping. Overall, it depends on where and in what perspective you see in the world.

  • Clickonthewhatnow

    Of course the way people in those detention centers are treated is ridiculous, but I find it hard to feel sorry for how they got there. At the immigration center, you can get forms outlining your duties and obligations in regards to a visa (if you don’t speak or understand Japanese or (in some areas) English. How you end up letting your visa expire is beyond me. Unless you’re in a coma or something.

  • COYP

    Japan like most places treats immigrants well if they have a marketable skill.
    Sadly for a lot of you guys, reading aloud from a textbook in ones native language is not considered a marketable skill in Japan nor anywhere else in the world.

    • Steve Jackman

      My comments are based on my experience working at some of Japan’s biggest companies in management (I’m an American with an advanced degree, and have been living in Japan for over a decade). I have never been a teacher.

      Unfortunately, Japan does not treat immigrants with marketable skills “well”, as you have wrongly stated. I have seen Japanese companies routinely abuse, bully and harrass expat workers with excellent marketable skills and advanced degrees from top international universities. These workers are treated as second-class expendable employees. They can get away with this and violating Japan’s labor laws because they know that these expat workers have no recourse against large Japanese companies in Japan. Japan’s judicial system is famously racist and xenophobic, so it will always side with the Japanese employer against expat workers.

      • COYP

        That sounds rotten.
        Have you considered meeting your co workers half way? I noticed your post was made during Japanese business hours and there have been a few. Maybe the people at your company resent having to work twice as hard so you can go on the internet and complain about their country?
        Try being a bit more productive and maybe you’ll stop getting your stapler put in jelly.
        Good luck.

    • Toolonggone

      To add to your sentence, … as long as immigrants have similar economic mobility prior to their migration. Otherwise, anyone regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, will likely face materialistic consequence in the long run.

  • Tangerine 18

    Why is it that every time there’s an excellent article on Japan Times that attracts many readers like this one, the comments section is soon overrun by trolls, fakes and the just-plain-weird?
    Is there some kind of article-flagging that goes on? Something like an alert, a “Hey people, discussion at Japan Times about immigration. Get over there and disrupt it now” kind of thing.
    I’ve seen a similar thing at the Guardian website regarding Japanese whaling. As soon as any article about whaling is posted pro-whaling posters suddenly arrive, shortly followed by the oddballs. It’s the same here.

    • Steve Jackman

      I understand where you’re coming from. You may find the recent story written by Adrian Chen and published in The New York Times interesting (titled, The Agency, Magazine section, dated, June 2, 2015).

      It describes how a certain country is running state-sponsored Troll Farms to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion online. I think it is a growing problem affecting more than just one country. I’ve posted a link to the story in one of my comments above.

  • BG Davis

    Why is the title of the article “Japan’s masochistic approach to immigration?” What’s masochistic about it? Masochistic would be, say, letting in hordes of slackers or thieves or terrorists, and then letting them stay on taxpayer money.

  • feltip

    There are may who want to take mileage on the ‘apologetic Japanese’. I hardly find any meaning in this story.
    First, Takenobu’s words are nothing but a reflection of typical ‘apologetic Japanese’. Saying sorry for everything and think that they achieved some good image in front of foreigners. Unfortunately such observations does not elevate Japan’s image. Instead, apologetic Japanese are taken seriously by many foreigners and are projected as people’s view in Japan (against establishment). What I did not understand here is, the author writes in a way that overstaying is no harm. It should be simply accepted. And no one should question this. Are you serious?? Are you really serious?? I do not know which is an ideal country you have in mind that you keep as benchmark, but I really want to hear from you if visa overstay is treated as something different? Or are you portraying some immigrant Chinese case here and trying to build some protection for some other nationalities? Prisons are prisons. Not any place to preach any holy book.

    Second, on what basis are you suggesting that immigrant workers are not being treated well? I guess immigrant workers are getting more importance than Japanese nationals in many places. One thing is true, whatever argument you put forward Japanese government is not going to give citizenship. So knowing that very well, you have the full freedom to say anything and everything. At least Japan is not Saudi Arabia where the punishment ends up taking the organ with which one does the crime.

    Overall there are three concerns. First, many of the Anglo Saxon nationals get undue importance in Japan. Just because at least some Japanese like the fact that those people can speak English. I have witnessed that many anglo saxon thinks that it is their right to be treated royally in Japan. If one can not get respect in your own country, is it not too much to demand that respect in another place? The author must rethink about what is written about here and what is his agenda while saying such things.

    • Steve Jackman

      I suggest you acquaint yourself with the concept of, “the punishment should fit the crime”. A little bit of empathy doesn’t hurt either, even though, I know it’s in short supply in Japan.

      • Josef K.

        If you are married to a Japanese woman, you should know that Japanese despise self-pity…

      • feltip

        Very good suggestion, but please never repeat this. What do you know about ‘Punishment Should fit the crime’. First you explore where it started and why. I am sure you do not know. If you knew you would not have mentioned it here.
        Anyways, with all the screwed up military policy the west has made the whole world a battle ground. Why should Japan take west’s garbage? Stop advising security policy to Japan.

  • Shady Shita

    With this kind of treatment no wonder less and less people want to immigrate to Japan , Japanese people accept foreigners but the government is so backward, with the population continues decline and labor shortages , I wonder who will run Japan in the near future ? It’ll be a ghost country :/

    • Steve Jackman

      That’s not quite right, since Japanese people do not accept foreigners. The government is just following Japanese public opinion and people’s wishes. Many surveys of the Japanese public have repeatedly shown that they are overwhelmingly anti-immigration, anti-foreigner and quite xenophobic. Plus, I’ve been living in Japan for over a decade and find the Japanese public and institutions to be among the most racist and xenophobic in the world, so I can vouch for the accuracy of such surveys.

      • Josef K.

        Well, that quality has got a positive side as well – it will guarantee the survival of Japanese culture in a globalized world.
        Trust me, in Sweden nowadays it is racist to suggest that immigrants adapt to Swedish customs and society and if someone dares to claim that there is a Swedish ethnicity, that person will be compared to Hitler.

        The 6th of June is the official national day in Sweden. What are the official themes of the celebrations? Multi-culture and a focus on immigrants.
        Up until 40 years ago or so, Sweden was pretty homogenic. I do not mind immigration, but why sohuld a country deny its history and disown its culture? Especially when that country has an almost 1000 year old history and historically has seen small immigration up until around 50 years ago.

        I have lived in Japan and love the country. I definitely see that there is a strong xenophobic trait in Japanese culture. But I would still like to live there if I was qualified to get a decent job (I chose to focus on stuff such as philosophy and anthropology during my time at the university – had I chosen something in the technical field I might have had a chance to get a job in Japan).

  • tisho

    If competent people with understanding of economics and economic history of foreign countries were in charge, this problem would’ve been solved by now. Like i said before, all what needs to be done is simply remove all government restraints over the labor market. That’s it. Japanese companies would’ve easily supply themselves with the necessary labor if they were free to do so. Google doesn’t need permission from the US government to hire anybody from around the world, fly them to the US, grand them working visa and put them on the path to citizenship. Japanese companies on the other hand cannot do that, they are way too restricted by the government. I am sure Toshiba would have no problem hiring someone from the amazon jungle and granting him working visa and put them on path to citizenship as long as he makes them money. Labor market is the best way for people to integrate into a society. By liberalizing the labor market, you kill two rabbits with one bullet – allow companies to supply themselves with the needed labor, which also ensures they will not leave the country to move to another country in order to supply themselves with the needed labor, and also bring new human capital to the country.

  • derekdj

    The reason why Japan is having such a hard time dealing with immigration is because like other racially homogenous countries (like Sweden), it can’t separate race and its singular cultural history from nationality.

    It’s a difficult concept to understand for people who come from countries whose history of international conquests and colonialism, made it easy for them to absorb cultures and races to form a national identity that isn’t based on skin color or ethnicity. Even China with its mythic racially pure Han Chinese has the ability to accept foreigners into its fold because of its history of conquests dating back to when the mongols ruled.

    This is why Japan has such a hard time acknowledging even Japanese celebrities who are of mixed birth or immigrated to the country. Japan can’t come to terms with its immigration and dwindling population problem until to comes to terms with what it means to be Japanese. Can Japan be more than just its ancient history and ethnicity?

    • Josef K.

      Sweden hasn’t been racially homogenous since the late 60’s.

      Today, close to 20% of the population of Sweden are foreign born, and among childre it’s closer to 30%.
      Swedes will be a minority, albeit the largest one, by around 2050 if immigration continues at its current pace.

      As a Swede, I can understand Japan’s position. Sweden is no longer the country of the Swedes and I can understand if the Japanese want Japan to remain a Japanese country.

      • derekdj

        Sweden is a good case study for Japan. I’ve done business in Sweden and have seen similar subtleties in how native or ethnic Swedes treat immigrants and temporary workers in Sweden.

        You’re right that Sweden hasn’t been racially homogenous since the 60’s, which is a similar timeline to Japan’s economic rise and opening to the world. Since the 60’s Japan has seen the increase in foreign workers, mix marriages and bi-racial children.

      • Josef K.

        Yeah, a good case study of how NOT to act when it comes to immigration.

        I think that Canada or Australia are good western examples of constructive immigation politics. However, ironically both are immigrant countries created by European settlers…

  • Btd

    They came because they wanted to come, they knew it all so don’t give me that crap about exploitation…… If they really wanted to complain they could go to the authorities and file a claim. Fact is they’re illegals and will be treated as such. Still better here I guess than in their own crap countries otherwise they wouldn’t have come in the first place!

    • warota

      Translation: I lack reading comprehension so I’m going to continue to ignore / misunderstand the extenuating circumstances of immigrants mentioned in the article, its links as well as the comment I am replying to so I can keep chanting “illegal! illegal!” like an ignorant victim blaming moron.

      Exploitation of laborers has a long and colored history around the world and unsurprisingly, Japan is no different! How about that. It does this to its own citizens all the time so why should it be any different to immigrants especially when they can get easily get away with it? Conflict of interest, apathy and lack in effective response from these “authorities” to reported abuse (if it’s reported at all) is the norm here. But I can understand if this is too much for someone like you to get through your thick skull so I’ll stop here to give you a chance to digest this properly (but I’m not holding my breath).

      If you really want to prove your case, sign up for these jobs that these immigrants take and try to file complaints when problems come up to see just how excellent the response and treatment these people receive like I keep saying but you conveniently ignore. The employers for these sorts of jobs are suffering from a shortage of people willing to tolerate their working conditions and pay (or lack thereof) of which the locals already know about and avoid (which is why they hire such immigrants in the first place) so I’m sure they’ll be happy to hire you in a quick and easy fashion. Don’t forget to sign everything you’re presented with and pay all of their upfront fees to even start working for them like a good little immigrant! You want to show how you can fully trust such Japanese employers and the authorities so you can proudly say just how these “illegals” deserve the treatment you are advocating.

      Then, when you do start crying about how you’re being treated, let me be the first to brand you as an “illegal” and tell you that you deserved it.