The End of the Nikkei Visa?

A while back I wrote a post regarding the Ministry of Justice proposing changes to immigration/foreign worker policy, and specifically how the Nikkei (Japanese ancestral) visa will be affected.
Gen Kanai left a comment on that post yesterday which I will reproduce here in full (the only change I made was to add hyperlinks and remove double hyphens because I think they might still cause problems in MT):

J, I was holding back my opinion on this because I knew that there was information lacking.
I’ll forward a review by Arudou Debito of the proposed changes. He was, like you, initially angered by the proposal, but after investigation into the details, his tone has changed significantly.
Please take a moment to read the actual proposal. I’d appreciate your evaluation afterwards.
Gen

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“ON HOW TO ALLOW FOREIGNERS ENTRY FROM NOW ON”
MOJ “PROJECT TEAM REPORT”
TRANSLATION FOLLOWS, YOUR FEEDBACK TO MOJ BY JULY
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
July 4, 2006. Freely forwardable
Last newsletter, I wrote you about how Dietmember and Senior Vice Minister of Justice Kouno Taro and folks at the Ministry of Justice have issued a statement regarding future policy regarding immigration and foreign workers. They are accepting feedback on this until Saturday, July 15, so time is of the essence here.
I sent you a blurb of three bullet points, but of course there are more. So before bed last night I pored over the document (available at http://www.moj.go.jp/NYUKAN/nyukan51-1.pdf ). At seven pages, it’s not a bad read. And it’s not all bad news. Allow me to summarize the recommendations immediately below.
(These are not direct translations. All errors, and there may be several in this hasty translation, are mine. Please see original document if you need to check or clarify any sections.):
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
1. BASIC PREMISES
(1) Cap the foreign population at 3% (not including the Zainichis).
(2) Increase foreign tourism, exchange students, and working holidays.
(3) Increase foreign workers to fill the gaps in sectors where there are labor shortages, working in sectors such as assisting the elderly, part-time, and developing economic sectors. Change (henkou) policy regarding low-wage labor (particularly regarding systems to accept trainees, researchers, and Nikkei workers). [NB: Unclear what direction this “change” will take.]
(4) While expanding foreign labor, increase administration of their residency (zairyuu kanri).
(5) Require foreign laborers to have equal wages with Japanese unemployed (hikoyousha), along with equal social insurance. Punish noncomplying companies.
(6) Have compulsory education for the families of foreign workers.
(7) For a diversifying (tayouka) Japanese society, give due consideration to the nationalities of resident foreigners, without favor towards any one particular country.
(8) Make Immigration procedures rational and efficient.
2. SPECIFIC POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
(1) REGARDING TRAINEES AND RESEARCH LOW-WAGE WORKERS
– Require Japanese language ability and study for foreign trainees and researchers. Make continuation of employment contingent on improvement in language ability.
– Allow for exceptions under bilateral agreements with countries.
– Restrict these workers to specific economic sectors deemed to need them.
– Restrict this system to allow workers from countries with good guest worker programs (soushutsu taisei).
– Pay workers the equivalent of a Japanese worker if the level of skill is equivalent.
– Create a revolving-door system for foreign workers if they do not plan to stay in Japan.
– Create a system for resident foreign workers to bring over their families, and require a degree of Japanese language ability from them.
(2) REGARDING RESIDENCY FOR FOREIGNERS IN GENERAL
– Create a system for understanding their lifestyles and statuses of residency.
– Require them to advise the authorities whenever they change jobs. This requirement also includes employers to do the same, in order to avoid overstayers.
– Create a similar system for understanding the situations for overstayers.
– Punish offenders and organizations severely.
– Create an information bank between administrative organs overseeing foreigners, in order to serve them better.
– Create a super Gaijin Card which will service foreigners beyond just administrative registering.
– Increase awareness (haaku o okonau) that Zainichis are also residents. [NB: Does this mean they will get a Juuminhyou residency certificate at last?]
– Create a system for severe enforcement and policing of employers who employ foreign overstayers.
(3) REVISING THE NIKKEI WORKER SYSTEM
– Stop importing Nikkei just because they are blood related to Japanese. Increase the technical quality of Nikkei workers from the start.
– Acknowledge that Nikkei families (including those with Japanese citizens) who have been here long-term have increased qualifications to be here.
– Require language ability for their continued residency.
(4) REVISING THE ENTERTAINER VISA SYSTEM
– Crack down on the water trade business expressly importing “entertainers” for prurient purposes.
(5) REGARDING GUEST WORKERS AND EXCHANGE STUDENTS
– Crack down on exchange students becoming overstayers by capping the degree of students to between 1 and 10% of the foreign population.
– Make it easier for the real educational institutions to bring in foreign students.
(6) REGARDING PERMANENT RESIDENCY AND NATURALIZATION
– Encourage (sokushin) foreigners who are contributing to our economy to become established (teichakuka), and loosen restrictions for them to become Permanent Residents.
– Give due consideration those nationalities which will increase our country’s diversity (tayouka).
– Make naturalization more difficult for those applicants who do not have Permanent Residency or Zainichi status.
– Even after granting Permanent Residency, check on their residential status (zairyuu joukyou) and punish offenders. [NB: Unclear what those offenses might be even if you have PR.]
(7) REGARDING CREATING A MORE SECURE LIFESTYLE BASIS (seikatsu kibon)
– Accept foreigners as part of Japanese society, and guarantee their reasonable rights (gouriteki na kenri no hoshou) and make them pay taxes. [NB: Naturally, I’m wondering what kind of rights are involved and how they will be guaranteed.]
– Give foreigners the same social security (nenkin, shakai hoken etc) as unemployed Japanese. Also, take responsibility for their housing and living environment (juukyo tou seikatsu kankyou).
– Enforce compulsory education for families of foreigners, and shorten residency for noncompliers. [NB: I see lots of problems here-see comments below.]
(8) PROMOTING INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION AND COOPERATION
– Greatly (oohaba ni) increase the number of working holidayers and tourists.
– Increase scholarships, confer credits to international universities, and bring higher-quality students here.
– Increase the brain drain by bringing foreigners with educational qualifications higher than baccalaureate. [NB: Humph. Watch the universities and Monkashou shoot this down promptly by refusing to reform Japan’s academic apartheid. [ http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#ninkisei ]
– Enliven Japan’s international business knowhow by allowing longer-term visas for business expats.
– Increase worker flow from the US and South Korea by considering making border controls more automatic.
(9) RATIONALIZING IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES
– Unify application and renewal procedures.
– Allow for Internet applications and announcements.
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ENDS
COMMENTS
It’s surprisingly not all bad news. There are proposals and ethos that we have been saying repeatedly over the years (particularly about foreigners being taxpayers and contributors to society-bravo!). So let’s give praise where due and criticisms where not.
GOOD POINTS:
I basically agree with compulsory education of immigrants. I think anyone who lives in Japan should become as fluent in the Japanese language as possible (as the alternative-functional illiteracy and a lifetime of limited communication ability with society-limits one’s world and severely impinges upon one’s ability to control their own fate). The emerging underclass of uneducated Nikkei youth gangs down south illustrates this quite well.
HOWEVER:
The requirement of improvement of language in order to continue employment, or compulsory education for minors with reduction in residency for noncompliers is definitely open to abuse.
a) Who controls the education of workers, and who assesses their ability and improvements? If it is the employer, any nasty boss could simply report that the level has improved insufficiently and use it as a means of sanction or firing (I personally have experience with this situation). Standards and qualifications should be made clear even at this stage. Nihongo Kentei Shiken at least.
b) What systems are in place for children of foreigners who face bullying and ostracization at school, and cannot for psychological reasons attend? Will they and their families be exiled back to their native country simply because their kids got a raw draw of classmates or teacher? I suggest the Ministry of Education offer ethnic alternatives (such as accrediting the ethnic schools found nationwide) for children who do not, for whatever reason, fit in.
MORE GOOD POINTS
I herald increased enforcement of laws regarding overstayers as long as they zero in more on the employers which encourage the practice, by specifically employing foreign labor from a standpoint of weakness (confiscating passports, etc.), and threatening them with exposure if they complain about slave work conditions. Not all overstaying is deliberate, or avoidable, and there has been too much punishment of the victims in Japan. Consequently Japan, as the US State Dept. has famously pointed out, is an egregious human trafficker. Glad to see a crackdown on that at last.
However, this crackdown is also open to abuse with nascent policing (including Permanent Residents) all over again. Central control and notification of even change of employment is open to abuse, with people squealing on foreigners already (through Immigration Snitch Sites, see http://www.debito.org/immigrationsnitchsite.html), and opening them up to all manner of harassment. There has to be a check on police powers here or else there will be wanton raids and racial profiling.
I also cheer the lowering of the bar for receiving Permanent Residency and citizenship, and hope that awareness raising campaigns (if any) will be successful in encouraging the popular view that citizenship and residency are not a matter of race. However, there is no clear sign that foreigners will yet get a “juuminhyou” residency certificate. When will Japan do away with the requirement of citizenship for formal registry registration? (http://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#checkpoints)
I also am happy with the news that human rights (whatever “reasonable rights” is supposed to mean) should be guaranteed. However, given that Japan’s government recently applied to the newformed Human Rights Committee (and received a seat) without mentioning ONCE a single thing about guaranteeing foreigners’ rights in their application, I think I will take a “wait and see” attitude. More on this later in a Japan Times article.
FINAL POINT-SIMPLIFY THINGS, PLEASE!
If Dietmember Kouno and the MOJ were really interested in getting feedback from the public, particularly the international residents whom it will affect, one would hope they would make the Japanese as easy as possible (with furigana as a minimum, and simplified Japanese as a nicety). Not to sound provincial, but an English translation would also have helped. Instead, the proposal starts out with flowery bureaucratic language (such as “honne to tatemae no kairi” (??), the last word I spent at least twenty minutes just trying to find!), completely unnecessary for public (not to mention international) consumption. If you want more feedback from the public, make the policy proposal easier for the public to understand!
Anyway, that’s enough for now. I’ve commented on the arbitrary and unreasonable 3% population cap, so others can point that sort of thing out themselves to the MOJ. I encourage you to do so. By July 15.
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Address: 100-8977 Houmushou Nyuukoku kanrikyoku Kanri Kikaku Kanshitsu
Fax: 03-3592-7940
Email: nyukan42@moj.go.jp
Questions to 03-3580-4111 ext 5685
It’s all up at http://www.moj.go.jp/NYUKAN/nyukan51.html in Japanese.
Or you can contact Dietmember Kouno Taro directly (he reads English)
at http://www.taro.org
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Thanks for reading. Back to work.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
debito@debito.org
http://www.debito.org
July 4, 2006
ENDS
…………….
My response to the MOJ document follows in the extended entry.


I just finished a quick read of the original Japanese and greatly appreciate Debito’s translation of it (by the way, I found his recent interviews [1, 2, 3, 4] at Yamato Damacy illuminating; it was nice to finally be able to put a face to the man who has been fighting for foreigner’s rights in Japan for so long). I also basically agree with his comments on the document; my own comments on specific areas follow.

1. BASIC PREMISES
(1) Cap the foreign population at 3% (not including the Zainichis).

This is perhaps the most important, if largely symbolic, issue: How is capping the foreign population of Japan at a seemingly arbitrary percentage helpful? I can’t think of a single good reason for this.
…….

(3) Increase foreign workers to fill the gaps in sectors where there are labor shortages, working in sectors such as assisting the elderly, part-time, and developing economic sectors. Change (henkou) policy regarding low-wage labor (particularly regarding systems to accept trainees, researchers, and Nikkei workers).

This sounds like an area covered by my previous reference to jobs that Japanese will not stoop down to doing. Making work visa restrictions tighter and effectively banning the Nikkei low-wage/part-time worker base will only widen the gaps. I know of entire factory shifts dominated by South American Nikkei, usually getting paid under 900 yen per hour. If you think the increase in working holiday visa holders will somehow make up the disparity, or that Japan’s youth will step up to the task, will it surprise you in 5 years to find all those factories closed, with the jobs delivered to China?
…….

(7) For a diversifying (tayouka) Japanese society, give due consideration to the nationalities of resident foreigners, without favor towards any one particular country.

This statement seems at directly at odds with one located under “REGARDING PERMANENT RESIDENCY AND NATURALIZATION”:

– Give due consideration those nationalities which will increase our country’s diversity (tayouka).

Do not all foreign nationalities, by definition, increase the country’s diversity? Or are there just some countries with people so bum-fuck backwards so as to suck the diversity right out of their current surroundings? (OK, don’t answer that.)
…….

(8) Make Immigration procedures rational and efficient.

I think I speak for most foreigners when I say: I’d be fucking ecstatic with either/or.
…….

2. SPECIFIC POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
(1) REGARDING TRAINEES AND RESEARCH LOW-WAGE WORKERS
– Require Japanese language ability and study for foreign trainees and researchers. Make continuation of employment contingent on improvement in language ability.

With all due respect, do the esteemed project members have any idea just how fucking stupid some of these Nova teachers are? Some of them can’t even speak proper English! Oh wait, rooting out the dumbfucks would be a good thing, from any standpoint. OK, props on this one, guys!
…….

– Allow for exceptions under bilateral agreements with countries.

Oh, of course, of course – we need these database specialists from India doublequick! Why? Are they more important than the indentured Brazilians in manufacturing? For the moment, yes. They will all be equally unimportant once we can figure out how to get our kids interested in C++.
…….

– Create a revolving-door system for foreign workers if they do not plan to stay in Japan.

Also, create a plan for them to suffocate if they do not plan to breathe. Sorry, that was a knee-jerk reaction spurred by the recent immigration issue back home (I’m from California), where “revolving-door” has taken on a whole new meaning. In this context, it refers specifically to foreign workers who have trained in Japan putting their newly-learned skills to work in a related industry upon returning home. That is a good thing.
…….

(2) REGARDING RESIDENCY FOR FOREIGNERS IN GENERAL
– Require them to advise the authorities whenever they change jobs. This requirement also includes employers to do the same, in order to avoid overstayers.

I strongly disagree with this because it gives the employers too much power. The currently murky status of this situation gives people who have left or been fired from a job the period until their visa ends to find a new one, providing the ex-employer doesn’t rat them out. It’s nice to have a little wiggle room after losing a job, no? Besides, the overstayers described in the statement above were legally employed at one point and probably not the crack whores and child molesters who (let’s be honest now, this entire project was at least partly brought to the front by a single Peruvian in the headlines, no?) you have vowed to purge from Japan.
…….

– Create a super Gaijin Card which will service foreigners beyond just administrative registering.

Yeah, with my current one I couldn’t even get a video membership. I want a super gaijin card with oak clusters. Epaulets would be nice, too.
…….

– Create a system for severe enforcement and policing of employers who employ foreign overstayers.

Earth to the MOJ, there already is one! It’s called the Yamaguchi-gumi…
…….

(3) REVISING THE NIKKEI WORKER SYSTEM
– Stop importing Nikkei just because they are blood related to Japanese. Increase the technical quality of Nikkei workers from the start.

Oh, OK, so what you’re saying is that NOBODY IS SPECIAL JUST BECAUSE THEY HAVE JAPANESE BLOOD IN THEIR VEINS. I understand that, and even though the current system works in my favor and the favor of my future offspring, I agree that it isn’t fair.
Oh, wait:

– Acknowledge that Nikkei families (including those with Japanese citizens) who have been here long-term have increased qualifications to be here.

…On the basis that they were already admitted because they HAVE JAPANESE BLOOD IN THEIR VEINS. Now I’m fucking confused.
I believe what they are actually trying to say is, “we are no longer going to accept applications for the Nikkei visa.” But I’m not sure.
…….

(4) REVISING THE ENTERTAINER VISA SYSTEM
– Crack down on the water trade business expressly importing “entertainers” for prurient purposes.

As if that wasn’t what it wasn’t intended for in the first place. Blue-eyed whores and Filipina singers are so last bubble.
…….

(5) REGARDING GUEST WORKERS AND EXCHANGE STUDENTS
– Crack down on exchange students becoming overstayers by capping the degree of students to between 1 and 10% of the foreign population.

More random percentages, anyone? Or perhaps comprehensive Ministry of Justice studies show that allowing the student ratio to fall outside the 1-10% ratio inevitably MAKES GODZILLA ANGRY? (and Japan ran out of virgins to sacrifice a few “Bar Isn’t Its” ago)
…….

(7) REGARDING CREATING A MORE SECURE LIFESTYLE BASIS (seikatsu kibon)
– Accept foreigners as part of Japanese society, and guarantee their reasonable rights (gouriteki na kenri no hoshou) and make them pay taxes.

Come my move to Thailand this October, I’ll have been in Japan 13 years and never been accepted by Taro Kono as a part of Japanese society. Fuck! (Maybe the friends I leave here can tell me how it feels… Does it feel like dew falling from the heavens? Does it make whale taste better?) More importantly, can they thus guarantee our right not to have to hear Japanese slurping pasta at Italian restaurants? It makes me feel violated. (I borrowed the pasta line from Gen)
…….

(8) PROMOTING INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION AND COOPERATION
– Greatly (oohaba ni) increase the number of working holidayers and tourists.

May I just say that I am extremely jealous of everyone on a working holiday visa. It’s just like a Nikkei visa, except you don’t need Japanese blood running through your veins. Plus, you can keep renewing it and your international driver’s license every year and NEVER pay a traffic ticket.
…….

– Increase scholarships, confer credits to international universities, and bring higher-quality students here.

Fuck you, too! (BA – Tenri University)
My wife says fuck you, too – triply!* (BA, Tenri University; MA, Osaka University; PhD Osaka University)
* Anyone with a doctorate can talk shit, otherwise shut the fuck up.
…….

– Enliven Japan’s international business knowhow by allowing longer-term visas for business expats.

Let’s just call this the Ghosn clause.
…….
If you have read this entire post, I thank you for taking the time to do so. Some things just have to be said.
I guess I’m just going to have to write a letter, as Debito suggests.

3 Replies to “The End of the Nikkei Visa?”

  1. Interesting….
    I have trouble getting my mind wrapped around the mindset over there. In the U.S. someone basically has to have (generally) a half ass mastery of English to be accpeted as a full citizen (the fact that so many 6th generation or more native born Americans speak English so badly doesn’t hurt). Though the INS has a tendency to show how tough they are by going after soft targets like Indian database engineers, Japanese doctors and other geniuses America has managed to loot from around the world.

  2. REVISING THE NIKKEI WORKER SYSTEM
    – Stop importing Nikkei just because they are blood related to Japanese. Increase the technical quality of Nikkei workers from the start.
    – Acknowledge that Nikkei families (including those with Japanese citizens) who have been here long-term have increased qualifications to be here.
    – Require language ability for their continued residency.
    One flaw. If the families are Japanese citizens via Lex Sanguinis, why should they be restricted? Do you want to introduce the British Overseas Territories Citizens type deal for Japan too, for Japanese Oveseas Born National? Or Japanese Nationa (Overseas?) So they get checked rigorously for dual nationality? Lose citizenship if they leave Japan for extended periods of time? I don’t know, but enough xenophobics appear to exist that should you have a national referendum on it, it might pass in such a xenophobic country!
    But the reality is, the Japanese government will probably allow dual nationals to remain Japanese more so than allowing a pure gaijin to naturalize. They will make those Brazilian Nikkei workers into dual nationals before allowing an American millionaire to become Japanese. Then, the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, then the white guys will come last.
    Fellas, maybe only Canada and the US will accept egalitarian laws where the alien has rights like citizens. The Japanese however are still better in their laws than the Chinese.

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