Where will all the eikaiwa teachers go?

I have decided to cross-post a comment I made on the “Jason’s Random Thoughts” blog. He wrote a post laying out the decidedly grim options for unemployed eikaiwa teachers who want to find a way to stay in the country by working outside the eikaiwa industry.

Comment by Adamu:

You seem ready to blame the decline of eikaiwa on the financial crisis, but while a decline in personal consumption will not help struggling schools, people began writing Nova’s obituary back in mid-2006. Put very broadly, there is an excess supply of eikaiwa teachers here and demand has clearly peaked and is now falling off. The adjustment of supply to meet the real demand is no doubt painful for a lot of the workers, but at the same time the years of easy money produced some very bloated companies, NOVA probably the worst among them. Now only the best schools will survive but in the end consumers will be better off.

For years, those involved in the Eikaiwa industry took it for granted that the Japanese public was a money-well, always willing and eager to sit in front of a white face and pay him to speak in his native tongue. But the industry has changed and teachers can no longer dip into the well. Having eikaiwa as a free ride may have been a good opportunity and life experience for many, but in the end I don’t think it does people or society at large much of a service. You are paid to act as a human tape recorder without much in the way of skills, and the service itself is about as effective as weight-loss clinics (a good tool for the motivated minority but a ripoff for everyone else). Now that you dont have that job anymore you are seeing just how content-free the job was. You mention experience working in a foreign environment, but I saw no clear description of any real practical experience gained.

This was an interesting essay, but maybe you should have been honest with your readers and written “Am I Prepared” instead of “Are YOU Prepared”. It would have given much more focus to the essay since you offer advice willy-nilly to a group of people that probably has a very diverse array of skills and experience, while you are you and actually “know your strengths” and weaknesses. And as someone who’s obviously very candid, your readers probably have a lot to gain by following your experiences.

You make a fairly thorough assessment of the prospects for a former Eikaiwa teacher who wants to stay in Japan at all costs but have little skills or experience to offer. But the prospects sound REALLY grim. Looking at what is out there, it is obvious that there is FAR greater opportunity to be had back home rather than struggle as a gas station attendant in a foreign country. Far from “taking living in Japan to the next level” these options seem singularly unambitious and really pretty sad. I hope you can aim higher.

First I would like to ask — is being in Japan at all times forever an end in itself? And even if you do want to be in Japan for the long term, how could you ever be satisfied working at the functional equivalent of a janitor just because it’s in a country you like? For the short term you may need to make ends meet, but sweet Jesus you have got to think bigger.

It seems like getting sent home might be a blessing in disguise for you just so you won’t have to slave in jobs that are even more dead-end than teaching English. Now might be a good time to stop and think about your real strengths and weaknesses as a person, not just as a “gaijin.” And besides, being away from Japan geographically doesn’t necessarily mean cutting ties altogether. The Japanese Internet is huge and allows you to access basically the full spectrum of culture and discourse. While you are off pursuing self-development you can keep track of the Asahi or even the Family Mart website if that’s your thing.

On his blog, Debito has posted his advice from 2001 and it still basically holds, though the examples could be updated. Ken Worsley from Japan Economy News is an interesting case of someone who turned from English teaching to entrepreneurship, but the clear thing distinguishing him from many is that he’s quite talented. There just is no escaping that.

It is interesting to see that positions like convenience store clerk, gas station attendant, and even electronics salesman are now open to foreigners, even American-looking white guys. That phenomenon was all but non-existent seven years ago.

Nice to see you mentioned translation, which is a much more viable option for the people you are apparently writing for (it also happens to the job I do “in a regular office building”). If your language skills are tight enough you can make decent money as a translator, even if you just do it freelance (though IMO 2-kyu is pretty worthless. You need much better than 1kyu to be successful). Employment agencies like Tempstaff can help you with details of what you need to do to land that kind of work. Of course, the driver of translation demand is somewhat connected to that of eikaiwa — it depends on Japanese people having sub-standard English skills. If somehow the Japanese education system gets it right, the demand for translation might fall as competition among translators rises.

I also have to seriously doubt whether “hundreds of thousands” of people have really been fired from eikaiwa schools and face the decision of whether to stay or go. Government statistics seem to show that the number of teachers at private-sector language schools peaked at 15,000 or so, and the numbers now are somewhere just under 10,000. NOVA only employed 4000 teachers and it once boasted that it was the biggest employer of foreign nationals in the private sector. Add to that number the JET program, which accepts about 5,000 people each year, meaning that at any given time there might be as many as 20,000 on JET contracts (though in reality it is probably far less). Then there are the local school district ALT programs and unregistered English teachers/schools, but I don’t see the number topping 100,000. If you want to talk six figures, maybe it would be more accurate to say the decline of the eikaiwa industry has forced hundreds of thousands worldwide to reconsider even attempting a career teaching English in Japan, not to mention future generations for whom it will be basically out of the question.

Norms of citizenship law

I glanced at Debito’s blog earlier, in which he linked to a piece he wrote a few years back which includes the following line:

For the purposes of this essay, by “foreigners” I do not mean “Zainichis” (ethnic Korean, Chinese, Indian, etc.), born in Japan, often with Japanese as their native tongue, who would be citizens already in other developed countries.

I’m not sure why so many believe this myth. A small minority of countries (about 35 out of about 200) actually follow the doctrine of jus soli, or citizenship due to place of birth, and of those, the only ones generally considered to be “developed countries” are: (caveat: according to Wikipedia’s list)
United States
Britain (with some restrictions)
France (only upon reaching adulthood)
Australia (upon reaching the age of 10)
Ireland (with restrictions)
New Zealand (with restrictions)

And that’s it. Note that jus soli is common only in countries following the Anglo system of law, specifically former colonies of the UK (India used to have jus soli but abolished it, Pakistan still does.) Of the 26 current member states of the EU, the only ones that have jus soli citizenship are the UK, Ireland, and France. The rest of them follow the tradition of jus sanguinis or citizenship by blood, which comes out of the Germanic legal tradition that Japan based their entire modern legal code on. If one considers “developed countries” to be Australia, Canada, Europe (26 countries),  Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and USA, then we have 34 countries (apologies if I’ve left any off the list, but I’m going for a rough count here), of which only 7 have the jus soli legal policy that Debito described as standard in “other developed countries.”

By pointing this out I am in no way endorsing the legal quasi-limbo in which many people, such as the Zainichi but also including various stateless populations living in far worse conditions around the world, have been left due to the vagaries of jus sanguinus, but I would like to try and correct the odd misperception among Westerners in Japan (who are almost all from either Anglo law countries or France) that Japanese nationality law is in some way an aberration, when it is in fact the international norm.

An amusing exchange spotted while researching

From the minutes of the Constitutional Convention for the Philippines, January 24, 1935.

Mr. Araneta: Suppose the Legislature enacts a law prescribing that Darwinism, the theory of evolution, is the only theory that can be taught in every school including the private schools. Would that be constitutional under the Gentleman’s amendment?
Mr. Osias: Theoretically, yes, but, practically, I can not conceive of our future generations going to nutty as to prescribe or pass such a thing.

Japan as sieve?

Provide some sensitive nuclear technology to your good buddies at the Japanese trading firm, and the next thing you know it falls into the hands of AQ Khan!

Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008

Pakistan nuke chief visited Japan: friend
Khan allegedly obtained key components Islamabad
ISLAMABAD (Kyodo) Disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan visited Japan in 1984 and obtained key components essential to Pakistan’s nuclear program, according to a family friend.

“He visited Japan in 1984 and met many bosses of big firms,” the friend said. “One of the company executives he met was a trading house chairman who had served as naval attache in Berlin during World War II. He spoke fluent German.”

But the friend — who was in close contact with Khan, who is under virtual house arrest — did not disclose the nature of the components the nuclear scientist bought during his trip.

Another source familiar with Pakistan’s nuclear program said Khan also visited Japan in 1977 and bought an “uninterruptible power supply” device from a Japanese company for a uranium enrichment facility he was building at Kahuta near Rawalpindi.

Pakistan embarked on a nuclear program in 1972 and detonated a nuclear device in May 1998, shortly after rival India carried out a similar test.

(Sorry for the linky post but eh)

Press Conference with the Taiwanese President

Following the incredible amount of discussion we had here regarding a BBC “From Our Correspondent” column on a heavily stage-managed interview with Japanese PM Aso Fukuda, I think it would be interesting to compare with this Taipei Times “Reporter’s Notebook” column on Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jieu’s press conference given at the Taiwan Foreign Correspondent’s Club. The most obvious difference of course is that Ma, who studied in the United States, is fluent in English and required no interpreter. Also unlike the aforementioned Aso Fukuda interview, this was apparently an actual live press conference, in which reporters were free to ask questions of their choice. However, according to the column, “the tough questions never came.”

Throughout the 90-minute session, Ma’s fluency held up well — but he did stumble on several occasions with figures, reverting to a quick check of the numbers in Chinese with his aides.

Consistent to a fault, however, Ma used the term “mainland” to describe China, so much so that many of the foreign correspondents found themselves employing Ma’s questionable terminology in their questions.

He also made one or two factual errors, such as accusing Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors of offering a reward for anyone who could pelt Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) with eggs during his visit last month, when in fact it was members of the pro-independence group Taiwan Society North.

He did impress by answering questions precisely and comprehensively, except for the terse response to a query on whether he would welcome the Dalai Lama.

Overall, however, the nature of the audience meant that questions focused on international issues, which meant that this reporter — and several others — were left disappointed that Ma wasn’t pressed on domestic problems that may yet influence cross-strait ties.

Incidentally, his response over whether he would welcome the Dalai Lama was “no.”

“Losheng eviction to begin”

More than 50 Losheng Sanatorium preservationists gathered in front of the Department of Health (DOH) building yesterday, protesting the eviction of Losheng residents and demanding that Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) listen to their pleas. “No forced eviction, we want dialogue!” shouted the members of the Youth Alliance for Losheng and Losheng Self-help Organization. “[Today] they will force [the residents] out. Why will no one listen to our pleas?” said alliance member Chang Hsin-wen (張馨文). The preservationists’ fight against what they consider human rights violations and the destruction of historic buildings has continued for four years. (12/03)

Text and photos from my visit to Losheng this past summer can be found here. Losheng residents who are evicted will actually be given a space in the recently constructed hospital building located almost next door, but this will probably be of little consolation to those who prefer zipping around the campus in their electric wheel chair scooter devices to the sterile hospital halls.

Still more on Tamogami

Following up on my initial report on November 4 and an update on November 21, here is yet more information on the Tamogami Toshio affair.

Most important is today’s Asahi front-page article, which is the best media confirmation so far of my initial hypothesis on the entire Tamogami/APA link, which readers may remember was as follows:

Combining his attraction to both power and military, [APA CEO Motoya Toshio] invited ASDF General Tamogami Toshio into his circle, bringing him to the Wine no Kai and to address the launch party for his latest right-wing tract. Motoya then had APA sponsor an essay contest promoting his book-possibly an illicit use of corporate funds-with the grand prize awarded to Tamogami , in a decision I suspect was actually arranged by Motoya personally, with the “selection committee” only choosing the lesser prizes.

Adam spotted the Asahi article and forwarded it to me, and provided a summary in the comments of my previous Tamogami post.

Apparently, several of the contest judges were really miffed at how Motoya ran things… Of over 400 entries, the company only sent the four-member panel 25 for the first round of anonymous scoring. Motoya himself was apparently on the panel (though APA did not list him as a judge), and he gave the top score to Tamogami’s (anonymous) essay while giving low scores to all the others. In the second round of judging, the names and profiles of the contestants were revealed and the judges met to discuss the winner. Three essays, including Tamogami’s, had the same number of points. Motoya apparently proposed that they just give the prize to Tamogami and award a kind of tied-for-second prize to the others. None objected.

Apart from Motoya, the judges named in the report:

Shuichi Yamamoto, a former Diet member’s secretary and current legal scrivener and guest lecturer in Okayama Prefecture.
Nobuaki Hanaoka, conservative commentator
Kazuo Komatsuzaki, President of (Yomiuri affiliated) Hochi Shimbun

Apparently the fourth judge was Motoya, but I can’t tell for sure by the way the report is written.

The article also includes direct quotes from two of the judges. Yamamoto said that he “felt there was something unnatural about how Motoya gave low scores to pretty much all of the essays that the other judges gave high scores to.” Yamamoto went on to accuse Motoya directly, saying that “one has to believe that the top essay was chosen to award the prize money to Tamogami.” Komatsu gave similar statement, saying that “Thinking about it now, Motoya must have known all along that it was Tamogami’s essay, and deliberately put it on top.” Oddly, the article makes no mention of conservative commentator and Sophia University English Professor Watanabe Shoichi, who is described on the APA web site as head of the judging committee.

The article certainly does make it sound as if Motoya was one of the judges, although I do not believe any previous source has acknowledged his direct involvement. Naturally there was no comment from APA for this article. Considering that even the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance of the JSDF is investigating the possibility that Tamogami encouraged his subordinate officers to enter the contest, and the fact that Tamogami and Motoya had a relationship stretching back a decade when Tamogami was commander of the very same Komatsu air force base that Motoya runs a civilian support committee for, it seems very likely that the entire essay contest was in fact staged.

There is even speculation that the conspiracy goes even deeper than I suggested in my initial post. According to the Japan Times on November 20, in an article which also presents many of the connections I had pointed out previously:

Hirofumi Hayashi, a professor at Kanto Gakuin University and an expert on modern Japanese history, pointed out that Tamogami may have landed the top post because of his close ties with Toshio Motoya, head of hotel and condo developer Apa Group, who had connections with then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a staunch nationalist.

Is it really possible that the Motoya connection could be that strong? Could Abe have actually been persuaded to promote a known militarist to the head of the JASDF based on the recommendation of an ultra-rightwing activist?

Another professor, Kotetsu Atsuhi (whose published books include one on relations between the civil government and military in modern Japan), was quoted by the Japan Times as saying “Mr. Tamogami went out of control and his act was close to a coup.” In a Mainichi debate column he gives a more detailed statement, which reads in part:

In the final paragraph of the essay it is written that the SDF needs to return to a position of independence, away from the eternal dependence on America. This adds up to the “Asian Monroe Doctrine” that Japan had before the War. For Japan to have singular hegemony in Asia, they thought that they had to secure their own sources of raw materials and military equipment, without depending on America or Britain, and the fact that this spread to the financial and political spheres as well is one of the factors that opened the road to war. I am horrified  to think that there may be a desire for this in today’s uniformed officers.

The article also contains an opposing quote from right-wing historian Hata Ikuhiko, in which he says:

Compared with the pre-war system, things are effectively controlled in Japan now. Today, you do not hear the uneasy discussion of a coup de’etat that you did 20 or 30 years ago. If the defense minister and prime minister, who is the Commander in Chief, do their jobs properly then the SDF should not be able to run wild and take hold of political power.

The two problems with this statement are that A: following the Tamogami affair there actually ARE people (Koketsu for a start) mentioning the danger of a coup, and B: Prime Minister Abo Shinzo was the one who appointed Tamogami to his job in the first place. On the other hand, Tamogami’s prompt dismissal following the uproar over the APA essay demonstrates the current effectiveness of civilian control. And although current PM Aso Taro did promptly dismiss Tamogami, he is well known for having a similar view of history.

(Incidentally, Hata’s essay calling for the restraction of the Kono Statement acknowledging Japanese responsibility for comfort women is among those offered as a free download by the so-called “Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact”, which publicizes the Japanese right-wing historical revisionist agenda in English, and includes such people as Watanabe Shoichi and Japafilic Taiwanese Ko Bunyu on its board.)

Whan now-PM Aso was CEO of his family firm, Aso Cement Company in 1975 (he was CEO from 73-79, see here), they published an official corporate history which closely matches the views of Tamogami and Motoya. As described in a FEER article by Mindy Kotler (head of DC’s Asia Policy Point, known for her testimony on behalf of the US House resolution calling on Japan to apologize for comfort women, and William Underwood, a specialist in the history of Japanese WW2 era forced labor):

The “Aso Fights” section of the book states that top U.S. leaders had detailed knowledge of Japanese military plans prior to Dec. 7, 1941. Japan was purposely allowed to strike the first blow, in this telling, so that “Remember Pearl Harbor” could become a rallying cry for Americans. Like Gen. Tamogami, the Aso historians conclude that “this cleverly united American opinion for war against Japan.”

Aso Mining then became a “kamikaze special attack production unit,” according to the book. “People like Korean laborers and Chinese prisoners of war filled the void” in Kyushu’s coalfields as Japanese miners left for military service.

Despite having fired Tamogami, he and Aso are still ultimately on the same side in the history wars, along with former Prime Ministers Mori and Abe, at the very least. (Tamogami has been quoted as saying that “former PM Abe and former PM Mori also support my philosophy.)

While Prof. Koketsu’s coup reference may be a bit exaggerated, there have been a number of comparisons made with the February 26 incident of 1936, a failed coup in which “a group of young radical Army officers led some 1,400 troops under their command on a attack on the Prime Minister’s residence and other buildings in Tokyo, killing Home Minister SAITO Makoto, Finance Minister TAKAHASHI Korekiyo, and Army Inspector General of Military Training WATANABE Jotaro.” As has often been the case in Japanese military coups (such as the Meiji restoration), the young officers claimed to be fighting in the name of the Emperor, but when it was clear they lacked his support the rest of the military put down the revolt. This 2.26 Incident was famously orchestrated by “young officers” of the Imperial Way Faction, which was an unofficial grouping of hardcore rightist officers within the military, who called for a “Showa Restoration“-evoking the Meiji Restoration – in which the military would purge government and society of degenerate left-wing elements and re-institute traditional values based around militaristic Bushido.

The Imperial Way Faction was largely based around the philosophy of Araki Sadao, a rightist officer who ascended to the position of War Minister in 1931, after having served as Inspector General of Military Training, and began publically promoting the  “Imperial Way” in a September 1932 news conference. Although he was forced to retire from the military following the failed 1936 coup, he was apparently not accused of any direct involvment and was allowed to become Minister of Education the following year, a job which allowed him to promote his militaristic agenda in the civil sphere.

Although the names “Tamogami” and “Araki” have as yet only appeared appeared together in a handful of obscure Japanese blogs, I do sense some concern that Tamogami could be (or at least could have been) an Araki-like figure. I strongly doubt anyone is particularly worried that Tamogami himself was plotting a coup, but rather a lot of people are worried about the influence he may have had on subordinates, as represented by the dozens of JASDF members under his command who submitted essays to the contest. Then, does this mean that people should be worried that the 94 who served under Tamogami and submitted essays will be a “young officer” vanguard of the Heisei Restoration armed uprising circa 2012?

This is another pretty farfetched scenario. Japan today is a very different country from the one it was in the 1930s, with a decades-long popular antiwar attitude that few could have predicted in the 1930s. Shifting back towards that level of militarism would likely require both a generation of re-education and a massive shift in the international balance. But the militaristic right wing is thinking long-term. They have been pushing their version of history increasingly hard recently, but despite much of the media coverage has actually not been very successful in altering public school education. And yet, the general attitude towards the revision of the Japanese constitution’s famous war-renouncing “Article 9” seems to have gone from being an absolute impossibilty to being undesirable but perhaps only a matter of time.

Some time in the next several months Japan will hold a general election, in which it is very possibly that the opposition Democratic Party of Japan will take power for the first time. This would be a stunning defeat for Tamogami’s supporters, however many of them really exist. Despite political apathy, most of Japan still firmly believes in national pacifism, and if the LDP falls from power it will likely be in part due to Tamogami.