Best. Headline. Ever.

Cop rapped for letting off aliens

Unfortunately, the story is about a Tokyo cop who was suspended, and who then resigned, for issuing tickets to two foreigners for traffic offenses other than their main violation, driving without licenses.

Why the Japan Times has to use the more bizarre headline above is beyond me, but I hope that all readers know by now that you can’t expect anything worth reading to ever come from the Japan Times.

Foreigners Welcome?

Many readers are aware of the occasional problem in Japan concerning “Japanese Only” establishments. Businesses such as bars, public baths, and other establisments will post signs that explicitly refuse foreigners, for a variety of stated justifications. Debito has chronicled this phenomenon on his website in a “Rogues Gallery“, displaying all sites where discriminatory signs have been discovered. In addition to personally investigating most instances, Debito has proposed one remedy/countermeasure to this problem that storeowners display a “Non-Japanese Welcome” certificate.

welcome non-japanese

It just so happens that I was walking through a trendy part of the Akasaka neighborhood in Minato-ku in Tokyo today, and I came across this sign at the entrance of a hairdresser’s studio:

Image156

Reading this should make us happy, right? It’s the opposite of “Japanese Only,” it explicitly welcomes foreigners with the same spirit as the certificate proposed by Debito above. But it actually makes me feel uncomfortable and apprehensive. Here’s why:
* Are foreigners so unwelcome in establishments that such a sign is even necessary? This is the only such sign I’ve ever seen in Tokyo. The implication is that stores without such a sign (basically all of them) do not welcome foreigners. How would you feel if American stores had signs that said “Blacks Welcome” or if Paris had signs that said “Muslims Served”?
* The sign is only aimed at English-speaking foreigners. If they really felt the need to say foreigners are welcome, surely there should be a Chinese or Korean equivalent, as such speakers make up a majority of the portion of the large foreign population in Minato-ku.
* The sign is inherently different from the Debito-approved certificate, which welcomes foreigners in Japanese and English. This sign assumes that foreigners are not going to speak Japanese. And if they just want to say that they speak English, then they could say just that — “English Fluent Staff” or some such equivalent.
* As I see it, the biggest challenge for Japanese society is not the acceptance of foreigners — it’s the acceptance of the fact that many foreigners speak Japanese conversantly or even fluently, and to get over it already.

(I know that the mere mention of Debito’s name in a blog post, even in a wholly neutral way, tends to bring out enthusiastic detractors and supporters of him personally, who go off on tangents that ignore the topic at hand to talk about Debito and his activities. I challenge those who feel inclined to give us their personal opinion on how amazing/evil Debito is to focus on this topic, which is the merits and demerits of signs that explicitly welcome foreigners, and signs that explicitly welcome foreigners and assume they don’t speak Japanese, and avoid any conversation about Debito’s activities on “Japanese Only” phenomenon. Thanks.)

Unemployment in Japan by Region

While looking for something else on the web, I stumbled across this page on unemployment in Japan, by region, as of 2007.

unemployment japan

Best Prefectures:
Shimane: 4.1%
Toyama, Nagano: 4.3%
Shizuoka, Fukui, Tottori: 4.4%
Aichi: 4.5%
Niigata: 4.7%

Worst Prefectures:
Okinawa: 11.8%
Kochi, Osaka: 8.6%
Aomori: 8.5%
Tokushima: 7.4%
Fukuoka: 7.5%
Nara: 7.0%

I’m not that surprised that unemployment in Okinawa, Kyushu and Shikoku is bad. And I’m not surprised that manufacturing centers such as Aichi and Shizuoka have very high employment. But I’m surprised that places such as Shimane and Tottori have such full employment — what is the economy out there?

End Hanification! Remembering Urumqi circa 2003

Comments are closed, please join the discussion on this post here.

China Protest
A Han Chinese man carries a spiked steel bar while using his cell phone to take photos as he joins a mob of Han Chinese men attacking Uighur properties in Urumqi. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Starting on the evening of July 5th, riots erupted in Urumqi when Uyghur rioters looted Han Chinese businesses and killed and injured hundreds of Han Chinese. This was followed by a tough police crackdown, which has been followed in turn by Han Chinese revenge violence against Uyghurs.

That this type of event has occurred doesn’t surprise me. I’m sorry to say that the only surprise is that this took so long.

Continue reading End Hanification! Remembering Urumqi circa 2003

Japan’s Possible Mortgage Crisis

I’m on my way out the door for a personal trip that will take me around Hokkaido, so I apologize for writing and posting in haste with what may contain a few leaps of logic and clerical errors, but I saw an article by Business Insider on Japan’s “bizarre new mortgage crisis” (with an inexplicable photo of a crazy Japanese female zombie). The post covers an issue with mortgages that I recently saw profiled in an NHK mini-documentary:

With the onset of the recession, Japanese companies have exercised their option to reduce or even cancel bonuses, and for the past month the media has been buzzing with a new term — June crisis — to describe the situation of workers who may not be able to meet mortgage payments as a result.

June and December are bonus months, and 45 percent of Japanese people with housing loans have contracts that require them to pay larger amounts in these months than they do in other months, in some cases as much as five times.

Publications and TV news shows have been filled with human-interest stories about people suddenly faced with the possibility of losing their homes. The Asahi Shimbun tells of a 40-year-old housewife whose husband did not receive a bonus this month and apparently won’t receive one in December either. Even worse, his salary has been cut by 20 percent. They have 20 years left on their 35-year mortgage. They pay only ¥80,000 a month toward the loan, but during each bonus month they pay ¥400,000. With one child in university and another in junior high school, they have saved very little. “When we took out our mortgage,” the woman says, “it was unthinkable that my husband’s bonus would be zero.”

Business Insider asks from someone in Japan to provide more insight, so I decided to make this post to weigh in with a minor explanation and supplemental comment. In a word, the annual salary of company workers in Japan is regularly divided into 14 month portions, not 12 months — one extra month given during the bonus seasons in the summer and winter. Accordingly, some mortgage products, especially those sold in the 80s and 90s, had extra payments during bonus months. (The trend became very unpopular in recent years and is now much more rare.) However, a problem with this is that although a worker may believe his annual salary to be his monthly amount times 14 (not 12), the bonuses of many companies are not guaranteed, although its payment has long been taken for granted, at least before the current economic crisis that has hit Japan’s exporters hard.

The only additional comment I have is that I don’t expect this to develop into a real “crisis.” Banks do not want to forclose on homes in Japan. With the collapse in housing prices over the past 20 years, lenders would not be able to fully recover on many loans if the borrowers defaulted, and even where the loans permit recourse, it still seems unlikely that banks would benefit by making people lose their homes. Perhaps thats wishful thinking, or even unrealistic, but this is a blog, so tell me in the comments if you think I’m wrong.

And on a final note, I’d always take anything I read in the Japan Times with a big, big bucket of salt — just check out the following unverified assertions using scientific journalistic terms such as “pieces of crap”:

There are more than 6 million vacant houses in Japan. Most will never be sold, because they’re pieces of crap that were never meant to outlast their 35-year mortgages. Condominiums are no better. On average, Tokyo “mansions” built in 1990, when land values peaked, were selling for half their original prices by 2004.

While I may find something to agree with in the commentary of that section, I would like to hear on what basis there are 6 million new and vacant homes, as implied. While there are lots of homes abandoned by families when elderly relatives go into homes or kick the bucket, for estate tax purposes, 6 million vacant homes sounds like unsubstantiated rubish. Certainly the fact that mansions built in 1990 are not selling at half their original price is that homes in Japan depreciate rapidly in price.

Years of Mutantfrog Lobbying Finally Successful!

U.S.-Japan dance on F-22 continues

U.S. defense officials are preparing a version of the stealth F-22 Raptor that Japan has expressed strong interest in buying. While the Department of Defense is working to design an export version of the Raptor, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, this week sent a letter to Japanese Ambassador the United States Ichiro Fujisaki saying that the F-22 would likely carry a price tag of $290 million. Japan has made it known it would like to buy 40 F-22s, made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, so the potential value of the deal is more than $11 billion…

It has taken some time for U.S. and Japanese negotiators to get a deal together for the F-22. And it will take several years of development to get an export version off the ground since there is a large amount of sensitive technology that U.S. officials believe needs protection. Aviation Week estimated it would be 2017 before delivery of the first aircraft to the Japanese air self-defense force.

Japanese defense officials are reportedly looking at other aircraft, including Lockheed’s F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is manufactured by a consortium of Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems and EADS. Neither have all the stealth capabilities of the Raptor, making them substantially less expensive. The Typhoon is estimated to be about $105 million per plane.

Pepsi Shiso: Great Soft Drink, or GREATEST Soft Drink?

pepsi shisoI bought and enjoyed Pepsi Shiso for the first time today (it went on sale on Tuesday). I’m a big fan of the shiso leaf flavor and have enjoyed shiso juice that I’ve bought in the inaka wilderness of both Hokkaido and Kyushu. I LOVE the new soft drink, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the general adventures that can be enjoyed in Japanese nutty snack cuisine.

Unfortunately, it’s a kisetsu gentei drink and will only be sold through the summer. And for those of you who think that Pepsi is some amazing cross-cultural mastermind of Japanese tastebuds, this is actually the brainchild of Suntory Foods, which has wholly owned Pepsi Japan since 1998.

All this being said, you’re going to have to like the taste of shiso to enjoy the drink. But if you love shiso, you’ll love Pepsi Shiso. Want to see a comparison of the color of Pepsi regular and Pepsi Shiso? Check out this photo.

Japan’s Badge Phenomenon

I must confess to a certain nerdish habit when walking around central Tokyo — badge-spotting. Whether it be Japan’s many corporations and the uniform-like consistency in which employees pin the logos to their suits, or the guild-specific badges of many professionals, badges are everywhere. In particular, it’s fun to spot the legal/accounting/tax professionals, often based on a flower blossom motif. This post quickly summarizes the badges of such professionals that you are likely to see in any commercial district of Japan — if you pay close attention.

badge1

The Administrative Scrivener badge has a cosmos flower with the archaic “行” character in the center; the Attorney badge has the scales of justice in the middle of a sunflower, the flower designed to represent justice; the Judicial Scrivener badge is a paulownia, and is silver, apparently specifically to be in second place to the golden badge of the attorney.

badge2

The Tax Lawyer badge is a circle with a sakura cherry blossom in the top; the Patent Attorney badge is a chrysanthemum with an unknown symbol in the center; the Social Insurance and Labor Specialist badge is a chrysanthemum with sharp, not round, petals, with the roman letters “S.R.” for the romanization of the profession’s title, shakaihoken rodoushi,

badge3

The Land Surveyor badge is a paulownia with the archaic “側” character in the center; the CPA (certified public accountant), despite being perhaps the toughest of all state exams together with the bar exam, nonetheless has an utterly cheesy badge that simply bears the roman letters of the English translation of the title; and the Marine Procedure Agent has a badge that is a chrysanthemum with a ship’s steering wheel in the center.

badge4

The badge of a judge is not a flower but the Yata, a mythical mirror that is said to be part of the Imperial Regalia, with the character “裁” in the center; elected members of the Diet have a metal chrysanthemum badge pinned to a thick purple felt patch; and Diet Secretary badges are a wafer thin, red chrysanthemum.

Those of you wannabe lawyers and diet members out there who don’t want to go through the formalities of “passing the bar” or “being elected” are in luck — website PinJP sells replica badges that look just like the real thing. Just don’t actually engage in the act of immitating a lawyer or you’ll face jail time.

Worst. Luck. Ever.

Japanese woman found dead in New Mexico

LOS ANGELES, June 11 (AP) – (Kyodo)—The body of a Japanese woman has been found in New Mexico, local police said Thursday.

Megumi Yamamoto, 26, a graduate physics student at a university in New Mexico, got lost while hiking in a mountainous area near Santa Fe and was rescued by a police helicopter after contacting the local police via mobile phone Tuesday evening.

But the chopper crashed after hitting a mountain during a storm.

Trans-Pacific Radio Live at the Pink Cow, this Thursday

To fellow bloggers and blog readers in Tokyo, Trans-Pacific Radio, which makes Japan-oriented podcasts, is holding a live edition of its political commentary series, Seijigiri, at the Pink Cow in Shibuya this Thursday at 7:30pm. To quote the men themselves:

The event will open with a presentation on Trans-Pacific Radio, followed by the live Seijigiri. After that, there will be a special announcement and demonstration of TPR’s most recent project.

The live show itself will involve Garrett, Ken and the audience. The essential concept is that Seijigiri and the audience will have no barrier between them, and the show will be an interactive event.

We hope to see all of our listeners on Thursday June 4 and look forward to doing the show with you!

The Pink Cow website is here. You can RSVP at meetup or facebook. I plan to attend.