20 November, 2007

Day of Mourning!

I'm declaring a Day of Mourning for the death of human rights in Japan.

With the institution of the fingerprinting, photographing and questioning of non-Japanese visitors entering Japan, and even of residents and permanent residents every time they come back from a visit abroad, I declare that the last vestige of human rights here is dead.

I could say a lot more about the unfriendly climate being generated here for non-Japanese, about the people stopped on the street for questioning when doing nothing more than riding their bicycles to work. About the total lack of human rights legislation, so that people with different skin colours are allowed to be arrested, injured in custody, thrown out of stores and declared non-credible witnesses in court because they are not Japanese. I could talk about how we must register for and carry at all times, on the penalty of being arrested, a "foreign registration card".

I could speak until I felt sick and exhausted with this treatment that should have passed out of the way we treat fellow humans with the great civil rights' struggles of the last century.

I will just say that I, as a person living here for almost 9 years altogether, feel harassed, intimidated, and tired of the racism. I feel more than a little disappointed that my students and more of the Japanese public have not made any effort to say to the government that these policies aren't right. That we have already been processed and registered and given our photographs to officials before we could get work visas or those resident's cards.

Unfortunately, only a few Japanese have even said to me privately they were sorry the government was doing this. I can not find much support for human rights in ordinary people. I think many are too afraid to think for themselves, content to do what the government tells them. I think they actually believe that this will stop "terrorists", which of course to them must be "foreigners". Why do they think that? Well the TV and newspapers and government are saying it's true.

They have short memories. Even I can remember the sarin gas attack that was carried out by a Japanese, and the airplane that was hijacked by members of the Japanese Red Army. The only other acts of terror that I remember, are the North Korean kidnappings of Japanese.

In case you think I'm exaggerating about any of this, I'll refer you to debito.org where you can read more about what's going on.

These days I might be living in pre-war Germany, or the southern United States during the time before the freedom-riders. Japan has taken on some good role models, ones that remind me how misguided policies can lead to sad endings.

12 comments:

  1. How about we all sandpaper our fingerprints off before going through immigration? A small emery board is all it would take...

    On a happier note, the Bollywood curry looks fantastic. I think I'll give that a go!

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  2. I thought it was pretty bad when the US started treating all their visitors (particularly in Chicago) as third class citizens.
    It's not good either, when other countries take a similar stance...even if it is to give some people a dose of their own medicine.

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  3. I'm sad to hear that the fear of "tero" has led Japan to embrace the same kind of airport screening as the US- frankly, I think both countries are making grave mistakes in allowing their concerns over world politics to warp the way they treat both visitors and citizens. I remember the first time I went to Japan, when moving there- we stood in a two hour line at immigration after what was the longest, most exhausting plane ride of my life. I felt like I had been rounded up in a "herd" while lines of permanent residents and citizens zipped merrily past us. Later trips were much better- it seemed like at least someone had realized there was a problem and had worked to fix it. I'm saddened to hear that things have again changed for the worse. I do think the way the US treats travelers at their airports is also dehumanizing and betrays a disturbing lack of human respect for both citizens and visitors. I think there is a disturbing tendency towards profiling in the states as well- but at least here, there is SOME dialog about how we SHOULDN'T practice this.. Not NEAR enough, but... some. Whereas in Japan... well... it often feels like there isn't the same kind of awareness. I know I usually wax nostalgic and happy about Japan- but I do remember the bad parts, too... and... I don't know that I could make my home there permanently. It's exhausting always feeling like an outsider, targeted and marked as different...

    Anyway, interesting post. It saddens me to hear that some of my fears about the political/social climate are being realized. Hang in there... *hugs*

    SS

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  4. Disgusting, eh? But we do it in the 'States too... Which I think is ridiculous on so many levels. I mean, who actually uses fingerprints anymore?

    My friend told me she was going to get either lotion or nasty boogers on her finger as she comes back into the country. =)

    How about the idea that the crime rate is going up because of foreigners? Or, that only foreigners can have AIDS? There is a lot of backwards thinking that isn't going to change as long as the Japanese truly believe they are the superior race because they simply have Japanese blood. Have you seen the BBC article about Nikkeijin (I think that's what they're called) about how the Japanese government actually thinks that Japanese-ancestered Brazilians and Peruvians (etc) are more likely to act Japanese and be able to speak Japanese?

    Gah! I have no solution, but it angers me as well.

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  5. Thanks everyone for your comments of support!

    And thanks for the hugs, SS. They are really appreciated. :)

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  6. Day of mourning, yes.

    Good thing Japan is still not treating visitors as bad as some US cities, like Portland:

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/ore01.shtml

    Deportland...

    The South China Morning Post reported recently that the city was already known as "Deportland" in some Asian countries, and some Japanese travel agencies have been advising their customers to avoid flying through Portland.

    The criticism of the immigration agency here has prompted officials to promise a complete review of the Portland office.

    "We're on the offensive here, and I mean that in a good way," said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the agency's western division.

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  7. I haven't heard about Portland, Martin. I'll take a look. I don't agree with what the US is doing either. It's shocking when countries use the big stick of "terrorism" to justify racial profiling and institute a police state.

    Much of the world seems a bit crazy these days, and though I blame governments, I also am a little tired of the sheep-like attitude of the ordinary person in going along with it all.

    Time to say this is wrong, wherever in the world it occurs.

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  8. You're absolutely right, and it's horrible that all the countries are paranoid enough about the terrorists to punish common and hard-working people that just wants to live or even visit their country.
    I wanted to go to Japan after I finished my studies, not to work, just a simple trip but after I've read this (and many others in other blogs) I think I'll better stay at home.
    And this is so sad, because the Japanese have such an interesting culture, but I guess it will remain the hidden mystery that it was until now.

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  9. Finger printing does seem extreme but many countries require foreigners to register. I like in Ukraine and I must do it. I don't mind though, there are many people that come and go and participating in human trafficking or other shady dealings and they are trying to control those problems.

    BYW, love your blog! I am not vegan but will try some of the recipes and come back for more! They look great! :)

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  10. When I visited Honduras earlier in the year, they also required finger printing upon arrival in the country.

    I might mention that recently the Honduran government has made some sort of agreement with Iran . . .

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  11. I've lived here for about 23 years and haven't experienced any of the horrors you've mentioned. Of course, there is discrimination, but there was a whole lot more when I first came here. And certainly not more, that I've experienced, since 9/11, even though I live near a military base, and frequently photograph birds in the area. A foreigner with a bag full of photo gear on a bicycle doesn't seem to worry them. But then maybe I don't fit the exact profile of the kind of foreigner that might be attracting their attention.

    I am sorry to hear you and some of your acquaintances are going through this, though, and the Bollywood Curry does look very nice.

    Gripped,
    Kevin

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  12. thiago kisarigi:

    Thanks for your comment.

    Paranoid and using it as the excuse to "register" everyone on the planet, maybe.

    michelle:

    Thanks for commenting. Many countries may be doing it, but few are fingerprinting work-visa holders and permanent residents.

    anonymous:
    Sorry to hear Honduras is doing it too. I'm not usre what you mean by "an agreement with Iran." Can you elaborate?

    Kevin:

    I'm glad to hear you have avoided any problems. For me, though not having experienced any extreme actions, the discrimination has just added up in small increments until it's become uncomfortable. The latest fingerprinting law was the straw that broke the camel's back.

    But for people who haven't read my earlier posts, you might not know that I have great affection for many Japanese people, among them a lot of my students and ex-students. No one can say that they haven't been helpful and very kind to me over the years.

    For their sake as well as mine, I hope Japan will move toward a more equitable and multi-cultural perspective and enact human rights' legislation soon. It would be a great good for everyone.

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