JIN-364 -- Back to the Tokugawa Period

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T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R

Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 364
Tuesday April 11, 2006 TOKYO

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Back to the Tokugawa Period

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Time: 6:30 Doors open, buffet dinner included
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Open to all - Location is Foreign Correspondents- Club

@@ VIEWPOINT: Back to the Tokugawa Period

In the Tokugawa Period (1603-1867) families in Edo (now Tokyo)
were organized into units of five, the so-called gonin-gumi.
One function of the gonin-gumi was to keep an eye on other
families and to report any breaches of law.

I recalled the gonin-gumi system when I learned of the Justice
Ministry's scheme to consolidate immigration control by
equipping field officers with portable handsets for reading
maps of illegal residents' addresses. The reason the gonin-gumi
system sprang to mind was that the Ministry will depend on tips
from citizens for its information.

The Ministry will incorporate the scheme in its "Plan for the
Optimization of Immigration Control Operations and Systems," to
be announced officially this month. It has yet to be decided
whether the Ministry will share this dubious information with
the police.

According to the Ministry, there were 193,000 "overstays" as of
January this year. That is the first time the figure has dropped
below 200,000 since 1991. If the number of illegal arrivals are
added, the total of illegal residents is 250,000 (2003). The
government's goal is to halve their number by 2008.

In order to realize that goal, the Justice Ministry implemented
in 2004 a system by which local residents email the addresses
and work places of foreigners suspected of being in Japan
illegally. The emails, together with letters and phone calls,
total 16,000 annually.

Foreigners without visas whose names and addresses were
registered with local governments numbered 19,000 in 2004.
These foreigners register at the risk of detection as illegals
in order to acquire a certificate of alien registration, which
serves in place of an identification card for opening a bank
account, purchasing a cellphone, etc.

The Justice Ministry has obtained this information before, but
only been able to use it as textual data -- a situation that
inhibits connecting the dots between multiple reports. The
Immigration Bureau explains that the downloading of information
on a map readable by a portable handset will facilitate
exposure of illegal residents by officers in the field. The map
will indicate the names of foreigners sans visas yet registered
with the local government, establishments with a history of
employing illegal workers, and the addresses of foreigners
suspected of illegal stays.

According to the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ),
many visaless foreigners register with local governments in
order to be able to send their children to public schools.
Manami Yano, SMJ's Director, told the "Asahi Shimbun," a major
daily, "Few [illegals] are involved in serious crimes. It is a
mistake to regard [the population] of illegals as a breeding
ground of crime." The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA)
calls for the suspension of e-snitching on suspected illegals,
"because "it will encourage anonymous tips by citizens." The
JFBA was joined in its criticism by the UN Commission on Human
Rights, which commented that the system would fan hatred of

The Tokugawa shoguns were hereditary military rulers of a
society divided into rigid classes with an untouchable caste
at the bottom. Confessions were wrung from suspects by torture.
Execution was by the sword. The gonin-gumi, a system of neighbor
ratting on neighbor, helped maintain order and, thereby,
perpetuate the Tokugawa government.

Post-implementation of the Justice Ministry's new plan, Big Brother
will be watching Japan's quarter of a million illegal residents.
Setting aside the shades of totalitarianism, while the Japanese
birthrate plummets and population declines, it makes no sense
to expel foreign workers. What is the Justice Ministry thinking?

I don't believe it is.

-- Burritt Sabin
Nippon Medical University is seeking foreigners living in the Tokyo
area to be simulated patients for new medical students.

April 13 (Thursday) from 12:45 - 16:40

Organizer and facilitators
Dr. Kazue Takayanagi, Dr. T. Saito, Dr. T. Shimura
Nippon Medical School
Phone: 03-3822-2131 (5411,5413) fax 03-3822-8144
Email: taka-y@nms.ac.jp
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SUBSCRIBERS: 31,346 as of April 10, 2006

Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)


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