* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
General Edition Sunday, Oct 13, 2013, Issue No. 730
- What's New -- Spring, One Way to Get More Immigrants
- News -- Anti-Korea 'Hate Speech' ruled illegal
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Hate Speech ruled illegal
- Travel Picks -- Onsen in Gunma, History in Oita
- News Credits
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
A record high number of tourists traveled to Japan in August this year, with 906,700 people taking in the sights. The consensus is that the increase is due to both the drop in the value of the yen and the easing in the issuance of visas to tourists from SE Asia, most notably Thailand and Malaysia. Indeed, the number of travelers from Thailand jumped 100% to 23,900 while those from Malaysia increased 42% to 11,000. The greatest numbers of visitors, however, came from Japan's neighbors, Korea (215,600) Taiwan (194,900), and China (162,900), with the former two seemingly getting over their fears of Fukushima.
One project we're involved in also contributed in a small way to the numbers. www.japantourist.jp, brought in more than 30 journalist interns, each of whom then spent between 1-3 months traveling the country and documenting their experiences. The program was successful, generating thousands of photos and articles, and thereby providing reinforcement for others that Japan is a highly desirable place to come visit.
Almost to a person, the interns were impressed by those things that we as long-term residents take for granted: clean streets, courteous citizens, high-quality delicious food, safety, reasonable prices, and the fact that Japan is very different to anywhere else. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that of those 30+ interns, about 20% expressed a desire to come back to Japan to experience it more deeply (repeat travelers), and 10% said they wanted to live and find jobs here. Indeed, several have already started that process. With all its faults, Japan is easy to like.
What we experienced in our microcosm of tourist inflow is probably being repeated in the minds of many other visitors, "Hmmm, I could get used to this, I wonder if Japan would be a nice place to live?" If 10% (or even 10% of that 10%) of the almost 1m visitors in August could stay, they probably would. And since they are tourists, one assumes that they have reasonable jobs and incomes to allow them the luxury of leisure travel, and thus many of them probably meet the basic criteria of Japanese immigration authorities that new immigrants be "rich".
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So why aren't more people moving to Japan permanently? The Japanese take on immigration hurdles is that there is the lack of decent facilities for foreigners -- such as international schools and international doctors, and they agree that eligibility screening is probably too hard. Oh, and there is the lack of suitable tax incentives for corporations. While these are all no doubt factors in the decision-making of a potential immigrant, our guess is that the main reason for paucity of numbers is much more basic -- the low availability of jobs.
Ironic, because it is already ridiculously easy for a foreigner to get a visa to work in Japan. We continually meet people traveling here on a tourist visa, scouting out the job market, including taking interviews, then if they are lucky enough to get a job they will usually get a promise from the hirer to support their visa application. If you have a 4-year degree in a technical field or the appropriate length of work experience, then having a sponsor pretty much guarantees you're going to get that visa. Unlike the U.S. and its H-1B visa quotas, companies here can hire as many foreigners as they like.
So the problem isn't that it is hard for companies to sponsor you. Instead, the first major hurdle is that no matter how professionally skilled you may be, if you don't speak Japanese, it is unlikely that a regular Japanese firm can take you on. Frequent interpersonal communication is more important for the Japanese than it is for most cultures, and only the larger firms have R&D operations that readily support bilingual (mostly English) environments. OK, there are exceptions, for example, foreign firms who are already internationalized, and some software firms, who will take anyone who can "speak" PHP or MySQL. But in the big picture of things, most employers are language-challenged.
Secondly, and perhaps the bigger and more unfixable problem is the fact that those Japanese companies having the luxury of being able to hire new foreign workers are generally reluctant to take on foreigners in a lasting capacity, since they perceive foreigners to think and act differently (which is mostly true) and thus will be a problem to integrate and/or promote. This is why, even after overcoming the language barrier, many young foreigners find themselves stuck in the service sector (i.e., convenience stores) or in Japanese companies expanding abroad and who quickly want to send their new charges back to their own countries again.
However, one type of company that doesn't mind foreigners, because they can't afford to be choosy, is start-ups -- especially those in the IT space. We see many such companies in incubators and accelerators who have foreign software developers and in some cases foreign designers and biz dev staff as well, because they know that once you get past the language gap, pound-for-pound foreigners are generally both cheaper and higher skilled than their Japanese counterparts, and most importantly they are willing to take the risk of working in a start-up.
Therefore, we think that one way to fix not only Japan's meager immigration inflows, but also its growing economic hollowing out in general, is to encourage the immigration of foreign entrepreneurs into Japan and have them build businesses here. In last week's Take we mentioned that 90% of Japanese work for small companies -- so to keep employment high, it's clear that we need more small companies, especially ones run by risk-taking foreigners. It's not like the Japanese themselves haven't thought of using immigration in this way. We have mentioned in previous Takes how METI wanted to introduce an "entrepreneur visa" several years ago, which would have been issued to younger applicants who had an idea but not much else. Unfortunately the concept didn't fly, and we can guess that the main reason was because this type of visa could be easily abused.
Instead, we think that METI and others should be looking to Singapore and its government-owned Spring corporation as a possible model. Singapore appears to have figured out that to bring entrepreneurs to their country, you not only need tax incentives, which for the first 3-5 years of a start-up's life don't have any value any how (because they're still spending money, not making it), you also need to provide access to capital. Spring and Singapore's other agencies have a number of programs that allow foreigners wanting to start up in Singapore to tap into funds.
Actually, for a semi-governmental body, it's surprising how much risk Spring is willing to take. The grants and investments can rise into the millions of Singaporean dollars range. However, they reduce those risks by ensuring that the applying entrepreneur has already been vetted by trusted co-investors. Spring achieves this by connecting start-ups through its Business Angels Scheme (BAS) to more than five business angel groups, who have been authorized by the government. So by the time the government lays out its dollar-for-dollar cash matching, there will already be private investors in the firm who have thoroughly vetted the start-up, its technology, prospects, and management team. Japan badly needs a program like this, first for foreign firms (since that will be easier to sell, as the numbers will be limited), then later for Japanese start-ups.
We couldn't find any stats on how successful the various Singaporean government start-up programs have been, but they do note on one of their web sites (http://bit.ly/12SPTee) that the number of companies in Singapore which are under 5 years old, their definition of a start-up, has increased from 2002 to 2009 by about 25%, from 27,000 to 36,000 companies. Furthermore, the government there reckons that these start-ups employed more than 300,000 people and generated revenues of more than S$166bn (JPY13trn).
That seems like a pretty decent recipe for economic revival to us.
...The information janitors/
------------- YOKOHAMA ENGLISH SITE RENEWAL ---------------
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Survey link: http://goo.gl/MRMsCX
- Amazingly fit over-70's
- MOOCs coming to Japan
- Why don't they export them?
- No. millionaires falls by 1.3m
- Anti-Korea 'Hate Speech' ruled illegal
=> Amazingly fit over-70's
While in most of the world being 70 or older is the last stage of one's life, and thus often punctuated by health and mental problems, in Japan, it is just the latest generation to realize they have more years ahead of them. A MEXT survey has found that 44% of women aged 70-74 belong to sports clubs or community sports groups. What's even more surprising is that almost all of those women (i.e., 40% of the total) continue with the sports clubs until 79. ***Ed: At that rate, we expect that the life expectancy for Japanese women will only keep rising.** (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Oct 13, 2013)
=> MOOCs coming to Japan
We wrote about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Terrie's Take 724, and now it seems that the fad is about to hit Japan. A new promotional body, called Japan Massive Open Online Courses (JMOOC) has been set up, with Meji University, Tokyo University, Kyoto University, NTT DoCoMo, Fujitsu, Sumitomo and others supporting it. The new organization seems likely to use the Coursera model, where they will draw a few courses from many universities, and reckons that it will attract as many as 1m users. ***Ed: Of course this will depend on whether they run those courses in English or Japanese. If in English, they have their work cut out for them to improve the level of language used. Existing online offerings by individual universities are pretty terrible.** (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Oct 12, 2013)
=> Why don't they export them?
Gotta feel sorry for the nation's matsutake mushroom farmers. Because of ideal growing conditions this year, the sector had a bumper crop and as a result, prices have fallen up to 40%. Midweek, matsutake mushrooms were trading on the Tsukiji wholesale market for JPY26,000/400gm. Domestic shipments are up, however, and Tokyo consumers took about 30% more than last year. The total output of matsutake for 2013 is expected to be 140 tons. (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Oct 11, 2013)
=> No. millionaires falls by 1.3m
According to the latest Credit Suisse global wealth report, due to currency valuation changes and other factors, Japan lost 1.3m dollar-equivalent millionaires in the last 12 months (June 2012-June 2013). The report measures "millionaires" in terms of their next wealth, including real estate. The fall was by far the greatest of any nation covered in the report, but still places Japan at the No. 2 spot just behind the USA and well ahead of China. Japan now has 2.655m dollar millionaires. (Source: TT commentary from qz.com, Oct 11, 2013)
=> Anti-Korea 'Hate Speech' ruled illegal
Well, it appears that Japan does have a law against hate speech, as was proven in a ruling by Kyoto District Court. The court awarded the plaintiffs, a Kyoto-based Korean school, JPY12m compensation from the rightist group who had targeted them. This is the first time that the judiciary has acknowledged that hate speech is racial discrimination, and it's expected that the ruling will set a precedent for similar actions against rightists elsewhere in the country. (Source: TT commentary from abcnews.go.com, Oct 7, 2013)
NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.
+++ WEB CONTENT/TECH VACANCIES
=> Are you in web content or engineering? If so, this section is for you.
** HIGHLIGHTED POSITION
- IT Support Person
Japan Inc. Communications is looking for an experienced IT support person, to maintain PCs, mobile devices, web servers, networks, and backup devices. The role can be performed in English, although some Japanese ability is desirable. The position is open to anyone with 1-3 years of suitable experience, and could conceivably be performed on a part-time basis by someone learning Japanese. Visa sponsorship is a possibility for the right person.
Friendly team, interesting technology, and varied work are all part of the opportunity. Please send your resume to email@example.com.
** OTHER MEDIA POSITIONS VACANT
- Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal (www.japantourist.jp), JPY3M - JPY5M
- Bilingual experienced sales manager for web media properties, JPY4M-JPY5M + 10% commission
- Japanese language web project manager, bilingual, JPY4M - JPY5.5M
- Bilingual web designer, for mostly Japanese-language websites for foreign firms, JPY4M - JPY5M
- English-only experienced PHP Zend software developer, 5 years experience, JPY3.5M - JPY5M
Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS
----------------- ICA Event - October 24th ----------------
Speaker: Dr David Sweet , Managing Director of the human capital consultancy, Top Grade Japan
Title: "Aftershock: The New Job Market Landscape in Japan"
Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
Date: Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members), open to all. No sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 10am on Monday 21st October
Venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan
=> In TT-728, we commented on hate speech in Japan and the lack of means to control such hostile behavior. We published a letter from one of our readers who took exception to the article, and this week received a further comment from another reader who feels that hate speech can be controlled.
*** Reader's Comment:
It's ironic that an email defending the supposed freedom of expression in Japan opens by urging you to stay mum about politics. Unfortunately, that email is at least as poorly informed about relevant laws as it claims you are.
First of all, unlike the US constitution, the Japanese constitution currently allows *all* freedoms to be restricted for the sake of the public welfare. See Articles. 12 and 13. Article 12 also imposes an obligation on the people not to "abuse" any of these freedoms.
Next, unlike the US Supreme Court (at least, at various points during US history), Japan's Supreme Court is not a guardian of civil rights. In over 60 years it has invalidated only 8 statutes of any type. It has *never* invalidated a statutory restriction on freedom of speech. Among the restrictions it has upheld are criminal liability for "illegal" labor strikes, and criminal liability for political activity by government employees, even if the activity is on their own time, using their own resources, and without using any official authority. (Shigenori Matsui, "The Constitution of Japan: A Contextual Analysis," (Hart 2011), pp. 164-170.) For more examples of permitted restrictions on speech, both political and non-political, and including the Supreme Court's willingness to allow prior restraint of speech (generally unconstitutional in the US), see Chap. 7 of Carl Goodman's "The Rule of Law in Japan" (3rd ed., Kluwer 2012).
By the way, while foreign nationals lawfully in Japan have a right to freely express their views, the Supreme Court has held that foreign nationals do not have any "right" to enter Japan, and that their exercise of free speech rights may be grounds for denying them a re-entry visa or extension of their visa. (McLean Visa Case, Grand Bench 1978.)
Also unlike the US, Japan doesn't have any comprehensive civil rights legislation. Consequently, certain private action that discriminates on the basis of religion, nationality, gender, sexuality, etc. may be permitted in Japan, even though it would be punishable in the US. I haven't looked into the question of how many countries have both hate speech laws and civil rights legislation (though the EU does have several directives pertinent to anti-discrimination). But civil rights legislation in the US may partly perform the functions of a restriction on hate speech, at least in contexts like employment, provision of services, etc. On the other hand, this difference between the two countries' laws also means that it's easier to get away with certain forms of hate-motivated discrimination in Japan.
Concerning correlation and causation, the circumstance (accepted for the sake of argument) that countries with hate speech laws have high levels of violence against minorities isn't sufficient to lead to the conclusion that such laws don't help to protect those minorities. Perhaps the laws were enacted because of even higher levels of violence previously. One would need before/after data, and perhaps other information, before one could conclude that the laws don't bring any benefit.
One should also keep in mind that *reported* levels of violence or discrimination in places like the U.S. might not accurately reflect the levels of such activities in the society, in the absence of a legal remedy. For example, probably there were many incidents of U.S. racial discrimination and violence that weren't "reported" in the 1930s, because there wasn't any law prohibiting such behavior and because there were few sympathetic agencies to enforce such laws. In contrast, the same types of activities might be reported more conscientiously 50 years later, since the passage of civil rights statutes.
On a personal note, like your correspondent I am an American and a member of a religious/ethnic minority with a couple-thousand-year history of persecution. One of the finer religious and cultural traditions of that particular minority is a sense of duty to speak out against injustice. As a permanent resident of Japan, I believe that duty continues to apply here, too.
---------------- Help Still Needed in Tohoku --------------
The Japan Emergency Team, operator of Japan`s only Disaster Relief Vehicle is asking for help to keep the Disaster Relief Vehicle running. The DRV, a 30 foot converted Motorhome sleeps up to ten, has shower, cooking, facilities and is still on site in Tohoku where it assisted in providing showers, food and emergency assistance as it still does. In addition it has a mobile `convenience store` which provides necessities to those in temporary housing.
The Japan Emergency Team was formed in 1989 when 38 students from Chuo University went to assist in the San Francisco Earthquake making history as the first overseas disaster assistance from Japan. When there is not an ongoing disaster in progress the DRV visits schools, government and other events to promote disaster awareness and is as much in demand when there is a disaster as when there is not.
Sponsorship includes a logo on the side of the DRV, participation in regular disaster awareness events and more. Those able to help are asked to contact email@example.com for a sponsorship packet or to invite the DRV to an event.
+++ TRAVEL DESTINATIONS PICKS
=> Oita's Samurai House, Ohara Tei
The Edo period frozen in time
Nestled on the south-eastern tip of the Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita prefecture lies the beautiful albeit small town of Kitsuki. Despite its rich history as well as surprising abundance of things to see and do, Kitsuki is rarely visited by tourists, let alone foreign ones. It is well off the beaten path and can be extremely difficult to get to without a car and a guide.
Over summer vacation in my final year of college, I was lucky to have both. My all-American family and I were driven an hour and a half away from Beppu city to Kitsuki by Oita Prefecture natives eager to show off the many treasures their home had to offer. The main objective of our journey to Kitsuki was to visit "Ohara Tei", the historic home of a samurai who lived during the Edo period. The road leading towards the samurai house was bumpy and narrow, composed of rustic cobble stones and lined by high walls on both sides. Despite the boxy ice-blue Suzuki we were riding in, it was as though we had been transported back in time.
=> Shima Seiryu no Yu, Gunma-ken
A treat for Onsen and nature lovers
Shima Seiryuu no Yu makes a great onsen day trip. Shima Seiryuu no Yu is only a 20 minute walk from Sekizenkan Ryokan. You only need to walk down the main road following the Shima river, enjoying being surrounded by the verdant mountain scenery. For those arriving from Nakanojo station, there is a local bus from the station that stops outside Shima Seiryuu no Yu. To access Shima Seiryuu no Yu, you will need to cross a bridge labelled "Asahi-hashi" meaning "morning sun bridge" -- nice name. I recommend that you take a few moments to stop at this bridge and allow the dazzling view of the Shima river wash over you.
The onsen is frequented by many of the Nakanojo town locals and opens between 10am-9pm. However during winter, Shima Seiryuu no Yu will close at 8pm. Also, please note that they close every fourth Wednesday of the month and from December 27th-29th every year. The entry fee for adults is 500 yen for 2 hours, 800 yen for 4 hours and 1,500 Yen for all day.
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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