* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.
General Edition Sunday, November 20, 2016, Issue No. 874
- What's New -- Immigrating To Japan And How Others Are Arriving Here
- News -- Casino baron loses defamation suit against Reuters
- Upcoming Events
- Travel Picks -- Ramen Cakes in Shinjuku, Green Tea Sweets in Ehime
- News Credits
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
Immigrating To Japan And How Others Are Arriving Here
The news releases are coming thick and fast on Abe administration
efforts to increase immigration, without actually admitting that this is
what they are doing. In the last few weeks we've heard about fast-track
permanent residency for skilled immigrants, increased uptake and
oversight of so-called trainees for farms and factories, more workers to
care for patients in hospitals and aged care facilities, and even
disappearing tourists after arriving from places like Myanmar. They're
all seeking a better life economically in Japan and most of them are
expected to return home eventually.
Reading these reports, you'd be under the impression that Japan is a
tough country to gain work permission for and that the government is
only reluctantly opening the immigration door a tiny fraction, so that
it can keep the numbers down and manageable. This is certainly the
narrative that the government wants to play for its own citizens.
However, the reality is that Japan is one of the easiest first-world
economies for an outsider to enter and participate in - you just need to
do it the right way.
That right way is either as a student, a skilled employee, or as a
As of May 1st, 2015, Japan had approximately 208,380 international
students, of which 152,000 were studying in higher education
institutions and 56,000 were studying in Japanese language schools. In
recent years, the rising foreign student population has been a major
source of "hidden" immigration growth, with about 13.2% more students in
2015 than 2016, and most likely (no numbers out yet), a similar increase
It goes without saying that the bulk of these students are from China,
94,111 of them. Although some of the academic-track kids are here to
learn and somehow integrate into Japanese society, we believe most are
here either to qualify for professional positions at international
companies, or they are prepping in order to get into a higher-level
school in a more desirable country (USA, Canada, Australia, etc.). Japan
is seen in China as a "hardship post" but nonetheless is a useful
stepping stone on the way to getting a Masters or PhD somewhere else.
The other four top nationalities are: 2. Vietnam (38,882), 3. Nepal
(16,250), 4, S. Korea (15,279), and 5. Taiwan (7,314). The USA comes in
at No. 10 with 2,423 kids.
The real action and "stickiness" is happening with the language school
students, who come here ostensibly to learn Japanese, but given that
they can also work 28 hours a week, it's obvious that many of them are
here for the money as well. Indeed, these are the people we are seeing
in convenience stores and pubs all over Japan, and given that they
actually do learn reasonable Japanese, they are generally considered
desirable long-term employees by short-handed Japanese firms and so find
their way into regular jobs and regular visa statuses. We suppose that
Japan's hidden immigration hopes lie with this cohort, given that the
kids are learning Japanese and are careful not to cause trouble, so as
to keep extending their student visas until they can transition to
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2. Skilled Employees:
In 1990, the Japanese government changed a long-held policy that
companies could only hire foreigners if the employer had enough revenues
to demonstrate reliability and a commitment to local employment first.
In fact, at that time companies could only hire one foreigner for every
JPY50m of revenue, meaning that smaller and start-up companies were
unable to hire engineers who were otherwise in short supply locally.
After the rule change, the floodgates opened and in the following 10
years tens of thousands of skilled foreign engineers and teachers
entered Japan. That flow only subsided after the stock market bubble
collapse started to bite, and as US-based H1B visas, also introduced in
1990, started to appear. The USA has always been a vastly more
attractive location with better financial prospects than has Japan.
The process of getting a foreign skilled worker into Japan is
straightforward and providing the process is followed, likely to yield
success. In other words, there are no limits, serious hurdles, or other
impediments to a small company bringing in as many foreigners as they
like. Currently the two major requirements are either a suitable
academic qualification or suitable proof of experience, as well as the
company being able to offer a minimum wage level for the employee to
survive in Japan and to pay its taxes. The minimum wage varies with the
individual preferences of the interviewing officer, but generally seems
to be around JPY200,000~JPY250,000/month.
For academic qualification, the applicant needs to meet the terms of
their relevant visa type, and to have graduated from an approved
university. Back in the old days (15+ years ago), holders of English
degrees could pick up fake papers in Thailand, but Immigration now has
lists of entities that are recognized and can/do contact them to verify
the veracity of the papers.
More subjective and so more problematic is getting visas for skilled
workers who do not have the requisite academic qualifications. This is
often the case with language instructors, software developers, and
others with a disadvantaged background and who couldn't/didn't go to
university. The applicant needs to be able to procure and provide
authentic papers proving both duration of employment and also the nature
of employment -- all quite reasonable.
Entry based on experience changes for each visa category. For example, a
humanities-type position such as a teacher has to prove relevant
teaching for at least four years, while an engineering position has to
show relevant industry experience for ten years. The government's
various immigration websites don't mention this crucial point, and so
usually it is beholden on the applicant to present themselves personally
at Immigration and learn the requirements, or to hire an agent to do it
The great thing about an agent is that they can "negotiate" some of the
fine points. For example, can your technical school training qualify as
part of your practical experience (the answer is often "yes")? Or, did
that part-time job you did qualify (again "yes")? The objective is to
get written credible endorsements from either the past employing
companies or former bosses. This can be a painful process, but the great
thing about Japanese Immigration is that if you check off all the
paperwork boxes and so long as you don't have a criminal record, sooner
or later the permission to work will come through.
3. Marriage & Similar Partners:
Unlike many Western countries, it has been incredibly easy for
foreigners to get residence status if they marry a Japanese. None of the
U.S. style enforced separations of newly wed couples while the American
partner tries to get applications in. In 2013 there were 21,488
international marriages registered here, out of a total 660,613
marriages for that year. If this number sounds a bit low, it's because
after 2006 the number of international marriages, which in 2006 were
44,701 partnerships, did fall dramatically due to harsh new rules re
proving co-habitation and other proof of actual marriage conditions -
mostly imposed on foreign women marrying Japanese men. Filipina
entertainers who traditionally had been popular for marriage proposals
from older Japanese men were the main target and from 12,150 marriages
in 2006, by 2013 this number plummeted to just 3,118. With the new visa
categories, we're sure this number will recover significantly in the
Most international marriages involve a foreign bride and Japanese man,
with 15,442 people - over double that of the 6,046 foreign grooms.
Almost as significant for immigration in terms of numbers of new
Japanese nationals (which some of the above immigrants may chose to
become) is the 2008 law change that gave Japanese nationality to kids
born out of wedlock. Getting an illegitimate child recognized is still
difficult, but at least now a law suit can be brought anytime after the
birth, and the alleged father can be required to take paternity tests. A
Nikkei article on this law change estimated about 2,800 kids known to
have Japanese fathers were living in Japan, however, another expert
interviewed by the Japan Times reckoned the number in Japan alone was
about 10,000. We imagine maybe double or triple this number living
overseas, mostly in SE Asia, due to the rampant sex tourism by Japanese
businessmen back in the 1980's and 1990's.
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- New anti-abuse law for foreign trainees
- Govt to give Mageshima to US military?
- Apple stuck for OLED suppliers
- Casino baron loses defamation suit against Reuters
- Care staff to join nurses for special visas
=> New anti-abuse law for foreign trainees
It's been said that Japan's foreign trainee program is modern-day
slavery and given the various tales of abuse that have emerged, it's
hard to disagree. A recent study by the Health Ministry found that about
70% of the 5,200 entities employing trainees were violating labor laws,
including withholding passports, restricting trainees' movement,
underpayments, and illegal pay deductions. The government has now
established an inspection body to check up on companies and
organizations hiring such trainees. As an incentive, those companies
found to be taking good care of their people will be allowed to keep the
trainee for up to 5 years, rather than the current 3. ***Ed: Two-edged
sword for the trainees of course, but at least the arrangement is
mutual, offering vital income for those unable to earn an income back
home while at the same time keeping Japan's farms and SME manufacturers
going.** (Source: TT commentary from japantimes.co.jp, Nov 18, 2016)
=> Govt to give Mageshima to US military?
Maybe PM Abe has already offered Mageshima as a gift to Donald Trump
during his recent visit to the USA? No one is saying, but it does seem
to be a coincidence that the government has decided to purchase
privately-held Mageshima island so that it can offer the said site to
the US military for remote field carrier landing practice (FCLP).
Apparently Mageshima, which is only 12km from Japan's space agency
launch location of Tanegashima, is much closer (only 400km) to the US
Iwakuni base than the current practice location, which is Iwojima, about
1,500km away. (Source: TT commentary from the-japan-news.com, Nov 18, 2016)
=> Apple stuck for OLED suppliers
Good article by Bloomberg about Apple's ironic dependence on competitor
Samsung as its only supplier of OLED displays for next-generation
smartphones. OLEDs, which are thinner and more energy efficient, as well
as being much brighter, are a highly visible improvement that Apple
wants to put into its phones, especially since Samsung is gaining market
share by having them. The other companies that plan to launch OLED
production are LG, Sharp, and Japan Display, but both of the Japanese
companies have said that they won't start shipping until 2018. Apple's
first OLED order with Samsung is expected to be for 100m pieces.
(Source: TT commentary from bloomberg.com, Nov 16, 2016)
=> Casino baron loses defamation suit against Reuters
Japan's version of Steve Wynn of Las Vegas, Kazuo Okada of Universal
Entertainment, has lost a defamation claim against Reuters. Okada
brought the law suit after Reuters ran a story about Universal paying a
consultant US$40m in relation to a huge casino development that Okada's
company is building in Manila. ***Ed: Okada is in a seamy business, but
you do have to have some sympathy for the guy, who has been stiffed by
partners as often as he has. Luckily for him, the Japan-based
pachinko-making business is still as strong as ever.** (Source: TT
commentary from reuters.com, Nov 17, 2016)
=> Care staff to join nurses for special visas
The government is pretty serious about bringing in urgently needed cheap
labor, and after beefing up the trainee program it is now giving visas
to nursing care workers, to increase the availability of bedside and
janitorial workers in hospitals and old age homes. The new visa category
entrants will primarily be from Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Japan needs about 380,000 caregivers over the next 10 years. ***Ed: One
good side affect of the program will be that Japanese nurses are more
likely to rejoin the profession, since currently so many of them leave
due to the tough physical environment.** (Source: TT commentary from
asia.nikkei.com, Nov 19, 2016)
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.
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+++ UPCOMING EVENTS
------------------ ICA Event - December 15th-------------------
Title: "ICA JAPAN BONENKAI - THURSDAY 15TH DECEMBER 2016"
Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2016
Time: 19:30pm to 22:30pm - Doors open. As a set menu it will include
multitude of food including Beers, Wines, Juices, Shochu and Soft Drinks
Cost: 5,500 yen - Open to all. No sign ups at the door! First registered
will secure a place as seats are very limited.
RSVP: By 10am on Monday 12th December, 2016. Venue is Andy's Shin
Hinomoto at Yurakucho.
+++ TRAVEL DESTINATIONS PICKS
=> Ramen Cake!? Tokyo
Shinjuku cake shop sells cake disguised as ramen
Don't let its delicious looks fool you! This bowl of ramen is actually
not a piping hot bowl of ramen, but a cake! The Sweets Paradise booth
located in Shinjuku Station sells these adorable ramen cakes, as well as
other novelty cakes like maguro-don cakes, oden cakes, and omelette rice
I bought the ramen cake to try for ¥1020. It is literally in a take away
ramen bowl, so that gives you an idea of the size of the cake! It is
quite a lot for one person to finish, so I do recommend sharing it with
others if you can. The way the cake is made is actually quite clever.
First of all, the ramen noodles are made from chestnut cream, the same
style as the famous Mont Blanc cake. Since the noodles take up a large
percent of the cake, it just feels like you're eating a giant version of
the Mont Blanc! Next, the ramen toppings (seaweed, cha-shu, narutomaki,
etc.) are all cookies! Finally, the ramen soup effect is achieved by
setting the whole cake in jelly.
=> Kiri no Mori, Ehime
A local delicacy
Nestled in the mountains of Shikokuchuo City in Ehime is Kiri no Mori, a
sweet shop and cafe famous among locals. And while it might not be known
outside of eastern Ehime, Kiri no Mori is well worth a visit.
The name "Kiri no Mori" roughly translates as "misty forest," and it
paints an accurate image of the shop's setting. It's in a secluded
location in the mountains bordering Kagawa prefecture and is hard to
access except by car. But the scenery and mystical atmosphere alone are
worth the trek.
The shop itself is set on top of a hill, with a footpath leading down
into a wooded area. Visitors can follow the footpath down a staircase
and explore the mossy banks of a stream. With its many trees, this area
is a prime place to view autumn colors. After exploring the lush glade
and stream surrounding the shop, visitors can head inside for
refreshment at the "cha-fe" - a combination of the Japanese word for tea
and the word "cafe."
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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