Foreign expert tries to line up cushy government commission

From Christmas Day in the Japan Times, someone perhaps trying to set himself up as the next Alex Kerr fixes Japan’s tourist industry. Reading the article I got a similar feeling as to when I read Kerr’s Lost Japan, of a man a bit too full of himself and his achievements of knowing Japan better than the Japanese. 

“If love for Japan is indeed a worldwide trend, as Japanese people themselves say, why is it that only 13 million people visited the country this year, while in France they had some 83 million visitors?”

Umm, does anyone not know the answer to that one?

Most have little real engagement with Japan during their visit. Only 3 to 4 million of the total, he said, truly explore the nature and culture and form a real connection.

Sounds a bit like a “No true Scotsmantish Tourist” argument, and 25% sounds like a healthy percentage to me, indeed if anything is greater than I would guess if “true exploration” meant venturing further than Ginza department stores and a few photos at the Meiji Shrine.

Its priorities should include […] installing signs in English that have been proofread by a native speaker

In particular by this guy’s company, perhaps? Korean and Chinese would be more important, of course.

producing souvenirs that match foreigners’ lifestyles

I agree than most often souvenirs appear to be targeted to Japan day-trippers, but just last night on the news I saw that in New Chitose Airport, mainland Asians were buying snack boxes by the carton and delaying flights as the baggage handlers couldn’t keep up.

Many souvenir dishes, for example, are simply too small to be used in foreign cuisine.

“Western”, not “foreign”? Expecting a chawan to be super-sized doesn’t quite feel right to me.

Tourists place no great value in some of the qualities Japanese often brag about, including safety, clean streets and the punctuality of public transportation, Atkinson said.

Really? Getting to where you are going on time without being robbed is of no great value?

These things “may be interesting to see once or twice. But visitors don’t come back” to see them again.

That’s different from “no great value”, and visitors don’t tend to come back if they feel unsafe.

It is “embarrassing” for Japan to be proud of such small things while its government is not spending enough to maintain and restore cultural properties, he added.

In other words, “I want my government contract!”

Fortunately, Japan is blessed with four assets any nation aspiring to be a successful tourism destination must have: a culture, a history, a mild climate and glorious nature, Atkinson said.

“A mild climate”? I’m freezing my nuts off here! The list sounds a bit four season-ish to me.

“If they can collaborate more with foreigners and listen to a bit of what they say, I think Japan can be more attractive,” he said.

Preferably foreigners (a) from target countries and (b) without vested interests. I’m available!

Japanese Only: at least they keep the Muslims out

I hope you don’t all choke on your mochi when you read this extract from a random blog:

The country legitimately has policies in place to keep Muslims out of the country. It is impossible to get residency, pretty difficult to get any sort of visa, and bordering on impossible to find housing if you are Muslim. They site “neighbor discomfort” as one of the main reasons for housing discrimination in this case.

Err, “legitimately“? It’s bad enough that the author seems to have accepted at face value a stupid rumour doing the rounds of the web, but it’s pretty awful that they would praise it. And, putting my pedant hat on, it’s “cite”.

A Christmas Peace Doge


Defying one’s doctoral training

Last year, the then Mr Arudou said this:

[…] he defied his doctorate training by calling Koreans an “emotional people,” and dismissed several counter-opinions as “stupid”

This year, the doctorately-trained Arudou said:

The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.


But as your twilight years approach, you’ll look back in anger and wish you’d created a different bubble.

That looks like similar behaviour to me, and behaviour that has been committed to print for all eternity.

And in slightly related news, Robert McKinney of Otaru, a regular letter-writer to the Japan Times often voicing support for Dr Arudou’s columns, outs himself as one of Arudou’s losers – see the third letter down here.

Mr Googles is stalking me!

This evening, Google Now decided to recommend this article to me…

The Christmas present thread

Please comment here! I’m away from my PC so unable to make a proper post.

Is Japan sanctioning slave labour?

In a headline straight from my generator, the Japan Times produces another load of skewed bollocks. First, the photo is of an Indonesian nurse, but as far as I understand, the system for nursing students can no way be described as “slavery”.

The article is built around this argument:

Japan is desperately short of workers to pay taxes to fund pensions and health care for its rapidly graying population

However, this is, I believe, a false premise. If the idea was to support the tax base, surely one person on a wage of, say, 4 million yen will pay more tax than two people on 2 million yen, once one takes into account personal allowances. Furthermore, there are tax breaks for taking in trainees, so surely from a government standpoint the trainee program is a cost, not a benefit. Additionally, the trainees can get a large percentage of their pension payments back when they leave the country, so again the trainee system is a terrible way to increase the tax base.

by comparison, around 13 percent of British residents are foreign-born

How much does the EU contribute to this, and how much do former colonies contribute?

Japan allows no unskilled workers into the country amid fears by some they would threaten the nation’s culture of consensus, an argument others view as mere cover for xenophobia.

The good old “some” and “others”. And aren’t the trainees unskilled by definition?

The (Japanese) government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP

Perhaps the allegations were merely allegations, thus not prosecuted? I also seem to recall prosecutions for abuse of the trainee program, but not specifically for “forced labor”.

Past allegations include unpaid overtime work, karoshi (death from overwork), and all kinds of harassment, including company managers restricting the use of toilets or demanding sexual services.

I’m glad to see that the trainees are having the full range of experiences of working in Japan. :roll: 

One in four want all gaijin to go home

In the run up to the general election, a shock poll shows that one in four want all foreigners, legal or not, to go home, and another quarter couldn’t decide whether to agree or disagree with such a statement. Furthermore, the most trusted of all party leaders on the issue of immigration was none other than the leader of the ultta-rightist party, the UKIP. I’m sure we’ve all read the miles of newsprint condemning this lurch to the right in the New York Times, press wires like the AFP and Reuters, etc, etc – or have we?

Tops, bottoms, chickens and eggs

This month’s Just Be Cause starts off, quite frankly, like an undergraduate posting to a Japan-related forum hoping to get the regulars to do his homework for him. I’ll just look at a couple of points, although there is lots more no doubt my readers will wish to look at.

the top-down approach: the egg before the chicken

Recently, his articles have been relatively free from tortured metaphors and cliches, so it’s nice to see the return of a :facepalm: or two.

Moreover, many of the great grassroots successes in history got lucky. Mahatma Gandhi’s grass-roots achievement of Indian independence was aided by the fact that the grip of the British Empire had been weakened by two world wars. Nelson Mandela was lucky not to meet the same fate as Steve Biko, and to see a more liberal South African government in his lifetime.

“Lucky” seems a quite out of place word to describe these two great men’s life works; “fortunate” is slightly less poor, but I’d say that, for example, Dr Arudou was fortunate (from his own point of view) to be turned away from a sento, as that gave him the hook to hang his career on.

However, this leaves me to ponder that since he mentioned the luck of these greats, does he reckon it is just ill fortune that he does not have his seat in the pantheon of human rights activists? If only there had been a passing TV camera when he dressed up as Tama chan!

Tomorrow’s Japan Times headlines today

I have haxxored into the Japan Times’ system (why else do you think it is down right now?) and obtained the secrets on how they generate stories:


Code based on the Daily Mail-o-matic.