Monthly Archives: June 2012

Japan’s greatest journalist has written another article

And we even get an indirect (very indirect) mention! It’s an inaccurate and poorly thrown-together article, I feel, with an over-reliance on cut’n’paste’n’massage.

Japan held innocent foreigner 15 years

The headline is usually written by the sub-editor, but Govinda Prasad Mainali is still guilty from a legal point of view.

Tokyo High Court ruled that new DNA evidence cleared him of involvement in a 1997 murder for which he had been imprisoned.

No it didn’t.

Human rights activists said Japanese authorities moved quickly to deport Mr. Mainali to deter him from seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment. They are demanding that Japan compensate him, overhaul the country’s justice system, and punish prosecutors and judges.

Surely "Random commenters on foreigner-oriented blogs"?

The conviction rate for suspects tops 99 percent with foreigners at particular risk, critics say.

Well, these critics are wrong – it’s 99% for those sent to trial – and even if they are right, 99.9%, for instance, is not particularly more risky than 99.0%.

Let’s skip the Mr Arudou bit, and consider the sentence quoting Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, which seems closely related to this Japan Today sentence:

Describing the case as the “trial of the century in terms of migrant workers”, Siwakoti said Mainali’s case showed that a “xenophobic attitude was entrenched in Japanese judicial system”.

And the next sentence reflects the headline and this portion of another Japan Today story:

"Saving face," declares the daily, "is more important to the prosecution than human rights."

Now:

Even so-called "Japan apologists" have spoken out against "induced confessions," harsh imprisonment and costly deportation of more than 100,000 foreigners over the past decade.

Who are these so-called apologists? I cannot find on Google any relevant mention of the literal phrase "induced confessions", and I’ve never heard anyone on either side complain about the cost of deporting people, although I suspect that if I waded through Mr Johnson’s blog I might find him going on about that. And doesn’t that sentence imply that 100,000 foreigners have confessed and been harshly imprisoned?

There’s also something that doesn’t feel quite right about the Charles McJilton section, but I think this will do for now.

Jumbo jet, micro aggression. And some other stuff

Sorry for the lack of appearance over the last week, but I was busy being micro-aggressed to Europe and back. It’s quite amazing that if you look for it even on international aeroplane travel (where they have many decades of handling people from all corners of the world) you can quite happily find many, many things to ascribe to "microaggression". For instance, even the simple act of greeting you at the final boarding gate, they base their おはよう/Good Morning/whatever it is in Dutch based on your passport, not their or the country’s language, and even the Dutch get microaggressed entering their home airline as the cabin crew seem to use only English or Japanese depending on face colour.

It seems Debito.org needs Tepido.org/Japologism.com as The Other to keep them from eating each other, as this totally overblown thread seems to suggest. I’m waiting for Hoofin’ to weigh in…

I’m wondering if our favourite journalist returned to Japan only on a temporary visa to just give him time to collect his stuff before bidding farewell for five years? You may remember when I mentioned Oishiislurper on Tepido.org; he appears to have received a temporary landing permit to tidy up his affairs, so I wonder if Christopher Johnson got the same?

Terrie takes an inaccurate look at Govinda Prasad Mainali

As discussed earlier here, Govinda Prasad Mainali has been granted a retrial. Terrie Lloyd’s Terrie’s Takes newsletter decided to cover it, but reading the content it is not what I would expect from a respected Japan expert like Mr Lloyd, but instead it feels more like he delegated the article to his Japan Today "reporters".

Further, the conviction rate of foreigner suspects (you definitely don’t want to be one) is a foregone conclusion,

The 99%+ conviction rate of people brought before the courts indicates that it is also a foregone conclusion for Japanese suspects. However, is he suggesting that there is a higher rate for foreigners from arrest to conviction when compared to Japanese? The paper "Why Is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High?" from 1999 seems to be the definitive study of this matter but doesn’t examine the nationality of suspects. I suspect the above quote is an opinion, not a fact, although I welcome any data one way or the other.

There are a number of recorded cases where the courts have actually SAID there has been insufficient evidence for an ordinary conviction, but none-the-less have convicted the defendant anyway, simply because the prosecutors said they did it.

Are we still talking about foreigners? The above could very well refer to the recent lay judge conviction of Kanae Kijima on circumstantial evidence. She also had an online fan club, but there was less reporting of it in the English-language press as it is not as juicy a detail as Tatsuya Ichihashi’s one.

The abuse of this system became so bad that several years ago new laws were pushed through that now require prosecutors to record their interrogation interviews.

No, it’s still only applicable in certain cases and doesn’t apply to all of the interrogation process; it is certainly not "required".

In particular, we feel that his is a case where his race and foreignness played a large part in how he was treated.

This is indeed how I feel too, and no doubt many Japanese do too.

In 2000 his case was thrown out by the Tokyo District Court for lack of evidence.

No, he was found not guilty. Thrown out implies it was cancelled half-way through. Incidentally, if it were thrown out rather than having a verdict handed down, in English law at least the prosecution can in many circumstances appeal that decision.

At that point, if he was a Japanese he would have been let go, but because the outstanding deportation order, the Prosecutor’s office successfully had him kept in jail while they appealed to a higher court.

This conflates two or even three issues – if it had been a Japanese person there may also have been an appeal by the prosecution, but the Japanese person would have had a higher chance of getting bail.

In our opinion, the first step in getting Japan to address the obvious inequalities towards foreigners in the legal system is to pass a law making prosecutors who hide/withhold evidence open to legal charges themselves.

I agree, but I don’t see how the two are connected – prosecutors seem quite adept at hiding evidence in Japanese cases too. Is there data to suggest that evidence is hidden more when the defendants are foreign?

We’re not sure why Mainali wasn’t put on the death row

Sigh! If you don’t know why he wasn’t you are ignorant of how death sentences are handed down in Japan.

Guestistical microaggression

The microaggression bun fight continues in the Daily Yomiuri, with a well-written piece from Mike Guest, which of course would not be complete without a little trolling:

Poor strategic competence partially accounts for the behavior but there is another explanation–familiar to everyone with a background in linguistics (which the now Hawaii-based Arudou doesn’t have).

Ouch!

FAQ: What kind of online presence do Japanese newspapers have?

The good news: Most if not all of the major national newspapers in Japan run their own web site where they reproduce their content online.

The bad news: Unlike the UK and USA at least, almost all the free content (which represents just a small percentage of the total story count in the paper newspaper) is heavily-edited down to just two or three paragraphs reporting the facts, and often expires after a few weeks or even days. Furthermore, a noticeable percentage of the articles are from wire copy, so different sites end up reporting the story in rather similar ways.

What this means: A report that "Story X or View Y cannot be found through Japanese Google News Search" means very little, especially as the context is usually "…thus Team Japan is covering it up!". Newspaper readership is still around 70% even for internet users, so the publishers see no reason to give their product away for free. Thus, newspaper spin and analysis are difficult to find online, so someone relying purely on reading these free sites will be woefully uninformed regarding what is happening in the country.

Japologism.com Manifesto take 2

Thanks for all your input to the previous manifesto post!

Now, I’ve thought a bit more, and I think the watchword I want is "constructive". Both Tepido.org and Debito.org could be seen as "destructive", so I think trying to make a positive contribution (to what?) is a noble endeavour. Sparked by the discussion around Govinda Prasad Mainali, it seems a number of my readers go further than just the English press and a quick online Japanese newspaper search, thus perhaps we can arrive at a fuller understanding of news past just the headlines. One of the reasons for posting about the Mr Mainali story is that I suspect other sites may see this as just "The Japanese fitting up The Gaijin again", thus I wanted to try to present a fuller story. (Note: It of course seems very clearly a case of the Japanese prosecution and one of two judges fitting up a foreigner in a vulnerable position.)

So, with that in mind, if we get a good discussion going about various issues, it would be useful to summarise the output and produce a FAQ-like highlight of the matter at hand. Furthermore, sharing the output through somewhere like Google Docs and placing them under some form of Creative Commons licence would mean that they can outlive this blog.

Out of jail but back into detention

You’ll have heard that Govinda Prasad Mainali has been granted a retrial, but it does seem rather harsh to me that since he was an illegal immigrant at the time of arrest they transferred him straight to immigration detention for prompt repatriation, despite his family coming all the way over to see him. Even just one day with his family so they could all leave the country together as a unit would have been a much more humane way of treating him.

NHK had harsh words to say about the prosecution tonight, but there was nothing about him seeking compensation, although perhaps that is jumping the gun a little as we need to wait for the retrial.

Oh, and there was one thing that annoyed me in the article:

"In the U.S., for example, if a jury finds a defendant not guilty, prosecutors are not allowed to appeal. I think this is basically correct because juries find reasonable doubt. Defendants should be found not guilty if reasonable doubt exists," said Shozaburo Ishida, one of Mainali’s lawyers.

Why would what happens in the USA be of any relevance to a Nepali in Japan?

Micro-joys: the little things that lift you up

Since I suspect most of us had had our fill of micro-aggressions, what about micro-joys, to shamelessly steal an idea from a comment by David K.? These are the small interactions where you feel you’ve had a successful interaction, you’ve put the smile on the face of a native, or you’ve turned a micro-aggression into a positive experience. Here is one of mine, to get the ball rolling and maybe to start a discussion on whether such should be seen as a win, or just as part of normal human interaction:

  • Being recognised as a regular at restaurants and getting special service. For instance, just last week in two different places they remembered our faces and pushed two tables together instead of just being squashed up at a single, despite being busy. I’d like to think it’s partially because being foreign it is easier for them to remember my face.
  • Giving up your train seat to someone older, and getting a smile of thanks, which I attest to them having a "foreign gentleman" image.
  • Being asked where I’m from, as it gives me an excuse to talk about Scotland.

I reserve the right to pinch anyone’s input and use it in a Japan Times article. :grin:

So, should I do Just Be Cause?

What do people think? How should I approach it now? This month’s appears as if it will be directed in part at least towards the apologists.

So, what will happen to Tepido.org?

My plans are:

  1. Keep the content as-is as a historical record.
  2. Change the top-level URL to http://tepido.whatjapanthinks.com/ and update all internal links to keep it there.
  3. Sell off the Tepido.org domain, although naturally not as a going concern nor any of the contents, just the URL itself.