My experiences and expectations for my future

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

Do you know Kamagasaki? Kamagasaki is a city of the poor in Osaka, Japan. There are many homeless. Almost all of them are old men and day labors. Problems which they have are many and complicated.

Originally, day labors in Kamagasaki were recruited from the whole of Japan to hold Japan World Exposition in 1970. But, after the 1973 and 1979 oil crisis, their jobs decreased intensively. They live depending on the wage of the day work. They don’t have houses and stay at day-labors’ lodgings called “Doya.” That is to say, no job means no money for living the day. They want to work but they have no job and no money, and they cannot help but be homeless.

I visited Kamagasaki as a study tour in the last spring vacation. Then, I heard a story of a man. He died alone in his room of an apartment building. One week after his death, he was found by others. The cause of his death was starvation. He was received welfare benefits, but he died of hunger. Why? A person who told us the story told the reason which he thought. Human have nothing to do, human don’t want to live. People who come to Kamagasaki have some problems and they don’t keep in touch with their family and relative. Therefore, they don’t ask about their experience each other. They know each other by sight but they are not friends who do something together and don’t have such friends. They are solitary and lonely. No one cared him, and no one knew his death for a week.

I don’t want to be a homeless or to die alone while no one know. It is too sad to die alone while no one alone. So as not to do so, I want to marry and to have some children. I want to have three children because I am one of them. For it, I want to have a stable job. My parents are public employees. The salary of public employee are lower than other business. But public employee is securer and safer than others. What I want is not a high but a decent salary and stability. Also I want my partner to have a regular work because I think that it is hard to bring up three children by only my income or my income and her income of irregular work. So, my future plan is to have family and to have a job which give me enough money to support my family.

Hurry! Hafu Film Now at Nanagei Cinema in Osaka

Folks in the Kansai region who missed seeing the Hafu film during its run in Kobe are in luck. The film is showing at Osaka’s Nanagei Cinema, within walking distance of Juso station, until February 21. The film plays once a day, at 6:45pm until February 14, and at 8:35pm from February 15 to 21.

This blog has discussed the film and related issues regarding hafu (people of mixed Japanese ancestry) many times, and the fine folks at the Hafu Project have graced our classrooms on several occasions. This film is an important step in a movement toward a more inclusive notion of Japanese identity. Come be a part of the conversation, and see the film in Osaka before it closes on February 21.

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Immaculate Conceptions and Japanese Citizenship

by Robert Moorehead

According to the Mainichi, on September 13, the Osaka Family Court ruled that a child conceived through sperm donation must be registered as fatherless. The Court rejected the petition of a 31-year-old transgender man and his wife, who had sought to add their son to their family registry. The Tokyo Shinjuku Ward Office had refused to record the man as the child’s father, noting that he was biologically incapable of fathering the child. Instead, the Ward Office left the father section of the family register blank. An immaculate conception!

The man had legally changed his gender in 2008, and married his partner shortly thereafter. The Court ruled that Japanese law bases parenthood on a biological connection between parents and child. Since government officials are unable to watch people conceive their children and they do not require DNA tests to add children to family registers, the standard practice has been to record both parties in a married couple as the child’s parents—even if the child was conceived through sperm or egg donation.

This case comes down to whether the government knows whether you’re capable of conceiving a child. If the government does not know that reproductive technologies have been used, then the parents are in the clear to record the child as theirs. However, if you’re a transgender parent and had legally re-registered your gender, or a woman whose fertility is in question, then your claim to parenthood may be denied.

This privileging of biological ties is inconsistently applied, as in 2003 authorities refused to register actress Aki Mukai as the mother of twins who were born through an American surrogate, and instead registered the surrogate as the children’s legal mother. Mukai’s ova and the sperm of her husband, wrestler Nobuhiko Takada, were used in the surrogacy. However, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that Japanese law only recognizes the woman who gives birth to the child as the legal mother. Mukai and Takada were required to adopt their children, who were registered as American citizens and foreign residents of Japan.

In another example, a woman’s spouse will be automatically recorded as the father if the child is conceived during the marriage, regardless of who the biological father is. If the woman conceives the child with someone other than her spouse while she and her spouse are separated, and she subsequently divorces and re-marries, the ex-husband will be listed as the child’s biological father.

Why engage in such legal and mental gymnastics? Defenders of the current law say that it is necessary to support the sanctity of marriage. Such marriage laws also legally discriminated against children born to unmarried parents by limiting them to half the inheritance their “legitimate” siblings would receive. On September 4, the Japanese Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 1995 decision that upheld the law.

Following the logic of the Osaka Family Court’s decision, if a child is born through anonymous sperm and egg donations to infertile parents, and the government knows the parents are infertile, that child could legally be recorded as having no parents. An even more immaculate conception!

Such a child would also be stateless. For children to receive Japanese citizenship at birth, they must have at least one parent who is a citizen. Thus, if the mother of the child in the Osaka case is not a Japanese citizen, then her child will also not be a citizen, as the child’s legally non-existent father would not be able pass on citizenship to him.

A further wrinkle is that an overseas birth must be registered with Japanese authorities within 90 days for the child to receive citizenship. Given the dearth of reproductive services in Japan, many women seek services outside the country. If, upon returning to Japan, the couple’s parenthood is in question, the couple must choose whether to register the surrogate as the mother, or challenge the decision and risk missing the window in which to register the child for Japanese citizenship.

Beyond the common situation of the law not keeping up with rapid changes in reproductive technology, these cases show how the law gets twisted and turned as judges and other officials see fit, to support a status quo that does not serve the interests of children or parents.

Osaka March Against Racism

Say No to Racism!

Say No to Racism! Click the photo to view the photo set on Flickr.

Anti-foreigner protesters hold signs calling for foreigners to leave the country.

Anti-foreigner protesters hold signs calling for foreigners to leave the country. Click the photo to view the photo set on Flickr.

by Robert Moorehead

As the acquittal of George Zimmerman was announced in the US, we were on our way to Osaka, to participate in the March Against Racism. On a hot, sunny day, hundreds marched in protest against the recent hateful anti-Korean demonstrations in Osaka. The march started with speakers blasting Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and instantly we felt at home.

Rainbow flags flew, Korean and Japanese drums were pounded, and marchers carried signs calling for an end to discrimination and a celebration of diversity. In a country where a myth of homogeneity is celebrated, calls for the celebration of diversity are rare.

We ran into a few small pockets of hate, where racists held signs demanding the foreigners leave the country. One man even followed the march, holding an imperial Japanese flag, standing alone while hundreds raised peace signs (and one guy kept flipping him the bird).

The Zimmerman ruling sickens me, but the march was just the right medicine.

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Another Type of Japanese Minority

Do you know the town called “Kamagasaki” in Osaka?  It’s so-called Japanese slum where many homeless people, day laborers have lived long time ago. I suppose that there are some who haven’t ever heard about this town because the name of this place was changed to “Airin-chiku (愛隣地区)” as a political term by Osaka government. However, most of the residents and those who know this place well call it Kamagasaki.

In this town, there are not only residents but also plenty of supporting organizations and most of them are organized by those who don’t live in Kamagasaki. Why are there so many supporting organizations? Why don’t they band as one big organization to support Kamagasaki residents? The reason is that each organization has each idea of their activities. Some of them appeal the right to work and live stably, while others insist on the right to live on the streets. For us, who have our own houses, it’s too hard and cruel to be forced to live on the streets. If I ran into such situation, I would surely aim to rehabilitation. Therefore, we tend to expect that Kamagasaki people also hope to work and work stably. However, not all Kamagasaki people hope so.

Before I explain the reason, I need tell you another story.

They have their favorite song named “Kamagasaki Ninjo (釜ヶ崎人情―kamagasaki  heart)”. In its lyrics, it have a phrase―”Koko ha tengoku kamagasaki (means, here is heaven, Kamagasaki)”. Why is Kamagasaki heaven although people can’t work and live without any problems and are forced to live on the streets? I sometimes go there to work as a volunteer, and I cannot possibly think that I want to live there. Kamagasaki, which is like a hell, is a heaven to the residents. This difference of thoughts between them and us makes Japanese labor problem complicated, tells us the difficulty in resolving, and creates supporting organizations with various ideas.

Now, bring the topic around the reason why they think Kamagasaki is heaven. Japanese society use many laborers to build infrastructures in the term of rapid economic growth and after finishing it, our society excluded them as disposable labor force and have ignored them. Such people lie in Kamagasaki. Therefore, the hell is Japanese society rather than Kamgasaki for those people. There, they can get a few job such as day labor and somehow manage to squeeze. They can also walk around the town not as a poor person but a resident. This is the reason why Kamagasaki people sing “here is heaven, Kamagasaki”, and appeal not rehabilitation but the right to live on the streets.

Profound social problems, especially local ones such as Kamgasaki problem, villages with nuclear power plants, and Okinawan base problems, always have differences of thoughts between outsiders and concerned people. In these local problems, concerned people are usually minority. They are neither immigrants nor minority ethnic groups, but they are also Japanese minority. To understand those minorities’ thoughts and to solve the local problems, the outsiders should know that there are differences of thoughts between them and concerned people.

by Yukari Deguchi