“Trafficking in persons” refers to “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” “The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime” was adopted at the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2000 and entered into force in 2003, giving the first common international definition of "trafficking in persons.” Japan signed it in 2002 and accepted it in 2017.
The U.S. Department of State reported in “2021 Trafficking in Persons Report” that traffickers of sending countries and Japan have abused the Japanese government-operated Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) to exploit overseas-based technical intern trainees. Regardless of unceasing reports of abuse and forced labor among TITP participants under government sponsorship and almost every year's proposal to Japan in order to improve the treatment of foreigners on the program, no action has been taken by authorities to identify a single trafficking case or victim in TITP. Although it is common knowledge that there is forced labor within the TITP program, the government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any persons violating labor standards laws and regulations within the TITP program. The ministry of labor informed that sending labor standards inspectors conducted 8,124 inspections of TITP workplaces in 2020, finding 5,752 employers of TITP participants, or 70.8 percent of those inspected, violating the labor laws. Despite the fact that the Labour Standard Bureau referred 36 cases to prosecutors for investigation in 2020, the government did not reveal whether any of the referrals were for labor trafficking crimes. Authorities have been reluctant to protect victims of trafficking within the TITP. The government did not even try to formally identify victims. According to the government, 8,000 TITP participants disappeared from their workplaces in 2020. Some of them were considered escaping from exploitative or abusive conditions and were likely unidentified victims. Authorities went on arresting and deporting TITP participants who fled from their workplaces. Some labor contracts included illegal automatic repatriation clauses for the intern trainees who became pregnant or contracted illnesses while working in Japan. Besides, the bilateral agreements between sending countries and Japan on TITP have had no effect on prevention of payment of unreasonably high fees to intermediary agencies in their home countries, which has caused debt-based human trafficking in TITP participants. Japan is also taking a passive approach to ratification of the ILO Convention on "Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the Field of Work." International laws have priority over domestic laws but the Constitution.
The Technical Intern Training Program was established as a formal program in 1993 with the aim of transferring industrial and vocational skills, technologies, or knowledge from Japan to developing countries and regions and promoting international cooperation by contributing to the development of human resources to be effectively utilized for economic and industrial development in the regions. The Technical Intern Training Act says in Article 3, Paragraph 2 that a fundamental principle of the program is that “technical training shall not be conducted as a means of adjusting labor supply and demand.” That means the program is not allowed to be used for solving Japan's labor shortage at a low cost. Japanese labor-related regulations are applied to the overseas-based trainees just like Japanese nationals except during the lecture period after their entry into Japan. Supervising and implementing organizations have obligations to give the same treatment as Japanese employees to the trainees. Technical intern trainees must receive no less remuneration than Japanese nationals would receive for the same kind of jobs. The training period is a maximum of five years. With the resident status of Technical Intern Training No. 1, technical intern trainees are allowed to acquire basic skills and abilities at an accepting organization during the first year after entering Japan and taking lectures. The trainees who have passed the basic level of the national trade skills test will obtain the resident status of Technical Intern Training No. 2 and can keep training to acquire further skills for two more years. Technical intern trainees who have completed the three-year technical intern training can step up to the resident status called Technical Intern Training No. 3 which allows them to continue the training for another two years after short return to their home country if they have passed the advanced level of the national trade skills test. Technical Intern Training 3 can be given only under excellent implementing and supervising organizations. The trainees are able to choose from 156 operations in 85 job categories, including agriculture, textile, and construction work, as of March 16, 2021.
There were 2,576,622 mid-to-long-term residents, and 309,282 special permanent residents such as Koreans and Chinese people who have resided in Japan since before World War II, and their descendants, adding up to 2,885,904 foreigners registered as residents in Japan as of the end of June 2020. A comparison of the status of residence found that the number of people with "Technical Intern Training" was the second highest at 402,422, or 13.9%, after that with “Permanent Resident” with 800,872, or 27.8%. According to the Ministry of Justice, the largest number of technical intern trainees by nationality was 208,879 of Viet Nam, followed by 63,741 of China and 34,459 of Indonesia. More than a half of TITP participants were from Viet Nam. Until 2015, China was sending the largest number of technical interns.
The memorandum of cooperation on the Technical Intern Training Program says “the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan and the ministries concerned of a sending country shared the view that the purpose of the Technical Intern Training Program is to transfer technical skills, techniques and knowledge to the sending country, to contribute to the human resource development by which the development of the economy of the sending country would be led and thus to promote international cooperation.” Many ministries of Japan are deeply related to the program, so the ministry that shall be ultimately responsible for the performance and results is not clear. The Ministry of Justice reported in a survey conducted between January 2017 and September 2018 that 5,218 TITP participants had disappeared from their worksite because of fraudulent acts on the program by their host organizations, which pleaded guilty at hearing by immigration control officers to mistreating them, with offenses, including minimum wage violation and illegal overtime. Immigration Services Agency of Japan reported in March 2021 that the number of victims of human trafficking, including sexual services and forced labor, who received protection in 2020, was just eight. All the victims were female Filipinos.
As mentioned earlier, there are many cases where TITP participants bear a large amount of expenses required for commissions, and guarantee deposits as a means to prevent their disappearance during the training period by sending organizations. Sending agencies and accepting organizations are prohibited to charge technical intern trainees with any money other than indispensable expenses, including guarantee deposits and penalties. In Viet Nam, a large number of intermediary agencies collect nearly one million yen, around 8,900 US dollars as of October 10, 2021, of guarantee money from trainee candidates. In the country, 25% of the population are earning less than 9,240,000 VND, about 400 US dollars as of October 10, 2021, per month. Most TITP participants come from poor rural areas. The amount of the expenses paid to the agencies is equivalent to the wages of 22 months at least. The Technical Intern Training Program related business is growing fast in the country. In contrast with Japan, Korea eliminated intermediary exploitation. In 2004, the Korean government launched a new system of accepting foreign workers, called a work permit program, in order to be responsible for the receipt. Companies with less than 5 Korean nationals are usually Fnot able to sponsor foreign employees at the program. There is no intern training program in Korea. It is effective to exclude brokers that disregard the rules while stabilizing supply of workers. Seoul now places its government offices in sending countries to secure fairness in the system. In Japan, many trainees are forced to work overtime. However, no employer can make employees, including technical intern trainees, work overtime without an agreement under Article 36 of the Labor Standards Act, which is a document concluded between an employer and a labor union or a group representative organizing more than a half of the workers to allow the employer to have the employees work overtime. In the first place, why do the intern trainees need to work overtime? Even for Japanese, the Article 36 Agreement amounts to a virtual admission that companies can force their employees to work without rational reasons and corporate efforts for a long time. Is it possible to eliminate long working hours in Japan? Some European countries such as Germany have been characterized by labor policies protecting workers, including greatly shorter working hours, and have higher per capita GDP, compared with Japan. Most intern trainees are doing simple jobs. The program aims to transfer industrial and vocational skills, technologies, or knowledge from Japan to developing countries and regions and promote international cooperation by contributing to the development of human resources. Being engaged in simple jobs for a long time is besides the purpose. It can be done with ease in their home countries under the support of members of NGO or JICA, or with online training. It can be called government-based frauds if authorities have common knowledge that there is forced labor within the TITP program and the situations have almost not improved.
The International Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in December 1948 by the United Nations to establish an international system to secure human rights, rather than depending on each state. Some of international human rights instruments that the UN has adopted contain an individual complaints procedure in each Optional Protocol, a mechanism in which an individual, whose rights under the international human rights treaties are violated, but can not be recovered by any relief system in the country, such as by going to court, can directly submit a petition to human rights treaty bodies for relief. Japan has not yet accepted the procedure. Likewise, there are national human rights institutions which allow the right to petition for human rights relief whatever his or her nationality is to anybody living in the country in 118 countries, including Korea, Afghanistan and Nigeria, across the world, but not in Japan, as of August 3, 2021.
The UN and the US Department of State are requiring Japan to tackle human trafficking problems in TITP participants more seriously. It emerged that TITP participants had been made to be engaged in radioactive decontamination work at Fukushima in 2018. No technical intern trainee can choose a workplace. Some implementing and supervising organizations of Japan claim that many industries, including agriculture, cannot exist without the trainees and related products would be sold at much higher prices. It can't be justified to sacrifice the foreign trainees to live a rich and comfortable life and buy goods at lower prices. Is this really happening in Japan? Global clothing brands, including Uniqlo, are criticized for selling goods produced through suspected forced labor in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and many users join the calls for boycotts. Although Japan's mass media report on political and economic scandals in Korea on a large scale, they handle human trafficking in TITP participants in a much smaller scale.
Support Organizations for TITP Victims
Japan National Federation of Labor Unions Osaka : https://www.rengo-osaka.gr.jp/whatsnew/data/200327-29.html (Nine languages available) TEL : 06-6949-0005
Facebook Foreign Technical Intern Trainees Sien : https://ja-jp.facebook.com/jissyuseisien/
Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move : https://www.jcarm.com
Advocacy Network for Foreign Trainees : http://k-kenri.net/qa-english/index.html TEL : 03-3836-9061
Lawyers' Network for Foreign Technical Intern Trainees : https://kenbenren2008.wordpress.com (written in Japanese) TEL : 03-6427-5902, 052-414-5901, 011-231-1888
- United Nations Human Rights Office of The High Commissioner. Human rights and trafficking in persons. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Trafficking/TiP/Pages/Index.aspx
- The United Nations. (2000, Nov 15). 12. a) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/MTDSG/Volume%20II/Chapter%20XVIII/XVIII-12-a.en.pdf
- U.S. Department of State. (2021, Jul 1). 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report: Japan. https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/japan/
- NHK World-Japan. (2021, Sep 12). 70% of firms with foreign trainees violate law. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20210912_02/
- Prime Minister's Office of Japan. (2021, Jul 1). Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons (Annual Report). https://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/jinsintorihiki/dai5/eigoban_honbun.pdf
- JTUC-RENGO: Japanese Trade Union Confederation. (2021, Jun 25). RENGO Statements and Views: Statement on the Entry into Force of the ILO Convention on “Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work”. http://www.jtuc-rengo.org/updates/index.cgi
- Japan International Trainee & Skilled Worker Cooperation Organization. What is the Technical Intern Training Program?. https://www.jitco.or.jp/en/regulation/index.html
- Organization for Technical Intern Training. 9. Application of Laws and Regulations. Technical Intern Trainee Handbook. https://www.otit.go.jp/files/user_img/210120-8.pdf
- Organization for Technical Intern Training Program. Technical Intern Training Program. https://www.otit.go.jp/files/user/210801_101.pdf
- Immigration Services Agency of Japan. (2020, Oct 9). Number of foreign residents as of June 2020 (Reiwa 2). https://www.isa.go.jp/en/publications/press/nyuukokukanri04_00018.html
- Ministry of Justice. Memorandum of Cooperation on the Technical Intern Training Program between the Ministry Of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan and the Ministry Of Labour, Invalids And Social Affairs Of Viet Nam. https://www.moj.go.jp/isa/content/930003310.pdf
- Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. (2019, Dec 19). Japan: Ministry of Justice's investigation into missing foreign trainees uncovers illegal employment practices. https://www.business-humanrights.org/fr/dernières-actualités/japan-ministry-of-justices-investigation-into-missing-foreign-trainees-uncovers-illegal-employment-practices/
- The Immigration Services Agency of Japan. (2021, Mar 31). Press release: Victims of human trafficking (sexual services, forced labor, etc.) who received protection in 2020 (Reiwa 2). https://www.isa.go.jp/en/publications/press/nyuukokukanri08_00001.html
- Japan International Training Cooperation Organization. Technical Intern Training Program: Operative Manual for Sending Organizations. https://www.jitco.or.jp/download/data/okuridashi_English.pdf
- salaryexplorer. Average Salary in Vietnam 2021. . http://www.salaryexplorer.com/salary-survey.php
- The Mainichi. (2018, Nov 26). Editorial: Japan can learn from S. Korea over foreign worker policy. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20181126/p2a/00m/0na/012000c
- shieldgeo. Immigration & Work Permits. https://shieldgeo.com/south-korea-immigration-and-work-permits/
- The Japan Federation of Bar Associations. (2019, Oct 4). Resolution Requesting the Implementation of an Individual Complaints Procedure and the Establishment of a National Human Rights Institution. https://www.nichibenren.or.jp/en/document/statements/2019_2.html
- United Nations Human Rights Office of The High Commissioner. (2021, Aug 3). Chart of the Status of National Institutions // Accredited by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. https://ganhri.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/StatusAccreditationChartNHRIs.pdf
- Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. (2018, Mar 14). Japan: Foreign ‘interns’ doing radioactive decontamination work at Fukushima. https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/japan-foreign-interns-doing-radioactive-decontamination-work-at-fukushima/
- Sunai, Naoko. (2019, Mar 20). Servile Labor: Truth of Vietnamese Technical Intern Trainees. Kadensha
October 10, 2021
Updated on October 24, 2021
"Ethical Capitalism: Shibusawa Eiichi and Business Leadership in Global Perspective" that was published in 2017 describes study results on business philosophy of Shibusawa, who was an entrepreneur called the "father of Japanese capitalism," that morality and economic activity can be linked and public interest should come first before profits. After the degradation of the western style capitalism due to the impact of the Lehman Shock in 2008, a lot of economists in western countries were looking for its replacement. Eight researchers from and outside Japan kick around Shibusawa's doctrine from economic perspectives and historical perspectives.
Shibusawa was born as the only son of a wealthy farming family in a village lying to the north of Tokyo in 1840. He had learned the Analects of Confucius from his cousin since he was seven years old. After joining the movement advocating reverence for an emperor and the expulsion of foreigners, pursued by the shogunate and wandering from place to place, he began to work for Yoshinobu Tokugawa, who later became the last shogun, when he was 24 years old. He followed a brother of Yoshinobu as a member of the shogunate's mission to Europe in 1867, and broadened his horizons by getting knowledge of up-to-date technologies and social systems such as capitalism mainly in France. The party returned to Japan because of the collapse of the shogunate after only a year and a half of study abroad life. Following his career in the Ministry of Finance in disorder, Shibusawa started working as a private business person. He became involved in the establishments of about 500 private companies, mainly in finance, transportation and communications, and some 600 social welfare organizations. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his significant contribution to international peace at a nongovernmental level in 1926 and 1927.
Shibusawa compiled the contents of his lectures into a book, "the Analects of Confucius and the Abacus" to disseminate commercial morality in order to foster trust and the work was issued in 1916. At that time, it was said that the acts of Japanese merchants were based on fraud. It was totally different from France's commercial policies he made a model. He said traders had little knowledge compared with samurais. After the Meiji Restoration, dealers had been tainted by greed due to their low social status, and drastic modernization and internationalization in Japan. As a result, many worshipers of Mammon appeared. An experience in London where he traveled with his wife triggered the publication. He was shocked when a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in London claimed that Japanese traders were unfaithful to their word. The British man remarked that Japanese traders, for example, did not receive goods readily in bad times while they took merchandise soon in good times. In addition, Japanese merchants asked sellers to issue a receipt twice to evade tax. Unfortunately, it reminds us of the current situation in Japan. Last June, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation announced that fraudulent acts were found by internal investigations, just in the middle of a Covid-19 storm and a dispute over whether the Tokyo 2020 Olympics should be held. With fictional data produced by automatic creation programs, the company tampered with inspection data of part of air conditioners and air compressor units for railroad vehicles, and submitted certificates of inspection with rigged figures to some clients. It was clarified that the misbehavior has been performed for more than 35 years. The inspection scandal affects equipment on about 2,600 cars out of 6,400 cars in New York City's subway fleet as well. Additionally, the 100-year-old firm stated on August 17 that injustice in pre-shipment inspections, spanning 25 years, was uncovered at its factory manufacturing electric switchgears in Kagawa Prefecture. The electric company announced on July 28 that Senior Vice President Kei Uruma took over as its president and CEO. The new president said he would seriously work on changing the company's culture. Even though they have been criticized by others from home and abroad, it looks like they totally lack a sense of crisis and do not put themselves in cheated another's shoes, as contrasted with Japan Airlines, which filed a petition for protection with the court under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law in 2011 and engaged an outside personnel, Kazuo Inamori, who is a philanthropist, entrepreneur and the founder of Kyocera and KDDI, as head of the declining flag carrier of Japan. Skytrax ranked Japan Airlines as the 11th best in the World's Best 100 Airlines for 2019. There are many other corporate scandals. It is said that Townsend Harris, a US diplomat in the 19th century, labeled the Japanese as the biggest liars on earth.
Before the new 10,000 yen banknote featuring Shibusawa, which is expected to appear in 2024, was introduced in 2019, few Japanese knew him even though he is the person who led Japan's industrialization. Most Japanese people have never learned about him at school. It can be said that indicates the fact that Japan has given little consideration to commercial morality. Luckily, his name is found in recent history textbooks.
Shibusawa was skilled in the art of persuasion. Tokio Marine Insurance Co., Ltd. (the predecessor of Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., and the first insurance company in Japan) was founded through his untiring efforts in 1879. At first, his plan was objected to by people around him, including Yukichi Fukuzawa, an enlightenment thinker, and Yataro Iwasaki, a founder of Mitsubishi Commercial Company having schemed to monopolize shipping businesses and later giving up to establish his own marine insurance company by Shibusawa's persuasion. Shibusawa had difficulty in finding capital investors. He focused on cooperative funds collected from nobles for the establishment of a railway company and ending up having nowhere to go. He persuaded the former feudal lords who were not knowledgeable about the financial protection against losses to fund for the insurance company. His art of persuasion brought him success in business while many leaders at that time took what they wanted by force.
At the Lehman Shock, the U.S. Congress faced a "too big to fall" issue because some financial giants were mutually interdependent, and Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was passed to minimize the economic damage, resulting in paying government bailout money to some finance companies, including AIG. Although Shibusawa contributed to the founding of about 500 private companies, he did not form a zaibatsu, a Japanese-style financial and industrial conglomerate. He received pay only from the first bank in Japan he founded, except the yields on his shares, which were invested as capital for new businesses. He also had the business philosophy that fair competition was necessary for the sane growth of industries and cooperations, and total monopoly caused harm to society.
In sharp contrast to Shibusawa, Iwasaki was extending his business with the relentless pursuit of profit. One day, Iwasaki approached Shibusawa with an idea of creating a monopoly by themselves in the Japanese market at a teahouse with 15 geisha girls. The father of Japanese capitalism refused the proposal. Two years later, he established a shipping company to prevent Mitsubishi's monopoly in marine transportation business, together with his supporters who stood to be financially hurt by Mitsubishi. Their fierce competition ended up the organizations' being merged together after Iwasaki died of stomach cancer at the age of 50. Shibusawa dedicated himself to philanthropy after his retirement and died at the age of 91. Iwasaki's ambition has been achieved to a certain extent. The Mitsubishi Group, formerly Mitsubishi Commercial Company, is a giant that is engaged in a diverse range of business sectors, from finance, marine transportation and rocket business to trading in daily necessities, composed of over 4,500 group companies, including some large sponsors in mass media, with 7.7% sales of all the companies listed on the Stock Exchange as of March 2020. The total sales exceed those of Walmart. However, that has impeded the inclusive growth of Japanese industries. Japanese venture companies face extreme difficulty in making their business succeed. After the Second World War and then the dissolution of zaibatsus, including the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu, Japan made a miracle post war restoration from ashes happen. The giant is a burden on the Japanese industrial world like GAFA on the world of industry. Peter F. Drucker said that Shibusawa and Iwasaki set up two thirds of Japanese companies relevant to the modern manufacturing and transportation industries. He praised Shibusawa's significant contribution to the nurture of human resources, unlike Iwasaki who acted in an opposite way to his people. Harvard Business School has used case studies that identify Iwasaki as a founder with a great entrepreneurial talent. Without Shibusawa, Japan would have become a completely different country, like Korea where a handful of chaebols dominate its market. Systematized monopoly is harming society. Why had Shibusawa been almost unknown among Japanese people for a long time since his death?
The portrait of 10,000 yen notes is scheduled to change from Yukichi Fukuzawa, who highly evaluated Yataro Iwasaki, who has been behind monopoly capitalism in Japan, to Eiichi Shibusawa who developed the concepts of ethical capitalism. Is it a sign that may cause changes in Japan's capitalism, or just a coincidence? Capitalism is producing dysfunction. Ethical capitalism could be the best agent of change to be welcomed by people in the world, including Japan.
- Shibusawa Eiichi Digital Mueseum. (2021, Apr 21). Introduction of Eiichi Shibusawa. http://www.city.fukaya.saitama.jp/shibusawa_eiichi/shokai.html
- Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation. (2021, Jun 25). Name Change Charts of Companies and Organizations Related to Eiichi Shibusawa. https://eiichi.shibusawa.or.jp/namechangecharts/
- FNN Prime Online. (2021, Jul 2). 20% of Employees knew Inappropriate Inspections?...Cheating Scandal of Testing at Mitsubishi Electric's Factory in Nagasaki, President announced his resignation. https://www.fnn.jp/articles/-/204673
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- Hunter, Janet. (2014, Feb 13). Chapter 5 "Obtaining wealth through fair means": Putting Shibusawa Eiichi's Views on Business Morality in Context. Kikkawa, Takeo, and Fridenson, Patrick(Eds.). GAPPON Capitalism: The Economic and Moral Ideology of Shibusawa Eiichi in Global Perspective. Toyo Keizai Shinposha
the Analects of Confucius
July 25, 2021
Updated on August 20, 2021
A former U.S. president, Barack Obama, described in his memo to the heads of federal agencies that “a democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency” in January 2009. Obama revoked the Bush administration's executive order which severely restricted public access to presidential records from Ronald Reagan forward and provided the ability to cease and retard the release of the records for former presidents and vice presidents as one of his first official acts. He signed the Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2016 to create an unprecedented level of openness in the government. It encourages accountability through transparency.
In marked contrast to Obama's actions, the Japanese ex-prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has been suspected of concealments and falsifications of official documents and data. It is said that one of his unlawful actions caused an official at the Ministry of Finance to commit suicide. The official's wife made a disclosure request for memorandums in which a detailed description of the fraudulent acts was described. At first, the government refused to reveal their existence. Finally, the defendant mentioned intention to submit the evidence at oral proceedings on June 23, 2021. But many people don't doubt that key points will be blacked out. Accountability is translated as “setsumei sekinin” in Japanese, which literally means “responsibility to explain.”Many Japanese people think accountability refers to the duty of a person concerned to explain about his or her own actions and decisions. An opinion poll conducted in early June showed that 12% of the survey participants, the 3rd most among candidates along with a strong candidate of the next generation, except nonresponse, said Sinzo Abe was appropriate to be the next president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 ranks Japan as 19th most incorruptible country among 180 countries and territories.
People and mass media claim that the prime minister and the government should account for reasons why Japan has to hold the Tokyo Olympics under the coronavirus pandemic in the face of general opposition. Many medical specialists say it is unusual to hold large-scale global events when vaccination does not proceed in Japan and the world. People are unsatisfied with the actions and decisions of the prime minister because he does not fulfill his accountability enough to convince us. It is said being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable to people for the performance of agencies’ duties. An open and accountable person takes responsibility for the outcomes of his or her actions and decisions. First of all, we cannot identify who is ultimately responsible for the outcomes of the Olympics although Tokyo Prefecture is their host, because the government and the Olympic Organizing Committee are behaving like a host without responsibility. Historically, Japan has tended to avoid clarifying where responsibility lies. For example, we are not sure who was responsible for the Second World War. It is believed that full responsibility lies with the military, not Former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. But exactly who in the military was accountable? Secondly, no clear explanation and justification of activities of the authorities concerned can be found in their presentation. The government has not cited figures based on scientific evidence for public assessment. Without appropriate information, we cannot find out why they are acting so and how they arrived at their decisions. Lastly, the government keeps ignoring things that would be unfavorable to themselves, or public assessment of their actions. The Novel Coronavirus Expert Meeting has failed to function for the best interests of the people due to the government's egoism. It seems the government aims at "all's well that ends well" by increasing doses of vaccines.
The Parliament of New Zealand established the Epidemic Response Committee, which was chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, on March 25, 2020. It is noteworthy that the ministry of Health gave information as requested, to the opposition majority parliamentary committee which checked the government's responses to the COVID-19 epidemic with a high level of transparency and accountability. The committee meeting lives streamed on Parliament’s website and social media were available when hearings were on public view, and their on-demand versions can be viewed easily. New Zealand came out on top on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2020, along with Denmark. The country is led by a female prime minister and nearly half cabinet ministers are women.
Norway ranks at the top of the list in the Sustainable Governance Indicators 2020 in terms of executive accountability with a wide and effective capacity of systems used to maintain watchful eyes, while Japan takes the 27th place in the lower-middle range. The Norwegian governments value the legislative right for the public to access information. Norway is a high-trust society. Citizens have high trust in government, and government authorities display a higher degree of mutual trust than those in many other countries. In Japan, people have believed the government is one of the most treacherous organizations. The Nordic country is one of those that achieved the highest rates for the most female ministers in the world, including the prime minister. Women account for more than 44% of all ministers.
Public accountability has been dubbed the “hallmark of modern democratic governance.” There is, admittedly, an absence of public accountability in Japan's governance. Can we recognize Japan as a modern democratic country?
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- Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020. Sustainable Governance Indicators;: Executive Accountability . https://www.sgi-network.org/2020/Governance/Executive_Accountability
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June 13, 2021
Updated on June 20, 2021
It is said Albert Einstein had autism spectrum disorder(ASD). He did not wear socks and removed cuffs from his shirts by cutting them off because he was hypersensitive to texture. The winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics said he had seldom thought in words but thought through visual processing. He was not admitted to ETH Zurich at first because he failed examinations for the college except physics and mathematics. His worst subject was language. The German-born physicist did not like to listen to classes in his school days. After enrolling in ETH Zurich, he often cut classes and spent time at the library. His friend, Einstein's lifelong companion, showed Einstein his notebooks, so that the man of great importance in future years could pass examinations to put himself through college.
There are a great number of signs and symptoms showing that a person has ASD. The most commonly known feature is that people with ASD have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication. Their abilities to learn, think and problem-solve range from gifted to severely challenged. Albert Einstein was remarkably gifted. However, he could not have drawn out his potential without sympathetic supporters such as the friend at ETH Zurich and good environments like a happy home environment. Einstein had typical signs of ASD. Many with ASD are oversensitive to touch, taste, sound, sight, smell, balance and proprioception(body awareness). For example, people hypersensitive to sound cannot do without noise-cancelling headphones. Research shows people without intellectual disability (more than 70% out of all the people with ASD) can be classified into three types by thinking styles: visual thinkers who think in visual images, verbal/logic thinkers who are good at learning languages, remembering facts and trivia, and making lists, but devoid of visual skills, and pattern thinkers who excel at music and math. Photo-realistic visual thinkers have the benefit of photographic memory. Like other people, individuals with ASD have their own strengths and weaknesses. But, they have an extreme difference between strengths and weaknesses. They become overly absorbed with interest in specific fields.
Individuals with ASD have trouble in auditory processing. It takes autistic people longer to process what they heard verbally. Autistic people have difficulty in working out the meaning of speech sound even though there is nothing wrong with their hearing. They are characterized by lower level abilities to accurately process and interpret auditory information. In addition, sounds below 80 db(HL) are more likely to be distressing for them. Normal conversation is about 60 db compared to around 90 db of a lawn mower. These are why children with ASD have difficulty in learning in traditional ways. Lectures are still the basis for how teachers give their lessons in Japan.
ASD can be categorized into four subtypes of behavior: aloof, passive, active-but-odd and stilted. The aloof individual is unresponsive and uninterested in other people, and completely engrossed in his or her own world. The passive individual is not actively involved with others, but accepts contact if initiated by them. The active-but-odd individual is that who makes spontaneous social communication with others, but naïve, and one-sided. Opposed to the aloof and the passive individuals, this type has much longer vocabularies and uses their language. The stereotypical behaviors of the stilted individual are that he or she is dominant, sticking to rules of social interaction without really understanding them.
April 2 falls on World Autism Awareness Day recognised by the United Nations and the period between April 2 and April 8 is observed as Developmental Disorders Awareness Week established in Japan. Awareness-raising activities such as the distribution of flyers and leaflets was conducted to raise public awareness about ASD and other developmental disorders at Okayama Station on April 4 and at Kurashiki Station on April 2. Okayama Castle, Bitchu Kokubunji Temple, and some other facilities were lit up in blue on some days during the period. But it is doubtful whether it raised the awareness of developmental disorders among many people in such trite ways.
CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network reported that around 1 in 54 or 1.85% of children aged 8 years have been identified with ASD in 2016, based on research in multiple areas of the U.S. The institute is tracking information on ASD for statistical purposes and issues its community report on autism which is reader-friendly regularly. Meanwhile, e-Healthnet, a website operated by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, estimated about 1% of the population of Japan have ASD. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology released a report on children with developmental disorders based on investigations conducted in 2012. The data collection indicated that regular classes have 6.5% of students with developmental disorders: 4.5% for learning deficit(LD), 3.1% for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD), 1.1% for ASD (there is some overlap). It seems there are no continuous official statistics of Japan on autism. Hirosaki University located in northern Japan announced in 2020 that 3.22% of children aged 5 years were found to have ASD by their research data that had been tallied up since 2015.
Years ago, some public figures, including a freelance announcer, came out publicly as a person with Asperger Syndrome. At that time, Asperger Syndrome was often taken up by the media. But shortly newspapers and TV stations lost interest in it like a boom. Recently it began to be featured in a lot of the media. NHK, a publicly-run TV of Japan, has developed a campaign for raising public awareness about developmental disorders, including ASD, and broadcast some programs about them since 2018. However, many Japanese people still do not know about ASD well and see it as merely a mental disability.
In Japan there is a lot of peer pressure. People are trying not to assert themselves in order to avoid getting attacked by other people. Many children with ASD become targets of bullying for their unique characteristics at school. Some of them stop going to school and shut themselves in their room. The ministry of education reported in 2020 that an increasing number of children in elementary and junior high school have stopped attending school for the last seven years. In 2019, more than 180,000 children or 1.9% out of the total students stayed away from school. Research says more than a half of children who refuse to attend school have ASD, including overlap with ADHD. For a long time, these children have received public criticism.
It is said people with ASD are good at problem-solving. It is obvious that they shine at challenging themselves as well. Many physicists who might have ASD, such as Einstein and Newton, challenged new issues other physicists did not recognize, like relative time. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are also said to have autistic tendencies. Steve Jobs created compact computers when all computers were enormous. IBM, HPE and some other IT companies launched programs to recruit people with ASD. A report by a recruitment company shows that 85% of college graduates with ASD in the U.S. are unemployed, compared to the national unemployment rate of 4.5% before the COVID-19 pandemic, while just 40% of people affected by autism in Australia are employed, compared with 83% of individuals without disorders. In Europe, the unemployment rate of people with ASD in Denmark is between 80% and 90%, which is a similar trend across the rest of Europe, according to the Autism Society in Denmark. People with high-functioning autism who have unique sensibility and abilities, strong preferences, great persistence and weakness in communication, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, are cut out for start-up entrepreneurs. Japan has been reluctant to nurture a culture of entrepreneurship. The U.S. has led the IT industry in the world and expanded its presence in high technology fields while Japan has fallen behind in the fields compared to the U.S., China, India and some European countries. Japan has almost ignored the presence of the people with distinct characteristics and faculties. Japanese people often use the words, "never experienced before" and "take a wait-and-see attitude," at work.
It is often said there is something abnormal in people with ASD. However, what about those without ASD who often tell lies, bully the weak, stand in other people's way, and try to make war?
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- University of Rochester Medical Center. Interacting with a Child Who Has Autism Spectrum Disorder. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=160&contentid=46
- Okayama Prefecture. (2021, Mar 25). April 2 falls on World Autism Awareness Day recognised by the UN. The period from April 2 to April 8 observed as Developmental Disorders Awareness Week ~ conducting awareness-raising activities, and lighting up in blue. https://www.pref.okayama.jp/site/presssystem/550993.html
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April 11, 2021
Updated on May 30, 2021
Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Mori's derogatory comments about women, "board of directors meetings with many women takes a lot of time," caused chaos both at home and abroad. Media in Japan covered the issue extensively every day. But it seems their concern is whether other countries, expecially advanced western countries, regard Japan as a democratic nation, rather than sex discrimination itself. There was a clash of opinions on who would be his successor: choosing by abilities, regardless of the gender, or replacing him for a woman. In conclusion, Seiko Hashimoto, a former female Olympian at seven Olympic Games and Japan's Olympic minister, has been chosen as the new president of the Olympic Organizing Committee effectively with closed doors, not in the selection panel.
In Japan, it is not common to discuss gender discrimination in our daily lives. It comes up when someone famous makes sexist remarks in public such as this case or Japan has been ranked much lower by a global gender equality ranking, like Global Gender Gap Report. Japan has been placed 121st out of the 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings.
Japanese men tend to adore ditzy but good-looking young girls. This type of girls is very popular in plenty of variety show programs in Japan's television industry, especially in their debut, while Japanese show business has a tendency to steer clear of girls who are smart and have their head screwed on the right way. It is reflecting the trend in the everyday world. Many Japanese men prefer treating women as if they were fragile and airheaded to satisfy their sense of self-esteem. As a result, a lot of women are apt to consider mental strength and wiseness unimportant.
Some men say Japanese women are passive in improving their career. But Japanese girls have not received necessary and proper education on building their career and the leadership of women at school. Researchers revealed that males were main characters in 122 out of 170 stories included in Japanese language textbooks used in the elementary schools in 2008. It accounted for 71.8% out of all the stories. In the rest of the stories, a female main character or a leading character whose gender was unknown was featured. Stories on only three women's lives appeared in the textbooks while those on seven men's lives were included. As for social studies, 45 people were in the textbooks, but only three females, such as Murasaki Shikibu, were included. There were no females in modern times and later.
In Japan the despotic leadership style is still the most common among public and private organizations. Despotic leaders are forceful, direct, and tough, based on personal dominance and authoritarian behavior. In contrast, many in advanced western countries have adopted the democratic leadership style. The shared leadership allows equal participation of team members in the decision-making and the problem-solving processes. Women have a tendency to place more importance on relationships with other people. Which comes first, spreading the democratic leadership style in Japan or drastically increasing the ratio of female leaders? Or neither of them?
Fumio Kishida formed his cabinet, after he formally took office as new prime minister of Japan on October 4. Three women were appointed to his cabinet while two women had been assigned to ministers under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. It is likely that the number of female ministers has increased by one in view of the public outrage over discrimination against women. However, the number of new female vice ministers is just one out of 26 members.
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- Nagata, Mayo. Hidden Curriculum Considerations Seen in Japanese Language Textbooks Used in Elementary Schools - From the Points of Gender and Queer. Hiroshima University Institutional Repository. https://ir.lib.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/ja/00033003
- St Thomas University. (2014, Nov 25). What is Democratic/Participative Leadership? How Collaboration Can Boost Morale. https://online.stu.edu/articles/education/democratic-participative-leadership.aspx
February 21, 2021
Updated on October 11, 2021