Terrie's Take 874 -- Immigrating To Japan And How Others Are Arriving Here, e-biz news

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Nov 21 08:55:25 JST 2016

* * * * * * * * 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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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 
marriage partner.

1. Students:

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 
this year.

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 
sponsored jobs.

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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 
for them.

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 
near future.

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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+++ NEWS

- 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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Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2016
Time: 19:30pm to 22:30pm - Doors open. As a set menu it will include 
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Cost: 5,500 yen - Open to all. No sign ups at the door! First registered 
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RSVP: By 10am on Monday 12th December, 2016. Venue is Andy's Shin 
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=> 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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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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