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Town opts for isolation policy??? January 17, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, Media, Politics.

Via JapanProbe

A Japan Times reader writes:

 […] I would like to propose a new award: the “Dejima Awards,” given to those in Japan who actively try to shield themselves from foreigners and foreign influence, culture and ideas.

I would like to nominate the Setaka Town Assembly (Fukuoka Prefecture) for this year’s award. The town was trying to attract a university to establish a campus in town, and in the process asked for comments from the townsfolk.

A group of residents submitted a deposition opposing a campus that did not reject foreign students. They were worried about the crime such students would bring. That’s right — the residents wanted a university as long as there were no foreign students. The town assembly voted to accept the proposal without debate.


On the face of it, sounds like a xenophobic town assembly in the sticks up to no good. However, the actual story looks a little different(article in Japanese) .It is true that Setaka Town Assembly did vote in favour of a public petition opposing the university, on 20th December. However, the same assembly reconvened on the very next day to modify its approval to exclude the item regarding foreign students, as that part was deemed “inappropriate”, and that there were “insufficient discussions” about this issue. You don’t say….



I’m guessing the realityis that the assembly members didn’t actually bother reading the petition before all voting to approve it (without a debate)……


Which is absolutely pathetic. Another piece of evidence which just shows how much deadweight exists in the Japanese political system.


The fact that the xenophobic demand appears on the petition does say something about the residents who drafted the petition without a doubt (and also those who signed it – the ones who read it, at least). However, it must be noted that the incident where a Fukuoka family was murdered by three Chinese overseas students looms over this area, which is close to Fukuoka. Add that to the fact that many rural Japanese universities do seem to rely to an increasing extent on overseas students to keep the student population up, and I think it is hard not too feel a tiny bit of sympathy for this basically rural community who are just fearing the unknown. For all intents and purposes, “foreign students” coming to a rural non-prestigeous university are likely to be overwhelmingly from Asia (and some from developing world). I note that the person who wrote in appears to be from Australia. I wonder how, say, Ipswich, Queensland would “welcome” a plan to set up an university with a significant ethnic minority intake – say, 30% from say, “Asia” – I think Pauline Hanson meant yellow people – or Papua or Lebanon, by way of example.


The petition appears to have been started because residents felt that they were not being consulted adequately. Other issues (apart from the foreign students) which appear to have been raised include the necessity of a new university – to which the local authority is expected to put up some money (JPY600M, or about $6.5M), when Fukuoka, just 40minutes away by train, is home to 10 universities and 8 more junior colleges. There are also several higher education establishments catering to the same market as the proposed university in several neighbouring areas.


The residents do appear to have a point regarding the fiscal issue, seeing that Setaka Town apparently has more that JPY10B (approaching $100M) of debt, and this university is going to cost them some more.


Japanese universities (yes, all 700+ universities – seriously, do we really need 700 universities??? )- and all educational institutions for that matter – are required to own the freehold of their facility, and in this case it appears the local authority was going to buy the land, have it simultaneously re-zoned and then give the land to the university.


I guess the town’s logic (at least officially, discounting the under-the-table deals and such, as well as the fact that building a university is good business for local construction industry types who are uniformly well represented in local assemblies – just look at the “competitive bidding” results for ) is that the town needs to attract young people (as many of the native youngsters flee to Fukuoka and beyond).


The town is about to undergo a 3-way merger to create a new Miyama “city” on 28th January 2007, less than a fortnight from now.


Setaka Town also built a “cultural facility” for $15M in time for the merger, and the university smells like another pork barrel project to me…. Lots of stuff like that happening with the mergers going on all around Japan. Setaka doesn’t seem tob be the only party to the 3-way merger with dodgy cost keeping. Takata Town’s competitive tenders for a(nother) cultural center look suspicously like bid rigging, with the 3 contracts tendered at between 96.7%, 99.8%, and 100% (at JPY16,432,500 – not exactly a round figure) of the set ceiling price….


Anyway, I think the award should be called the Sakoku Awards, if they want to keep foreigners out, rather than confine them to gaijin zones – like Roppongi, say.



1. Scott - January 17, 2007

I’d say Ipswich would be very welcoming given they are already home to a university with a significant proportion of students of Asian descent – the Ipswich campus of the University of Queensland. Although it’s only a small campus (approx 1600 students ), the 18% international full-fee paying students (UQ key stats) + 8% Asian Australians (2001 Census, http://www.abs.gov.au) would combine to give a student population of Asian descent somewhere around 20%. As far as I know, this hasn’t caused any problems for anyone so far. I hope it stays that way because it’s one of the things that makes Australia a great place to live.


2. fukumimi - January 17, 2007


Thank you for the information regarding Ipswich. Having never been to that part of Oz, I just picked it because it was Hanson’s home turf. Nice to see that not all the people there are like Hanson. I stand corrected.

Maybe I should have chosen somewhere further out in the sticks, with an insignificant number of immigrants. Any suggestions? I chose it because it is a similar distance from a major city of similar population (Fukuoka 1.4M, Brisbane 1.8M), though in hindsight it does seem Miyama “city” is way more rural.

Despite the not quite apt comparison, I stick by my hypothesis that any homogeneous rural population will feel uneasy with an influx of a significant number of “outsiders” who have (rightly or wrongly) been associated with crime and social incompatability.

I can easily imagine a huge argument if some small white country town in the shires (in the UK, or in some town in rural USA) was debating the approval of an establishment which would attract significant numbers of Muslims, for example. Even in “multi-cultural” London more than 10 years ago, facilities which attracted significant south asian visitors had a vocal NIMBY group of local residents firmly opposed to approval of such establishments.

3. Scott - January 17, 2007


No problems and, don’t worry, xenophobia is still alive and well in Australia! (as it is anywhere, I guess). A good example of your hypothesis is the recent problems in Tamworth, NSW when Sudanese workers were brought in to take jobs at the local meat works that no-one else wanted:


Thankfully, cooler and more reasoned discussion has followed:

Not to get too political but it is not too hard to draw a connection between recent racial tensions in Australia (e.g. Bondi riots) and the politics of fear used so effectively by the Howard government. John Howard has spent way too much time with George W Bush in recent years….

4. Durf - January 17, 2007

I’d be happy keeping certain foreigners confined to Roppongi, assuming we’re talking about the kind of foreigners who spend time in Roppongi in the first place. 😉

Would be nice to see this whole plan shot down as pork that the municipality doesn’t need, but that would require people to carry signs saying “no more Yubaris” instead of “no more gaijin.”

5. fukumimi - January 17, 2007

When the central government incentivises pork barrel projects (it is being used as a carrot to get rural authorities to merge, a substantial portion of the costs come from the central government (and therefore all taxpayers’) pockets), it is probably difficult to get rural politicians to wake up and stop being so wasteful. Anyway, most of them are like 99 years old and probably think they won’t be around when the whole house of cards collapses. Gerontocracy is another of the problems with Japanese politics. When a 50-something is hailed as “young”, you know things are messed up.

“No more Yubari” is apparently a big no-no in local government. See the Mayor of Atami, who issued a warning call and was subsequently lynched (metaphorically) by the local businesses who prefer to play ostrich.

6. Ken - January 22, 2007

I like the idea for “Sakoku Awards,” but I stayed away from this story for the time being because I thought there had to be something more behind it. I’ll bet you’re right – measures all over the world are voted on without being read.

Anyway, given the population crunch, it seems that building a new university just isn’t a good idea, unless it’s going to take money from tons or foreign students or fill some niche that’s still open.

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