ABC NewsRadio Interview

ABC NewsRadio’s Eleni Psaltis presents Japan In Focus, a new program that takes a close look at significant political and cultural developments in Japan.

This week: Defining Joshi Kosei – high school girls hired for a range of controversial services for men, the US dollar hits its highest level against the yen since December 2002 and why people are consuming more meat than fish in Japan.

Eleni Psaltis speaks to Hifumi Okunuki and Louis Carlet from the Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union, the Wall Street Journal’s Tokyo correspondent Eleanor Warnock and Masa Kagawa, an associate professor at the Kagawa Nutrition University.

Listen here:
http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4246199.htm

Thriving trade: Bags of origami cranes apparently folded by girls at Minna no Sagyojo Kurione and other evidence collected by police from the 'workshop' in Higashi-Ikebukuro are revealed to reporters earlier this month in Tokyo. | KYODO

Society helps sustain Japan’s sordid sexual trade in schoolgirls

BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI
When you hear the expression “JK business,” do you have any idea what kind of work this refers to? JK stands for joshi kōsei (high school girls). In Japan, JK is a very powerful brand — and high school girls are a highly valued commodity.

Read moreSociety helps sustain Japan’s sordid sexual trade in schoolgirls

‘Zero Overtime Bill’ is the thin end of the wedge for workers’ rights

Takuboku Ishikawa died in 1910 at the tender age of 26.  But before he left this world, he penned the following famous tanka:

働けど
働けどなお
我が暮らし
楽にならざり
じつと手をみる

Hatarakedo
Hatarakedonao
waga kurashi
raku ni narazari
jitto te wo miru

Staring at my hands
I toil and toil
yet my life gets no easier

Bewildered by his predicament, Takuboku found himself staring at the hands that connected him both physically and spiritually to his work.

Read more‘Zero Overtime Bill’ is the thin end of the wedge for workers’ rights

過労死をいっそう促進する「残業代ゼロ制度」はどう考えればいい

働けど
働けどなお
我が暮らし
楽にならざり
じつと手をみる

1910(明治43)年に26歳で夭逝した歌人の石川啄木による、あまりにも有名な短歌である。「どれだけたくさん働いても、一向に暮らしは楽にならないのはなぜだろう? 途方に暮れて、思わずじっと自分の手を見つめてしまう・・・」という意味である。

啄木は若き才能あふれる文学者であったが、生前はその才能が世間になかなか認められず、代用教員や校正など、生活のために様々な職に就いていた(ちなみに、彼は周囲の人に借金をしまくっており、しかもその返済をしなかったという)。ただし、啄木は肉体労働には就いていなかったので、「じつと」見つめていた手は、きっと赤剥けもささくれもなく、細く白かったのだろうと推測できる。

Read more過労死をいっそう促進する「残業代ゼロ制度」はどう考えればいい

| ILLUSTRATION BY CHRIS MACKENZIE

Japan sees progress on sexual harassment, but some still don’t get it

BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI

Once upon a time, the English word “harassment” was unfamiliar to Japanese ears. Over the past quarter-century the word has burrowed its way deep into the collective consciousness, at times even replacing the Japanese word iyagarase. Today one would be hard-put to find a citizen unfamiliar with the English version and its many derivatives (see below).

Read moreJapan sees progress on sexual harassment, but some still don’t get it

「ちゃんと休ませてくれ!」―労働法における「休憩」って?

労働法と一言でいっても、そのなかには、さまざまな個別のテーマがある。たとえば、賃金、労働時間、配転、人事評価、解雇、営業譲渡、労働災害などなど。そのなかでも、あまり重きを置かれていないものに「休憩」がある。労働法の体系書を見ても、「休憩」に割くページ数は、他のテーマに比べるとかなり少ない。そもそも「労働」法とは、まさに「働くこと」がメインの法律なのだから、その対極にある「休むこと」については、あまり重視されていないのだろうか? 

Read more「ちゃんと休ませてくれ!」―労働法における「休憩」って?

Under Japanese law, breaks are sacred and standby counts as work

Labor law covers a great deal of territory, from wages, work hours, transfers and performance evaluation to dismissals, selling of business rights and industrial accidents. One subject often overlooked is break time or kyūkei. My labor law encyclopedia devotes far fewer pages to this subject than just about any other topic. It is, after all, labor law, not “rest law.”

Read moreUnder Japanese law, breaks are sacred and standby counts as work

Forty years after Zainichi labor case victory, is Japan turning back the clock?

I was hoping to start off the Year of the Sheep in a subdued, “sheepish” fashion, but bad news just keeps on coming. The ruling coalition is working hard to push through a bill to abolish overtime pay for high-income workers and another to deregulate temp-agency employment (haken). These bills will hurt the conditions of all workers in Japan, including foreigners.

Speaking of foreign workers, I’d like to focus this month on how labor laws in Japan handle the issue of nationality. But first, a detour:

Japanese society over the past couple of years has taken a dangerous turn toward extreme nationalism. My husband noted, “Since 2014, both NHK and the private broadcasters have changed how they refer to Japan, from using the word Nihon to Nippon.” The latter was used during World War II and is associated with jingoistic militarism. It also has a harsher consonant sound than “Nihon.”

Read moreForty years after Zainichi labor case victory, is Japan turning back the clock?

空の労働者、JAL165名不当解雇の闘いに連帯を

~原告団長内田妙子さんインタビュー~

2010年大晦日。世間の多くの人びとは、慌ただしく新年を迎える準備をしながら、ワクワクと心躍らせていたことだろう。そんななか、日本屈指の航空会社、鶴のトレードマークで有名なJAL(日本航空)で働く165名の労働者らは、大晦日に会社からクビを切られた。パイロット81名と客室乗務員84名。長年、誇りと情熱をもって空の安全を守るために仕事に従事してきた彼らは、なぜ、大晦日に仕事を奪われなければならなかったのだろうか。

Read more空の労働者、JAL165名不当解雇の闘いに連帯を

Standing up to the country’s flagship carrier

Credibility of justice system in spotlight as highest court to make ruling on JAL layoffs
BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI

Kuala Lumpur, 1977. The rain came down in torrents. The control tower instructed pilots to circle the airport pending better weather. The pilots had the option to divert to a nearby airport where things were quieter. Japan Airlines (JAL) was pushing its employees to cut costs, and the pilot of JAL’s DC8-60 decided not to divert and to circle until the rain let up.

But the rain did not yield. The DC8-60 ran low on fuel and was forced to land come what may. Eight of the 10 crew and 26 of 29 passengers perished in the ensuing crash. This tragedy would inspire one JAL employee, Taeko Uchida, to get serious about union activism in a way that would decades later find her leading a legal and labor battle against Japan’s flagship carrier.

Read moreStanding up to the country’s flagship carrier