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.

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Would-be NTV announcer’s fate hangs on issues of morality and fraud

BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI
NOV 26, 2014

The prevalence of the employment custom of saiyō naitei (tentative job offers) may well be peculiar to Japan. As I touched upon in my March 27, 2012, column, university juniors and seniors skip class to attend work seminars, company orientations, internships and, finally, a series of tests and interviews with prospective employers.

Universities wholeheartedly approve of this shūkatsu job-hunting mania and are therefore quite lenient about attendance, assignments and other mere scholastic responsibilities. If things go well, seniors find themselves the lucky recipients of a saiyō naitei — an early promise of employment to begin the first April after graduation.

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AKB48 on stage

AKB48 members deserve to get workers’ comp for saw attack

On May 25, a man wielding a saw attacked and wounded 19-year-old Rina Kawaei and 18-year-old Anna Iriyama, two members of bumper girl group AKB48, and a male staffer at an event where fans get to shake hands with their AKB idols.

Fortunately the injuries were minor, but fans were shocked. The victims and their AKB48 comrades must have been terrified.

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Foreign workers fear exploitation as Olympic projects gather steam

My first Labor Pains column of the new fiscal year will look at the government’s recent proposal for bringing in foreign workers.

Various proposals on easing immigration restrictions for foreign workers have been bandied about in recent years, but they were inevitably scrapped because “Japan is but a tiny island nation.” (In fact, Japan is the fifth-largest island nation in the world, after Australia, Indonesia, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea.) Incidentally, there are currently 2.03 million foreign residents and more than 700,000 foreign workers in Japan, so the country is already quite multinational and multiethnic in composition.

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Tozen Vlog for April 8, 2014

Image taken from debito.org

ANA caricature speaks volumes about Japan’s outdated mind-set

By Hifumi Okunuki Last month, a new ANA commercial hit the airwaves — and quickly ran into some serious turbulence. The scene is Haneda Airport. Two Japanese men dressed as pilots stand with their backs to the camera. “Haneda has more international flights nowadays,” says one. “Finally,” replies the other. “Next stop, Vancouver,” the first man says. … Read more