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Foreign firefighters stifled by Japanese gov't bureaucratic restrictions

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By Fuyuko Ishizawa

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Mitsue, a village in Nara Prefecture, western Japan, where approximately 60 percent of the population is 65 or older, hired a foreign firefighter on the condition the person could not engage in actual firefighting.

The very definition of stupidity. Those running the village of Mitsue need their IQ checked.

32 ( +40 / -8 )

What?

Foreign fire fighters are discrimated against in Japan?

Why?

Do they not risk their lives every time they go out to save Japanese lives?

22 ( +33 / -11 )

There are many outdated policies that Japan needs to scrap.

30 ( +41 / -11 )

The guidelines, issued in 1953 by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau

That one statement explains the system very well. Japan doesn't want those pesky foreigners telling Japanese people what tp do.

-14 ( +26 / -40 )

A firefighter, no matter their nationality, should be able to do every task expected of them. This is just a nonsensical outdated policy.

32 ( +36 / -4 )

Some will say they love Japan and it should stay Japanese, preserved as in their imaginations. Some will say that it's their country and their laws, nothing to do with others.

-6 ( +9 / -15 )

All countries have rules about the public servant activities and nationalities. In my country, professional firefighters are a branch of the army, so rules do apply for nationality, but there are also some volunteer firefighters.

As long as it is not related to the country defense here, foreigners should be allowed. Not sure of the exact status in Japan

25 ( +27 / -2 )

Well. the 1953 guidelines just need to be scrapped, don't they. The new guidelines need to allow far more use of the resources and to be completely understandable. This is a waste of life-saving options. In this case Japan really ought to use these people as often as needed and empower the firefighters to use their skills. Japan should be a little red-faced about the current problem. Oh, and I love Japan, so I'm one of the some people who would let this just go by.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

"Japanese nationality is required for the exercise of public authority."

This same "law" is what prevents any foreigner from being hired to a full time position in any city office or government position, as those positions are for "komuin" only.

Police and fire fighters fall into the komuin category.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

Because it is a shame and an insult to Japanese dignity if the victims were to be saved by foreigners. Gaijin firefighters were not regarded as Japanese even they owned Japanese nationality and hired by Japan fire department !

-17 ( +13 / -30 )

If you want to do such a job in Japan for whatever reason best to apply for citizenship.

-16 ( +6 / -22 )

Mitsue, a village in Nara Prefecture, western Japan, where approximately 60 percent of the population is 65 or older, hired a foreign firefighter on the condition the person could not engage in actual firefighting.

Was this rule written by Monty Python?

23 ( +32 / -9 )

I can't be optimistic the new guidelines will be helpful, unfortunately it is too common for Japanese authorities to side-step a problem and only put a band-aid measure that does not solve anything but lets them say they did something about it. I can totally see the guidelines being something like "Local governments can hire and use foreigners as firefighters as long as they assume any and all responsibility for their actions"

4 ( +12 / -8 )

/Very Serious and Concerned Face Palm

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Acknowledging an urgent need for clarity, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency is working to create a set of new guidelines with a plan to present it to municipalities across Japan by the end of March 2025.

One official in charge admitted the agency is preparing only "guidelines" rather than establishing exactly what foreign firefighters can and cannot do, implying that the final decision on whether or not a foreign national is eligible to perform all duties will continue to be left to local governments.

Japan in a nutshell. Acknowledge a problem, set a date well into the future to address it but only with "guidelines" that are vague and cause confusion. Why can't they just simply clarify what foreign firefighters can and cannot do?

9 ( +17 / -8 )

Some would say Japan is no longer a monoculture and it is time to catch up with the rest of the multicultural world....

6 ( +10 / -4 )

The mere fact that a guideline won't be coming out until March 2025 says it all; snail paced bureaucracy with no one taking the lead. These fire brigades are not fire fighters that you see wearing the orange uniforms and who go undergo rigorous training, these are the fire brigades 消防団 who are local volunteers, people who more than likely just wanted to contribute to their community. Japan needs to do more on Sept 9 Disaster Prevention Day 防災の日 than to just play with fire extinguishers.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Sorry maam, I can't save your husband or children. We'll need to fill out some forms and other various documents. That needs to be mailed in. It can't be done by email. It takes about two weeks. At which time, I'll receive a little sticker I can put on my helmet.

Please stand by while we resolve this issue.

7 ( +15 / -8 )

This same "law" is what prevents any foreigner from being hired to a full time position in any city office or government position, as those positions are for "komuin" only.

Police and fire fighters fall into the komuin category.

For local government that's not the issue,

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/15107513

For Government research agency, they already hired foreigners long time ago.

.

However for komuin that affiliated or regulated by central government. For firefighters, most of them are funded locally however this issue appears because "guideline" that being issued by central government.

Many municipalities are frustrated with the lack of coherent rules or legal clarity on the matter and are puzzled by the central government's guidelines that state "Japanese nationality is required for the exercise of public authority."

The guidelines, issued in 1953 by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, are considered a restricting factor on foreign firefighters.

Public authority in this case, just to instruct people to out of those building or block traffic because some accidents happens, that only exist for few hours not months or years.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

When I first arrived in Japan over 30 years ago I met several foreigner that were full time city employees including ALTs.

But one year (I don't remember exactly when) the national government "clarified" the rules and suddenly all were fired basesd on this.

Some retained somewhat their work but under a far lower salary through a contracting company others outright lost their jobs.

But in most cases all these positions especially the teaching and government office work, were replaced by the lowest bidding contract companies supplying inferior quality temporary workers.

So this type of silliness isn't just the firefighters but the governments as a whole.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

each municipality must make an individual judgment on what activities amount to them exercising "public authority."

Here’s the real problem:

the city has to decide for themselves what constitutes public authority.

And, having no experience in deciding for themselves, having grown up with the education system here, they’re stifled. Or stymied.r

-1 ( +11 / -12 )

Psychologists call this response "oppositional defiance disorder "in individuals.

Here we see it on a national scale.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Foreign firefighters should protest this - at fire scenes.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Because in Japan, fire in Japan so unique can only be extinguish by Japanese person who were raised and born in Japan. 

A non-Japanese friend of mine once went to rent a little allotment where he could grow a few vegetables as a hobby garden. The local JA were reluctant to rent to him because he “might not know how to dig holes the Japanese way”. I’m not making this up.

4 ( +18 / -14 )

We continue that multiculturalism journey in Japan, and it is trash. Still stuck in the 1950's in the year 2024.

The firefighters are classed as part-time,

So they're just part-timers. Hope more people quit the profession and less people join. Then next car accident, fire, structure collapse, earthquake or any other disaster where people need to be rescued, they rescue themselves. But seriously, pay part-timers???

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Mitsue, a village in Nara Prefecture, western Japan, where approximately 60 percent of the population is 65 or older, hired a foreign firefighter on the condition the person could not engage in actual firefighting.

Of course, Japanese is different.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

What's the point of becoming a firefigher if they can't fight fire? Firefighters are supposed to save lives! Why limit what they can do because of their nationality? Makes no sense!

12 ( +13 / -1 )

As a homeowner and very long-term resident of my city, years ago, I was asked to become a member of the volunteer fire department. A week later, the offer was sheepishly withdrawn for the reason stipulated in the article. I was secretly happy with that as I was at an extremely busy time in my life. Now I'm not only still a foreigner but also too old, so looks like I dodged that bullet.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Laguna.

Ditto.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Not one post has touched upon the central issue quoted in the article here, the authority to force people from their homes, and even to knock down their house. Often used in the Edo period. Actually this extreme authority would probably be a group exercise on the ground anyway, but members of the public would not look kindly on anyone knocking their house down, even a Japanese firefighter, and cases could easily end up in litigation.

Quote: "Generally, public authority is required to establish fire zones, where firefighters can order people to evacuate dangerous areas and take emergency measures such as destroying property to prevent the spread of fire or to save human lives."

Clarity on ground rules is needed, I would agree.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

PS Creating fire-breaks by destroying property that is not yet on fire, is included in the meaning above.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan will need to make a lot of changes. They need workers and they're not getting them from their own so need to recruit outsiders. Outsiders shouldn't be treated any different. They are here to perform a job competently.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Despite being very few in number...

There!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I used to say that for the sake of your visa and life in Japan, you are only allowed to save a japanese in cases of fire, natural disasters etc. where it doesnt involve a perpetrator. Now not even this.....

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Many municipalities are frustrated with the lack of coherent rules or legal clarity on the matter and are puzzled by the central government's guidelines that state "Japanese nationality is required for the exercise of public authority."

If any country wishes to save lives in the midst of natural disasters, a devastating earthquake, its stand to reason that vital emergency services understand fully procedures protocols, basic communication. defined as being able to communicate in the same "flipping" language.

I would have thought that goes without stating!!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The mindset is that foreigners will always be temporary and therefore can't be given any really responsibility. And A) Japanese is too difficult and , B)Foreigners will never be able to understand the Japanese way. B) is probably true though.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

For local government that's not the issue,

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/15107513

For Government research agency, they already hired foreigners long time ago.

Not komuin, as the komuin law requires nationality

I should have been more specific. Sure they can hire "full time", but not permanently, and will always be special cases.

However, once hired, foreign employees could not be promoted to hold managerial positions as division chiefs or other senior posts, including managers of municipal facilities. They also could not be involved in the development of fundamental policies of the town.

Non-Japanese employees would also be unable to exert public authority for imposing taxes, seizing tax delinquents’ properties, deciding urban planning, acquiring land, conducting on-site inspections or performing similar tasks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Fire never cares on someone nationality it keeps on burning. The Japan of 1953 is very different from Japan today, less space more crowded. People willing to fight fires are needed regardless of where they came from.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

You would think that in such a natural disaster riddled country such as Japan, they'd accept all the help and volunteers they could get, no matter their nationality. But hey-ho, once again, the country's deeply rooted xenophobia gets in the way. I highly doubt that someone trapped in a burning building is going to go, "Oh, you're not Japanese? No thanks. I'll wait until a Japanese firefighter comes to rescue me."

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

itsonlyrocknroll

Today 02:06 pm JST

If any country wishes to save lives in the midst of natural disasters, a devastating earthquake, its stand to reason that vital emergency services understand fully procedures protocols, basic communication. defined as being able to communicate in the same "flipping" language.

> I would have thought that goes without stating!!

As a former member of rescue team sent to the 1985 Mexico city earthquake, few if any of us could speak Spanish.

Ask those we pulled from the rubble if they cared that we couldn't speak Spanish!

Our team was able to get instructions via locals that spoke some English, our own basic understanding of Spanish, communication with local authorities was via and interpreter, etc...

I am willing to bet that most of these non-Japanese firefighters have at least basic understanding and basic communication skills in Japanese and as they work with the rest of their teams that would eventually lead to full fluency.

I wasn't a firefighter I was search and rescue but similarly both have basic protocols, basic orders used and basic methods.

Senior leaders bark out orders, often the same orders or a variation at each event, short and sweet.

There are no long winded conversations no long "discussions" it is " go there do this do that, move it!".

Again I highly doubt these foreign firefighters have zero or extremely low Japanese language skills!

Now it should be the team leader and the rest of the team members to make the decision, if they are comfortable, if they feel safe working with these people and their language level then that should be how it goes.

It shouldn't be so bureaucrats sitting behind a desk with zero experience in fighting fires and no idea how the team works.

The language argument is a red herring, and excuse by close minded people with little knowledge of the job.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

What blows me away is that the bureaucrats are going to take another year to re-write the rules. I think anyone commenting on this story could do that re-write in a day. Or less.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It would be more accurate to say "Foreign (fill in the blank) stifled by Japanese gov't bureaucratic restrictions.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Nobody wants to be accused of making a mistake or putting a foot wrong in Japan by not following the myriad rules that are used to oppress free thinking; especially not those trying to save lives.

I’ve been in situations several times where I have helped Japanese and some where I have stepped back.

Once, I remember helping a car crash victim out of her car and onto the side of the road with two foreigner friends at a junction close to my house.

She was in a daze and covered with air bag dust but conscious.

We propped her upright and rescued her two mobile phones from the vehicle but then buggered off as we didn’t want to be detained and questioned by the local J-cops for several hours over non related matters.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

sakurasukiToday 09:18 am JST

These are the key words in your article:

*Non-Japanese employees would also be unable to exert public authority for imposing taxes, seizing tax delinquents’ properties, deciding urban planning, acquiring land, conducting on-site inspections or performing similar tasks.*

borschtToday 09:22 am JST

Actually, either they are too panicky or they are ironically weak in what's supposed to be a Japanese (or Oriental) strength. This is about basic word definitions. The non-Japanese citizen cannot be authorized to perform any administrative or quasi-administrative act - that is, he can't change the rights and obligations of anyone. He cannot order. He cannot permit. He cannot forbid. He cannot grant or revoke privileges. And he cannot make any legal determinations which has the practical effect of changing the rights of obligations of anyone (that's why they are called "quasi").

It certainly does not mean he cannot be allowed to spray water onto a fire or drag survivors out. Either Mie village's leadership wasn't well trained in law, or it is more complicated than the article lets on. Maybe they are afraid while executing his duties in the chaos of the real world, he'd encounter a situation where he's alone and he needs to issue an administrative act, but he has no right to do so,

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Unbelievable. Are y'all kidding me?!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Their country..

Their rules..

GO JAPAN !!..

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

How about Japanese citizens being stifled by Japanese bureaucracy?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It seems like something else is going on that's not being explicitly mentioned. I remember during the big earthquake U.S. Marines came to the area and were helping with supplies. Some were even checking rubble for survivors.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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