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Police ‘foreign crime wave’ falsehoods fuel racism

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These Community pages have reported many times on how the National Police Agency (NPA) has manufactured the illusion of a “foreign crime wave,” depicting non-Japanese (NJ) as a threat to Japan’s public safety (see “Upping the fear factor,” Zeit Gist, Feb. 20, 2007; “Time to come clean on foreign crime,” ZG, Oct. 7, 2003; “Foreigner crime stats cover up a real cop-out,” ZG, Oct. 4, 2002, for just a few examples).

A decade ago, the NPA could make a stronger case because NJ crimes were going up. However, as we pointed out then, Japanese crimes were going up too. And, in terms of absolute numbers and proportion of population, NJ crimes were miniscule.

Then bust followed boom. According to the NPA (see www.npa.go.jp/sosikihanzai/kokusaisousa/kokusai/H23_rainichi.pdf, or the images accompanying this article), “foreign crime” has fallen below 1993 levels (see H5 column, representing the year Heisei 5)!

That’s why the NPA has found it increasingly difficult to maintain its claims of a foreign crime wave. So, to keep up appearances, the agency has resorted to statistical jiggery-pokery.

For example, look again at the NPA chart. The time frame has been expanded to 30 years; in previous annual reports, it covered just a decade. By stretching the parameters, the overall chart depicts a comparative rise rather than a small peak before a precipitous drop.

Not accounted for, however, is the fact that the NJ population has also risen — more than doubling since 1993.

Another method of manipulation has been to focus on partial rises in certain types of NJ crime, despite the overall fall. And I bet you can guess which got more media attention.

The most creative NPA rejig is arguing that NJ crime has been “stopped at a high plateau” (takadomari no jōtai) — even if that “plateau” is downward-sloping.

Every NPA argument leads to the same predictable conclusion: Further crackdowns on “foreign crime” are necessary, because NJ are importing criminality into a once-peaceful Japan.

Yet neither the NPA, nor the Japanese media parroting their semiannual reports, have ever compared Japanese and NJ crime, or put them on the same chart for a sense of scale. If they had, they would see something resembling the 3-D graph that accompanies this column.

The other chart in Japanese (that can be found at hakusyo1.moj.go.jp/jp/59/nfm/n_59_2_1_1_1_0.html and in the accompanying images) — on whose data the 3-D graphic is based — breaks down all crime committed in “peaceful” postwar Japan. Note the (less-reported) concurrent “Japanese crime wave” (especially the middle, yellow set of bars, which depict thefts alone).

Since the right-hand scale is in tens of thousands, the graph tells us that there was a spike to well over 2.5 million non-traffic crimes in the peak year of 2002, a number that dropped to just over 1.5 million by 2009. Compared to 2009’s total “foreign crimes” of 30,569 (including visa violations, which Japanese cannot by definition commit), there is a difference of about a factor of 49. Thus “foreign crime” would barely even register on the chart.

So how can the NPA still sex up the stats? They found a new way.

In its 2009 white paper, the NPA talked about how “foreign crime gangs” are increasingly moving into Japan and creating “crime infrastructure” (hanzai infura).

It’s still such an obscure term that NPA websites have to define it for the public as “things and organizations that are the basic foundation of crime,” i.e., cellphones under fake names, fake websites, false marriages, false adoptions and fake IDs (see www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/images/h0/h0001_04.gif)

Although this “crime infrastructure” technically assists thieves of any nationality, the NPA’s online explanations focus on non-Japanese, with five out of eight examples offered specifically depicting NJ misdeeds (complete, of course, with racist caricatures, at www.pref.ibaraki.jp/kenkei/a01_safety/security/infra.html)

You see this “criminal NJ” narrative again and again on NPA posters, such at the one reproduced here (www.debito.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/bouhaninfurabokumetsutaisakuJune2013.jpg), found at an immigration bureau last March, warning potential NJ miscreants against “forgery,” “bogus marriage,” “false affiliation” (i.e., claiming paternity on a foreign child to get it Japanese citizenship) and “false adoption.”

Note at the bottom, where the NPA has secured a special goro awase mnemonic phone number (hanzai infura nakuse — “get rid of crime infrastructure”) to help Japanese remember it better.

Clearly this “crime infra” campaign is not bowing out anytime soon. In fact, the NPA is now citing it to discount the drop in foreign crime! As their 2010 white paper reports, “the extent of how much crime has become globalized cannot be grasped through statistics” (Kyodo News and Mainichi Shimbun, July 23, 2010).

Seriously? So, suddenly, despite all the Nihonjinron mythologies, NJ are now supposedly more likely than Japanese to act in groups?

Swallow this, as well as the argument that foreigners are somehow more “invisible” in Japan (of all places), and voila, the only conclusion you can possibly draw is that all “foreign crime” statistics come from a little black box that only the NPA has access to.

Look, this is getting silly. You can’t ask for a more docile foreign population than Japan’s.

Almost all NJ do their work (no matter how unequal salaries and benefits are compared to those of Japanese), pay their taxes and try to get along without committing any crimes. NJ don’t even cause trouble by clumping into huge ghettos or keeping a high profile (a recent government poll indicated that 46 percent of Japanese surveyed didn’t even know nikkei South Americans are living in Japan!). Nor do they riot every now and again about how horrendously they get exploited; they just hang on by their fingernails hoping for a fair shake in society — one that rarely comes, as protection from discrimination is far from guaranteed by enforceable laws.

That should be enough hardship to contend with, but then in pounces the NPA to make things worse, picking on the weakest members of Japanese society (as it has done for decades, according to scholar Wolfgang Herbert’s “Foreign Workers and Law Enforcement in Japan”) to justify bogus budgets for fighting exaggerated NJ crime.

Of course, foreigners are a soft target anywhere (by definition, they do not have rights equal to citizens in any country), but in Japan they are so disenfranchised that if anyone points a finger at them, there is no way for them to point back.

NPA excesses have gone on long enough to encourage other bullies. We’ve seen a recent spike in the activity of Japan’s hate groups, most famously the “kill all Koreans” march through Tokyo on Feb. 9. Now how about these anonymous posters making the rounds?

One (reproduced in the images accompanying this column) warns of the allegedly “rapid rise” in fake international marriages for illegal overstayers and workers. Another one calls for kicking out foreign crime (murder, mugging, arson, rape and theft, totaling 25,730 cases — again, a drop in the bucket of Japanese crime).

So, the threat to public safety isn’t “crime infrastructure”; it is in fact the “propaganda infrastructure,” reinforced by false NPA arguments, that normalizes public displays of xenophobia and hatred in Japan.

One measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members. Japan’s systemic and unchecked bullying of NJ is going to hurt others, as emboldened haters eventually turn their attention to other weak social minorities.

Message to government: Rein in the NPA, and stop them constantly bashing Japan’s foreign residents. Expose their statistical hogwash for what it is, and redirect budgets to fight crime in general, not “foreign crime” specifically.

Debito Arudou’s updated “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan” is now available as a downloadable e-book on Amazon. See www.debito.org/handbook.html . Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community pages of the month. Send comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp .

  • Johnny T

    Excellent article Debito. The NPA is rotten to the core, and its ongoing treatment of NJ is disgraceful.

  • robertwgordonesq

    It is natural to be suspicious of non-Japanese in what is perceived as a homogeneous culture.

    Isn’t it possible that when a non-Japanese commits a crime, it is viewed as more “serious” by the Japanese than when a Japanese person commits a crime?

    In the United States, if an illegal immigrant hits and kills someone while driving drunk, there is more outrage than if it was a citizen driving. Why? Because the immigrant is essentially a guest in the county trying to take advantage of the benefits the U.S. has to offer and therefore he or she should be on their best behavior.

    If you are a guest, you should strive to act better than the natives. Your article seems to give guests a “pass” and ignores this legitimate (though irrational) suspicion in the native population.

    The best way to fight negative stereotypes of foreigners (I think) is for foreigners to not to play into those stereotypes…at all.

    • Ron NJ

      To begin with, comparing legal immigrants in Japan to illegal immigrants in America is the very definition of a “tu quoque” logical fallacy.

      That said, speaking of all foreigners as guests is frankly insulting when a great many of us are here long-term, with Japanese spouses, permanent residency in our own right, and other legitimate reasons for being here.

      Is it natural for (white) Britons to be suspect of non-whites, guests in their ethnically Northern European nation? Should all Germans look down on Turkish “guests” – the majority of whom, let’s remember, entered under the Gastarbeiter program – literally “guest worker” program – and then stayed on? Should Arabians treat Filipino or African workers differently simply because they come from another place? Should all of these people just be treated as second-class because of their differing origin, despite their entering these respective countries legally, with the legal permission of the respective governments to remain?

      People should be treated as just that: people. I am not a nationality, I am not a “foreigner”, I am a person. Because I happen to look different or come from a different place gives no one any right to treat me any differently or worse simply because of that fact, especially when I came here via the official route and followed all of the, let’s be frank, quite stringent rules and policies in doing so. I have no obligation to be more respectful of anything or act differently than the “natives” simply because I was not born to one.

      Why is it that Japan always gets a free pass when the rest of its “first world” peers are not?

    • Toolonggone

      I highly disagree with your assertion that immigrants must be treated like guest, especially with your attempt to make generalization by drawing on the questionable understanding of your American perspective on immigrants. Your last statement is NOT a solution to the problem at all. It’s tantamount to say “shut the hell up!”

    • Frogger88

      “It is natural to be suspicious of non-Japanese in what is perceived as a homogeneous culture.”

      Which is precisely why we, as non-Japanese people living in Japan, need to take every opportunity we can to debunk the myth of Japan-as-homogenous-nation. Japan has never been and never will be a homogenous nation. Go to a popular site like Tofugu or any blog about Japan and you’ll see that even people in other countries who will never set foot in Japan buy fully into this myth.

      As you point out, the myth of homogeneity is nothing more than an excuse to be bigoted against outsider. You hit the nail on the head. As long as the myth of homogeneity persists, the myth that it’s “natural” to be suspicious of foreigners will persist.

      Debito’s article may or may not be right – I don’t really care. I appreciate his perspective, at least, and his voice in the milieu. But this right here – the myth of homogeneity is what I personally feel needs to be pushed back against. The myth of homogeneity is the root of a LOT of Japanese prejudices, and if we could only debunk it, the Japanese themselves would have a better understanding of their own nation, and people around the world would have a better understanding of Japan.

    • Frogger88

      “The best way to fight negative stereotypes of foreigners (I think) is
      for foreigners to not to play into those stereotypes…at all.”

      Ugh. Look up “model minority.” The bottom line with this is that you are wrong, dead wrong, and you are playing into the bigots’ hands by saying, “Oh, well if you don’t want people to be racist to you, just stop acting so foreign!” No, no, no. That’s not how it works.

      I am who I am. I walk down the street the way I walk down the street. If someone points and sneers and calls out, “Gaijin!” to me, it is not MY fault for being different. It is THEIR fault for being a racist jerk. Geeze, try looking at Feminism 101 and “slut shaming.” It’s the same thing. You don’t get to point and laugh at me because I’m different, and then tell me to just stop being so different, and maybe you’ll stop. Ugh. Look up anti-gay bullying in America, and look at how many school principals literally said to bullied chilren, “Just stop acting so gay.”

      Go back and re-read your sentence. “Not play into those stereotypes…at all.” Oh, and which stereotypes are those? What does this even mean? Does this mean that I can never use a fork in public for fear that a Japanese person might assume that I can’t use chopsticks? That’s a stereotype I encountered TWO DAYS ago. Should I never eat bread in public so I don’t accidentally walk into someone’s stereotype that foreigners eat bread-not-rice? Should I go get PLASTIC SURGERY so people won’t walk up to me and tell me how stereotypically big my nose is?! What the hell do you even MEAN by “don’t play into those stereotypes”? What about stereotypes that are physically a part of me that I can’t stop? I can’t peel off my skin or cut off my nose.

      No, just no. This is wrong on every level, and I’m not going to bother explaining to you why, because all you need to do is Google “model minority” to understand how wrong this idea is. Ugh, can I downvote your comment twice?

      • robertwgordonesq

        Thank you “Frogger88” for your spirited debate. I appreciate your comments and your willingness to contribute your perspective. I think varied perspectives are important, so thank you for your contribution.

        You said “I am who I am…it’s not my fault for being
        different.”

        Ok.

        I take that to mean that other people should accept you for who you are and what you do because you were either “born that way”, “acculturated that way”, “raised that way”, or something of that nature.

        Correct?

        So why is it that you expect the Japanese to accept YOU for who you are, but you (and others) can’t accept the Japanese for who THEY are?

        It cuts both ways.

        Second, when I say “don’t play into those stereotypes”. I am specifically referring to Mr. Arudou’s claim that some Japanese perceive “foreigners to be more prone to commit crimes in Japan”.

        That is the only stereotype I am referring to.

        Therefore I said, if you don’t want the perception of foreigners as being more prone to criminal activity, then foreigners should not commit crimes while in Japan. Period.

        It did not seem that Mr. Arudou had any condemnation for
        foreigners who actually do commit crimes in Japan.

        He felt free to lambast the National Police Agency for their seemingly racist propaganda, but at the same time, why didn’t he also say “Hey foreigners, you should behave yourself as well!”

        But he did not say that.

        Thus giving the impression that his article is politically, or dare I say, racially biased.

        Are there no crimes committed by foreigners at all in Japan?

        Are you advocating for an “equal right” to commit crimes for
        foreigners???

        I will get back to you on the topic of “model minority” as there appears to be lots to read on it and I’d prefer to be better informed before I speak about it.

        However, thanks again for your feedback.

      • Viva75

        Sorry but as an Australian married to a Japanese woman and travel to
        Japan regularly, I could never and would never be Japanese and I
        completely respect that. Japan have a long and rich culture which they
        hold dearly. I absolutely love the country and respect the traditions
        and beliefs.

        Speaking Japanese, looking Japanese and dressing
        Japanese, does not make you Japanese. There are a myriad of cultural
        subtleties that only Japanese understand, it runs through to the core of
        their essence. It is their sovereign right to determine the course of
        THEIR country and the policies in a manner in which they choose. Japan
        does have it’s problems and yes of course they should be courteous and
        respectful of non-Japanese, and there are racist bigots and xenophobes
        of all nationalities, but we must never forget that we are guests,
        whether married to Japanese or having lived there a lifetime.

        The
        West is quickly beginning to wake up to the drawbacks of
        multiculturalism and Japan is wise not to rush into that trap. It’s
        never nice to be an ‘outsider’ but at the end of the day you choose to
        be there and that is their country, plan and simple. From reading these
        posts, this seems to be a bitter pill for a lot of people to have to
        swallow, but that fact remains that Westerners and other non Japanese
        need to respect and accept that Japan and Japanese should have the final
        say in what kind of country theirs is to become going forward. The
        overwhelming vast majority of Japanese are pacifist with a friendly
        and polite nature, whom are very proud of their long and rich culture and
        heritage…as they should be! They don’t and should never have to
        change for anyone, otherwise it risks being just another once great
        culture, watered down beyond recognition.

      • Ron NJ

        Excellent points.
        I’ve actually noticed that I do avoid using knives and forks, eating bread, or drinking soft drinks in public simply so as not to draw attention or reinforce Japanese stereotypes of foreigners. It’s sad, really.

      • robertwgordonesq

        Hello Frogger88. I did some research on “model minorities”. Please tell me if my understanding is correct.

        “Model Minority” is a term used by a dominant ethnic group to “praise” a minority ethnic group for its accomplishments (usually in economics, business, and academia).

        The praise however is deceptive because the “model minority” group is really being used as evidence that there is no discrimination being practiced by the majority group and thus other minority groups who complain of unfair or biased treatment perpetrated by the majority group are simply making excuses for their own lack of initiative and personal discipline.

        Thus “model minorities” are used as evidence to mute any criticism of the majority group of racism.

        “Model minority” groups are also used as evidence in arguments against policies such as affirmative action, or preferential treatment for historically oppressed minorities in terms of college admission, jobs, promotions, etc.

        Although the “Model minority” is being used as an example of “success”, the harm arises when 1) “Model minorities” are used as a basis to criticize other minority groups who have not been as “successful” and 2) “Model minority” status puts pressure on members of the model minority group to continue “keeping up appearances” and trying to meet exaggerated social expectations, thus leading to stress, anxiety, loss of personal identity and perhaps even suicide.

        For example, in the United States, European Americans are considered the “dominant” group as these Caucasians as a whole comprise roughly 78% of the total U.S. population. [Fn 1].

        In addition, Caucasians are the predominant face of leadership roles in business (e.g., CEOs, investment banking), politics (senators, congressmen, elected officials), law (law firm partners, law professors) and media (movies, movie stars, film production, etc.).

        African Americans comprise roughly 13% of the U.S. population, Hispanics 17%, and Asians 5%. [See also Fn 1].

        African Americans have fought for greater rights in the form of legislation and affirmative action programs as recompense for over 250 years of American slavery. [Fn 2]

        These efforts however have led to calls from Caucasians of “reverse discrimination” and “special privileges” for minorities. That is, African-Americans are getting *special* privileges because of their race which is an unfair advantage against Caucasians and other European-Americans.

        Thus Asian Americans such as Koreans, Japanese, and Indians have been held up by Caucasians as “model minorities” because these groups seemed to have achieved a measure of social, economic, and academic success *without* the need of “affirmative action” programs.

        Thus these groups are used as evidence to suggest that affirmative action is not necessary and that discrimination does not exist, for if discrimination did exist, how can you explain the “success” of these minorities?

        Therefore African Americas should stop complaining about racism and instead should focus on their own lifestyles, life choices, and behavior as the source of their depressed economic, social, and political status.

        So what does this have to do with alleged discrimination of foreigners in Japan?

        Frogger 88 suggests that I (Robert) am advocating that some foreigners in Japan become a “model minority” by behaving better than the prevailing stereotypes.

        However, I think Frogger88 believes that creating such “model minorities” will only serve add undue psychological stress on foreigners and also serve to mask Japanese racism and lead to the idea that foreigners only have themselves to blame for their bad reputation and for the way they are generally treated in Japanese society.

        In other words, the “model minority” approach will result in “blaming the victim” for their own persecution. Such as how some women are blamed for their own rape due to the provocative way they dress rather than due to the criminality of the rapist.

        If this is Frogger88’s belief, here is my response:

        I fully agree that the concept of a “model minority” is often used as a tool to mask the racist motive of a majority group.

        However, I firmly believe that discriminated minority has to take responsibility for their own status and not rely on the “good will” of the majority to “correct” discrimination.

        Here’s why.

        If (as in the case of African-Americans towards American Caucasians) the minority group feels that the majority group is prejudice, racist, even evil…then it really makes no sense for the minority group to appeal to the majority group for “better treatment”.

        It would be like asking the devil for a cool drink of water while you are languishing in hell. The devil does not have a nature to make your life any better or more comfortable, so it would be insanity to think a devil would help you and insanity to ask a devil for help.

        It would make much more sense to focus on your own actions and expend your energy in finding a way out of this hell.

        This doesn’t mean the majority group is a literal devil or morally wicked. It just means, it is not in the majority group’s interest to assist the minority if the majority is deriving economic and psychological benefits from putting minority groups down. They have no incentive to help you.

        I think it is more empowering and more productive for those who consider themselves minorities to look to themselves for their own salvation.

        If there is a notion that foreigners are more prone to criminal activity in Japan, then the way to combat that is to make sure no foreigners commit crimes while in Japan and thus deprive the Japanese of evidence for this stereotype.

        African-Americans complain about the “Rockefeller Drug laws” in New York which seem to overly criminalize things such as crack cocaine (primarily used by blacks), yet do not have as harsh a punishment for being caught with powder cocaine (primarily used by European-Americans/whites).

        Sure. There is a valid argument that these laws are racially motivated. No doubt.

        But the solution to me would be for blacks to stop using crack cocaine rather than to complain that they are being “unfairly treated”.

        If you don’t want to be called a “crack head”…don’t smoke crack cocaine.

        If you don’t want to be characterized as a criminal…don’t commit crimes.

        It’s just that simple.

        (I’m not white…by the way…not that that should matter).

        Complaining that the majority is racist also sets up a very dangerous precedent. I.e., that minorities or blacks by their very nature are *incapable* of ever doing anything wrong just by virtue of being black or ethnic.

        For example, take the Trayvon Martin case in Florida where a Hispanic-American (George Zimmerman) was accused of killing an unarmed African-American 17 year old who only had an iced tea drink and some Skittles candies on him at the time.

        The prevailing view in the African-American community is that Trayvon was killed simply because he was black.

        However, these blacks are also suggesting that because he was black it was *impossible* for him to have done anything wrong.

        All Black people, including Trayvon, are all “saints”, incapable of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

        That is the hidden, underlying assumption.

        That thinking is just as racist, if not more, because it just isn’t true.

        Black folk do at times perform bad acts and they should be held accountable for those acts.

        If a police officer pulls me over for driving too fast, I make sure I keep my hands where the officer can see them and that I don’t make any sudden moves.

        I know there is a tendency for police to view African-Americans suspiciously, so I don’t give the officer a reason to get more nervous than he already is.

        I would think it foolhardy for me to argue with the officer and start frantically rummaging around under my seat, and then cry “racial profiling” if I get shot.

        That’s just stupid.

        It’s unfortunate, but racial stereotypes are a fact of life. However, some races or groups contribute to these stereotypes by their attitudes and actions and then complain when they are stereotyped.

        That’s stupid as well.

        So asking foreigners in Japan to “behave themselves” isn’t unreasonable, even if it leads to model minority status. If you take away the basis for the stereotype, the stereotype itself will disappear as a result.

        I’m strictly speaking in terms of criminal acts however.

        This does not mean minorities should take the opposite track and try to conform themselves physically to the majority group such as lightening their skin with chemicals so they look “more white” (as they do in India and Jamaica). Or getting plastic surgery to alter their eyes and lips to appear more “western” as they do in South Korea.

        That is just plain sick and a form of self-hatred. I’m not advocating that.

        What I do advocate is that if you are in someone else’s country, you should try to understand their culture and sentiments and not impose your values on them.

        If people such as Debito Arudou feel that Japan is racist, they should return to their home country (in his case, the U.S.) [Fn 3] and fight racism in the U.S. after having experienced it first hand in Japan.

        My thought is that people (usually white Americans) who are used to being “privileged” in their home countries, taking that status for granted, suddenly find themselves the object of discrimination in Japan.

        Taking affront to that, they then appeal to “universal rights”.

        However, this may really be a guise for extending “white privilege” into a foreign land (a form of imperialism), which is just as “wrong” as the alleged discrimination.

        But of course, that us just a theory.

        I could be wrong about that.

        Robert
        ——-footnotes——-

        [Fn 1]: Year 2012 census figures found at: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

        [Fn 2]: De jure (legal) slavery from 1619 to 1865 (246 years) (Jamestown to the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution); defacto (practical) slavery from 1619 to 1954 (335 years) (Jamestown to the Supreme Court ruling “separate but equal” to be unconstitutional in Brown vs. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)).

        [Fn 3] Yes, I know Debito Arudou is now a legitimate, full fledged Japanese national. However, it seems that choosing that nationality was more of a political strategy rather than out of a genuine love for Japan. Again, I’m just speculating here. I could very well be wrong. He also seems to enjoy a certain celebrity status here in Japan (infamous maybe? It’s all the same), something he may not have received in his home country and that may also be a motivation for his staying in Japan. There is nothing wrong with that motivation, but you still can analyze a person’s motivations for doing what they do. You can certainly do “good things” for totally selfish or self-serving reasons. It is also possible that he is an agent of foreign powers seeking to infiltrate, weaken, and subjugate Japan to make it more accommodating to Western powers…much the same way Commodore Perry did way back when with his arrival and the subsequent “unequal treaties” that resulted. Again…just speculation.

    • GIJ

      “It is natural to be suspicious of non-Japanese in what is perceived as a homogeneous culture.”
      No, there’s actually nothing natural about being suspicious of non-Japanese people in Japan. That suspicion of non-Japanese is instilled through education, indoctrination, and socialization. There is nothing natural about it.

  • FightBack

    Another strong showing Debito! I can confirm that some of these posters and flyers warning of NJ-related crime have been seen in Osaka and the resulting effect is one of wariness toward any NJ on the part of the local populace. Osaka has always been unfriendly toward NJ in general but this propaganda campaign has forced the NJ community even further underground. Even as a victim of verbal abuse I am loathe to go to the police as I know I would be victimized for not being Japanese almost immediately.

    I wonder if these kinds of discriminatory campaigns are contributing to the rise in Japanese on NJ hate-crimes that have been reported in Osaka recently. I certainly only travel by taxi at night rather than risk walking on the streets. Is this part of the effect the NPA wishes to have? Given the byzantine nature of Japanese society in general I would not be surprised.

  • Ron NJ

    Every year the statistics bear it true: Japan’s foreign population is one of the safest groups in the world, and probably the least likely to commit crimes of any minority population on the entire planet. But apparently we’re all part of a crime wave according to the NPA and need to be constantly cracked down on, complete with posters bearing racist caricatures?

  • HSM

    Soldiers and policemen have work to do, but, when the work is not there, the less we see of them the better.

  • http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/ GMainwaring

    “Message to government: Rein in the NPA”

    Mr. Arudou, the NPA is under the oversight of the National Public Safety Commission precisely to *prevent* the politicization of the police. We realize you have not grasped that fact (as in previous columns where you erroneously claimed that former Tokyo Governor Ishihara would be able to use the Tokyo Metropolitan Police as his personal army – he cannot as no governor, not even the Prime Minister, can order the police to do anything), but have you thought your own argument through? You have made it abundantly clear you don’t trust the police, don’t trust the LDP (indeed, don’t trust your fellow Japanese at all…), and yet you want to give the government the power to tell police what they can and cannot do?

    “Although this “crime infrastructure” technically assists thieves of any nationality, the NPA’s online explanations focus on non-Japanese, with five out of eight examples offered specifically depicting NJ misdeeds”

    1. Using false names to rent cellphones etc. to aid in money swindles or drug sales – no foreigners mentioned

    2. Running illegal websites to sell drugs – no foreigners mentioned

    3. Taking advantage of illegal aliens trying to transfer funds home to create illegal “banks” for laundering the proceeds of criminal activity – sounds like the foreigners are the victims here!

    4. Loan scammers – no foreigners mentioned

    5. Hiring foreigners without proper working visa status or renting apartments to illegal aliens – foreigners mentioned, but in the context of crimes *Japanese* would commit

    6. Running fake “hospitals” or “taxi services” to take advantage of illegal immigrants “etc.” – again, foreigners mentioned, but in the context of crimes *Japanese* would commit

    7. Falsifying documentation for illegal aliens – finally got one right, good job Arudou!

    8. Fake marriages/paternity claims – Expressly involves a foreigner, yes, but just as expressly involves a Japanese, does it not?

    And where were those “racist caricatures” in there, anyway? The big-nosed fellows in the car? Is that what passes for “racist” amongst privileged white men nowadays?

    JUL 8, 2013

    ARTICLE HISTORY

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    These Community pages have reported many times on how the National Police Agency (NPA) has manufactured the illusion of a “foreign crime wave,” depicting non-Japanese (NJ) as a threat to Japan’s public safety (see “Upping the fear factor,” Zeit Gist, Feb. 20, 2007; “Time to come clean on foreign crime,” ZG, Oct. 7, 2003; “Foreigner crime stats cover up a real cop-out,” ZG, Oct. 4, 2002, for just a few examples).

    A decade ago, the NPA could make a stronger case because NJ crimes were going up. However, as we pointed out then, Japanese crimes were going up too. And, in terms of absolute numbers and proportion of population, NJ crimes were miniscule.

    Then bust followed boom. According to the NPA (seewww.npa.go.jp/sosikihanzai/kokusaisousa/kokusai/H23_rainichi.pdf, or the images accompanying this article), “foreign crime” has fallen below 1993 levels (see H5 column, representing the year Heisei 5)!

    That’s why the NPA has found it increasingly difficult to maintain its claims of a foreign crime wave. So, to keep up appearances, the agency has resorted to statistical jiggery-pokery.

    For example, look again at the NPA chart. The time frame has been expanded to 30 years; in previous annual reports, it covered just a decade. By stretching the parameters, the overall chart depicts a comparative rise rather than a small peak before a precipitous drop.

    Not accounted for, however, is the fact that the NJ population has also risen — more than doubling since 1993.

    Another method of manipulation has been to focus on partial rises in certain types of NJ crime, despite the overall fall. And I bet you can guess which got more media attention.

    The most creative NPA rejig is arguing that NJ crime has been “stopped at a high plateau” (takadomari no jōtai) — even if that “plateau” is downward-sloping.

    Every NPA argument leads to the same predictable conclusion: Further crackdowns on “foreign crime” are necessary, because NJ are importing criminality into a once-peaceful Japan.

    Yet neither the NPA, nor the Japanese media parroting their semiannual reports, have ever compared Japanese and NJ crime, or put them on the same chart for a sense of scale. If they had, they would see something resembling the 3-D graph that accompanies this column.

    The other chart in Japanese (that can be found athakusyo1.moj.go.jp/jp/59/nfm/n_59_2_1_1_1_0.html and in the accompanying images) — on whose data the 3-D graphic is based — breaks down all crime committed in “peaceful” postwar Japan. Note the (less-reported) concurrent “Japanese crime wave” (especially the middle, yellow set of bars, which depict thefts alone).

    Since the right-hand scale is in tens of thousands, the graph tells us that there was a spike to well over 2.5 million non-traffic crimes in the peak year of 2002, a number that dropped to just over 1.5 million by 2009. Compared to 2009′s total “foreign crimes” of 30,569 (including visa violations, which Japanese cannot by definition commit), there is a difference of about a factor of 49. Thus “foreign crime” would barely even register on the chart.

    So how can the NPA still sex up the stats? They found a new way.

    In its 2009 white paper, the NPA talked about how “foreign crime gangs” are increasingly moving into Japan and creating “crime infrastructure” (hanzai infura).

    It’s still such an obscure term that NPA websites have to define it for the public as “things and organizations that are the basic foundation of crime,” i.e., cellphones under fake names, fake websites, false marriages, false adoptions and fake IDs (seewww.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/images/h0/h0001_04.gif)

    Although this “crime infrastructure” technically assists thieves of any nationality, the NPA’s online explanations focus on non-Japanese, with five out of eight examples offered specifically depicting NJ misdeeds (complete, of course, with racist caricatures, atwww.pref.ibaraki.jp/kenkei/a01_safety/security/infra.html)

    “You see this “criminal NJ” narrative again and again on NPA posters, such at the one … found at an immigration bureau”

    I see a warning to immigrants that certain activities are illegal. We are not allowed to do that now? So when I visit the US and see those colorful posters in company windows saying that they use the everify system to check with the Federal Government as to whether their hires are legally able to be employed, that is a racist plot designed to ostracize foreigners and remind them of their place?

    “NPA excesses have gone on long enough to encourage other bullies. We’ve seen a recent spike in the activity of Japan’s hate groups”

    The NPA is to blame for the Zaitokukai now? Really?!? Is that what the news in Hawaii is saying now?

  • jliu

    This is the same error nationalists in Europe make. They use crime as an excuse to reject outsiders, when the very presence of outsiders alone is all that’s needed to reject them. Even if they are nice people, they are still contributing to diversity, and thus there very existence within that majority group is the problem. With this mindset, it effectively removes the apologist’s excuses on whether or not the intruding group is actually disproportionately criminal.

    I am a Chinese immigrant living in the US, and from what I’ve seen multiculturalism is nothing but trouble and infighting. Japan may not be the most kindred of countries, but this disease of pluralistic thinking needs to be eradicated from all of East Asia before it threatens the interests of our ethno-states.

    People like Debito need to be sniffed out for what they are. A minority resentful of the majority, using politics and human rights as an excuse. This may fool most whites, but Asians need to be more vigilant and assess their intentions closely.

  • JS

    Paranoia, xenophobia and discrimination are unfortunately commonplace and endemic in many Japanese institutions, including the police, the judiciary and the courts.

    Kudos to Debito for a well written, informed, objective and balanced article about an important topic. Any reasonable non-Japanese person who has lived in Japan would agree with the points made by Debito. It frankly baffles the mind on how anyone can disagree with this article, unless they are driven by some hidden personal agenda.

    Keep up the good work, Debito!

  • zer0_0zor0

    As their 2010 white paper reports, “the extent of how much crime has become globalized cannot be grasped through statistics”

    It seems to me that I’ve read multiple articles in this newspaper over the past year addressing international organized crime groups in Japan. The most recent article being about the New Zealand rugby player and his problems with one group in Aichi prefecture.

    This article also fails to note that substantial actions that have been taken against Japanese organized crime groups in the past several years.

    One measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members. Japan’s systemic and unchecked bullying of NJ is going to hurt others, as emboldened haters eventually turn their attention to other weak social minorities.

    That quote, in fact, sounds a bit like the pseudo chivalrous garbage espoused by the yakuza and their neo-feudalistic mission in the yakuza tabloid press. And let’ recall that according to the most recent statistics from Robert Whiting, the members of yakuza crime groups are composed of 60% burakumin and 33% Koreans, leaving only 7% non-minority Japanese, I gather. (The burakumin are Japanese from the former outcaste class.

    Hmmm, how do those statistics relate to alleged NPA xenophobic propaganda, etc?

  • Sam Gilman

    I’m afraid Debito is up to his old tricks. He is putting forward his fantasy that Japan is a brutal and racist police state. It seems to be a kind of ideological reverse engineering: He needs this fantasy to be true to maintain his belief system and his following as some kind of iconoclastic firebrand. Alas, he’s not a reliable witness.

    He claims that the report for 2011 has changed the stats, moving from a ten year to a thirty year period in order to mask the decline in crime. The thing is, I have the report from 2008 (the earliest version of its current incarnation I could find.) The same chart has a thirty year time frame. I also have the report for 2012. I’ve not read all of it, but I was struck by how the main text begins like this:

    “In 2012 the total number of cleared cases (criminal offences and special law violations) committed by foreigners in Japan was 15,368 (down 1,904 on the previous year (11.0% decrease)), the total number of individuals convicted was 9,149 (down 899 (8.9% decrease)); both fell from the previous year.”

    These are not the words of an agency hell bent on exaggerating foreign crime, or one that talks of plateaus. The newest report in English (for 2010) says:

    “(1)
    Long-term trend
    • The numbers of cleared-up cases and arrests of foreign visitors have been decreasing after peaks in 2004 and 2005.”

    Again, not quite the picture that Debito wants us to believe is being constantly put out. I’m trying to find the report which claims now in 2013, that foreign crime is merely plateauing. Perhaps he could give a reference.

    Of course there are some police officials who think foreigners are especially criminal, and have said so. There are some who act out their prejudices when dealing with foreigners. However, people who do not live in Japan might come away after reading this article with the impression that there are constant visible police campaigns against foreigners, and that constant harassment of foreigners by police is a fact of daily life. As someone who has lived here rather a long time, I can say with confidence: there aren’t, and there isn’t. Such cases as there are, and as impermissible as they are, are the exception, not the rule. I don’t wish to get into some kind of p*ssing match and say this only to offer a good reference point for overseas readers: a foreigner in Japan will typically have rather fewer problems with the police than ethnic minorities in places like the UK and US.

    We should always, in whatever country we live in, be wary of police turning bad. However, Debito is positively willing the police to be a lot worse than they actually are. That doesn’t help debate.

  • Toolonggone

    I don’t have a problem with the article for addressing the problem with NPA. Their crime-prevention posters send a very clear message that crimes committed by NJ should be treated far more seriously than crimes committed by citizens. That is indeed misleading many people who don’t have much input about NJ in the first place. And, ironically, that makes us even more skeptical of NPA, who is already being distrusted by the general public due to the series of alleged scandals, misconducts, and wrong arrests in the last several years.

    Perhaps the main problem with the article is the conviction of author’s argument. While I don’t disagree with the author over NPA’s anti-foreign crime campaign, the link between the anonymous posters with NPA is unclear–or weak at best. He doesn’t provide other credible evidence that suggests NPA’s hostile attitude and stigma on race and nationality–just like the ones depicted in anonymous posters. So that’s where there’s a moot point in the argument.

  • iago

    Statistics are like lamp-posts: Some people use them for illumination, others use them for support. Unfortunately the NPA are not the only ones playing fast and loose with statistics and with the facts in order to fuel suspicion and paranoia.

  • ChrysanthemumSniffer

    “These Community pages have reported many times on how the National Police Agency (NPA) has manufactured the illusion of a “foreign crime wave,””

    Given the sources, shouldn’t that “These community pages” be rewritten as “I” and “reported” be “expressed an opinion”.

  • JS

    There are those here who feel that since Japan is an independent country and a unique homogenous culture, therefore it should be allowed to act in any way it wants to. This is an extremely narrow minded perspective. Let me remind these people that Japan may be an independent country, but it is not an independent planet or an independent galaxy. At a deeper level, we are all citizens of this world, and the effects of what happens in one part of this planet do ripple through the rest of this world.

    This is precisely why the world united against apartheid in South Africa, why Australia has taken Japan to the highest court in the world for its stance on killing whales, and why the world is united in condemning slavery, human trafficking and pedophilia. Citizens of this world, especially those living in Japan regardless of their passport, have a perfectly legitimate right to protest if they feel that the Japanese discriminate against them, deny them basic human rights, do not treat them with respect and dignity, and if they do not get equal treatment under the Japanese law by the Japanese institutions such as the police, businesses, the judicial system and the Japanese courts. I would even argue that, foreign residents of Japan not only have a right to protest these things, but that it is their obligation and responsibility to protest when their basic human rights and legal rights are violated in Japan.

    Those non-Japanese who say that Japan has a right to do anything it feels, as long as it is within its physical borders, have just bought into this narrow Japanese mindset and are blindly mimicing the feelings of some of their Japanese hosts. I urge them to start thinking for themselves, so they can realize that Japan is a part of this planet and its shared values and civilization. Japan does not, and should not, exist in some The Twilight Show-like alternative reality or parallel universe.

  • Roan Suda

    Graphs and statistics are not my forte, but I find all of this puzzling for non-technical reasons. One crime that goes unmentioned in Arudou’s rants is illegal immigration. Yes, living in Japan without citizenship or a proper visa is against the law. But for various reasons, including the state of the economy, that crime statistic has fallen. The vast majority of NJs just want to get through the day, just like everyone else. There are, however, a few adventurers, driven by greed, sometimes mixed with hatred and contempt for the Japanese. The police have every reason to be on the lookout for them…But why would they engage in “jiggery-pokery” with the facts and figures? What is there to gain from that? Arudou never explains that. He simply assumes, it seems, that there is a racist/fascist agenda. But if the police and the current government were half as wicked as he assumes, why wouldn’t we be seeing a drastic decrease in de-facto immigration?

  • http://ameblo.jp/cluttered-talk/ Michiko

    I think it should be carefully separated, or divided in two defferent things that foreign people came from former Japanese colony, or places where Japan invaded into, almost means Korean and Chinese, and other foreigners.
    As to think the weight of each, the population of Koreans and Chinese in Japan, estimated to be over 1.2 million, is almost half of all population of foreigners in Japan.
    Also they have their reasons and histories and rights which have to stand differing from other foreigners, I mean new comers, and their life style seem to be more like ordinary Japanese, joining Japanese society for much long time, as none or less thing to specifically point out if they are not so fitting into, or contributing to.
    Besides, they’re not distinguished by their looking, no difference with us, in spite of many of new comers are like.
    There’s one more thing, our “xenophobia”, correctly to say which some of our members strongly have, is very complicated.
    The xenophobia we have, is including almost two things that one toward old comers, and another the rest of the others, these two things have quite different aspects and circumstances.
    So I think these things are not appropriate to discuss just like these are the same, when some of us are any afraid or scared of new comers, I mean many of you people in here, the feeling the Japanese have is quite different from one toward old comers.
    I’d like you to know about it into any few degree.