/

‘Racist’ illustration of refugee girl sparks ire among Japan’s netizens

by

Staff Writer

An online furor has broken out over a controversial illustration that depicts a refugee girl from Syria as a selfish freeloader, with some labeling the work, drawn by a conservative manga artist, as racist.

At the center of the controversy is an illustration depicting an unkempt girl with a wry smile. It is believed to be based on a real-life malnourished refugee who was forced to flee the war-torn country.

The background text in the illustration shows the girl’s inner thoughts: “I want to live a safe and clean life, have a gourmet meal, go out freely, wear pretty things and luxuriate. I want to live my life the way I want without a care in the world — all at the expense of someone else.

“I have an idea. Why don’t I become a refugee?” it concludes.

Posted on the artist’s official Facebook account on Sept. 10, it has so outraged many that they have taken to social media to express their disgust, with some launching an online petition calling on Facebook Japan to recognize the work as racist.

The campaign was started Thursday night on the petition forum Change.org under the title “Facebook must recognize an illustration insulting a Syrian refugee as racism.” It had garnered nearly 4,000 signatures and counting as of Friday evening.

“I’ve never seen anything this malicious. To think how the world and refugees will perceive this peace … I’m so ashamed,” one comment read.

“Japan has already been recognized by the world as hostile toward refugees. This work is typical of that mindset. Japan should never be a country tolerant of racism,” read another.

Facebook responded Friday to one complaint that called the illustration “annoying and distasteful,” saying it doesn’t violate its community standards.

Responding to an inquiry from The Japan Times, manga artist Toshiko Hasumi acknowledged Saturday that she is the author of the illustration.

“It is my understanding that most of the refugees fleeing Syria this time are bogus asylum seekers. Instead of traveling around furtively like before, those illegal migrants are now inundating other countries through the front door,” Hasumi said.

“I have no problem with genuine refugees who really are unfortunate. This illustration is supposed to be a dig at those ‘bogus refugees’ who are exploiting the world’s sympathy for those truly in trouble.”

Jotaro Kato, a representative of the nonprofit Asian People’s Friendship Society, an organization that supports foreigners who overstay their visas and asylum seekers, said the illustration misrepresents real refugees.

“The illustration emphasizes that refugees are living off the money of others, but on the contrary, many of them are hardworking and eager to make ends meet by themselves,” Kato said.

“At a time when people in Japan earn less and less amid the stagnant economy, they are increasingly intolerant of the idea that someone from outside their country subsists on tax money they’ve paid.”

The online outcry comes amid mounting criticism that Japan has been slow to open its doors to asylum seekers, having only recognized 11 refugees out of 5,000 applications last year.

Although he pledged $1.5 billion in emergency aid in response to the Syrian refugee crisis during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe avoided announcing Japan’s intention to accept refugees from the war-torn nation.

Update: This story was updated Saturday to reflect comments from the manga artist.

  • Ine Chan

    I feel disgusted by this illustration, especially drawing a little girl, a child, who didn’t ask for anything. I don’t think Japan should do the same as Germany France and the UK , but at least some people should have some respect regarding the people in this situation. If Japan was in a state of war with a terrorist group such as IS killing anybody who doesn’t obey to them what would they do ? I am happy to see that most of the people reacted to it and that Someone Started a campaign.

    • tisho

      During, before and after WW2, there were millions of Japanese refugees who escaped Japan for countries such as Brazil and the US. Brazil alone accepted more than 2 million Japanese back then. But for the Japanese today, self-reflection and historical memory is not their strongest part.

      • Ahojanen

        Most of those Japanese were economic migrants, NOT refugees under life-threatening situations.

      • Ine Chan

        that is right but didn’t people living in the Manchuria region were refugees after China took over Japan at the end of World War II ? I know some of the Japanese people were rejected once they arrived in Japan. It can happen to anyone, and hostility is definitely not the solution :/
        I don’t know that much about refugees in history so I may be wrong …

      • Ahojanen

        >some of the Japanese people were rejected once they arrived in Japan.

        I don’t think it’s true. On what ground could the Japanese government possibly deny the return of their nationals?

        There were cases that the Soviet Union (illegally) prevented Japanese POWs and civilians from going home despite requests from Japan. Some detained Japanese POWs briefly visited Japan to give account for the Tokyo trial. Technically they were denied entry into their homeland, immediately sent back to Siberia after their deposition. Again this entry rejection was not Japan’s policy, but Allies’.

      • Gerardo Gallo

        let us try to answer simple questions. Why nations like Austria Switzerland Norway Finland New Zealand Sweden ,ecc, do not produce refugees? why nations like nigeria siria ukraine sudan somalia produce refugees? very simple. Refugees are the product of a culture based on violence or dictatorship.
        if they must be nations that need to accommodate refugees, they must be nations should be taking advantage of this situation (or even created this situation , “for sure not japan”). And also a dictatorship is not born overnight. There are signs that the people must be able to perceive in advance. When the dictatorship arrives (or you agreed to a culture of violence), you’re the culprit and not your neighbor (and in this case, Japan is even 10 thousand km away). Japan has no beautiful beaches, beautiful landscape or a beautiful climate. The coolest feature of Japan are the uniqueness’ of the Japanese people, its culture. If Japan is beginning to receive refugees (let’s call them so) or immigrant, Japan loses’ its culture (or its unique wealth). In Tokyo Kyoto Hiroshima you can walk peacefully day and nigth. But not in london or paris or rome (please note the lower case letter). In Japan the tip is something uneducated, in the usa the tip is a must, and also in nigeria siria egypt italy . In many countries people walk armed, but not in Japan. Japan wake up! keep your identity. no refugee no immigrants

      • COYP

        Did you bother to read the article? The drawing was by one facebook user and a load of (presumably) Japanese netizens complained about it.

  • Pascal

    “I want to live a safe and clean life, have a gourmet meal, go out
    freely, wear pretty things and luxuriate. I want to live my life the way
    I want without a care in the world — all at the expense of someone
    else.”
    -> this applies to many people (esp. women) in Japan, at the expense of their husbands

  • Pascal

    “I want to live a safe and clean life, have a gourmet meal, go out
    freely, wear pretty things and luxuriate. I want to live my life the way
    I want without a care in the world — all at the expense of someone
    else.”
    -> this applies to many people (esp. women) in Japan, at the expense of their husbands

    • johnniewhite

      I do remember reading some of these comments in social network written by Japanese ladies. But I am sure that what they do not say there should also be taken into account, namely, that they will support their husband and raise family, and make a happy family. She will contribute positively if she marries to him. Is this not the case? ;-)

  • jcbinok

    The phrasing of that last sentence: “Abe avoided announcing Japan’s intentions of accepting refugees…” makes it seem like the intention exists and the government is simply being closed-mouth about it.

    • Rebecca

      That wording sticks in the throat as much as the stupid and nonsensical phrase “bogus” asylum seeker.

      And Abe still thinks Japan should be a permanent member of the security council…

  • Ahojanen

    There are always and almost everywhere some extremist and prejudiced groups of people. Yet they never represent overall public understanding and attitude.

    • GIJ

      If Japan took in more refugees per year beyond the infinitesimally low double digit figures that are the norm (out of thousands of applications filed), maybe you would have a valid point. But at this point you don’t. Assuming Japan is a democracy where the preferences of voters are translated into desired policies, one can only conclude that deeply prejudiced attitudes towards refugees are widespread there.

      • Ahojanen

        I personally suggest that the government take more asylum seekers, and stay accountable for its (rigid) criteria for refugee status.

        where the preferences of voters are translated into desired policies, one can only conclude that deeply prejudiced attitudes towards refugees are widespread there.

        Rather than being racist or prejudiced, I find most Japanese very ignorant of refugees. Their general and ongoing reactions seem mixed or unprepared in facing a novel and rapidly emerging phenomenon. There is virtually no specific policy, strategy or orientation reflective of the public opinion which has yet to be formed.

        Perhaps the latest crisis serves to raise public awareness, to sharpen learning curves.

  • GBR48

    Only a really vile individual would seek to undermine public support for the most vulnerable people in society. Refugees are fleeing persecution and war, and even economic migrants are just trying to do the best for their families.

    It’s not racist as such, but it is horribly unpleasant. If you feel that way too, remember that the individual who drew it wants to live off your money when they offer their work for sale: don’t give it to them. Boycott their work.

    Japan is a nation of shoppers. Shopping can be a political act, as can refusing to purchase something.

    • Tanya Canfield

      my last pay check was $17559 working 8 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 16k for monthsnow and she works about 18 hours a week. I can’t believe howeasy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do…
      ..uus……..
      >➤➤➤➤➤➤ http://www.GooglesMoney11.Tk

      !!#############################################################!!

    • Tanya Canfield

      my last pay check was $17559 working 8 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 16k for monthsnow and she works about 18 hours a week. I can’t believe howeasy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do…
      ..uus……..
      >➤➤➤➤➤➤ http://www.GooglesMoney11.Tk

      !!#############################################################!!

    • Gerardo Gallo

      please, Japan wake up! keep your identity. no refugee no immigrants

  • Paul Martin

    Actually, reflecting on the current behavior of bulling, demanding, selfish refugees forcing their way into Europe and violating immigration/customs procedures,etc their is truth in describing them as a whole in the manner that manga did. As a foreign correspondent and broadcaster who has lived in Japan since 2008 and whose family are integrated with Japanese I can attest that there absolutely does exist strong racism and nationalism towards gaijin (foreigners) b some Japanese especially the immigration dep’t and many government officials and bureaucrats !
    Their also exists renewed nationalistic and holier than thou attitudes among many Japanese, this is clearly demonstrated on a daily basis !
    Anyone pretending otherwise is fooling themselves and everyone else !

    • http://ezfx.jp EZFX

      I don’t believe one can paint a diaspora of desperate people who have been living under threat of state sponsored murder for 4 years with a single brush. There are as many stories and motives as there are individuals fleeing to try to find safety out of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, war zones and failed states that all members of the the G7 have been complicit in creating over the last 14 years. Nations who can help have a moral duty to help without hesitation. Wouldn’t they hope to receive the same compassion in a similar circumstance?

    • Ine Chan

      You call them selfish ? Well I suggest you go on vacation in an IS camp maybe ? Play with guns , meet incredibly intolerant people, kill the locals, all that funny things the selfish and demanding refugees left at home. Brings your family with you to see how

      • mo own

        now more than ever japan is moving toward becoming more involved in international matters. so they should be accepting their share refugees

      • Mari

        I like the stance of Japan.

        Japan, be very careful whom you let into your country. Islam will not thank you for any kindness but work at converting every person until finally Islam reigns.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Well, there’s a very simple way the Japanese government can show that they believe asylum seekers aren’t simply lazy freeloaders. And that is to accept more than just 12 a year instead of just throwing around some money and calling it good enough.

    • jontheman150

      No way. Japan shouldn’t be dirtied by Muslims refugees. They’re a plague everywhere they go, including other Muslim countries.

      • Hatori Sachiyo

        You’re sick

      • Hatori Sachiyo

        You’re sick

      • mo own

        Its scams with a mentality like yours are the reason why refugees all over the globe are suffering

  • carlos cienfuegos

    its funny because americans dont like inmigration but sometimes its true for example here in mexico come a lot of centroamerican people wanting to go to the states sometimes they dont work and only live of charity soemtimes they rob or go to organized crimes but still i thin we should help people

  • carlos cienfuegos

    its funny because americans dont like inmigration but sometimes its true for example here in mexico come a lot of centroamerican people wanting to go to the states sometimes they dont work and only live of charity soemtimes they rob or go to organized crimes but still i thin we should help people

  • Dgnfly

    ppl are really stupid to think those refugees are anything like that child most are male and between 19-29 there is a reason why now in germany there are so many rape and assaults being commited by these so called refugees.

    hell islamic refugees are even threatning to kill some off the other minority among the refugees in gemanr they even used little girls as prostitutes in those refugee center in europe. and more and more voilence is being commited by these so called refugees.

    seriously folks why do other countries constantly have to rescue these islamic pigs that want us dead and impose their religion on us. you can whine don’t you have hart yes but not when it comes to a murderous religion.

    let those Durka Durka solve their own problems it’s constantly their religion that makes these wars in this day and age.

    and refugees demanding 2000 euro cause they are refugees sure show they are here just as ecenomic refugee not in need off aid.

  • Ahojanen

    You are still confusing economic migrants with refugees/asylum seekers. Besides I don’t think that Japan’s historic case is a relevant analogy for the ongoing migrant crisis.

    Migration into Manchuria, US or Brazil was voluntary and programmed by the Japanese government on agreement with host countries, NOT as a result of persecution or armed conflicts back home.

    • Ine Chan

      It is not relevant now , I just wanted to point out that it can happen to anyone.
      And I was talking about the refugees who left Manchuria not the “migration to Manchuria”
      Tisho talked about Brazil and the U.S.
      Anyway the drawing is awful, especially because this time it is about refugees, not economic migrant.

      • Ahojanen

        Got it. Btw, some of my relatives also returned from the mainland right after the war. I also personally know refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo. So I understand their hardship. You are right what is happening in Middle East can happen everywhere. As for Yogoslavia, almost nobody at that time predicted such a crisis occurred to the relatively stable and prosperous country near Europe.

  • johnniewhite

    This cartoon looks like one expression of concern felt by one Japanse artist, which is not a very small voice, and so it cannot be ignored. One must understand that behind the cautious attitudes to immigrants among Japanese people is a widely felt feeling that they are threatened by the Korean immigrants in Japan. They are very assertive, and extremely active in public demonstrations, winning to attract attention of others every time. Recent study by Tadanobu Bando of the crime rate of the immigrants confirms the existence of such threat that the government must look into, which is a very difficult issue internationally, as it may paint a picture of intorelence which they do not want.

  • Gerardo Gallo

    let us try to answer simple questions. Why nations like Austria Switzerland Norway Finland New Zealand Sweden ,ecc, do not produce refugees? why nations like nigeria siria ukraine sudan somalia produce refugees? very simple. Refugees are the product of a culture based on violence or dictatorship.
    if they must be nations that need to accommodate refugees, they must be nations should be taking advantage of this situation (or even created this situation , “for sure not japan”). And also a dictatorship is not born overnight. There are signs that the people must be able to perceive in advance. When the dictatorship arrives (or you agreed to a culture of violence), you’re the culprit and not your neighbor (and in this case, Japan is even 10 thousand km away). Japan has no beautiful beaches, beautiful landscape or a beautiful climate. The coolest feature of Japan are the uniqueness’ of the Japanese people, its culture. If Japan is beginning to receive refugees (let’s call them so) or immigrant, Japan loses’ its culture (or its unique wealth). In Tokyo Kyoto Hiroshima you can walk peacefully day and nigth. But not in london or paris or rome (please note the lower case letter). In Japan the tip is something uneducated, in the usa the tip is a must, and also in nigeria siria egypt italy . In many countries people walk armed, but not in Japan. Japan wake up! keep your identity. no refugee no immigrants