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Last week, The Japan Times ran a Bloomberg interview with Shintaro Ishihara in which the proudly provocative Tokyo governor followed up his contention that foreigners were behind the city’s rising crime rate. He challenged his interviewers to go to Roppongi and see for themselves. “Africans — and I don’t mean African-Americans — who don’t speak English are there doing who knows what,” he said.

You expect such careless bluster from Ishihara, but his statement deserves scrutiny. One explanation for the governor’s popularity is the way he is seen to reflect what his supporters think is common sense. What are non-American black people doing in Japan? It must be something bad.

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