Manga artist Hasumi stirs outrage again with new book slammed as racist

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

After gaining the spotlight at home and abroad a few months ago over a controversial manga illustration denigrating a Syrian refugee girl, artist Toshiko Hasumi seemingly remains unrepentant.

On Monday, anti-racism campaigners criticized the release of Hasumi’s latest book featuring a series of what they called “racist” cartoons, including the one that portrayed a girl from Syria pretending to be a refugee so she can “luxuriate at the expense of someone else.”

The illustration, based on a photo of a real-life girl at a refugee settlement in Lebanon taken by Canadian photographer and filmmaker Jonathan Hyams, spurred an online outcry, forcing Hasumi to take it down from her Facebook site at the request of Hyams in early October. The version in the book was tweaked, with the girl looking a few years older.

The book, titled “Soda Nanmin Shiyo!” (“Let’s Become a Refugee!”) after a catchphrase used in the refugee illustration, consists of a variety of Hasumi’s cartoons that activists say mock non-Japanese minorities, including refugees and Zainichi ethnic Korean residents in Japan, with the aim of instigating racism and xenophobia. Some of the images, they said, are based on falsehoods.

“This book is a crime. It’s an attack on our civil society,” Shin Sugok, who co-heads the Tokyo-based anti-racism organization Norikoe Net, told a news conference Monday. She added she hopes the book, published Saturday, will go out of print as soon as possible.

One cartoon portrays an ethnic Korean woman boasting with a smirk that she will never be deported even if she commits a crime and nobody will know her real name if she gets arrested because she goes by a Japanese alias anyway.

Another cartoon features a Korean woman thinking that “playing the victim of discrimination” has made her life significantly easier, because she can take advantage of other people’s kindness and easily qualify for welfare benefits.

Asked whether Hasumi’s works can be construed as satire, Shin said: “A satire is supposed to be a dig at authorities, or those in power. But all her works do is bully the weak based on fallacies.”

Contacted Tuesday by The Japan Times, Hasumi said the activists are sabotaging her business by “labeling” her work racist. She called their criticism “groundless.”

Yu Iwashita, a representative of BookLovers Against Racism (BLAR), an organization established in 2014 to counter the prevalence of anti-Korean books, called during Monday’s press conference for the publishing industry and bookstores nationwide to reconsider distributing and selling the book.

Iwashita also charged the book’s publisher, Tokyo-based Seirindo, with having a notorious track record of circulating racist books like Hasumi’s.

Prior to the publication of the book, BLAR initiated an online campaign on the Change.org site urging the publishing industry “not to contribute” to the book’s dissemination of hatred and discrimination against non-Japanese. As of noon Tuesday, it had garnered more than 8,000 signatures.

  • Pink Floyd

    Amazingly most Japanese would not think this book is racist until such time as it gets pointed out to them, most people in Japan have no real idea of what constitutes racism. The manga artist in question uses the usual sickening bigotry to make non Japanese look sub human so that Japanese society can feel special about being Yamato and all that.

    • Steve Jackman

      Clearly, there is a big enough market in Japan for such racist and xenophobic books, so as to make them financially viable for the publishers. It just goes to show how widespread, mainstream and socially acceptable racism and xenophobia are in Japanese society.

    • 7743

      I hate when people make these disparaging comments that end up not sounding much different from what they are criticizing. We need to be better than that.

  • GBR48

    Someone needs to have a poke about at Seirindo to see who is supporting the publication of such works.

    I do not approve of censorship, regardless of the unpleasantness of a work.

    Discover and name those who support this work and uncover their agenda, their associations and their commercial relationships. Shine a light on these people, so that everyone knows who they are.

  • Paul Martin

    Well what’s all the fuss about many if not most of those so called refugee asylum seekers are just what the artist potrays them as…….opportunist seekers of more affluential lives at foreign taxpayers expense, Europe and the US are perfect examples of what happens when phony immigrants invade I wager these protestor/activists would NOT take any into their homes !

    • alain


    • Kevin

      And you know this because ..?

    • Dreadogastus

      Sure! They are scam artists. Life is soooo good in Syria and Libya. Why I would take that cake walk. Sneak out of my town that is bombed out with no utilities and scarce food. Go by foot or bus through a war torn country. Deal with gangsters to cross open ocean in a rubber raft.
      Pahhh! I could go on but Paul Martin you are either an ignorant, self-centered person or a troll. Either way I’ll waste no more time on you.

    • Kessek

      How many refugees do you know?

    • Bruce Chatwin

      Paul Martin, where is it that you live? Japan? How are you different from what you label as “phony immigrants”?

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      Once again you throw out generalisations based on nothing more than your prejudices and Trump’s lies. The fuss is about an “artist” spewing racist nonsense.

    • Sergio Piery

      For all of those “flaming” Mr. Martin, I would like you to do a few things. 1. Forget for a moment your bleeding heart. 2. Go through the photos/images of the “refugees”, independent of a biased source. 3. Explain to Mr. Martin and myself why the vast majority of the “refugees” are able bodied “soldier aged” young men. Where are the women? Where are the children? Where are the senior citizens? 4. Look up the crime stats in the European countries with large populations of these “refugees”, i.e. rape, murder, assault, etc—violent crimes. When you have done your due diligence, come back and apologize to Mr. Martin. Are there legitimate refugees? Probably. But, they are in the minority. It does not take much research to learn that many of these “refugees” look more like invaders……

      • Bruce Chatwin

        Sergio, you also defended the rights of Japanese publishers of child porn, aka manga, right?

        What is your “source” that tells you the percentages of “legitimate” refugees? Trump? Fox? Breibart?

        You’re as suspect as the self proclaimed “Top radio dj Foreign correspondent Writer-Director” Paul Martin.

  • alain

    The Japanese emperor has finally laid to rest rumours that he has Korean blood, by admitting that it is true, writes Jonathan Watts

    Jonathan Watts

    Friday 28 December 2001

    For more than a century, speculation about the Japanese emperor’s Korean roots was mostly restricted to lofty academic journals and idle coffee shop gossip.

    But this week, the historical debate was surprisingly joined by a new scholar who has as much claim as anyone to be an authority on the subject: the emperor, Akihito, himself.

    To the delight of South Korea and, no doubt, the silent fury of many Japanese nationalists, the current holder of the Chrysanthemum Throne used a 68th birthday press conference last weekend to celebrate his mixed origins.

    Looking ahead at a year when the two countries will co-host the World Cup finals, Akihito said he felt personal attachment to Korea because of the blood ties of his ancestors.

    “I, on my part, feel a certain kinship with Korea, given the fact that it is recorded in the Chronicles of Japan that the mother of Emperor Kammu was of the line of King Muryong of Paekche,” he told reporters.

    Kammu, reigned Japan from 781 to 806 AD, while Muryong ruled the Paekche Kingdom in Korea from 501 to 523 AD.

    Although he was quoting historical records, it is the first time that an emperor has publicly lauded the Korean blood in the imperial line.

    According to Japanese myths, the Chrysanthemum Throne can be traced back more than 2,600 years to the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami in the dawn of creation.

    Those myths were officially discarded at the end of the second world war when emperor Hirohito was forced to renounce his divine status by the American occupation forces.

    • Philosopher

      Thank you for posting about the emperor publicly talking about his Korean roots. Even if those foreign roots are 1200 years old, it is good to hear them acknowledged. I didn’t see it reported anywhere else.

  • Kessek

    As far as I know there is freedom of speech in Japan. Let the market decide.

  • Bruce Chatwin

    The Rising Wasabi says it best. Google “toshiko hasumi rising wasabi” and it’s the first hit.
    The Rising Wasabi quotes Hasumi as saying “I want to see the bad in others to justify my fear of people who are different. I live in a safe country, so I want to reject foreigners whoo fear for their lives. I want to ignore the basic human need for the chance of a good life that holds hope for the future.”

    • Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson

      The Rising Wasabi is a satirical site, so that “quote” is made up.

      • Bruce Chatwin

        Really? Who would have thought?

      • disqus_vBekJrf7g5

        Ah, the apologist in chief wannabe surfaces. People stopped reading your hate blog? #Panasonic