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  • Aichi Police online announcement about Junkai Renraku door-to-door cop visits. Happening in your neighborhood?

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 18th, 2013

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    Hello Blog. This post comes to you as a query. Are any Readers noticing that the Japanese police are keeping closer tabs on people by going door-to-door to survey occupants (junkai renraku), asking them to fill out Junkai Renraku Cards?

    (To see what information is required for the Junkai Renraku, especially for NJ residents, here’s one translated into English by the NPA).

    We’ve talked about this before on, where we have seen the police doing door-to-door surveys of residents, with a special emphasis on how that involves Gaijin Carding for people living in Gaijin Houses.  Some people have said that this has never happened to them (for example, it never happened to me despite living in various places in Hokkaido over the course of 25 years), others it has (they think it’s cop SOP).

    But the interesting thing is that at a prefectural level, Aichi, for example, is making public announcements to their residents that they will be making the rounds to households (katei).  (If this was all that normal a SOP, why the need for a public service announcement?)  This will be in order to:

    • Give advice on how not to become victims of crime,
    • Take measures for people who have been victims of crime,
    • Contact neighborhoods that have recently been victims of crime (such as sneak thievery and car break-ins) and advise them how to take measures against crime in the future,
    • Prevent youth crime (shounen no hankou boushi),
    • Have lists of occupants (renraku hyou) on hand and phone numbers in case of disasters,

    and more. See

    We are seeing these PSAs in other prefectures, such as Kanagawa (, and door to door checks apparently elsewhere.

    A couple of funny things going on here. First, information about neighborhood occupancy should be available through the juuminhyou system in the first place.  Much of this information is also surveyed by the National Census (kokusei chousa), where, I might add, providing any information is optional (note how the optionality of providing personal information is not mentioned in the Aichi Police website). Why do the police feel the need to compile their own data set?

    Well, because police are control freaks, and given the degree of power the Japanese police have in Japan, privacy issues are of less importance than maintaining order.  And you just know that if they catch a NJ at his or her home, there’s going to be much more intrusive questioning than just phone numbers and occupants — they will demand to see your Gaijin Card and ascertain that your visa is current, all on your front doorstep.  Have a nice day.  It’s not just on the street at random anymore, meaning they’ll intrude upon where you live.  Moreover I doubt that for NJ targeted, answering questions will be optional (plead the Fifth (mokuhiken) and arouse suspicion — something that leads to more thorough investigations downtown).

    Of course, the Aichi Police offer themselves and their questioning as all sweetness, with benign photos of the police at work in their communities:


    Subtext:  “Like you, even [female] cops have maternal instincts…”


    “Now now, you needn’t be afraid of this man in uniform who has approached us for some unknown reason during our very traditional daily constitutional.  Especially since he’s even gotten down on his knees for you…”


    “This is how we will approach you to demand personal information” (outside a place that is clearly not a household).  We can only hope that our boys in blue will be so smiley and unaggressive.

    Here’s the best one:


    “OMG!  I’m so glad to see a cop knocking at my door.  I just love a man in uniform!  Come inside!”

    Now, you might think I’m making too much of this.  But naturally I would argue not.  Especially since we have had cases of police agencies doing one thing (like putting out racist anti-NJ flyers) while offering sweetness and light on their official English website.  There’s a lot of tatemae here, and you only have to be a minority in Japan before you understand just how much intent and enforcement differ from the sloganeering.

    My advice:  If you get an unexpected knock one day and see (through the peep sight) a cop at your front door, don’t answer.  Because if they visually identify you in any way as NJ, you are automatically suspicious and you’ll get the Third Degree.

    Anyone else noticing their local police becoming more intrusive these days?  Arudou Debito

    79 Responses to “Aichi Police online announcement about Junkai Renraku door-to-door cop visits. Happening in your neighborhood?”

    1. Jim di Griz Says:

      Between the lip flapping politicians, and the nosey cops, Japan seems to be a fascist police state again.

    2. AJStiles Says:

      I received visit like this a few months ago. My mother-in-law answered the door. It was only when my wife told the officer her last name did he realize there was even a foreigner living in the apartment. His attitude did not change when he found out. He simply wrote down everyones name and the apartment phone number, bid us good day, and left. It was the most positive encounter with a police officer I have had in Japan.

      — Very reassuring to hear. Whereabouts in Japan, if I may ask? (Conurbation or prefecture is sufficient.)

    3. Hamish Says:

      Happened in Tokyo early last year, local cop came round, left questionnaire but we didn’t return it. He was actually carrying a large folder with all the records of addresses in the neighbourhood with him.

    4. Luke Says:

      I just got a visit from them myself in Tokyo (one of the 23 metropolitan wards). My wife opened the door and a single officer gave her the card, saying he’ll be back in 10min to pick it up. She wanted to fill it in, but I’ve had a look and it got all sortsa info one is supposed to give: the address, when did you move in, names, sexes, dates of birth of everyone in the household, workplace or schools, relatives and friends to contact in case of emergency, and in the back even the info considering color, registration number etc of your bicycles, motorbikes and cars etc.

      I immediately and instinctively got apprehensive and suspicious. The card said : [このカードは災害、事件、交通事故等非常の場合に役立たせるために記載していただくもので、他人に見せることはありません。太線わく内の項目について記載していただきますようご協力をお願いいたします。] Approx: “This card is to be used in emergencies like fires, incidents, traffic accidents etc and will not be shown to other people. Fill in the inside of the bold line. We ask for your cooperation.” Jiken (incidents) could mean just about anything.

      I decided not to provide all this info just like that, especially since it seems to be a question of “cooperation” and not mandatory. So when they came back, I used the interphone not to unnecessarily advertise my superficial non-japaneseness and politely asked them to confirm that it is voluntary. After they said that “ichiou” (I suppose) it is voluntary, I declined to present it. He wanted to talk to me, probably to explain how it was for my own benefit (and to check-out someone who stood out by refusing) but I said I’m in the middle of my Sunday lunch (which I was). He asked if he can come again later in the afternoon but I said it’s “daijoubu” and hung up.

      I am definitely worried because now I’m on their radar, and they have all the info anyway. But it was definitely too much of an intrusion and there’s no way I’ll go down with it of my own volition. As a background, there were 2 cases of “snatch and run” hittakuri in the hood recently (according to the police posters around), and this may or may not have something to do with these visits. This is the first time I ever got a visit like this, having lived here for almost 10 years, in Ibaraki and Tokyo. I sure hope there will be no sequels to this episode.

    5. Piglet Says:

      We had such a visit a few months ago. We refused politely to give out our details after confirming giving information was optional. I guess we’ll have another visit soon because I saw a policeman ringing at other doors when we left this morning.

    6. AJStiles Says:

      I live in Toride in Ibaraki. My neighborhood is mostly older families and retirees. There are actually very few foreigners living there so I was a bit surprised by the officer’s reaction. He never asked to see any ID. All he wanted was names and a phone number.

    7. Flyjin Says:

      Sorry to say that this seems to be happening more and more when taking the long view from, say 1990. Since the 2000s, gaijin houses in particular have been often visited, Debito recounting the example of the one in Shinagawa where the “immigration officers” literally forced the sliding door of its hinges in their zeal to demand the gaijin card from the resident. Perhaps Debito can provide the link here.

      [I provided it in the blog entry above.]

      I actually used to live close by to the abovementioned, and every few months or so the police would come round and ring the doorbells to “check who is living there”. I suppose it was an easy target.
      Things took a paranoid turn during the G8 meeting in Hokkaido in 2008(!) when they first came round asking for (foreign) residents by name (I heard this but did not answer the door,was having a lie-in bed)but then the next day when I was at my girlfriend’s house in a completely different area of Tokyo, they came around there too! Naturally she did not say she had an NJ there-I was not resident-though the policeman said “there had been some crime in the neighborhood and strangers in the building (owner lived downstairs)”. My GF was shocked, said it was the first time they had ever done that.

      In addition this was when the “neighborhood watch” ojisans started to be deputized and they would literally stand on every street corner around the gaijin house block, and watch us as we came out. (As a creepy tangent, there was one who used to wait for the local children from the kindergarten up the road, literally stand on that corner for hours, just to make sure they crossed the road safely or something, but I digress).

      So I stopped answering the door in Japan. Ever. Usually the doorbell would ring around 11 am on Saturday mornings, but other times around 8 am presumably times the salespeople, the TEPCO ojisans, or the police think people will be home. But the last thing I wanted was something like that making me late for work, or ruining my weekend. One guy from work was absent a whole day as he was “carded” in Tokyo station when he didnt have the card.

      Even after moving out of Paranoid Tokyo to another part of Kanto, there were still the local neighborhood watch ojisans freaking my non Japanese girlfriend out. She foolishly answered the door one time to the TEPCO ojisan who was reading the meter, and he told her she was “Kawaii” and asked where she was from. Unprofessional, and quite creepy. No, your customers are not free hostesses for you.

      So that became another reason not to answer the door. I used to take alternate paths to work, go out the back door, or deliberately confusing route near my apartment as these ojisans on the corner had nothing better to do than stare at the NJs.

      Sad it came to that. I couldnt wait to get out. And I can confirm that this feeling of paranoia in the populace and fueled by the authorities/media is indeed, only or mainly in Japan, especially Tokyo.

    8. Irezumi_Aniki Says:

      Police in my neighborhood (Shibuya) started doing this about a month after 3/11. It was quick, painless, and they didn’t ask questions beyond what was on the paper. They didn’t even ask to see my ARC.

    9. Oliver Says:

      I have been living in Aichi Prefecture since 2001, and only once a police officer visited me to fill out this card. That was around 2003, and I was living in Nagoya City then.

      I moved twice and have been live in a suburb of Nagoya since 2004, however nobody ever came around for junkai renraku or anything else. I am sure police is aware of me, as the local police officers have seen me several times (around the station or at school festivals).

    10. Dave Says:

      Hey Debito,

      Cop came to my door just last week, and asked me to fill out the junkai renraku. It was largely a positive interaction. The cop, a young guy, was friendly, didn’t ask for any documentation of any kind from me, and was very friendly and chatty.

      This has happened to me twice before in my time in Japan (15 years), the last one being many years ago, maybe six. Last two times, I declined to offer any information or fill out any forms. The police at the time were kind of baffled and pushed a little, but I was insistent and they relented. To me it had a police state feel to it.

      This time, though, having volunteered up in Tohoku and seen how in some areas there were people who had essentially disappeared because their homes were so thoroughly destroyed it was unclear who had ever lived there, my attitude was different. I even added a couple of extra details, like who to contact in an emergency, and a little about me, like my country of origin, essentially focusing on details that might help locate or identify me in the case of an emergency. I was more vague about other details that I think aren’t as pertinent to that situation. I didn’t list my exact place of employment, for example, as in my case my office is unlikely to be helpful. I talked over with the cop about what I would and wouldn’t want them to know and why, and he seemed quite interested in the discussion, and was also understanding, and didn’t object to any omissions.

      Anyway, that’s how it was for me. I used to recoil from just about any police interaction, wary of them stereotyping me, but now I’m more nuanced. Sometimes I engage them, sometimes I am guarded. In this instance, I felt the net benefit to me was to engage them.

    11. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Record keeping, filing systems, and bureaucracy. The holocaust started with some innocent ‘form filling’- watch the beginning of Schindlers List.

      Discussed this with the wife, told her to chuck it in the bin if it arrives before we leave Japan.
      But as her friends said at lunchtime today, ‘Why wouldn’t you fill it in?’, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to help the police help you?’.
      No sense of civil liberty.

      I don’t remember who said it, but I guess it’s true; Every victim meets their oppressor half way.

    12. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Dave #10

      ‘This time, though, having volunteered up in Tohoku and seen how in some areas there were people who had essentially disappeared because their homes were so thoroughly destroyed it was unclear who had ever lived there, my attitude was different.’

      I appreciate the sentiment but….

      At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whole neighborhoods were burnt, and most of the juuminhyou, meaning that some families were wiped out, and so was every one else that ever knew them, along with any paperwork to prove they even existed.

      Given that experience, and the failings that the local governments have had with paper record keeping (tsunami, all those 100 year old pensioners that have disappeared), you would have thought, that since ‘Japan is an advanced country’, electronic records would be kept by local governments, and backed up somewhere safe, if it’s a disaster that the police are worried about, wouldn’t you?

      I’m surprised the police aren’t faxing the questionnaire out to us, or some other ‘advanced’ method like cut and paste directly into the body of an e-mail. Paper records in this day and age, really?

      — Well, it is one way to keep bored cops busy (other than measuring parking garages to certify that your car fits into its parking space). And it also makes it known to the local community that the cops are about collecting information. It keeps the public conscious of all the power J-cops have after they get all your neighbors’ information too.

    13. Piglet Says:

      Same reaction from my Japanese entourage: “why wouldn’t you want to provide information to the police, if you don’t have anything to hide?”. I tried to explain them that they already have access to this information in case of open investigations, but that they don’t need it outside of their real police job (investigations, crime solving, etc.).
      FYI, in case of natural disaster, the police will be provided access to residents records for emergency purposes (for example, if they need to evacuate a city or if a building collapsed), so the argument that this information should be provided for disasters seems BS to me.

    14. Mikan Says:

      I’ve been in Ehime for the last 5 years, and sure enough, they’ve come every year for the last 3 years. They are very polite and friendly. They have never asked me to fill anything out, however they have everyone in the neighborhood’s address already in their notebook and they just asked me to confirm if mine was correct, and asked if anyone else lived with me.

      It felt rather police state-ish, but then again, it’s nerve racking looking through the peep-hole and seeing a police at the door while being foreign…

    15. Jodi Says:

      We moved into a new place, and two days after my husband registered his new address on the juminhyo, we received a visit from the police.I opened the door and the young officer was surprised to see me. My spouse visa was still being processed at this stage (we are newly arrived back in Japan) and I was not on the juminhyo yet, so the visit was clearly not related to my presence in the household.

      The young officer was very polite and explained the reasons. The amount of information requested was not excessive and it made sense to give them a contact number in case anything happens in the neighbourhood. This is not information included on the juminhyo anyway.

      As an aside, I was completely thrilled when after I received my visa, I went and added my name to my husband’s (our) juminhyo at the ward office. After 16 years of marriage, it was very lovely to be *together* on a legalJapanese document. I felt very thankful that the efforts of many people to evoke change in the past have borne fruit.

    16. Colin Says:

      They came to my apartment in Shizuoka about a week ago. I thought there was a problem at first then the officer said that he needed a few details about the members in the household. He asked me the names, birthdates, job info and how long we had been living at the current address. He said thanks and left. I ask the officer if he was going door to door in the building (only 8 apts)and he said yes. I was a little surprised but he was polite to me.

    17. Hank Says:

      I have never had this experience while in Japan. Now I have had the police called on me, or threatened to, but never had a visit. Actually I have never had an issue with any police here. I have, however, had many many busy bodies and wannabe police harass me, quote the law, disturb my peace and make my life miserable here, and I do know that once the police get called and your brought down to the station, you be in world of stuff. As Debito said in his book, dont get into trouble here. It will eventually find you, even the most Japanophile out there; trouble will find him or her, but you must know what the consequences are for your reaction.

    18. Chris Says:

      I’m sure I read somewhere this has been standard practice for decades in Japan, not necessarily targeting NJ, certainly intrusive by western standards though, but regarded as community outreach by the police I guess. I would certainly find it intrusive, though perhaps it doesn’t hurt for the cops to be clear that some of the local residents they are protecting are NJ. Also worrying in Nagoya (not sure if it’s the same elsewhere) are the widespread crime awareness posters that feature an evil gremlin like character sneaking about, I suppose it’s supposed to be a shadowy thief figure, but it’s unfortunate that the character is a black silhouette as I can`t help feeling it has racial overtones intended or not.

    19. Oliver Says:

      a bit off topic, but here is a interesting read about the police today that’s hitting the web:

    20. Baudrillard Says:

      Chris-“certainly intrusive by western standards though”.

      Japan is the same as South Korea and China in this respect (oh, the irony).That is, post fascist police states with recent democracy imposed on them, or in the case of China, the retention of a police state with a market economy.

      Since 1955 the LDP has been trying to reverse the imposed idea of individual liberties in favor of citizens’ civic duties to the state.

      In S. Korea, the police actually ask/deputize station staff and building superintendants to monitor visible foreigners movements into the same building in case they are teaching private English lessons illegally. It sounds petty but that is how it is. There is also of course the infamous “Anti English Spectrum” who follow foreigners around, but I digress.

      In China, the police will routinely come round to your place if you have an unregistered foreign guest staying and, like the gaijin house in Shinagawa case, bang on the door until you answer or it comes off the hinges. They will then politely remind you (echoing a few comments above how the J police are intrusive but polite, i.e. good cop role)that you must register any foreign guest who stays 3 days or more. They can also ask(actually force) all building residents to leave thier premises for a few hours if a major event or street festival/offical visit etc is scheduled to pass by, which is a horrible intrusion by western standards considering you may have bought the apartment.

      In these countries, it seems your home is not your castle at all.

    21. Akira Says:

      Hi Debito,

      I was in Toronto and saw an advert on the side of a city bus that read: Wherever you are from, YOU BELONG IN CANADA! I laughed because in Japan we often are suspicious of foreigner and I’ve even seen posted on poles saying “If you see suspicious foreigners / work violations,please report”. But the attitude in Toronto is no matter where in the world you may be from, you belong in Canada. I realize Japan is not an immigration country, but it is such a different mind set towards foreigners here where they are perceived of as a threat and to be monitored or watched.

    22. Joe Says:

      @Baudrillard #20

      What a bizarre post. You say Japan is “the same as South Korea and China” regarding the police and then offer two examples of abuse of power, neither of which ever occur in Japan. Nobody in Japan is asked specifically to watch for foreigners teaching English illegally; nobody is ordered to register foreign guests after three days.
      So how can you say Japan is “the same”?
      And with Jim Di Griz claiming that we’re witnessing the beginning of a second holocaust (#11), we can see that once again the alarmists (as opposed to the “apologists”) are setting the agenda here. It does nothing to improve the lot of minorities here, and everything to invite suspicion and ridicule regarding any genuine claim of actual mistreatment.

    23. Welp Says:


      The best are the “beware of fake marriages” signs that pop up on trains in Fukuoka occasionally, complete with picture of big-nosed foreigner making an angry face and a crying female J-spouse victim.

      — Photo, please!

    24. Joe Says:


      Man, I hate constantly coming across as Mr Sceptical on this site and then getting vilified for being somehow on the “wrong” side, but I really can’t believe these signs exist. For two reasons.
      1) I ride the trains in Fukuoka seven days a week in a normal week. I use JR, the shinkansen, the underground and Nishitetsu. I’ve lived here over twenty years and not once have I seen such a sign. And, as a “kanji nerd”, with my pen and notebook at the ready, believe me I pay a good deal of attention to any new signs that appear.
      2) The phrase “beware of fake marriages” is, literally, meaningless. A fake marriage isn’t going to leap out and bite me. What was the expression in Japanese? I can’t possibly imagine a phrase that would make sense.

      Was it directed at unsuspecting young Japanese who might be duped into marriage with a visa-seeking gaijin? Surely then it would be “Beware of unscrupulous visa-seekers.”
      Was it directed at employers? Again, doesn’t make sense: Why would the police or immigration pay for advertising that may or may not be seen by those employers, when they can contact such employers directly in the course of their normal duties?

      Like I said, sorry for expressing my doubts, but I think you’re mistaken as to what the signs you saw were saying.
      Humblest apologies if you can show us photo evidence, though.

      — Well, in regards to how “fake marriages” (as in, gizou kekkon) would be rendered on a police sign, check out this “Beware of Foreigners” leaflet put out by Osaka Ikuno-ku Police in 2007. FYI. A follow-up comment is welcome on this in light of your skepticism.

    25. Joe Says:


      I don’t have a problem with ”偽造結婚”, I’m sure the expression exists in the language of every country which issues marriage visas.
      It’s the whole phrase “beware of fake marriages” that doesn’t ring true. “偽造結婚に注意” sounds completely meaningless; how is the reader expected to react?
      The fliers you linked to were put out by a chamber of commerce and directed at employers according to the entry, which makes perfect sense (in its own nasty, racist way) as employers are held responsible for the correct immigration status of foreign staff.
      Why would someone pay good money to put posters like this on trains, where the audience is, pretty much by definition your average Joe, with no interest in either marrying or employing a foreigner?

      — I think you’re being a bit naive, Joe.

    26. Markus Says:

      @Joe (#22) I don’t think the term bizarre applies to Baudrillard’s post at all. Things can still be the “the same” even if they are not identical. It depends on what scope you are talking about. Sorry, but you come across as just petty instead of critical when you base hyperbole such as “bizarre” on a semantic grey area like this.

      I think it is fair to call all three countries “police states”. Declining entry to private premises police is a basic right in Western countries, and must not be held against you by law under any circumstances (unless, of course, a search warrant was issued).

      The attitude of “why would you not want to give all your information to the police (or any other institution) if you have done nothing wrong” which is so prevalent in Japan, which is just one aspect of the mind-boggling, cultural obedience to authority in this country, makes things even more hopeless than in China where people seem to be more aware of their liberties.

    27. Joe Says:

      @Markus (#26)
      It’s not “petty” to ask for accuracy when people are making accusations. I’d utterly dispute the idea that Japan is a “police state”. I wouldn’t live here if it were.
      Don’t take my word for it. Go to the experts. The Freedom House website lists China as “Not free”, along with its media, Korea is “Free”, but its media only “Partly free” while Japan is “Free” on both counts. No disrespect, but I’d give more weight to their opinions than I would to yours.

    28. Joe Says:

      @Debito (#25)
      I might be a bit obtuse now and then, but I don’t see how expressing doubt as to the veracity of someone’s unlikely-sounding story is “naive”; quite the contrary.
      Again, I’m amazed that, with the amount of train travel I do in the area – my work travel expenses can be ¥80,000 a month – I’ve never come across one of these posters.
      From Welp’s description I can’t help wondering if there isn’t a bit of confusion with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ chart illustrating trends in international marriage divorces featured on your site recently.

      — I’m not talking here about the alleged Fukuoka posters, since we haven’t seen any evidence yet (I asked for photos, remember). I’m calling you “naive” regarding the Ikuno-ku posters and their intended audience (which is why I asked for a follow-up comment to you specifically about this issue specifically). Not to mention the numerous other anti-NJ police flyers we’ve talked about for years now on

      So you’ve never come across one of those posters yourself. Well, lucky you. But d’ya think, even when we’ve presented you with numerous examples of those posters here on, that we’re just making it all up? You’re faced with primary source evidence time and again and still you choose to be skeptical? Then pray tell, what would ever convince you that the NPA DOES in fact have a policy to target and exaggerate NJ crime in specific in regards its reportage and PSAs? Give us your standards of evidence that would enable you to change your mind?

    29. Joe Says:


      Sorry, completely misunderstood what you were getting at. The Ikuno posters are despicable, obviously, and I overlooked the fact that they were being left on random car windscreens. So the idea that they were targeted at employers specifically is nonsense. And I have seen a similar flyer, years and years ago in my own town, asking residents to look out for “suspicious foreigners”. The funny thing was that the cartoon foreigner featured was actually a rather handsome, suave-looking chap with a nice smile (sign of an inferiority complex perhaps?).
      One question: Does the fact that the flyer includes the police station telephone number mean that the police themselves were involved in its production? Oficially, I mean, or was it just the chamber of commerce?
      And regarding the police in general, I don’t trust them any more than I would back home in the UK. I know they’re only human like the rest of us, but the job seems to attract a disproportionate number of bigots anywhere.

    30. marius Says:

      “not once have I seen such a sign”

      This reminds me a bit of the “I’ve never been stopped by the police, so you guys are exaggerating/lying” sort of fumble popular by some.


      one week after moving into my current place (a stop or two away from Shibuya, central Tokyo) a cop knocked on my door. Specifically mine; not my neighbors; asking for information. Obviously someone had topped him off. First thing asked was if I was working in Japan.

      Last week (a few years after that first visit) we got the envelope others have mentioned.
      Just like the first incident I’ve decline to answer. If that makes me suspicious – so be it.

      My embassy have my details in case of emergencies, so does my ward office (and by extension the police should the world come cracking down, upon which I’m sure I’ll be their first priority).

      So whatever reason the police have for gathering this information for times at ease is, I guess, a reason for me to get just as suspicious towards them.

    31. Baudrillard Says:

      Joe “Japan’s media is free”NO WAY.,1054.html

      To paraphrase, Japan’s big fall in this index should sound an alarm.No reform of the Kisha club and harrassment of journalists, it resembles Putin’s Russia if anything.

      There is absolutely no way Japan can be called “more democratic” than South Korea, unless you have of course bought the “Brand Japan” which apparently magically transformed into a western democracy after WW2, unchanging, forevermore.

      I will make one correction as South Korean democracy was not imposed, it was fought for by activists and hard won after imprisonment and death in some cases.

      Japanese “democracy” was of course imposed by America. It was not fought for from within.And of course since 1955 we have had the dubious de facto one party rule of the LDP. Freedom HOuse should add “flawed democracy” to Japan’s listing, its all too glib.

      In my original post I said S Korea, Japan and China were the same IN THIS RESPECT, that is home intrusion by police. That was all.Thank you.

    32. Baudrillard Says:

      OK Joe, lets say Japan is a democracy, for the sake of logical argument. It logically follows then, that a large number of Japanese people now yearn for a police state (so long as it doesnt target them in particular).

      By electing Abe and the LDP, who in their manifesto state the goal of removing the “alien” (foreign) constitution as well as the “western concept” of human rights, surely then, by your logic, the people have voted for the revision of the American imposed constitution.

      Additionally, to my earlier riposte, S. Korea has passed a lot of pro foreigner legislation recently

      Contrast with Japan’s opposition to this:
      in the Yomiuri, no less.

      (I site searched Freedom house but nothing post 2010 came up for media. I suspect Freedom House have bigger, non American allied states, to fry.)

      So what was that you were saying about South Korea being somehow “less free” than Japan? Surely if anything, the reverse is true. I think you have lost this debate.

      And if we are talking about NJ rights, which is what we do here, then both countries have remarkably similar, dare I say, the SAME problems with racism and police intrusion, but South Korea’s government has at least passed some positive legislation for NJ protection, whereas in Japan the electorate vote in the parties dedicated to the exact opposite.

    33. Baudrillard Says:

      I said Japan’s media laws/police harrassment invite comparisons to Russia, but more accurately post fascist Argentina and post communist Hungary;

      Japan (53rd, -31) plummeted because of censorship of nuclear industry coverage and its failure to reform the “kisha club” system. This is an alarming fall for a country that usually has a good ranking. Argentina (54th, -7) fell amid growing tension between the government and certain privately-owned media about a new law regulating the broadcast media.
      Hungary (56th, -16) is still paying the price of its repressive legislative reforms, which had a major impact on the way journalists work.

      From Reporters without Borders Freedom Index.

    34. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Joe #22

      There’s nothing bizarre about it. I’m not spreading paranoia. I’m taking part in a discourse which others actively seek to deny us. That is not paranoia.
      I would agree with Baudrillard’s comments. North Korea, for example, is (like the Oceania of Orwell’s 1984) attempting to maintain it’s power through control over history (in a very Stalinist way). South Korea and China, on the other hand, are like Huxley’s Brave New World; attempting to maintain power through the ability to offer their citizens the allure of an all smothering consumer culture of instant personal satisfaction (NB, I said ‘offer the allure’, not deliver on the offer).

      Where we would place Japanese leaders in that context? The Japanese populace do enjoy the ‘dreamy day’ to the reality of the social responsibility for triple nuclear meltdown (for example), whilst at the same time, Japan’s most popular leaders are demanding control over how other countries perceive history. Worst of both worlds.

    35. Markus Says:

      @Joe, are you basing the assessment of countries solely on recommendations from the “Freedom House” (whatever that is)?

    36. Joe Says:


      You obviously know more about the press in Japan than I do, and I respect that.
      I wouldn’t regard the kisha club system as anything more sinister than an inconvenience, however, and the lack of information regarding Fukushima is an example of a cover-up, rather than “censorship”; I’ve seen plenty of articles in the weekly magazines detailing what’s going on in Fukushima, and were the government interested in censorship, I’m sure they wouldn’t have been allowed to appear.

      I still take issue with your use of the phrase “police state”, however, more as it’s a form of misuse of language rather than how it reflects on Japan.
      Firstly, the expression doesn’t necessarily focus on the role of the cops. It’s used to refer to a nation in which the government controls the population in all aspects of their lives, denying dissent. The police are just a tool of such a government. Now I know Abe is a dangerous, right-wing loon, but he doesn’t preside (yet)over a country like that.
      Secondly, if you use the expression “police state” to refer to modern Japan, then what words do you have left to describe, say, Nazi Germany, Communist Czechoslovakia, or North Korea? The phrase becomes meaningless.

    37. Joe Says:


      Again, there’s a problem with words. If you really mean that Japan is the “worst of both worlds” (i.e. it combines the worst qualities of China and North Korea), and we take you literally, then any rational person would choose to live in either China or North Korea, rather than here.
      I don’t see the hordes of would-be emigrants.

    38. Joe Says:


      No, I’m basing my assessment on my (not vast) knowledge of politics and history, and my experience living in three different countries in the west and Japan.
      I urge you to check out the Freedon House site ( They’re a well-respected organisationand a good source of info in obscure cases. As a bit of a hard-core lefty, I don’t feel comfortable reading some of what they say about Cuba, but you can’t deny their research is solid.

    39. Jim di Griz Says:

      @Joe #37

      Being worse than NK or PRC does not automatically qualify those countries as a better place to live than Japan, a fact you suggest would be proven if those countries had hordes of would be immigrants. On the contrary, immigrants have a much wider choice than ‘bad choice NK/PRC’ or ‘worse choice Japan’. Why bother with either? They can go to Canada, Australia, (or if they are rich) Singapore, for example. Your argument is a straw man.

    40. Jim di Griz Says:

      @ Joe #37

      BTW, please tell me how a ‘rational person’ is supposed to make an informed choice prior to emigrating from their home country, when Japan is so successful at presenting a facade, a tatemae full of ‘Japan myths’, that goes unchallenged by the domestic media, and is staunchly defended by even disadvantaged and oppressed immigrants, such as run the anti-Debito sites?

    41. Markus Says:

      @Joe, calling “the kisha club system as anything more sinister than an inconvenience”, now that is an opinion that I think the term “bizarre” applies to very well. I think Debito called you naive, and I have to agree with him now.

      Not only in theory does this system prevent any kind of critical journalism in this country. Look at the Michael Woodford case, for instance, or Fukushima, or in fact any kind of news that might be detrimental to Japan’s image in the world.

      The examples are plentiful – just watch the news with an open eye. Here’s one of the more mind-boggling ones:
      There was a G7 summit the other day where Taro Aso (in Mafia attire) attended. The German attendee, Schäuble was cited in the German media criticizing Japan’s “Abenomic” miracle money printing as the start of a a “currency war”. Watching the big Japanese TV networks, not a word about this was said. But they had a video loop of Aso greeting Schäuble (who’s in a wheelchair), who was politely greeting back, with a smile. This was five seconds of video, looped over and over again, with the Japanese announcer saying inane things like “Aso met German minister Schäuble, who he is friends with since a while back.” Anything about what Schäuble actually said at the meeting about Japan? Of course not, let’s not disturb the “wa” of those two old buddies.

      On a tangent, as a German in Japan I have lost count of the times when Japanese people lit up upon hearing about my nationality, and telling me that Japan and Germany were friends who fought together. Next time I’ll tell them that that was a friendship Germans aren’t proud about at all. I’ll be gone soon, anyway. Enough with the Tatemae for me.

    42. Baudrillard Says:

      Joe, we are using “police state” to mean a state where the police can pretty much do what they want and ignore or be ignorant even their own laws. This does indeed describe Japan.

      North Korea and Nazi Germany are/were totalitarian states, its a different word.

      “any rational person would choose to live in either China or North Korea, rather than here.I don’t see the hordes of would-be emigrants.”

      Now youre just being silly. China and North Korea are quite different from each other, and we DO see hordes of would-be Expats heading for China at Japan’s expense. It is called “Japan-passing”.

      “I’m basing my assessment on my (not vast) knowledge of politics and history,”

      So am I, but as I have an MA in Politics and History, this has to count for something.

      As for Freedom House, I already posted there is NO study at their site of the state of Japanese Media since 2010. Stop fixating on just one source. I already posted that Reporters Across Borders have studied Japan in more depth while Freedom House were no doubt concentrating on the Middle East, etc. They offer very potted generalizations of the world in a nutshell, a kind of geopolitics for dummies. And they only have limited terms to describe countries. “Japan’s media is free, South Korea’s isnt”, come on, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

      Joe, why cant you just admit (well, you do) that your comments are anecdotal, based on your personal experience only, and your personal preference of Japan over S. Korea or China? Then you google for a source that backs up your preference, whihc you find at Freedom House. Do you have a Japanese spouse? I dont, I have no vested interest in any of the 3 countries being discussed.

      Debito, surely this debate is over. Can you close the thread? Zzz.

    43. Baudrillard Says:

      “Freelancers are discriminated against in Japan and excluded from the Kisha clubs. As a result, Tanaka’s freelance status prevents him from receiving the support of his colleagues and increases his vulnerability.

      Freelance and independent journalists such as Yu Terasawa, Michiyoshi Hatakeyama, Yuichi Sato and Ryuichi Hirokawa are often harassed over their nuclear industry reporting”

      Oh, yeah- the Kisha Club is just an “inconvenience”, Joe.

    44. Chris Says:


      Yes I am very worried about he attempts, especially recently, by the LDP to remove individual liberties in favour of some kind of civic duty. Might sound good, but is surely the route to hell. Civic duty as dictated by the elite ruling class, i.e. whatever is best for them.

    45. Bob Says:

      The fact is, China, both Koreas and Japan all have politicians advocating a particular view of history that departs from reality in some respects. The difference is:
      In China, take a different view and you are disappeared by the state (a REAL police state);
      In North Korea, you don’t know there’s a different view because everyone with a different view was already disappeared, and besides you’re too hungry to care (real police state + economic catastrophe);
      In South Korea, you are convinced the state view is right because it’s so thoroughly indoctrinated in you by the state’s revisionist history education that it’s the most racist country in NorthEast Asia (, since despite democracy and some recent press freedom (much more recent than Japan – the fact that Japan paid reparations for WW2 remains unknown or denied by many Koreans since the government lied to them about it for decades and got away with it until 8 years ago,, the potent mixture of history and emotion instilled in Korean youth is so influential in today’s Korean adults that politicians compete for how crazy nationalist they can be in elections;
      and in Japan, when rightists make idiotic, racist statements, the Japanese left at least tries to take them to task for it, it can become a media circus and, if we’re lucky, the jerks have to resign to take responsibility for their idiocy (that last bit doesn’t happen as often as it should, but that’s true in Japan as well as many Western countries where hate-mongering politicians somehow survive).

      Frankly I disagree with the ranking change rationale for Japan in the survey cited because I think Western media went overboard while Japanese media played it more conservative and has been quite vigilant since then against TEPCO and the government, and I think many foreign critics simply do not watch the news here, but that’s really a side-show since we’re supposed to be worried here on about racism, and let’s be realistic folks: Racism is a proxy for nationalism in East Asia; nationalism is a direct byproduct of fascist revisionist history; and by the latest measure of racism by country I cited above, Japan is the least racist country in North-East Asia. Far from perfect, lots of work left to do, and I support reform and action on this dimension including real laws with teeth against discrimination. Those of you who you favorably compare China and even South Korea with Japan on this dimension throw your credibility out the window (and damage my own by association).

    46. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Bob #45

      You say;

      ‘In South Korea, you are convinced the state view is right because it’s so thoroughly indoctrinated in you by the state’s revisionist history education that it’s the most racist country in NorthEast Asia, since despite democracy and some recent press freedom (much more recent than Japan – the fact that Japan paid reparations for WW2 remains unknown or denied by many Koreans since the government lied to them about it for decades and got away with it until 8 years ago, the potent mixture of history and emotion instilled in Korean youth is so influential in today’s Korean adults that politicians compete for how crazy nationalist they can be in elections’.

      In riposte, I would say;

      ‘In Japan, you are convinced the state view is right because it’s so thoroughly indoctrinated in you by the state’s revisionist history education that it’s the most racist country in NorthEast Asia’.

      See what I did there? I could go on;

      ‘the potent mixture of history and emotion instilled in Japan’s youth is so influential in today’s Japanese adults that politicians compete for how crazy nationalist they can be in elections’

      Looks pretty valid to me.

      As for this;

      ‘I think Western media went overboard while Japanese media played it more conservative and has been quite vigilant since then against TEPCO and the government,’

      You’re joking me, right? The western media went over board because they know that you don’t screw around with nuclear power stations, and they could see that TEPCO was amateur hour, and the J-Gov was more interested in the tatemae of ‘safe Japan’ than it was about fixing the problem and not BSing the public. Ever since the disaster there have been almost weekly concerns voiced by scientists and Tohoku residents about radiation in the environment and the food chain. Yet where are the diligent J-journalists that you speak of? Why aren’t they asking the hard questions? Why haven’t I seen a J-journalist taking Edano to task on the news about why he said ‘there are no meltdowns’ at precisely the moment 3 were taking place? J-journalist culture is the same as every J-business sector culture; you want to work? Then don’t rock the boat, and contribute to the ‘wa’ even if the ‘wa’ is an illusion.

      J-journalists are as guilty as TEPCO for not hounding all these people until they give straight answers, and face criminal prosecution.

      But maybe you’ve bought into the Japan myth too, so you don’t want to see it?

    47. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Bob #45

      You say that this map is proof (!) that Japan is less racist than ROK. Have you looked at this map closely?

      It is based solely on;
      ‘Percentage of people who answered ‘people of an other race’ when asked to pick from groups of people they would not want as neighbours’.

      Well, since the Japanese believe that Japan is homogenous, and that all NJ are just visitors who will go home sooner or later, the idea of living next to a NJ must seem like a rare possibility, especially if no-one will rent next door to NJ anyway, don’t you think? Or just maybe, all those asked were just giving tatemae answers. After all, don’t want to make Japan look bad, do they? I mean, the Japanese aren’t really well known for being open and forthright about their personal feelings, are they?

    48. Baudrillard Says:

      Bob, we all wanted to believe that Japan was the most western, modern and democratic country in NE Asia. 20 years ago, with S Korea still under a dictatorship, it was by default. But like all postmodern media phenomenon, the map used as a point of reference is outdated. (not the map at the link you provide, which if you read to the conclusion, is only based on what people will admit to). Police intrusion is just the thin end of the wedge, but one example of how things in Japan are rapidly getting less and less democratic, especially for you, the disenfranchised NJ who actually live here.

      Sure, South Korea had a reputation (mainly peddled by Japanese) for being more “in your face, direct” racism. But then again, the student who told us to our faces she “didnt like white people”, or the director of an American company who said he “wasnt interested in working with foreigners” or the Shinagawa building owner who doesnt want to improve her English or “we ll all be slaves of America” were all Japanese I have met in my experience. That’s pretty in your face, and I wont even comment about some of the Chimpura or touts who have abused me with racist epithets when I wouldnt do/go where they wanted.

      No, in hindsight if we are honest the similarities were always there in Japan, but this *did not compute* with the western “brand Japan” we had decided to purchase, and so we put these down to being “exceptions”. S. Korea did not put out such a fake brand image of itself as a member of the G7 western club, and so we were not deceived. I used to gliby say S. Korea was a kind of “crappy Japan”, except that in the last few years Japan itself has been getting quite crappy.

      And now we see Japan sinking down to the lowest common denominator, as all that submerged racism and nationalism starts to emerge; there is little difference between such expressions in any of the 3 NE Asian countries we discussed. In fact there have been a few comments from J nationalists who say that-because the other 2 countries are violently demonstrating against Japan, it is therefore necessary for them to act the same way.

      Ditto police intrusion, which occurs in all 3 countries as I mentioned in my original post that sparked this “more democratic than thou” quibble. If you like, as a face saving gesture to you, lets say that Japan is now getting worse, which we all seem to agree on, a bit like how South Korea used to be. So Korea is getting less authoritarian, Japan more so. At the government level and nationalist demo level.

      Has it ever occured to you that Korea has changed and Japan hasnt? That Korea recently has elected progressives who pass pro foreign legislation, while Japan does the opposite? Its not good saying “in my experience Japanese people are niiice to ME” this is completely unscientific and unprovable either way.

      By way of riposte, as Jim has already done what I was going to do and show that your comment about Korea and Japan are pretty much interchangeable (though again, hard to prove- I just refer to progressive legislation passed, or in Japan, NOT passed), I will give you a couple of anecdotes of my own. First, when I started learning Japanese, my NJ teacher surprised me by saying “I dont know why you dont learn Japanese instead, in my experience Korean people are much nicer!”

      Second, on a more recent trip to Korea (2006), I bluffed my way into a certain “Korean only” establishment by telling the tout I was “half Japanese” in Japanese, and they bought it! Apparently they like Japanese customers.

      Can you imagine being able to enter a “Japanese only” establishment by saying you were “half Korean/Caucasian”?
      No, thought not.

    49. Markus Says:

      @Bob, I will take you word for racist ideas being more wide-spread and accepted in South Korea than in Japan. But where I have to differ is on your statement that there is merely “plenty of work left to do” and Japan being “far from perfect”.
      To me, this sounds like Japan is hard at work improving and on the right track to actually become the democratic, open country the Chrysanthemum club sold it as. Are you really trying to say Japan is about 80% there?
      I would rather say Japan is 10% there – compared to South Koreas 5% (again, I’ll take your word for it).
      The thing is that Japan maybe already was 15% there but dropped the ball. It’s regressing into its old, dangerous ways. If it ever severs ties with the US and becomes a nuclear power, it will be more dangerous to world peace than North Korea, with its tendency to elect ultra-nationalists and obedience to authority. It doesn’t look like the Japanese are convinced they can ever be catch up again in economic terms, but of course, the notion of being a superior nation must be held up in one way or another. That’s my opinion, of course.

    50. Nicole L. Says:

      To answer Debito’s question,

      I have never had a policeman actually come visit my home. But, I did go to the police box with my supervisor the first week I came to Japan. I live in a town of about 4,000 people in Hokkaido, so everyone knows who I am anyways. I just went into the station, said hello, filled out that form, and that was about it.

      My supervisor explained it to me as a way for the police to contact me in case of emergency. And, seeing as how I am probably one of the only foreigners (probably the only western looking one at least) in town, it was nice to actually introduce myself to the only two policemen that we have. Yes two. Basically, my time with the officers have been fairly nice here. When they visit the schools, they are very nice to me and they ask how I am doing and if I am liking Japan.

      Once my friend got pulled over for speeding in her car. She only had an international driver’s permit at the time, and they let her go without even giving her a warning. They were actually more perplexed about what they should do. They were also fairly nice to her. They just said, that is the speed limit sign, please be careful, and that was all. They did ask to see her foreigner card and such, be seeing as how we were going about 15 over so over the speed limit, they were being really nice. They didn’t even ask to see my card or anything. I just sat there.

      I must say, Hokkaido must be on a whole different wavelength, especially in these small towns.

      — I wouldn’t say as such. I’ve heard mixed reviews indeed about Hokkaido police too (see here, here, and here. So I wouldn’t get too complacent.

    51. Piglet Says:

      “My supervisor explained it to me as a way for the police to contact me in case of emergency”

      This is the usual explanation but I am not convinced. In case of emergency (earthquake, etc.), the police and SDF are granted additional powers by the government (it happened after 3.11) and they have access to residents records in designated areas, for emergency purposes only.
      In normal situations, they don’t have full access to resident records, they can only request information as a part of a formal procedure (criminal investigations, etc.). Filling this voluntary information cards give them information they are not supposed to know in normal situations. It seems risky to me, given the lack of published procedures concerning the storage and the use of this information:
      – is it stored safely?
      – is this information entered in electronic database or stored on paper?
      – is it kept locally (koban) or is it transferred to the local/prefectural headquarters?
      – who is allowed to access this information?
      – is there an official record of who and when this information was used?
      – how long is this information kept?
      – is there a supervising authority for the use of this information?
      – what can this information be used for? apart for emergency purposes, can it be used for investigations?
      – do you have the right to access, edit and delete the voluntary information kept by the police?

      Unless these questions are answered and published, I don’t plan to ever provide any additional voluntary information to the police, as long as it is not for a specific purpose (emergency, investigation, etc.).

    52. Joe Says:

      @Baudrillard # 42

      Your MA is in politics, mine is in English, concentrating on critical discourse analysis (i.e. the misuse and abuse of the language in debate). And for a person with an MA in politics, your use of the phrase “police state” is seriously mistaken. You say:

      “Joe, we are using “police state” to mean a state where the police can pretty much do what they want and ignore or be ignorant even their own laws.”

      That isn’t what “police state” means. Look it up. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as

      “a totalitarian state controlled by a national police force with secret supervision of citizens’ activities”.

      There’s no degree of difference between “police state” and “totalitarian state.

      So I say again that your claim that Japan is a police state is manifestly untrue. Nazi Germany was a police state. North Korea is a police state.

      Does it matter? I’d say yes. If I guy with an MA in politics is going around claiming that Japan is a police state, then any reasonable debate becomes clouded to the point where it’s pointless.

      — Let’s draw this segment of the debate to an end soon, please.

    53. Baudrillard Says:

      Joe, this debate is getting petty and off topic,and not a little bitter and personal, but to reply to your quibble by quoting a comedian, Steve Coogan: “Have you never heard of the freeplay of (postmodern) signs and symbols”? (“24 hour party people”).

      (You ll be telling us “Joy Division” only has only one fixed meaning next. Ditto “Japan”).

      I would like to redefine the term “police state”, then. Indeed, a totalitarian state uses the police as an instrument of control, Japan, though ostensibly a “democracy” in name and occasional practice (to recall Lord Hailsham’s “elective dictatorship”), has a police force which is unchecked and does what it likes, often randomly and against the laws they claim to enforce.

      However, no one at this site is saying Japan is totalitarian. Just because Japan has a corrupt police force do we want to then automatically jump to the (agreeably ridiculous) conclusion that Japan is therefore “totalitarian” because the Oxford Dictionary, that great tome of political theorem, says so. If one reads potted guides on the world (ditto Freedom House, who are better on developments in the Middle East) one gets potted, generalist answers.

      Instead, Japan is better described as “authoritarian”, to quote a British tourist handbook I read in 1989 “You might find Japan more authoritarian than, say, Britain.” This was a term oft used by professors when I was doing my first degree in Politics, as obviously there are many countries somewhere between a democracy and an Orwellian nightmare of complete thought control.

      Meriam Webster dictionary (as Joe likes dictionaries):Authoritarianism
      : of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority
      : of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people

      Hmm, blind submission to authority. Sounds a bit like a tendency in a place I know. “Shoganai”, or what do you have to hide?

      I personally have used the phrase “Post fascist” because Japan is still getting over it’s shameful alliance with the Nazis in WW2, though some quarters seem nostalgic for aspects of that period.

      Americans can impose institutions but the people like Ishihara will still essentially behave in the way they were taught to in their formative years and not magically transform overnight (or even over years). Ditto Kawasaki City; it can build shiny new buildings and pass relatively progressive legislation but that doesnt mean the people on the street will become more accepting to foreigners all of a sudden, ditto South Korea”s progressive legislation although some posters here (Joe?) have had bad experiences at the street level with racists.

      So would you like to suggest an alternative phrase to describe a corrupt democracy with an unchecked, intrusive police force that racially profiles NJS? I think “authoritarian” fits the bill.

    54. Markus Says:

      @Joe (52) Well, I will just come out and say it – Japan is a quasi-totalitarian state. There are elections, but whoever gets elected into power has de-facto control over the media, and institutions that should be independent in a non-totalitarian state. Freshest example is Abe ordering the BOJ to print money and devalue the Yen, even going as far as to replace its head with a yes man (Kuroda). This has been seen very critically in the West and unworthy of a democratic system.
      Then of course, you have Dentsu and the TV networks hand in hand with big business and journalism that is controlled from above. I am not sure how much you know the Japanese media landscape, but apart from a couple of independent, and widely unknown, efforts like Facta, there is no critical and surely no investigative journalism in Japan, mainly due to the “Kisha Club” system. The Japanese way to get around this isn’t outright censorship, but by discouraging any kind of dissent through self-censorship in order to “save face”.

      You might be right that Japan is not a police state by definition (at least not right now), but it sure looks like one – especially in the big cities. Police (Koban) visible on every corner, observing every pedestrian passing their booths. Intrusion into the private sphere for phoney reasons, asking to supply voluntary, detailed information without any transparency what it will be used for. But worst of all, the widespread attitude of “if you have done nothing wrong, what do you have to hide?”

      Non-police states go out of their way to create a peaceful, non-threatening environment by keeping the number of visible police in the streets to a minimum (unless there is a reason to expect riots like at sports events). Japan, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach by making sure there is plenty of police force to be seen and felt (the unsolicited visits to your home) at all times. Japan might not be controlled by “the police”, but whoever is in control uses the police in a threatening way in contrast to a service-oriented way. If you don’t think the Japanese police is creepy, I reckon you must live in the countryside.

    55. Baudrillard Says:


      ““a totalitarian state controlled by a national police force with secret supervision of citizens’ activities”.

      huh? Wait a sec. So Joe and the dictionary mean The Kim family in N Korea are controlled by their police force? The state is “controlled by” a police force? Only a police force, what about control over the media? Other instruments of control?

      I think it should be the other way around, the definition could have been phrased more succintly. If a guy with an MA (me) is going to go around saying Japan is a “police state”, I suppose these English subtleties matter!

      — I’m ready to close this thread down. It’s become a tennis match between two factions on semantics and not really related to this blog entry. Post on this further at your own risk, as your carefully-drafted riposte might not make it through moderation if it’s not related back to this topic.

    56. DK Says:

      Markus #54,

      “Freshest example is Abe ordering the BOJ to print money and devalue the Yen, even going as far as to replace its head with a yes man (Kuroda). This has been seen very critically in the West and unworthy of a democratic system.”

      Yes, but Western observers have been a bit distracted and perhaps even lulled by “liberals” like Paul Krugman, who of late doesn’t seem to tire of hailing Japan and “Abenomics” as the supreme example we should all enthusiastically follow to save ourselves from doom ( Yet, lest Abe has his way and history repeats itself, it would be wise if those observers studied Japanese history a little more closely and reflected on the fate of politicians like Takahashi Korekiyo ( – a former BOJ governor who was assassinated by the military in the 1930s for “threatening the ‘kokutai'” (=for opposing the military who wanted to issue government bonds at will) – and what happened to Japan afterwards. The Japan that Abe is trying so hard to revive!

    57. Markus Says:

      @DK (56.) Thanks for the interesting link to Takahashi Korekiyo. I have also read a Krugman piece where he pretty uncritically praised the “Abenomics” miracle, but I remember him saying that such a measure can only work to kick off a stagnant economy and must be followed by real value creation. As this is Japan, here this crucial detail has so far not been talked about much, and I don’t think “Abenomics” will have a second stage of actual reforms and restructuring, as that would mean all of Japanese society after WWII is suddenly in question.

      The point I was trying to make though isn’t so much about the money printing itself, which as you said has its fans abroad, but the undemocratic way that Abe basically ordered the BOJ to print more money, thereby simply bypassing all checks and balances that are in place to protect a country against such adventurism. There was a very critical view on this along the lines of ‘only in Japan’ in Europe about this de facto “enabling act” by the current regime.

      I think this is solid proof that underneath the “democracy theater”, we are indeed living in a quasi-totalitarian country with no independent national bank (I wrote about the media before).
      Whenever the J-Gov feels that there is a need, democracy will simply be bypassed and exposed as the mere facade it is. As the electorate themselves is widely incapable to act as democratic beings out of ignorance of its real meaning, the government can do so unchallenged.

      It doesn’t need a wide leap of imagination that such “enabling acts” could be applied to all areas of Japanese politics without any kind of resistance.

    58. DK Says:

      Markus (#57),

      You say, “whenever the J-Gov feels that there is a need, democracy will simply be bypassed and exposed as the mere facade it is. As the electorate themselves is widely incapable to act as democratic beings out of ignorance of its real meaning, the government can do so unchallenged.” Yup, there’s the rub, and the generalised lack of ‘kenri’ in Japanese society is well-known. And the most disturbing thing is this widely held view that insisting on your ‘kenri’ is an activity associated with being ‘wagamama’. I think it was Masao Maruyama who once argued, back in the sixties, that modern Japan, upon abandoning democratic institutions and disintegrating into an absolutist state, has never successfully established, as a nation, the primacy of individual rights or the subjectivity of a thinking and historically conscious people. In this light, news like the one reported in this post come as no surprise – and it’s no wonder most Japanese seem to think nothing of it.

      And since we have been discussing the concept of ‘police state’, what truly baffles me is the comparison with China, where I have been living and working over the past two years. While I have no doubt that the hideous Chinese regime is openly a police state, I have been quite surprised to discover the degree of social activism and critical thinking going on on social networking websites – and often beyond, in citizens’ organisations, charities, etc., in China. Passionate, well-informed people with a keen awareness of and interest in the outside world, taking firm positions on divisive, controversial issues, despite the formidable censorship barriers (well, a growing number of Chinese now have VPNs, so…). Strange though it may sound, this still gives me some hope in the future of China, a hope I lost long ago in relation to Japan and its youth.

      By contrast, what I find most disturbing in Japan is not so much the government’s attitudes and behaviours, but the citizens’. Secret police, party militia or censors are not really needed here, because each denizen, within her/his group, diligently and constantly takes care of keeping the pecking order and denouncing and purging any undesirable or unruly elements. And what more omnipresent, discreet and vigilant police is it necessary to maintain a society thus based on fear — the fear of displeasing, the fear of causing inconvenience, the fear of offending, the fear of disagreeing, the fear of speaking up, the fear of standing out, the fear of becoming oneself?

      In this sense, ‘official’ police are pretty redundant in Japan. We know where the true police are, don’t we?

    59. DK Says:

      In my comment above, when I wrote “the generalised lack of ‘kenri’ in Japanese society is well-known”, what I meant was the generalised lack of ‘kenri’ AWARENESS and thus the unwillingness to exercise one’s ‘kenri’ by so many people in Japan.

    60. Nicole L. Says:

      @ Piglet #51

      That is a very good point, and one that I had not thought about! Mostly because at the time I had just come to Japan, and had not yet had experiences that would give me pause. It would be interesting to see what kind of response I would get if I were to ask for specific information on what happens to my information after it is given.

      @ Debito
      I had not heard about those incidences before, so thank you for the information! I will be sure to keep an eye open.

    61. Karjh12 Says:

      DK @59

      I am willing to stand corrected linguistically and cultural interpretation on this point, but
      my understanding of “kenri” is that it also carries the unspoken and implied notions/concepts
      of duties and obligations, which are overwhelmingly dominant and take precedence in Japanese society.

    62. DK Says:

      Karjh12 #61,

      Likewise, I’m willing to accept corrections, as I’m not an expert in Japanese Law, but it does seem that the dominant use of 権利 / kenri – including in legal contexts – is indeed that of ‘right’. Check, for various examples of use, here:権利&ref=sa.

      Also, I take the opportunity to add the full reference to Masao Maruyama’s well-known study I mentioned above (#58): Masao Maruyama, Thought and Behaviour in Modern Japanese Politics. Edited by Ivan Morris, xix, 344 pp. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

    63. DK Says:

      Karjh12 #61,

      On second thoughts though, you do have a point there when you say that unspoken and implied notions/concepts of duties and obligations are overwhelmingly dominant and take precedence in Japanese society, in many ways. With apologies to Debito & readers for the non-sequitur – but ultimately it ties up with the over-abundance of control freaks in Japanese society and ‘our’ responses (or lack of response) to them, which is what this post is about – I’ve just remembered this interesting report on the JT published in 2011, and which signals a sea-change in ‘the archetypal image of the Japanese’, from a people who are stoic and undemonstrative’ to an increasing number of spiteful claimers from hell, monster parents, monster children, hysterical whiners, and all sorts of misanthropes & sociopaths:

      Mark Schreiber, ‘There be all kinds of monsters among us’,

      Personally, having in the past been accused, by Japanese co-workers and acquaintances, of being ‘wagamama’ and lacking ‘gaman’ for speaking up and complaining when I felt that my rights and dignity where being trampled upon in Japan, I don’t really know how this squares with the phenomenon described in the said article, and of which I’ve been hearing quite often, esp. from Japanese friends who are school teachers and have constantly to put up with ‘monsutaa pearentsu’ and their unbelievably nasty demands and complaints. It’s a perplexity/contradiction I’ve never come to terms with.

      A tentative explanation is that these extreme attitudes reveal a depressing lack of democratic culture and an inability to exercise one’s ‘kenri’ in a natural, serene way – as something that should be ‘atarimae’. This lack/inability has far-reaching consequences in terms of the (low) quality of civic life in Japanese society.

    64. Doug Says:

      The articles below reflect a real police state. In fact the U.S. is far more a police state than Japan is and is looking more and more like East German or the USSR did. It is why it is hard to take comments comparing Japan to a police state seriously. Japan has been far less of a police state than the US (or many Western countries for that matter) for some time.

      And in the UK, show identification to enter your own neighborhood/house?

      At this point in time I would have to say I will take Japan.

      — Okay, counterpoint very effectively made, thanks. But I don’t wish to get this blog entry to get bogged down in comparative-society trench warfare, so respondents, please advance the point of this blog entry if you take this thread up.

    65. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Doug, #64

      I have no arguments about the issue you bring up right here. You are correct. The US is, without a doubt, police state. Yes, they are watching its citizens in both domestic and overseas, and it’s getting really nasty these days, as your sources suggest. I also heard the news that the US Supreme Court gave a green light on police’s collection of DNA samples for tracking down the suspects on any serious crimes.

      Still, witnessing these problems occurring in the other side of the planet does not give me/us justification for negating or toning down the significance of the issues we discuss right here in this blog site. Whether Japan is a less police state than the US or any other country– or vice versa, is based on people’s subjectivity. Individual comfort level for different set of living standards may help you determine whether Japan makes you easier to live your life compared to other countries, but it’s hardly scientific in terms of determinism. People agree to disagree on comfort zone regarding the different sets of living standards. And that’s hardly persuasive enough to dismiss the voices of those who are subject to random ID checking or sudden visits by J-cops and/or immigration officers.

    66. Doug Says:

      @65 Lover…. and Debito

      You are correct. Tyranny in one place does not justify it in another. However when I see posters on this blog engage in petty name calling (if you disagree you are an “apologist”) or irrational claims of a police state it demeans the arguments this blog was originally intended to make.

      The fact of the matter is that this website reads more like a Japan bashing site than it used to, which is a shame in my opinion.

      There are problems in Japan. This is undeniable. But some of the statements I have read are a bit over the top.

      Debito-san….I have no intention in getting bogged down in comparitive society trench warfare as you call it. On the contrary what you originally posted was a very reasonable question….is this happening in your neighborhood? However the conversation quickly devolved to a point where it became difficult to take anything seriously.

      Japan has its problems…absolutely!! But hardly a police state when compared to the U.S. and U.K.

      And to answer the original question….have not had any police visits in Kobe.


    67. Baudrillard Says:

      Doug, great you have an opinion just like everyone else …but so what? Please provide sources, links and evidence. E.g. Reporters across borders on how Japan has fallen 30 places on its table due to media censorship and now resembles post communist countries in terms of media freedom; names of reporters harrassed, news articles, case studies

      Thus I stand by the assertion of the evidence that Japan now has the trappings of a police state, only has a partly free media (same or worse than S Korea), and is a more authoritarian society than countries that traditionally favor the “wagamama” individual rights versus obligations of the state. These are not “irrational” when there is evidence and sources- be careful how you use that word.

      Sol if Debito wants to improve the quality of statements on the site he should only allow those with some kind of citation, quote, reference, link or at the very least, anecdotal evidence.

      Otherwise its just one man’s blah blah about how its never happened to him versus another’s.

      I am sorry but “Japan has its problems…absolutely!! But hardly a police state when compared to the U.S. and U.K.”

      just does not cut it. I have heard better quotes form taxi drivers.

      I laughed out loud at this “irrational” claim because Japan, for all its nice aspects, has no check on the police, a tame media, a poor human rights record for NJs, at least in the UK and USA (“which have their problems…absolutely!”) there is some means of redress.

      But hey, Japan is nice because in Kobe it has never happened to you. Fascinating.

    68. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Doug #66

      ‘this website reads more like a Japan bashing site’.

      I can’t speak for anyone else, only myself. Where bashing is justified, I bash. Human rights, detention without access to a lawyer, war-crimes denial, xenophobic politicians- yes, I bash. And I bash because I feel that years of trying to explain to the general Japanese populace as to why such things are inappropriate has not made an impression. I believe (and Hashimoto is a good case study) that only international shaming has any effect on Japanese policy and society.

      You may think that we have no right to ask for change. That would indeed make you an apologist in my book, but it is not my intention to ‘out’ apologists but rather to discuss issues.

      There are many things about Japan that I like, but is not the forum for the discussion of those things. By all means, start a ‘Sukiyaki is Great!’ website, or a ‘Hiking in the mountains of Japan is superb’ website, and I shall be straight over there to deluge you with positive comments.

      — I’m not faulting anyone for this discussion, but please let’s bring this tangent to a close soon.

    69. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Doug, #66

      Again, it is totally up to the individuals to make opinions on various aspect of life in Japan. Your statement that “Japan is hardly a police state when compared to the U.S. and U.K.” is your idea, but it is yet to be accepted as undisputed scientific fact in the world. People have different opinions on the issue, different in how they describe what they see and feel in their personal/social life.

      I don’t see any problem with your opinions, but I find your remark “irrational” unfair and disrespectful to those who are dealing with police scrutiny on a regular basis. I agree that some posters are making it personal with emotional language. But this blog site is not the place for theory Nazis huddling in low-brow bashing website, such as or ‘stuff white people like. ’ I personally feel uncomfortable–and a bit offended— by your remark ‘apologist’ in an attempt to paint me as one of those in your hypothetical statement. Such accusation is unnecessary, and I warn you that that won’t make us feel comfortable engaging discussion in this blog site.

    70. Doug Says:


      I appreciate the fact that you did post a reference to a study. The study you cite from Reporters Without Borders gave the U.S. a +15 for 2013, amazing given current events. I actually read the study (yes because you posted the link) and found it interesting. As for Japan, it seems the slip in press freedom was a result of Fukushima. The implication that I think “Japan is nice because it never happened to me” is shallow and neither reflects accurately what I said nor my experience here. Yes I have an opinion, like everyone else and most postings on this board. Opinions are formulated by our experience and my experience here is probably quite different than most other posters, not better or worse, but a bit different. I am curious

      Jim, I have never claimed you do not have a right to ask for change, if this is something I really believed I would not visit this website. I once mentioned I think you are doing the right thing by leaving if Japan has become intolerable for you. That does not mean I think you have no right to ask for change. If you think Japan is beyond repair and there is nothing that can be done to change it, of course the best solution is to relocate. In the end we all have to try to achieve happiness for us and our families.

      I agree with both of you that the ability for the police to detain someone without counsel for 21 days is a very big problem. The housing issue for foreigners, although improving a bit (probably more for economic reasons than anything else), has a very very long way to do. What Hashimoto said was idiotic.

      About trying to explain things to the Japanese populace, I have had a different experience. In the course of my business I meet 100s of Japanese people a year and have had the chance to build relationships with some over 15 years. Almost all of them believe Hashimoto is an idiot and Japan did in fact commit awful war crimes. I do not spend alot of time trying to explain why things are inappropriate (I am not an academic) but I am a curious person and like to listen. Most people in Japan want change but at are a loss as to how to implement change (something I see more and more in the west now by the way).

      In my opinion most behavior in Japan is regulated more by social pressure than in the west, where more and more (especially in the U.S.) behavior is regulated by the heavy hand of Big Brother. I prefer the “social pressure” methodology (in spite of its problems) rather than the big brother authoritarian style, which is more of what a police state is all about. Although I do like my native country I believe the U.S. will become an authoritarian state before Japan does (I hope this happens to neither country).

      I have been reading this website for 15 years and have noticed a definitive trend toward the negative from posters, rather than constructive discussion as to how to try to make things better. I am sure there are reasons for that. I have found things improving for me as a foreigner in Japan, but obviously others are having a different experience.

      The world as a whole seems to be spinning out of control and becoming increasingly unstable. Governments all over the world are reacting in radical ways, led by my native country unfortunately. People are becoming more polarized it seems. Alot of things deemed a “conspiracy” 5 years ago are now being reported as factual and people are starting to take notice (Bilderberg is a good example). It is the internet and blogs like this one that has brought alot of this into the light. I guess that is the reason I find the name calling a bit sad.

    71. DeBourca Says:

      @Doug: Perhaps the trend towards negativity is reflected in the fact that things are getting steadily worse and more oppressive in Japan. Perhaps it is the fault of those who run the country and those who allow them?
      As for your comment about the hundreds of Japanese who are aware and ashamed of what they did in WW2, well we are back on unsubstantiated testimony. And while I will accept your claims, I have found this, in my experience from meeting hundreds of Japanese over years of living there, to be completely untrue. I don’t think I met a single Japanese who grasped the magnitude of what they did in the war. In fact, when I tried to engage many to talk about it, they would become very upset, like it was my fault for asking them questions.
      As for your comment to Jim about leaving Japan: What has that got to do with his right(indeed his duty) to criticize this country? Why even bring it up? You seem to be implying that those who leave this country only have a qualified right to criticize this country. Determined by whom?
      I have left Japan for almost exactly a year. The fukushima incident was the trigger, although there were many other reasons. However, Fukushima showed me something unavoidable. In Japan, you are lied to constantly. You are lied to about radiation, about employment rights, about history, about China, about safety, about foriegners. I realised that if I were to stay in a country were the authorities (in all areas) lie regularly and without compunction, I would become paranoid, or just switch off and accept these lies, and worse, I would be teaching my child to accepts being lied to as be normal behaviour. This is why Hashimoto said what the said He has lied constantly without censure. Quibbles about the definition of Police state are beside the point IMO

    72. Markus Says:

      @Doug, it seems to me that the point you are trying to make is not so much that Japan is great, but “at least better than the US of late”…and that you are worried / disappointed by your own countries recent politics.
      I am not from the US, but Europe, and even with all the recent anti-democratic things said to be happening there, I still look up to the US as a democracy, much more than to any other country in the world, and certainly more than my home country.
      Now, if you read the literature on Japan, apart from what the “Chrysanthemum club” has published (I recommend Patrick Smith, Van Wolferen, etc.), it becomes very clear that there has never been a real intention by the powerful in Japan to establish an actual democracy. And Japan has never been a democracy.
      Now, regardless of what status a human being, and especially a foreigner, may currently have in Japan’s form of society, life in Japan can, by definition, never be as free as in the US. I personally do not want to live in any other society than a democratic one, or, if that’s not possible, then I’d want to live in a society whose citizens hold up the democratic ideal, and generally act and think like political beings.
      If we take the goverment and current state of affairs out of the picture, then Japan is an even more scary place. The obedience to authority paired with a deep-set hierarchical thinking, a still widespread adoration of those “important” families of the oligarchs like the Aso and Abe clans, and all those other crooks who have been running Japan over the last decades, all point towards a future where it would be all to easy to get a majority excited for extremist ideas, and the opposition being too afraid to speak up.
      I feel that in the West, the basic human feeling that glues together society are Christian values while in Japan (or nore generally, in East Asia), it is fear, and not much more.

      — I approve this comment with great trepidation, as it is opening more Pandora’s Boxes of Debate than it should be. If the debate spirals out of control after this, I’m going to stop the thread, sorry.

    73. DK Says:

      “I approve this comment with great trepidation, as it is opening more Pandora’s Boxes of Debate than it should be.”

      Debito, the questions that Markus brings up are vital questions of our time, and we must be aware of them if we want to survive and maintain our dignity and (at least) a semblance of freedom in the future. The Western world and many of its time-honoured values, beliefs and social systems — human rights, multiculturalism, free speech, democracy itself — are being eroded at a much faster pace than we think. The threats are external and internal.
      How to explain, for example, the populist and right-wing wave that is washing up over the nordic countries, with their anti-immigration rhetoric and policies? And how to make sense of the awkward silence in Europe vis-a-vis the current rise of a proto-fascist, anti-semitic state in Hungary? In 2000, when Jörg Haider, the leader of the Far RIght in Austria, formed a coalition government, there was widespread outrage in Austria and the rest of Europe. Who dares speak up today, except a couple of lone voices who are viciously attacked and ostracized?
      This is to say that the topic of your post ties up with all these issues – the minute workings of non-democratic societies and our responses to them – and it’s important that people perceive their connection with larger issues. It is precisely the loss of our ability to connect the dots that is leading to this growing conspiracy of silence and fear. And to disasters like Fukushima – and “Abenomics”.

      I hope that will manage to continue maintaining the fine balance between the need to keep discussions crisp and focused and the consideration of larger issues that might seem unconnected at first . For my part, I will cease reading it when it doesn’t.

      — Agreed. But it’s been a rather sudden expansion from a humble blog entry (questioning how widespread is the NPA’s beefing up already pretty routine snooping on their neighborhoods) into the vital questions of our time. If we’re going to get into the bigger questions, we should still relate them back to the smaller example(s) here. That’s not always happening, so it’s within my mandate as moderator to, as you say, keep the discussions crisp yet connected. Please help out.

    74. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Markus, #72

      I generally agree with your point, but I am not so sure I can agree with the statement “Japan has never been a democracy,” since its western counterpart is being heavily scrutinized. Democracy is not a perfect political system; it creates various problems affecting people’s life on a daily basis. Some problems can be historically driven and chronic. See for example, Jacques Rancière’s “Hatred of Democracy” ( or Hardt & Negri’s “Multitude”

      Speaking of the US, they have numerous problems in its democratic system, even though their overall political system is considered the best model in the world. And there is also a strong historical distrust in American democracy. (See Robert Ivie’s “Democracy and America’s War on Terror”

      I think we just need to be careful when making comparative analysis of democratic system.

      @DK & Debito

      Bigger questions involving fundamental issues such as democracy and free speech will throw us into an unknown territory of ocean, since they require technical expertise from hardcore humanity discipline like poli-sci, philosophy, rhetoric. Vast majority of posters are not experts in that field. So I would suggest you give a specific request to us like, “how can social/cultural theory be applied to the topic discussed in the blog?”, if the issue can be derived from fundamental questions in any academic disciplines.

    75. Markus Says:

      @Loverilaku (#72) I am not sure I understand the connection you are trying to make here. The fact that Japan has never been a democracy on one hand, the problems that Western democracies face, and the question whether a democracy is a “perfect political system” on the other, are all completely unconnected.
      I never said that democracy is a “perfect political system”, but I would argue its the best that has been invented yet.
      The links you have given are in line with the usual, spite-driven occidentalist ideas about the West, and I think your Japaneseness shows through when you cite such occidentalist material. I recommend reading the chapter about Japan in Ian Buruma’s “Occidentalism” to get an overview of anti-democratic theory in Japan since the Meiji-era up to today.
      Also, I said that I, personally, would never want to live in any other system than a democracy, even if it’s lacking and not “perfect” – especially after my experiences in Japan. In fact, I think Japan is closer to North Korea than to any Western country, with the sole exception of freedom of travel and still a strong enough economy to keep the populace fed.

    76. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Markus, #75

      >The fact that Japan has never been a democracy on one hand, the problems that Western democracies face, and the question whether a democracy is a “perfect political system” on the other, are all completely unconnected.

      So, in your view, problems seen in Japanese society are, ‘by nature,’ different from those seen in other country in terms of how the state controls citizens? That sounds ironic to me because it enables some people to solidify the argument for Japanese uniqueness. Kurokawa’s terrible speech on Nuclear Accident Investigative Report last June (i.e., Nuclear accident is ‘Japan-made’ disaster) is a case in point.

      Also, I am not suggesting that you said democracy is perfect. You clearly attribute it to western perspective, which is normal, though, in a way to dissociate Japan from other democratic society. If you say, “Japan has never been a ‘democracy,’” it means that that’s not the one people see in America or Europe. If not, then what is it gonna be?). And I am getting baffled by your allusion of ‘Occidental view’ to me showing Japanese-ness. I really don’t know what you are talking about. First of all, the authors of the books shown in the link are all westners (i.e., French, Italian, and Americans) with highly cognitive skills in critical thinking/analysis. And, second, none of these authors are associated with Japan (or, let’s say, Japanologist) whatsoever. Whether you like their ideas or not is your choice. But painting me with anti-Occidentalist/Pro-Orientalist for that is uncalled for. It has nothing to do with anti-West or pro-Japan, and I’ve been in the west for years. I don’t appreciate that. Please refrain.

    77. Markus Says:

      @Loverila (#76)

      The only thing I would blame “nature” for is that Japan is an island, which is one of many factors why Japan’s society has evolved the way it did.
      Japan is of course “unique”. Every country and society is unique. But what’s more, I would even subscribe to the notion that the Japanese society is “uniquely unique”, yet not in the positive way many Japanese would like it to be. In my opinion, it is uniquely inhumane, because it has never really shed its feudal ways both in structure and self-image of its members. A quasi-totalitarian country, run by far-right-wing ultranationalists that tries to portray itself as a Western-style democracy with capitalism – that’s pretty unique in my book, especially in 2013.
      The only other country which is so shut off to outside influences and change now is North Korea – though it has to be said that the North Koreans are being thought-controlled from the top down, while the Japanese do it to themselves, because their culture is “unique” like that.

      You are implying that Japan may indeed be a democracy, just a different form of democracy than “America or Europe”, and I am simply not able to see beyond my Western bias. Do you think democracy can be subjected to ethical relativism, i.e. by the Japanese saying, “this is *our* form of democracy”? It is too-well defined to interpret it that loosely. See here:
      Japan fails on most points. Neither does “government authority flow from the people and is based upon their consent”, separation of powers is not established (Abe telling Kuroda to print money, LDP telling NHK what to report, etc.) – read Shinzo Abe’s Wikipedia entry to get extensive treatment on anti-democratic thinking and behaviour.

      You are asking me what Japan is, then. I don’t know – all I know it is not a democracy – because even if the elections Japan holds are free and not manipulated (I doubt the latter very much), then there is still the question of who in the Japanese society can make it to a position where he can possibly be elected into power. Compare the background and story of Shinzo Abe to Angela Merkel or Barack Obama.

      I called you an occidentalist because you are trying to argue that democracy is not a strictly defined term, but open to moral and ethical relativism, and the term can be stretched to even cover whatever Japan’s form of government is today. That is an occidentalist view, sometimes expressed as “we take what’s good about democracy and discard its bad aspects” – only that the allegedly bad aspects are always pertaining to freedom and civil rights, and can’t just be discarded. Setting up “democracy theater” and holding elections now and then may have been good enough after WWII up to recently – but the democratic veneer has almost completely faded by now.

      — Look, I asked Commenters to at least try to relate this back to the topic of the blog entry. This entry doesn’t even try. Enough of this two-way conversation, Markus. I’ll let Loverilakkuma have the last word on this thread if s/he wants, and then that’s it, thanks.

    78. Loverilakkuma Says:


      Thanks. I know it’s time to put a “STOP” sign on the thread. Since I have made my point, I will make a couple of thoughts on what Markus has been trying to do on the blog.


      After carefully reading your comments, I will have to disagree with you on the point that “Japan has never been democracy.” Whether you bring scholarly sources from Japan studies or not, it’s not a very convincing argument after all. Not a single academic scholar or a renowned author like Kenzaburo Oe, whether Japanese or non-Japanese, has ever made such a radical argument you are trying to make here. If you insist Japan’s not democracy, then how come they embrace the Article 9(Renouncement of War) and Article 23(guaranteeing Free Speech) in the 1946 National Constitution until today? It just doesn’t seem to go any further than exaggeration.

      I made it very clear democracy is no perfect system, regardless of occidental or oriental vector. Why? Because the actual practice of democracy is different from the model of democratic system (i.e., Federalist Papers/Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” vs. American politics in post 9/11 era; Geneva Convention vs. SE Asia after Vietnam War; EU commonwealth vs. austerity measures/ sequestering). That’s evidently true, no matter where we live in the world today. I think the room for (ethnic) cultural relativism gets smaller when it comes to the power of ‘democratic’ control–i.e., how the government controls the governed.

      Next, I understand you have many issues regarding Japan or Japanese society, and I wholeheartedly agree that its social problems deserve equal scrutiny as any society dealing with similar problems. However, you need to understand that this is the blog dealing with the issues related to Japan or Japanese society. Debito discusses Japan’s problems not as a case study for political theory or critical cultural studies, but the main focus. This is not the blog exclusive to those educated at the Chicago School or the Frankfurt School. This is the blog for those dealing with the human rights issues in Japan.

      When you start talking about democratic system, it will automatically throw us into a deep ocean of academic sphere that goes far beyond human rights. That screens out many commenters– including you, me, and even Debito(!) because it certainly requires us expertise and familiarity in hardcore humanity/social science–i.e., literature, philosophy, political science, rhetoric. That will turn everyone off.
      Here’s the bottom line. Anyone here is free to bring thoughts/ideas/sources whether it’s about Japan or any foreign country, but s/he should be able to tailor them for practical application to make clear connections with Japan. Otherwise, you should go find any blogsophere elsewhere that seem appropriate to communicate your pet theories and/or ideas.

      — Aaaand that’s it. This particular thread is closed. Thanks.

    79. @nagoyapompey Says:

      I had the same experience as this:

      “AJStiles Says:
      May 18th, 2013 at 2:37 pm
      I received visit like this a few months ago. My mother-in-law answered the door. It was only when my wife told the officer her last name did he realize there was even a foreigner living in the apartment. His attitude did not change when he found out. He simply wrote down everyone’s name and the apartment phone number, bid us good day, and left. ”

      Except my wife and I answered the door together. He took everyone’s names, gave us some info on crime in the local area, and off he went to next door. Didn’t card me, either. Nice guy.

      I live in Kiyosu, Aichi.

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