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Hi Blog. Sorry for the longish absence. I’ve been working on a big writing project, and I’m happy to say I got it ready on time and under budget.
A few days ago KAJ, the editor of MRbloggen, a Norwegian human rights blog, sent me a very insightful article on racial profiling and foreign crime reportage in Japan. Let me excerpt:
<Posted by Kiki A. Japutra, Editor/Redaktør>
On 26 May 2013, a large mass demonstration demanding the eradication of foreign crimes and the expulsion of illegal immigrants was commenced in Tokyo. The demonstration ran for approximately two hours (between 11:00 – 13:00) starting from Shinjuku Park. In a statement calling for participation of the Japanese public, it was noted that “this demonstration is not a demonstration against foreign crime specific. It is a demonstration for the expulsion of all bad foreigners” [translated]. The procession of the demonstration can be viewed here. This is not the first time such mass distress against foreign crimes occured. So the question that should be asked is, is foreign crimes really a problem in Japan? What may have caused Japanese to fear foreign criminals?
Japan has been known for its media frenzy that focuses on the rising number of crimes committed by foreigners coming into the country. Some have argued that the phenomenon occurred due to the fact that the number of crimes committed by foreigners have been disproportionately higher than those committed by Japanese nationals. This has resulted in the stereotyping, criminalisation of certain nationalities, and countless acts of discrimination against non-Japanese nationals.
The increase of crime reporting in the news media is argued to be one reason for the growth of public anxiety and the fear of crime, and the Japanese media plays a central role in creating the image of a “sick society”. Japan Today, for example, writes that:
[b]efore 1989, foreigners tended to be convicted at the rate of about 100 per year. But from the 1990s, the figure showed a marked rise and from 1997 onwards, posting consecutive year-on increases. By 2003, Japanese prisons held some 1,600 foreign inmates, making up roughly 5% of the total prison population. […] In 2010, foreigners were said to account for 3,786, or 4.4% of the total prison population. New arrivals that year included 195 Chinese nationals, followed in descending order (figures not shown) by Brazilians, Iranians, Koreans (both north and south) and Vietnamese.
Such a report in the news media is not uncommon in Japan. Some have argued that how the public reacts towards an incident is entirely shaped by their perspective and attitude towards a certain issue. In the case of Japan, the discrimination, and later criminalisation, of non-japanese nationals are influenced by the image incubated by the Japanese media about how foreigners are the cause of the constant raising of crime in Japan, and that certain nationalities are responsible for certain types of crimes. Such stereotyping of crime is also known as racial profiling.
How can we explain the hostility of the Japanese media towards foreign crime and foreigners in general? Mary Gibson explains in her book Born to Crime (2002) that “[a] succession of ‘Moral Panics’ offered opportunities for interest groups to shape criminal justice policy”. Citizens are more likely to support government’s means of social control (including laws and policies) if and when the government successfully soothes public’s anxieties and insecurities about crime. In other words, media acts as a tool to build public’s confidence in and support to the government.
The rest of the article is at http://mrbloggen.com/2013/06/11/racial-profiling-in-japan-why-do-japanese-fear-foreign-crimes/, so have a look.
I have incorporated this information into my writing. Have a read. Arudou Debito
Differentiated crime statistics in Japan for Kokumin and “Foreigners”
The NPA’s annual White Papers on crime illustrate how crime reportage in Japan is differentiated into “kokumin versus gaikokujin”, with no comparison between them in scope or scale:
(Figure 1: NPA kokumin crime statistics, 1946-2011, courtesy Ministry of Justice at http://hakusyo1.moj.go.jp/jp/59/nfm/mokuji.html (accessed June 11, 2013). The left axis is the rate of incidents of crime, the right axis the number of people involved in cleared crimes. The top layer of blue vertical bars are all cleared cases of penal crimes including fatal or injurious traffic accidents. The center layer of yellow vertical bars are cleared cases of penal crimes including theft. The bottom layer of purple vertical bars are regular violations of the penal code excluding theft or traffic accidents. The top red line is the rate of all penal code violation incidents including traffic incidents. The second blue line is the rate of regular penal code violation incidents not including traffic incidents. The three bottom dotted lines are, from top layer bottom, numbers of perpetrators for all penal code violations (red), numbers of perpetrators for penal code violations not including traffic accidents (blue), and numbers of perpetrators for penal code violations not including traffic or theft.)
(Figure 2: NPA statistics for crimes by foreign nationals, 1980-2009, English original, courtesy Ministry of Justice at http://hakusyo1.moj.go.jp/en/59/nfm/n_59_2_3_1_2_1.html#fig_3_1_2_1 (accessed June 11, 2013). The terminology, according to the MOJ (http://hakusyo1.moj.go.jp/jp/59/nfm/n_59_1_2_0_0_0.html): “Visiting foreign nationals” is a direct translation of rainichi gaikokujin, and refers to foreigners who are not “Other Foreign Nationals” (sono ta no gaikokujin) Permanent Residents, Zainichis, or American military on bases in Japan. After comparison with NPA charts below (cf. Figure 3), this chart does not include visa violations.)
Note the difference in scale. Comparing a base year of 2009 (H.21), there were a total of 30,569 total cleared cases of crime committed by all foreign nationals (blue plus red bars). For kokumin, corresponding thefts and regular penal offenses not including traffic violations (purple bar, on a scale of 万件) total to over 1.5 million cases, or a difference of about a factor of 49. If put on the same chart with the same scale, foreign crime numbers would thus be practically invisible compared to kokumin crime numbers. However, the NPA has chosen to avoid this comparison, focusing instead on the rise and fall – mostly the purported rise – of foreign crime.
The effects and externalities of propagandizing “foreign crime”
Herbert (1995: 196-228) traces the arc of NPA White Papers after they introduced a new term into Japanese crime reportage from 1987: rainichi gaikokujin (“visiting foreign nationals”) indicating a new breed of “foreignness” in Japan (separate from Zainichi, American military and dependents within US bases in Japan, etc.) as a byproduct of Japan’s “internationalization” and foreign labor influx. Herbert notes that the tone, particularly in the NPA’s 1990 White Paper special on “rapid increase in foreign workers and the reaction of the police”, “functions to suggest that ‘illegal’ migrant laborers were involved” (197). This led to a “prompt media echo” and a “moral panic” (Gibson 2002) of a purported foreign crime wave that, in Herbert’s assessment, was “rash and thoughtless” (ibid). In a thorough recounting and analysis of media reaction, Herbert concludes that police reportage and media reaction successfully aroused suspicion and criminalization of non-citizens, where Japan as a nation was portrayed as “defenseless against international crime” (198). This also set a template for future NPA campaigns against “foreign crime” that would manipulate statistics, incur periodic moral panics in the media, and justify budgetary outlay for bureaucratic line-item projects (Herbert: 179).
By the 2000s, the NPA had normalized statistical manipulation to create perpetual “foreign crime rises”. As only a few examples: On May 1, 2000, the Sankei Shinbun cribbed from the NPA’s April periodic foreign crime report a front-page headline: “Foreign Crime Rises Again, Six-Fold in Ten Years;” the small print was that this rise was in only one sector of crime, which had a comparatively small numbers of cases compared to cases committed by citizens. The NPA announced in their September 2002 periodic foreign crime report that the number of crimes committed by foreigners on temporary visas had jumped by 25.8% on the previous year, and serious crimes like murder, robbery, and arson likewise were up 18.2%. Despite rises in crime numbers committed by kokumin in the same time period (see chart above, H.10), the mass media headlined not only that foreign crime had increased, but also that foreigners are three times more likely than Japanese to commit crimes in groups. Regarding latent foreign criminality, the NPA made the following argument within a 2010 news article: “The number of foreigners rounded up last year on suspicion of being involved in criminal activities was about 13,200, down roughly 40% from 2004 when the number peaked. ‘The extent of how much crime has become globalized cannot be grasped through statistics,’ the [NPA White Paper of 2010] says, attributing part of the reason to difficulties in solving crimes committed by foreigners—which are more likely to be carried out by multiple culprits than those committed by Japanese.” In other words, even if “foreign crime” numbers are smaller than “Japanese crime” numbers, the NPA claims there must be a statistical understatement, because the latent “groupism” of “foreign crime” causes discrepancies when compared to “Japanese crime” (countering the stereotypical meme seen in Nihonjinron etc. of “Japanese groupism”).
Moreover, as seen in police notices, the NPA was claiming “rapid rises” (kyūzō) in foreign crime when foreign crime rates and numbers were concurrently decreasing. Even after “foreign crime” numbers eventually dropped below any reasonable NPA excuse of statistical discrepancies or pinpoint rises in types of crime, the NPA widened the scope of its sample to make it appear as though non-citizen crime had still risen. Compare the scale of its 2001 statistics (issued April 1, 2002) when non-citizen crime had plateaued, with 2012’s (Figures 3 and 4), when it had significantly dropped:
(Figure 3: Crime statistics for “foreign crime” 1991-2001, chart from April 2002’s NPA semiannual report on “foreign crime.” The black portion of the bar chart is numbers of visa violations, the grey portion numbers of criminal violations, and the black line the total number of non-citizen perpetrators. Courtesy Arudou Debito, JAPANESE ONLY (2006).)
(Figure 4: Crime statistics for “foreign crime” 1982-2011, chart from April 2012’s NPA semiannual report on “foreign crime”. The blue portion of the bar chart is numbers of visa violations, the yellow portion numbers of criminal violations, and the red line the total number of non-citizen perpetrators. Courtesy www.npa.go.jp/sosikihanzai/kokusaisousa/kokusai/H23_rainichi.pdf.)
2011’s numbers have dropped below 1993’s numbers. So from 2007’s semiannual crime report the NPA shifted the scale back behind 1993 to show a rise compared to the past (similar to how Sankei Shinbun above depicted a six-fold rise in 2000, by comparing numbers to a decade earlier). There is no deflator to account for the fact that the non-citizen population was before 1990 less than half that of 2011.
 “Gaikokujin hanzai futatabi zōka: 10 nen de 6 bai ni.” [Foreign crime goes up again: Six-fold in ten years] Sankei Shinbun, May 1, 2000.
 See inter alia Arudou Debito, “Generating the foreigner crime wave.” Japan Times October 4, 2002; Arudou Debito, “Time to Come Clean on Foreign Crime: Rising crime rate is a problem for Japan, but pinning blame on foreigners not the solution.” Japan Times October 7, 2003.
 “NPA says foreign crime groups increasingly targeting Japan.” Kyodo News, July 23, 2010.
UPDATE JUNE 24, 2013:
Debito.org Reader DR sends us a link from the Shizuoka Prefectural Police website, where the url is, indicatively, entitled “gaijin hanzai”. In this screen capture we see this cute little chart:
Not only is the chart hard to read (the undifferentiated bars are numbers of Gaijin committing crime, but you have to look at the bottom numbers to figure out that the green bar is visa violations (which Japanese cannot commit), and the light blue bar is for non-visa-related crimes. Same with the yellow and red lines respectively for number of Gaijin crimes committed. Note how since 2004 the number of NJ committing any kind of crime is on a downward trend, as are visa violations.
But what gets rendered in red? The jagged line to show rises. Gotta keep that Gaijin scare on.