Toyama tackles ‘gray’ businesses / Mostly immigrant-owned
establishments disregarding urban zoning laws
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 13, 2006)
An Imizu, Toyama Prefecture, car dealership that is actually licensed
as a restaurant
The Toyama prefectural government has instructed two businesses
targeting foreign residents to improve their business practices after
discovering they had disregarded the city planning law, The Yomiuri
Shimbun has learned.
The prefectural government intends to issue similar instructions for
seven other businesses in the near future. If the conditions of the
instructions are not met, the businesses will be ordered to cease
operations. If the orders are again ignored, the prefectural
government will file criminal complaints against them.
The Construction and Transport Ministry is demanding the prefecture
also investigate the about 170 such businesses in the area that are
believed to be on the edge of the law as part of a clampdown on
businesses encroaching on the countryside.
The businesses, often run by foreign residents, including Pakistanis,
are largely made up of used-car dealerships, of which there are
hundreds in the prefecture, largely in the area around Fushiki Toyama
The nine businesses for which the guidance has been issued or
scheduled comprise five used-car dealerships, a mosque, a real estate
office targeting foreigners, a money exchange business and a
used-appliance store. The operators of the locations include Japanese,
Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, among others.
The prefectural government has been investigating the matter since
April on the belief that the disorderly development may be in
violation of the rules of urbanization control areas. The urbanization
control area designation effectively acts as a green belt, in which
wooded areas and farmland are protected from urban sprawl. The scheme
says only businesses enhancing the life of residents–such as
convenience stores–are permitted in residential zones.
Six of the locations in question were originally intended to be used
for convenience stores or gas stations, but are instead being used for
other purposes without having undergone the necessary procedures.
Three of the locations have been discovered to have received
development permission for businesses other than the restaurants and
other services that actually exist at those locations.
The prefectural government is currently undergoing the guidance
procedures for these suspect businesses.
The about 170 businesses that fall into a gray area operate out of
temporary structures, such as prefabricated buildings and shipping
containers. The government is currently pursuing inspections of the
facilities to determine if the structures fall under the definition of
“architectural structure” as regulated by the city planning law.
A large number of the temporary structures have been outfitted with
electricity and phone lines, and have staff guarding them during
“If these buildings are being used continuously, they should be
treated as ‘architectural structures,'” the ministry said. “We hope
the prefectural government makes a decision that is in line with the
reality of the situation.”
The first such used-car dealership was opened in 1991 by a Pakistani.
Dealerships then spread into the countryside, where it was easy to
secure a space near the harbor to display the cars. There was an
explosion of dealerships beginning in 1995, as trade on the Sea of
The majority of the businesses are run by nationalities that have
access to an international network of car dealers, including
Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants.
There are currently about 260 dealerships lining National Highway
Route 8 in Toyama, Imizu and Takaoka. The buyers are mainly Russians.
In the neighboring areas, there are a large number of robberies,
burglaries and traffic violations committed by foreigners.
To deal with this problem, the prefectural police established a
special unit in October and have been cracking down on visa
overstayers and people violating the antique trade law and Road
Traffic Law. The business improvement instructions, however, mark the
first time the businesses themselves have been targeted.
Port attracts entrepreneurs
The export car business is a profitable one. Every year, 45 billion
yen to 50 billion yen worth of used cars are shipped to Russia from
Fushiki Toyama Port–the combined name of Fushiki Port, Toyama Port
and Toyama New Port.
Many of the dealerships have taken over fields in the areas around the
ports, and more than half of the dealers are Pakistanis who received
visas after marrying a Japanese. The area along Route 8 has been
dubbed by locals as Pakistan Village, because of its many signs
written in Russian and Urdu, one of Pakistan’s official languages.
One of the buildings is a convenience store that has been converted
into a mosque. The prefecture issued instructions to business
operators who had not undergone the necessary procedures to change the
building’s use, but the manager said, “For followers of Islam, a
Mosque is absolutely necessary.”
However, a man whose house is near one of the dealerships said, “I
feel stressed every time I come home.”
Hiroshi Yamada, a lawyer specializing in civil cases involving
Pakistani immigrants said, “The government should recognize these
businesses and search for a way for all of us to live and prosper
(Sep. 13, 2006)
Comment from person who sent debito.org this link:
What makes my ears go up is when I read the blanket statement:
“In the neighboring areas, there are a large number of robberies,
burglaries and traffic violations committed by foreigners.” Some
statistics showing foreign vs non-foreign would have been nice…