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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Mainichi/Kyodo: NJ crime down again, but once again only reported in English and apparently not in J Mainichi, Asahi, Yomiuri, or Sankei

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on February 29th, 2012

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    Hi Blog.  Here we have the biannual report on NJ crime, as always used to justify further prevention and crackdowns on NJ as potential criminals (justifying all manner of NPA budgets and racial profiling).  But the news this time is good, in that NJ crime is down.  Significantly so.  Check this out:


    No. of crimes by foreigners in Japan drops 12.7% in 2011
    Mainichi Daily News, February 23, 2012, Courtesy of JK

    TOKYO (Kyodo) — The number of crimes by foreigners uncovered by police across Japan in 2011 dropped 12.7 percent from a year earlier to 17,286, a preliminary National Police Agency survey showed Thursday.

    The number of foreign nationals the police questioned, arrested and sent papers on to prosecutors last year also fell 15.2 percent from 2010 to 10,061. Both numbers have been on a declining trend after peaking in 2005, according to the survey.

    Foreigners with permanent residence status are not included in the data.

    Among the crimes committed by foreigners, the number of fake marriage cases soared 26.1 percent in 2011 to 193, with the number of foreign nationals investigated by police in those cases also rising 17.6 percent to 554.

    Police have been clamping down on bogus marriages, believing they are creating the infrastructure for a host of other criminal activities, the survey said.

    Of the total number of crimes committed by foreigners, violations of the Penal Code in 2011 dipped 10.2 percent from the previous year to 12,590, while infringements of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and other laws declined 18.8 percent to 4,696.

    By country of origin, China topped the list with Japanese police taking action against 4,012 Chinese nationals, accounting for 39.9 percent of the total, followed by South Korea and the Philippines.

    The number of foreign suspects who fled overseas in 2011 slipped 4.0 percent to 677, according to the survey.

    (Mainichi Japan) February 23, 2012


    Same article (but better proofread) also at The Japan Times at


    Good.  But here’s the thing:  If it’s bad news (i.e., foreign crime goes up), then it gets splashed all over the place and a media panic ensues about a reemergent foreign crime wave.  However, when is good news (i.e., foreign crime goes down), one of three things happen:

    1) The Japanese police find some way to portray it as a rise,

    2) The Japanese media find some way to headline it as a rise (while even, famously, depicting it as a fall in the English headline),

    3) They ignore it completely.  Foreigners can only ever be news if they’re criminals.

    To support this last assertion, look how the above article was featured in the Mainichi online only in English, as a copy of a Kyodo wire.  And doing a Google news search in Japanese, (search terms gaikokujin hanzai and the newspaper title), I could not find a similar article on this news on the Mainichi, Asahi, Yomiuri, or Sankei Shimbun sites (search as of February 23, 2012):

    Instead, you get Japanese sites, for example Zakzak News below, concurrently and ironically talking about how dangerous Japanese society has become due to foreign crime (despite it going down), and saying how having a “kokumin bangou” to identify all citizens by number is now indispensable (since, as Zakzak says below, foreigners now speak Japanese!!).  Fine, have that conversation if you want, but don’t blame it on foreign crime.

    This perpetual criminalization of foreigners in Japan is nothing short of hate speech.  On an official scale.  And you get a regular fit of it twice a year regardless of what NJ residents do (or don’t do).  Arudou Debito












    ■八幡和郎(やわた・かずお) 1951年、滋賀県生まれ。東大法学部卒業後、通産省入省。フランス国立行政学院(ENA)留学。大臣官房情報管理課長、国土庁長官官房参事官などを歴任し、退官。作家、評論家として新聞やテレビで活躍。徳島文理大学教授。著書に「本当はスゴい国? ダメな国? 日本の通信簿」(ソフトバンク新書)など。


    13 Responses to “Mainichi/Kyodo: NJ crime down again, but once again only reported in English and apparently not in J Mainichi, Asahi, Yomiuri, or Sankei”

    1. Steven Says:

      As foreigner numbers were down last year due to the various disasters the crime numbers are expected to be lower. I’m sure someone can do the math and get a value of crimes per 100 registered foreigners, or something more useful.

      Also, “soared 26.1 percent in 2011” is not a particularly useful statement from a sample of 193. Quite possibly well within natural variability.

      And another thing. Reporting % of crimes by various nationalities is not very useful without also reporting % of total foreigners for those nationalities in Japan. People may end up thinking the Chinese like to commit crimes rather than they simply being the majority of foreigners.

      Maybe not a bias article but needs more care about what statistics are less prone to bias interpretations. Also, a link to the original survey if online wouldn’t have killed them.

    2. Joe Says:

      “Foreigners with permanent residence status are not included in the data.”

      Finally I feel accepted in Japanese society! Almost makes me want to go out and murder someone, just to be counted as part of the Japanese criminal fraternity….

    3. Steve Says:

      If you look closely, the crimes mentioned of fake marriages and immigration control are crimes that are only committed by foreigners by virtue of being foreign. If you look at crimes, other than the crimes of being foreign, I suspect that the crime rates for foreigners are much lower than for Japanese.

      In America nowadays, there is the same sort of bias against foreigners. Illegal immigrants are all classed as criminals, even if they have committed no crimes that have any sort of victim. Their biggest crime, like the foreign “criminals” in Japan, has been in defying bureaucratic regulations. That really raises the hackles of bureaucrats everywhere.

    4. Jim Di Griz Says:

      It is interesting. Debito did the math and mailed me to say that the decrease in the number of crimes was greater than the decrease in the number of NJ residents. Maybe this means that Japan’s economic situation is not so good, so NJ criminals are going elsewhere to make a living, or maybe this means that criminal NJ were more likely to have left after 3/11 (which might make sense, law abiding NJ with a family and stable job are less likely to give that up), but on the other hand, without the raw data, this must all be taken with a pinch of salt.
      It’s no surprise that this isn’t big news in the Japanese language media. After all, if you have your bike stolen, the J-police might have to accept that;
      a; a crime was committed by a Japanese! (Shock! Horror! Japan is a nation of law! We Japanese obey the law!), and therefore,
      b; the police might be exposed as being incapable of solving even a jigsaw puzzle.
      c; Japan might have to admit that ‘safe Japan (it’s the NJ who make all the trouble!) is a myth!

    5. Charuzu Says:


      “In America nowadays, there is the same sort of bias against foreigners. Illegal immigrants are all classed as criminals, even if they have committed no crimes that have any sort of victim.”

      I do not believe that to be true.

      I am treated well as a Dutchman touring in America and am not treated as a criminal.

      It may be that illegal migrants are so treated, but I can assure you that my Dutch friends living for many years in America do not feel themselves to be treated badly at all.

      Indeed, they rather enjoy life in Los Angeles and New York.

      In Japan, in contrast, foreigners who are residing perfectly in accord with all Japanese laws are treated badly.

    6. debito Says:

      Reader STH says he saw this news in Japanese in the Nikkei, and also found the (much shorter version of the) article from Kyodo in Japanese. Thanks!

      Here’s the Japanese Kyodo original (headlining the fall but also the rise in “fake marriages” — again, some way to simultaneously portray foreign crime as a rise):


      外国人犯罪が減少傾向、警察庁 偽装結婚は増加



      2012/02/23 11:13 【共同通信】

      Also the Nikkei from Google cache:日経%E3%80%80外国人犯罪%E3%80%80減少&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&lr=lang_ja%7Clang_en

      2012/2/23 10:28

      That’s all.

    7. Doug Says:


      I beg to differ. Although the U.S. is imperfect in many ways, many states in the U.S. offer in state tuition for illegal immigrants (which I do not agree with as it discriminates against legally risiding folks working in the U.S.).

      Yes, many members of the shrinking middle class are getting a bit fed up with these types of laws and the U.S. governments refusal to take any meaningful action to alleviate this issue, however most folks, if you talk to them, are directing more and more of their frustration toward the U.S. government rather than the immigrants themselves.

    8. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      Just out of curiosity, I wonder about the rates of fake marriages for Japanese. Are they on the rise too?

      — No no, we (straight) Japanese can marry anyone we want for whatever reason we want (as long as it’s not bigamy, of course), and we can even do our equivalent of “fake marriage” (kateinai bekkyo, where we remain married and live in the same domicile but have no contact with one another) without The State taking an interest. It’s the “fake divorces” (for financial reasons — to consolidate household debt in one person and alleviate tax burdens/repayment issues) that are a bigger issue. So it’s only a “fake” marriage if there’s a visa involved, meaning only NJ can be a part of fakery and be grist for NPA anticrime campaigns.

    9. Mei Nona Says:

      Sorry, Debito, but you are wrong with your point above. While it may be true that the majority of 偽装結婚 in Japan involve a foreigner marrying for visa reasons, it is entirely possible for a “fake mariage” to involve two Japanese, and for the State to take an interest. See:

      Simply put, “fake marriage” is one where the parties marry with one or both of the parties having an ulterior motive: insurance scams, pension scams, loan scams, etc. These types of fake marriages, where both parties are Japanese, have also been increasing recently, as have “fake engagements” where scam artists propose marriage and then go “Oh, by the way honey, I have this loan I need a guarantor for…” or “Gee, if we’re getting married I’m going to need to buy x, y, and z, and wouldn’t you know I have no cash? You’ll help me out, right? We’re getting married and all…”

      As the Japanese article above states, the police started cracking down harder on fake marriages in 2011. I recall seeing several cases in the news, usually involving a teary-eyed Japanese who realized too late that their partner (also a Japanese) only married them for money and then fled as soon as they got it (and in some cases, was already married to someone else as well!). Naturally, there were also cases on TV of Chinese, Brazilians, Filipinas etc. marrying Japanese and fleeing, but on the balance I would have to say that cases reported upon in the media were primarily ones involving two Japanese. On the actual crime stats, however, I strongly suspect that the balance goes the other way – one Japanese and one foreigner making up the majority of cases the police investigated in 2011.

      But just out of curiosity, yesterday I did an informal “poll” of my Japanese co-workers by playing dumb and asking 「ニュースで「偽装結婚」という話しがあって、ちょっとわからないけど「偽装結婚」って何?」(They were talking about “fake marriages” on the news, I’m not quite sure what they mean by “fake marriage”?)

      4 out of 5 said “Marriage scam, for insurance/loans/pension etc.” The fifth gave that definition as well, but also threw in “for a visa”. Now, I know these folks well enough to know they aren’t the types to tiptoe around the word “gaijin” just because they are talking to one (or talking to me, at least), so if they didn’t throw out “it’s a marriage of convenience for a visa” then I strongly tend to think it is because that is not what pops into their minds when asked what a “fake marriage” is.

      Highly unscientific, yes, but perhaps the recent media coverage of (non-foreigner-related) marriage scams is having a positive effect?

      — I stand corrected. Thanks very much indeed for the corrections, and I withdraw my assertion above with apologies.

    10. Mei Nona Says:

      No problem, Debito, and upon re-reading what I wrote I should also offer a correction to myself: I should not have claimed “These types of fake marriages, where both parties are Japanese, have also been increasing recently…” as I have no data that the absolute numbers are increasing. What I should have said is that reported cases seem to be increasing. There does appear (to me, and my spouse, at least) to be more coverage of fake marriages/fake engagements over the last year. Whether this means there is actually a higher incidence rate, or just that due to the aforementioned crackdown more cases are coming to light, or just a “me, too!” effect of victims seeing other victims’ cases on the news and going “hey, wait a minute…” and then coming forward, or perhaps even just news directors deciding “fake marriages” are the topic du jour… I don’t know.

    11. Chris Johnson Says:

      good story in Japan Times by Kyodo’s Maya Kaneko, part of the new generation of young J reporters who cut their teeth in the disaster zone Maya has done many stories on these issues. Seems these two men from Bangladesh and Mali have been working and contributing to Japan a long time, were committed enough to their Japanese partners to raise children together, but sadly ended up divorced and then jailed for long periods. Everyone suffers in these cases, especially the kids, and also the extended families and friends. A confluence of justice issues in Japan: visitation rights, and the immigration and detention system. Would like to know more about the judicial reform Maya mentions in this story. Perhaps there’s a growing recognition among Justice Ministry officials that these cases ultimately harm Japan?

    12. Jim Di Griz Says:

      What about Ayu Hamasaki’s rather short lived marriage/divorce to the NJ male model? Wasn’t that a ‘fake marriage’ too? Strange that the J-media gave her the publicity that she was seeking, and didn’t slam her for a fake marriage….

    13. Charuzu Says:

      I will just offer the thought that fake marriages are not that rare among gays who have a Japanese partner.

      Gays cannot legally marry their Japanese partner, and yet to establish a home often find it easier to marry.

      So, a fake marriage is arranged so as to facilitate things.

      It is another reason why Japan’s marriage laws should be modernised like those of Europe, so that fake marriages are not forced upon gays as the way to achieve a normal family life.

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