By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org)
January 5, 2004 (freely forwardable)

The National Research Institute of Police Science (NRIPS), a branch of Japan's National Police Agency, has on its website (http://www.nrips.go.jp) a policy proposal to create a crime "index" of "foreignness" in its forensic science. An attempt to foil allegedly rampant foreign crime, NRIPS claims that it can test minute samples of blood and semen from crime scenes to determine the nationality of the perpetrator. However, their science is faulty by assuming that "Japaneseness" is a matter of race--expressly stating that Japanese DNA is racially and biologically "different". In fact, Japan's gene pool has historical traces of Korean, Chinese, Ainu, Ryukyuan, Brazilian, Peruvian etc. in it, not including the children of 40,000 international marriages per annum and 300,000 naturalized citizens since 1968. Therefore, this test may say something about the "racial background" of the suspect, but it cannot determine the presence or absence of Japanese nationality.

While snake-oil science like this should amount to no more than snickers for putting one over on the taxpayer yet again (Japan already has DNA tests, making the 21 million yen requested for this policy an utter waste), this proposal is not a harmless white elephant. It may misconstrue data, at the expense of Japan's international minorities. "False positives" (i.e. test results indicating that racially-diverse Japanese suspects are "foreign") could erroneously inflate the "foreign crime rate", further fueling Japan's current scapegoating of foreigners as criminals. The social irresponsibility of the National Police Agency must be pointed out for what it is--racism--by proposing social policy, using race as an analytical paradigm, based on faulty concepts and fallacious attributions.



The following policy proposal is from the official NRIPS site (http://www.nrips.go.jp/evaluation/H13/link10.html, or else click here for a scanned printout version if the NPA has decided to remove the text from their site). Although there is a mirror site in English (http://www.npa.go.jp/english/index.htm), there is no English translation whatsoever of policy proposals or recent works (http://www.nrips.go.jp/evaluation/index.html) What follows is my translation of the policy proposal in question, with comments interjected.

TITLE OF POLICY: "The Development of an Index using Biological Materials for use in Investigating Foreign Crime" (gaikokujin hanzai o kyuumei suru tame no seitai shiryou o mochiita shihyou no kaihatsu)

OUTLINE OF POLICY: In our country (wagakuni), with the advent of economic and social internationalization, there has been a rapid rise (kyuuzou) in heinous crimes (kyouaku hanzai) connected to foreigners coming to Japan. There has likewise been a huge increase in social insecurity (shakai fuan) in citizen (shimin) lifestyles both in Tokyo and across the nation.
[text continues below]

Right from the get-go are the canards and assumptions. Why are "internationalization" and "heinous crimes" thus inexorably linked by our boys in blue? Is an assumption so easily made that more foreigners means a rise in the crime rate?

Of course, logically speaking, more people means more crime--as there are crooks in any crowd. However, when one talks about incidents of crime, numbers have been going up for both Japanese and foreigners (cf NPA crime stats for January-July 2003, http://www.npa.go.jp). Moreover, since the foreign population has been growing more rapidly than the Japanese, the comparative crime RATE for foreigners has been relatively static--in many crime categories lower than the Japanese. Even for crimes classified as "heinous" (kyouaku), such as mugging (goutou, down 5.4%) and breaking-and-entering (shin'nyuu goutou, down 24.1%), it is dropping (ibid). In any case, depending on how you choose to calculate the rate (see statistical problems with the data set at http://www.debito.org/crimestats.html), between 96% and 99% of all non-visa-related crimes in Japan are committed by Japanese.

So why focus on the foreigners? Because fear loosens public pursestrings and justifies budgetary outlay. It also gives the NPA an excuse for their unprecedently low clearance rate (around 20%) of crimes: "We can't help it, because hordes of unpredictable new foreigners are doing it"--an excuse made by even the highest levels of local government (Tokyo Gov Ishihara, Japan Times, Dec 31, 2003).

Referential sites:
Japan Times Dec 31, 2003 article:

Something so easily forgotten, when vilifying both foreigners and the process of internationalization, is that lots of people want "kokusaika". For example, why are there suddenly so many Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians in Japan? (They are now the second-biggest foreign minority in Japan, comprising double-digit population percentages in some towns in Aichi, Gifu, and Shizuoka Prefectures.) Because Japanese government policy in the 1990's brought them here--as laborers for major factories like Toyota and Yamaha (which could pay foreign laborers much less than Japanese, as well as avoid legal requirements for social security and other costly benefits guaranteed all Japanese full-time workers).

Also, studies by both the UN and the Prime Minister's office in 2000 (http://www.debito.org/A.html) have stressed the need for more foreign influx, indicating that immigration will keep Japan's welfare systems afloat in the world's fastest-aging society. For an institution as powerful and supposedly venerable as the National Police Agency to allege and stress only the negative aspects of internationalization, is not mere irresponsibility. It is both an inaccurate and prejudiced portrayal of social trends.

Back to the policy proposal:

With a criminal environment like this, the development of an index giving us a lead on whether or not a crime has been commited by a foreigner or not is being demanded (motomerareteiru). [continues below]

And who, pray tell, is "demanding" this? What people are in fact "demanding" are safe streets and crime prevention. Not foreigner prevention. Criminality and foreignness are unrelated, and the abovementioned statistics support this.

"Anti-crime" policy pushes are fine, and indeed are arguably necessary in present-day Japan. "Anti-foreign" crime pushes alone are not. They miss the target. It is time the NPA and its budgeteers realize that the problem is not so much due to an influx of outsiders. It is more due to years of economic funk contributing to social insecurity and a steady breakdown in Japan's social order.

Let's be honest: the "people" actually "demanding" this index this are the Tokyo Governor, the NPA, and the Immigration Bureau (which this year, according to the JCLU, released a "Joint Statement on Strengthening Policy against Illegal Aliens in the Capital City Tokyo" (shuto toukyou ni okeru fuhou taizai gaikokujin taisaku no kyouka ni kansuru kyoudou sengen)) for political and budgetary reasons.

Foreigners have a wide variety of characteristic melanin proteins that are different than Japanese, which can be found in bloodstains and bodily fluids left at the scene of the crime. This is why we will develop an index which reveals, even in minute traces of organic material, the special characteristics of foreigners, in order to make heads or tails of things (suitei) in ways we never could before. [continues below]

First of all, there are already means available for DNA testing in Japanese forensics, so even if the scientific claims here of Japanese genetic uniqueness were valid, this does not clearly justify more budgetary outlay for overlapping programs.

But the science behind this "racial profiling" is bogus. Japan has a long history of mixed DNA--from Koreans, Chinese, Ainu, and Ryukyuans (John Lie, MULTIETHNIC JAPAN, 2001). Plus as noted above, there are now hundreds of thousands of Nikkei residents with DNA from South America (even those with "pure Japanese DNA" will incorrectly register as "Japanese", despite being foreign). Then factor in decades of international marriages (recently over 40,000 couples domestically per annum), leaving traces of "foreignness" in Japanese children from practically every country in the world. And don't forget those 300,000 people who, according to the Minstry of Justice, have naturalized since 1968. The author, one of them, would definitely test positive not just as "Caucasian", but also as erroneously "foreign" under NPA rubric.

Thus the police are making the fatal mistake of assuming Japanese citizenship is a matter of race. They are ignoring recent worldwide DNA tracking and human genome work which is showing that no country in the world is genetically "pure". This is not science. This is -- even under the strictest definitions possible -- racism.

Speaking of definitions, the very concept of "race" itself is these days being called into question. Cf. premier scientific journal Scientific American article, December 2003:

"Does Race Exist? If races are defined as genetically discrete groups, no. But researchers can use some genetic information to group individuals into clusters with medical relevance."


That's right: individual clusters for medical purposes. Not nationality purposes. But even then, Scientific American is making clear that race is a matter of trend and tendency, not of groups definable with any statistical significance.

In our country (wagakuni), crimes by foreigners coming to Japan are rising in recent years. This policy aims to swiftly clear heinous crimes which foreigners are thought to have had a hand in. Because it will greatly contribute to securing public safety as well as safety in the livelihoods of Japanese citizens (kokumin), development of this research will come under the "Restoration of Livelihoods Program" (seikatsu ishin puroguramu) in the "Seven Reforms Program" (nanatsu no kaikaku puroguramu), raised within our "Basic Aims" (kihon houshin). It will fall under the goal of "securing public peace and safety for Japanese citizens (kokumin), and securing a society where people can be reassured of making a living" (anshin shite kuraseru shakai)
[continues below]


Y'know, when it comes to vehement gaijin bashing, I think this ranks in the top ten of statements I've ever read. And it was written not by some right-wing extremist group, but by our police forces.

Let's leave aside the canard that foreign crime is rising. Feast on the fascinating rhetoric: "our country" (doesn't it belong to the foreign residents and taxpayers too?); "kokumin" (don't foreigners also deserve police protection from crime?); the overall tone of how foreigners are harming Japan by undermining security and the means for citizens to make a living.

Most wince-inducing is the choice of words for the "Seikatsu Ishin" Program. Note that this is the same "ishin" used for the Meiji Restoration (Meiji Ishin). As though Japan is now believing in false gods and "true lifestyles" must be "restored". Quite an ambitious policy for some cops holed up in a think tank. Perhaps they hail from Satsuma.

I may be reading too much into mere slogans, but indulge me a minute. It is redolent of what happened the day I naturalized, which to me is indicative of some police attitudes. Excerpted from a report I released on October 26, 2000: (http://www.debito.org/kikaupdate5.html)


It was October 11, 2000. I was waiting for my citizenship papers to be processed at the Nanporo, Hokkaido, Town Hall when my cellphone sounded. It was my wife, saying:

"We've got some police over at our front door. They want to talk to you."

"What about?" She wasn't sure. "Okay, don't let them in. They want to talk, they can come here and meet me in the lobby. I'm just sitting here writing essays."

Five minutes later two cops sat down next to me for a chat.

COPS: "Arudou-san, we read in the papers that you have become a Japanese citizen. Congratulations."

DEBITO: "Papers? You mean newspapers? My name has been in the press?"

COPS: "Actually, what we mean is that we saw your name in internal documents and have been reading about your activities in the media. Otaru Onsens and all that."

DEBITO: "Do you guys have a meishi?"

They quickly brought out ID. They were the Houmushou Hokkaido Kouan Chousa Kyoku (Ministry of Justice Hokkaido Public Safety Survey Bureau). Who? The Kouan are a part of the police force with secret budgets (which do not have to be revealed, explained, or justified to the public), secret duties (people aren't really sure exactly what they do), and powers to spy on potential troublemakers (such as Aum or the Russians), keeping tabs on suspects who still retain freedom of movement
(more evidence at http://www.debito.org/kikaupdate5.html)

DEBITO: "So what do you want from me?"

COPS: "Two things. First, we have been told that you have received menacing phone calls at home. People calling in the middle of the night and hanging up, repeated redialings, people punching phone buttons for several minutes at the other end, etc, right?"

DEBITO (wondering how they knew all that): "Yes, that's right. Sometimes every day for a couple of weeks. They've tapered off a bit, but I expect them to pick up again sooner or later."

COPS: "Well, now that you are a Japanese citizen, we want this harassment to stop. We would like more details if possible."

DEBITO: "Then talk to my wife; she takes the calls. And the other thing?"

COPS: "We would also like to know about illegal aliens (fuhou gaikokujin). As you know, their numbers have been increasing recently thanks to overstayers and smuggling organizations like Snake Head, and it is our job to keep them under administrative guidance. Would you happen to know the whereabouts of any?"

DEBITO: "Nope."

I was not lying, of course--for how many illegal Chinese would I know up in Hokkaido, where the foreign population is far below the national average? Anyway, the point I'm getting at is the very day I became a Japanese citizen, the Kouan expressly believed it was now within their mandate to protect my rights. As if not so beforehand. And this attitude shines through in this NRIPS policy proposal.


This policy is related to the "Nanotechnology Field" drawn up under the "Strategy Prioritizing Scientific Technology" (kagaku gijutsu no senryaku teki juutenka) by the General Scientific Strategy Council. It is essential for realizing the "Country where Safe and Secure High-Quality Lifestyles are Possible" goal raised under the "Scientific Strategy Basic Plan".

Requested for FY 2002: 21,738,000 yen.

Thanks to the development of an index which will reveal the varied organic materials which are different from Japanese, we expect that this policy will contribute to making the investigation and clearance of crimes committed by foreigners much easier and shorter, and be useful in securing peaceful and safe livelihoods for Japanese citizens (kokumin).

No it won't. It may even have the opposite effect. At best, this test will give incorrect results (thanks to the "false positives" of some Japanese of mixed descent testing as "foreigners", and vice versa) based upon false racial presumptions concerning the Japanese gene pool.

At worst, it may erroneously attribute more unsolved crimes to "foreigners", making the alleged "foreign crime rate" go up even further. Thus translating to even more tax monies being thrown at snake-oil solutions such as these.

All this to help with crime prevention? How about allocating the 21 million yen to some social program for people in need, and indirectly alleviate more crime that way?

Alas, that's not what pays policemen's salaries.

Arudou Debito
January 5, 2004


Hi all again. Just heard that the National Research Institute of Police Science (NRIPS, <http://www.nrips.go.jp/>) has responded to my Japan Times article of January 13, 2004 (see <http://www.debito.org/japantimes011304.html>) exposing their policies for DNA racial profiling.

Here you go. Quick comment follows.

Forensic tools no cause for bias
Japan Times, Sunday, February 8, 2004

Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ric.htm

My colleagues and I would like to comment on the Jan. 13 article "Forensic science fiction," which criticizes what writer Debito Arudou says is our proposed policy to create "an index of foreignness" in forensic science. We believe the writer incorrectly assumes that our efforts are aimed at "gaijin-bashing" or "loosening public purse strings" for an overlapping program by instilling fear of foreigners.

With the globalization and diversification of crimes, a study to swiftly narrow down possible identities of unidentified victims and/or offenders is a very important method in criminal investigations. Besides screening persons connected with the crime by conventional methods, we are aiming to develop new analytical tools using human biological specimens.

Even if DNA typing of an unidentified victim or offender has been performed using a bloodstain at the crime scene, it will remain impossible to promptly determine the DNA type without candidates to check it against. So, if it is possible to estimate the geographic area where an unidentified victim or offender was born, an identity will be narrowed down; as a result, a more rapid solution of the case can be expected. This study is not about carrying out racial discrimination.

National Research Institute of Police Science

COMMENT: The English-language press in Japan is small (no offense, Japan Times), with negligible effect on domestic affairs. So you know you've struck a nerve when a domestic organization beholden to few, such as the Japanese Police Agency, is concerned enough about its image to bother to translate, read, and publicly respond to an article in the English press.

Clearly an embarrassment. They never expected the gaijin to be able to read and critique their policy pages, I guess. Good morning.

Now will they ever learn? The NRIPS still clings to the belief above that DNA is determined by birthplace ("to estimate the geographic area where an unidentified victim or offender was born"). They need another wake-up call about just how genetically diverse Japan actually is. Clearly my Jan 13, 2004 Japan Times article did not serve.

Arudou Debito
February 10, 2004

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Copyright 2003-2004, Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle, Sapporo, Japan

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