Another genre of discriminatory sign: Genky Stores in Gifu threaten NJ shoplifters with arrest and employment reprisal. Odd, what with J shoplifting increasing


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Hi Blog. As a followup to the previous blog post talking about racist public notices by the Japanese police forces, here is another type of discriminatory sign that is also worthy of discussion — one that warns the public that NJ are criminals:


(in Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and English)


If we find any kinds of criminal acts of foreigners, we SURELY report not only to the police but also to your workplace and your agency.

— GENKY Stores Inc (a drugstore in Kani-shi, Gifu-ken, dated February 28, 2013, taken by HSD, courtesy of shared links on Facebook through SM)


We have talked about this on for years now:  If you want to call for an end to criminal activity, we suggest drawing attention to the CRIME, not the NATIONALITY.  It’s not as if Japanese are innocent of, for example, shoplifting.  In 2009, we had the Tokyo MPD deciding to survey (as opposed to arrest and snitch on their workplace) 2000 shoplifting suspects to find out their crime patterns (how nice and mellow of them; nicer than getting them fired and deported) — especially of the “lonely elderly”:

Police combat crime by “lonely” elderly  By Colin Parrott

TOKYO | Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:41pm EDT

(Reuters) – Tokyo police will try to rein in a wave of shoplifting by lonely elderly people by involving them in community service, a police spokesman said Thursday.

One out of four elderly shoplifters in the capital blamed their crime on loneliness, Japanese media quoted a police survey as saying. Another 8 percent said it was because they had “no reason to live.”

More than half the elderly shoplifters said they had no friends and 40 percent of them lived alone, media said.

“Making shoplifters do volunteer work in the community is effective,” the Tokyo Shimbun quoted J.F. Oberlin University professor Akihiro Sakai, head of a police research panel set up to tackle shoplifting, as saying.

“Instead of increased punishment, I hope we can rehabilitate shoplifters with special care.”

A police spokesman declined to confirm the details of the survey but said it would be released to the public soon.

Elderly shoplifting cases in Tokyo reached all-time highs last year, nearly catching up with the number of cases involving young offenders.

People 65 years or older accounted for 23 percent of the 17,800 known shoplifting cases in 2008, more than doubling in the past five years, media said.

An example cited in the Ministry of Justice’s annual report on crime describes a 76-year-old woman who turned to shoplifting several years ago as a way to battle loneliness after her parents died.

Over 20 percent of Japan’s population is aged 65 or over, with that figure set to double by 2050.



And these crimes just keep rising:


BBC News, 27 January 2011
Japanese pensioners’ shoplifting hits record high

More than a quarter of shoplifters arrested in Japan in 2010 were over the age of 65, police have said, as the number of pensioners committing the crime hit a record high.

In an annual report, the National Police Agency said 27,362 pensioners were arrested for shoplifting in 2010 – almost equalling teenagers.

Most of them stole food or clothes rather than luxury items, the NPA said.

Japanese society is ageing rapidly and its economy remains stalled.

More than 20% of the population are now over the age of 65 – a figure which is expected to rise to about 40% by 2050.

A police official told the Mainichi newspaper that pensioners were shoplifting not just for financial reasons “but also out of a sense of isolation peculiar to the age”.

In recent decades the traditional three-generation household structure has changed – more young people have moved to cities to find employment, leaving elderly parents on their own.

Pensioners who want to work have also found it harder to find jobs because of the economic crunch.

Police say the record high – with pensioners comprising 26.1% of all shoplifters – represents a persistent trend.

When record keeping began in 1986, the number of pensioners arrested stood at 4,918. It has climbed since then, hitting 10,000 in 1999 and 20,000 in 2004.



COMMENT:  How sweet and understanding our police forces are towards these lonely oldies that need some kid-gloved “rehabilitation”.  Although there are some doubts as to how much of an “epidemic” this is (i.e., more old people means more old shoplifters, statistically), the fact remains that Japanese shoplift too (104,827 arrests in 2011 alone; arrests, mind you, not catch and release with a warning ‘cos “they’re so lonely” (cue South Park music)).

Also, note how signs by the police warning the public against shoplifting do NOT target oldsters as a demographic:

(Courtesy Japan Times Yen For Living Blog)

For even more sweetness, blog authors Philip Brasor and Masako Tsubuku write:

At least one blogger writes that, statistically speaking, it’s to be expected. Masamizu Kibashiri (an obvious pseudonym) points out that the fatalist tone of the reporting on elder shoplifting hides a salient and very apparent fact: The number of old people has risen sharply during the past decade while the number of minors has declined at almost the same rate. In the past 20 years, the over-65 population of Japan has jumped from 15 million to 27 million. Given this increase, the slighter rise in shoplifting arrests could actually be taken as being encouraging: Not as many older people are shoplifting as might be expected.

Kibashiri proposes a different statistical model for gauging the phenomenon: Number of elder arrests per 10,000 population of over-65s. Using that statistical model, he finds that the percentage of elder shoplifters has, in fact, risen significantly, from 2.8 in 1989 to 9.5 in 2009, with the largest jump coming around 2005. Obviously, there is a meaningful increase here, but the media needs to qualify its reporting of an “epidemic.”

Well, good. I’m glad the method behind the statistical analysis gets properly scrutinized if there are Japanese being targeted by it. Now how about the same thing for NJ crime? Nuh-uh. Not so far. Again, signs and notices concerning NJ crime zero in on the criminal, not the crime, making criminality a function of nationality in Japan’s public discourse. No intelligent qualification or caveat necessary unless we’re dealing with Japanese (because, after all, we have to be gentle).  Again, its not a fair debate.

Returning to the Genky Stores genre of signs, here are a few more examples from from as far back as 2002:

Arudou Debito
UPDATE: RM reports the signs at the Genky store in Minokamo have been taken down.

— Great visuals on the YouTubed video. Watch to the end where the local NJ get to crumple up the sign. Bravo.

37 comments on “Another genre of discriminatory sign: Genky Stores in Gifu threaten NJ shoplifters with arrest and employment reprisal. Odd, what with J shoplifting increasing

  • A Man In Japan says:

    One of the things that makes me realise how brainwashed the Japanese are, is the simple fact that if there were so many foreigners shoplifting/stealing/tricking people for their money/stealing cars and just whatever else anyone can think of, do they seriously expect a foreigner to NOT get caught because they would be so EASY seen and track down?

    I think this should be pointed out, EVERY time you get accused of doing something wrong, or stopped by the police, because it’s beyond unbelievable.

  • Mike Gunn says:

    I have lived in Japan for 10 years with a family. My house is within 15-30 minutes of 8 large shopping malls. Last year I frequently witnessed the police escorting someone from the mall. The fact I often saw this really proves nothing, but in all my years in Japan maybe I saw the police at the mall once or twice but the last year I witnessed this enough to take notice. No grannies. Usually a high school girl or older man in his 30-40s.

  • And yet they wonder why most foreigners don’t feel comfortable enough to stay and contribute to their economy and society…
    I must salute those able to endure this kind of treatment, after almost 4 years in Japan this need to prove “I’m not like the other foreigners” just to be accepted was making me a bit ill mentally.

    Debito, do you mind if I repost some of these on a Facebook page I’m maintaining? It’s not an ideal medium, but I’d like to raise awareness to these issues as much as I can.

    — “These” meaning the signs? Of course, they by definition are in the public domain. Take them all and spread the word.

  • It would be great to have a dedicated page of all those signs and brochures with sources given and if possible, translations. I admit my Kanji reading abilities aren’t good enough (I stopped bothering to learn Kanji once I saw the “honne” of Japan), or else I would do it.

    Yet I could help with the technical things unless Debito wants to create such page on this site.

  • The poster supplies a phone number. Why don`t we call the number and tell them what we think of their racist sign? Could we ask them to put up a sign warning that the numbers of Japanese shoplifters are on the rise, and that we foreigners should be on the alert for them? What can we do to improve the situation?

    — Of course you could. Go right ahead, please.

  • Isn’t there a different light to see this?

    Japanese people already know that if they commit a crime such as shoplifting that both the police and their workplace will be notified. Perhaps they feel foreigners do not know this, and are not aware of the consequences of their actions.

    I know a heck of a lot of foreigners who aren’t aware, for sure.

    — That’s giving a LOT of benefit of the doubt to the sign creators (and assuming a LOT of ignorance/stupidity on the part of the NJ). Hardly an illuminating light to see this issue in.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    Masa @ #7

    Nope. Why is there a specific reference to foreign shoplifters?
    It’s focusing on nationalities, not the crimes.

  • Well, I don’t see how a shop could legitimately find out who the employer was. FWIW, I believe that police do not routinely notify employers in the UK when someone is arrested (indeed, I don’t think even they would have any general right to employment details). On the other hand, I think arrests are a matter of public record, so it’s not exactly something you can expect to keep secret.

  • @JamesAnnan (#9) Either the shop relies on the fact that the person asked where they work would answer truthfully, or, what I think is more likely, the police will just hand over all the info they can acquire about the shoplifter, including his employer. I guess even if there are privacy laws in Japan that wouldn’t be much of a hindrance for the local Koban. I wouldn’t expect the J-Police playing by the rules – if such rules even exist.

  • I did a comparison of foreigner vs Japanese crime a few years ago for a debate contest when my students had, in error, assumed that foreigners in Japan actually commit a lot of crimes. Though I didn’t manage to convince them otherwise thanks to their brainwashing at the hands of the media here, I did have some some startling realizations – like the fact that Japanese are statistically a few hundred percent more likely than foreigners to commit crimes in Japan per capita – but also the fact that there were more instances of elderly Japanese shoplifting than all reported foreigner crime combined for the time period.

    In 2007 there were ~23,000 crimes committed by foreigners (fully a third of those being SOR-related, which by definition Japanese cannot even commit) whereas you have 27,362 instances of elderly Japanese shoplifting in 2010. 2010 isn’t 2007 and all that, and there may be a hell of a lot more elderly Japanese than foreigners in Japan, but looking at numbers comparatively is something the Japanese government/NPA/society doesn’t much bother to do, so I won’t either. So here’s the tagline for my article: “More instances of elderly shoplifting than all foreigner-committed crimes combined”, you heard it here first folks.

    (foreigner crime statistic from

  • @#9
    Your workplace is right there on your ARC. I don’t have the new resident’s card (because I’m getting out of the country for good in five months, hooray!) but I presume it’s the same there. My work place is also listed on my health insurance card for whatever reason.

  • @James #9

    I also couldn’t see how a shop would find out, but the Japanese are expert at keeping records on foreigners and ferreting them out should they step out of line.
    As much as we’d like to think we are “independent”, all NJ are under the “protection” of a native host who invariably has to take responsibility for everything we do. For some, these are their spouses, for others, academic advisors. In this particular case, it is the employer or the contracting company that got them from Brazil, Peru or wherever they recruit lots of foreign workers.

    Believe me, once they start asking “who let these foreigners in?” they will find out all they need to know about any NJ suspect of a crime.

  • trustbutverify says:

    @7 — Japanese people know shoplifting is a bad thing, and foreign people need to be told? Don’t think so.

    @9 — Employers to seem to routinely get pulled into employees’ legal troubles here. There seems to be a much more proprietary relationship assumed between employer and employee. Most news reports I see report not only the name of the accused but also who they work for. I think informing the employer is part of the whole shaming process. But of a stretch to assume the shop could do that independently, though.

    On the other hand, must be reassuring for Japanese criminals to know that only foreigners are discouraged from taking the five-finger discount and it’s open season for native shoplifters…

  • It may not be an illuminating light to see the sign in, but I think it is ultimately the accurate light to see the sign in. I think it’s far more reasonable to read it that way than in a “We are only concerned about crimes by foreigners” way. Or do the commenters feel that this business does not care about crimes committed by Japanese people?

    It may be assuming a lot of ignorance by NJ people, but a whole lot of NJ people think they are held to a different standard when overseas. Not that certain actions aren’t illegal – I don’t think anyone is that stupid – but that those actions have fewer consequences because they are overseas, and some feel it is a hassle to deal with police in matters involving foreigners. You see this in many places in Asia – foreigners can get away with a lot of offenses in places like Thailand or Malaysia because locals don’t want to deal with police + foreigners.

    @James (#9) – your employer is on your ARC, so if someone sees this they know where you work.

    — Talk about differing standards. This presumption that NJ are predisposed to holding themselves to (or taking advantage of) a different standard of accountability, therefore special measures that are inherently discriminatory are justified against them, is not welcome at Kindly desist.

  • Debito, as far as the first part goes, many NJ ARE holding themselves to a different standard of accountability. Not all, not even most, but quite a few. I’ve known many, as I am sure you have and everyone else here. People say all the time “I should behave like x, bu I can get away with it because I am a foreigner.” This is a common thing to hear. You know this.

    As far as the second part, I never implied that discrimination against NJ or anyone else is ever justified. It isn’t, ever. But I don’t think that’s what this sign is saying. Reminding people that the law applies to everyone is not discrimination. Is there an implication that ONLY NJ will be reported to the police and their employers notified? There is nothing in this sign to indicate that. So why assume it?

    — Because the accusation made by the sign is about “criminal acts of FOREIGNERS”. Not just advising people (in generic) not to commit criminal acts (as the Chiba sign in Japanese does). As we have stated from the very outset of this blog entry. I’m beginning to think you’re being deliberately obtuse here. Or else just lacking in reading comprehension.

    As for the reiterated prejudicial language to justify discriminatory behavior in the first paragraph, final warning before I put you in the spam bucket.

  • I am not being deliberately obtuse nor am I supporting discrimination against anyone. This is disagreement with your opinion, that’s all. I don’t feel the language in this sign is discriminatory. Clearly you do.

    — Look, you’re really not getting it. You can disagree about the interpretation or intent of the sign; that indeed can be construed as a matter of opinion. What is not welcome is your essentially saying that NJ DESERVE to be targeted by this kind of sign because, to quote you, “many NJ ARE holding themselves to a different standard of accountability”. You are judging the character of a group based upon the behavior of a few of its members, to support a discriminatory action. That’s a textbook example of prejudice, leading to a discriminatory decision. And, again, not welcome at I can’t make it any clearer than that.

    What is also clear is that you’re not being deliberately obtuse. You’re just naturally obtuse. Bye.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    No parking permitted.
    All illegally parked red cars will be towed away at owner’s expense.

    Masa, tell me you don’t see any discriminatory language here.

  • Good that the sign came down, but it just proves the point that Japan won’t change without gaiatsu. I seriously doubt any Japanese came round and pointed out to the management how discriminatory that sign is.

  • You do not seem to realize that you are misinterpreting what I say just as much as you are misinterpreting what the sign says. I don’t know why you see everything in the worst possible light regarding discrimination in Japan, but you do. Clearly. If you think I am supporting discrimination then you are clearly, demonstrably wrong. 100%.

    “You are judging the character of a group based upon the behavior of a few of its members”

    I am most certainly NOT doing that. Read what I wrote again. With an open mind this time, not with your mind made up already.

    “What is not welcome is your essentially saying that NJ DESERVE to be targeted by this kind of sign”

    I never said that at all. You seem to think the ONLY motivation for every interaction between Japanese people and NJ is discriminatory. You do not see any other motivations. That is why you interpret what I say as you do. You are Japanese, you should know much better than that.

  • @Masa #21

    Please don’t tell me you really can’t see how directing a crime-related sign to foreigners is discriminatory. Having the same sign WITHOUT the word “foreigner” in 4 languages would accomplish the same goal and offend no one.

    And please don’t tell us you think the management put up a sign like that because they don’t see anything wrong with it. I still want to believe people in Japan are not so clueless.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Masa, #21

    “You seem to see ONLY motivation for every interaction between Japanese people and NJ is discriminatory.”

    You are apparently confusing online interactions with actual communication. Motivation really matters because it clearly reflects what you express in your language right here in the forum. First, your saying “many NJ ARE holding themselves to a different accountability” is unconfirmed and misleading because it gives accusors the right to blame them on both accounts:1) they are making offense due to their ignorance of Japanese culture and rules; and 2) they are deliberately making offense(i.e., stealing money by knowing the legal loopholes of the Japanese law, or getting arrested by police because of their refusal to produce ARC/New Resident Card in protest.) Second, your saying “foreigners can get away with a lot of offenses” in your example is a clear indication of your assumption on people who will get stigmatized based on these accounts. Your account seems to suggest that offense are created by foreigners and local people are incomprehensible to them(?) This makes your very defense–that is, refuting the accusation by saying that is different from what you say lite..rally, totally indefensible, due to your attempt to characterize foreigners with as inherent troublemakers. Sorry, you’ve been called out three times already for gender/race card. No excuse for your national(Japanese or NJ)/cultural(English as 1st or 2nd language) or ignorance on the topic. Your stock issue was crumbled. Don’t waste your time to make lame excuse on that. It’s gone.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    And Masa, if Debito hasn’t banned you yet, you still haven’t responded to my allegory to illegally parked red cars.

    — I haven’t banned him yet. I gave him a final warning about repeating his prejudice towards NJ and he hasn’t broken that in specific yet. But if this turns into trolling or a continued nonproductive refrain of “I’m not convinced and you can’t convince me, so there!”, and “You are misinterpreting what I say!” even when we quote him, then I’ll terminate that thread.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Masa’s refrain of “I’m not convinced and you can’t convince me, so there!”, sounds like a Uyoku in denial.

    The only slight element in his original post I agree with (#7) is the “cultural difference” of the value of the workplace. If you threaten a Japanese with calling his boss, e.g. his disenfranchised ex Filipina lover calling about child maintenance, this will be usually quite effective a threat to ensure, e.g. a pay off on behalf of his illegitimate kid (real case study from my experience).

    The father of an NJ friend of mine’s GF who disapproved of their relationship somehow got from her where he worked and called his company…to little or no effect. Because NJs do not care so much about the “shame” in a company. They can leave and get another job.I know, I wouldn’t.

    So I find the sign quite amusing because its all part of this ongoing popular myth that any ordinary Japanese can lord it over any NJ and punish any action they do not approve of, like, e.g. dating their daughter etc- cue to call up an immigration snitch site or the NJ’s employer.

  • In defense of NJ who claim that “NJ can get away with stuff a Japanese wouldn’t”, which is an argument I have heard before, what was always meant were things like “NJ can get away with not being able to speak perfect keigo”, or “NJ don’t have to go to the Izakaya every night to blow sugar up the buchou’s behind” – but never stuff like “NJ can get away with shoplifting” or other criminal offenses. That’s just putting words in their mouthes and a wild exaggeration on part of Masa (and probably a good number of other Japanese who think that way).
    If there are NJ in Japan who think they can get away with shoplifting because they are somehow “invisible to the law”, it is unlikely that they do so because there were no signs who told them otherwise. There is no doubt that the nature of these signs is discriminatory, and deliberately so.

  • @Masa

    “Perhaps they feel foreigners do not know this, and are not aware of the consequences of their actions.

    I know a heck of a lot of foreigners who aren’t aware, for sure.”

    Hi Masa, not to beat a dead horse, but do you really know a lot of foreigners who are unaware that there are serious consequences for shoplifting in Japan? Do you think foriegners believe that simply being foreign would help them, rather than work against them, in such a situation? They must be on something.

    BTW, The sign says we will report to your workplace and your agency – note how they assume foreigners have an ‘agency’ and a ‘workplace’. No foreigner could ever be self-sufficient, his own boss, or independant. No, you must be a nobody.

  • Oh, and a second BTW. Why is it legal for the police to give out your home/work contact details to your accuser? Would it work the other way around? Would police give me the work contact details of a Japanese who assaulted me?

  • Markus is right on the money.

    To further add, I think that most of us foreigners cannot afford to step even slightly afoul of the law.
    We all know that we have no rights in this legal system and that one wrong step could lead to prison and deportation.
    In fact, I have been in a few situations where Japanese individuals have tried to use the police and make false charges against me.

    I have been involved in the restaurant industry extensively for several years as a manager for a large chain. I have witnessed countless
    appalling and criminal acts committed almost entirely (except for one case) by Japanese customers.
    This goes to show that people are capable of being criminals no matter what country they come from and that we don’t need signs targeting specific groups, period.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ TJJ above, I dont think the police always give your employer’s address out; this is part of the myth that ordinary Japanese think they are empowered to control NJs for any kind of behavior they do not like, as I wrote above. They might get it from the police or some other careless source; privacy is not really well respected in Japan.

    It is also part of the (ahem) “Japanese custom” where Japanese salarymen tend to be shit scared of anyone calling up their company and getting them in trouble. The whole shame thing.

    Westerners-unless they are on a super expat deal-could, in my opinion, care less and instead become enraged by the invasion of privacy.Which is what is happening here.

    Example; I once sent an anonymous fax to my employer’s head office which was a list of complaints from customers about the local office. Sure enough, head office called up the Combini where I faxed it from and I was amazed to later hear that they had agreed to tell them that it was an NJ, with a full description!

    All which seems rather unprofessional but there you go. Its just careless incompetence and hey, NJs don’t matter so much anyway.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ TJJ #28

    ‘Why is it legal for the police to give out your home/work contact details to your accuser?’

    That’s a very good point! NJ not innocent until proven guilty? Does the store, rather than the police and the courts, decide who should be informed of any crime?

  • Actually I had a minor traffic accident (100%) the other party’s fault -all resolved amicably :)- recently, and the police warned us to make sure we got each other’s contact details as they would not be able to release them due to privacy laws. FYI.

  • “recently, and the police warned us to make sure we got each other’s contact details as they would not be able to release them due to privacy laws. FYI.”

    So, basically, this Genky shop thinks it’s above the law.

  • “I have been in a few situations where Japanese individuals have tried to use the police and make false charges against me.”

    So have I. I dont know what advice to give here; you either apologize (admit) or get away from the situation. My advice is dont go out at night to walk/run, if one of the troublemakers accuses you of something, it can escalate, which is what they want, then your screwed. Id like to think that Sendaiben is right, that is the police will defuse the situation or calm things down, but these days I dont know.

  • Baudrillard says:

    “So, basically, this Genky shop thinks it’s above the law.”

    Lots of (usually smaller) companies in Japan think that laws do not apply to them, especially when the rights or shakai hoken of NJs is concerned!

    Its all part of this myth that Japanese can lord it over gaijins, you are guests in this country so we can keep you Chinese farmgirls under curfew in a paid apartment and I can sexually harrass you if I feel like it too…

    I am not making the above up; wasnt this on this site a couple of years ago as a Sour Strawberries type case where the Chinese employees at a Japanese farm had to stay at home and were not allowed cellphones etc? Indentured servitude.

    And if they think you are at a disadvantage, they will try to take advantage.


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