Aichi Police online announcement about Junkai Renraku door-to-door cop visits. Happening in your neighborhood?

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Hello Blog. This post comes to you as a query. Are any Debito.org Readers noticing that the Japanese police are keeping closer tabs on people by going door-to-door to survey occupants (junkai renraku), asking them to fill out Junkai Renraku Cards?

(To see what information is required for the Junkai Renraku, especially for NJ residents, here’s one translated into English by the NPA).

We’ve talked about this before on Debito.org, where we have seen the police doing door-to-door surveys of residents, with a special emphasis on how that involves Gaijin Carding for people living in Gaijin Houses.  Some people have said that this has never happened to them (for example, it never happened to me despite living in various places in Hokkaido over the course of 25 years), others it has (they think it’s cop SOP).

But the interesting thing is that at a prefectural level, Aichi, for example, is making public announcements to their residents that they will be making the rounds to households (katei).  (If this was all that normal a SOP, why the need for a public service announcement?)  This will be in order to:

  • Give advice on how not to become victims of crime,
  • Take measures for people who have been victims of crime,
  • Contact neighborhoods that have recently been victims of crime (such as sneak thievery and car break-ins) and advise them how to take measures against crime in the future,
  • Prevent youth crime (shounen no hankou boushi),
  • Have lists of occupants (renraku hyou) on hand and phone numbers in case of disasters,

and more. See http://www.pref.aichi.jp/police/safety/houmon/

We are seeing these PSAs in other prefectures, such as Kanagawa (http://www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/mes/mesg1001.htm), and door to door checks apparently elsewhere.

A couple of funny things going on here. First, information about neighborhood occupancy should be available through the juuminhyou system in the first place.  Much of this information is also surveyed by the National Census (kokusei chousa), where, I might add, providing any information is optional (note how the optionality of providing personal information is not mentioned in the Aichi Police website). Why do the police feel the need to compile their own data set?

Well, because police are control freaks, and given the degree of power the Japanese police have in Japan, privacy issues are of less importance than maintaining order.  And you just know that if they catch a NJ at his or her home, there’s going to be much more intrusive questioning than just phone numbers and occupants — they will demand to see your Gaijin Card and ascertain that your visa is current, all on your front doorstep.  Have a nice day.  It’s not just on the street at random anymore, meaning they’ll intrude upon where you live.  Moreover I doubt that for NJ targeted, answering questions will be optional (plead the Fifth (mokuhiken) and arouse suspicion — something that leads to more thorough investigations downtown).

Of course, the Aichi Police offer themselves and their questioning as all sweetness, with benign photos of the police at work in their communities:

aichiprefjunkairenraku4

Subtext:  “Like you, even [female] cops have maternal instincts…”

aichiprefjunkairenraku3

“Now now, you needn’t be afraid of this man in uniform who has approached us for some unknown reason during our very traditional daily constitutional.  Especially since he’s even gotten down on his knees for you…”

aichprefjunkairenraku2

“This is how we will approach you to demand personal information” (outside a place that is clearly not a household).  We can only hope that our boys in blue will be so smiley and unaggressive.

Here’s the best one:

aichijunkairenraku042713

“OMG!  I’m so glad to see a cop knocking at my door.  I just love a man in uniform!  Come inside!”

Now, you might think I’m making too much of this.  But naturally I would argue not.  Especially since we have had cases of police agencies doing one thing (like putting out racist anti-NJ flyers) while offering sweetness and light on their official English website.  There’s a lot of tatemae here, and you only have to be a minority in Japan before you understand just how much intent and enforcement differ from the sloganeering.

My advice:  If you get an unexpected knock one day and see (through the peep sight) a cop at your front door, don’t answer.  Because if they visually identify you in any way as NJ, you are automatically suspicious and you’ll get the Third Degree.

Anyone else noticing their local police becoming more intrusive these days?  Arudou Debito

79 comments on “Aichi Police online announcement about Junkai Renraku door-to-door cop visits. Happening in your neighborhood?

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  • Jim di Griz says:

    Between the lip flapping politicians, and the nosey cops, Japan seems to be a fascist police state again.

  • I received visit like this a few months ago. My mother-in-law answered the door. It was only when my wife told the officer her last name did he realize there was even a foreigner living in the apartment. His attitude did not change when he found out. He simply wrote down everyones name and the apartment phone number, bid us good day, and left. It was the most positive encounter with a police officer I have had in Japan.

    — Very reassuring to hear. Whereabouts in Japan, if I may ask? (Conurbation or prefecture is sufficient.)

  • Happened in Tokyo early last year, local cop came round, left questionnaire but we didn’t return it. He was actually carrying a large folder with all the records of addresses in the neighbourhood with him.

  • I just got a visit from them myself in Tokyo (one of the 23 metropolitan wards). My wife opened the door and a single officer gave her the card, saying he’ll be back in 10min to pick it up. She wanted to fill it in, but I’ve had a look and it got all sortsa info one is supposed to give: the address, when did you move in, names, sexes, dates of birth of everyone in the household, workplace or schools, relatives and friends to contact in case of emergency, and in the back even the info considering color, registration number etc of your bicycles, motorbikes and cars etc.

    I immediately and instinctively got apprehensive and suspicious. The card said : [このカードは災害、事件、交通事故等非常の場合に役立たせるために記載していただくもので、他人に見せることはありません。太線わく内の項目について記載していただきますようご協力をお願いいたします。] Approx: “This card is to be used in emergencies like fires, incidents, traffic accidents etc and will not be shown to other people. Fill in the inside of the bold line. We ask for your cooperation.” Jiken (incidents) could mean just about anything.

    I decided not to provide all this info just like that, especially since it seems to be a question of “cooperation” and not mandatory. So when they came back, I used the interphone not to unnecessarily advertise my superficial non-japaneseness and politely asked them to confirm that it is voluntary. After they said that “ichiou” (I suppose) it is voluntary, I declined to present it. He wanted to talk to me, probably to explain how it was for my own benefit (and to check-out someone who stood out by refusing) but I said I’m in the middle of my Sunday lunch (which I was). He asked if he can come again later in the afternoon but I said it’s “daijoubu” and hung up.

    I am definitely worried because now I’m on their radar, and they have all the info anyway. But it was definitely too much of an intrusion and there’s no way I’ll go down with it of my own volition. As a background, there were 2 cases of “snatch and run” hittakuri in the hood recently (according to the police posters around), and this may or may not have something to do with these visits. This is the first time I ever got a visit like this, having lived here for almost 10 years, in Ibaraki and Tokyo. I sure hope there will be no sequels to this episode.

  • We had such a visit a few months ago. We refused politely to give out our details after confirming giving information was optional. I guess we’ll have another visit soon because I saw a policeman ringing at other doors when we left this morning.

  • I live in Toride in Ibaraki. My neighborhood is mostly older families and retirees. There are actually very few foreigners living there so I was a bit surprised by the officer’s reaction. He never asked to see any ID. All he wanted was names and a phone number.

  • Sorry to say that this seems to be happening more and more when taking the long view from, say 1990. Since the 2000s, gaijin houses in particular have been often visited, Debito recounting the example of the one in Shinagawa where the “immigration officers” literally forced the sliding door of its hinges in their zeal to demand the gaijin card from the resident. Perhaps Debito can provide the link here.

    [I provided it in the blog entry above. http://www.debito.org/?p=9900]

    I actually used to live close by to the abovementioned, and every few months or so the police would come round and ring the doorbells to “check who is living there”. I suppose it was an easy target.
    Things took a paranoid turn during the G8 meeting in Hokkaido in 2008(!) when they first came round asking for (foreign) residents by name (I heard this but did not answer the door,was having a lie-in bed)but then the next day when I was at my girlfriend’s house in a completely different area of Tokyo, they came around there too! Naturally she did not say she had an NJ there-I was not resident-though the policeman said “there had been some crime in the neighborhood and strangers in the building (owner lived downstairs)”. My GF was shocked, said it was the first time they had ever done that.

    In addition this was when the “neighborhood watch” ojisans started to be deputized and they would literally stand on every street corner around the gaijin house block, and watch us as we came out. (As a creepy tangent, there was one who used to wait for the local children from the kindergarten up the road, literally stand on that corner for hours, just to make sure they crossed the road safely or something, but I digress).

    So I stopped answering the door in Japan. Ever. Usually the doorbell would ring around 11 am on Saturday mornings, but other times around 8 am presumably times the salespeople, the TEPCO ojisans, or the police think people will be home. But the last thing I wanted was something like that making me late for work, or ruining my weekend. One guy from work was absent a whole day as he was “carded” in Tokyo station when he didnt have the card.

    Even after moving out of Paranoid Tokyo to another part of Kanto, there were still the local neighborhood watch ojisans freaking my non Japanese girlfriend out. She foolishly answered the door one time to the TEPCO ojisan who was reading the meter, and he told her she was “Kawaii” and asked where she was from. Unprofessional, and quite creepy. No, your customers are not free hostesses for you.

    So that became another reason not to answer the door. I used to take alternate paths to work, go out the back door, or deliberately confusing route near my apartment as these ojisans on the corner had nothing better to do than stare at the NJs.

    Sad it came to that. I couldnt wait to get out. And I can confirm that this feeling of paranoia in the populace and fueled by the authorities/media is indeed, only or mainly in Japan, especially Tokyo.

  • Irezumi_Aniki says:

    Police in my neighborhood (Shibuya) started doing this about a month after 3/11. It was quick, painless, and they didn’t ask questions beyond what was on the paper. They didn’t even ask to see my ARC.

  • I have been living in Aichi Prefecture since 2001, and only once a police officer visited me to fill out this card. That was around 2003, and I was living in Nagoya City then.

    I moved twice and have been live in a suburb of Nagoya since 2004, however nobody ever came around for junkai renraku or anything else. I am sure police is aware of me, as the local police officers have seen me several times (around the station or at school festivals).

  • Hey Debito,

    Cop came to my door just last week, and asked me to fill out the junkai renraku. It was largely a positive interaction. The cop, a young guy, was friendly, didn’t ask for any documentation of any kind from me, and was very friendly and chatty.

    This has happened to me twice before in my time in Japan (15 years), the last one being many years ago, maybe six. Last two times, I declined to offer any information or fill out any forms. The police at the time were kind of baffled and pushed a little, but I was insistent and they relented. To me it had a police state feel to it.

    This time, though, having volunteered up in Tohoku and seen how in some areas there were people who had essentially disappeared because their homes were so thoroughly destroyed it was unclear who had ever lived there, my attitude was different. I even added a couple of extra details, like who to contact in an emergency, and a little about me, like my country of origin, essentially focusing on details that might help locate or identify me in the case of an emergency. I was more vague about other details that I think aren’t as pertinent to that situation. I didn’t list my exact place of employment, for example, as in my case my office is unlikely to be helpful. I talked over with the cop about what I would and wouldn’t want them to know and why, and he seemed quite interested in the discussion, and was also understanding, and didn’t object to any omissions.

    Anyway, that’s how it was for me. I used to recoil from just about any police interaction, wary of them stereotyping me, but now I’m more nuanced. Sometimes I engage them, sometimes I am guarded. In this instance, I felt the net benefit to me was to engage them.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Record keeping, filing systems, and bureaucracy. The holocaust started with some innocent ‘form filling’- watch the beginning of Schindlers List.

    Discussed this with the wife, told her to chuck it in the bin if it arrives before we leave Japan.
    But as her friends said at lunchtime today, ‘Why wouldn’t you fill it in?’, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to help the police help you?’.
    No sense of civil liberty.

    I don’t remember who said it, but I guess it’s true; Every victim meets their oppressor half way.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Dave #10

    ‘This time, though, having volunteered up in Tohoku and seen how in some areas there were people who had essentially disappeared because their homes were so thoroughly destroyed it was unclear who had ever lived there, my attitude was different.’

    I appreciate the sentiment but….

    At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whole neighborhoods were burnt, and most of the juuminhyou, meaning that some families were wiped out, and so was every one else that ever knew them, along with any paperwork to prove they even existed.

    Given that experience, and the failings that the local governments have had with paper record keeping (tsunami, all those 100 year old pensioners that have disappeared), you would have thought, that since ‘Japan is an advanced country’, electronic records would be kept by local governments, and backed up somewhere safe, if it’s a disaster that the police are worried about, wouldn’t you?

    I’m surprised the police aren’t faxing the questionnaire out to us, or some other ‘advanced’ method like cut and paste directly into the body of an e-mail. Paper records in this day and age, really?

    — Well, it is one way to keep bored cops busy (other than measuring parking garages to certify that your car fits into its parking space). And it also makes it known to the local community that the cops are about collecting information. It keeps the public conscious of all the power J-cops have after they get all your neighbors’ information too.

  • Same reaction from my Japanese entourage: “why wouldn’t you want to provide information to the police, if you don’t have anything to hide?”. I tried to explain them that they already have access to this information in case of open investigations, but that they don’t need it outside of their real police job (investigations, crime solving, etc.).
    FYI, in case of natural disaster, the police will be provided access to residents records for emergency purposes (for example, if they need to evacuate a city or if a building collapsed), so the argument that this information should be provided for disasters seems BS to me.

  • I’ve been in Ehime for the last 5 years, and sure enough, they’ve come every year for the last 3 years. They are very polite and friendly. They have never asked me to fill anything out, however they have everyone in the neighborhood’s address already in their notebook and they just asked me to confirm if mine was correct, and asked if anyone else lived with me.

    It felt rather police state-ish, but then again, it’s nerve racking looking through the peep-hole and seeing a police at the door while being foreign…

  • We moved into a new place, and two days after my husband registered his new address on the juminhyo, we received a visit from the police.I opened the door and the young officer was surprised to see me. My spouse visa was still being processed at this stage (we are newly arrived back in Japan) and I was not on the juminhyo yet, so the visit was clearly not related to my presence in the household.

    The young officer was very polite and explained the reasons. The amount of information requested was not excessive and it made sense to give them a contact number in case anything happens in the neighbourhood. This is not information included on the juminhyo anyway.

    As an aside, I was completely thrilled when after I received my visa, I went and added my name to my husband’s (our) juminhyo at the ward office. After 16 years of marriage, it was very lovely to be *together* on a legalJapanese document. I felt very thankful that the efforts of many people to evoke change in the past have borne fruit.

  • They came to my apartment in Shizuoka about a week ago. I thought there was a problem at first then the officer said that he needed a few details about the members in the household. He asked me the names, birthdates, job info and how long we had been living at the current address. He said thanks and left. I ask the officer if he was going door to door in the building (only 8 apts)and he said yes. I was a little surprised but he was polite to me.

  • I have never had this experience while in Japan. Now I have had the police called on me, or threatened to, but never had a visit. Actually I have never had an issue with any police here. I have, however, had many many busy bodies and wannabe police harass me, quote the law, disturb my peace and make my life miserable here, and I do know that once the police get called and your brought down to the station, you be in world of stuff. As Debito said in his book, dont get into trouble here. It will eventually find you, even the most Japanophile out there; trouble will find him or her, but you must know what the consequences are for your reaction.

  • I’m sure I read somewhere this has been standard practice for decades in Japan, not necessarily targeting NJ, certainly intrusive by western standards though, but regarded as community outreach by the police I guess. I would certainly find it intrusive, though perhaps it doesn’t hurt for the cops to be clear that some of the local residents they are protecting are NJ. Also worrying in Nagoya (not sure if it’s the same elsewhere) are the widespread crime awareness posters that feature an evil gremlin like character sneaking about, I suppose it’s supposed to be a shadowy thief figure, but it’s unfortunate that the character is a black silhouette as I can`t help feeling it has racial overtones intended or not.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Chris-“certainly intrusive by western standards though”.

    Japan is the same as South Korea and China in this respect (oh, the irony).That is, post fascist police states with recent democracy imposed on them, or in the case of China, the retention of a police state with a market economy.

    Since 1955 the LDP has been trying to reverse the imposed idea of individual liberties in favor of citizens’ civic duties to the state.

    In S. Korea, the police actually ask/deputize station staff and building superintendants to monitor visible foreigners movements into the same building in case they are teaching private English lessons illegally. It sounds petty but that is how it is. There is also of course the infamous “Anti English Spectrum” who follow foreigners around, but I digress.

    In China, the police will routinely come round to your place if you have an unregistered foreign guest staying and, like the gaijin house in Shinagawa case, bang on the door until you answer or it comes off the hinges. They will then politely remind you (echoing a few comments above how the J police are intrusive but polite, i.e. good cop role)that you must register any foreign guest who stays 3 days or more. They can also ask(actually force) all building residents to leave thier premises for a few hours if a major event or street festival/offical visit etc is scheduled to pass by, which is a horrible intrusion by western standards considering you may have bought the apartment.

    In these countries, it seems your home is not your castle at all.

  • Hi Debito,

    I was in Toronto and saw an advert on the side of a city bus that read: Wherever you are from, YOU BELONG IN CANADA! I laughed because in Japan we often are suspicious of foreigner and I’ve even seen posted on poles saying “If you see suspicious foreigners / work violations,please report”. But the attitude in Toronto is no matter where in the world you may be from, you belong in Canada. I realize Japan is not an immigration country, but it is such a different mind set towards foreigners here where they are perceived of as a threat and to be monitored or watched.

  • @Baudrillard #20

    What a bizarre post. You say Japan is “the same as South Korea and China” regarding the police and then offer two examples of abuse of power, neither of which ever occur in Japan. Nobody in Japan is asked specifically to watch for foreigners teaching English illegally; nobody is ordered to register foreign guests after three days.
    So how can you say Japan is “the same”?
    And with Jim Di Griz claiming that we’re witnessing the beginning of a second holocaust (#11), we can see that once again the alarmists (as opposed to the “apologists”) are setting the agenda here. It does nothing to improve the lot of minorities here, and everything to invite suspicion and ridicule regarding any genuine claim of actual mistreatment.

  • @#21

    The best are the “beware of fake marriages” signs that pop up on trains in Fukuoka occasionally, complete with picture of big-nosed foreigner making an angry face and a crying female J-spouse victim.

    — Photo, please!

  • @Welp

    Man, I hate constantly coming across as Mr Sceptical on this site and then getting vilified for being somehow on the “wrong” side, but I really can’t believe these signs exist. For two reasons.
    1) I ride the trains in Fukuoka seven days a week in a normal week. I use JR, the shinkansen, the underground and Nishitetsu. I’ve lived here over twenty years and not once have I seen such a sign. And, as a “kanji nerd”, with my pen and notebook at the ready, believe me I pay a good deal of attention to any new signs that appear.
    2) The phrase “beware of fake marriages” is, literally, meaningless. A fake marriage isn’t going to leap out and bite me. What was the expression in Japanese? I can’t possibly imagine a phrase that would make sense.

    Was it directed at unsuspecting young Japanese who might be duped into marriage with a visa-seeking gaijin? Surely then it would be “Beware of unscrupulous visa-seekers.”
    Was it directed at employers? Again, doesn’t make sense: Why would the police or immigration pay for advertising that may or may not be seen by those employers, when they can contact such employers directly in the course of their normal duties?

    Like I said, sorry for expressing my doubts, but I think you’re mistaken as to what the signs you saw were saying.
    Humblest apologies if you can show us photo evidence, though.

    — Well, in regards to how “fake marriages” (as in, gizou kekkon) would be rendered on a police sign, check out this “Beware of Foreigners” leaflet put out by Osaka Ikuno-ku Police in 2007. FYI. A follow-up comment is welcome on this in light of your skepticism.

  • @Debito

    I don’t have a problem with ”偽造結婚”, I’m sure the expression exists in the language of every country which issues marriage visas.
    It’s the whole phrase “beware of fake marriages” that doesn’t ring true. “偽造結婚に注意” sounds completely meaningless; how is the reader expected to react?
    The fliers you linked to were put out by a chamber of commerce and directed at employers according to the entry, which makes perfect sense (in its own nasty, racist way) as employers are held responsible for the correct immigration status of foreign staff.
    Why would someone pay good money to put posters like this on trains, where the audience is, pretty much by definition your average Joe, with no interest in either marrying or employing a foreigner?

    — I think you’re being a bit naive, Joe.

  • @Joe (#22) I don’t think the term bizarre applies to Baudrillard’s post at all. Things can still be the “the same” even if they are not identical. It depends on what scope you are talking about. Sorry, but you come across as just petty instead of critical when you base hyperbole such as “bizarre” on a semantic grey area like this.

    I think it is fair to call all three countries “police states”. Declining entry to private premises police is a basic right in Western countries, and must not be held against you by law under any circumstances (unless, of course, a search warrant was issued).

    The attitude of “why would you not want to give all your information to the police (or any other institution) if you have done nothing wrong” which is so prevalent in Japan, which is just one aspect of the mind-boggling, cultural obedience to authority in this country, makes things even more hopeless than in China where people seem to be more aware of their liberties.

  • @Markus (#26)
    It’s not “petty” to ask for accuracy when people are making accusations. I’d utterly dispute the idea that Japan is a “police state”. I wouldn’t live here if it were.
    Don’t take my word for it. Go to the experts. The Freedom House website lists China as “Not free”, along with its media, Korea is “Free”, but its media only “Partly free” while Japan is “Free” on both counts. No disrespect, but I’d give more weight to their opinions than I would to yours.

  • @Debito (#25)
    I might be a bit obtuse now and then, but I don’t see how expressing doubt as to the veracity of someone’s unlikely-sounding story is “naive”; quite the contrary.
    Again, I’m amazed that, with the amount of train travel I do in the area – my work travel expenses can be ¥80,000 a month – I’ve never come across one of these posters.
    From Welp’s description I can’t help wondering if there isn’t a bit of confusion with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ chart illustrating trends in international marriage divorces featured on your site recently.

    — I’m not talking here about the alleged Fukuoka posters, since we haven’t seen any evidence yet (I asked for photos, remember). I’m calling you “naive” regarding the Ikuno-ku posters and their intended audience (which is why I asked for a follow-up comment to you specifically about this issue specifically). Not to mention the numerous other anti-NJ police flyers we’ve talked about for years now on Debito.org?

    So you’ve never come across one of those posters yourself. Well, lucky you. But d’ya think, even when we’ve presented you with numerous examples of those posters here on Debito.org, that we’re just making it all up? You’re faced with primary source evidence time and again and still you choose to be skeptical? Then pray tell, what would ever convince you that the NPA DOES in fact have a policy to target and exaggerate NJ crime in specific in regards its reportage and PSAs? Give us your standards of evidence that would enable you to change your mind?

  • @Debito

    Sorry, completely misunderstood what you were getting at. The Ikuno posters are despicable, obviously, and I overlooked the fact that they were being left on random car windscreens. So the idea that they were targeted at employers specifically is nonsense. And I have seen a similar flyer, years and years ago in my own town, asking residents to look out for “suspicious foreigners”. The funny thing was that the cartoon foreigner featured was actually a rather handsome, suave-looking chap with a nice smile (sign of an inferiority complex perhaps?).
    One question: Does the fact that the flyer includes the police station telephone number mean that the police themselves were involved in its production? Oficially, I mean, or was it just the chamber of commerce?
    And regarding the police in general, I don’t trust them any more than I would back home in the UK. I know they’re only human like the rest of us, but the job seems to attract a disproportionate number of bigots anywhere.

  • “not once have I seen such a sign”

    This reminds me a bit of the “I’ve never been stopped by the police, so you guys are exaggerating/lying” sort of fumble popular by some.

    BOT,

    one week after moving into my current place (a stop or two away from Shibuya, central Tokyo) a cop knocked on my door. Specifically mine; not my neighbors; asking for information. Obviously someone had topped him off. First thing asked was if I was working in Japan.

    Last week (a few years after that first visit) we got the envelope others have mentioned.
    Just like the first incident I’ve decline to answer. If that makes me suspicious – so be it.

    My embassy have my details in case of emergencies, so does my ward office (and by extension the police should the world come cracking down, upon which I’m sure I’ll be their first priority).

    So whatever reason the police have for gathering this information for times at ease is, I guess, a reason for me to get just as suspicious towards them.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Joe “Japan’s media is free”NO WAY. http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html

    To paraphrase, Japan’s big fall in this index should sound an alarm.No reform of the Kisha club and harrassment of journalists, it resembles Putin’s Russia if anything.

    There is absolutely no way Japan can be called “more democratic” than South Korea, unless you have of course bought the “Brand Japan” which apparently magically transformed into a western democracy after WW2, unchanging, forevermore.

    I will make one correction as South Korean democracy was not imposed, it was fought for by activists and hard won after imprisonment and death in some cases.

    Japanese “democracy” was of course imposed by America. It was not fought for from within.And of course since 1955 we have had the dubious de facto one party rule of the LDP. Freedom HOuse should add “flawed democracy” to Japan’s listing, its all too glib.

    In my original post I said S Korea, Japan and China were the same IN THIS RESPECT, that is home intrusion by police. That was all.Thank you.

  • Baudrillard says:

    OK Joe, lets say Japan is a democracy, for the sake of logical argument. It logically follows then, that a large number of Japanese people now yearn for a police state (so long as it doesnt target them in particular).

    By electing Abe and the LDP, who in their manifesto state the goal of removing the “alien” (foreign) constitution as well as the “western concept” of human rights, surely then, by your logic, the people have voted for the revision of the American imposed constitution.

    Additionally, to my earlier riposte, S. Korea has passed a lot of pro foreigner legislation recently http://www.immigrantvoting.org/material/world.html#KOREA

    Contrast with Japan’s opposition to this:http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/adv/chuo/dy/opinion/20100301.htm
    in the Yomiuri, no less.

    (I site searched Freedom house but nothing post 2010 came up for media. I suspect Freedom House have bigger, non American allied states, to fry.)

    So what was that you were saying about South Korea being somehow “less free” than Japan? Surely if anything, the reverse is true. I think you have lost this debate.

    And if we are talking about NJ rights, which is what we do here, then both countries have remarkably similar, dare I say, the SAME problems with racism and police intrusion, but South Korea’s government has at least passed some positive legislation for NJ protection, whereas in Japan the electorate vote in the parties dedicated to the exact opposite.

  • Baudrillard says:

    I said Japan’s media laws/police harrassment invite comparisons to Russia, but more accurately post fascist Argentina and post communist Hungary;

    Japan (53rd, -31) plummeted because of censorship of nuclear industry coverage and its failure to reform the “kisha club” system. This is an alarming fall for a country that usually has a good ranking. Argentina (54th, -7) fell amid growing tension between the government and certain privately-owned media about a new law regulating the broadcast media.
    Hungary (56th, -16) is still paying the price of its repressive legislative reforms, which had a major impact on the way journalists work.

    From Reporters without Borders Freedom Index.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Joe #22

    There’s nothing bizarre about it. I’m not spreading paranoia. I’m taking part in a discourse which others actively seek to deny us. That is not paranoia.
    I would agree with Baudrillard’s comments. North Korea, for example, is (like the Oceania of Orwell’s 1984) attempting to maintain it’s power through control over history (in a very Stalinist way). South Korea and China, on the other hand, are like Huxley’s Brave New World; attempting to maintain power through the ability to offer their citizens the allure of an all smothering consumer culture of instant personal satisfaction (NB, I said ‘offer the allure’, not deliver on the offer).

    Where we would place Japanese leaders in that context? The Japanese populace do enjoy the ‘dreamy day’ to the reality of the social responsibility for triple nuclear meltdown (for example), whilst at the same time, Japan’s most popular leaders are demanding control over how other countries perceive history. Worst of both worlds.

  • @Joe, are you basing the assessment of countries solely on recommendations from the “Freedom House” (whatever that is)?

  • @Baudrillard

    You obviously know more about the press in Japan than I do, and I respect that.
    I wouldn’t regard the kisha club system as anything more sinister than an inconvenience, however, and the lack of information regarding Fukushima is an example of a cover-up, rather than “censorship”; I’ve seen plenty of articles in the weekly magazines detailing what’s going on in Fukushima, and were the government interested in censorship, I’m sure they wouldn’t have been allowed to appear.

    I still take issue with your use of the phrase “police state”, however, more as it’s a form of misuse of language rather than how it reflects on Japan.
    Firstly, the expression doesn’t necessarily focus on the role of the cops. It’s used to refer to a nation in which the government controls the population in all aspects of their lives, denying dissent. The police are just a tool of such a government. Now I know Abe is a dangerous, right-wing loon, but he doesn’t preside (yet)over a country like that.
    Secondly, if you use the expression “police state” to refer to modern Japan, then what words do you have left to describe, say, Nazi Germany, Communist Czechoslovakia, or North Korea? The phrase becomes meaningless.

  • @Jim

    Again, there’s a problem with words. If you really mean that Japan is the “worst of both worlds” (i.e. it combines the worst qualities of China and North Korea), and we take you literally, then any rational person would choose to live in either China or North Korea, rather than here.
    I don’t see the hordes of would-be emigrants.

  • @Markus

    No, I’m basing my assessment on my (not vast) knowledge of politics and history, and my experience living in three different countries in the west and Japan.
    I urge you to check out the Freedon House site (www.freedomhouse.org). They’re a well-respected organisationand a good source of info in obscure cases. As a bit of a hard-core lefty, I don’t feel comfortable reading some of what they say about Cuba, but you can’t deny their research is solid.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @Joe #37

    Being worse than NK or PRC does not automatically qualify those countries as a better place to live than Japan, a fact you suggest would be proven if those countries had hordes of would be immigrants. On the contrary, immigrants have a much wider choice than ‘bad choice NK/PRC’ or ‘worse choice Japan’. Why bother with either? They can go to Canada, Australia, (or if they are rich) Singapore, for example. Your argument is a straw man.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Joe #37

    BTW, please tell me how a ‘rational person’ is supposed to make an informed choice prior to emigrating from their home country, when Japan is so successful at presenting a facade, a tatemae full of ‘Japan myths’, that goes unchallenged by the domestic media, and is staunchly defended by even disadvantaged and oppressed immigrants, such as run the anti-Debito sites?

  • @Joe, calling “the kisha club system as anything more sinister than an inconvenience”, now that is an opinion that I think the term “bizarre” applies to very well. I think Debito called you naive, and I have to agree with him now.

    Not only in theory does this system prevent any kind of critical journalism in this country. Look at the Michael Woodford case, for instance, or Fukushima, or in fact any kind of news that might be detrimental to Japan’s image in the world.

    The examples are plentiful – just watch the news with an open eye. Here’s one of the more mind-boggling ones:
    There was a G7 summit the other day where Taro Aso (in Mafia attire) attended. The German attendee, Schäuble was cited in the German media criticizing Japan’s “Abenomic” miracle money printing as the start of a a “currency war”. Watching the big Japanese TV networks, not a word about this was said. But they had a video loop of Aso greeting Schäuble (who’s in a wheelchair), who was politely greeting back, with a smile. This was five seconds of video, looped over and over again, with the Japanese announcer saying inane things like “Aso met German minister Schäuble, who he is friends with since a while back.” Anything about what Schäuble actually said at the meeting about Japan? Of course not, let’s not disturb the “wa” of those two old buddies.

    On a tangent, as a German in Japan I have lost count of the times when Japanese people lit up upon hearing about my nationality, and telling me that Japan and Germany were friends who fought together. Next time I’ll tell them that that was a friendship Germans aren’t proud about at all. I’ll be gone soon, anyway. Enough with the Tatemae for me.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Joe, we are using “police state” to mean a state where the police can pretty much do what they want and ignore or be ignorant even their own laws. This does indeed describe Japan.

    North Korea and Nazi Germany are/were totalitarian states, its a different word.

    “any rational person would choose to live in either China or North Korea, rather than here.I don’t see the hordes of would-be emigrants.”

    Now youre just being silly. China and North Korea are quite different from each other, and we DO see hordes of would-be Expats heading for China at Japan’s expense. It is called “Japan-passing”.

    “I’m basing my assessment on my (not vast) knowledge of politics and history,”

    So am I, but as I have an MA in Politics and History, this has to count for something.

    As for Freedom House, I already posted there is NO study at their site of the state of Japanese Media since 2010. Stop fixating on just one source. I already posted that Reporters Across Borders have studied Japan in more depth while Freedom House were no doubt concentrating on the Middle East, etc. They offer very potted generalizations of the world in a nutshell, a kind of geopolitics for dummies. And they only have limited terms to describe countries. “Japan’s media is free, South Korea’s isnt”, come on, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Joe, why cant you just admit (well, you do) that your comments are anecdotal, based on your personal experience only, and your personal preference of Japan over S. Korea or China? Then you google for a source that backs up your preference, whihc you find at Freedom House. Do you have a Japanese spouse? I dont, I have no vested interest in any of the 3 countries being discussed.

    Debito, surely this debate is over. Can you close the thread? Zzz.

  • Baudrillard says:

    https://www.wefightcensorship.org/censored/japan-freelance-journalist-sued-over-nuclear-industry-articlehtml.html

    “Freelancers are discriminated against in Japan and excluded from the Kisha clubs. As a result, Tanaka’s freelance status prevents him from receiving the support of his colleagues and increases his vulnerability.

    Freelance and independent journalists such as Yu Terasawa, Michiyoshi Hatakeyama, Yuichi Sato and Ryuichi Hirokawa are often harassed over their nuclear industry reporting”

    Oh, yeah- the Kisha Club is just an “inconvenience”, Joe.

  • @Baudrillard.

    Yes I am very worried about he attempts, especially recently, by the LDP to remove individual liberties in favour of some kind of civic duty. Might sound good, but is surely the route to hell. Civic duty as dictated by the elite ruling class, i.e. whatever is best for them.

  • The fact is, China, both Koreas and Japan all have politicians advocating a particular view of history that departs from reality in some respects. The difference is:
    In China, take a different view and you are disappeared by the state (a REAL police state);
    In North Korea, you don’t know there’s a different view because everyone with a different view was already disappeared, and besides you’re too hungry to care (real police state + economic catastrophe);
    In South Korea, you are convinced the state view is right because it’s so thoroughly indoctrinated in you by the state’s revisionist history education that it’s the most racist country in NorthEast Asia (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2325502/Map-shows-worlds-racist-countries-answers-surprise-you.html), since despite democracy and some recent press freedom (much more recent than Japan – the fact that Japan paid reparations for WW2 remains unknown or denied by many Koreans since the government lied to them about it for decades and got away with it until 8 years ago, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan%E2%80%93Korea_disputes#Japanese_compensation_to_Korea_for_colonial_rule), the potent mixture of history and emotion instilled in Korean youth is so influential in today’s Korean adults that politicians compete for how crazy nationalist they can be in elections;
    and in Japan, when rightists make idiotic, racist statements, the Japanese left at least tries to take them to task for it, it can become a media circus and, if we’re lucky, the jerks have to resign to take responsibility for their idiocy (that last bit doesn’t happen as often as it should, but that’s true in Japan as well as many Western countries where hate-mongering politicians somehow survive).

    Frankly I disagree with the ranking change rationale for Japan in the survey cited because I think Western media went overboard while Japanese media played it more conservative and has been quite vigilant since then against TEPCO and the government, and I think many foreign critics simply do not watch the news here, but that’s really a side-show since we’re supposed to be worried here on Debito.org about racism, and let’s be realistic folks: Racism is a proxy for nationalism in East Asia; nationalism is a direct byproduct of fascist revisionist history; and by the latest measure of racism by country I cited above, Japan is the least racist country in North-East Asia. Far from perfect, lots of work left to do, and I support reform and action on this dimension including real laws with teeth against discrimination. Those of you who you favorably compare China and even South Korea with Japan on this dimension throw your credibility out the window (and damage my own by association).

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Bob #45

    You say;

    ‘In South Korea, you are convinced the state view is right because it’s so thoroughly indoctrinated in you by the state’s revisionist history education that it’s the most racist country in NorthEast Asia, since despite democracy and some recent press freedom (much more recent than Japan – the fact that Japan paid reparations for WW2 remains unknown or denied by many Koreans since the government lied to them about it for decades and got away with it until 8 years ago, the potent mixture of history and emotion instilled in Korean youth is so influential in today’s Korean adults that politicians compete for how crazy nationalist they can be in elections’.

    In riposte, I would say;

    ‘In Japan, you are convinced the state view is right because it’s so thoroughly indoctrinated in you by the state’s revisionist history education that it’s the most racist country in NorthEast Asia’.

    See what I did there? I could go on;

    ‘the potent mixture of history and emotion instilled in Japan’s youth is so influential in today’s Japanese adults that politicians compete for how crazy nationalist they can be in elections’

    Looks pretty valid to me.

    As for this;

    ‘I think Western media went overboard while Japanese media played it more conservative and has been quite vigilant since then against TEPCO and the government,’

    You’re joking me, right? The western media went over board because they know that you don’t screw around with nuclear power stations, and they could see that TEPCO was amateur hour, and the J-Gov was more interested in the tatemae of ‘safe Japan’ than it was about fixing the problem and not BSing the public. Ever since the disaster there have been almost weekly concerns voiced by scientists and Tohoku residents about radiation in the environment and the food chain. Yet where are the diligent J-journalists that you speak of? Why aren’t they asking the hard questions? Why haven’t I seen a J-journalist taking Edano to task on the news about why he said ‘there are no meltdowns’ at precisely the moment 3 were taking place? J-journalist culture is the same as every J-business sector culture; you want to work? Then don’t rock the boat, and contribute to the ‘wa’ even if the ‘wa’ is an illusion.

    J-journalists are as guilty as TEPCO for not hounding all these people until they give straight answers, and face criminal prosecution.

    But maybe you’ve bought into the Japan myth too, so you don’t want to see it?

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Bob #45

    You say that this map is proof (!) that Japan is less racist than ROK. Have you looked at this map closely?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2325502/Map-shows-worlds-racist-countries-answers-surprise-you.html

    It is based solely on;
    ‘Percentage of people who answered ‘people of an other race’ when asked to pick from groups of people they would not want as neighbours’.

    Well, since the Japanese believe that Japan is homogenous, and that all NJ are just visitors who will go home sooner or later, the idea of living next to a NJ must seem like a rare possibility, especially if no-one will rent next door to NJ anyway, don’t you think? Or just maybe, all those asked were just giving tatemae answers. After all, don’t want to make Japan look bad, do they? I mean, the Japanese aren’t really well known for being open and forthright about their personal feelings, are they?

  • Baudrillard says:

    Bob, we all wanted to believe that Japan was the most western, modern and democratic country in NE Asia. 20 years ago, with S Korea still under a dictatorship, it was by default. But like all postmodern media phenomenon, the map used as a point of reference is outdated. (not the map at the link you provide, which if you read to the conclusion, is only based on what people will admit to). Police intrusion is just the thin end of the wedge, but one example of how things in Japan are rapidly getting less and less democratic, especially for you, the disenfranchised NJ who actually live here.

    Sure, South Korea had a reputation (mainly peddled by Japanese) for being more “in your face, direct” racism. But then again, the student who told us to our faces she “didnt like white people”, or the director of an American company who said he “wasnt interested in working with foreigners” or the Shinagawa building owner who doesnt want to improve her English or “we ll all be slaves of America” were all Japanese I have met in my experience. That’s pretty in your face, and I wont even comment about some of the Chimpura or touts who have abused me with racist epithets when I wouldnt do/go where they wanted.

    No, in hindsight if we are honest the similarities were always there in Japan, but this *did not compute* with the western “brand Japan” we had decided to purchase, and so we put these down to being “exceptions”. S. Korea did not put out such a fake brand image of itself as a member of the G7 western club, and so we were not deceived. I used to gliby say S. Korea was a kind of “crappy Japan”, except that in the last few years Japan itself has been getting quite crappy.

    And now we see Japan sinking down to the lowest common denominator, as all that submerged racism and nationalism starts to emerge; there is little difference between such expressions in any of the 3 NE Asian countries we discussed. In fact there have been a few comments from J nationalists who say that-because the other 2 countries are violently demonstrating against Japan, it is therefore necessary for them to act the same way.

    Ditto police intrusion, which occurs in all 3 countries as I mentioned in my original post that sparked this “more democratic than thou” quibble. If you like, as a face saving gesture to you, lets say that Japan is now getting worse, which we all seem to agree on, a bit like how South Korea used to be. So Korea is getting less authoritarian, Japan more so. At the government level and nationalist demo level.

    Has it ever occured to you that Korea has changed and Japan hasnt? That Korea recently has elected progressives who pass pro foreign legislation, while Japan does the opposite? Its not good saying “in my experience Japanese people are niiice to ME” this is completely unscientific and unprovable either way.

    By way of riposte, as Jim has already done what I was going to do and show that your comment about Korea and Japan are pretty much interchangeable (though again, hard to prove- I just refer to progressive legislation passed, or in Japan, NOT passed), I will give you a couple of anecdotes of my own. First, when I started learning Japanese, my NJ teacher surprised me by saying “I dont know why you dont learn Japanese instead, in my experience Korean people are much nicer!”

    Second, on a more recent trip to Korea (2006), I bluffed my way into a certain “Korean only” establishment by telling the tout I was “half Japanese” in Japanese, and they bought it! Apparently they like Japanese customers.

    Can you imagine being able to enter a “Japanese only” establishment by saying you were “half Korean/Caucasian”?
    No, thought not.

  • @Bob, I will take you word for racist ideas being more wide-spread and accepted in South Korea than in Japan. But where I have to differ is on your statement that there is merely “plenty of work left to do” and Japan being “far from perfect”.
    To me, this sounds like Japan is hard at work improving and on the right track to actually become the democratic, open country the Chrysanthemum club sold it as. Are you really trying to say Japan is about 80% there?
    I would rather say Japan is 10% there – compared to South Koreas 5% (again, I’ll take your word for it).
    The thing is that Japan maybe already was 15% there but dropped the ball. It’s regressing into its old, dangerous ways. If it ever severs ties with the US and becomes a nuclear power, it will be more dangerous to world peace than North Korea, with its tendency to elect ultra-nationalists and obedience to authority. It doesn’t look like the Japanese are convinced they can ever be catch up again in economic terms, but of course, the notion of being a superior nation must be held up in one way or another. That’s my opinion, of course.

  • Nicole L. says:

    To answer Debito’s question,

    I have never had a policeman actually come visit my home. But, I did go to the police box with my supervisor the first week I came to Japan. I live in a town of about 4,000 people in Hokkaido, so everyone knows who I am anyways. I just went into the station, said hello, filled out that form, and that was about it.

    My supervisor explained it to me as a way for the police to contact me in case of emergency. And, seeing as how I am probably one of the only foreigners (probably the only western looking one at least) in town, it was nice to actually introduce myself to the only two policemen that we have. Yes two. Basically, my time with the officers have been fairly nice here. When they visit the schools, they are very nice to me and they ask how I am doing and if I am liking Japan.

    Once my friend got pulled over for speeding in her car. She only had an international driver’s permit at the time, and they let her go without even giving her a warning. They were actually more perplexed about what they should do. They were also fairly nice to her. They just said, that is the speed limit sign, please be careful, and that was all. They did ask to see her foreigner card and such, be seeing as how we were going about 15 over so over the speed limit, they were being really nice. They didn’t even ask to see my card or anything. I just sat there.

    I must say, Hokkaido must be on a whole different wavelength, especially in these small towns.

    — I wouldn’t say as such. I’ve heard mixed reviews indeed about Hokkaido police too (see here, here, and here. So I wouldn’t get too complacent.

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